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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?