Tag Archives: neighborhoods

Reno Park Project

Reno Park Recap: Giving Northwest a Bad Name

Before I work on the history of the Tenleytown-Tobago area, I am going to recap some of what I have done. I think of my blog as a gradually developing document that occasionally requires summary and revision. So, I am going to go back over the content in simpler terms, to make it accessible. I will be crossposting three of these summaries at GGW.

Loyal readers of цarьchitect probably know that I hate the official name of the neighborhood I grew up in, North Cleveland Park “Wakefield.” Hopefully, that name will finally die. But my grouchiness about this coincided with an interest in the way that architects determine, delineate, and represent the concept of place. The goal of renaming an insignificant neighborhood in DC did dovetail nicely with my less modest plans to overturn planning and real estate practice.

So, the stupid name I did not know until I was 23 forms the starting off point for this discussion. That name lacks the lacecurtain cachet of “North Cleveland Park” or the actual uniqueness of “Tenleytown.” It’s a white-bread name reminiscent of too many other suburban developments. And, in fact, most of the area West of Connecticut Ave, North of Albemarle St., and East of Nebraska Ave was developed shortly before World War II and is one of the last areas to be developed as a tract in DC.

Because this name and others in the area came with the developments, neighborhood names tend to be bounded by major roads. Yet the centers of community and busy commercial areas. So, residents have ended up with indistinct locations bearing forgotten names and very popular ones with no names but provisional monikers, like “Comet Corner” and “Van Ness.” Or, according to City Paper, the area consists of Upper Caucasia, Connecticut, and Subarubia.

People have been attempting to name the area between Chevy Chase and Cleveland Park for over a century. Tenleytown may have grown up around John Tennally’s Tavern, but family names like Nourse and Dryer have disappeared from maps. In the late 1900s, the first developers came along and tried to add Armsleigh Park, Colorado Heights, Mount Airy, and Gizor. What seems to make a difference in whether the names stuck or not is whether the neighborhood has a clear social and commercial center. Tenleytown and Georgetown have such places. Forest Hills and AU Park do not.

Continues

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Local

Snow, negligence, and community

lazy gym

The past few days, I’ve been bothered by the failure of this Gold’s Gym at 4310 Connecticut Avenue. Although they shoveled a path from the Van Ness metro to their door, they decided to not shovel any further. The path is used heavily by pedestrians of all age groups. Lingering there for about five minutes, I saw around ten people falter and otherwise walk delicately.They were lazy during the first SnOMG, and they’ll probably be lazy and negligent this time around. UPDATED BELOW

Perhaps what is most infuriating is that the building exclusively employs fit and strong people, who can clearly see the havoc they’re wreaking right out of the huge plate glass window in front. Hell, all the people trying to get fit through absolutely non-productive activities could be getting exercise and simultaneously preventing negligence. It is, after all, illegal to not shovel your walk:

“It shall be the duty of every person, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or syndicate in charge or control of any building or lot of land within the fire limits of the District of Columbia, fronting or abutting on a paved sidewalk, whether as owner, tenant, occupant, lessee, or otherwise, within the first 8 hours of daylight after the ceasing to fall of any snow or sleet, to remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away, such snow or sleet from so much of said sidewalk as is in front of or abuts on said building or lot of land.” (D.C. Code § 9-601)

But that’s not good enough if scofflaws just get fined weeks from now. People could get injured, and people sure are getting inconvenienced. But residents should have recourse besides whining to the government or bitching on listservs. I think we can take the cleanup and retribution into our own hands.

So, I’m organizing the First Tenleytown Volunteer Snow Removal Battalion.The plan is to form a band of husky citizens to clear off snow from spaces that suffer from negligence or the tragedy of the commons. We’ll counter common neglect with community action.  We will primarily clear the mounds of plowed snow at street corners and bus stops, but we will also remediate careless private plowing and people who don’t plow at all. Call me altruistic if you want but I intend to share the businesses that don’t shovel or plow right into pedestrian areas on this blog.  I hope to punish them with a boycott, which could cost more than any fine ever would.

We’re going to meet up tomorrow afternoon at 4PM at the Tenleytown Metro station.  ANC overlord Jon Bender has made it into a snowball fight as well, so uh, come for the fun and stay for the hard labor. Bring a shovel and a flask if you care. There’s no reason fun can’t have a good social outcome.

If you want more details, my rant and the followup posts are linked here.

