Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Groundbreaking: Francis A Gregory Library

The DC Public Library invites you to join your friends and neighbors as we break the ground to build the new Francis A. Gregory Library.

Where: Francis A. Gregory Library

3660 Alabama Avenue, SE

When: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 10:45am – 11:30am

Please feel free to contact Archie Williams, archie.williams@dc.gov, or telephone (202) 727-1437, if you have any questions regarding this event.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

One City?

I had a great few days off. I was getting caught up on news that I missed during my staycation. Dorothy Brizille of DC Watch makes an interesting observation about the Gray Transition Team.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Gray’s transition leadership is its composition. Sixteen individuals comprise the “team,” and their ward residency is distributed as follows: Ward One, 1; Ward Two, 2; Ward Three, 5; Ward Four, 2; Ward Five, 1; Ward Six, 3; Ward Seven, 0; Ward Eight, 1. In a city that Gray hopes to govern under a big “One City” tent, perhaps he doesn’t consider the residency distribution of his transition leadership team to be that important. But in general, the wards that supported Fenty in the primary were rewarded; the wards that supported Gray got stiffed.

Ward 7 has no representation on the transition team. Perhaps its all a coincidence. I sincerely hope this is not a sign of things to come. I'm still hopeful that Ward 7 will reap some benefits of having the highest two elected positions in the City.

Bring a dish this Saturday

Immediately following the Hillcrest Community Civic Association Meeting is the Annual Holiday Luncheon.
HCCA Meeting
10:00 AM, Hillcrest Recreation Center

Members are asked to provide food items from those listed based on the first letter of their last name, according to the following:

ABCD - String beans, greens, sweet potatoes

Tossed salad with dressing, potato salad, vegetarian lasagna

IJKLM - Deviled eggs, cheese trays, vegetable trays (with dip) or fruit trays

NOPQ - Cookies, Cakes, pies, other desserts

RST - Breads, cranberry sauce, dressings

UVWXYZ - Assorted beverages, sodas, water

Food items should be brought in disposable containers with utensils to avoid loss and facilitate the clean-up process. Please identify anything you wish to have returned to you. Steam table racks will be available for foods requiring heat.

In consideration of those with allergies or other dietary restrictions, we will have cards for you to provide your name and label your dish with the ingredients.

Attendees are invited to also bring a poem, joke or song to share over our Karaoke Open Mike.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Be back on November 29th

Applications Due December 1, 2010

Greater DC Cares’
Neighborhood Empowerment Initiative is focused on mobilizing the time, talent, and resources of residents to strengthen families and transform communities into thriving and vital places to live. For winter 2010/spring 2011, we are excited to pilot a neighboring micro-grant initiative that will enable leaders within the community to plan and execute a project that they feel is beneficial to their community. This grant is intended to utilize the neighborhood’s assets, skills, and talents to address neighborhood’s needs. The purpose of this grant is to give community residents the power of real resources to make their visions of change a reality.

Grant Goals
1. To help strengthen individuals and families
2. To help develop neighborhood leaders
3. To help transform communities
4. To help build individual and family economic success

How Grants Work
• Individuals or teams of residents from the community apply for a grant of up to $300 using this application
• Projects must be created, led, and maintained by community residents
• All costs must be authenticated with receipts. If financial need is shown, this can be worked out as needed.
• Greater DC Cares will support the project

Application Eligibility
To be considered for this award, the Grantee must meet the criteria listed below. In submitting an application, you acknowledge you are applying as an individual, not as part of a nonprofit organization.
• Grantees must have reliable modes of communication with which to be in touch with Greater DC Cares.
• Grantees must have a commitment to their community.
• Grantees must reside in the community they wish to serve (either zip code 20019 or zip code 20002).


Monday, November 22, 2010

Circulator can connect Ward 7 to the rest of the city

(Photo from DDOT on flickr)

Earlier this month the District Department of Transportation released its plan to expand the Circulator. Two of the proposed routes would connect Wards 7 and 8 with Barracks Row. These routes could help solve the problem of poor connectivity east of the river.

The proposed Eastern Market — Minnesota Avenue line would connect some of the commercial areas in Ward 7 to destinations West of the River.

This line would start at the Minnesota Avenue Metro station, and run down Minnesota Ave to Naylor Road, where it would turn south. After a major stop at the soon-to-come Skyland project, the route turns west onto Good Hope Road to Historic Anacostia. The route would cross the 11th Street Bridge to connect through Barracks Row.

The Ad-Hoc Ward 7 Circulator Group, which was formed in January 2010, proposed a similar route with one major difference: Instead of connecting Minnesota Ave to Skyland via Naylor Road SE, the group proposed using Branch Ave SE and Alabama Ave SE to make that connection.

DDOT's justification for using Naylor Road is to build ridership for the proposed streetcar that will run almost the entire length of Minnesota Ave. However, the residents think the Branch Ave and Alabama Ave connection is extremely important. For one, it would bring Penn-Branch Shopping Center into the fold, which houses the only Department of Motor Vehicles East of the River.

