Not the ones that serve beer.
The ones on your windows. I know, a lot less fun.
As far as security systems go, if they are already on the windows and doors when you move in they are fairly cheap and require no monthly maintenance fee. However they might lead to your death if there is a fire and there is no way to open them up. And in some cases they are just plain ugly.
Bars on the windows are not just a Shaw thing. I’ve noticed some in Georgetown and Dupont. Those bars sometimes only go halfway up the window or are on all the basement windows and doors. And they are not on every house and some seem more like decoration than an anti-theft device.
Yet once you have them it seems like a tough idea to get rid of them. I’ve only noticed two people to undo their bars. One was when a neighbor got a new window and just didn’t put the bars back up. Another got a new storm door, replacing the bars with a glass door. At some point, in the future, when I replace all these cheap section 8 windows on my house, I’ll have to consider putting back the bars. I want to be able to escape should a fire break out, but I don’t want to be one of the few houses without bars.

Last Thai-Xing post

Fast food it is not. Good food it is.
Finally got to try the pad thai. It had peanuts, a lime wedge, good looking bean spouts, a decent amount of heat, and broccoli…. is broccoli supposed to be in there? Regardless it was good. I’ve chatting with a few friends and neighbors about their opinions of Thai-Xing and it varies but most like it. The biggest problem is related to staffing, which slows down how fast the food is made. As the place is about a month or so old I’m sure in time steady staff can be found so that delivery is available always and a faster rhythm is found. I’m just happy they are here.
I’m also pleased to see that only after a month they seem fairly popular as I have occasionally seen small crowds wandering out of the small space. Hopefully this bodes well for the future of this small carryout and the neighborhood.

To see the posting with the menu and earlier impressions click here.

Don’t cry

oh dear

I know
I know

give me your hand

now look me in the eye ‘cause there is no easy way to say this…..

Yes, you paid several hundred of thousands of dollars for a small house in Shaw and there are crackheads hanging out on your porch…

no, no, dear
don’t speak

Yes, your real estate agent lied to you. Said the area is cleaning up and that the liquor store was closing and the bums would follow. Yes. Lies. Maybe, one day the liquor store will go, but not tomorrow, maybe not next year. Then again, one day it might stock a really good wine. Right next to the Thunderbird.

You feel cheated, yes, I know.
All your friends back at the office don’t have to hear gunshots at night.

But listen to me.
no listen
You go back to work with your head held high and you proudly tell those weak lily livered suburban wusses that you live in da hood. You are strong and brave. They wouldn’t last 10 seconds walking down your street. Upon seeing one of Shaw’s surly looking teenagers they’d run with their tails between their legs crying for their mommies.

There did I see a smile?
A little itty bitty smile?


Now I want you to go home and make your plot your image of how Shaw should be.
From the alley to the sidewalk, make it yours, all yours, and let no one make you feel like you don’t belong.

Eckington you wuz wobbed

So I’m looking at the Washington Post’s TV magazine and looking at the description of the PBS documentary “Let the Church Say Amen” and they are describing a Shaw church in the film and they say where it was. One problem, the 1700 block of 1st St NW ain’t in Shaw, it’s in Eckington/Bloomingdale. I am amazed the Post didn’t pick up on this error. Apparently the film does speak a little it about the Shaw neighborhood, but really, as the main church is in Eckington, it is Eckington that should get the attention. But on the other hand the differences between the 1700 block of 1st (Eckington), the 1600 & 1500 blocks of 1st(Shaw) on the southern side of Florida (was Boundary) Ave. are minor.
Of course, I could be wrong and they actually look at a bunch of Shaw storefront churches, but for the record, the corner of 1st and Randoph, Eckington/Bloomingdale, but not Shaw.

Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 3: When it is right

When is creating an historic district right? Well in my opinion, it is right when the motives are pure, it has community support, and all the potential consequences have been addressed. And in those potential consequences address any effect, if at all on the economic, racial and age diversity of the neighborhood.
The motivation, one would hope that the suggestion of an historic district would come strictly from the desire to preserve examples of a notable architect’s work, unique architecture, or an unique cluster of properties clearly representing a notable time period or movement or event. There are those who would push for a historic district designation for other reasons apart from the desire to preserve anything. They may seek the prestige of being in an historic district, related tax credits, economic development, tourism, or other such things associated with historic districts. They would prostitute History for their own impure lustful desires instead of letting a simple uncorrupt love of History itself dictate the actions.
Note that I used the word ‘unique’ not ‘old’. In many parts of the country a property or community that is at least 50 years old can be called historic. If using that criteria, then possibly ½ of the District could be considered ‘historic’ leaving no room for current and future generations to leave their mark on the city. No, ‘unique’ separates one 100 year old DC townhome from another 100 year old DC townhome, and DC is a city filled with a lot of 50-100+ year old housing stock. There is no need to keep ALL of it, just some of it, preferably the unique ones.
Also, hopefully, by having a more stringent criteria for what qualifies as ‘historic’ will preserve the quality and integrity of the term and not inflate it’s value with inconsequential properties that erode away at the things that help the truly ‘historic’ and unique. Erosions such as abuse of tax credits or gutting of government incentives because the system is overloaded with applicants. Or when faced with a plethora, ‘historic’ options tourists, shoppers, whomever will dismiss the term and it loses its value (remember when the term gourmet, actually meant ‘gourmet’?).
Those other community desires (cache, tourism, economic development) not relating to history need to be addressed on their own, as for many there are other routes, other paths, to those ends. Maybe, even find alternatives to an historic district designation by educating homeowners and developers to value the current housing stock, or choosing specific buildings for landmark status, or focus on other neighborhood attributes for cache or economic development.
Community support, in addition to a district’s uniqueness, also makes a historic district the right thing. For one, these things should not be imposed on a neighborhood as a whole without its consent. As it is the community that monitors and polices the standards. An unsupportive community may undermine the rules, eroding at the whole purpose and the integrity of the historic district designation. Or even if remaining within the rules, violating the spirit, allowing properties to fall into decay and require their destruction, possibly losing something unique.
Another kind of community support that is needed is the one outside of a (proposed) historic district, and that is the local and federal governments and non-profits. These bodies provide support in the way of grants, loans, technical assistance programs, tax incentives, laws, zoning, enforcement, regulations, and at times acting as a gate keeper. These bodies must remain committed to the district by not gutting, abandoning or weakening the programs to the point that they undercut the support system for those living in an historic district.
Lastly, preservationists need to address what effect, if any, their actions may have on the more at risk residents, over the long term. If not acknowledged, a neighborhood could in time lose it’s economic, racial and chronological diversity, creating a homogenous community, lacking in any real diversity. Hopefully in tackling this issue, grants, programs, projects and partnerships can be developed to keep the balance and mitigate possible displacement.
When there is a clear motivation to preserve (not just prevent the non-historic) something unique, and there is support ranging from the ground up to the top, and the community has taken action to deal with the social consequences of engaging in such a venture, then this type of historic preservation is right.

Previous Gentrification and Historic Preservation Posts:
Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 1
Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 2a: This Old House vs Old House Journal
Gentrification and Historic Preservation pt 2b: This Old House (TOH) vs Old House Journal (OHJ) pt 2b
Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 3: When it is right

Misc Friday

I know your expecting pt 3 of Gentrification and Historic Preservation, but it needs a bit more thought in putting it together and editing things out. Saturday, it will be up sometime Saturday.
Anyway a few things. This morning woke up bright an early to haul some stuff off to Home Depot. I had been collecting the things I bought at Home Depot and never used and provided it isn’t plumbing or opened or obviously used you can return it for store credit without a receipt. So I returned a pile of various miss matched things and turned it into enough store credit to buy myself a snazzy cordless drill.
So after getting my store credit I wandered around a bit and noticed that the store has it’s garden center filled with all sorts of things. There are roots for strawberries and blueberries and daylilies, grapes, there are timers for watering systems, lotsa dirt and soil, peat moss, tons of pansies and other springy flowers.
Speaking of stores and Spring stock, IKEA has its spring stuff in too. There are patio sets cheap enough that they can get stolen from your back yard and it not be a great financial loss. It’s great. I know I’m gonna blow at least $100 bucks there this weekend.

Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 2a: This Old House vs Old House Journal

Gentrification and Historic Preservation: This Old House vs Old House Journal
If you’ve ever subscribed to the two magazines you might notice a difference in the two. They do have a similarity in that they have a certain appreciation for older homes, classic architecture but where they differ is in that This Old House (TOH) goes more for appearance, whereas Old House Journal (OHJ) goes for authenticity. Personally, I’m a TOH kinda gal, I like old houses and such but there is no need to turn my home into a cultural artifact. TOH, the magazine and the television show, is open to new materials, materials that give the classic look of older material like wood or slate or what have you but not the maintenance or installation problems of classic materials. OHJ, promotes keeping and maintaining original objects (windows and cornices, chimneys, etc) almost demanding a museum quality of maintenance down to the mortar between the bricks. Also TOH is more forgiving allowing builders, designers and homeowners to work with the original design or theme of the home, sort of like taking a jazz standard and adding a hip hop dance beat(I’m thinking an updated Dinah Washington Is you is or is you ain’t my baby) in the back. OHJ is straight jazz, original recording, no mixing, or redubbing.
Okay now what do these magazines have to do with gentrification and historic preservation? Well working on my earlier post about the demands of historic preservation I wanted to illustrate two levels of appreciation for older homes, one that favored and demanded by the restrictions placed by historic districts and the other that comes from a general level of appreciation that also balances the needs of day to day living and personal budgets. Can you see my bias in that sentence? The restrictive rules and regulations just make living in an historic district burdensome for those with a general level of appreciation and limited funds, pushing those folks out in favor of people with the funding and desire for authenticity.
The case is worse for low/fixed income residents who lack the money for the authentic restoration demanded, making historic preservation an elitist excerise. A Sohmer and Lang (see links below) point out, preservation “still reflects a middle class ethos that obsesses over authenticity,” an authenticity that is so focused on the material minuae that it runs ramshod over the social structures and diversity that may have made place so valuable in the first place. Truxton Circle was in the late 19th and early 20th century had a mix of professionals, government civil servants, shopkeepers, tradesmen, servants and laborers and the housing reflected that diversity of social and income levels, a diversity that exists in early 21st century Truxton would be destroyed by preservation regulations.
In this I wonder what kind of history is being preserved? Surely not any social history as historic preservation is clearly at odds with affordable homeownership. History is complex. Real history is not the disneyfied version that is usually prepackaged for tourist groups for a manufactured experience. It’s got oppression, injustice, bigotry, guilt, ugliness, inhumane poverty and many of the same problems of human vice that currently exists today in 2005. It ain’t all beautiful. But it’s the pretty shiny bits that get pulled out or a redeeming ending is slapped on so that it can be marketed to the general public turning history into a lie of omission, a skewed version. I’m sure in my old age I’ll see theme parks where kids can have their picture taken with a Crip, Blood, or MS-13 gang member, made toothless like our current view of pirates and 1940s gangsters. Is that the kind of history that is being preserved in historic districts, the clean up, super edited, the materially authenic but spirtually empty kind? The Monticello without the slaves?
Lack of room for economic diversity, and a narrow museum biased interpretation of history are just a few reasons why I hold some hostility towards some aspects of historic preservation in residental settings. Another reason? It just pisses off my inner Libertarian. I can tolerate some government regulations and restrictions but I’m not looking to add more top down restrictions to my life. I moved to this house because I wanted to avoid condos and co-ops because of their boards, and planned communities (well they are too far out but..) for their HOA restrictions, and any other body that squashes individuality. I did look at one house that I believed was in an historic district but it’s being in an historic district was one of serval reasons I didn’t want to buy it. The house in Truxton appealed to me because it was an affordable older home but with no restrictive historic district rules. I got a TOH kinda love for older homes, not a OHJ kind of love. I take issue with having the kind of windows, fencing, security bars, doors, tree box, light fixtures, steps, what I can put on those steps and roofing materials dictated to me on a basis other than standard building codes and being denied suitable building materials because they don’t fit museum-centric standards.
Okay this is getting long so I’ll do part 2, section b, later and go on about maintenance and question aspects of the benifits of taking on the historic district burden.

