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The District, from what I’ve seen, isn’t a big block party town—-rarely are streets shut down for the purpose of eating, dancing, playing, whatever, in the summer, with your neighbors, with kids running around out of danger from rushing cars. Sure, people have cookouts, but they tend to be invite-only, and someone’s personal front yard is never quite as inviting to strangers. At the same time, D.C. is rich with micro neighborhood associations, block watches, and listservs that cover only a couple of streets. So the absence of these community-building events seems odd.
Until you try to apply for a block party permit, of course, which not only requires a form that must be hand-delivered to the not-very-Metro-accessible department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and signatures from at least half the residents of the block, but also the same “clean hands” certificate required of people trying to get a liquor license or open a business, which must be hand-delivered to the Office of Tax and Revenue (and then taken back to HSEMA). Finally, you need to go to the Reeves Center to pick up placards from the Department of Transportation. That’s not an insurmountable level of paperwork, but it’s probably stymied more than a couple neighborhood efforts.
To make the process a little quicker, Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Muriel Bowser, and Phil Mendelson have sponsored a bill that would at least get rid of the Clean Hands requirement (how often do you hear of councilmembers trying to ease regulations?). Which means this summer could feature a lot more loungey evenings with neighbors you’ve never even met.
The bill gets a hearing on January 20.