Friday, April 9, 2010

DCRA announced they "will no longer grant Building Permits or Certificate of Occupancies for restaurants, bars, diners, coffees shops and carry-outs along 14th and U streets (plus adjacent commercial side streets) because of zoning regulations restricting the availability of space to eating and drinking establishments to 25% of the linear frontage of the greater 14th and U Street area."

After reading many, many blog posts and speaking with a handful of residents of the 14th & U area in person, from what I've gathered the majority of residents aren't happy about this regulation at all.

I wonder why that is, because my personal feeling is that the neighborhood surrounding 14th & U is quite unlivable. One of the things I love about Brightwood is the lack of tourists. And when I say "tourists" I'm not referring to people who come to the District to look at the monuments, I'm referring to what some call the "bridge and tunnel crowd", i.e., people who come to your neighborhood from other neighborhoods or the suburbs to patronize the restaurants/bars, and making a mess (taking up street parking, being drunkenly noisy, etc) while they're there.

As Dan M. says on GGW:

One of the most basic tenets of urbanism is to encourage a healthy mix of uses. While people normally think of "mixed use" as meaning the residential/commercial mix, it also applies to the type of commercial. Healthy city neighborhoods need a mix of commercial types just as much as they need a mix of land use types. If a neighborhood becomes overrun with too many of one type of storefront, that means there is less room for every other type.

If a commercial district leans too heavily on restaurants and bars, that means it probably doesn't have enough hardware stores, clothing stores, book stores, barber shops, or home goods stores to meet the day-to-day needs of neighborhood residents. And neighborhood commercial districts that force neighborhood residents to travel elsewhere for their basic needs aren't doing their job as neighborhood commercial districts.

My hope is that new development that comes to Brightwood will include a more diverse mix of retail and eating establishments that will serve the immediate neighborhood without necessarily turning the neighborhood into a "destination". Let 14th & U be the "destination" (especially since it seems that the majority of residents of that neighborhood seem to like it that way) that generates revenue for the rest of the city, and let the commercial corridors in Brightwood focus on serving residents. Perhaps this is a naive desire and not economically viable; that remains to be seen.


  1. wow...gotta massively disagree with you here. i know it's just opinion, but 14th and U is definitely not "quite unlivable"

  2. I understand, Mr. Grumbler, and there are clearly jillions of folks in our city who share that opinion. But it is indeed a matter of preference, and I did preface that statement with "my personal feeling is..."

    We laugh at those people who move to 14th & U and then complain about the noise (I'd also allow myself a good chuckle at someone who moved to Brightwood and then whined that "there's not enough to doooooo"); had I moved to 14th Street, I might have become one of those people. Fortunately, I knew in advance that moving to 14th & U wouldn't have been a good move for me personally. "Know thyself" and all that.

  3. absolutely agree about those who would complain about there being nothing to do up near georgia and missouri, but it also makes me think about people who moved near 14th and U when there was little to do there.

    the neighborhood has changed (i would say for the better, others might not agree). of course, those living near georgia and missouri have to be cognizant of the fact that it is a major commercial corner, and given the trajectory of things, you can't expect it to be quiet there for long. development is pushing that way, inexorably, it seems. maybe just not as fast as a couple years ago.

    maybe living farther from the main drag in brightwood or manor park, you can and should expect things to stay low-density residential. but georgia avenue is somewhere that we should be directing development if we're going to have a stronger tax base in the city.