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Fenty Caves To D.C. NIMBYs

From when he was first running for mayor until as recently as last week, any time Adrian Fenty was asked about the empty lot immediately across from the Tenleytown Metro station, his response was more or less the same: "That is a prime site and it needs to be developed to the fullest to take advantage of being on top of a Metro station."

The mayor's position was music to the ears of the smart growth crowd, a continuation of former mayor Anthony Williams' vision for the District--using development, especially near transit stations, to build the city's tax base while encouraging residents to live less car-dependent lives.

The empty lot, the former home of Tenleytown's drab little two-story public library, was reserved for a new library, but that plan remained on hold for way too long--four years--while the city tried to weather the cries of horror from a small group of development-allergic neighbors.

Yesterday, Fenty raised the white flag of surrender.

After many months of fruitless negotiations with the developer the District chose to lead the way toward a residential and retail complex on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street NW--the idea was to make a library part of a larger new structure, and to use the returns from the project to renovate and expand the adjacent Janney Elementary School--the city has given up.

The public library's board, which has been pushing to go ahead with its plans for a small, stand-alone library on the site, will now do just that, with the new facility opening as soon as the end of 2010. So, immediately across from the city's most valuable development asset outside of the central business core--the only Metro station neighborhood in an affluent area of the District that has not yet been developed--there will be a little library, all by itself.

Fenty's statement yesterday blames the tough economic times for the change of strategy, and holds out hope for a larger development down the line--a sop to the many residents who want that section of the city to take on the urban feel that has enhanced, to one degree or another, every other Metro station in the city's Northwest quadrant. And the library system is designing the new building so that a residential structure could be build over it someday.

But the real reason for Fenty's switcheroo is the vehement opposition of a tiny group of very loud neighbors who sought to keep all the green space along the edges of Janney School's campus, and who argued that Tenleytown doesn't need a big boost in density.

As D.C. Council member Mary Cheh described that crowd to me a while back, speaking of similar agitation against another Wisconsin Avenue development, "They opposed it because they oppose things."

But Cheh--who, like Fenty, was elected to office pledging to stand tall against the Not In My Backyard crowd and support greater density along Wisconsin--also tired of the long wait for a public-private partnership that might produce a larger development at that key corner.

It didn't help that the District chose as its partner in the Tenleytown development a company that never came up with a persuasive plan to fit the library, school and residential building on that corner. And Fenty and his administration simply let far too much time go by--allowing the neighborhood opponents to lean on the excuse that the area simply had to have a new library, without further delay.

The sad result is that the library will be so small as to offer little, if any, advantage over the one that was shut down in 2005--and will do nothing to add life to a dead zone in an otherwise burgeoning area of the city. The District, which is in desperate need of growing its tax base so it can support its neediest of residents, will remain dangerously dependent on a financial model that makes no sense. And the city's politicians will have proven once again that they cannot stand up to the tiny bands of affluent D.C. residents who like to pretend they live in bucolic suburbs--a pernicious force that is blocking the city from opening itself to residents of all economic levels.

By Marc Fisher |  March 17, 2009; 8:21 AM ET
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Could be worse. DC could have to live with the consequences of its decisions, instead of having the eternal option of sucking more federal tax dollars via the wusses in congress.

Posted by: robeste | March 17, 2009 9:16 AM

Amen. As a resident of the District, I realize that I live in a city, not the suburbs and expect to surrounded by high density development, ESPECIALLY around public transportation. NIMBYs have also held up development of a new Giant in Cleveland Park. I understand change is hard, and construction is inconvenient, but we live in a urban area. Smart development will improve the standard of living for many people. If you aren't a fan of it, perhaps you should consider living somewhere a bit farther out.

Posted by: jenjen391 | March 17, 2009 9:16 AM

This is comparable to the situation in Mt. Pleasant. In order to accommodate the need for larger restrooms and a newer, modern and therefore larger elevator, they need to expand the library. The "neighborhood groups" have miraculously banded together, not so much because they don't like the expansion, but because they weren't consulted in the design process. As an additional red herring, they are trying to claim that Columbia Heights wasn't adequately consulted and that they need a satellite library. (An attempt to stir up indignation on the CH message board was met with yawns. In the meantime, the rest of us are left scratching our heads over why we aren't getting a new library.

Posted by: shunkk | March 17, 2009 9:18 AM

Though the media apparently loves a NIMBY story, this was always primarily a debate about public facilities and whether they should be sacrificed and delayed to incentivize private development that could occur elsewhere in the neighborhood.

The Janney SIT opposed this project. The Janney parents opposed this project by a margin of at least 5:1. The Friends of the Library opposed this project. The St. Ann's Academy parents (next door) opposed this project. The ANC opposed this project. 95% of the individuals who submitted comments to the government opposed all three proposals submitted by (different) developers. So did half a dozen other community groups. Enough with the "tiny group of very loud neighbors" already.

And that isn't "green space along the edges of Janney School's campus" -- it's the school's only playing field.

Posted by: smithhemb | March 17, 2009 9:21 AM

Typical bad job by Marc Fisher to try to understand the real issues. Just slam those who don't agree with you and don't listen to logic. Smear people without cause.

Oh, and nice job quoting Council Member Cheh's views on her constituents too, Marc. Do you want her to lose in 2010? Keep it up.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | March 17, 2009 9:34 AM

Tenleytown is an interesting area. It has a fantastic mix of all of the benefits of both the suburbs and the city, with few of the drawbacks of the two. That kind of convienience doesn't come cheap, though, and the residents of Tenleytown are affluent enough to keep it that way, everyone else be damned.

