Adams Morgan Demonstrates Power, Need of Public Space for Dining and Recreating

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 2, Edition 83 (6/28/2020)

Adams Morgan, DC Opens 18th Street to Weekend Dining Amid Neighborhood Economic Struggle

This weekend starting on Friday at 3 PM, DC’s 18th Street NW between Florida Avenue and Columbia Street NW were repurposed for outdoor dining and expanded pedestrian space. The neighborhood in question, Adams Morgan, thrives on the energy of dining, entertainment, and nightlife venues in this stretch of 18th — plus blocks east and west on Columbia. Those establishments have struggled to preserve pre-COVID business via delivery and take-only operations. For many places in these few hundred feet, the in-person ambiance is at least half the whole point of patronizing. This weekend thanks to the work of local leaders, the ambiance was back.

For a few years, some neighborhood stakeholders have organized around an open or slow 18th Street to help those businesses and make non-car travel safer in the street where traffic gets so bad on some weekend evenings that DC Police close it anyway. For as long as this idea was in the air, some residents — especially homeowners on adjacent Belmont Street — threw out logistical challenges and reasons it was impractical. The neighborhood’s Business Improvement District was of a mixed opinion on the idea prior to COVID. It finally happened this weekend out of economic desperation. Logistical challenges were constructively fixed over a few weeks with neighborhood stakeholders motivated to reach success rather than muddle abstract proposals.

Street Justice observed many hours of ReImagined AdMo on Friday evening. It seems to provide a good 1st try for a recurring event in Adams Morgan from next weekend. Other DC neighborhoods with similar retail and dining droughts and walkable business districts can learn from this re-design. Street Justice reporting suggests other BIDs and ANCs haven’t been as on-the-same-page as AdMo’s bodies: beginning with the necessity of the event happening and working to resolve the design challenges.

In lower traffic areas like Union Market, repurposed curbside parking spots (“parklets”) were used this weekend. On 17th Street NW in Dupont Circle, several restaurants are using parklets in expanded street space for dining. The Dupont ANC has a special meeting this upcoming week to discuss a permanent re-design of 17th that would benefit pedestrian and bike safety — AND improve the loading, pick-up/drop-off facilities of those businesses.

The major difference between those street changes and Adams Morgan is that AdMo coordinated for closure to thru car traffic. That provides much more pedestrian space for socially distant travel. Such a design feature would be wise in many other possibilities, like 8th St SE/Barrack’s Row near the Eastern Market metro and MLK SE near the Anacostia Metro station.

While some on social media like my esteemed media colleagues criticized the lack of mask-wearing among the AdMo crowd, it’s important to recognize most of the people in those posted pictures are dining. ANC 1C Commissioner Japer Bowles said free mask distribution and enforcement of mask-wearing should be added for following weekends.

Bowles mentioned also that many of the cordoned-off parklets were empty, and that businesses near the Columbia intersection needed more time to get organized. If you take away anything from this report, understand that this idea was totally dead 6 days ago after repeated Mayoral rejection of the community’s unanimous plan. As one stakeholder group said this weekend, several businesses didn’t have enough lead time to purchase additional insurance for operating in public space.

ANC Pedestrian Advisory Council member Heather Foote was walking around at the Southern end of the road closure cataloging what Street Justice imagines to be ways the closure harmed pedestrian safety. Foote seemed to be surveying passersby and talking with police directing traffic. WMATA continues to oppose the closure, which reroutes the 90 and 96 busses very slightly. The concentrated group of resident detractors on perpendicular Belmont Street enjoyed clear egress thanks to the community-driven plan put into action.

NOTE: ANC 1C contracts with Street Justice for A/V services and the Adams Morgan Commercial Development Coalition has done so previously.

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  • (Multimedia Content Archive > 2020 > June)

  • PHOTOS AND VIDEOS - Large Apartment Fire at Dunbar Apartments 15th and U NW - 6.26.2020

News Tidbits

On Friday evening about 9 PM, a large apartment fire broke out at the Dunbar Apartments building on the corner of 15th and U Streets NW. According to the Washington Post, 2 people were critically injured and a cause of the fire wasn’t immediately disclosed. The 2 Alarm blaze brought what Street Justice estimated to be two-dozen Fire and EMS vehicles to the few blocks around the building (here’s what that alarm count categorization means). We were on the scene and captured residents from across 15th Street NW handing out cups of water from a pitcher. Here are pictures from the ladder rescues.

