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ANC6C Meeting, selective memory redux

[This post will be proofread and possibly edited later--I need to cook and eat dinner before the Daily Show is over!]

I just got back from the monthly ANC6C meeting, and what a meeting it was, albeit my first. Sadly–or stupidly–I managed to forget my pen and pad, so I’m making no attempt to offer any substantive redux. But there are some clear highlights, many of which I think survived in my memory for the full three hour length.

Here’s what my memory offers. Apologies for any inaccuracies in my reporting or misunderstanding of procedure. This is roughly in reverse order of importance–but mostly because the 5th & I discussion is at the end of this post.

The majority of the meeting in a paragraph or two: The commission has use-it-or-lose-it money for community grants, so start making proposals. There will be a festival at the National Building Museum in the near future, which will close down a block of street and feature ballerinas dancing on construction equipment. Commissioner Silver (6C01, that’s most of us) did a recent walk through of the CCNV shelter and was generally impressed with their operation, but noted that they are in desperate need of basic supplies–he urged them to put in a grant proposal. There will be a public art project, sponsored by DC and National arts organizations, installed at the corner of 5th and K, NW–the ANC doesn’t have a say in whether this happens, but it looks like it will be a nice addition to the neighborhood.

The ANC will support Leeloo’s application to put tables on the sidewalk–but only provisionally on the side of the street across from local residents, subject to Leeloo coming to an agreement with those residents. The ANC will support Jemal Douglas’s agreement to lease 38 nearby parking spaces to provide residents of 704 3d Street, NW’s with parking, in lieu of providing parking in building.

The two biggest points of the meeting were, by far, discussion about the proposed moratorium on the sale of singles and the 5th & I development.

The singles moratorium (single-serve alcoholic beverages) apparently has been on the agenda for quite some time, with the ANC making efforts to impose one on its own. This meeting, however, offered an urgent action item, with the prospect of Tommy Wells and Jack Evans introducing a bill to implement the same moratorium through legislative means. There is much to talk about here–which I can not fairly recount–but the key takeaway is that there is likely a bill to be introduced in the coming weeks that will impose this moratorium in parts of ANC2C and ANC6C. The ANC had to act tonight if it wanted to be covered by the bill, as it will be too close to final form by the time of the next meeting. From what I recall, ANC6C voted to request that 6C01 and 6C09 definitely be included in the affected area; with parts of 6C04 seeking inclusion (2d-8th, G-Florida?); and with 6C02 and 6c05 considering over the next days whether to seek inclusion.

Needless to say, this is a big issue, which required quick action which appears to have been taken. I expect there to be other coverage–please just take this summary as notice of the issues and forgive any errors on my recount.

And, drumroll please, the 5th & I project. Substantively, nothing happened–but I learned a lot. Most important thing first: there will be a special meeting probably Wednesday May 28 (location TBD) to discuss what the ANC should do, and to do it. This meeting might be moved up, based upon information to be had tomorrow about a potential best-bids evaluation that could eliminate two of the four proposals before a May 28th meeting could have any impact.

There was heated discussion about what the ANC should and could do. The ANC has basically been left out of this process by the Mayor’s office. The Mayor’s office will decide which bid wins, and plans to do so by June 8 (perhaps June 9–I’ve tried too hard to remember the date and have confused myself as a result). They have not sought out ANC input, and it is not clear whether it is welcome.

Discussion focused on whether the ANC should adopt a list to the Mayor of issues that we feel it is important that the winning proposal address; or whether it should specific endorse one or two of the propsals. This is a blog, so I will editorialize a bit, if only to say that the first idea is just silly: the list of issues appears largely duplicative of issues already aired, which were incorporated into the RFP, and would be enitrely non-binding. It’s too weak an effort to offer too little direction too late in the game–a non-decision-making body can’t sweep in at the 11th hour to make suggestions that should have been made in the 1st hour and expect to be taken seriously.

I am in the camp that believes the ANC should endorse one or two of the proposals. I do support the Donohoe/Holland bid–yes–but at this point it seems more important to take the bad bids (look at the poll!) off the table. And there was a strong 555 Mass presense at the meeting that showed stronger support than I had anticipated for Donahoe.

But that’s enough editorializing.

All in all, it was an interesting and engaging meeting, if long.

