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.