Beyond This Old House: Historic Preservation in Comunity Development by Rebecca Sohmer and Robert E. Lang

Models for Neighborhood Revitalization in Historic Districts by, Michael Sacks,Trinity College, Hartford, CT

Gentrification and Historic Preservation pt 2b: This Old House (TOH) vs Old House Journal (OHJ) pt 2b

Oh where was I? Oh, I had my inner Libertarian all out. Well before I stuff her back into the basement there are a few other issues relating to property rights and restrictions on personal freedoms of expression.
There are rules the city imposes on all property owners, such as zoning restrictions, building codes, restrictions on farm or other animals, and such that most homebuyers know about before they purchase. If they have issue with those rules and regulations then they need to seek housing elsewhere. If they, like myself, bought in an area, where certain onerous restrictions do not apply to property, and how I currently use that property, then it is alarming when one suggests imposing rules and restrictions that I (and possibly others) took such pains to avoid. Being able to put my stamp on my property and express myself through home repair, by what exterior doors, windows, paint colors, additions, etc I put on the house, is a property right I currently enjoy. I bristle at the thought that someone wants to take it away, especially without just compensation. I don’t get any free money by simply being in an historic district. Oh, and before you mention tax credits read the New York Time’s Tax Breaks on Historic Houses Face Restrictions by Josh Barbanel (December 26, 2004) I’ll talk about that Friday.

A subject I have been touching and dancing around has been maintenance, one of the biggest problems with living in an historic district. Usually maintenance issues are poo-pooed by those with OHJ values towards people with TOH or Better Homes & Gardens/ Metropolitan Home values. And the most touchy topic within maintenance is the issue of windows and window replacement. First off, I know that when an area becomes an historic district there are no requirements to retroactively modify buildings in an historic district, nor is there anything to force property owners to maintain properties or make improvements, other than the general city ordinances for all properties in the city. That’s not my problem. My problem is when the vinyl windows that a homeowner in a newly designated historic district has, needs replacing because the window broke or as part of general upkeep. That homeowner typically cannot replace his vinyl window with another vinyl window. His options are limited to wood windows or other historic windows, typically not the more easy to care for, cheaper, energy efficient vinyl options. You cannot run to Home Depot or Lowes to pick up a replacement if some kid/ robber breaks your window if you live in a restrictive historic district. It is a similar story with doors. But you’re more likely to break your window (or have it broken for you) than your door. Then there are gutters, repointing brick, and such. Once you are no longer able to use materials that are easily available or cheaper because of the retailer’s volume discount, your home maintenance costs go up. Oh and then there is the extra red tape. I believe, and this is not something I’ve done any amount of research on (my research for this is also write the paper the day before it’s due quality) but as far as I know, paint and paint colors, luckily are not an maintenance issue in DC historic districts. So that’s not an issue, ‘cause if it were I’d have a whole ‘nother paragraph railing against that and trying to find which of the limited 20 historically correct paint colors I could work with. And if I read it correctly, (once again proof of my slap dash research) the view of the house from the alley can be subject to these restrictions as well.

Okay, tomorrow big wrap up, of Gentrification and Historic Preservation pt 3: When is it right.

The Philadelphia Historic District Debacle (a libertarian view of HD)
Libertarian vs. Boston’s “historic” bureaucrats (window replacement fight)
Hysteric Preservation?

