Space for All?

Sometimes it feels like the city is rapidly revitalizing, with the potential to finally become a truly vibrant international metropolis. Other times it feels like the forces of retroactive resistance threaten to strangle that dream in vitro, and keep us in the clutches of special interests that have long ceased to be of any true value.

Two particular stories have highlighted this for me lately – the ongoing battle over the religious parking policy, and the battle over a bar’s liquor license. Both affect my Shaw neighborhood and strike at the heart of my personal hopes for the city I’ve called home for half my life – space for all.

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs
Now Tom mentioned both of these issues yesterday, so forgive me for the repetition. But I’m so irritated I have to add my local perspective.

Let’s start with the current conundrum over the city’s religious parking policy. The DOT may have started this particular process back in March, but it’s part of a longer battle where large churches hold urban policies hostage in a frustrating tangle of race, class, and religion.

But will it be solved effectively with the rollout of the “public policy pilot program” in Logan Circle? I’m frankly skeptical that this will see much success. The city has already shown its weakiness and willingness to cave by increasing parking spaces/redesigning roads to curb double parking, instead of simply enforcing the law and ticketing as they should have been doing all along.

Yesterday as my husband walked to work he called me in a rage over witnessing the first step of this pilot program just outside our house. He watched the transformation of Vermont Avenue from Logan Circle to 11th & S from a broad two-lane street into a narrow one-lane one-way street with diagonal parking on both sides. There is a large church there with consistent double parking. Our fear is that they’ll just continue to do it, turning that whole strip into a blocked informal parking lot. I hope to be proven wrong. In any case I can’t see how restricting a major artery off a major circle will help traffic problems.

To complicate matters, right next to the church is a huge hole in the ground as a behemoth condo complex is going up. It looks like they’ve dug enough out for a massive parking garage – let’s hope so, or the clash for parking will intensify, and we can be prepared for more name-calling along the lines of “new residents are soulless carpetbaggers” vs. “churchgoers are callous suburbanites who abandoned the neighborhood years ago”.

Which brings us to the second story that has me depressed, the battle between Scripture Church and Be Bar over the bar’s liquor license. Like the battle over Vegetate’s license, it pits a powerful church against small-business owners. I’m sure you can guess who usually wins. With Be Bar’s case you add sexual orientation to the other issues of race, class, and religion, and you have a powderkeg. The Post article says it all, really, no need to further editorialize when bigots are that open about their hatred.

(But I can’t resist asking the Reverend, “Pardon me, but didn’t your Lord have dinner with tax collectors and whores? And you won’t even deign to talk with the owners you condemn as damned? And this is Christian behavior, how exactly?”)

Who really makes urban policy in DC? Why the battle over DC’s identity? Don’t we all want the same thing? A vibrant living city? Or I am stubbornly naive, foolishly idealistic, thinking we can all get along? And will special interests keep us segregated forever?

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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