–MLB

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Auto Insurance Update

Fourthandeye posted a week or so ago about the insanity of DC car insurance. Well, I’ve just gone through the process of switching from Allstate to Geico, and want to report back to tell everyone to shop around. Egads, shop around! Allstate wanted more than three times what Gieco is charging me! This isn’t specifically to endorse Geico, as there were a couple of other insurers that had similar quotes to them (and others that were similar to Allstate). But it is to urge everyone to show around and do due dilligence: owning a car in the city can be expensive, but there can be much variability in these costs.

–MLB

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Teaching a New Building Old Tricks

Wheels have been set in motion here in the Madrigal Lofts. Exciting wheels, that shall carry us into the future. But, dear friends, we know not toward which future these wheels may be propelled–and the steady hand of experience is needed to turn our pinion.

Enough of the high-falutin language. The residents of the Madrigal Lofts have just started a mailing list for the building. This is our first step towards becoming a community. And this raises the question: what next? What do we communities do? Much of this is defined by the condo’s documents: when and how a board will form, what it will do, and how. But that’s not what I’m interested in here. Rather, I’m interested in the organic part: what we do to as a community, not what we do to run the building.

For instance, I’ve seen some condos organize “time pools,” where participants promise a few hours of their time to help others in the building. When you need help moving furniture, or watering your plants while you’re out of town, you can ask someone who’s promised their time to help, and “repay” them by promising that much of your time back into the exchange. It seems complicated, but where it’s worked I’ve heard that people really like it. There are of course other, simpler ideas: social events, either recurring, for special events, or a one-time get together to meet everyone; efforts to welcome new residents; sharing information about events outside of the building; or organizing a building newsletter.

Some of these seem like good ideas, some like bad. And I’m certain that there are many other things that we could do. So I ask, what have other buildings done, what’s worked well, and what is to be avoided?

–MLB

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Out-the-window Construction Updates

Sorry all for my non-blogging these past several weeks. The explanatory piece of advice: when you have consulting or small business income, use a tax preparer who knows the ins and outs of self employment tax…

Anyhow… there have been a few big construction-related events across the street, and on the street, from the Madrigal Lofts over the past few weeks that are worth noting.

First, on the streets, the streets all around the Madrigal Lofts were repaved over the past week or so (everything except Mass Ave). This is a welcome change, since they had been pretty torn up by construction. Presumably, too, it’s an indication that there won’t be any more heavy construction for the Dumont’s east side, because that would just tear up one of these streets again.

Speaking of the Dumont, all of the external scaffolding on the east side of the building was taken down just before the repaving (perhaps non-coincidentally). Other than the work elevator, all of the scaffolding is down on the north side, and there is only one small platform on the south (Mass Ave) side. To explain, this is the crane-like scaffolding that I’m talking about, where a few posts are anchored to the building from the ground to the room, and there is a platform that “climbs” these posts (a bit can be seen in the picture in the fourthandeye’s post below this one).

A few weeks ago, shortly after installing the underground electrics vaults that I spoke about previously, they took to moving large quantities of drywall (or equivalent) in through the work elevator–so they’re pretty well done with the outside I’d say and are working on earnest on the inside. To whit: I looked out of my window this morning and though that I saw aliens or space men walking around inside the Dumont–people walking around in white plastic suits with breathing gear on.

Unfortunately, my camera is out of commission for the time, so no pictures.

–MLB

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City living and New construction… and Unreal expectations

This is the start of a post that I’ve been contemplating how to write for a while, responding in part to my blogging cohort’s recent post about the Madrigal Loft’s facade, and in part to recent discussions on the MPD-1D mailing list about about noise and traffic and the like. More generally, this is a post about expectations. I’m going to keep it a bit short, because otherwise it will become a rant—and I don’t want that—as well as because this should be part of a more substantial conversation.

Starting with the pictures posted the other day of bare tyvek and concrete on the Madrigal Lofts facade. Two preliminary comments: I’ve been wanting to discuss this with the developers to have a more concrete answer, but haven’t had time, so this is not necessarily an informed comment. And I’m making it now in large part because of Paul’s comment, because I think it’s important that he and others have a counterpoint.

