Friday, October 31, 2008
The health of our neighborhoods hinges on a ample supply of engaged residents and businesses, and I hope you will join me in supporting not only our local providers of social services, but also our businesses, who generously donate food and services to community organizations. Also, there are several organizations, that you may already know about, working to help to promote our neighborhood businesses; here are some of their websites:
SMD ANC 2B09
The health of our neighborhoods hinge on a ample supply of engaged residents and businesses, and I hope you will join me in supporting our businesses through this slow period. There are several organizations, that you may already know about, working to help to promote our neighborhood businesses; here are some of their websites:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Your support and endorsements are making this campaign a tremendous success.
Thanks to all who have hosted 'Meet & Greets,' organized fundraisers, contributed, and issued endorsements including:
Dan Gamber, Caroline Street Residents Association, who says “Ramon has strived to balance the interests of the business (particularly locally owned) AND residential communities. He does not oppose liquor licenses but does try to ensure that the result is not a night club that destroys our sleep (see history of Cada Vez and Club U). He does not oppose major construction projects like now proposed for the Hilton and the 14 & U corner, but works to ensure that they will be good neighbors. I fully support Ramon's reelection. Not only is his approach to development balanced, he knows a lot about working with DC departments and about the history of our area.”
Kay Eckles, long time resident of T Street, community activist and President of the Residential Action Coalition and recent recipient of a DC Council honor, endorsed me as one who has served as an “ally working for balanced growth, historic preservation, licensing, planning and zoning. These are the fundamentals that guarantee and sustain the quality of community life. Mr. Estrada offers us the gift of historical memory and years of community involvement.”
The Nolando Condominiums on T Street issued a notice of support for my Re-election Campaign.
Ellen Mercer, former director of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) and resident of 16th Street, also expresses her support of our campaign by saying that “Mr. Estrada has served our neighborhood incredibly well. Anyone who is paying attention (to the issues) would vote for Mr. Estrada."
The Campaign would also like to thank local business owner Carlos Buruca, El Paraiso Restaurant on 14th Street, for serving as a gracious host of one of our fundraisers!
Monday, October 27, 2008
So, what is this all about… ? Yes, the subject is the large, yellow brick building at the southwest corner of 14th and T Streets, with the graffiti around the perimeter, which has stood empty for a couple of years since the plans for a mixed use condo project were abandoned, with 'For Lease' signs posted. (See my earlier post on the building's history and developments over the years.) Yes, the building is still empty - unoccupied, not leased - so no businesses are being displaced from the building by Room and Board coming in.
The displaced businesses mentioned in the flier and on blogs refer a group of several local business owners who presented a concept plan to the ANC this summer (for a 24-7 diner, comedy club, yoga and dance studio). Since then, we were told that the group was still in the process of lease negotiations. More recently, I learned that the building was for sale.
It is unfortunate that the local business group was unable to lease or purchase the property. And, contrary to some rumors being disseminated, the ANC was not involved in any of these matters. In fact, because there was no lease, nor ABC applications, the matter never came before the ANC for any approvals. And, despite my opponent's suggestions otherwise, it is not the role of the ANC Commission to undo contracts. It's too bad that my opponent chooses to mischaracterize the situation and my record in his attempt to promote himself. I can assure you that I'll continue to bridge constituent concerns and business objectives in our area and I'll continue to support, facilitate and recruit local businesses to our neighborhood.
Everyone wants to see this property improved and occupied and the DC-based property owner tells me that the building will be renovated in keeping with its historic character. This is great news for the community and is in keeping with the ArtsOverlay. Since this news was reported, I've been receiving messages from nearby residents that they are elated that the building will be restored and occupied.
The particulars of why the local business group didn't finalize the signing of a lease, or ultimately purchase the building have not been reported. The building owner did confirm that Room and Board is in a position to move forward. And, as has been the case in our neighborhood and in other neighborhoods across the city, adding a national entity with resources to improve historic buildings and create additional activity has shown to enhance and complement the local business scene. We saw this happen with the additional of Whole Foods on P Street, NW.
At this at this juncture, it would probably be more productive to assist the businesses, which were vying for the location, by suggesting other possibilities for space in the neighborhood.
There are many spaces for lease along the 14th & U corridor.
Thanks for your time. Feel free to be in touch 202.412.9434 or raestrada2B09@gmail.com
Several neighbors have called asking about a flier that was placed in their mail slots by my opponent for the ANC2B09 seat. On both his flier and on blogs, my opponent talks about the purchase of 1840 14th Street, NW by Room and Board and suggests a detrimental effect on the community and local businesses because it “will push out several local business owners.”
