Off Label Use of Scooters

This is just an observation.
Dad and kid on electric scooter.
People are using those electric scooter things to do things probably not intended by the scooter rental companies.

Transporting your kids– As you might be able to make out from the image above is a father and son about to cross 7th Street NW in Shaw via one of those Lime scooters. This is not the first person I’ve seen transporting another person on these scooters. I see people doubling up on these often. He’s not the only father I’ve seen transporting his kids. I saw, coming at me down the sidewalk, a father with a elementary aged son in the front. Then after they passed me, I noticed another kid holding on behind the father. So, three people.
Food Delivery via Scooter
Making food deliveries– So one day on my way to satisfy my poke/poki addiction. I noticed this guy, and you can’t really see it all that well but he’s got one of those food delivery box/bag backpack things I see bike delivery people use, but instead of a bike, he’s using a Lime scooter. I don’t know what’s the story with that, or if it makes any financial sense. Did I satisfy that poki desire? Sorta, I should have ordered on-line for pick up because when it’s crazy crowded and busy, you are bound to forget one thing in the bowl you meant to get.

Street Archeology

We have a neighbor, Brian who picks up trash, that’s his thing. The Help, my lovely spouse, has found his thing, weeds. For some reason we bought a weed whacker, and so the Help has decided it is his duty to go out and whack weeds. Sometimes he picks up trash, because there is more than enough trash that is thrown and blown in for one person.

The Help sometimes likes to tell me of his adventures as Weedwhackerman. He says picking up trash and cleaning out storm drains choked with weeds is like urban archeology. He noticed the preferred cigarette that litterbugs like to litter the neighborhood with are Newports. Once he mentioned that, I began to notice Newport wrappers and empty boxes all over Shaw.

In his guise as Weedwhackerman, (hat, shades, maybe a dust mask) he meets all sorts of people. He’s very friendly and chatty. Being able to engage total strangers is his superpower. If you find yourself trapped in a conversation with Weedwhackerman say these magic words, “Well, I gotta go.” Then wave goodbye and walk away. If you cannot pull yourself away from Weedwhackerman, know that he’ll eventually let you go because he has to return to his alter ego (and paid job) of mild mannered librarian dude, aka the Help.

Baltimore City level of Historic Districts- When you have too many

DC has too many historic districts (HD) and just recently got one more as Bloomingdale fell to this sad fate of HD collecting. So about 1 in 5 DC properties is some historic something or another. DC is on its way to becoming like our sister city Baltimore where some historic districts are respected and others, kinda ignored, making the designation meaningless. Maybe it needs to be made meaningless.

mAP OF bALTIMORE cITY hISTORIC dISTRICTSSo I own a small rental in Baltimore which happens to be in a historic district and the neighborhood is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Historic districts in Baltimore are a different animal than the HDs in DC from what I observed. When I had a local charm city architect over, I mentioned the vinyl window I had in my house and the other vinyl windows I saw in the neighborhood. He said, “Yeah, they’re not supposed to do that but….” and he shrugged and we moved on to other topics.

Baltimore has over 60 historic districts, DC has over 30. The Baltimore Sun supposed that 1 in 3 buildings was listed on the National Register. I have no idea how many of those include abandoned shells. Baltimore also has a local tax incentive to get homeowners on board, but the logic in how it applies confuse me. There are newish condos just outside the district’s boundaries that advertised the 10 year tax credit. Of course there is a lot in Baltimore where the logic of how they apply a lot of things confuse me.

I wonder if the trend to add more and more historic districts will create an environment where the original intents will be undermined because it brings in too many unwilling participants, thin supporters and stretch the resources of the enforcers. Maybe. We’ll see.

Will Buy Your House For CA$H

It was something from a DCist post about the Hillcrest neighborhood I noticed. It seems the people of Hillcrest have been peppered with offers to sell their homes to developers. If those offers come in the form of post cards and yellow letters like the ones below, they aren’t special. I get these offers almost every week. Sometimes I get phone calls.

I have two rentals, bought for the price of a new car, in addition to our primary home. So every week, I will get some letter or postcard asking if I want to sell. These things are called yellow letters. Note, they are yellow. They come from people looking to buy houses for developer investors. Most are not a scam, but they aren’t going to offer you the amount of money you’d probably get if you were to sell with a Realtor. They are for people who want to sell a house quickly without doing anything (fixing things).

I don’t feel pestered by these mail in inquires. They are like any other service being offered that I don’t want. Don’t want a credit card. Don’t want your cable package. When it is an offer on my primary residence, I do feel slightly insulted, because, yes, the outside could use some sprucing up. I think they figured I’d want to sell because I haven’t gotten to fixing some things. Those things are on the 2019 docket of expensive house crap to do. I replaced the roof this year so the 2018 budget is blown.