Bottom line on the facade issue is that I think it’s no big deal. If anything, my hunch is that it suggests construction is nearing actual completion. Over the past few weeks pieces of facade have been coming down and being replaced. Just this afternoon I saw two more tyvek panels that I’m almost certain weren’t exposed this morning. This suggest to me that they’re going over and replacing any facade pieces that were damaged during the initial installation. It would be nice if there weren’t such damage—but that would be an unresonable expectation. And I do know that many of the facade pieces need to be custom manufactured or shipped in before they can be installed. It makes far more sense to leave the damaged pieces up until the end of construction and to replace them at the end, than to delay construction while waiting for new pieces.

More generally speaking, I have more sympathy for the engineers, builders, and lawyers than for the architects. Not that I have anything against architects, I promise! But I’ve almost never encountered a construction project that was completed “on time”—and the rare cases where they were finished “on time” involved substantial incentives. You can be looking at paying premiums on the order of half the construction cost or more to get a guaranteed completion date. There are good reasons for this, which I won’t get into here, but the point is that it’s unrealistic to expect “on time” completion.

And similarly, with new construction it’s unrealistic to expect construction to be complete when people start moving in… for the simple reason that many people, myself included, are perfectly happy to move in before construction is complete. Buying into new construction is more akin to a commercial transaction than a residential transaction: I guarantee than a company moving into a new building wouldn’t wait for the building to be complete before they started moving into new space.

And people, we live in a city. Cities have traffic and noise. Mind you, I’m not a huge fan of the bohemian bustling noisy art district vibe, or the windows & doors open everyone knows your business community. But I’ve no problem with the noise and traffic inherent in a city.

There was some discussion about how difficult it is to cross Mass at 5th during rush hour the other day on the MPD-1D mailing list. Huh? I cross that intersection during AM and PM rush hours most every day, and I’ve got to say, it’s one of the tamest intersections that I’ve ever had to regularly cross. So, if anyone from the MPD reads this: please don’t waste any money on this intersection. Spend that money and those resources elsewhere. Dear pedestrians: we do not own the city streets, we share it with cars and busses and bikes. The city has traffic problems, yes. This doesn’t mean that pedestrians should be coddled. It means that the broader traffic problems should be fixed. (And, if anyone with the power to unilaterally implement policies that I agree with reads this: please impose a substantial toll on all cars entering the city during rush hour.)

And again to discussion about noise complaints coming from residents of 555 Mass about a band practicing in the studio on the 400 block of Eye… well by this point you know what I’m going to say. It’s a city, and those are your neighbors. Don’t complain, especially without having first tried to remedy the problem privately. If you’re not willing to invest enough energy to ask the band to turn down the bass, it’s probably not enough of a problem to get the police involved, let alone to suggest an ordinance needs to be passed.

Feel free to disagree with me… I’m certain that many if not most people will. But I’ve been hearing people complain along these lines since moving to the area, and especially over the past few weeks. Given these rumblings, I think it’s important to put in a counterpoint. Otherwise, some people might never hear the counterpoint; others in the community might not realize that these complaints are not unanimous; and people outside of the community might only hear the complaints and think “what a crummy place to live!” And really that would just be a shame.

–MLB

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The Safeway vs. Peapod Experiment

Following up on my post about grocery delivery services from a few days ago, I conducted an experiment. The day after that post, in which I asked whether anyone had experience with the local Peapod service (which partners with Giant) or the Safeway.com delivery service, I saw a Peapod truck delivering groceries to my building. So I, being the contrarian that I am, decided to give Safeway.com a try. Well, that's not the exact thought process that went through my mind… I did some pricing of things that I needed, and found that the Safeway.com prices and availability were generally a bit better, so I decided to give them a try.

Here's my evaluation.

First, at least for my shopping needs, Safeway.com's prices seem better. And their delivery was right on time, near the beginning of the 4-hour window that they gave me. The fellow who brought the groceries to my unit was very quick and nice.

Second, Safeway.com's delivery charge is higher, at least from what I remember Peapod's deliveries in Chicago costing. But, they do not let drivers accept tips, which effectively makes the delivery cheaper. (Query: what's an appropriate tip for the delivery? My roommates and I used to do $5 per delivery, unless it was a really big delivery. And we frequently had the same few guys making the deliveries and they seemed to like us.)

