An open letter to Capitol Hill NIMBYs

Dear Helene Quick, Randy Steer, Yoonmee Chang, John Yellen, Pope Barrow and Amber Jones,

I see from your letter, titled “MORE Liquor Licenses on Barracks Row,” that you oppose job-creating new businesses in Capitol Hill and enjoy pushing your busy-body values on an entertainment area that is blowing up because it serves hundreds of thousands of people — most of whom don’t have easy access to Northwest. I have yet to see a high-price restaurant fail on 8th Street SE, no matter how bad the food is. Banana Cafe=barf, but it’s packed every night.

We’ve never met, but we’re neighbors. Not for much longer, because I am moving to Hill East. Now I wish I wasn’t moving, so I could have the pleasure of receiving your ridiculous letters, dropped off at our building dutifully whenever there is a new restaurant or bar to oppose.

Why am I moving? Because this area is now too expensive for a lower-middle class journalist. But I can tell from your tone and glee in celebrating your successful opposition to Nooshi, a seafood restaurant, and Moby Dick, a local casual chain, that you are worried about all these new businesses — and their alcohol licenses — lowering your property values. Why do you think they are so high in the first place? Why is my shabby basement apartment’s rent more than my parents’ mortgage? Not because people get to live near you, lovely neighbors; instead it is access to all the amenities of Capitol Hill, like museums, restaurants and the Metro. Oh wait, you probably opposed that too.

Now you are concerned about the opening of Pacifico, which you describe as something that “would be by far the single biggest restaurant on Barracks Row and comparable to the combined capacity of Nooshi and Moby Dick,” two restaurants which haven’t opened yet but are already causing you heartburn. You say the “over-concentration of restaurants and bars are causing resident problems with parking, (especially 1-2 blocks on either of 8th St.), crowds, noise, disturbances, trash, and rats.” Walking 1-2 blocks? Preposterous! Crowds? It’s like living in Manhattan! Trash — it’s all from the 7-Eleven and Pizza Boli’s. Do you oppose those too?

You are worried that Pacifico will be open until 2 a.m. weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, identical to the operating hours of hundreds of bars in the city. Who the hell are you people, puritans? After your last blowhard mailing, in which you stated 8th Street is going to be “Adams Morganed,” I decided to see how wild and crazy Barracks Row is late at night. After a few walks up and down the strip on different nights, all after midnight, I am not ready to declare this 18th. St. NW. Last night at 1 a.m., there were two people drinking in Lola’s and a bunch of people partying at Phase One, a lesbian bar which has been around for 40 years. There aren’t ENOUGH bars on 8th Street, which is why I usually go to Pennsylvania Avenue for a tipple.

In the region, D.C.’s unemployment rate is much higher than Maryland or Virginia. Wards 7 and 8, which both have easy access to Barracks Row, have rates well over 20 percent. And six busy beavers want to stymie the creation of dozens of jobs in 8th Street during the worst recession of my lifetime?

Restaurants and businesses are becoming the engine for D.C.’s economy. Large corporations choose to locate in Virginia or Maryland, because both those states are more business-friendly. But restaurants and bars are bucking that trend, bringing more tax revenue to the city and making neighborhoods more exciting and alive with people.

In your letter, you advise me to come to the ANC6B liquor-license committee meeting. Well, I have to work. But if I didn’t have to work, I would prefer to go to a bar and drink over going to this meeting. And so would hundreds of other people.

So get over yourselves. You live nine blocks from downtown D.C., your neighborhood used to be maligned, featuring the “UnSafeway” grocery, and crime used to be a huge problem. Now your houses are worth a million dollars and your biggest problem is your neighborhood is too successful. Sorry you have it so bad.

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18 Responses to An open letter to Capitol Hill NIMBYs

  1. Pingback: There’s that phrase again | DC Crank Tank

  2. carsonata says:

    Phobic phreaks…why is it that the minute people decide they love something, they want to change it?

  3. right on says:

    RIGHT ON. Wow. Thank you so much for eloquently stating what so many of us feel.

  4. If you were willing to let us, I would be happy to publish your letter in our opinion section. I would have emailed you, but there is no link on your blog.



