Mount Pleasant Mainstreet President Says Mt. P in Jeopardy of losing $242k for Streetscape Improvements

Photo by PoPville flickr user ewilfong

Thanks to a reader for sending. While the following is from the Mount Pleasant Main Street, perspective I’d be happy to post the ANC perspective if they’d like to comment (I can be reached at princeofpetworth (at) gmail (dot) com). MPMS President, Adam C. Hoey, writes in the Mt. P Forum:

“In October 2009, MPMS was thrilled to learn that it won $242,000 for a Transportation Enhancement Grant (TEG) from DDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) for minor streetscape improvements to Mount Pleasant St. and Lamont Park. The TEG grant program is run annually and funding is typically $2M city-wide for small-scale streetscape improvements that meet specific needs and criteria for the enhancement of thoroughfares. Mount Pleasant is in jeopardy of losing these funds and having them diverted by a possible resolution from ANC1D Commissioners Edwards and McKay. This would be tragic. To date, money has been allocated but the project has been delayed while DDOT waits for the ANC to comment. It seems absurd that a representative or resident of our community would be willing to squander and reject federal grant funds for basic community enhancement projects awarded to a local and respected non-profit organization through a city-wide competitive process.

To get more information or voice your concern beyond this forum, you may contact me directly at [email protected] You may also contact the ANC to express your opinion at [email protected] and/or Wilson Reynolds, Dir. of Constituent Services for Councilmember Graham’s office at [email protected]

Lots more detail after the jump.

A team of MPMS volunteers and board members including professionals in urban planning, architecture and economic development worked on the grant in July of 2009 and filed the application in August. Prior to filling out the grant application, our team solicited feedback from residents, business owners, ANC members, and neighborhood groups. It received letters of recommendation from the Mount Pleasant Business Association, Historic Mount Pleasant and the Latino Association of Mount Pleasant.. The priority goals of the application were to attract residents & patrons to the commercial strip, enhance neighborhood brand & identity, increase park usage and improve access and safety for pedestrian and bikes. While projects such as streetlight replacement are popular, such projects are highly expensive. The TEG is traditionally intended for smaller enhancement projects with awards by neighborhood typically ranging from $50-$300K. MPMS took a strategy for F2010 to apply for multiple small and well-justified projects instead of “shooting the moon” on one large one. The application addresses needs and improvements identified in several reports and public forums held over the last 5 years including the 2005 MPMS Design Charette, the 2008 DDOT Transportation Study and the 2009 RHI and Office of Planning Small Area Study

Specific projects include:

– Enhanced Lighting: Up-lighting in Lamont Park (solar or wired), seasonal string-lights across Mount Pleasant St in 2 locations and Cobra lights painted black. (Cobra painting is a gap solution until new streetlight replacement is possible.
– Black metal circular park benches with arms in Lamont Park around trees
– Pedestrian crosswalk from Heller’s Bakery & Pfeifer’s Hardware to Lamont Park,
– Bike sharrows (“share the road signs”)
– New trees planted along Mount Pleasant St. from Lamont St. to Park Rd.
– 2-3 permanent park tables along the outside of Lamont Park pending budget and DDOT approval, checker/chess or backgammon style like tables in DuPont Circle.

Following the grant award MPMS (VP – Alejandro Yepes and Design Chair – Ari Goldstein) formally met with the ANC in November 2009 and received a positive response with an agreed goal for more communication on project details and implementation and to collaborate more on the next TEG grant and future projects. MPMS provided a project summary in PowerPoint as well as the full application and budget. No specific suggestions were given at this meeting or following.

Ari and I met again with Commissioner Lepanto supporting the grant and Commissioner McKay in February 2010 to listen and address their concerns. MPMS and Commissioner Lepanto offered to review TEG items 1-by-1 and propose to update Lepanto’s resolution in favor with a line-item edits and consider contingencies for a vote at the March ANC meeting. Jack’s comments again were limited to the location of trees on Mount Pleasant St. and the sharrows (share the road signs) for bikes leading to Park Rd.

I met Jack in April for a friendly meeting discussing mutual community interests and the need for us to work as a team. I received no specific modifications or action items except for us to consider their Pedestrian Encounter Zone (PEZ) project. I met Jack most recently in May to solicit his and Gregg’s specific feedback and questions and much to my dismay, Jack demanded that MPMS provide written support of their PEZ project before working with us further.

Although the PEZ idea is out of scope of this discussion topic it should be noted that this project was first mentioned to MPMS in mid-Dec 2009 and early 2010 well after the TEG award and its plans were submitted to the ANC. Commissioners Edwards and McKay have aggressively attempted to replace the MPMS TEG with their own PEZ initiative over the last several months which has caused delays to the project. DDOT, its legal teams and MPMS have explained multiple times that federal grant rules prohibit major changes of scope or re-direction of funds post-award.[/u]

MPMS incidentally reviewed PEZ ideas with various neighborhood partners over the last several months and agreed with McKay and Edwards to help explore their ideas. The scope over the last few months has changed and the current resolution seems nebulous. Some elements have been controversial such as re-routing of busses and providing curbless sidewalks with periodic loss of parking on Mt. Pleasant St. from Lamont to Park, an issues which has been paramount to the MPBA sensitive to a huge loss of revenue since the Deauville fire. Overall, the PEZ project requires more definition and evaluation of impact, cost, implementation and maintenance among neighborhood stakeholders.
Neither McKay nor Edwards have demonstrated after pointed questions that this plan has been fully explored beyond just “ideas”.