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“A pedestrian was hit by a vehicle and killed Saturday night in Prince George’s County, police said. The man was found in the roadway in the 5100 block of Allentown Road about 10:40 p.m., police said. He died at the scene.” That’s Martin Weil, reporting in WaPost. Weil notes that Allentown Road is a major thoroughfare in PG County near Joint Base Andrews; that’s correct but unhelpful. This victim of traffic violence was walking across at 6-lane, median separated road near two strip malls with several churches, a hotel, a grocery store, and several restaurants. The victim was in greater danger than should be acceptable because Allentown Road has a narrow sidewalk only on one side and one of Prince Georges’ popular bike facilities: a paved shoulder on a 50 mph+ road with the cycling dude painted in it. Street Justice finds it surprising that the walkshed of Joint Base Andrews is so dangerous.

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“California on Thursday approved a groundbreaking policy to wean its trucking sector off of diesel fuel by requiring manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2024. The mandate, passed unanimously by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), was hailed as a major step toward reducing climate-warming emissions and improving public health for low-income communities near busy highway corridors and ports.

“The proposed mandate is expected to start in the 2024 model year and initially require 5%-9% zero emission vehicles (ZEV) based on class, rising to 30%-50% by 2030. By 2045, all vehicles should be ZEVs "where feasible." The regulation would apply to pickup trucks weighing 8,500 pounds or more, but not to light-duty trucks, which are covered by separate zero emission regulations. CARB plans a separate rule in early 2021 that will require large fleet owners to buy some ZEVs.”

That’s David Shepardson and Nichola Groom, reporting in Reuters.

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Anti-BLM organizers and staff from far-right news organization Breitbart delivered lunches to DC Police’s 2D precinct yesterday. The law enforcement agency thanked the news outlet in a tweet, which was deleted and then replaced without mention of the conspiracy-theory-pushing content creator. In an almost 40-minute video from the Police Precinct, Breitbart interviewed several people of color and a Republican candidate for DC Council At-Large who expressed positive views of the police and skepticism toward Black Lives Matter protestors in the District. According to comments on Brietbart’s video post, the residents interviewed have shown up at BLM protests to counter their message and “let them protestors have it!”

According to Fenit Nirrapil of WaPost, Mayor Bowser nor MPD offered responses to his questions about the food donation and warm reception from Police. Breitbart should not be confused with fact-based journalism. The way the donation was filmed appeared to look closer to an “earned media” promotional event produced by Breitbart instead of a news organization covering genuine grassroots mobilizing.

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“The face mask debate has been a running feature of the coronavirus pandemic – with conflicting, often confusing reports from national governments and the World Health Organisation about whether people should wear them indoors only, outdoors as well, or not at all. Some countries, particularly those in Asia, already had a culture of people wearing masks when ill to avoid spreading germs, but for others putting on a mask was a wholly alien concept.”

“So how does a behaviour like mask wearing go from being a fringe position adopted only by a handful, to something that’s almost mandatory in polite society? And what can that process teach us about how to encourage pandemic-proof behaviours as the economy begins to open up and lockdown restrictions ease?”

That’s the lede of a report by Amit Katwala in WIRED.

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“As companies and organizations of all sorts have scrambled to institute a zero-tolerance policy on racism over the past few weeks, some of them have turned out to be more interested in signaling their good intentions than punishing actual culprits. This emphasis on appearing rather than being virtuous has already resulted in the mistreatment of innocent people—not all of them public figures or well-connected individuals with wealth to cushion their fall.” A great story from Yascha Mounk in The Atlantic.

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ICYMI: Yesterday in Street Justice, we shared the news that two scooter riders in the DC-area lost their lives on dangerous roads. We chose to focus on a hit-and-run motorist who took the life of a DC resident just below Ward 8 on Suitland Parkway in Prince George’s County. The report discusses DC’s long-term, essentially dust-covered, plans for a better Suitland Parkway. We explain how the existing political establishment in Ward 8 sometimes chooses to blame victims instead of pushing for best-practices safety design.

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Wed 7/1: ANC 1C (Adams Morgan) July Meeting [Livestream Link]

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DISCLAIMER: Street Justice is subjective journalism. We produce factually accurate, thoroughly reported content. We write with a personal and opinionated voice, contrary to “view from nowhere” journalism that produces an unrealistically symmetrical portrayal of matters in dispute. Where there are power dynamics, Street Justice applies greater scrutiny to agents and stakeholders with greater privilege and more questionable motives.