The residents of the Brookland area in Northeast Washington like where they live - it's quiet, stable and respectable. And that's the way they want it to stay.
In addition to Brookland, the area includes University Heights, Michigan Park, Woodbridge, Gateway, Langdon and Fort Lincoln-New Town.All are served by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5A.
Residents say that Brookland does not face the real estate problems of areas such as Shaw, Foggy Bottom or Columbia Heights: So far, developers have ignored the area.
Indeed, according to the residents, Brookland is very much as it was 20 or 30 years ago. The streets are lined with older, single-family homes, which sit on some of the most inexpensive real estate west of the Anacostia River. (Brookland was the third slowest gainer in terms of median home sales in 1978).
Residents of the area believe they have a good thing and they don't want to lose it. That is why the commissioners of the Brookland ANC are keeping an eye on the changes occurring in the rest of the city.
"We have a concern with what happens in other neighborhoods because eventually it could happen in ours," said Edward Feggans, ANC commissioner from the Gateway section of Brookland.
Worries over development make zoning issues a major concern. Commissioners generally are extremely wary of requests for zoning variances and are opposed to commercial development in residential areas.
"Developers will have a tough time coming in here," one ANC commissioner said, "because mainly we're a neighborhood of people that have lived here at least 15 or 20 years. When they do come, we'll fight them all the way."
Transportation appears to be another important issue to ANC 5A. Brookland is directly between downtown Washington and large suburbs in Prince George's County. The ANC is often concerned with congestion of arterial streets during rush hours, especially because the congestion usually coincides with the times neighborhood children walk to and from school.
Even with the larger issues, ANC commissioners spend a good deal of time helping constituents with smaller problems - getting snow removed, trash picked up, filling a pothole or replacing a burned-out street light.
Thus, the double role of an ANC: To advise the District government about problems in the community and to help its residents solve their own problems.
The ANC also has attempted to act as a link to civic associations in the area. For instance, ANC 5A has worked with various civic associations on problems such as the proposed relocation of Georgetown University's Northeast Medical Center.
But relations with the associations weren't always good. ANC chairman Mozelle Watkins explains:
"Some civic associations, especially one, felt that we were taking power away from them. I hope that feeling has been eradicated by now."
The area served by ANC 5A includes some well organized civic associations, such as Lammond-Riggs, Woodridge, Gateway and Brookland.
The ANC and the civic associations in Brookland are, however, beginning to work together. As ANC Commissioner Raymond Dickey points out, "The ANC is an important tool for the civic associations to use." And Watkins adds, "We tried to make the civic associations understand we are the vocal power (to the District government)."
Even with its multitude of activities, Brookland commissioners feel there is not much involvement in ANC affairs by residents. Watkins said she feels the fault lies with both the ANC and the Public.
"People tend to shy away from the political aspects of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission," she said, "although we might be at fault for not being able to inform and set up working relations with the majority of the community."
But the 5A commissioners don't shy away from the political aspects. Most are (or have been) involved in one or more of the civic groups.
Ralph McMillan, assigned by the D.C. Community Services Division to assist ANC 5A, calls the commissioners "a diverse group but they're organized very well. They bicker, but they do take action."
Chairman Watkins views it another way: "They're the nicest people I've ever worked with."