Second, there are no bus lines that currently service the 0.7-mile stretch of Branch Ave between Pennsylvania and Minnesota Ave. On the other hand, there are currently three WMATA bus routes that service Minnesota Ave SE between Good Hope Road and the Minnesota Ave Metro Station.

The Ad-Hoc Committee also left open the possibility of the route ending at either the Anacostia Metro Station, Barracks Row or the Navy Yard. There was an emphasis that the route should end where it could connect to the Navy-Yard Union Station line.

During the DDOT Circulator Meeting on November 13th at Benning Library, Ward 7 residents also proposed ending the Eastern Market-Minnesota Ave Line at the H Street and Maryland Avenue terminus of the Adams Morgan-H St NE line by using Benning Road NE.

The residents of Ward 7 are hopeful that the dialog between DDOT and the community will remain open as the next phase of planning begins. We believe that Circulator should connection the commercial areas within our ward, in addition, to connecting us to West of the River.

Cross-Posted at Greater Greater Washington

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Use Capital Bikeshare

Groundbreaking: Nannie Helen Boroughs Great Street

Miss V attended the groundbreaking for the Nannie Helen Boroughs Great Street Project this morning. DDOT was there in full force. DDOT Director Gabe Klein stated that the selected contractor will be hiring 100 people. CM Alexander asked how many would be Ward 7 residents. It was mentioned that DDOT hired a firm to assist with recruiting.

Washington Parks and People were there representing the community and many of them are hoping to be on of the lucky 100 people hired for this project.

CM Alexander giving an opening

Christopher Lawson, Federal Highway Administration - DC Division

Dominique Lueckenhoff, US Environmental Protection Agency - Region 3

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cmdr Contee to speak at ANC meeting

Commander "I keep it cool" Contee will be at the November ANC 7B Meeting to talk about the rise in crime.
Thursday November 18, 2010
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Ryland Epworth Methodist Church
3200 S St SE

Ooooh not know is killing me

Original Message 11/16/2010 10:50PM
Hot off the press... Miss V just saw the following tweet from Councilmember Alexander:
CMYMA: Big box retailer coming to Ward 7? Stay tuned!
Hmmmm... I wonder who it can be and where. The Minnesota-Benning Project has been underway since the groundbreaking back in May. But that project only has 23,000 SF of retail. Perhaps this means something is actually happening with Skyland. At a community meeting in August 2009, the development team mentioned they were talking with Target and Walmart. The community wasn't jumping for joy with Walmart. As a matter of fact when Walmart was mentioned the meeting quickly went downhill. Given Walmart is looking to develop a location in Ward 5, I doubt they would locate to Ward 7 too.

Oh the suspense is killing me.

UPDATE 11/16/2010 11:21 PM
I was tweeted that Walmart's urban model is 20,000 SF, which means Minnesota-Benning Project is a potential location.

UPDATE 11/16/2010 11:38 PM
After a lively discussion on twitter, CM Alexander decided to give us a hint:
CMYMA: @ hint: not at Skyland.
***wipes brow*** I was having flashbacks to the Hillcrest Community Civic Association meeting last year when Walmart was mentioned.

UPDATE 11/16/2010 11:48 PM
Commissioner Brown introduces East Capital Gateway as a possible location.
Anc7c04: What would be opp for walmart or other urban model store to locate @ East Cap Gateway; innovative anchor needed.
This is all speculation of course. The actual location should be announced soon.

UPDATE 11/17/2010 11:39 AM
According to Mike Debonis from Washington Post:
In Ward 7, execs are eying the Capitol Gateway development at the city's eastern corner.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In case you missed it

Miss V tries to keep a level head, but I get annoyed when I feel like I'm being punked. Over the last few months several stolen autos have been recovered in Fairfax Village. Why? Well we are right on the border with Maryland and it's a quiet neighborhood. Coming home to the umpteenth stole auto today set me off. I went "a little" on the neighborhood listserv. In case you aren't on those listservs, I didn't want you to feel left out of my rant.

***steps on soapbox***

This goes for everyone, but especially those of us living in Fairfax Village. I don't mean to put us on high alert, but I requesting that EVERYONE start calling 911 for anything that looks remotely suspicious. Let MPD figure out if its legit or not. I just got home this afternoon to a stolen auto left on Fort Davis St. I've lost count (MPD is working on an exact number for me) but I think we have to up to 6 or 7 stolen cars in the last 30 days (I have no concept of time) that have been left either on the streets of Fairfax Village or in the parking lots. Needless to say I'm beyond annoyed that criminals feel comfortable enough with our neighborhood that we have become a dumping ground for stolen autos.

In at least one instance people witnessed guys stripping down the car in the parking lot, but they just thought it was guys working on their car at 6 AM in the morning.

Crime will NOT stop until we do our part to alert the police. Time to be nosey neighbors like Pearl from 227. If you hear a car alarm go off, look out the window. If you hear people outside, look out the window. Even if you don't hear anything, look out the window every now and then. If you come home late, call a neighbor to look out the window. If you come home early, call a neighbor to look out the window. My point is "look out the window"

Let's send a message that Fairfax Village/Hillcrest is NOT the neighborhood to go to if you want to do crime.

