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A regular summary of irregular news and notes from neighborhood blogs and email lists around the District.
I Think Your Pop-Up Looks Terrible: “Anyone out there interested in working on a project to help south Columbia Heights get Historic Status? This status can protect our homes from some of the unsightly renovations we are seeing,” writes a member of the Columbia Heights email list. But another member cautions, “Be careful what you ask for! The consequences of becoming a Historic District are substantial, and in recent years, Lanier Heights and Chevy Chase have successfully fought off such designation. Why? Because it locks you into the current appearance of your house, forevermore, whatever your personal needs. Because it makes routine repairs costly and difficult. Because it hands control over your house to a band of historic preservationists who care only about the appearance of your house, not the well-being of anyone living in it. You will be prohibited from making improvements to your own home, because the historics will insist that it look just as it did the day it was built. Forget cost vs. benefit considerations. Historic can command you to do what they want, and cost does not enter into the equation, barring the truly poor. There’s no ‘unreasonable hardship’ unless the historic demands render your property unusable for any purpose whatsoever, making it a ‘taking’ by the D.C. government.” A third isn’t quite convinced of the evils of potential historic designation, adding, “I think that your characterization is a bit over-the-top. Guidelines for historic district status are up to the community to develop. It is not a Draconian bludgeon as you seem to think and rather an extra tool in the effort to provide more say in the long term character of the neighborhood. They have been used poorly and very well all over the country and to use such a broad brush and spread the many misconceptions to disparage guidelines or district status out of hand does a disservice to the neighborhood.” They continue, “I have personally written a wide variety of community design guidelines and a historic district proposals in the U.S. and internationally. I agree that there are many considerations and pitfalls, but they are manageable and largely within the local purview. More to the point, though I submit that everyone suffers both economically and collectively from the lack of oversight on rehabs, additions and tear downs in the area. In many cases, correct application of historic materials and design are cheaper than those we see going on. It ought to be discussed fairly, not summarily dismissed.”
Stranger Danger II: In response to an inquiry about a child left alone on a playground earlier in the week, a member of the Brookland Kids email list says, “If a child that young is alone on a playground you should immediately call the police so that someone can make sure the child is safe while their parent(s) are located. And you should stick around to make sure the child doesn’t get hurt, or abducted, while the police are en route. Alerting staff and calling to report neglect should be secondary steps.” Another writes, “I agree. That said, given he’s long gone … it may make sense to alert the Rec Center staff anyway, and/or call the hotline now for advice, given the father may leave the child outside again while he is working out if he’s done it before. At least the Center could tell him/other parents that leaving children on the playground is dangerous and not allowed without parental supervision, and hopefully avoid a future incident. The Center should be on the lookout.” But a third adds, “I have to chime in to say that I was at the N. Michigan Park playground yesterday too. First of all, I have some doubts that the child was as young as 3. He told me that he was 3 too, but I’m not sure he was telling the truth. He looked much older. I would guess that he was at least 6. I hate to say this, but I feel like there are always children who come over to the playground unattended. Nearly every single time I go to a playground in this area, there is at least one child around 6 w/out a parent. They always say that they live in the houses nearby. Do others encounter this as well? I’m all for calling the police if it seems like a dangerous situation, but I don’t know that it’s realistic to do this every time there is a child at a playground w/out a parent.”
Chevy Chase Problems: “The apparent increase in serious crime in Chevy Chase D.C. is very concerning,” writes a member of the neighborhood email list. After encouraging her fellow list members and neighbors to keep an eye out and communicate with each other, she writes, “This all leads to a most important question: What are the police doing about the spike in serious crime that has been going on for some time now in CCDC? Where are the police? Where are the constant patrols down neighborhood streets? Where are the undercover cars and officers? It’s getting really bad out here!” However, just what kind of “serious crime” is never actually identified or explained.
Cleveland Park, ISO: On the Cleveland Park email list, a member is seeking someone to repair an antique butcher block: “I have a 100+ year old butcher block that I had refinished a few years ago in Ohio. Some of the wood blocks are starting to separate in places. This could be a job for a general woodworker, but because it is a family heirloom of sorts I’d like to find someone experienced with butcher blocks in particular. It is also extremely heavy, so I’d prefer someone who could do the work in the house or has the means to pick it up and deliver it back.” Another member is in search of furniture restoration assistance: “We need a referral to someone who can restore some old Biedemeier furniture.”