That said, two of my eggs were broken, and a few of the items were unavailable. That never once happened with Peapod. They delivered eggs with the cartons in super-duper bubble wrap and they were always prisine, and I never had an item that was unavailable. Also, I really like Peapod's frozen ("cryofreeze" or something) meats, which will stay fresh until thawed for about 80 years or so (great for stocking up during sales!).

The other comments that I would have are about the actual web interface for placing orders. Peapod's is much easier to use! Very much so. Perhaps the better focus would be on how difficult to use Safeway.com's interface is. Seriously, if I weren't pretty sure that I was using it the way it was intended to be used, I'd be certain that I was using it wrong.

Of course, it's entirely possible that Peapod's DC presence isn't as good as its Chicago presence. But I think that I'll be finding this out next time I order groceries! Since Safeway.com didn't give me a top-notch experience, I think that I need to try Peapod, even if it's slightly higher-priced. If the service is on par with Safeway.com, I'll go back to Safeway.com—but if its service is on par with how it was in Chicago, then Peapod has just retained a customer (for you corporate accounting geeks, that makes me a non-cost win-back).

–MLB

PS- Forgive any formatting peculiarities in this post—this is my first post-by-email. Life's been too busy lately to log into blogger to post. But if this works, hopefully you'll be hearing more from me.

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Hill Rag, March 2008

To add to the list of community reading material, the March issue of Hill Rag is online.

One useful item, which the ANC6C coverage reminded me of: the next ANC6C monthly meeting is on March 12 at 7 p.m. at the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE.

–MLB

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Safeway Yay! … But what for now?

As with everyone else, I am excited about the new Safeway. But, also as with everyone else, I need to eat between now and June or July or August. Now, I’ve found my own ways to scrounge up food, so I don’t want to repeat the oft-asked refrain of where to get groceries around here.

But I do want to ask: does anyone have experience with Peapod or Safeway’s delivery services? I used Peapod when I was back in Chicago and loved it. But I have heard that their quality depends a great deal on which local grocers they work with, and how they get the groceries. In Chicago, or instance, they worked with Dominicks, and got their food direct from the local distribution depots–before it was delivered to the supermarkets–which meant that the produce was usually better than you could get at the actual Dominicks supermarkets!

Are things so good around here? Are the prices online comparable to the in-store prices? Are the deliveries reliable?

Inquiring stomachs want to know…

–MLB

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Upcoming Posts

I’ve been quiet for the last several days&emdash;it seems that the flu has been going through town and I was a recent victim. But I wanted to share a brief “stay tuned for more….” I’ve been e-mailing with Keith Silver, our ANC 6C01 commissioner, and will be doing an e-mail interview with him in the coming days. Perhaps other interviews will follow with other figures in the Triangle.

So, stay tuned…

–MLB

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All Politics Is Local

There was a discussion over at the MVSNA Blog earlier this week about the shenanigans at the last ANC 2C meeting. The events, at least as portrayed there, made me mad: how could the people who make up my political community be so trivial and unproductive! I felt embarrassed to be represented by ANC 2C.

But then I remembered, I’m not in ANC 2C! The Madrigal Lofts, Sonata, Dumont, and (I believe) both City Vista and 555 Mass Ave, are in ANC 6C. That’s right, many of the new Mount Vernon Triangle residences are in a separate political area than Mount Vernon Square, even though the MVSNA does cover the entire Triangle. In fact, ANC 6C is the same ANC as most of the Penn Quarter condos are in (though the PQ condos further to the west are in ANC 2C).

I don’t say this to diminish the MVSNA (not in the least!). I’m sure that they would gladly cover relevant parts of the ANC 6C meetings, for instance, if someone attended and sent a write-up to them. But! That requires someone knowing that we need to be going to the ANC 6C meetings! Given the great work that MVSNA does, it is easy to forget that we span two ANCs.

As I look at the map of ANC 6C, the Triangle’s new condos are all in ANC 6C01. The PQ condos are in ANC 6C09. And the Triangle area of ANC 6C01 is a bit of an appendage, unlike the PQ condos, which fall in the dead center and make up the bulk of ANC 6C09. While I expect that Kieth Silver, the commissioner of ANC 6C01, knows that these new buildings are here (has anyone from 555 Mass or the Sonata interacted with him), as these buildings start to fill up it will be incumbent upon us to make sure we are not treated as an appendage.

–MLB

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