So say you’ve gotten several of these yellow letters, what do you do? Are they serious offers? Well if you have no desire to sell, toss them in recycling and give it nary a thought. If you’re thinking about selling, but you want top dollar and you have time and are willing to repair and repaint, toss them in the recycling bin and hire a Realtor. But if you just want to get rid of it (bad tenants, repairs you can’t afford, desperately need to fund your mother in law’s stay in a nursing home) sure give the number on the letter or post card you got a call. Just be aware you’re going to be offered a price below market.  It doesn’t matter that the house next door to you sold for a million dollars, the people offering to buy your house are not going to offer a million dollars.

A little bit of bike thievery

So Baltimore has a problem with docked bikes. It seems the problem is people steal them. And that’s why our sister city can’t have anything nice.

Apparently there isn’t as much docked and dockless thievery here in DC, and we get bikes and those annoying electric scooters. But there is thievery. I was being driven to work by my personal chauffeur (my spouse) and there was a gentleman ahead of us on one of those Lime bikes and I noticed the rear mud guard was ajar. Then I noticed the chain and lock wrapped under the seat. The likelihood that the bike was stolen is high.

 

OSSE please continue to investigate, but do it right

When I’m feeling particularly lazy and the Help is willing, he will drive me to work. On the way there we pass by a charter school where I play a game, reading license plates. In previous years there were more Maryland license plated cars dropping off kids at KIPP. But as there is more attention paid to suburban parents using DC taxpayer funded schools, there are slightly fewer MD cars dropping off kids at KIPP in the morning. But there are still enough to warrant a closer look.

I was happy when I saw that the city was looking into one premier DC public school. Good start, I thought, thinking it was only a matter of time before the city worked their way over to KIPP. The waitlist for KIPP on P Street is way too long for MD kids to be taking spots from DC kids.

Recently, some Duke Ellington School of the Arts parents and guardians who received letters from OSSE about residency requirements sued, as is their right. Apparently the city violated its own policy. I also sympathize with having to deal with bureaucratic stupidity. However, I have witnessed too many morning drop offs of kids from Maryland and Virginia cars in front of DC charter schools, so there are parents committing fraud.

Above me on my bookshelf are the ashes of a woman who committed a similar fraud 30 odd years ago with the Help. My late mother and father in laws used a friend’s address to get the Help in better school because the high school for their address was supposedly drug infested. And recently on a message board I read about a Maryland school system calling area landlords to confirm addresses. It seems people are using fake leases. I understand the reason why. But no kid who actually lives in the District of Columbia should lose out to kids who have representation in Congress.

Probably nothing new at the corner of Florida & 3rd NW

So mommy (me) decided she wanted some vermouth and pintxos and so we (me and the baby) sat out on the patio of ANXO. While I was there I noticed the owner of the commercial property across the street and another man talking in front. The other man had a clipboard. It’s probably nothing.

I did see a mention a while back on PoPville about this, but we’ve been on this ride before and it goes nowhere. Many, many years back, way before ANXO, two ladies wanted to turn the building into a wine bar. However, according to them, the landlord was difficult. It has been vacant for years, but well kept.

I also noticed a kitty in the upstairs window. Kitty in the window means the upstairs is occupied. At least occupied by a black and white kitty cat, so I need to take it off my vacant list on my other blog.

Really, probably nothing will change. If it does, I’ll be pleasantly (hopefully) surprised.

Looking at the neighborhood with different eyes

So at forty *mumble* years old, I’ve become a mommy through the miracle of adoption. Seven years prior I became a spouse, after living in Shaw as a single lady for about ten years*. I, and the Shaw neighborhood, have changed and with those changes I’ve experienced the neighborhood differently.

After only being a parent for a few months, my view of the neighborhood and the city I’ve lived in for over a decade has drastically changed.Eyeglass binky DC bike mapI’ve observed this in parents, typically people who moved to the neighborhood as single people or newlyweds, and in time had kids, and moved. On an intellectual level I understood the desire to protect their children from the hazards and unpleasantness of some aspects of urban life. As a member of the middle class, you know you have an out, you could, by moving to a solidly middle class neighborhood west of Rock Creek Park or out to certain suburbs or exurbs, you nor your children have to tolerate higher crime, smaller houses, chance of the draw schooling, and off street parking. Now as a mom, I have a better understanding and have the desire to protect my Helpless baby.

But no, we’re not moving anytime soon.

Not to go into my personal career goals, but there is one scenario that would send us to PG County and I’ve already mapped out where we’d relocate. I’ve also been applying to positions in DC and those have much fuzzier scenarios of possibly, probably not, moving to the H StreetCapitol HillStadium Armory area. The job search had more to do with getting married, and I’m more dedicated to a great commute than any neighborhood.