So, what is this all about… ? Yes, the subject is the large, yellow brick building at the southwest corner of 14th and T Streets, with the graffiti around the perimeter, which has stood empty for a couple of years since the plans for a mixed use condo project were abandoned, 'For Lease' signs appeared. (See my earlier post on the building's history and developments over the years.) Yes, the building is still empty - unoccupied, not leased - so no businesses will be displaced by Room and Board coming in.
It appears that my opponent, in his reference to displaced businesses, is talking about several local business owners who presented a concept plan to the ANC this summer (for a 24-7 diner, comedy club, yoga and dance studio) and told the community that they were amidst lease negotiations and alcohol license applications for the location. When we didn't hear back from this group, I talked with the owner of the yoga establishment who told me that lease negotiations were still underway. More recently, I learned that the building was for sale.
Now, it has been reported that the owner of the building has accepted a purchase contract by Room and Board . And with this news, I've been receiving messages from nearby residents that they are elated that the building will be restored and occupied. I have also talked with the owner of the building who confirmed that the building has been sold and that it will be restored in keeping with its historic character. This is great news for the community and is in keeping with the ArtsOverlay.
The particulars of why the local business group didn't finalize the signing of a lease, or ultimately purchase the building have not been reported. However, my opponent's assertions that ANC 2B disapproved plans by the group are simply untrue. Neither I, nor the ANC, had any control over leasing arrangements or whose contract was accepted by the owner. I wholly support our local businesses and will continue to support, facilitate and recruit local businesses to our neighborhood. However, in this instance, the current owner of the property is DC-based and has signed a contract with Room and Board, a nationally known furniture company, which has resources to move forward. And, as has been the case in our neighborhood and in other neighborhoods across the city, adding a national entity with resources to improve historic buildings and create additional activity has shown to enhance and complement the local business scene.
And, despite my record of serving to bridge constituent interests and local businesses, "undoing" a contractual agreement, as my opponent is suggesting, is NOT a role of a ANC Commissioner. My role is to represent constituents of ANC2B09, who have expressed overwhelming support for Room and Board coming to this location.
My opponent continues to mischaracterize my record as part of his campaign. He also contradicts his claim that he is representing your views for more development at 14th & U by attempting to foil the prospect of Room and Board's purchase of 1840 14th Street, NW. It is truly unfortunate that the local businesses, to which my opponent refers, were unable to lease or purchase the building; however, at this juncture, it would probably be more productive to assist them in finding another space in the neighborhood.
If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me: raestrada2B09@gmail.com
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
You have all been waiting for news about the development of the building located at the southwest corner of 14th & T Streets, NW. (See my previous post for the history of this building.) And, many of you have already been in touch following yesterday's report of an agreement for the purchase of the building by Room and Board , the contemporary classic furniture company with locations in the West and Midwest.
Your feedback on this prospect has been resoundingly positive, many pointing out that Room and Board would complement our neighborhood retail, which is shaping up as a burgeoning center for furniture, art, home accessories and housewares. The area seems to be evolving from our history as an 'auto showroom corridor' to 'design showroom corridor.' And, with the density of our residential stock increasing, the proportional local demand for home furnishings (combined with the attraction of city-wide and area-wide shoppers) should provide ample business for the many retailers located here.
Room and Board would join our diverse retail offerings for furniture and housewares, which include:
Dragonfly Asian Antiques
Go Mama Go
Millennium Decorative Arts
Capital Carpet & Furniture
Ruff and Ready
Timothy Paul Carpets & Textiles
and more... (plus, there's a new design/lighting business coming to 14th soon)
The interesting aspect of this prospect is that the location will be readapted and restored according to the requirements of the Historic Preservation Review Board and will bring back the luster of this beautiful building. And, like the Mitchell Gold store further south on 14th Street; the new West Elm at the former Woodward and Lothrop building; the Design within Reach in Adams Morgan; the building at 14th + T can effectively house a national company while retaining its distinctive, historic character and complementing the surrounding retail.
More updates soon.
As your current ANC 2B09 Commissioner and ANC 2B Chair, I am seeking another term to continue improving and preserving our unique community.
Moving to the neighborhood thirty years ago, my initiation into DC neighborhood organizing began when it became evident that solving problems here required a unified effort. In those early days we:
• donned our orange hats to patrol the streets and drove the drug dealers away.
