Friday, April 13, 2007

Hear Us Roar

At last night's "final" public meeting on the Braddock Road Metro plan the neighborhood pushed back — and hard — against the City's attempts to ram home this flawed plan, portions of which had still not been released to the public by the time the meeting commenced at 7 p.m.

The result was that mid-way through the session, Planning Commission Chairman Eric Wagner announced the plan was not going to Planning Commission and City Council in May.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat!

Participants' hearts initially sank when they arrived to find City staff plotting another touchy-feely exercise designed to divide and conquer. Yes, we were all going to be required to break into small groups, talk about trees and sidewalks, and then report back our findings through a team leader. It's no coincidence that we'd be sitting on the tiny school chairs in Jefferson-Houston's cafeteria for this exercse because in essence the City was planning to treat us once again like overgrown kids.

Fortunately, the lengthy and repetitious presentation by various City staff drained away the time. (Note to Rich Josephson: enough of that tedious PowerPoint presentation we've seen eight times before. Daddy, get yourself a new bag ... and soon.)

In the interests of time, Mr. Wagner finally decided to scrap the breakouts in favor of the open mike. And once again, residents were articulate and passionate about their wants. The message came across strongly,and even more clearly than it did at the March 20 meeting: people are concerned about density, height, traffic, BRT, open space, retail, and public housing.

Let the Growler point out the remarkable fact that despite many residents' concern that by floating the issue they will be unjustly attacked, the community is at last discussing the sensitive topic of public housing. That's a dialogue that's long overdue.

Best of all, there are now signs of greater cohesion and collaboration between different parts of the neighborhood. There's a recognition that density is at the root of many of the plan's evils, and the calls are becoming stronger and stronger to open up discussion about development on the western side of Braddock Road Metro.

There were virtually no proponents for the plan as it currently exists, although near the end developer William Cromley spoke up to raise the bogeyman of "by right development." He was roundly ignored.

A few highlights: BRT is now officially going to be removed from the draft plan. That doesn't mean the issue still doesn't need to be fought. Certainly our Patrick and Henry Street neighbors need to keep an eagle eye on the draft report. But now the arena for action moves to the Ad Hoc Transportation Task Force, which as far as the Growler can tell is still going to be advocating for the three major transit corridors and BRT on Route 1.

Despite the many concerns expressed about public housing, we learned that the redevelopment of the Andrew Adkins project is still off the table. That was confirmed by ARHA senior staffer Connie Lenox and ARHA board vice chairman Carlyle J. "Connie" Ring. If the Lofts needs a wake-up call, this certainly comprises one.

What are the next steps? Keep this page bookmarked and you'll find out.