Put stuff like that where the poor people live.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 17, 2009 9:43 AM

I guess that this is similar to the group of whiners who won't let a connector road be built over the railroad tracks to connect the SE/SW freeway with Kenilworth Ave. It makes a whole lot of sense when you have to get on and off of the SE/SW freeway at South Capital Street to get on or off of 295 to go North. Just like it makes a whole lot of sense not to develop areas around Metro Stations. If I didn't have to depend on undependable buses to get to Metro, I wouldn't drive, not to mention the fact that I get to work a whole hour earlier.

Posted by: w2bsa | March 17, 2009 9:47 AM

Don't forget Cheh is solidly "against" development of that vital artery Klingle Road!!!!! "Not in my backyard" says the West of RC crowd. "Keep that NE rubbish out of our neighborhoods," they say. Cheh is their woman!

Posted by: johng1 | March 17, 2009 9:48 AM

SO typical. I don't think Fenty caved, though. I think he realized the developer won't have financing for the project anytime soon, so they might as well just build the library rather than wait until 2011 to build an apartment building. A regrettable series of events, but in this economy, not surprising.

Posted by: sgrahamuva | March 17, 2009 9:57 AM

Fenty decided to retreat and claim credit for modernizing the school and the library rather than to risk losing a bruising Council battle in which Cheh might emerge as the hero of the piece.

The financing issues have been there all along. What explains Fenty's timing is the Cheh-Brown Roundtable which DMPED and LCOR decided not to attend. My guess is that they still hadn't reached agreement on a termsheet agreement after 8 months of negotiations, so there was no deal to present to the community.

Posted by: smithhemb | March 17, 2009 10:17 AM

The library should be the heart of the community - if it does its job.

"a small, stand-alone library on the site.."

Wonderful. Just give it room to grow.

When was the last time you went to the library?

Posted by: GaryEMasters | March 17, 2009 10:34 AM

Cheh is upset with "opposing things"? She opposes trans-fats, so pushes a bill to ban them. Cheh opposes shopping bags, so she pushes to tax them. It's all about raw political power in this city with people pushing to meddle in one part of our lives or another. How is this different?

Posted by: ah___ | March 17, 2009 10:45 AM

The community has been without its permanent library for over 50 months -- over four years. The interim library is tiny and not very useful for many. It's nice to know that we'll finally have our permanent library at this great location, adjacent to two schools and near several others. It's also great that the very overcrowded Janney Elementary School will quickly be expanded and modernized.

This is a real victory for the community. My thanks to all those who worked so hard on this, including the former (not present) ANC 3E and its former Special Committee. While city officials stonewalled and refused to provide information about the project, ANC 3E and its Special Committee engaged in real fact digging and checking to evaluate the various issues. They also held meetings and posted information for the community to evaluate. Why didn't our government officials do the same?

Posted by: UndecidedVoter | March 17, 2009 10:52 AM

What's wrong with a library?! What, put in more non-city like franchise chains? This place is becoming nothing more than a giant mall, franchise-town. It resembles a real city less and less everyday.

Posted by: Trout1 | March 17, 2009 10:54 AM

If Fenty wasn't on a paid family vacation by a foreign government, he could have been doing his job and leading the negotiations himself.

Dump Fenty.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | March 17, 2009 11:23 AM

Fantastic. "Library" is a euphemism in the District for homeless shelter, so maybe some of the homeless folks that stalk my neighborhood because of our local library will "move on up" the new Tenley digs.

Of course if residential was part of the development, the homeless wouldn't be allowed. And for the record, I didn't think the old Tenley library was that bad to begin with.

Posted by: RambleOn | March 17, 2009 11:28 AM

Marc wrote: "...the urban feel that has enhanced, to one degree or another, every other Metro station in the city's Northwest quadrant." Obviously he has never used the Takoma metro station in NORTHWEST DC. But I understand. Like most folks, Marc equates NW with west of the park.

Posted by: eomcmars | March 17, 2009 11:30 AM

Of course, giving the cab drivers the lowest rate per mile in the country doesn't do much to help the tax base either. Neither does it bring cash flow into the city.

Posted by: starclimber9 | March 17, 2009 11:35 AM

And here goes Fisher again, carrying water for a developer. Somehow the wants and desires of the folks who live in the community become the wants and desires of "tiny" and "loud" groups of affluent citizens. And somehow, in Fisher's world, the city planners and (affluent) developers fairly represent the needs and wants of the city even though they routinely ignore the expressed desires of said citizens.

Remember Fisher's non-stop shilling for a baseball stadium based upon the huge building boom that was supposed to occur as soon as construction started. What happened? Well, we drove various tax paying business off the site, replaced them with a city-owned stadium that doesn't produce any usable tax revenue, burdened the city's credit with the bonds to finance the stadium, and the building boom of taxable businesses and residents is still just a theory. Of course, if you remember, Fisher's solution was to give more tax benefits and money to another developer to somehow set off another building boom close to the stadium.

I wish Fisher would remember that democracy allows citizens, including those near a major build, freedom of speech to express their opinions. Fisher would like to silence these tiny, loud groups of citizens in favor of the silent support that he believes exists for all development projects he favors.

Folks, have your taxes ever gone down? The more the city builds, the higher taxes become. Don't buy into this myth that development will expand the tax base and reduce the burden on individual citizens. It's just a fantasy invented by developers who want a tax exemption.

Posted by: jacobson98 | March 17, 2009 11:49 AM

What a waste. It is too bad the administration pulled this project. There is so much that could be done to promote a better quality of life for ALL residents, not just those in their enclaves who wish to maintain the status quo of exclusion.