• worked with MPD to stop a lively alleyway prostitution business.
• worked on the ‘rat problem’ with the business owners here to remove dumpsters from the
• wrested a property from a slum landlord on the block,and with the help Georgetown University
Law School and W.I.S.H. Foundation, the building was secured, renovated and returned it
to the tenants as a clean and comfortable home.
All of these activities led to my initial election as Commissioner of ANC 2B09 in 2002. Since then, we’ve made great strides in preserving and improving the community. For those who are new to the neighborhood or to the ANC election process and would like more information, go to:
For those of you who have known me as a long-time neighbor, community organizer, and ANC 2B09 Commissioner, I hope that you will talk with your neighbors about my record of supporting residents and neighborhood businesses. Most recently, much of my time has been devoted to studying and supporting the new and exciting developments that are slated for the west side of 14th Street. For more information about these upcoming projects, you can click on my previous posts here, which offer details on the history and development of several sites.
With your vote, we will ensure that our neighborhood continues to be one of the best places in DC to live, work, invest, and play.
With warm regards,
Friday, October 24, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
If you missed today's NPR Metro Connection radio program, "Wall Street and Washington,"
you can listen to the segment online at http://wamu.org/programs/mc/.
Is DC always sheltered during economic down turns? Is our local economy vulnerable? Which sectors are effected?
This program features a discussion with economist Stephen Fuller, Director for the Center for Regional Analysis at
George Mason University School of Public Policy.
Also, yesterday Mayor Fenty made public his proposal to reduce the city’s budget gap. The DC website states that, "...his proposal was developed to respond immediately and appropriately to changes in the economy."
Going Green : From the DC Department of Energy (DDOE)
Free Home Energy Audits for District Residents
For questions about this program, constituents should call the DDOE Energy Office at (202) 673-6700.
Washington, DC – District residents can prepare their homes for winter with a free energy audit from the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). The audits recommend easy, inexpensive ways to improve energy efficiency. For example, reducing air leaks can save up to 30 percent of the energy consumed in a home.
“We have great, historic older homes in the District,” said DDOE Director George S. Hawkins. “But many of them lose as much energy as leaving a window open all winter. Our energy audits will help residents stop wasting energy, so they can save money and reduce global warming too.”
DDOE has contracted with Elysian Energy, LLC and Patuxent Environmental Group to perform the audits. Inspectors measure energy characteristics, such as insulation levels, window efficiency, wall-to-wall ratios, heating and cooling system efficiency, the solar orientation of the home, and water heating systems. Diagnostic testing, which may include a blower door for air leakage and duct leakage testing, is often part of the rating.
At the end of the process, the homeowner or renter receives a one- to five-star rating for energy efficiency, and a report listing cost-effective ways to improve the rating. DDOE also offers information on tax credits and financing for energy-efficient home improvements.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
In each of these areas, I will continue to ensure that your voice shapes government policies and outcomes. The Single Member Districts that make up our ANCs are "the government bodies with the closest official ties to the people in a neighborhood."
As your representative, I shall continue to deliver advisory views to District government agencies in the Executive Branch as well as to the DC Council, including testimony to independent agencies, boards and commissions, under rules of procedure. By law, I will also present views to federal government agencies.Through Single Member District (2B09) representation, constituent views are given “great weight” when the final government decisions are made.
I shall continue to effectively represent your views on the wide range of issues.
Thanks again for your continued support.
Please be in touch: raestrada2B09@gmail.com or 202.412.9434.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
During this holiday weekend and beautiful weather, it's a perfect opportunity to enjoy all that our neighborhood has to offer!
I hope you had a chance to visit the 14th and U Street Farmer's Market (on the sidewalk in front of the Reeves Center on the U Street side) this morning to see the array of fresh offerings! Also featured, was Chef Susan Holt with her delightful creations using farm-fresh ingredients. Susan's new cooking school, CulinAerie, "The Pinnacle of Food and Wine Instruction," finds its new home at 1131 14th Street, NW (www.CulinAerie.com / 1888-789-COOK), "a glass-fronted street level space with two large state of the art kitchen classrooms for both participation and demonstration cooking classes."
If you missed this morning's farmer's market, visit the Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market tomorrow from 9AM to 1PM. There, you'll not only have the opportunity to shop for fresh vegetables, cheese, meat, eggs, flowers, and plants (there's also wonderful handmade soap), you can purchase your advance tickets to the upcoming Annual Dupont Circle House Tour and Tea.