The arrival of the Helpless baby has got me thinking more about parenting things I had thoughts about, prior to his arrival, and parenting things I want to research the heck out of. I have thoughts, slightly unchanged, about schools, child care, general safety, and use of transit. I already know what charter schools we will aim for, what charter will be our safety school, and which religious schools we’ll consider if the charters don’t pan out. Recently I have been thinking about how I could replicate my aunts’ and uncles’ success of raising high earning middle class black men, and I wonder how our neighborhood might work for and against that goal. Then there is the minefield of explaining things that he will observe as we walk around. He’s still non-verbal so I have time.

As I walk around, going to and fro the metro or neighborhood businesses, I see the neighborhood differently. I pay attention to other parents or nannies as they push, carry or walk their charges. I observe their strollers, what their kids wear, and where it looks like they’re heading. I take note what places have parents with kids and how welcoming those places are so I know where we might be able to go. The parents I see going about their day help me feel good about being a parent raising my baby in my hood.

 

*If you’re counting I’ve been in Shaw for a little over 17 years.

A park can be a plus or a minus depending on how it is used and who is using it

So about a week ago the Help (the spouse) was walking around with the Helpless (the baby) and noticed a broken lock on the 1st Street side of the Florida Ave park. I told him to contact 311 and he did not find the response satisfactory, so I tweeted, and got a very satisfactory response.

Keeping the park ‘safe’ is very important.  Because there are a lot of little signs of the return of the neighborhood’s bad old days, I figure I should revisit the days with the Florida Ave park was a liability and not an asset.

Let’s enter the InShaw time machine to 2006 and a post where the Florida Ave park is mentioned in passing. At that time the park was mainly a place where the homeless and addicts (booze & drugs) hung out. The park was open, in that there was nothing stopping anyone from sleeping there or being there at night. The problem at the time was alcoholics would go from Sunset Liquors on 1st and Florida and hang out at the park. Citizens figured if we removed the liquor store that would help clean up the park. The actual solution was making the 1st Ave side an exit only side and renovating the park.

So a decade ago the park was a liability. Kids rarely played on the playground, and maybe played on the courts (depending on if bigger kids and adults allowed it). The playground was the domain of the homeless and the addicts. Parents would try to make a go of it, but finding broken glass or used needles among the wood chips or a passed out adult on the slide was discouraging.

Now the park is an asset. The adults are pushed to the sides at the tables on Florida Ave or the tiny section near the exit on 1st (more on FL Ave because there are electrical outlets over there), and the kids are in the playground area, as it should be. I believe I’ve seen kids from the nearby charter school use the park during the school day. Sundays, when the Bloomingdale Farmers Market is in session, the park is filled with parents and young children. We included the park in our adoption book, as a plus. Now that we are parents, I’d like to make sure the park stays an asset, so when the Helpless is a little less helpless and can walk (or at least sit up) he can play there and expel some little kid energy.

Keeping it a park where little kids can play will require vigilance and positive use. It will have to be kept secure so it won’t get misused by adults and kids will have to use it so there isn’t a vacuum that negative elements will fill. Once it becomes a liability again, it will be another problem residents will have to spend energy fighting, and a blight that will bring down the attractiveness of the neighborhood.

2017 wasn’t as bad as it could have been

View down Florida AvenueSo we’re coming to an end to 2017.

It could have been worse.

I’ve been in Truxton Circle since 2001, sixteen years. Not a new comer, nor native. There have been worse years. There have been worse years with more gun deaths than this years’. There have been worse years with more drug dealers intimidating residents (and bringing those ‘pop’ ‘pop’s in the night). Have there been worse years with ugly a$$ buildings? Maybe.

The bright shining bright spot in 2017, was the ‘Triangle Known As Truxton Circle’ exhibit, I and my neighbors put on at 410 GooDBuddY.

Illustrating the neighborhood changes from 1880-2010
Neighborhood change 1880-2010

I think I was able to show something that logically makes sense, the neighborhood is always changing. There are always threats. Be it middle class flight (white and later black), urban renewal, drugs, the War on Drugs, and so forth. Does the neighborhood overcome those threats? Sure, lets go with that narrative, as it is true in the case of urban renewal.

I see the change occurring because of the many minor and major decisions of the thousands of residents, property owners, business operators, visitors and others. So I hope 2018 brings more civically minded residents, enlightened visitors, positive businesses, developers with a sense of exterior beauty (seriously some of y’all hit your buildings with an ugly hammer), great landlords and even better tenants, pro-active parents, responsible pet owners, and courteous drivers. I can wish for fewer drug dealers and the gun violence they bring. I can hope for cross cultural exchange across different age, ethnic, racial, religious and non groups, because what is the point of a diverse neighborhood if we’re just going stay in our little silos, you have to interact to really get the depth of what is this neighborhood.

So make peace with neighborhood change and be part of the change for good.

Have a good 2018!