The rebuilding of Washington's West End, like most redevelopment, is not taking place without a political battle.
When development of the area between Georgetown, New Hampshire Avenue and K and N streets NW was first proposed, some developers wanted an area of high-rise office buildings, but city planners wanted to stem the march of office building construction westward from downtown. At the same time, the District government was looking for additional tax revenues.
An alliance between the city and the developers produced a special zoning classification called CR, a combination of residential, office and commercial construction they felt would create a more viable environment.
The losers in this compromise have been citizen groups opposing large-scale development in the area.
The latest skirmish in West End is over parking. Zoning for the area calls for one parking space for every three apartment units. Cooperative and condominium developments qualify for two spaces for every three units.
Many civic leaders in the West End feel that developer Oliver Carr's planned condominium complex, Westbridge, will cause a worse parking problem than now exists in the area.
Ann Loikow, vice chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Council for West End, points out that the high-in-come people who will be moving in will probably come with cars. If the building does not provide parking, residents will be forced to battle for parking spaces on the streets, complicating an already poor parking situation, she said.
Carr also wanted increased parking space. He appealed to the Zoning Commission, lost, and is seeking a special exception.
West End landower Philip Brown, who has a running legal battle with Carr, decided to fight the special exception. Brown owns a parking garage in the area.
The remapping of West End was sparked in 1972 when the city's Office of Planning and Management submitted a report to the Mayor called "New Town for the West End," which was followed more than a year later by a "Plan for the West End."
A vast increase in commercial and residential development in the neighborhood was recommended, a proposal planners said would encourage walk-to-work housing.
Members of the West End Planning Inc., a nonprofit organization that said it represented 75 percent of the West End's property owners, worked with city officials to develop the plan. The group's chief organizer, Oliver T. Carr, said he expected opposition from citizens groups and other people living in the neighborhood.
Carr said only about 200 residents of smaller buildings would have to be relocated. He said he was working with the city governemnt to locate adequate housing for those people.
West End's civic groups reacted as predicted. The most outspoken were the West End-Washington Circle Associates, which presented an alternative plan for the area's development, and the Lincoln Civic Association, which submitted a proposal mainly for residential housing in the area.
Both groups charged that the planning office's proposal was unfair to residents. They pointed out that it was based on a land value analysis drawn up by Gladstone Associates, a firm affiliated with Quadrangle Development Corp. Quadrangle owned land adjacent to the West End and would profit from its commercial development, the groups charged.
Both the city's business establishment, represented by the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development told the city Zoning Commission that they were in favor of the planning office design for West End's redevelopment because it would lead to higher tax revenues and better housing.
At the end of 1974, the Zoning Commission approved the plan, with one major change limiting new buildings on land bordering Rock Creek Park to a height of 60 feet or six stories. Other new buildings could go as high as 110 feet or 11 stories.
Before the commission acted conflict-of-interest charges were filed against three zoning commissioners by landowner Philip Brown and the West End Committee of the Dupont Circle Citizen's Association. The complaints charged that Mayor Walter E. Washington and City Council Vice Chairman Sterling Tucker both ex-offico members, should be disqualified from the case because they had accepted campaign contributions from persons having a "direct financial interest" in the West End rezoning.
The suit contended that Commissioner J. A. Nevius should be disqualified because his family had interests in the Riggs National Bank, a major financer of West End development. Nevius' deceased father had been a Rigg's official.
The city's Board of Election and Ethics dismissed the charges as insufficient, and the Zoning Commission voted unanimously to rezone the West End.
The West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, a locally elected group that advises the city government on matters concerning the neighborhood, consistently has opposed high-rise development of the area.
Commissioners and West End residents have presented formidable opposing arguments at zoning hearings, backed up by teams of consultants, architects and lawyers arguing on their behalf for a neighborhood that would remain family-oriented.
Before 1976, when the advisory commission was first elected, the Neighborhood Planning Council of the Adams Morgan/West End area was active in the area. A provider of services for low-income youth, it was the only city-funded organization in the neighborhood.
But after the development began, the NPC moved its headquarters from the West End. Poor people can no longer afford to live there, said its former chairman, Neil Seldman.
Seldman said the NPC had been interested in keeping the West End a low-to moderate-income neighborhood. But the group was not consulted by city planners when the development was proposed and didn't have the time to oppose the development later, he said.
"Had we fought, we could have kept the area as a self-sufficient community for poor people," Seldman said.
The main shortcoming of the scheme for West End, city planner Nathan W. Gross remarked early in 1977, was the city's failure to press strongly for the rights of moderate-income families who had been forced to move.
Meanwhile, others were fighting for their rights in West End.
In February 1977, the George Hyman Construction Co. and the Washington Builders Trade Council ended four months of emotional negotiations over the way things were going to be built in the West End.
In an agreement said to be unprecedented for a major residential project, the two sides drew up and accord prohibiting strikes during the West End's redevelopment, partly as a guarantee against the use of cheaper, non-union labor. The agreement alco called for standardized work hours and uniform holidays and gave contractors the right to decide how many men would be needed for a certain job.
Richard Getsinger, Hyman senior vice president, said, "As a union contractor, we've seen ourselves losing work in the past 10 years or so to some open shop people, particularly in the residential construction market.
"We feel like we have to face this, all of us, together," he added.
John Quackenbush, secretary-treasurer of the labor group, said that as the largest privately funded projected the city had had in many years, West End would be a boon to the depressed construction industry.
"We want to see this project work, we want to keep the nonunion out of it and we're willing to make concessions," he said. "When somebody comes along with $500 million and five years employment, we're all ears."
Robert Charles, presidents of the neighboring Foggy Bottom Association, does not see any one person as the villain of the West End story.
"Over time a collection of interests converged," he said.
Charles was involved in West End Planning Inc., but feels it was a "Carr flack job." Meetings were poorly attended and area residents felt they would not be considered when actual plans were formed, he said.
He said he feels the area will become a "singles' ghetto," with few families moving into the area. Charles would like to see development on a smaller scale, as has occurred in Foggy Bottom.
The political battles in the West End are not easy to identify; battle lines cannot be neatly drawn. It is clear that city planners, with the cooperation of several large developers in the area, devised a plan for development.
The tool they used was zoning. According to Kirk White of the Municipal Planning Office, zoning is "taking forces which there is no control over and reshaping them."
Next: West End business.