Capitol Hill Historic District publications – Doors
Replacement Windows

Why I vetoed the historic district ordinance by William Welch (Pennsylvania )

Gentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 1

I have sort of written about history and affordable housing, but the topic of historic preservation and our little corner of Shaw has been popping up. In that I have been trying to examine why I have a certain outlook towards historic preservation, historic districts and history in general. Oh, and then seeing how it applies to gentrification.
Let’s start with history. I like history. Ok, if you know my background you know that’s an understatement. Let’s just say history, the study of, its preservation, interpretation, and related industries, have been very, very good to me. So I think I have a fair background in it to talk about it and know when I’m above my head. Gentrification, I have no background in except my own narrow day to day experience here in Shaw, in the NW section of Washington, DC. I am no expert in urban renewal/gentrification, but I have opinions galore. When it comes to gentrification, I can definitely say I am an amateur.
The DC Preservation League and the DC Planning’s Historic Preservation Office are both useful in getting information about historic districts and preservation as it relates to DC. Now what the DC Preservation League has to say about gentrification is that “changes in the residential make up of a community are part of the constant evolution of a city. They are caused by a complex set of forces–including new development, ease of transportation, and changing urban lifestyles–not specifically by historic district designation.” In other words becoming an historic district does not bring gentrification. In some ways they are right, as Anacostia has an historic district and it isn’t experiencing gentrification pains. LeDroit Park, to my north, is currently an historic district, and the gentrification it is experiencing doesn’t seem to bear any relation to it’s status. Apparently in the early 1970s LeDroit Park became an historic district (see Architectural Style Unique in 2 Areas; Houses In 2 Areas Are Unique By Megan Rosenfeld Washington Post Staff Writer. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973). Washington, D.C.: Nov 29, 1973. p. B1), but that didn’t save the neighborhood from crackheads, abandonment, and poor maintenance in the 80s and 90s.
Historic preservation can be a tool in the gentrification toolbox. It can result in gentrification and speed up the process by imposing “burdens on low-and-fixed income residents, such as requiring certain types of windows, sidings or paint.” By adding higher maintenance costs, along with higher property taxes in gentrifing neighborhoods there is greater financial pressure for low, fixed, and moderate income families to leave destroying the economic and age diversity in a neighborhood. Also adding to the costs of regular maintenance is the requirement to seek specialized skills and products not available in the neighborhood, bypassing the neighborhood handymen.
However, there is a possible silver lining for income sensitive people if, and that is a big “if”, the community and non-profits fight for federal and local grants, loans, and other assistance to ease some of the financial pressures that historical preservation brings. Developers can mix Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) with federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits (HRTC) to mitigate the costs of building or rehabilitating properties in an historic district. Results of using both tax credits is the creation of mixed use and mixed income properties that help maintain the diversity that attracted many middle class and upper class residents to the Shaw area in the first place. As these tax credits are more aimed at “income producing” properties, the community and non-profits will have to push for local and federal grants, low to no interest loans, freezes on property taxes, as well as technical assistance and guidance regarding maintenance and upgrades for regular homeowners.
There are other aspects of this I’d like to work out and so this is part of a three part series (unless I change my mind and that could always happen or get bored).
ThursdayGentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 2: This Old House vs Old House Journal (what history is, isn’t, maintenance, restrictions and libertarianism)
FridayGentrification and Historic Preservation, pt 3: When it is right (clear vision, community support, flexibility, and diversity)

Historic Preservation and Affordable Housing: Leveraging Old Resources for New Opportunities By David Listokin and Barbara Listokin

Combining Historic Preservation and Income Class Integration: A Case Study of the Butchers Hill Neighborhood of Baltimore By James R. Cohen (University of Maryland)

Latinos in Historic Districts:Whose History? Whose Neighborhood?

Lavaca case study,Community Partners BY The National Trust for Historic Preservation