Monday, February 13, 2012

All PUDs are Not Equal (II)

In the 1970s, American cities were not a wasteland of chaos, but rather American cities were the “epicenter of political activism”(1). Capitol Hill was also an epicenter of political activism, activism that might be an example for today. It is surprising that SE Ward 6 (as opposed to SW and Near SE) lacks venues for democratic discussion. Yes, we have the ANC meetings, but they do not attract a demographically representative sample of citizens and discussions focus on parking, house renovations, and so on, leaving aside concerns of many residents. The PUD process in SE Ward 6 has not been very inclusive. We can find possible models in other parts of the city (discussed in a previous post) and in the actual history of SE Ward 6.

In the 1960s, the SE area had the Capitol Hill Community Council, the Citizen's Advisory Council, and the Southeast Civic Association. In 1977, a new group formed, the Capitol East Coalition for Housing and Neighborhood Improvement. ANC 6A and 6B formed this group "to encourage maximum feasible community participation in public and private programs designed for the Near Southeast Community Development Area. This development area crossed 6A and 6B and promised to bring new resources. The Coalition included in their membership the following representatives, who would discussion how to distribute these resources:

1) community residents from the development area
2) community organizations:
  • 2 church representatives
  • a representative of the DC Federation of Civic Associations
  • a Friendship House board member
  • a representative of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society
  • a representative of public housing residents
  • 2 business representatives
  • a senior citizen representative
  • a youth representative
  • a welfare or low-income resident representative
3) ANC Commissioners

Remember that the 1960s and 1970s were a time of extensive gentrification. The Coalition did community interviews and found the "most pressing issues to Capitol East residents" were:

displacement of low and moderate income families from the Capitol East community; exorbitant property taxes and speculation, school closings in the Capitol East area, need for adequate and suitable housing for Capitol East senior citizens, need for available food and shelter on an emergency and/or temporary basis; home financing for people who are threatened with displacement and want to remain in Capitol East area; need for adequate and quality housing for public housing tenants. (3)
It is highly possible that the nearly 20% of Ward 6 residents living in poverty might have similar concerns today. What might they want at the Hine site? Who knows? Did anyone ask?

(1) Suleiman, Osman. 2008. The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
(2) GWU Special Collections, Capitol Hill Restoration Society records, MS 2009, Box 35, Folder 19, "Capitol East Coalition for Housing - By-Laws (1976-77)," Capitol East Coalition for Housing and Neighborhood Improvement Bylaws, August 1977.
GWU Special Collections, Capitol Hill Restoration Society records, MS 2009, Box 35, Folder 20, The Capitol East Communicator, June/July 1978, Official newsletter of the Capitol East Coalition for Housing and Neighborhood Improvements.

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