Decisions like this should not be left in the hands of people who do not get the big picture of things like affordable housing, suburban sprawl and reaping the benefits of regional investment in the Metro system.

Posted by: LukasWP | March 17, 2009 11:50 AM

Both public colleges in DC produce an amazing 19% graduation rate. It's clear that education is not on the top of their list. No need for a library. It's not like anyone will use the place. Unless selling drugs out front counts. Maybe they should build a JAIL.

Posted by: askgees | March 17, 2009 12:05 PM

A stand-alone library is fine with me. If I want to go shopping I use the internet or go to the suburbs. I don't need a Fuddruckers or Chuck-E-Cheese within city limits. I'll survive.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | March 17, 2009 12:21 PM

I am a close neighbor to the site in question. I thought the whole public/private idea was doomed from the get go and by DC choosing a weak or non-responsive developer we've gotten an unsurprising outcome. The funny thing is, since the Library moved to it's temp location, I notice much more traffic there than I used to at the site in question. I have even been inspired to stop in and see what facilities they have for adults. I think the library is a nice to have and was hopeful we could have other development above or below. I don't think this is a bad result.

About the NIMBYs, I do have a problem with the minority complainers. They do it about development and in other public/semi-public spaces like gyms. The management and government cave to the whiners. Meanwhile, the rest of the community suffers and has no ability to combat the whiners. We simply don't have the time. This is not the democracy our country was built on.

My guess is the vast majority of these whiners drive their kids to/from school, library, play dates, etc. How about getting out of your cars and walking for a change? See our neighborhood as something more than a place you need to drive around to get your kids somewhere. Maybe then you'll see that the neighborhood is more than just YOUR playground.

Posted by: jdp123 | March 17, 2009 12:30 PM

The decision to abandon the public/private partnership at the Tenley Metro station is deplorable. The idea of a mixed-use development there, with a library, ground floor retail and an apartment building with some affordable units, was opposed by the NIMBY's before they even saw a plan, when it was just a concept mentioned in the Upper Wisconsin planning process. The former principal of Janney was even harrassed by them for his support of the partnership concept.

The litany of objections which have emerged since then, fomented by the ANC's "Special Committee" have been a series of red herrings, used to increase the size of their group from miniscule to merely small. The poisonous climate created by this small group is at least partly responsible for the horrendous mishandling of the property disposition by the Deputy Mayor's office, starting with the choice of the wrong developer and compounded by changing the scope of the project twice, witholding of information and refusal to work collaboratively with the community.

Now the Mayor is trying to sweep all that under the rug and be a big hero for pandering to the Upper Northwest Entitled. This could have been a "win-win" for the city and the community -- a livelier corner, more tax revenue for the city, additional resources for both the library and the school, and the placement of teacher and library staff parking undergound, saving precious green space. Instead, it will be a dark corner at night after the library closes, with a few surface parking spaces taking up precious Wisconsin Avenue frontage and no increase in the tax base to support better schools. It is pointless for the library to pay more to strengthen its ability to accommodate possible future development -- without putting underground parking in now, there will never be the opportunity to more intensively use the site, which, of course, is just what the NIMBY's wanted.

Posted by: realWashingtonian | March 17, 2009 12:36 PM

Dear Mr. Fisher,

With all due respect, what a load of manure your column is today. It solely places the blame for the city's failure to establish a viable public-private partnership on the backs of residents who opposed development of any kind. It completely ignores the flawed process for soliciting bids and community input, which in my mind was much more the culprit for this failure.

You even quote Councilmember Mary Cheh opining on NIMBYs (your term): "They opposed it because they oppose things." Yet you fail to quote her on multiple occasions describing the developer proposal as "fatally flawed." Such an occasion, in which she further describes the issues she has had receiving information on the project, are available in her letter to the Mayor dated March 11, publicly available on her website,

Should you ever be interested in regaining the journalistic integrity of a columnist for an institution such as The Washington Post, and reporting a more balanced view of what led to the Mayor's announcement of March 16, please feel free to contact me at You should know, I am all for development in this vibrant part of our great city, but not at any cost, and not with the type of opaque process that governed the LCOR debacle.


Amit Malhotra
Proud resident of Ward 3
Washington, D.C.

Posted by: AmitDC | March 17, 2009 12:53 PM


I do believe you got the term NIMBY wrong. I would like to clarify that we are NIMSYs - NOT IN MY SCHOOL YARD - because that is what it finally boils down to - a SCHOOL YARD. A school yard that is the only playing field around an over-crowded school with very little green space. And a school yard that was needed so a developer could build condos. This was not a 'bit of green space skirting Janney".

If this PPP went through- the city council would have to declare through legislation that this land was surplus public land that was not being used. I would sure like you to ask my children who use that land to play everyday whether they considered it of no use and whether they would be better served as a community if there were condos.

The project died because of lack of financing because of the economic times , I just wish the NIMBYs you refer to had that kind of power to shut down this project.

Posted by: andra2 | March 17, 2009 1:54 PM

So no residential development on the edge of the Janney campus but the anti growth folks are just fine with a large surface parking lot smack in the middle of that same campus and the kids and cars comingling in that same space?

Here is the secret that the newly converted "public facilities" activists in this debate did a good job of obscuring and that is that Janney is going to net out with less usable public space without a PPP.

Why? Because Janney's parking lot, which is already not big enough nor is up to code, is going to have to be expanded to accommodate the larger school. And since undergrounding parking is extraordinarily expensive and parking has to go on level land that means that the expanded parking is going to come out of Janney's most usable level play space.