***steps off soapbox***

I forgot to complete my thought, so I added it in another email
And turn on your porch lights!!!

DC Council considering bill to limit TANF

While I do think that there are some issues that need to be ironed out, I applaud Councilmembers Barry and Alexander for being bold to put forth this bill. Perhaps it isn't the best solution, but it at least gets the conversation started to how we end generations of people living on welfare. Here's the article from Washington Post.

By Tim Craig Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 15, 2010; 10:36 PM

Two D.C. Council members from impoverished areas of the city are proposing to end cash payments to long-term welfare recipients to save tax dollars and encourage more of their constituents to find work.

The proposed five-year benefit limit, sponsored by council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), would bring the District in line with most other states, but the proposal is drawing warnings from advocates that it would lead to more homeless families, hungry children and crime.

"For far too long, we have cradled a large part of the population, and our cradling has actually handicapped people," Alexander said. "Many of our residents view government assistance as a way of life, and in my opinion we are actually hurting our residents instead of helping them."

For full article, click here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

And then there was nothing...

Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, Francis A. Gregory Library as we once knew it is officially gone. Here are some photos I snapped over the weekend.

Previous Post

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Let's talk about blight

(Photo by adamsjp2010 from Flickr)

The DC Housing Authority in conjunction with the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory affairs will be hosting a community meeting to address community concerns related to group housing, blighted and abandon properties, and other concerns of the community. If you have specific locations in your neighborhood that concern you, please bring the address with you.

See you there..
Community meeting on
Wednesday, November 17,2010, 6:30pm
Shadd Academy (5601 East Capitol Street,SE)

Miss V has a long standing battle with a property located on 38th Street between W St and Suitland Terr.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can't thank you enough

(Photo by robizphoto on Flickr)

We can't give enough thanks for the men and women of MPD 6th District. I received word from TACT Unit that there was a drug bust in Fairfax Village. The offender was trying to take over for another drug dealer, who is currently serving jail time for possession with intent to distribute, that used to work the 38th and Alabama corner. They recovered a lot of marijuana and money. That's all the details I have at this time.

Thank You... Thank You.... Thank You.

MPD did their part and we need to do ours. If you are interested in assisting with writing a Community Impact Statement (CIS), please email me directly (vod2@cornell.edu) and I can put you in touch with a group of citizens committed to fight. The CIS will be signed "Concerned Members of the Community" so it is completely anonymous.

What is a CIS? A CIS is a statement from the community describing the impact of the offenders crime on the quality of life. Once the offender is found guilty (by plea or ruling), the US Attorney's Office provides the CIS to the judge to consider for sentencing.

Can the CIS really make a difference? YES. Several member of the community banned together to write a CIS for a known drug dealer living in Fairfax Village. As a result of the efforts of a few committed citizens, that person is serving 210 days in jail with 180 days suspended sentence. When he is released he has 2 years probation and a stay away order from Fairfax Village.

But what if the person retaliates? We can lay down and accept this behavior or we can come together as a community and fight.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gentrification East of the River - Role of the Community

(photo by Barbara K. on flickr)

In Part 2 of this series we discussed what happens to the people without boats when the rising tide of economic development comes. Some commenters offered education and job training as the only solution. If people are educated or have training in a skill then they will have access to living wage jobs that will allow them to benefit from the economic tide.

My group at the East of the River Community Forum on Sustainability discussed job training and education at length. However, one of the elders of the group stated that that East of the River is at a critical juncture and job training and education is not enough. Spoken as a person who has seen it all, she expressed that as a community we need to get out of the ghetto victim mentality and raise the standard for what we expect of ourselves.

There is a perception that newcomers enter a community and things get better because the newcomers come with a list of demands. Our group elder asked why do we have to wait for newcomers for things to get better and why aren't some of the residents east of the river motivated to want a better living environment?

This took our group down another discussion path that is too complex to begin to try to summarize. We concluded that the root of all the problems facing the poorer areas East of the River is a dysfunctional family structure. Heads immediately started nodding and each resident from East of the River gave a personal testimony of situations they witnessed. The family structure is the building blocks of the community, so we need an "all hands on deck" movement.

I ended part 2 with a statement that as a community we have an obligation to address the toxic environments so residents can have an opportunity to earn a living wage and continue to live East of the River. It seems like an overwhelming statement, but if everyone addresses a piece of the problem, we can begin to make change. There are plenty of organizations and social services to address the big issues. We focused on manageable actions for young professionals, retirees, and religious organizations.

Young professionals and retirees: In some neighborhoods these groups have been in conflict. Our group stated that if we don't work together, we will fail together. Young professionals, who are mostly childless, and retirees, whose children are out of the home, need to engage in the lives of the children East of the River through mentor programs, the Parent Teacher Association, adopting neighborhood schools, after school tutoring programs, and sports programs. On a smaller scale, adults should emphasize the important of education by wishing kids they may encounter on the street a great day in school.

