Welcome to a new, semi-regular feature at Housing Complex: In the spirit of Janelle Monae, requests for Mayor-elect Vince Gray in the housing/development/land use/public space realm before he takes office. If you want something, say so: email@example.com.
Last week, at a meeting of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, Convention Center Community Association president Martin Moulton asked Norm Jenkins, developer of the Convention Center Hotel, a favor. Noting that the finally-greenlighted hotel would mean 42 months of construction on the parking lot at 10th and H Street, Moulton requested that some kind of explanatory signage be attached to the fencing around the site, so passersby could understand what was being built.
“No problem,” Jenkins responded. Just like that.
I wish it were so easy for the D.C. government. A few weeks before the election, the city put identical signs up at dozens of city-owned sites around the District, identifying each one as “Another project from the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development,” along with the Mayor’s name. That was progress: It’s nice to know who owns what.
At many of those sites, plans have been approved—or at least proposed—and neighbors who aren’t following every zoning commission or ANC meeting have no idea what they look like. Sure, you can make the argument that they should get involved and figure it out. But if people don’t have time, does that mean they shouldn’t be able to easily find out? It’s not just development projects in the DMPED portfolio—the District Department of Transportation should also post plans for streetscape projects, so passersby know what’s happening and when it can be expected to finish.
This isn’t a new concept. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Seattle posts the content of zoning applications, not just the hearing date. And New York City has colorful signs on many construction sites explaining exactly who’s building what. It would probably save even save city staffers the trouble of having to answer basic inquiries about what’s happening in a given place.
I know, I know, creating special signage will take time and money. But not that much. Put it on the District’s transparency tab. We do have one of those, right?