    Andrew Lightman, PhD
    Managing Editor
    Capital Community News
    The Hill Rag / Mid-City DC / East of the River / Fagon Guides
    202.543.8300 Ext. 19

  5. xavier says:

    WOW INDEED…these kooks are the loud and obnoxious extreme minority that are attempting to control the agenda. Sadly certain members of the ANC seem more interested in following their lead as opposed to representing their constituents in the neighborhoods they are supposed to be representing. Check out The Hill Is Home poll on the liquor license moratorium…88 percent of voters oppose this action. I was at the ANC hearing the other night for the applicant Pacifico which would replace Capital Video ( our local porn shop ) and crappy looking building. Although the guy presented amazing architechuals, was willing to spend 1.2 million dollars on renovation and appears to be an experienced operator (heard he owns The Chesapeake Room) they voted to protest the new license. In 1994 the ANC tried unsuccessfuly to get RID of the porn store. Looks like we just got suckered by the commissioners that just got re-elected. Cant wait to vote them out the next go round.

  6. Pingback: Capitol Hill building’s mystery: A fake second floor | DC Crank Tank

  7. Judith Jones says:

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that the addition of vibrant new businesses in the neighborhood has been a great asset. My property values over the 14 years I’ve lived on the 700 block of 10th Street have increased substantially. Like quadrupled. I understand that certain people who are very close to 8th Street have reasonable concerns about trash, deliveries, parking, etc. However, the current restaurant owners have been very responsible (e.g., Belga, Lola’s, Molly’s, Chesapeake) and there is no reason to believe if there are issues the neighbors, through representatives and government can address them. None of them are breaking the law. Few have broken illegal nuisance ordinances and these were corrected (see testimony from the owner of Jordan’s at an ANC meeting in November or December 2010). I too would like to see a better mix of retail and restaurants. However, until there are sufficient business incentives for retail, the choice for the moment could be vacant properties interspersed with thriving restaurants. That’s not the desired outcome. I was also disturbed to hear the slanderous comments against Xavier. Without proof, I would caution my neighbors on perusing this form of argument. I hope we can come to an amicable settlement that preserves the quality of our neighborhood while allowing for new – and fun – businesses.

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  9. SP says:

    Perfectly stated.

  10. M says:

    Someone from Capitol Hill Village (that’s the group that helps seniors afford their homes in Capitol Hill, right?) told me that Hill East is still Capitol Hill.

  11. B-Money says:

    I hate linking to Wikipedia but when most people say Capitol Hill they mean the historic district (there are signs denoting the district at most Cap Hill intersections). Anything east of 14th St. is outside those boundaries.

  12. Hillman says:

    I have to agree with this letter. I lived off of Barracks Row back when all but one or two businesses sucked. I MUCH prefer the vibrant restaurants we have there now.

    And guess what – way back then without the restaurants we had far more litter and noise problems. And tons more crime, as there was no one on the streets at night.

    What strikes me as odd is how people seem suddenly surprised to find that a commercial strip has restaurants. Did they not go down 8th Street before they moved here? Did they not notice the commercial storefronts?

    You have to assume that if you buy a house forty feet from a commercial strip that you have the bonus of walking to the shops, but that parking will be very hard.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    And just because there were no restaurants here ten years ago doesn’t mean there never would be.

    Like it or not you moved to within a block or two of a commercial strip. Complaining about it becoming busy and popular is sortof silly.

    As for parking, how many Zone 6 residents use the Zone 6 Only parking areas as long term storage for their vehicles? I often see vehicles that haven’t moved for months on Hill streets. That’s as big a parking problem as any.

    As for restaurants vs retail – let’s face it. Many Hill businesses aren’t really competitive as it is. They serve very small niche markets.

    Maybe we’d be better served by allowing a bit of retail in our neighborhoods, maybe on each corner, like other cities do. This allows your dry cleaner and your local business to thrive on a corner. Sure, we’ve got a few now, but why not make that more widespread?

    If I were an 8th Street property owner I’d be quite upset that after having ridden out the hellish days suddenly I’ve got a chance to finally use my property to make some money, and then the neighbors decide that after decades of ignoring my property and the hell of 8th Street that suddenly they have a right to artificially limit what I can do with my property.

    8th Street is not Adams Morgan. It’s mostly a neighborhood attraction, with a few people from out of the immediate region. It’s not in danger of becoming a college hangout anytime soon. Last time I checked there aren’t any actual colleges close by, unlike Adams Morgan, which gets Georgetown and GW and Howard and all the other college crowds.

    So in short how about we let businesses develop naturally. If they are restaurants, so be it.

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