Overall, based on the chronology of events and my past experience, I’m convinced now more than ever that urban planning and community development have nothing to do with Commissioner Edwards and McKay’s position to support our grant. Their position represents a general disdain for neighborhood organizations and our business association and a desire to dominate all things Mount Pleasant. I hope that our ANC1D commissioners do what’s right for Mount Pleasant and think independently and with fairness on every issue. I’ve repeated time and time again that although we all don’t all agree 100% of the time that community development should be a team sport not a competition. I hope at some point that MPMS can work together with an ANC that is more transparent, fair and supportive of local organizations as partners willing to share in the community development process.

Much thanks to everyone who has helped support MPMS over time and on this particular issue. MPMS is a transparent organization that actively participates and communicates ideas and issues with all community stakeholders. To get more information about MPMS, the TEG or voice your concern beyond this forum go to or you may contact me directly at [email address removed – log in to view] .You can also contact your ANC representative and Wilson Reynolds, Dir. of Constituent Services for Councilmember Graham’s office.

39 Comment

  • I am in favor of the Pedestrian Encounter Zone project being advanced by the ANC and hope it can receive funding. As I understand it, the PEZ project would give priority to pedestrians and cyclists along a section of Mt. Pleasant St, allow for an expansion of sidewalk cafes, and generally establish a vibrant, unique street segment on a street that has recently been through some tough times. While I don’t object to the specific enhancements mentioned in the post, I don’t think they have nearly the same potential to change the status quo for Mt. Pleasant.

    • If they wanted to activate the PEZ the ANC should have requested DDOTfor funds – they did not. MPMS is actually trying to do something for the community as apposed to some of the the members of the ANC. The improvements MPMS is seeking to do have nothing to do with the PEZ, they include benches, trees, sharrows, and lighting.

      • Exactly! Kudos to MT Pleasant Main Street.

        And you ANC folks, quit being obstructionists. Do you want to be known as the ANC that stood in the way of neighborhood improvement?

    • The two are not mutually exclusive. MtP can paint the lights and add park benches as well as follow up on PEZ funding. The DDOT grant was awarded on the MPMS proposal. Right, wrong or indifferent, the PEZ was not in that proposal and was therefore not funded. Federal grant regulations are clear, in addition to commonsense: you don’t ask for money to do one thing and then implement something entirely different.

      This money is here now. Whether it should have been a PEZ grant is moot: it wasn’t, it isn’t and it can’t be. The ANC can not possible be seriously considering declining the funds. Accept the money as what it is and take away a lesson learned on both sides: work together.

  • There’s been a discussion of this topic on the Mt Pleasant Forum

    I don’t understand why the ANC isn’t supportive of a project that improves the community they are elected to represent.

    The Pedestrian Encounter Zone is a different project altogether and would need to be funded from another source, or another grant proposal.

    • If the Main Street grant was found to be deserving of funding by DDOT, then I think it isn’t unreasonable that it be funded (even if I agree with Commissioner McKay’s point that having new black streetlights and round benches aren’t much of an improvement).
      That said, I do hope the encounter zone idea can move forward as it would be terrific to get a plaza with cafes with outdoor seating, and more foot traffic/less auto traffic (going one step further than the mini-plaza in Columbia Heights that seems to be working well).

  • If the fools in Mt. Pleasant don’t want the dinero, the good folks of Petworth will gladly find a way to use these funds!

    • Fools in Mt Pleasant = the ANC.

      Fools indeed, working to undo the good work of others in the community.

  • Sigh, typical Mount Pleasant!

  • I am a mount pleaant resident in full support of a Pedestrian Encounter Zone. But the ANC should have just let Mount Pleasant Main Street spend the money how they saw fit and lobbied for the PEZ to be part of a larger street scape package from the city that ever other neighborhood seems to be getting. MTP is truely a Jewel of a neighborhood and It’s not realizing it’s potential.

  • It makes me laugh when people don’t get involved in their local elections and then complain that the people that were elected act like morons (not that I have any idea what’s going on in this instance).

    Your ANC is YOUR elected representatives. You can swing a vote with 20 of your friends.

    • Actually, this ANC has been very clear that they do not represent the interests of the community that elected them.

      They will do what they think is best for the city, regardless of what members of the Mt Pleasant community support.

      • Yes, but they are elected so they are representing someone. You might not agree with what/whom they are representing, but your opportunity to change it is election time.