Oh and by the way the anti growth folks who led the charge against the PPP are big advocates for mandatory parking requirements for all types of buildings so if what they advocate for were to actually be applied to Janney (and it could be) the parking lot would need to be substantially increased in size.

Of course we could have put all of that parking underground (and eliminated not one but two environmentally bad surface parking lots - please look it up if you are a typical poorly informed anti growt activist and no a green building does not compensate) and separated the kids from the cars.

The opposite of smart growth really can be stupid growth and that is what we are getting on this prominent corner and this library will long be a reminder of the lack of leadership and competence displayed by a variety of people in the Mayor's office and probably the DC City Council (who presumably had something to do with the meddling that made this process such a mess) but it will also serve as a reminder of what happens when you listen to the voices of fear.

A future Janney parent.....

Posted by: TomQuinn | March 17, 2009 2:36 PM

These are the same NIMBYs who are forcing my daughter's foreign language school to move from a church just off Wisconsin where they were perfectly happy to a commerical building one whole block away just because they could.

I am sure not all of these people are selfish and cruel...but the ones I've met are. It's depressing to see them get their way once again, regardless of the merits of the library project.

Posted by: hoos3014 | March 17, 2009 3:27 PM

Awwww, had to go and drop the NIMBY bomb, didn’t ya, Marc?

People who still slur others with NIMBY are dinosaurs.

Comparable to Mt Pleasant? I don’t think so. In Mt Pleasant the neighbors of the proposed glass box said their back exit would be blocked among other things. Fact is, Columbia Heights WASN’T consulted. Even Graham knows that.

“About the NIMBYs, I do have a problem with the minority complainers. “
Posted by: jdp123 | March 17, 2009 12:30 PM

But the NIMBYs you seek to vilify were not in the minority. Didn’t poll after poll show they were in the majority in Tenley?

People who use "NIMBYs" are trying to short cut their way to the upper hand.

Posted by: greentunes | March 17, 2009 9:26 PM

Re the size of the library. It wouldn't have been any bigger with the public-private partnership and future expansion would have been precluded.

And the idea that a library (and a soccer field) won't invigorate a corner -- but somehow an apartment building will -- strikes me as bizarre. Check out the liveliness of Connecticut Avenue from Albemarle to Ellicott.

Speaking of financial models that make no sense, the last PPP that DCPS and LCOR entered in to (repeatedly said by the government to be the model for this one) was a financial disaster. The school lost half its land to an apartment building. Within a couple years of opening it was overcrowded and had to be given an additional campus. Meanwhile the developer managed to negotiate an approximately 25 year cap on property taxes through its PILOT payment (which was fixed and based on the cost of the construction bond for the school rather than the projected property value of the building over the 30 year course of the loan.) Odds are strong that that tax break will kick in even before DC has recouped the full market value of the public land it gave to LCOR.

But I guess some columnists find it easier to resort to name-calling and baseless generalities than to do actual research to determine whether or not a project makes sense. Caveat lector.

Posted by: smithhemb | March 18, 2009 6:39 AM

"But the NIMBYs you seek to vilify were not in the minority. Didn’t poll after poll show they were in the majority in Tenley?"

Hint: you're proving the point (re: NIMBY). The "residents of Tenley" are NIMBYs because they want the benefits of smart growth (tax revenue, better facilities), but they want it in *another* part of the city.

"Put the development where the poor people are and use the tax money to benefit my schools/libraries/parks." = NIMBY

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 18, 2009 9:16 AM

This is a very biased article and it does not reflect the sentiment of the neighborhood in which the library will be built.

The portion of the people that live in this neighborhood and oppose the joint public-private partnership is not "few" - majority of the people who live in this neighborhood and who will use the library and send their children to Janney elementary oppose this project - and that is what counts.

We oppose this PPP not because we do not believe in development. We oppose it because there were no clear benefits to the city and the neighborhood if this PPP went forward. The process was flawed. There is plenty of land in Tenleytown within minutes of walking to metro that is available for development and majority would support this development. In 20 years when all empty lots have been developed, when all one story retail buildings have been replaced by multi-story buildings, we will be glad that we saved one corner of Tenleytown to be a refreshing, spacious library and one green field where our children can play.

Posted by: fywdc | March 18, 2009 11:42 AM

"We oppose this PPP not because we do not believe in development."

You believe in development, just development where the poor people live.

"In 20 years when all empty lots have been developed, when all one story retail buildings have been replaced by multi-story buildings,"

Right, keep pretending like every single one of these mythical buildings you are mentioning aren't going to get shot down by the same group of NIMBYs.

Again, development is for poor people in SE, not Tenleyfolk.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 18, 2009 12:13 PM

FYWDC - you are taking a very narrow view of possible benefits and also making all sorts of assumptions about where the community stands.

On where the community stands there is absolutely no way anyone on either side can claim to know where the community stands.

What is your assumption that the community is opposed to this project based on? That the Tenley Neighborhood Association and the Friendship Neighborhood Association were opposed? Two anti growth groups with closed membership and indistinguishable leadership? That the previous ANC, which was made up of commissioners among whom not a single one of whom had ever been in a competitive race? The same ANC that was opposed to a proposal that they never actually saw?

If there was a poll I missed it so please fill me in.

What I do know is that the anti growth folks went hard after Mary Cheh in both the primary and general election for the Ward 3 Councilmember seat 2 years ago. And despite their continued and very public attacks at debates, on the listserves and via direct mailings she stuck to her guns and won decisively - in every precinct.

As for benefits Transit oriented development is a benefit. By a conservative estimate this project would have generated about $500,000 a year in just property tax revenues. Will you and the other anti growth folks volunteer to make up that money? Perhaps hold another garage sale?

