Wisconsin Avenue is under siege. The developers have discovered the overzoned commercial strip that fronts our neigborhoods, smelled dollars to be made and migrated from downtown to cash in. They've done it with the blessing of our District leaders, who listened to the song-and-dance about "jobs and taxes," accepted it hook, line and stinking sinker, and handed out razing and building permits like Kleenex.
We fought long and hard for a comprehensive plan for the District. We knew that Metrorail was coming and that we were going to be in serious trouble. We had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to secure the right to park in front of our homes.
In 1976, we worked with the city to draft a downzoning plan for the Tenley Circle area. When it was submitted, the ensuing silence was deafening.
In 1978, under the umbrella Wisconsin Avenue Corridor Committee, citizens from all seven Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and all the civic groups in the area drew up our own land-use map, calling for downzoning of much of the commercial strip. We submitted the map to the city government. Silence.
That same year, citizens in Ward 3 played a large part in tossing out the incumbent mayor -- who didn't share their feelings about any comprehensive plan and who wanted to raze McLean Gardens and install a 43-acre Crystal City -- and went with the Marion Barry instead. He promised to save the rental housing in the Gardens -- and a comprehensive plan as well.
Also that year, citizens in all eight wards organized the Citizens Planning Coalition to push for the comprehensive plan. Finally, the city began to work on a draft. What we got was a document that was about as easy to implement as it is to nail Jell-O to the wall. And it lacked a map. Citizens began pushing again, and finally a map was drawn up -- with no street grid! In the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, citizens found 77 errors that had to be corrected.
In 1984, members of the citywide coalition and WACC in Ward 3 decided to assemble their own land-use maps for all eight wards, block by block, and get them approved by their ANCs and civic groups. These eight maps were submitted to the city government that summer. Roaring silence.
Except for the bulldozers. By the time developers realized the city might actually enact a comprehensive plan and that some downzoning of commercial areas was going to be included, they showed up on Wisconsin Avenue.
The D.C. Council did adopt a comprehensive plan and directed Mayor Barry to assemble Community Advisory Committees in all eight wards to make recommendations on ward plans. He waited 11 months to do so. The CACs assembled in January, decided to shorten their work schedule by six months, and the Ward 3 CAC has submitted its recommendations to the city government. A lot of ears are listening right now.
Several weeks ago, the mayor decided Wisconsin Avenue might in fact be going down the tubes and directed the city administrator to convene a special meeting of city officials and civic leaders to deal with the mess. The initial meeting was as heated as the temperature outside Wilson High. The upshot is that for the rest of this summer, a task force of citizens and city officials will meet to identify the avenue's problems and recommend solutions. We're almost too late.
What was once Johnson's Flower Center now looks like the Grand Canyon. There's a rumor that we'll lose Murphy's dime store. The people at the liquor store at Macomb Street tell me their landlord will give them only a month-to-month lease. Catty-corner from the liquor store, an old Victorian house was razed the same day official notice of intent to raze was provided to the ANC by the city. Citizens fighting in Friendship Heights "square 1662" were dismayed to see their mayorally appointed zoning commissioners actually give the developers more height and density than they had applied for.
Wisconsin Avenue needs help. I will do whatever I can, but for the love of Pete, don't ask citizens to waste another two months' time only to hear more silence from those public servants who are supposed to be looking out for our best interests.