It's wonderful to see how busy our neighborhood sidewalks are today with neighbors and visitors. Hopefully, you are not in front of your screen reading this blurb - but out visiting the shops, galleries, restaurants, post office, dry cleaners, or chatting with neighbors on the corner. Our neighborhood has unique offerings - from food to furniture to jazz to theatre. ANC 2B09 includes many must-see stops within the boundary and all around it, including but not limited to: Goodwood, LoveCafe, Utopia, Coppi's, El Paraiso Restaurant, Ruff and Ready, Station Nine, Millennium, Nevin Kelly Gallery, Nanna's, Simply Home, 24-7, Hunted House, Jo-Jo's, Results, Bang, Source Theatre, Local 16, Cafe 1612, Greater Goods, and many more!
Here are a few upcoming events to add to your calendar:
Dupont Circle Annual House Tour and Tea - October 19th, 2008
Reel Affirmations GLBT Film Festival - Begins October 16th, 2008
Taste of Dupont: A Culinary and Visual Experience - October 28, 2008
Mid City Artists Fall Open Studio - December 6 & 7, 2008
Logan Circle House Tour - December 7th, 2008
More to come! Enjoy the day!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Many proposals have been made for the unoccupied space since it became clear that it wasn't going to be developed into condos. Most recently, a four way proposal was made to bring a diner to the location along with a comedy club, a yoga studio and a dance studio. Much excitement was generated by this four way concept. However, most recently, I was told that the building is up for sale again and that the four prospective tenants were still tied up in lease negotiations. As soon as there is more news about proposals for this location, I'll let you know.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
"One important criteria for new development is that it be compatible with the existing neighborhood and not adversely affect the neighboring properties or pose detrimental effects to the health, safety, convenience or general welfare of those living, working or visiting in the area."
A Brief History of the Corner at 14th & U Streets, NW
The history of this corner is quite fascinating, as it was once the heart of "Black Broadway" (a term attributed to singer Pearl Bailey), a cultural center of the African American community through the 1960's. Many great talents, such as Duke Ellington (who grew up in the neighborhood), Ella Fitzgerald, Lois Armstrong and Cab Calloway, performed at venues along 14th and U Streets. The intersection of 14th and U Streets was the epicenter of the 1968 riots sparked by the assassination of Martin Lurther King, Jr. Many of the historic buildings were burnt beyond repair. In the aftermath of the riots, the neighborhood declined dramatically, becoming blighted and best known for drugs and prostitution. Some of my neighbors, who were here during that time, remember swarms of hundreds of addicts flocking to the area for drugs. The stubborn presence of drugs in the neighborhood is not completely gone, however the long time and ongoing partnership between residents, businesses, our police force have helped to reverse the reputation of this area.
During the 1980's, the development of The Reeves Center for city offices at the northwest corner of 14th & U helped to bring redevelopment back to U Street. The building is named after Frank D. Reeves, DC's first black committeeman for the Democratic Party and was designed by architect Paul Devarouax who, as a soldier on duty dispatched to the riots, had witnessed the destruction of the neighborhood. Several years after the Reeves Center was completed, the construction of the metro system to the area began - with mixed results - the original contractor had to be replaced and the project far exceeded its completion schedule, jeopardizing the businesses that tried to hold on while the roads and sidewalks were torn up.
The 1990's saw some construction at the corner of 14th and U - the rehabilitation of historic townhouses in the 1400 block of U Street (now home to Utopia, Coppi's, Simply Home restaurants) and construction of one story red brick buildings (with fast-food restaurants and a clothing store). The El Paraiso Restaurant and Ruff and Ready followed. The one-story commercial buildings (with the original driveway between them) that filled in between El Paraiso and Ruff and Ready were bulldozed by their owner around 1992, and the parking lot at 1912-1914 14th Street was created.
Despite difficult years, the neighborhood has undergone a marked change with unique, diverse businesses setting up in the neighborhood and many new residential units built, under construction and planned for the near future.
The Site Today and the Approval Process
The site for the proposed Utopia project at 14th & U is a patchwork of individual parcels, owned by various entities. There are existing businesses in both historically contributing and non-contributing buildings and a parking lot on the various parcels. Currently, there are existing setbacks and rear yards. Development of this scale requires the assemblage of all of the lots, or agreements with the owners for long term land leases. The lots that make up the combined parcel are zoned differently: CR to the north and C-3-A to the south. Furthermore, the lots fall within the Greater U Street Historic District and, as such, carry conditions and protections according to the Historic Preservation Code.