Eliminating two surface parking lots while also preserving the same amount of good open usable play surfaces would also have been a benefit.

Lowering the cost of the libraries construction would have been a benefit.

Spinning off 5 to 10 million in up front revenue for DCPS would have been a benefit.

Generating more transit riders and life on this corner would have been a benefit.

And the cost was what again?

Waiting a bit longer for the permanent branch library to reopen in a community blessed with very good library resources today? Modifying a realy mediocre design for the library?

There are costs to not doing a PPP - you won't learn about them from the anti-growth folks but they are real.

Posted by: TomQuinn | March 18, 2009 12:29 PM


You wrote -
"What is your assumption that the community is opposed to this project based on? That the Tenley Neighborhood Association and the Friendship Neighborhood Association were opposed? Two anti growth groups with closed membership and indistinguishable leadership? That the previous ANC, which was made up of commissioners among whom not a single one of whom had ever been in a competitive race? The same ANC that was opposed to a proposal that they never actually saw?"

We should evaluate any new project with its own merits, not by labeling certain groups as "anti growth". The original article was clamining that only "few" opposed. While I do not have the exact number, yes it is not few, and it is majority of the neighborhood. You have already listed two organizations that opposed it - add to that discussions in listserves and discussions with neighbors in the community.

"As for benefits Transit oriented development is a benefit. By a conservative estimate this project would have generated about $500,000 a year in just property tax revenues. Will you and the other anti growth folks volunteer to make up that money? Perhaps hold another garage sale?"

If there is demand for a residential building in that neighborhood, somebody will build them - there is plenty of land for that; and that will bring in the tax revenues you are referring to. As I wrote in my post, I do support development in that neighborhood - but not that particular one, so let us leave "anti growth" labels out of this debate.

Posted by: fywdc | March 18, 2009 1:45 PM

fywdc - again what is your proof that it was a majority of the neighborhood????

Even the listserve debate was fairly evenly divided - well actually it was not as there were really two people repeatedly arguing against the proposal and 3 people that I can recall (myself among them) consistently arguing the merits of doing a PPP and there were a couple of others who jumped in on some procedural elements of how things were being handled.

And I attended every public meeting on this PPP (the ANC 3E special committee had its own private meetings where people who disagreed with them were excluded so we cannot count or consider those) and I never got the sense at any of the meetings that there was a clear sentiment in the room on the proposal. In fact mostly I got the sense that people wanted information and would THEN judge the proposals.

But we never did get a proposal to judge so when you say we should judge each proposal on its merits the fact of the matter is that in this case that never happened as there never was a public proposal to review.

And TNA and FNA are not anti growth groups? Are you seriously making that case? Leaving aside the fact that FNA is not even a public group and has no website can you cite anything that either group has done that has not solely revolved around fighting development?

At least be honest that you are anti growth - myself and many others will still not agree with you but we will at least respect you for honestly representing yourselves and your goals.

Posted by: TomQuinn | March 18, 2009 2:15 PM

We did, in fact, see three proposals we could judge on February 28th of last year. You didn't hear any public comment on them because DMPED refused to allow the public to speak at that meeting! Nor did it hold a separate public hearing to take testimony. Instead it accepted "public" comments only via email. When those public comments were FOIA'd, it turned out that 95% of the 125 individuals who wrote opposed all three proposals they'd seen. 75% of the total wanted PPP discussions over and done with at that point.

The government worked hard to keep public sentiment less than public because it wanted to represent that project as popular. But opposition was hardly limited to development-oriented groups. The Janney SIT, Janney parents, Friends of the Library, and the St Ann's Academy parents all voiced opposition to the PPP. These aren't groups of people brought together by shared views of development. These are people whose stake in the project involved the future of the schools and the library.

Listservs are never a good way to judge what the majority of a community thinks of a project. Their utility is in getting information and points of view out there and letting people make up their own minds. Most people avoid posting, especially if their POV has already been well-represented and especially in contexts like the Tenleytown list where a few posters can create a really vicious environment. In short, listservs aren't referenda. The numbers on each side of a listserv debate aren't significant; just the quality of the arguments.

Posted by: smithhemb | March 18, 2009 3:08 PM

Rather than counting comments on a listserve to measure support or opposition to this project, it seems more appropriate to count the public comments that were actually submitted to the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development during the public comment period. Those comments were tabulated, and over 75% of the individuals and groups submitted comments in opposition to a PPP, and nearly all the comments found the three proposals to be unacceptable.

Posted by: MJSimon524 | March 18, 2009 3:21 PM

God bless the committed and tenacious group that worked for years to quelch this supposedly "smart growth" project. The section of the block in question consists of a church, two schools, a small soccer field and the former library. Putting aside the policy debate as to selling off public property in the hope of capturing some tax revenue, this was a dumb idea from the getgo. First, I challenge the "smart growth' folks to make a left turn off of Wisconsin onto the "bucolic" Albemarle St during most times of the day. The way folks talk about Tenleytown, you'd think it was Smallville, USA with one traffic light and Barney Fife patrolling tiny Tenleytown. Second, a large condo development sits directly across the street from this site right on top of the entrance to the Metro and Best Buy . Third, there are plenty of low density areas near the metro aching for further sensible development. Holding the library hostage and infringing on school property while trying to shoehorn another apartment building on a that block made no sense. Frankly, I think the Smart Growth did themselves a disservice by forgetting the all important adjective "Smart"

Posted by: TenleytownTom | March 18, 2009 3:24 PM

I'd like to make two points with respect to Tom Quinn's latest post above. First, I googled his name in Washington DC and saw he is a member of the Steering Committee of Ward 3 Vision, a group that has been active in seeking greater density along Wisconsin Avenue.,82,0,0,html/About-us

In reading posts relating to Ward 3 Vision, I see that people have complained that it does not seem to allow just anyone interested in development issues to join and does not appear to hold meetings open to those interested in that subject. Is this correct?