Religious institutions: There was a point in history where black churches were the anchor for the community. We discussed the disconnect between the black churches and the community. A large part of the problem is many of the attendees live in Maryland. They come back to the church of their childhood for worship, then drive back across the border. The consensus of the group was black churches and other religious institutions need to do more to rebuild the family structure, instill a value system in the community, and restore their place as the anchor of the community.

These solutions will take time for their effects to be seen. However, "do nothing" is not a feasible alternative. Our group hypothesized that we have a little extra time, because East of the River will not change at the rapid pace as other neighborhoods in DC given the location of Metro stations in proximity to areas slated for redevelopment and the availability of infill development in other parts of the City. Maybe we won't be able to save all of the current residents from displacement, but perhaps our efforts could save and uplift as many as we can.

We concluded our group session with the statement that we need to learn how to live together as a community so we can work together to save and uplift the community.

Previous post in this series

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington

What car and bike parking regulations could mean to East of the River

(photo from taosfriction.com)

Yesterday Greater Greater Washington posted about the Zoning Commission public hearing on car and bike parking schedule for Monday November 15 at 6:30 PM at One Judiciary Square (441 4th Street) Suite 220. At first glance, I thought it was a downtown issue. However, after looking at the slide show provided by the Zoning Commission, I noticed that Poplar Point, Anacostia, and St. Elizabeth are on the list of future development areas that could be impacted by the requirements. Skyland is not on the list because it has received all its zoning approvals over the summer.

Miss V supports the more stringent parking standards proposed by the Department of Transportation and the proposed bike parking standards. The basis for my support is the Giant on Alabama Ave SE fiasco. While it's great that we have a Giant and the new stores that are their, that large, normally empty parking lot is the bane of Congress Heights (overly dramatic... I know). The sea of asphalt is a reminder of a missed opportunity to turn the property into a more compact development with more green space.

If you don't want other developments East of the River to comprise of large empty parking lots, Call 202-727-6311 to get on the list and say you are a "proponent" of the parking regulations, Case No. 08-06. You can also sign up to testify if you arrive on time to the Zoning Commission hearing room. If you can't make it to the hearing, you can submit comments to the Zoning Commission by fax or email. Email your signed PDF to: zcsubmissions@dc.gov. Written testimony must be received on or before November 15th.

Greater Greater Washington provides a great breakdown of what the regulations could mean.

Parking minimums would disappear in most cases. In neighborhood commercial corridors or low-density residential areas without good transit, commercial, institutional, or multi-family residential buildings would still need to provide some parking. But any area with good transit service, or high-density areas, would have no requirements.

For bicycle parking, new buildings over a certain size would have to include some outdoor visitor bicycle parking (like bike racks), and for non-residential buildings, also a certain amount of indoor, secure bicycle parking along with shower facilities.

For full analysis, click here.
Greater Greater Washington, provides a breakdown of the standards proposed by the Office of Planning and the more stringent proposal by Department of Transportation.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Save the Date - Far Southeast Livability Study

Please save the following date and time:
When: Monday, December 6
Time: 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Location: Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church,
3000 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. (In the Chapel)

Fairfax Village was represented at the June Meeting. We brought up issues of speeding, need for additional public transportation, and need for pedestrian scale lighting.

Gentrification East of the River - Economics of it all

(photo from www.danheller.com)

After discussions I had with people today over the nebulous word "gentrification", I've come to accept a few things that I just need to put on the table:
  1. No one knows what the heck it means. I had six different conversations and each conversation led to a different conclusion.
  2. Historically in this country class and race have been heavily correlated. The main reason for this is Black Americans have been disenfranchised since we stepped foot in this country. We were brought here as property, beaten, and treated like animals. Even once we had our "freedom" we still endure decades of Jim Crow laws and redlining. Let's add welfare where mothers could only get government support without a man in the household and then the crack epidemic in the 1980s. The result is generational poverty of black people in urban areas. I bring this up to say the correlation of race and class makes it difficult to have a meaningful conversation about gentrification without acknowledging how we got to where we are today.
  3. There are some people that are using gentrification as a code for "white people moving into a black community." Is the issue really that simple? I think part of the issue relates back to number 2, historically race and class have been correlated in our country. However, I think we do ourselves a disservice by not acknowledging that there are areas East of the River that have a strong black middle class community and there has been an influx of young, black, middle class professionals moving into neighborhoods East of the River.
All that to say trying to define gentrification is a waste of time and energy and it distracts from developing solutions. My group at the East of the River Community Forum on Sustainability decided to move the conversation to a discussion about economic development. Our group discussed the inherent conflict with economic development East of the River. On the one hand, residents want restaurants and retail in an area that is grossly under-served. There is a desire to have economic development so people can eat, shop, and work in their community East of the River. However, there is a fear that economic development will make the area unaffordable to some residents. Long-time residents have watched the changes and displacements that occurred in other parts of the city.

