Littering, loitering, peeling rubber and parking were the main issues discussed at the annual "good neighbors" meeting held recently at the Marine Barracks at 8th and I Streets SE.
Every year, just before the parade season, the Marines invite residents of the neighborhood to a combination social hour and gripe session. The Friday evening parades, which began last week, draw about 3,000 spectators each time and sometimes cause problems for area residents.
About a dozen residents and one representative of the Barracks Row Merchant Association - a group of businessmen with offices and stores on 8th Street - attended the meeting. They drank coffee and iced tea, ate cookies as the Barracks commanding officer, Col. W. H. Rice, fielded questions and complaints.
David Umansky of 736 9th St. complained that during last year's parades off-duty Marines sat on top of the Barracks' roof drinking beer and looking around with binoculars. Rice promised to put a stop to the practice.
Umansky also asked if the Barracks had instituted a car pool system. Rice said they had not and cited difficulties since Barracks personnel work in three different shifts.
"If you reserved the parking spaces along the building for car pools, you'd get people into car pools," countered Umansky.
"It's a good idea," conceded Rice. "I can't promise to do it, but we'll look into it."
Of the 900 Marines assigned to the Barracks, about 400 are commuters. Most of them commute by car. The Barracks has about 50 parking spaces available to them. The others must either park as a Defense Department parking lot in Anacostia and take a shuttle bus to the Barracks or compete with local residents for parking spaces on the streets.
Martin Firestone of 746 9th St., who has attended five such meetings, calls them "my war with the Marine Corps." Firestone complained that Marines often gathered on the corner of 9th and I Streets, double-parking their cars and hurling catcalls at neighborhood women. He also cited a littering problem.
"The boys come back at night with their McDonald's boxes and their six packs and pile the remains on the curb," complained Firestone.
Rice promised to put a stop to the double parking but said it was difficult to keep 18-and 19-year-old men from gathering on street corners. He said the Barracks had placed trash cans on the corners.
"We're making a constant effort," said Rice. "We're trying. We need your cooperation. Please call us when problems like these come up."
He said that a complaint about a Marine riding a motorcycle up and down an alley, disturbing residents with his squealing wheels, had been acted upon swiftly. "Now that man has better things to do," Rice assured the gathering.
Another resident complained about the "Saturday morning disco." She said the Marines who park along the Barracks wall on 9th Street wash their cars and play loud music on their radios. "Even my 13-year-old said it was too loud," she added. Rice instructed his guard officer to stop the practice.
To alleviate parking problems for residents during the parades, one of the officers distributed stickers. Through an arrangement with the police, cars displaying these stickers are allowed to park in the alley between 9th and 10th Streets between 6 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday during the parade season.
On another parking matter, Rice said the city government had turned down the Marines' bid to lease a 1 1/2 acre vacant lot under the Southwest Freeway between 7th and 8th Streets SE. The Marines had planned to pave the area and use it for parking.
James Clark, assistant director for planning of the D.C. Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the site, said in a telephone interview that the Department opposed providing parking spaces for commuters in areas that would soon be served by Metro. The Department is planning to landscape and light the perimeter of the area under the freeway, at a cost of about $100,000, Clark said. There are no firm plans for the use of the site as yet.
"We hope it can be resolved at the community level," said Clark, "but so far there is no consensus on what to do with the land."
The Afro-American Bicentennial Corp. received an $89,000 grant from the Department of Transportation to conduct studies on the use of the space. The corporation concluded that the land was not suited for commercial development at this time and recommended that it be used for recreation facilities.
Other possibilities mentioned for the site are a farmers' market and metered, short-term parking. Two Advisory Neighborhood Commissions are currently studying these possibilities.
Rice made one announcement that was welcomed by all present. He announced that the Marine Band and the Dixieland Combo would play at the Barracks Row Street Fair to be held on 8th Street on June 5.