Second, I see that last November, Mr. Quinn sought election as a member of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3E and ran against Lucy Eldridge. Ms. Eldridge won with 61.71 percent of the vote versus Mr. Quinn's 36.74 percent of the vote. [There were also write-in votes for 1.55 percent of the vote.]

Lucy Eldridge has voted to oppose the Library/Janney PPP while Mr. Quinn supports it. Are we to understand from this that a majority of those in this part of ANC 3E opposed the PPP?

Mr. Quinn sounds like an angry young (?) man seeking to vent after winding up on the losing end of this development battle.

Posted by: UndecidedVoter | March 18, 2009 3:28 PM

We're not NIMBYS, we just don't want any development in our neighborhood!

Develop other places in the city, and give us that taxes money. Everyone is happy!

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 18, 2009 3:33 PM

So Marilyn and Sue are basically arguing that under 100 people commenting on a preliminary proposal is what constitutes clear proof that the community was opposed to this project? And by the way more than half of the people who commented in opposition to the PPP were also opposed to the Akridge project so this was hardly an organic uprising.

The population of the immediately impacted ANC districts is about 26000 people.

If we are relying on a small percentage of people to make the call it should at least be the 14 ANC's reps who have to stand for election and not 100 people stirred to comment by their respective advocacy groups.

Or again there is that Councilmember who decisively won election in a campaign where she was smeared as being pro smart growth - or do you doubt the validity of that election?

Oh and before I forget fewer than one-third of surveyed Janney parents even responded to the School Improvement Teams slanted and premature survey on doing a PPP.

Please note that I am not making the case that the community is in favor of this project - just pointing out the absurdity of the evidence that the anti growth people are citing as proof that the community is opposed.

And Tenleytown Tom - is it smart to have a surface parking lot in the middle of Janney's playspace that will have to be expanded to accommodate the larger school? And since you are concerned about traffic obviously the solution is to prevent people from living near transit and driving more right? That will help won't it - more people driving?

I think you are not seeing the forest for the trees here.

Posted by: TomQuinn | March 18, 2009 3:39 PM

Tom Quinn, Let’s not forget that Ward 3 Vision had an e-mail campaign, attempting to stir your members to submit comments. A copy of Ward 3 Vision's first request is at:

A follow-up message, “Don’t forget! Library RFP Comments Due Tomorrow,” was sent on April 4:

Yet, fewer than 25% of the comments sent to the DMPED supported a PPP. Almost all opposed all three proposal. Only 5 comments were sent through the Ward 3 Vision web-site.

Posted by: MJSimon524 | March 18, 2009 4:06 PM

Mr Quinn:

Why are you asking me about the existing parking lot? I am here to talk about the idiocy of placing a future apartment building on the block in question.

Of course,the fact that I think the location of the building in question was dumb means I am opposed to all development near the Metro. A clever juvenile debate tactic - but wrong. As to traffic on that corner -- are you suggesting that the congestion on that corner will be less if a large apartment building is built? Interesting 2+3=4

If you read my first note,I am not opposed to development near the metro and frankly would welcome it in many areas. Just the wrong block!!

Unlike you Tom, who I suspect never met a development he didn't like, this Tom is free to express my opinion based on the merits of each individual project and is not bound to some "smart growth" credo or Ward 3 vision ideology that apparently compels support for all development near Metro stops.

Maybe I am wrong -- regale us with a past antidevelopment crusade of yours.

"And Tenleytown Tom - is it smart to have a surface parking lot in the middle of Janney's playspace that will have to be expanded to accommodate the larger school? And since you are concerned about traffic obviously the solution is to prevent people from living near transit and driving more right? That will help won't it - more people driving?

Posted by: TenleytownTom | March 18, 2009 4:06 PM

The survey that was send to Janney parents was completely biased against the LCOR proposal---it essentially made a two-page argument against the PPP and then asked whether one agreed or not.

Let's stop citing this survey.

Posted by: JRTenley | March 18, 2009 4:18 PM

David (undecided voter):

I am surprised you kept your muzzle on for so long with this post.

Especially since your chosen anti growth candidate lost his election to the ANC in the part of the neighborhood where you and the greatest concentration of anti growth folks live!

On the subject of ANC races I found when I ran that most people just do not care that much about development one way or another! It was certainly a surprise to me. Even a lot of Janney parents I met were barely aware of the PPP but most were open minded about it including some good friends of my opponent who told me they were not going to vote for me.

But after years of being told by folks like you that no one in the neighborhood agrees with me I went out and knocked on doors and told people I was for Smart growth and I still got 360 votes and my opponent for what it is worth was citing as a success on her literature a project she fought against tooth and nail.

But it is a silly thing to debate here and on balance more pro smart growth ANC candidates won than lost in upper NW in November so my loss could have been more of a reflection of the candidates than the issues.

On the question of joining groups I notice you dodged my original question but for what it is worth Ward 3 Vision has a website (and please for people who are fed up with the absolute positions of the anti growth people go to and get signed up) and unlike your various anti growth groups we have a public web site with clear info on our positions along with our leadership and how to contact us.

And oh yes you can get on our mailing list and get involved so long as you agree to support our guiding principles which I think you know because you signed up.