One of the members of my group pointed out that "gentrification comes about because communities are not self-sustaining." Essentially what he was alluding to is that a rising tide lifts all boats in a community if everyone has a boat and no one's boat as a hole in it. The middle class neighborhood of Hillcrest in Ward 7 is an example of a community where everyone has a boat without holes. Hillcrest is a community comprised of homes, townhomes, and condominiums. Many of the long-time residents own their homes outright. Therefore the influx of young middle class professionals into Hillcrest over the last decade has had little to no negative effect on the affordability of the neighborhood for long-time residents.

What happens to the neighborhoods where people who don't have boats or have a hole in their boat? Generally, these are the people that are displaced when the rising tide comes. Our group determined the real important questions are why don't people have boats and why do some of the ones with boats have holes in their boats? We concluded that people are ill-prepared for jobs and at the root of that is a poor education. Before the education reformist jump all over that sentence, let me state that our group realizes that in order for education reform to work, it is our obligation as a community to address the toxic environments and dysfunctional families where some of our children live.

In the next installment, I will delve into the importance of an "all hands on deck" movement as foundation for building the community.

Previous Post in the Series
Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington

Monday, November 8, 2010

Second Saturday Solutions is Now on Thursdays

Join us for Second Thursday - November 11, 2010 - at the Big Chair Coffee and Grill

Second Thursday
Thursday November 11, 2010
6:30 – 8:30 pm
Big Chair Coffee and Grill

2122 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE

Topic: Community participation. What motivates you to attend community meetings where decisions are being made that involve your neighborhood? What prevents you from attending a community meeting? What could community associations do to attract participants and retain them? Has the recent election of Mayor-elect Gray and Council Chairman-elect Brown, as well as the advisory neighborhood commissioners, inspired you to become more involved in your community?

Each one, Bring one: To expand the Ward 7/8 network, please bring a friend with you.

Why you should attend: To connect with old friends and meet some new ones that live in Ward 7 and Ward 8. To support a local business. To discuss solutions to challenges that we all encounter in our neighborhoods.

Gentrification East of the River - The "G" Word

(photo from Curbed Los Angeles)

I attended the East of the River Community Forum on Sustainability last week. My group which was diverse (old residents, new residents, people who work in the community, people with interest in sustainability, Black people, White people, middle class, lower class, students, professionals, retirees, childless, parents, grandparents, pastors, community leaders, you name it) discussed the theme "Gentrification East of the River". I've been meaning to give a recap of my group's discussion, but the energy in our discussion was so intense I have been trying to figure out the best way to capture our discussion (with my additional analysis) to do it justice. I decided I have to break it up into several themes over the next several days. I definitely invite you to comment. Some of your comments may be addressed by a later theme.

The first thing my group tackled was the word "Gentrification". Personally, I think it is one of the most overused, misused, abused, over-utilized, misapplied, and philosolied (a lying philosophy... no it's not a real word, but it should be... hehe) word in the US, especially DC. I think "gentrification" should be banned in discussions, because I'm tired of hearing it (and yet ironically enough I have a series dedicated to it).

As a group we discussed the changes that have been happening an other parts of the City. We acknowledged that long-time residents have left and new people have moved it. We also agreed that communities, like life, are constantly changing. After much debate we decided there is two types of change: Organic and Inorganic. Here's our definition of each.
Organic Change - means change that happens in a community naturally. Some long-time residents leave an area because they want to leave. It could be for a job opportunity, need for change of scenery, wanting to downsize after the children leave the home, wanting more space for a growing family, desire to be closer to loved ones, and the list goes on. People move into a community for the same reasons some people move out, in addition to affordability and others. Organic change usually just happens. There is nothing specific that causes it.

Inorganic Change - inorganic means artificial. Artificial change is something that is intentional. There is a systematic and purposeful effort of some sort that is a catalyst and some times the force behind the change. For example, the redevelopment of Barry Farm from solely public housing to a mixed-income, mixed-use development is an example of an inorganic change. There is a specific plan that will intentionally change the landscape of that community. Some residents will return once the project is complete, however, there is a reality that some residents will be relocated to other parts of the District.
Are either of these types of change good or bad? Is one better than the other? And does it matter? As my group learned after our 5-hour pow-wow in a corner, trying to pontificate an answer to these questions distracts from more important problems.

In the next post in this series I will address the theme of "Economic Development".

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington

Saturday, November 6, 2010

And now I'll add something else to my plate

Miss V won the HCCA election against A.B. Stain today (A.B. Stain = abstain... under Robert's Rules of Order even if you are running unopposed you still have to win majority votes). I'm the Chair-elect for the Street, Traffic, and Transportation Committee. Thanks for everyone who voted for me.

So as if I'm not busy enough with maintaining "Life in the Village", AND running my company Nspiregreen LLC (shameless promotion) AND maintaining our blog for Nspiregreen (more shameless promotion), AND managing my personal website (I clearly have no shame in self-promotion), AND managing the Hillcrest Facebook page, AND having some resemblance of a young and fabulous personal life.... I will now add maintaining a blog specific to the Transportation Committee.

