After two hours of heated discussion by community residents - some of whom favored recreational use for a half-acre of land under the Southeast Freeway at 8th Street and some of whom wanted parking - advisory neighborhood commission 6B voted last week to use the land for shortterm, metered parking.
The ANC will ask the District government to use the revenue from the parking lot to finance a playground at the Ellen Wilson public housing project at 7th Street and Virginia Avenue SE.
When the Southeast Freeway was built in 1965, the span between 7th and 8th Streets and I Street and Virginia Avenue was not filled in so that the space could be used by the community, according to federal highway officials.
But, since no funds were available, the issue of what to do with the land lay dormant and the site remained littered with trash and used mainly as a parking lot by Marines from the Marine Barracks across the street.
Earlier this year, the D.C. department of recreation was looking for a site to replace basketball and tennis courts at the Arthur Capper public housing project at 5th and K Streets SE. The courts had been closed to make way for a neighborhood service center. The freeway land was suggested as a site for the replacement courts.
ANC 2D, representing the neighborhood south of the freeway, which includes many lower-income residents of public housing developments, has voted to use dhte site for basketball courts and the D.C. department of transportation has agreed to install lighted courts on approximately half the site. ANC 6B, which represents the more affluent Capitol Hill community north of the freeway, was left with the decision of what to do with the remainder of the site.
"Whatever the consensus of the community is, we will try to pursue it," James Clark, director of planning for the department of transportation said at last week's meeting.
Phil Ogilvie, who lives at 37 7th St. NE and who wife works in one of the recently opened stores on 8th Street, presented the results of a survey of 130 residents and merchants in the area adjacent to the site on the north side of the freeway. Fewer than 1 per cent of the respondents favored recreation on the site; 80 per cent of those surveyed favored either long-term or short-term parking, Ogilvie said at the meeting. Mixed recreation and parking was th choice of 19.2 per cent of the respondents, he said.
"If you're talking about mixing parking and recreation, somebody is crazy," said Vivien Williams, a community organizer for Friendship House. She said she has been trying to have recreational facilities put on that site space for children in that area," said Williams, adding that parking wouldn't benefit the lower income groups in the neighborhood. "The majority of people in public housing don't have automobiles," she said.
A woman, who said she lived near the Marine Barracks, said that if the Marines who now park their cars under the freeway are not allowed to do so, more cars will inundate the neighborhood and aggravate the existing parking problem.
"Many places labeled recreation areas are simply a farce," said commissioner Margie Wilber, chairwoman of the ANC's recreation and youth affairs committee. "They're not wholesome. They're mmonopolized by older teenagers, and they're unsafe for little children. This is a great time for this community to work out what it really wants - to crate a fine, parent-run playground under the freeway."
Commissioner Jan Eichorn offered a substitute motion that the space under the freeway be used for short-term parking and the revenue from the meters be used to build a playground at the Ellen Wilson housing project. The Ellen Wilson homes are across Virginia Avenue from the freeway site.
"There are two groups with very valid needs - recreation and parking for commercial development's," said Eichorn. "There's a large lot behind the Ellen Wilson housing unites, and the children at Ellen Wilson don't have a playground. This would be a way of meeting the needs of all the people in the community."
The Motion was adopted by a vote of 5-4, despite the objectioins of commissioner Wilber, who called the motion "a pacifier."
"How much delay will this cause?" asked Wilber. "We are impeding progress in the area."
ANC members said that special legislation would probably be needed to use parking revenues to finance the playground. They resolved that, is by Jan. 1 there was no indication that such legislation would be passed, the ANC would reconsider its position on the site use.