So please let me know when the anti growth groups will make any attempt to be so transparent or actually open to everyone in the community.

Posted by: TomQuinn | March 18, 2009 4:23 PM

JRTenley, the Janney School Improvement Team, after careful study, voted to oppose the PPP. This is the same SIT that was elected by members of the Janney PTA. How do you explain that? What evidence, if any, do you have that a significant portion, let alone a majority, of the Tenleytown-Friendship Heights community supported the PPP?

Posted by: UndecidedVoter | March 18, 2009 4:25 PM

Tenleytown Tom:

This is getting silly becaue we are just arguing among ourselves at this point but you actually put words in my mouth as I did not say that you have fought everything. But perhaps you have and are thus associating yourself with the folks who have - but that is an association you are making and not me.

And you ignored the Janney land use problem around the surface parking lot remaining - again how is that parking lot going to be expanded without taking more usable greenspace from the school than the PPP would have taken?

And another question - has it not occured to you that the vast majority of traffic in TT is from drivers from Mont County coming to the neighborhood via River Road?

So we can accommodate population growth by forcing more people to drive in on River Road (and over longer distances) or alternately we can enable more of them to live in the neighborhood they are driving to and take public transit?

Posted by: TomQuinn | March 18, 2009 4:32 PM

Tom Quinn, why does Janney staff parking have to be sited on its land? Can't it be provided off site, on the streets or in nearby garages? If that parking is off-sited, wouldn't that open up more of Janney's property for other use, such as building, playgrounds, or green space?

Posted by: UndecidedVoter | March 18, 2009 4:42 PM

Mr. Quinn

You keep asking me to solve/debate issues that I have neither the time nor energy to debate or solve with you. That being said, I expressed my opinion to which I am entitled as you are to yours. I only ask that you remember the "Smart" part next time you support a project.

Posted by: TenleytownTom | March 18, 2009 4:45 PM

To Undecided Voter: Does it make sense to have the DC Government pay, ad infinitum, for staff parking in a private lot, or perhaps to park on the streets in the neighborhood (where residents are already complaining about overparked streets), or does it make sense to use proceeds from a PPP to pay for underground parking that will free up, perhaps, the best surface space on the Janney property for, you know, the kids?

If people were really concerned about the kids, they would be pushing the Mayor to bury the parking on this site, regardless of a 1 or 6 story building on the corner.

But no, instead, let's keep developing our urban centers based on principals from 1958.

Posted by: LukasWP | March 18, 2009 10:54 PM

Odds are Lew will put below-grade parking under the addition at Janney. The change of grade at his proposed location (NW corner of campus) is significant enough that that could be done without excavation and the new wing could be at the same elevation as the old.

By constrast, the water table is really high at the library site which makes excavation there for underground parking an even-more-expensive-than-usual proposition.

Posted by: smithhemb | March 18, 2009 11:51 PM

ummm what are you basing your odds on?

Even dig and cover parking is very expensive and even if it were not DCPS would be spending money on parking and not school facilities which would somewhat amaze me considering that DCPS does not actually have the funds to complete all of the renovations and additions it has promised.

So you think that after Janney has been moved up in the queue at the expense of some schools east of the park(many of which are in fact in far worse condition) that DCPS is going to spend additional funds undergrounding the parking???

And putting another round of curb cuts and on a sloped portion of the lot and near a signal controlled intersection on a narrow street is also likely to be problematic.

Wow - I will take those odds.

What shall we wager?

How about some FOIA'd documents?

Posted by: TomQuinn | March 19, 2009 12:44 AM

"Hint: you're proving the point (re: NIMBY). The "residents of Tenley" are NIMBYs because they want the benefits of smart growth (tax revenue, better facilities), but they want it in *another* part of the city."

HINT: You must be that old familiar class of people: an OIYBY - only in your backyard. You know the ones who live in houses and want the rest of the city to live in high rises, the ones who criticize public schools and send their kids to private schools, and so on.

Posted by: greentunes | March 19, 2009 7:08 AM

"what are you basing your odds on?"

1. OPEFM's conceptual site plan, which shows a three-story addition that connects to each story of the existing Janney building, despite the fact that the grade change is significant enough that if the new wing were built flush to the ground, it would be at least a full story lower than the historic building.

2. The fact that below-grade parking is one of the options being considered at nearby Wilson HS.

3. Discussions with a structural engineer who has decades of construction planning and management experience. Even before the MFP sketches came out, he said that below grade parking at that location would be the obvious solution at this site. And he subsequently verified that a 15,000 SF footprint would probably be sufficient to accomodate up to 75 cars (which is more than they'd need).

4. This solution is considerable cheaper than underground parking. Rather than constructing a building underground (i.e. a garage), they'd essentially be building the new wing on stilts.

5. And, of course, efficient provision of parking is clearly on the radar as a desideratum wrt this project. As long as Fenty and Lew keep their promises to work with the Janney community on the campus's design, I'm pretty confident that a more efficient alternative will be found to the existing surface lot. This is just not an intractable design challenge.

Finally, it's worth remembering that the same amount of land the PPP would have reclaimed by undergrounding staff parking would have consumed by putting (part of) an apartment building on the school's campus. The PPP was never an add-land proposition for Janney. At best, it was a break-even proposition. Janney doesn't lose land by abandoning in the PPP.

Posted by: smithhemb | March 19, 2009 8:40 AM

UndecidedVoter -

1) My point was a very specific one. The Janney survey was biased and clearly was written to achieve an anti-PPP result. It was essentially a piece of propaganda. The very fact that the results were 5:1 against the PPP is surprising given that I certainly run into a fair number of people on each side of the issue. smithhemb has cited this survey as a key piece of evidence of the feelings of the Janney community.