In order to be efficient with my time, all transportation issues specific to Hillcrest will be on the HCCA blog with a link from this blog.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kojo in Ward 8 Radio Boardcast

In cased you missed it, here is the link to the recorded broadcast of Kojo in your Community. The discussion starts with the digital divide. While I think it is a problem, I think too much time was spent on that topic. We did spend time talking about the high unemployment rate East of the River and what can be done to solve the problem. You'll hear my voice complaining about lack of bike racks towards the end of the show.

Lessons from Freiberg

Neighbors, I attended a WONDERFUL seminar today about Freiberg, Germany. I wrote up some thoughts I had on my business blog (yes I am two-timing you... forgive me). Check out my recap by clicking here.

Miss V answers your questions about the Village

Often Miss V gets questions about Fairfax Village. I figure for the benefit of everyone, I'd share my frank and honest answers. If you still have questions, do NOT be afraid to ask.

I keep hearing there are multiple Villages in Fairfax Village. How many Villages are there and is Fairfax Village one condo association?
There are nine Villages in Fairfax Village. For ease there are numbered I-IX (how creative... not). Each Village has their own set of governing documents, Board of Directors, budget, and condo fees. All that to say there are nine individual Condo Associations.

There is also the Fairfax Village Community Association, which is comprised of Villages I-VII. Village VIII and IX elect not to be part of the Community Association The Community Association has a Board of Directors comprised of a representative from each Village (I-VII). The Community Association has its own governing documents and budgets. Each Village pays a monthly payment to the Community Association for shared services such as administrative staff, on-site maintenance, landscaping, insurance, and snow removal.

So are you the President of the Community Association?
No. I'm the President of Fairfax Village IV, which is 2000 to 2014 Fort Davis St SE and 3901 to 3933 Pennsylvania Ave SE. The current President of the Community Association is a representative from Village V.

What are the condo fees and what do they pay for?
Each Village passes their own budget, so condo fees do vary by Village. Since I'm not a unit owner in the other Villages, I'm not privy to their budgets, however I do know that My Village (Village IV) has the highest fees in the Village. While it may deter some people from wanting to purchase in my Village to save money, one thing to keep in mind is that our high condo fees provide us with money to provide services to our residents. In addition, the current Village IV Board has invested money into our property to preserve our building infrastructure. For example, we just invested money to have our gutters replaced. If you look at other Villages, the gutters are in deplorable shape. Food for thought.

Condo fees pay for expenses such as maintenance of the common elements of the building, landscaping, snow removal, insurance, administrative fees, and reserves for improvement projects.

The rumor through the Realtor community is Fairfax Village has high condo fee delinquencies and too many renters, so banks aren't closing on home loans on interested buyers. Is that true?
The answer is more complex than a strict yes or no. As far as the banks goes there are several reasons why they aren't closing. 1) The potential buyer who can afford to purchase in Fairfax Village can't meet the banks new stringent requirements, which has nothing to do with us. Banks are being stingy with their money. 2) We aren't FHA-certified, which means certain buyers would not be able to purchase in Fairfax Village with a FHA loan (lower interest than conventional loans) and 3) Some (not all) Realtors are not adequately marketing Fairfax Village as a place with potential.

To address the rumors.... As a result of the economy, some Villages do have delinquencies. In some Villages homeowners refuse to pay because they do not feel like they are getting adequate service from their Condo Association. Some Villages do not have enough money to operate because their condo fees are low and their delinquencies are high. While my Village does have delinquencies, we have been aggressive with getting court orders and in some cases foreclosing.

Some of the Villages are very renter heavy, which makes them ineligible to get FHA-certified. My Village is about 50/50. I will be very frank and state that I hope and pray no more "investors" purchase in Village IV. I can't control who buys, but I will say that absentee landlords have been the bane of my Presidency. We desperately need unit owners who are going to live in their units and work with the Board to make it better.

How bad is the crime?
Our crime is low compared to other parts of the Ward AND other parts of the City. When we do have crime are hotspots are 38th and Suitland Terr. Most of our crime is theft from auto because people leave valuables in plain sight. I've lived here for 5 years and I've never felt unsafe. I think it's because 1) I know my neighbors (who belongs and who doesn't) and 2) I have a good relationship with MPD because I attend the PSA 606 meetings. All that being said, I recognize that I do live in an urban area and I need to be aware of my surroundings.

Why type of person would Fairfax Village be ideal?
Fairfax Village is ideal for single young professional men. A large portion of the new residents over the last 5 years have been FINE single young professional women. I'm JUST SAYING. In all seriousness the units are ample space for a single person. Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray mentioned many of our public servants live outside of DC. I think Fairfax Village is ideal for police, fire. ems, and teachers.

Fairfax Village is ideal for empty-nesters and retired individuals. These individuals would not have to worry about all the headaches of maintaining a single family home. Living in Fairfax Village would give them plenty of time to relax and enjoy life without kids and a 9-to-5.

I also think the townhomes in Fairfax Village are ideal for families. Anne Beers Elementary school and the new Francis A. Gregory Library are within a stone's throw (literally) of our community. With the addition of speed bumps on the 2000 Block of Fort Davis and 3800 Block of W Street, the traffic doesn't fly down those streets anymore. In addition, your child would be exposed to adults of diverse blue and white collar professions.