Update: Tuesday afternoon, Gold’s Gym finally cleared their snow, sources say, after a neighborhood woman tore the manager a new one. Because the snow had been compacted, a bevy of strapping young men were witnessed chiseling the brownish ice apart. Sources report that they “felt the burn.” Many thanks to the woman. Hopefully Gold’s will not let this happen again.

Reno Park Studies Uncategorized

Reno Park Update 091212B: Finding Place

So in the last post, I pointed out that it was easiest to demonstrate that some location is a place by showing the density of people there. That’s what this map is. It’s an imprecise but useful tool to map and note the actual behaviors of pedestrians in the T-T area. I’ve made a point of making it blurry and gradated. There are not borders, so much as dips in circulation and public activity that result from the popularity of one area and the amount of effort pedestrians are willing to exert to get from one place to another.

Take, for example, Friendship Heights. Most people arrive by Metro or driving to the retail district. But within only two or blocks of that hub of activity, the circulation patterns change: there are fewer people and they are generally more local. The walkable distance matters more. It’s clear that the locality ends, even if it is slight and gradual.

The character of the architecture changes slightly as one travels south on Wisconsin. It’s shorter, somewhat dinkier. But at Fessenden Street, the entire block is suddenly small, two-story local retail. It looks like little to the north, but also seems slightly different from Tenleytown, up a steep hill to the south. Someone who lived a block to the south would feel like it might be part of Tenleytown, and someone who lives a block to the north might feel it’s Friendship Heights. This is hard to define; just like foot traffic, it comes in gradients. However, due to its higher pedestrian traffic, small public park, and consistent look, I would argue it is effectively a between-place. So let me show you what I’ve come up with:

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Local Reno Park Studies Uncategorized

Reno Park Update 091212A: Finding Activity

Okay, so I mentioned in the last post that neighborhoods, as conventionally defined, are not necessarily the best ways of measuring human activity, and so is the difficult concept of community. However I attempt to define such a thing, it’s going to be imprecise, subjective, and doubtful. But most people can recognize  community when they see it. Likewise, when you look a good space, you can tell because of the people there.

Last year, when I was but beginning my job as an apparatchik of the цarьchitect, I quoted Freddy N. in On The Geneology of Morals:

Only owing to the seduction of language (and the fundamental errors of reason petrified within it) which conceives all effects as conditioned by something that causes effects, by a “subject,” can it appear otherwise. For just as the popular mind separates the lighting from its flash and takes the latter for an action, for the operation of a subject called lightning, so popular morality also separates strength from expressions of strength, as if there were an neutral substratum behind the strong man, which was free to express strength or not to do so. But there is no such substratum, there is no being behind doing, effecting, becoming; “the doer” is merely the fiction added to the deed – the deed is everything.

Now, replace “strength” with “community.” Community is, in essence, an act. It is not merely your sheer propinquity to another human meatbag, nor crude ethnic similarities, it is the action to do like others, to help the person nearby, to talk to them, to smile at the man on the street when he says hello. Community, is an cooperative action between people, in the conscious and subconscious, of coming together and working for each other’s values. Why one might associate with one another, and care for them is a wholly different question. But it is relatively easy to see evidence of community, just as it is possible to see evidence of social activity.

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Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091206: Bad Names

So neighborhoods. The issue of neighborhoods is not a small issue here at цarьchitect, so I want to explore how the nominal neighborhoods in DC, are relatively arbitrary. Whereas Cleveland Park is a coherent collection of period houses clustered around the summer home of our favorite philandering and mustachioed head of state. The same is relatively true of Chevy Chase. But other areas, such as AU Park or Tobago lack legible borders, character, nodes, or strong community sentiment. With these flaws in mind, I asked the internet where neighborhoods began and ended. For example, Wikipedia:

wiki neighborhoods

As you can see, there are some flaws to this map – some areas aren’t exactly stuck into boxes and others are claimed by two neighborhoods. Moreover, Tenleytown has, maybe, 100 residents and its borders rest, like the ANCs, along corridors where there is precisely the most activity, along Wisconsin. It also perpetuates the myth that there is a neighborhood called “Wakefield.” The name is a myth created by realtors, and you will not find anyone who actually calls it that, except perhaps some serpent or monster who wishes only to deceive you. . Clearly, it’s totally unsatisfactory. So, based on an informal poll and my own views, I’ve revised it:

formal neighborhoods

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