Guest Column: Crime and Development

by Borderstan.com January 3, 2013 at 8:00 am 7 Comments


Christopher Siddall. (Courtesy of Temple Grassi)

Borderstan welcomes guest columns on variety of subjects with differing viewpoints; email us at borderstan[AT]gmail.com.

From Christopher Siddall. He chairs the board of Meridian Public Charter School at 13th and V Streets NW and leads the capital campaign for Washington Latin’s redevelopment of five acres north of Petworth. A career management consultant, Siddall returned to his childhood hometown of Washington in 1990, and has lived on Wallach Place NW with his three children for six years.

As locals, we know that U Street, Logan Circle, and the 14th Street corridor still provide a comfortable home to crime – small and large. First-time visitors and newcomers to U Street often pay with a smashed car window. My neighbors and I have learned to empty our cars of anything with street value.

Violent crime accompanies petty theft on our U Street and 14th Street corridors and carries somewhat higher human and economic costs. We’ve experienced an armed carjacking, stabbings, shootings, and a stick up on the block of 1400 P Street NW (home to Whole Foods), just as we enter the thick of a nationally noted residential and retail expansion.

While residential property developers might feel only a slight pinch from the continuing crime on the streets, our retail suffers its sustained assault. Sure, new building rents and sale prices might be held down a bit but the highly mobile residents of greater U Street and Logan Circle will take their shopping and entertainment dollars elsewhere. Newcomers, also, will likely turn away from our neighborhood options after just one or two incidents on the street.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy’s Lanier’s request to the Council for more sworn officers to carry out bike, foot, and Segway patrols was shot down by the D.C. Council on December 18. In her appeal to the Council, Chief Lanier talked dollars and cents by linking new officers to economic development and retention of our tax base. The Council will reconsider Lanier’s request but will likely trade it off against many other needs in the tighter times ahead.

In addition to securing resources for the good work of the police we have, we can move ahead with public safety in another way. We should encourage all incoming residential and commercial property developers to forgo any plans to await award of Certificates of Occupancy as a pre-condition to contributing to the life of greater U Street and 14th Street corridors.

Agreement from every residential developer to establish a Business Improvement District (BID) would meet with widespread local support. Once our BID is established, we can work with developers and our local businesses to shape public safety and business services for each part of our growing neighborhood.

Why wait for the D.C. Council to act when we have the resources we require at our fingertips?

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  • Logan Circlite

    BIDs provide numerous benefits to commercial districts, but to suggest that they are a solution to violent street crime is a bit of a stretch. The effort should be on demanding that the city beef up police services through adequate force levels and government funding.

    A BID might well be a good thing for our neighborhood, requiring the agreement of commercial entities to contribute substantial sums of money (which is a special burden for small and local businesses). But coercing its establishment using the promise of public safety seems a bit shady and back-door.

  • bugaboo

    Actually, a BID WOULD make sense of terms of crime. When an area of the city has a BID, it gets extra attention, automatically. A BID has hired staff — managerial and workers. When there are problems, there are people who will stand up for the area/neighborhood. The 14th and U corridor desperately needs a BID — and not just for crime. Look at how filthy the sidewalks and tree boxes area. Where are Councilmembers Graham and Evans? What attention do they pay to the area — a pot of gold in terms of taxes, at least for now.

  • Christopher Siddall

    Logan Circlite — Our property developers have as much political clout as anyone in D.C. The most savvy and responsible accept that they have a direct and substantial interest in increasing safety up and down the 14th Street and U Street corridors. Of course, some simply want to do a deal and move on.

    Let’s sit down with the developers which have a long-term focus, neighborhood residents, small and large retail, MPD, and our elected representatives to form a solution to our street crime. No need to wait any longer or to harm business and neighborhood interests in the process. — Chris

  • loganres

    A BID would certainly make a nice difference for the neighborhood. A well funded BID may even be able to support hiring some some off duty police to patrol the streets during late evening hours. If we want to be successful with this, we need to start working with the developers and not against them. Your neighbors on Wallach have said no to every iteration of every new proposed building that we need in order to get more people living in the neighborhood with a vested interest rather than just people coming to the neighborhood to dine and drink. Your neighbors don’t want people moving into the neighborhood….period. The continue to fight the developers on issues of height, number and size of units being built, and building design. The neighborhood wants and supports these new proposed buildings, the increased density, and new residents. If we want to see a BID formed, we need the support of the developers and merchants. Get your neighbors to realize the damage they are doing to the neighborhood and city by their fighting and stall tactics on new development.

  • Christopher Siddall

    Loganres —

    Residential and commercial development booms all around us. Why nurse old grievances about the neighbors?

    I hope and expect that the true leaders in the development community will use their substantial resources, political clout, and goodwill with the DC Council to help MPD ensure we have adequate public safety and police services for all residents near the 14th and U Street corridors. The business services and “eyes on the street” provided by the BID are also essential and will not happen without the material support of our commercial and residential developers. Let’s make this happen in early 2013.

    — Chris

  • Mr. T2

    As a fellow neighbor, these are my views:

    Shame on the editors of Borderstan for abetting this thinly veiled anti-development manifesto! And shame on the editors again for failing to ask authors to substantiate the radical claims made in “guest columns” with facts.

    This column suggests that the solution to the crime in this neighborhood is to instate a moratorium on new businesses opening their doors until “developers” agree to establish a Business Improvement District (BID).

    The suggestion that a Business Improvement District would do anything at all to reduce crime is completely unfounded—what evidence exists to support such a claim?

    Further, by suggesting that new businesses should “…forgo any plans to await award of Certificates of Occupancy…” until the “…BID is established…” would effectively force fledging small businesses into bankruptcy and will prevent the revitalization of empty storefronts and unused vacant lots in the neighborhood—conditions that are likely to harbor crime, not prevent it.

    If you look at the crime statistics, they will show that our neighborhood is safer today than it was 10, 20, and 30 years ago. And a big part of that safety has come from revitalization brought to our neighborhood over the years by the multitude of new businesses and new neighbors.

  • Christopher Siddall

    Mr. T2 —

    Advocacy for creation of a Business Improvement District (BID) for U Street and 14th Street corridors recognizes the contribution of market-based improvements across the District and would accelerate appropriate development in our neighborhoods.

    Additional BID “eyes on the street” and attention to daily nuisance offenses coupled with more MPD Segway, bike, and foot patrols will enhance the environment for growth in line with the needs and preferences of residents and the business community.

    Small retail, contrary to your claim, will gain the most from a BID backed with seed funding from our forward-looking commercial and residential development leaders.

    — Chris


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