Knowing what you know now, would you still have bought your first place in Fairfax Village?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Left out .... AGAIN

Washingtonian Magazine has an article entitled "Is Hillcrest the New Power Neighborhood?" Excerpt from article:

New York City has Gracie Mansion, and Los Angeles offers its mayor Getty House. Maryland and Virginia’s governors live in centuries-old estates. But if you’re elected mayor of DC, as Vince Gray was yesterday, you’re on your own....

For Gray, that means that come January he’ll still be in a tan-brick house in the city’s Hillcrest neighborhood, a middle-class community on the bluffs east of the Anacostia River.

Hillcrest features center-hall Colonials on large lots. Its quiet streets have names like Camden and Bangor and High View. It has a good community center, a strong civic association, and decent schools. It’s as peaceful and stately as elite Northwest DC communities such as Spring Valley and Crestwood, home to lame-duck mayor Adrian Fenty.

For full article, click here.

Fairfax Village and Naylor Gardens have been snubbed yet again. Part of me "gets it" because people aren't aware of the stately homes that exist East of the River, such as the ones on the exclusive Westover Drive. However, the other part of me feels like we are Hillcrest's dirty little secret. Looks like Miss V has some more work to do to get us recognized. Anywho...

The article goes on to explain everything we lack in Hillcrest, which is really stating the obvious. The gist of the article makes a strong point that I hope doesn't get lost: WITH HILLCREST HOLDING THE TOP TWO MOST POWERFUL ELECTED POSITION, WILL THERE FINALLY BE SOME ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACTION. Okay granted they didn't explicitly state that, but Miss V can read between the lines or maybe I just read what I wanted to read.

Essence of Community

Miss V was looking through some old graduate school papers. I came across a paper where I discussed this idea of "Community". Since it is an academic paper is is a huge departure from my usual blog writing style. Keep in mind 1) this was written in 2001, and 2) I was going through a militant phase (story for another day), so I can't say that I fully agree with my musings as a grad student. Also, keep in mind that I was a civil engineering student as an undergrad, so my writing style didn't mature until I got to grad school.

The Essence of Community

Over the years people have defined community in different ways. Some argue that a community is a group of people with similar interests, background, culture or a shared identity. Others view community as a group of people bound in the same geographical area. Understanding the definition of community is essential to community building, how we share our communities and how we interact with members of our community. Should we define a community as a regional identity to promote togetherness?

In City Making, by Gerald Frug, the discussion of community building begins with the avoidance of “otherness”. Frug offers examples of how a purified community defined as an acceptance of homogeneity and the rejection of otherness. In the purified group people can receive “culture” at their convenience. They can live and work with people like them and to experience otherness they can watch a play or attend an art gallery. Most suburbs can be defined as a purified community. Most of the people who are considered the “others” live in the central cities. This rejection of things that aren’t familiar creates a “we” versus “them” psyche that makes community building difficult.

Frug proposes three responses to this community segregation of the we-them concept. The first response is the psychological explanation. The natural human desire is to fit in with our surroundings. If someone doesn’t assimilate to this environment they are labeled an outsider, deviant, abnormal and strange. By isolating these others, a sense of solidarity and stability can be created. The second response Frug offers, is the sociology of the city. The city has been given the identity of being dirty, full of crime and the undesirables. This has been expressed through literature and art. Literature romanticizes the countryside while chastising the city. The final response Frug gives is the political factors in the creation of the we-them mentality. Even after segregation was deemed illegal in the Brown versus the Board of Education, the government still imposed involuntary segregation on people. When projects displaced residents, Black residents were sent to inner-city areas, while Whites from the same area where relocated to suburbs. This displacement perpetuated the Black ghetto. These three responses Frug gives, lays the foundation of his community-building plan.

Frug strongly suggests that it is the role of cities is to educate and train people to be able to interact with each other; train people to get along with people who are different from them. He believes that by functioning in this manner cities can create an openness, oneness and togetherness. “A city function of community building would be designed not only to lower the overall level of estrangement in America’s metropolitan areas, but also to begin to address the area’s problems” (Frug, 142). Is Frug idealistic in proposing this idea?

I believe integration has its positive impacts on the community of the city. As Frug points out it allows people to blend ideals and culture. However, without the training Frug suggests, integration can create tolerance of the others, but not necessarily acceptance. Having community programs and promoting diversity can create acceptance and understanding. It is the role of planners to foster this sense of community in the larger city sense by creating settings for people to be exposed to people that are different from themselves.

However, I also believe that integration is not always a good thing nor is it attainable. By encouraging people of different backgrounds to live among each other, the risk of transculturation occurs. This may not seem like a bad thing, however living in integrated communities the dominant culture may dilute the other cultures. Another reason integration is not always good it because some people want to live among people like them. It is not that they are not open to people different from them. They just prefer to live with people who share their values, beliefs and traditions.
I do not think that by integrating people and training them that a sense of community can be created. Regardless of how much people are trained, there will always be some reason to reject people. Even in homogeneous communities, there are people who are considered the “others”. If it is not race, then it is gender, or martial status, or economic status. It is unfortunate that in a capitalistic society like the US, the focus is on the individual. With the focus on the individual, they will always be ways to say some is different from us.

