Turrets are cool

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R and 4th NWSo at this week's BACA (almost every 1st Monday of the month at Mt. Sinai) meeting the development team for 319 R St NW came to connect with the community about their project. Good start, maybe it will make up for failing to take care of the weeds that got overgrown on the property while they owned it.

They had diagrams of their plans and maybe those may show up later on the BACA blog should they submit them. They need zoning variances for a few things, such as building a little bit beyond their envelope, a proposed penthouse on top of a 3rd floor addition, and they want to remove the turret.

They had pictures of the 1700 block of 4th Street and the 200 block of R Street to show differences. Yes, the 1700 block of 4th doesn't have turrets. That's probably because it was built in the 19th century and the houses on the 300 block of R are from the early 20th century. Also the houses on the odd side of the 300 block of R Street are Harry Wardman houses. Yes, authentic Wardman houses, look it up. The 200 block of R? I have no idea.

I'd would like it if they kept the turret. Turrets are cool. Truxton Circle doesn't have as many turrets as Bloomingdale, but the ones we do have, I like. The one's Bloomingdale has lost stay ugly. You get used to it, like a blemish, but it is still ugly.

Now I know some of you are saying, "if you were in a historic district...." I spit on your historic districting. I don't care about the kinds of windows or doors they are putting in the places there are spaces for windows and doors. I don't care that they are putting an entrance on 4th St and adding a parking pad (don't know how that will impact access for others into the alley). I don't care about the paint colors or roofing material. I do care about the rooftop deck area with a penthouse as I am concerned about noise. I'm worried about the loss of the turret. More importantly, I'm fearful that breaking it up and adding the ugly by removing the turret would doom the property to the horrid fate of the adjoining vacant buildings, which are defunct condos.

Besides the turret there were a few other things that bugged me. As far as I know the Korean Presbyterians never had hundreds of people lined up outside of their mission house at 319 R. They may have had dozens, at most, and people hanging out, but never hundreds. Even the 7th day Adventists on 4th St with their Sunday soup kitchen never had hundreds. The other thing they mentioned was that they reached out to neighbors. Well the neighbors across the street missed that outreach or it wasn't clear. It isn't entirely clear that the residents who live on the same block and in view of the project were adequately reached.   

Spoiled by DC History- Mari does Baltimore

Baltimore 1901 Vol 1.jpg
So you may have seen my somewhat out of date TruxtonCircle.org site where you can find maps of the NW Truxton Circle neighborhood dating back to 1887 and census information for every resident who lived in the TC from 1888 to 1940.
Silly me figured this could be replicated for another large city. I tried doing what I did for the TC to do a house history for a tiny property I bought in Baltimore*. So I headed to the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. They pointed me towards resources they had copies of but I realized the University of Maryland...... College Park back in the DC Metro area had what I needed.
I hoped there would be something on the UMCP Library Catalog. Somethings are digitized, and a lot of stuff isn't. They've got digitized maps, but none of them are the ones I wanted or had the detail I needed. So I had to make a trip up the green line.
Since I have a personal connection at UMCP (got my MLS there) I was able to talk to the librarian who was the architecture/land expert in the Maryland Room. He grabbed a bunch of atlases and we looked for one that captured the street where my property sat, with an outline of my property. We were able to find what I needed in the Sanborn 1901 insurance map atlas.
I was disappointed because the property dated to the 19th Century and I could not find a detailed map going back that far showing my property. If I found detailed maps that outlined buildings, they did not cover my area. When I found my area, it lacked detail.
DC has spoiled me. The DC Public Library and the Library of Congress has free plat maps showing properties. Even map sellers who sell online have their own digital copies of the District going back to the 1870s.
Even looking at the census has been disappointing. I did find residents in 1940. However, looking in previous censuses using Dr. Steven Morse's Census tool for large cities, I haven't found anyone prior to 1940, yet.
It is possible the house was a company property used to house workers. I'll have to dig into the land records to confirm this. The librarian who helped me earlier suggested I do that, but at the time I wanted to concentrate on maps. If it was housing for workers, the interesting story (and easier one) is the relationship the company had with its workers, Baltimore as an industrial city, and not the individuals who happened to rest their head in my house.

*Don't be impressed. You too could buy a property in West Baltimore that needs (lots of) work for a mere $7,500. The cost of fixing it up is way more than the place would be worth.