As someone who seems to be more "Undecided" than you claim to be (and advocated against the LCOR PPP proposal but was hoping for something better), I was disappointed when this survey came out. It was clearly propaganda rather than an honest effort to understand the views of the Janney community.

Since you seem to disagree with my point, tell me what I have wrong. Do you think the survey was balanced?

2) I'm not going to get in a long discussion on the overall views of the community. The short answer is that I agree that community was clearly against this specific LCOR proposal. However, there obviously are a range of views on whether a better PPP proposal would be preferred to a library-only build---- I don't really know whether the community is 70% pro-PPP or 70% against. I would expect that the vast majority of people don't have enough time or interest to have a strong viewpoint.

The best evidence for a general pro-PPP view in the electorate is Cheh's win and (more importantly) Wiss' loss in the Ward 3 race, even in the Janney neighborhood. The election clearly centered around the growth issue. I could also cite the makeup of the new ANC 3E--- but since ANC elections are largely uncontested, I don't find that to be compelling.

Posted by: JRTenley | March 19, 2009 9:32 AM

I think there was at least one ANC race which was contested and in that race the non-NIMBY candidate prevailed.

Posted by: LukasWP | March 19, 2009 10:34 AM

LukasWP, you ask whether it makes sense for the DC government to pay for Janney staff parking in nearby garages (by Whole Foods on underneath Best Buy) or to designate parking spaces on the streets adjacent to the school as staff only parking during school days. My answer is that that it may very well make sense if the one time but high cost of building underground parking on Janney's site is greater than the discounted present value of providing parking at nearby garages or the much lower cost of designating on-street parking for Janney staff during school days. In fact, it is possible that these two options may be far cheaper than building a parking garage on Janney's site.

Indeed, it may make sense for the DC government to provide subsidized Metro bus and rail cards to Janney staff to reduce the need for staff parking in the first place.

Wouldn't it odd if Tom Quinn and Ward 3 Vision support Douglas Jamel's proposal to construct a three or four story building on the Babe's Billiards site with NO PARKING whatsoever on the basis that the people who use that building will arrive and depart via Metrorail and Metrobus? The Babe's site is further from the Tenleytown Metro entrance than is Janney. Why is parking not needed at Babe's but it is needed at Janney?

I do not oppose the addition of parking underneath the newly-proposed west wing addition to Janney. My point is that if it's too expensive, there are reasonable alternatives. Parking underneath the library and Janney's soccer field was never a good solution.

Posted by: UndecidedVoter | March 19, 2009 12:51 PM

JRTenley, I have not seen the Janney SIT survey form so I cannot say one way or the other whether it was biased. I know there are a couple of people, at least, who serve on the SIT who have been pressing very hard for the PPP for years (e.g., Allison Feeney). I therefore question why those PPP proponents would allow a survey form that's biased against the PPP.

Nevertheless, the SIT survey is not the only -- or even necessarily the best -- measure here of the community's opposition to the PPP proposal. We have ANC 3E's study and votes, we have the official public comments that were submitted to the Deputy Mayor's office which were around 70/30 in favor of the stand along library, we have the opposition of the Friends of the Tenley-Friendship Library, we have the votes of neighborhood associations, such as the Tenleytown Neighbors Association and the Tenleytown Historical Society, and more.

The only organization I am aware of that has expressed support for the PPP proposal was Ward 3 Vision. W3V tried hard to get members of the community to submit public comments supporting the PPP. I can only assume that the reason W3V's effort failed so miserably is because most community members wanted to see our stand alone library built without any further delay. Four plus years was more than enough delay.

Posted by: UndecidedVoter | March 19, 2009 1:58 PM

JRTenley, I should add that Ms. Feeney, like Tom Quinn, is also a member of Ward 3 Vision's Steering Committee.

Posted by: UndecidedVoter | March 19, 2009 2:05 PM

There were two contested ANC races: Bender vs. Carlson and Eldridge vs. Quinn. Split decision if you assume the elections were a referendum on development. Or, more likely, Carlson lost because he didn't campaign and Quinn lost because he did.

Posted by: smithhemb | March 19, 2009 4:41 PM

Sue is getting sassy!

I hope it did not take you 24 hours to come up with that one!

Posted by: TomQuinn | March 19, 2009 4:51 PM

To Undecidedvoter: you ask what the distinction is between providing parking for a private enterprise and for a DCPS facility. My response is that many, if not most of the DCPS teachers are from outside of the neighborhood, much less the city, and a basic amenity they would need to save their precious time is on-campus parking.

The plan that makes the most sense is to bury this parking on campus and access it via the Yuma Street alley. No new curb cuts, ready access and easy to get below grade, while expanding Janney greenspace.

Posted by: LukasWP | March 19, 2009 8:11 PM

LukasVP, on what do you base your "guess" that most of the teachers (and staff?) at Janney require on-site parking and can't possibly travel to the school via public transportation? You haven't explained why they can't park at the two nearby parking garages and why that option would be more expensive than building underground parking? You also haven't explained why Janney staff can't park in designated on-street spaces adjacent to the school -- something that would cost taxpayers nothing.

Again, I do not oppose putting the Janney staff parking underneath the new proposed west wing addition to the school. My point is that even better options may exist and those options are quite possibly much less expensive.

Posted by: UndecidedVoter | March 20, 2009 9:55 AM

To to the administration at the school and follow the DCPS guidelines.

It is not a guess.

Posted by: LukasWP | March 21, 2009 10:28 PM

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