Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DC's Overlapping Authorities: Not Just a Developer's Headache

If there's one thing the ridiculous amount of snow has taught DCMud, other than developers love any excuse not to answer their phones, it's that the many overarching authorities that rule the District apparently cause headaches in areas other than development, such as snow removal. Just as massive developments like the St. Elizabeths Campus require developers to go before the Historic Preservation Review Board, the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service (NPS) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), among other authorities, the recent snowstorm brought to the forefront the web of agencies responsible for District public space and sidewalks.

Tuesday, Councilmember Tommy Wells tweeted at the NPS and DDOT about uncleared sidewalks on several blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue SE. DDOT promptly tweeted back that it was not responsible for the 800 block of Pennsylvania and suggested the sidewalks might belong to the NPS. Other twitter followers suggested contacting Department of Parks and Recreation for good measure. If you can get over the fact that all these conversations occurred on twitter (you are reading a blog, err online journal), then you might get a feel for the confusion that is public space in the District...during a snowstorm.

District law requires property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks, handicap ramps and steps abutting their property within the first 8 daylight hours after snow, sleet or ice stop falling, District Agencies have their own priorities. As Charles Allen, Chief of Staff for Councilmember Wells, explained about the Pennsylvania Avenue situation "some of the parks are DC managed parks while many others are managed by the National Park Service...NPS [is] putting it on their radar to get out and clear, but their priority is around the monument and federal areas."

How many authorities overlap in snow removal for public space? Well, Allen was not certain but listed "the AOC for the US Capitol grounds, National Park Service for the Mall, national parks and a lot of the “pocket parks” throughout the city, and then the DC Government manages all the other local parks."

Another high-profile example of conflicting authorities and priorities is the street car debate.
In a September review of the 11th Street bridge project, the NCPC stated that it "does not support a street car system with overhead wires in the L'Enfant City" and encouraged DDOT "to pursue alternative propulsion technologies...that do not require overhead wires." The NCPC ban on overhead wires in the downtown area means DDOT will either have to find a way to power the street cars without overhead wires or have the law changed to allow them. Headache.

Whether you're trudging through snow or trudging through bureaucratic red tape, at some point you'll likely get stuck in the mire of District and federal agencies that govern DC. Oh yeah, you can follow us on twitter @TheDCMud.

Washington, DC real estate development news


Christine on Feb 11, 2010, 3:11:00 PM said...

It's not as complicated as you make out. The responsibility of clearing the sidewalks is that of the adjacent property owner. The 800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue includes the Navy Memorial, and most of the city's memorials are on NPS land.

And for what it's worth, it's not NCPC that has a ban on overhead wires, it's the federal government. So if you have an issue with that maybe you should take it up with your representatives in Congress.

Oh, wait a minute, we live in the District of Columbia. We only have one representative in Congress and she can't vote. Never mind.

SE=NW? said...

The article said PA Ave SE, which does not include the Navy Memorial. Get your facts straight.

Anonymous said...

Pennsylvania Avenue SE was the victim of a land swap engineered by the Capitol Hill Restoration Society and its allies. The dump trucks and steamshovels were out on the Eastern Market Metro Plaza Wednesday night hauling the snow away. But to shovel the sidewalks on the triangle park opposite the Metro Plaza required a team of BID workers.

Why? Because the responsibility to maintain the triangle park was transferred from NPS to the District as Stage One of the looney plan to re-route Pennsylvania Avenue SE that CHRS allies are pushing against the best interests and common sense of residents who doubt a plan for a kiddie park in the MIDDLE of PA Ave SE makes much sense.

Now the specific DC government entity responsible for triangle park maintenance is, errr, complicaed. No DC government agency has stepped up to take responsibility.

Maybe Dick Wolf and David Perry should shovel the walks there. Or else we'll just have to count on the Councilmember's twittering thumbs to take care of the next problem in that park.

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