I support greater enforcement of the “vacancy rate tax,” which is a levy imposed on landlords whose properties sit vacant for an extended period of time. We must remove tax incentives that make it more beneficial for a landlord to keep a property vacant than to lease it. The D.C. government has been unwilling or unable to keep up with the number of property vacancies in the City and actually impose this levy on landlords. As your ANC representative, I will take an inventory of the vacant properties in our community on a regular basis, immediately report them to the D.C. government, and relentlessly follow-up until we see action.
I also support exploring creative uses for vacant properties including co-shared work space. Cleveland Park is home to many residents who work from home. Now is a great time to explore the possibility of opening a co-working space wherein residents would have communal use of desks, meeting rooms, office equipment, etc. We’ve seen this idea take off in other areas of the district and in cities across the country. Furthermore, I would love to explore working with restaurants to convert empty space during closed daytime hours into work-spaces (as has been successful in New York City) to increase foot traffic along the corridor and thus bring more potential business to the local shops and restaurants during the day.
Service Lane Redesign
The present layout of the service (or slip) lane is such that cars, bikes, and pedestrians are in dangerously close proximity, vying for limited parking and walking space. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) initiated a study in 2013 and kicked off the Cleveland Park Streetscape and Drainage Improvement Project in July 2016. Through this project, the community has the opportunity to weigh in on this important redesign. In order to increase safety of the path for pedestrians and utility of the lane for drivers, I propose the following:
Narrow the elevated lip between Connecticut Avenue and the service lane to thus widen the sidewalk along the storefronts to enhance walkability and pedestrian safety;
Level the ground between parking spots, driving lane, and sidewalk to increase utility such that the lane could be temporarily closed for street festivals, farmers markets, and other community-centered events to increase civic engagement; and
Divide existing parking spaces between those that are short-term (30-minutes maximum to increase parking spot turnover) and long-term (two hours). Locate the short-term spots along Connecticut Avenue and long-terms spots on the interior of the lane so as to reduce car traffic within the service lane.
The corridor is currently in need of both upkeep and overall redesign on elements including tree boxes and planters, bike storage options, seating, metro grate barriers, and more. While the Streetscape and Drainage Improvement Project will address many of these items, it is incumbent upon both D.C. government and the ANC to ensure that the community is informed of opportunities to engage in and contribute to the process so that residents can ensure that the final design reflects the history, aesthetic preferences, and voices of the Cleveland Park community writ large. Furthermore, these opportunities to contribute to the process should vary in method from in-person meetings to online presentations and comment forms.