Open Letter to Urban Planners in DC

For those of you who are used to coming to my blog to read about technology and virtualization this post is going to a slight change but one I felt was worth writing.  If this is your first time reading my blog, thank you and I welcome your comments.

Almost three years ago my wife and I moved into one of the most drastically changed areas of Washington DC and without a doubt it was the best decision we have made.  We live in an area that has been referred to by alot of names but the most common seem to be Capital Riverfront or Navy Yard-Ballpark.   An area between Capital Hill and the Anacostia River and home to the Washington Nationals Stadium, the area has gone from one that was full of strip clubs and drug deals to home to young professionals and young families in new high-rise apartment and condo buildings.  We have some of the newest and best parks in DC and are seeing restaurants and stores slowly come into the area.  Sounds great right?

Here’s where my questions come into play.  I am not sure any one person could answer these but I will throw them out there and can only hope that a few people see this and it makes them think…

  1. DC has a great (or at least I think so) tax that is placed on abandoned or empty property.(http://goo.gl/rAANf)  Because of this we often see fenced empty pieces of property.  In a city that is filled with concrete and buildings, DC is fortunate to have lots of parks. Why not offer a tax break for companies and investors that not only clear these properties but also provide the space as maintained open spaces for community use until they start to build on the property?
  2. Staying with the parks, I am a huge fan of the Yards Park and many agree since it was named the 9th best urban park behind places like Central Park in NY.  However I have to wonder what the urban planners thought when the only street that is near the park is listed as No Parking Anytime.  As a resident that can normally walk to the park, it is not as big of a deal to me, but how do you expect to draw people to an area that is not only a beautiful waterfront park, but also will soon have shops and eateries if there is no place for them to park.  Some might note that there is a surface paid surface parking lot nearby but it is not staffed 24/7 and does it really help attendance to make people pay by the hour to park.
  3. Second question is on the Yards Park and even nearby Diamond Teague Park.  Both parks have made great use of landscape lighting that make them fantastic places to walk along the water well into the evening.  This is a two part question, first off all the lights seem to be normal powered lights.  Even in home landscaping you see a large amount of solar powered lights, maybe I dont see the panels but could we not have made the park self sustaining?  Some of the lights may require a little more power so maybe a wind feature or solar panels strategically placed that can provide more energy.  The second part is a safety question, specifically around the dog park.  I enjoy the dog park(as does Bailey, my chocolate lab) but in an area on the side of the park, it seems unacceptable that there are lights all over the park and the one light in the dog park has not been turned on since the park opened.
  4. Rec Centers in urban areas can be the lifeblood of an area, yet I have seen so many underused.  The same goes for fields and parks that require permits.  I recently had someone tell me that in order to use a school field in the fall a permit had to be submitted before mid July and after a little research found that to actually be the case.  If you applied you would know by mid August if you could use the field from September to November.  The issue I have is that there is no way to request a permit in October when you and your group of friends find a field that is not being used.  While I am sure there has to be some vetting, there has to be a way to automate most of this process and allow the neighborhoods to get the most use out of the great open spaces we do have.
  5. My last question at least during this post does bring me back to technology.  DC has been slowly moving towards a city wide wifi system but it seems to be moving very slowly.  With smaller cities and towns having a canvas of wifi and the ability for residents and guests to use the latest connection, why is DC lagging behind?  Sure it is a much larger undertaking, and the process is not easy, but why not a public-private partnership, that again uses the business owners and developers in DC to the communities advantage.  DC is arguably one of the top 5 best tech areas in the country, why not use this?  Most companies already have excess bandwidth, a system that set up public wifi and tracked usage for each hotspot a company provided, and then gave a benefit for its use would surely be adopted by companies throughout DC.
If you made it this far, first off thanks for reading and I would love to see some comments either agreeing or disagreeing.  Maybe you have something to take my ideas further?

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