Florida Market/ Union Market

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Union Terminal Market

So we ventured over to Union Market last weekend. It has been a while since I've spent any quality time at the market, and when I say the market, I mean the raggedy international part, not the clean cool hipster part. I blame my marriage. I no longer harbor the desire to wake up early and bike over to pick up possibly CAFO meat and veggies in various states. When I used it, the market, Florida Market/ Union Market was a treasure. Now I treasure sleeping in with my beloved.

So I hear there are efforts to preserve Union Market, but that's preserving buildings, not history.

I remember the old building, before the fire, that now houses a bunch of eateries, and a butcher or two. The vibe is 180degrees different that what was there before. The clientele is different. The types of shops are different. The building, sort of the same, but with nicer bathrooms. So if that is a guide, even if the buildings are "preserved" and rehabbed to HPRB standards, the new tenants would have to be the kind that can afford that kind of preservation.

And that preservation will have a 21st century accent. Above is a photo is (I'd been searching for it for a while) of an outdoor stand in the Union Market area at Neal Pl & 5th St NE. There are other pictures, I have yet to run those down. That image, is never coming back and never going to get resurrected in any living form. It seems the authorities of that time had a problem with it then. Thing I love about pictures, you can see the trash in the street, the weeds around the abandoned police box, and the shoddiness of the structure. It de-romanticizes the past. Preserved history (if you ignore the brutalist structures) tends to be the pretty stuff or prettied up for the eyes of the people of the present. 

I've mourned the loss already. Sort of like a great-aunt who has dementia and a zillion heath issues. You know the end will come, and the woman you knew is gone, just got to wait on G-d to finish the job.
The picture is of RI Ave NW and 7th Street. You see the large building in the background, then Shaw School, for which the neighborhood is named after, now the Asbury Dwellings. There is an Esso gas station, where now stands a 7-11. There is a traffic island on Rhode Island, and there was a traffic island then. The buildings on RI Ave between 7th and 8th Street look pretty unchanged. Comparing it with Google Streetview, get rid of the Esso sign, add the odd mural, change some paint, and clutter the traffic island with signage, and you have the same scene.IMG_3517.jpg
This week I saw two opposing messages on email lists regarding neighborhoods. On the Historic Washington Yahoo Group "Customized Zoning to Protect Neighborhood Character " vs on several neighborhood Yahoo Groups "Better Planning in DC". The one on customized zoning appears to be an effort on residents of Chevy Chase and similar areas to resist the trend of greater density to keep a vague thing called "character" through zoning. On the other side are a retired dude from the ACLU who I think wants more "affordable" housing and inclusionary residential zoning. The inclusive zoning, calls for affordable housing and the like is a normal thing in Shaw, so I ignored it. But the "Neighborhood Character" thing is bugging the crap out of me.

For one what the heck is neighborhood character and why should the government preserve it? If I were of a certain mind, I'd think some people believe the character they are trying to preserve is that of older upper income white people. I know that's a demographic, not a zoning thing. But make new buildings and the repair of old buildings expensive you can exclude the poor by making residences unaffordable. You can continue to make them unaffordable by limiting density, making every square foot more precious. I totally get why present day residents want to keep out possible future residents. No one wants to have a tall apartment or condo building spring up on their block so new tenants can gaze down into their backyard. A thriving city needs a lot of things people don't want to live near and it is unfair to force poorer and middle class neighborhoods to bear those burdens.

But I digress.

Let's return the the 700 block of Rhode Island Ave NW. It is in the Shaw Historic District and I guess the only character preserved are the buildings, as the block shown here, possibly circa 1968 is not the same as the 700 blk of RI Ave NW 2016. The demographics have changed. The rents have changed. The amenities have changed. The crime has changed. The housing quality has changed. City services have changed. Traffic has changed. Parking, despite various churches, has and is changing. Those houses are probably less dense with DINKs and singletons, replacing the Greatest Generation families and their Baby Boomer kids. The school that inadequately educated those kids (Shameful Shaw) now house them as senior citizens. The buildings have remained the same but the character has definitely changed.

Going on a anti-Maryland rant

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John Cook School Girl doorI have a problem with Maryland (and Virginia) residents using DC resources that are meant for DC residents, particularly schools. So it warmed my little heart when a few weeks ago when I read that the Attorney General Karl Racine's office fined a Maryland couple over $500K for having their kids in DCPS (DC Public Schools). I was so happy to see that I sent his office a letter thanking them and saying it is a good start as there are many more people doing the same. I have witnessed way too many Maryland license plates dropping off kids at KIPP to believe there aren't hundreds of more Maryland kids denying DC kids spots at DC Public and Charter schools. Before the Washington Post story another news outlet actually followed parents back to Maryland, proving what I suspected.