One important criteria for new development is that it be compatible with the existing neighborhood and not adversely affect neighboring properties or pose detrimental effects to the health, safety, convenience or general welfare of persons living , working, or visiting in the area. There are several layers to the approval process including (1) historic preservation review (the Historic Preservation Review Board looks at the size and massing in the context of the historic neighborhood and later the appearance/materials), (2) zoning variance approval in the event that the project requires conditions that are not allowed by right, and (3) DCRA permit approval. Sometimes, other agencies such as DDOT are brought into the project, if required. These approvals are gained separately, with each agency acting within the realm of its authority. For instance, HPRB cannot consider zoning or transportation issues. Therefore, if the applicant seeks HPRB approval and comes before the ANC for the same, the ANC can only act on the historic preservation issues brought before it. Later, when the applicant requests zoning variance approval from the ANC, the commission must examine the specific requests, which are separate from historic preservation concerns. With zoning variance requests, the burden of proof is on the applicant to satisfy the 'three part test.' Basically, the applicant has to prove that there is an exceptional condition or situation, a practical difficulty and that the relief can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good or zone plan. The requests are weighed against the impact that the variance would have on the surrounding community with regard to public safety and other quality of life issues.
Advocating for Constituents
The Single Member District Commissioner's role is to represent his/her constituents in this process. In my SMD (2B09), we have always been proactive, working toward cooperation and balance. Meeting with constituents, potential developers, commercial establishments, city agencies, and councilmembers is all part of the process to achieve a win-win solution. Being as informed as possible and advocating for my constituents has led to many successful negotiations and relationships. And, for many years, we have been able to act to both preserve and improve the unique character and livability of our neighborhood. For the Utopia project, we have pulled together stakeholders to help advance this development. Legitimate concerns from constituents and business stakeholders about the continued functionality of the alley systems, which accommodate a wide range common needs, the impact of the large scale development on the surrounding two to four story buildings, and other quality of life issues have been communicated to the developer and architect. Some changes to the plans have been made, based on these suggestions and some based on intervention of our councilmember. The DCCA, DCC and the HPRB have also weighed in on particular aspects of the building's conceptual design. Each group has their distinctive role in shaping the project. The ANCs role is to be the voice for constituents, especially those most effected by the project, and to work toward a balanced solution within the framework of the DC Code. The ANC asked the developer for an alternative parking garage entry plan, a transportation study, and to amend various versions of the plan to take into account existing life on the block. The transportation study supports the garage entry solution put forth by the community, the local businesses, the ANC2B, DCCA and Councilmember Evans. As ANC2B09 Commissioner, I look forward to continuing to work with the developer, the community and the relevant DC agencies through the 'next steps' of this exciting project.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Every neighborhood has characteristics, conditions, configurations, and functions that make it unique. And sometimes the complexity of a particular neighborhood isn't readily apparent unless you look closely, talk with those most effected, observe conditions over time, or happen to live or work there. As a public
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
It's official! After much encouragement from you to continue our advancements to preserve and improve our neighborhood, I'm running for another term as your ANC Commissioner for our Single Member District ANC 2B09.
As you know, there are many exciting projects underway in our SMD. Some on the brink of completion (such as Policy Restaurant at the northwest corner of 14th & T); some in conceptual stages (including the 14th Street Streetscape Improvements and the Utopia Project), and others moving quickly through the approval process (the Old Post Office project at 1407 T Street, NW). Along with you and other community leaders, we'll continue to insure the continuity and success of these projects during my next term.
Additionally, with your help, I will continue to facilitate and promote balanced growth, diversity, health, safety and opportunity. Over the course of my many years in public service, it is precisely these issues that I have emphasized, based on your feedback. Through our cooperative and proactive efforts, we have seen infrastructure improvements, including the repaving of our alleyways, streets, and sidewalks; better communication with our police department; more awareness of preservation issues; an increase in diverse retail establishments; and improved responses to our requests for city services.
The strides that we have experienced during my service as ANC Commissioner are the result of much effort and many partnerships. Our community is one of the most cohesive, resourceful and engaged neighborhoods in the city; and through combined efforts of private citizens, citizen groups, local businesses, city officials and our city council, we have succeeded in maintaining the unique and vital character here while ushering in new and dramatic changes.
It's clear that there's still much to do; and your vote on November 4th will ensure that we proceed with a shared vision for our neighborhood and for DC.