Brainstorming Capitol Hill’s Public Space Issues – Part II – Another Perspective

Capitol Hill residents turned out for the Forum on Public Space in the Hill Center last Thursday night. 

Brainstorming Capitol Hill’s Public Space Issues – Part II – Another Perspective

by Larry Janezich

In Part II, Capitol Hill Corner asked retiring ANC6B06 Commissioner and Planning and Zoning Committee Chair Nick Burger about his thoughts on the Thursday night Public Space Forum.  The following summarizes that conversation.

Burger said he was glad that the forum had been organized and glad see a civil discussion of these issues.  He said he’d not thought of some of the topics, like private streets, and that he would have taken a different tack on some topics.

He agreed with the consensus on scooters, i.e., if we force them off the sidewalks, where do they go, and stressed the need for adequate parking infrastructure.

He supports four way stops at intersections and says that the issue should be reframed by making all intersections four way stops and then asking DOT for justification as to why they need to be changed.  He also supports more technology-based enforcement, saying that cameras on four-way stops would need to be cost effective and wonders if maybe the revenue generated by cameras can cover the cost.  He agrees that Allen’s plan to deputize residents to help with enforcement using photos or video has potential.  And he sees Alpert’s idea about how we structure the lower-fine-but-more-frequent tickets generated by camera enforcement makes sense – as a way to change behavior without being punitive.

Regarding PUD community benefits, Burger sees the ability to add more housing to the community as the real benefit conferred by PUD negotiations, rather than other benefits exacted from a developer.  He wants more guidance for ANCs from the Office of Planning -or alternatively the DC Office of ANCs -on negotiating community benefits.  Given the choice, he said, he would prefer getting guidance from the Office of Planning, drawing on the experience of that agency.  The list of public benefits per project maintained by the city has been helpful in providing guidance, and the PUD process itself is an important way for the community to raise specific concerns.

Burger said that the Residential Parking Permit (RPP) system never felt equitable and the current system is not well structured.  When developers agree to make residents of high rises ineligible for RPPs that penalizes them for coming to the neighborhood second.  He agrees with Fascett’s point that there are ways to make it fair – maybe by charging a hefty price for RPPs with a rebate for residents with lower incomes.  He was hesitant to go to a smaller zone for parking within the ward.  He was sympathetic to the parking plight of small businesses and suggested an equitable allocation of RPPs to businesses for $300 or $500 a year.

A better discussion of dump trucks and construction sites, he said, would have included the use of public space for construction vehicle staging and parking for construction workers.

Asked what other topics he would like to have seen discussed, Burger suggested the following:  a debate and discussion of historic preservation which he sees as “public use of private space, sort of the opposite of private use of public space,” pocket parks and their repurposing, opening up of playgrounds and recreation centers, and a discussion of how to decide how much public space should be allocated in the development of the Southeast Boulevard project.

Hill Rag managing editor Andrew Lightman said that Thursday night’s forum was the first in a series of panel discussion of issues related to urban living and design.  Lightman expects the next forum to be held in February; the topic to be announced.  The Forums are sponsored by the The Capitol Hill Community Foundation and supported by The Hill Rag, The Ward Six Democrats, and The Hill Center.


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8 responses to “Brainstorming Capitol Hill’s Public Space Issues – Part II – Another Perspective

  1. Gregory Turner

    thanks for the report, ver interesting

  2. John

    A RPP program for small businesses would definitely be beneficial to the community. Given that most workers need the parking from 9am – 5pm when most residents are at work, there should be (in theory) minimal disruption to residents.

  3. John

    This response is from a different John than above.

    I see no unfairness in developers agreeing to make residents of high rises ineligible for RPPs. Ours is a highly desirable neighborhood, and newcomers know, or should know, the rules when they purchase or rent.

    More to the point, if CM Allen and others want alternative ways of mobility besides cars, allowing RPPs for a flood of newcomers is a strange way to do so.

    With regard to motor scooters on sidewalks, it is difficult for metro believe that Burger has thought this through. Sidewalks are the refuge for pedestrians from getting injured by motor vehicles. Getting hit from behind by a motor scooter on a sidewalk can also inflict serious damage to a pedestrian. I understand the desire to get users of motor scooters out of harm’s way in the street, but putting pedestrians at risk on the sidewalk is not the solution.

    Keep in mind that people with limited mobility, people that can’t jump out of the way, need the sidewalk.

    • John

      Darn spellcheck! “difficult for metro believe” should obviously be “for me to” believe.

      • Nick Burger

        John, just to clarify, I do think scooters should be moved off sidewalks, but if we make that change we need to have safe, appropriate places for them to go, namely bike lanes. My preference would be for a robust expansion of bike lanes in the district combined with a ban on scooters on sidewalks. But those changes need to happen in concert.

    • aboveavg

      Agree one hundred percent on the rpp issue with apt buildings. These developers would have been required to add more private spaces if they did not originally agree to the rpp limitations.

  4. kandc

    Amazing that no one seems concerned about personal privacy, what with all the suggestions for cameras. Lots of room for abuse (and no controls).
    Also, deputizing neighbors is a sure-fire way to start neighborhood spats that could easily escalate. We already have a problem with neighbors calling police on other neighbors (who they don’t know and/or think are “suspicious”) No thank you on that.

  5. DeputizeMe!

    I LOVE the idea of being outfitted with a body camera to capture drivers who fail to completely stop at stop signs and generally threaten the safety of pedestrians. I walk around the neighborhood alot with my young son in a stroller, and it is truly remarkable how often drivers endanger safety for nothing. Drivers will speed UP through a stop sign to avoid waiting for a potential pedestrian! Just simple enforcement of the most basic expectations around stop signs and crosswalks (STOP for pedestrians!) would go very far in improving safety. Capitol Hill is such a beautiful neighborhood, and people work very hard to make it an attractive place. Let’s continue to make walkability an attractive public amenity of the neighborhood and another reason to leave the car behind (or never acquire one).

    We are moving toward a future where car utillization rates will increase from 5% to 50%+ and public space will eventually be reclaimed from monopolization from single owner cars, particularly parking them. Places like Capitol Hill are on the right side of the future… we should continue to press our advantages and embrace communties built for the scale of people and communties.