I understand the concept that Frug is trying to convey. It would be nice if as planners we could train people to get along and live together. However, Frug’s recommendation is somewhat idealistic. His vision would work if people were willing to focus on a group oneness as opposed to an individual attitude of you are not like me.

The results are in...

Miss V issued a plea (make that two pleas) to get someone to run for ANC 7B06. I even wrote a poem. I searched high and low to find a challenger. Robert Jordan stepped up to the plate to challenge the incumbent Richard Evans. The people have spoken and Jordan is the new ANC 7B06 Commissioner with 60.31% of the vote. DL Humphrey, Deputy Director of Constituent Services for Councilmember Alexander, was unable to eek out a victory against incumbent ANC 7B07 Commissioner Robert Richards. All the other members of ANC 7B ran unopposed.

DC Circulator East of the River??? - Planning Study

Attached are critical excerpts from DDOT press release. DDOT will be hosting two community meetings East of the River as part of a planning study.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is inviting the public to learn more about the DC Circulator Planning Study and comment on proposed new corridors at two upcoming public meetings:

· Monday, November 8, 2010, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G St, NW

· Saturday, November 13, 2010, from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm, at the Benning Library, 3935 Benning Rd, NE.

The public meetings are part of an ongoing public involvement process that will help guide the growth of the DC Circulator over the next five to ten years. The project team has engaged residents, civic and business leaders, and transportation agencies to identify transportation needs, opportunities, and challenges. The public is encouraged to participate and provide input by attending the public meetings or visiting www.DCCirculator.com, where they can comment and sign up to receive email notifications about future meetings and other opportunities to get involved.

Since its launch in 2005, the DC Circulator has grown substantially, now operating 49 buses on six routes and carrying over four million passengers a year. The DC Circulator supplements Metro’s bus and rail service and connects many of the District’s neighborhoods and activity centers. We hope to promote continued success in the District by continually evaluating the system and seeking input from the community that we serve.

If you need special accommodations or language assistance services (translation or interpretation) please contact Shelley Johnson at 301-4424-6133 or by email at shelley@sharpandco.com in advance of the meeting. These services will be provided free of charge.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Speaking of Voting

While you are voting for Robert Jordan for ANC7B06 today, don't forget we have an equally important vote happening on Saturday. Hillcrest Community Civic Association will be electing it's new Board and Directors this Saturday. Yours Truly (aka Miss V) is running for Street, Traffic, and Transportation Committee. I'm a licensed Professional Engineer in Civil engineering with a concentration in transportation. I'm passionate about non-motor vehicle transportation (i.e. walk, bike, bus, rail).

My goals for our community is to:
1) identify locations were we can add bike racks and bike lanes as many members of our community depend on bike for transportation.

2) advocate as a community for better bus services

3) identify and address intersections where there are pedestrian and vehicle conflicts. For example, try walking across Alabama Ave at a crosswalk where there is not traffic light.

Want to see some of my past blog posts on the topic of Transportation? Click Here.

How to Vote for me
Fairfax Village is within the boundaries of HCCA. All you have to do is pay your membership (if you haven't already) and you are eligible to vote. Come to the HCCA meeting on Saturday at 10:00 AM at the Hillcrest Recreation Center. Check the box next to my name!!!

Who else is running?
Challenging the incumbent President, Karen Williams, is Marvin Bowser, who is currently the 1st Vice President.

Here is the full slate:
President (Vote for one)
• Bowser, Marvin
• Williams, Karen
• Write-in____________________________

1st Vice President (Vote for one)

• Chamberlain, Kathy
• Marlin, Robin
• Write-in ___________________________

2nd Vice President (Vote for one)

• Stuckey, Boyle
• Write-in___________________________

Recording Secretary (Vote for one)
• Dupree, Yvonne
• Lowry, Rita
• Write-in__________________________

Treasurer (Vote for one)
• Evans, Monica
• Write-in__________________________

Chaplain (Vote for one)

• Hawkins, John
• Write-in __________________________

Parliamentarian (Vote for one)
• Burke, Kenneth
• Write-in __________________________

Chair, Education and Recreation Committee (Vote for one)
• Buckner, Shawn
• Write-in______________________________

Chair, Environmental and Beautification Committee (Vote for one)
• Ross, Mary
• Write-in______________________________

Chair, Public Safety and Emergency Committee (Vote for one)

• Kirkpatrick, David
• Write-in______________________________

Chair, Membership Committee (Vote for one)
• Akers, Scott
• Write-in_____________________________

Chair, Communications Committee (Vote for one)
• Phipps-Evans, Michelle
• Write-in_____________________________

Chair, Street, Traffic and Transportation Committee (Vote for one)
• Davis, Veronica O.
• Write-in_____________________________

Chair, Fundraising Committee (Vote for one)
• Brown, Sheila
• Write-in____________________________