Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Construction and Sidewalk Closing

The massive development that DC's been seeing lately has had some unfortunate side effects, one of which is sidewalks (seemingly everywhere) being closed by construction companies. This causes pedestrians to either take long detours or (more likely) take a dangerous walk through the traffic lane of a the road. As DCist reported a week ago, DDOT has announced that they will unveil stricter regulations at the end of October. Let's hope their bite is as bad as their bark and the new regulations can help.

In my own experience, part of the problem isn't just practicality - but plain laziness on the part of the developers. Sure, it is more expensive to create covered walkways or work around the sidewalk. But what gets me is situations like the one that I have to walk through every day on my way to and from the Petworth metro. On Rock Creek Church road, the sidewalk is closed for a small stretch which basically drives pedestrians into the street. While the road itself isn't very busy, cars do sometimes come flying around the corner from Georgia Avenue. Visibility is bad because of the construction, so I'm never very comfortable with the walk. But it seems silly to cross the street twice (which puts me in the middle of the road anyway) just for the 50 feet that are closed.

Why on earth couldn't they have just moved the fence back 6 feet and left the sidewalk open? There isn't even anything in the space that is consumed here, as you can clearly see from these pictures. Hopefully these new regulations will save us from this stuff in the future.

Above: From the south. Below: from the north. Click on a picture to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Police Cruiser Hits Pedestrian

A police cruiser hit a pedestrian crossing in a crosswalk on Wisconsin Avenue yesterday. According to the story, a 70-year old man was crossing. A car stopped for him in one lane, but the cruiser went around him and struck the pedestrian.

This pretty much sums up why I have so little respect for DC police. They talk on their cell phones while driving, yet ticket us for the same (even if not moving). Some people in this city actually try to do the right thing, and stop at a crosswalk (as is legally required) for pedestrians, yet the cop (probably talking on his cell phone) blows right by without thinking, maybe, the car in the other lane had stopped for a reason. My instinct is to always slow down at crosswalks in this situation - these guys spend all day in the car, shouldn't they care as much?

This is the same police department that in the wake of several pedestrian accidents involving Metrobuses, starts aggressively ticketing jaywalkers. Never mind that the victims weren't jaywalking.

How about taking some goddamn responsibility for the actions of the city agencies? How about giving us the slightest indication that you care one whit about the laws that you so aggressively enforce, other than for the money the tickets bring in?

Columbia Heights Endangered

It's hard to miss the dramatic changes that have been happening to DC's historic rowhouse skyline in many parts of the city. The rapid gentrification of many neighborhoods over the last few years has resulted in an influx of money, and consequently an influx of developers looking to take advantage of that.

The Washington Post today reports on this phenomenon. The article is timely, as a house that sold across the street from me only a month ago has already been gutted and popped up, towering above the two-story roofline across the street from my house.

I lived in Mount Pleasant for ten years. That neighborhood has been been given an historical designation that defines strict guidelines about exterior renovations. Over the years, I was involved in many discussions about this status and it's impact. A lot of people complained that it was discriminatory, because one consequence was that repairs or renovations would almost always be more expensive than necessary in order to meet the guidelines. While I am sympathetic to this position, the reality is that the Mt. Pleasant historical review board bent over backwards in many situations to try to accommodate special situations.

At the same time, everyone loses in the long run if this kind of thing is allowed to continue unchecked. One of the primary components of the value of our neighborhoods is the architecture itself. If people can just do whatever they want to the old homes, our beautiful streetscape will completely lose the charm that makes it so desirable. A few dollars saved on a cheap renovation, or a few more dollars earned by a developer by adding some square footage with a third-floor bump-up, are a short term gain only. The desirability of our historic neighborhoods will decrease as they start to resemble horrible suburban sprawl, with builders explioting every angle to put as much square footage of living space as possible in a postage-stamp sized lot.

The D.C. Preservation League has identified Columbia Heights as one of the most endangered places in 2007. Even in the short time I've lived there I've seen numerous examples of fine properties that are being completely reconfigured with no regard for the style of the street, with appalling visual results.

I hope that Columbia Heights can get an historic designation like Mt. Pleasant's before it's too late.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Goodbye Gus...

I didn't know Gus personally, but this is just so cool... a sidewalk memorial to the passing of a beloved neighborhood cat. I love Columbia Heights.

Intangible Arts: No Gus, no glory...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's All About Pizza

The DC blog roll is on a love fest with DC's recently elevated brick-oven pizza scene. I feel a personal connection to two of the most prominent members of this community, Comet Ping Pong and RedRocks Firebrick Pizzeria. I lived steps away from Comet the day it opened its doors, and the timing of my move to Columbia Heights also happened to coincide with the opening of Red Rocks. So I have the dubious honor of being one of the first (if not the first) regular at both of these joints, and at the same time watching their offerings evolve as the restaurants hit their respective strides.

City paper blog adds its two cents today, following up their odd piece in last week's city paper about RedRock's chef that isn't really a review so much as a window on the politics of the DC brick oven pizza "scene."

DCist reports on Jamie R. Liu and Don Rockwell's head-to-head comparison of Comet, RedRocks, 2 Amys, and Bebo Trattoria (a suspect addition since it's in Virginia). Comet #1, RedRocks #2.. take that, 2 amy's babyland!!

Many other local blogs and forums are rife with discussion about these joints, this is just the tip of the iceberg. But in the end, all that matters is that life has never been better for pizza-lovers in DC. A few years ago, DC was a pizza wasteland, arguably the worst pizza city in the country. How things change.

And to the New Yorkers who will never eat a slice that didn't come from under a heat lamp at 3 AM on Amsterdam Avenue, to hell with ya. I'd kill for New York pizza here too, but this isn't the same thing. It's almost apples and oranges. And besides, I bet that a New York style pizza made here in exactly the same way would somehow end up tasting like Manny and Olga's. It's the water...