There is this attitude of Marylanders regarding DC which grates at me. There are Marylanders who used to live in DC and now live in Maryland and people who do things in DC (go to church, work, etc) and live in Maryland who have certain attitudes towards DC and her CURRENT residents. One is parking. Marylanders, including the ones I'm related to and love, believe they should have free parking, because they always had free parking and plenty of it. Other problem are city services meant for DC residents, this ranges from schools to homeless and other services. A while back the Washington Post ran a feature on some families at DC General. One of those families was living in Maryland before landing at DC General. If your last residence was in Maryland, then maybe Maryland should help you. I have been around long enough and met enough of the right people to believe that there are people collecting DC welfare payments while actually living in Maryland.

Part of DC government shares the blame. But what should I expect when a lot of people who operate DC government, the workers who do the business of the government that is supposed to serve DC, live in Maryland? I get that people move around and qualified applicants are more likely found outside DC. Fine but something needs to balance out the non-DC resident nature of DC government or else you'll have weird stuff like what happened less than a decade ago when a job fair sponsored by DC government  (DOES) was held in a Maryland suburb.

Maybe my problem is Marylanders', particularly those in PG County, sense of entitlement to DC. Once I was chatting with a friend who lives in PG and he mentioned, "Our mayor." I thought he was talking about the mayor of his itty bitty suburban town, but no he was talking about the Mayor of Washington, DC. I went to 'gently' correct him.

Okay, I've vented. Now I will suggest curing this with love. Lovingly remind people who were born in DC but left in the 80s that they are not guaranteed a parking spot, and parking is not awarded based on seniority. Besides, there is not enough on street parking for current, let alone former residents. Lovingly press the needs of Home Rule and real representation in Congress. With love, remind them that maybe they should take the metro instead of driving and yes, WMATA should have dedicated funding from Maryland. Love. I'll try to remember that the next time I see a vehicle with Maryland tags blow through a red light.

Plans of men

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So this 7-28-16DDOT.JPG
is from a handout given out at the yesterday's special meeting Bradley A Thomas had arranged with DDOT. These are just design proposals. Nothing is happening any time soon, and folks in Eckington might have something to say about the proposals on their side of North Cap.

Anyway, I and later others noticed the part about closing off the ramp/turn off, whatever you call it, that drivers use to peel off from North Capitol coming south to get on to Florida Ave NW going northwest. That corner is owned by Joe Mamo. Joe Mamo has been proposing to do something with that corner, currently an empty lot, for over a decade. If DDOT does close off that bit of roadway and claims the corner lot where the ugly people hangout then I know that screws with whatever plan Mamo had.

I have very little sympathy for Mr. Mamo because he has taken too long to do whatever he plans to do. If he were Jamal Douglas (a big developer in DC) nothing happening would just be Jamal being Jamal and getting to projects when he's good and ready. But Mamo is just slow. Back in 2005 I posted about a project he proposed for his lot. He had a whole development posse with him, with pictures and plans. This meeting was so long ago the people I mentioned in my meeting notes have moved away.

So fast forward to 2011 and on the BACA blog there is a drawing of what the proposed building Joe Mamo wanted to build. There is even a schedule. Construction was supposed to start in 2014.

Most recently in the history of this slowly going nowhere project, someone voted to support extending Mamo's PUD, again.

DDOT's plans may provide an excuse to keep this lot a lot for another decade.

Instead of complaining more, I'm just going to make Joe Mamo jokes because you hear the name and think "Yo Mama".

Joe Mamo so slow watching paint dry was too fast for him.
Joe Mamo so slow he's running to catch the purple line in Maryland.
Joe Mamo so slow he makes dead snails laugh.

If you find a person on the sidewalk, call 911

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So the other week I was heading to work when I spotted a person laying down on the sidewalk. This was unusual because the area was all residential, it was the morning, and people do not lay down in that spot ever.

I wasn't the only one to spot the person to spot the person on the sidewalk. Some youngish dude saw her, and hesitantly halfway crossed the street as I crossed towards the person. We walked over the person and I grumply mumbled something about calling 911. And I called 911.

I explained to the dispatcher there was a person on the sidewalk. The person was unresponsive to verbal and (after a neighbor nudged --gently kicked-- the person's feet) physical cues. I was unsure of the person's gender or their age, I guessed late 40s early 50s..... I dunno.

The dispatcher asked if I wanted the police. NO. If a person is knocked out or out of it, I tend to think it is a health care issue not a law enforcement issue.

At one point there were 4 of us standing around the person, two of my neighbors and the youngish dude. Then as a firetruck was making its way to us, the young guy left, as well as one of my neighbors. I stood around for probably 30 seconds after the EMTs(?) hopped out of the truck and headed to work. The whole thing took 8 minutes of my time and I made it to the metro in time to see the young dude on the platform.

I tend to ignore people on the sidewalk in other places, places where I expect to see homeless or wayward people sleeping in public. I won't ignore them if it looks like they've placed themselves in danger, like laying in the street.

I'm not perfect. There have been times when I second guessed my level of involvement and wondered if someone was worse off if I had not just walked by or if I was just a bit more insistent.

It's a city. You will have many encounters with strangers and many tests to your character.

Debt Spam Caller

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Spam calling debt collector So one day I will perfect the outgoing message on my land line. Yes, we have a land line. It is the number we give out when we might actually need to hear from the party requesting our number but we really don't want to give our number. We have a long outgoing message, which tends to eliminate some of the robo calls. I think the robo calls are getting clever.

A week ago I got two calls in one day from "Alisha Morton" at 855-208-9664 saying there was a "formal complaint received for service of process". That's just gobblygook to sound scary. Apparently it was for some dude with my last name.

I checked the number and saw it was part of some debt collection scam. Probably up there with the fake IRS lady with the Jamaican accent saying there is a "criminal lawsuit" against me.

Delete, delete, delete.

Will ANXO be a catalyst?

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ANXO menuBack in 2007, at R and 1st NW, a corner quickie mart opened up as a coffee shop. It's name was Big Bear. The same month it opened there was the Bloomingdale Farmer's Market. That summer everything changed.
Later I noticed real estate agents were mentioning Big Bear in their descriptions for houses in Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle ('cause it is on the edge of B'dale). Big Bear would get mentions from not only me, but other bloggers, it got good press, and became a gathering place for people in the neighborhood.
Eventually, other places that we know and love popped up further down 1st Street, and no I'm not ignoring Windows on RI Ave-- it just did not have the same level of impact. Then came Rustik, and Baccios, then Bloomingdale Liquors got spiffed up, then Boundary Stone and the big dog of the culinary scene, Red Hen. Yes, I'm leaving out some other businesses and I sorely miss Costa Brava, but I don't want to go off on a tangent.
So Truxton Circle has ANXO. The TC has some other places but those are mostly over on North Capitol which has its particular challenges, and no room for outdoor seating. Also ANXO brings with it a uniqueness of being DC's only and first cidery, and an impressive background, with founders who have years of experience at other DC destination restaurants/pubs.
As someone who lives on this end of the TC, on one hand I'd prefer that it not become a destination restaurant/bar, because parking is already at a premium. On the other hand, while I was enjoying a nice French cider, I leaned over to my spouse (the Help) and said, "Our property values just went up."

This is unacceptable bus behavior

Seat TakerI don't know for sure what this guy's problem is. He might be some sort of neurodiverse person, but still, this is unacceptable behavior on a bus that was pretty much standing room only when I boarded the 79 bus heading downtown.
He's a regular on the morning 79 Express bus and he will, given a chance, take up all the seats on the bench, as pictured. It doesn't matter if it is in the front, near the driver (I've seen him do it there) or in the back near the rear door. Today, it didn't matter that several people were standing, like I was, in the aisle. And it doesn't matter if you ask nicely, as I've done in the past, so you can sit down. His answer was no.
I have entertained the idea that he might be neurodiverse, as in somewhere on the autism spectrum. Regardless, it is still a rude move. It might be a reason but it is not an excuse. And if because of his mental health he needs a buffer around people, maybe a rush hour bus that is known to get crowded is not the best option. It is unclear if MetroAccess would even be an option.
I've also entertained the idea that he's an a-hole. Seriously, three seats? People who take up a seat plus their big bag, just do 2 seats, but 3? If you need 3 seats for you and your bags, you need to take a cab.
I'm venting, but I needed to get that out.

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