  • Fools in Mt Pleasant = the ANC.

    If only it were that simple – the fools are often also the MPNA, Mt. Pleasant Main Street, Historic Mt. Pleasant, and All-Ways Mt. Pleasant. All 5 groups veer between being rational and (as is the case w/the ANC’s unannounced resolution RE: rerouting the buses) being illogical, autocratic liabilities to the neighborhood.

    The thick layer of unaccountable busybodies (who at times, briefly, transform themselves into helpful advocates) standing between residents and the obviously already-unhelpful D.C. gov. is one of the most frustrating things about living in Mt. P.

    … and generally establish a vibrant, unique street segment on a street that has recently been through some tough times.

    It’s already a vibrant, unique street – our biggest problem is the economy, unrealistic landlords, and a city government that makes it much too easy to leave properties vacant for years on end. Forcing the buses off the street, choking off a 100+ year old transit line that serves thousands of people, and favoring 2 people’s artificial, poorly-considered idea of arcadia over organic, long-standing patterns of use is a terrible, terrible idea. It will only make things worse.

  • There is always political drama in Mt. Pleasant. It’s really a lot more like some small town than a neighborhood in the middle of a big city.

  • dude. all this over some stripes, lights, benches, and chess tables.

  • I just moved back to DC (7 years away) and am staying in MtP until I close on a house. I was shocked to find that not much has changed – MtP is still dirty, the same shells of buildings standing since 1998/99 are still untouched today. Dog poop all over, trash blowing in the streets from Park Road to Newton, garbage and furniture piled along 16th Street for weeks, unkempt yards, inoperable/junk vehicles along Brown St and Oak, storm drains packed shut with household filth, mattresses left on the side walk, beer and liquor bottles thrown into yards on Lamont, Park, 17th, Kenyon, Brown, etc…. Seems to me that all of these Mt P advocacy groups are a total failure – or at least ignoring the real problem – Mt P is a dirty unkempt neighborhood with a great number of residents who take no pride in their environment/homes. Confronting and changing people’s bad behavior should be the first focus.

    • really? i find the alley’s in mtp are nicer than the streets in ch

    • hmm I don’t really consider 16th St to be Mt Pleasant. I’ve been living here for 8 months, but it seems to me that people take a lot of pride in their houses.

      That said, I find trash on my yard all the time. I live on Brown St. cigarette butts. discarded calling cards. starbucks cups. And that stuff sure as hell is not coming from my building. I think people walking on the way to the shitty apartment complex at the end of my block do that.

      Also. Mt Pleasant St itself can definitely be better.

    • couldn’t agree with you more! Neighborhood has enormous potential if residents would just chip in a little and make their own living areas nice. The main street definitely needs sprucing up as well. I’m going to get clobbered for saying this but all this neighborhood needs is a Starbucks or other big name store to help lift rental prices and bring a little more prestige to the neighborhood. Take Barracks Row as the best example.

  • There’s lots more here than isn’t apparent in the Main Street complaint. Perhaps most importantly, as some commenters here have noted, the TEG proposal is for a pitiful few cosmetics that will do nothing to reverse the decline of Mount Pleasant Street. Paint streetlight poles black. String a band of lights across the street. Plant some trees (where, exactly?). Mount Pleasant Street needs a lot more than this, but Main Street refuses to support anything more substantial than these cosmetics.

    Taxpayers should wonder if it is reasonable to blow a quarter million taxpayer dollars on these things. Ground lights so that the dying trees in Lamont Park can be prettily up-lit. I don’t think so.

    • even if it’s just beautification – MPMS took the time and effort to submit the application the ANC did not. If the ANC wanted something different they should have put the time and effort they did not – case closed.

    • from my understanding.. DC is getting $2M from the FHA for beautification projects. Mt Pleasant is getting $250K. MPMS won this grant money through a city-wide competitive process and the application was vetted by several agencies.

      If it’s not Mt Pleasant “blowing” taxpayer money, then it will be another neighborhood in DC.

      Does anyone else find it odd that only MtP is getting shafted? Let’s have a look at the proposals from other neighborhoods.

  • I just want to reiterate that both McKay and Edwards are up for re-election in November. If nobody credible challenges them, then it will just be more of the same.

    • McKay I can live with, but Gregg Edwards is a very odd character. I’m not quite sure how he keeps getting reelected. I guess it’s a thankless job and nobody else really wants it.

      • Gregg odd? that is nice! out of his mind and looking out for his own personal interest and agenda? closer to the truth.

      • Someone ran against Edwards in a special election a few years back, but the vote was something like 25-8. Like Ragged Dog pointed out, literally 20 or so people could’ve swayed the election.

        The ANC commissioners are doing thankless, unpaid work, and attracting plenty of criticism in the process (in this thread alone they’ve been called obstructionists, fools and morons!) but few people actually attend meetings or run against them – it’s not exactly hard to see why.

    • I lived down the street from Jack for years and I can say one thing with certainty: he backs his position with facts. I didn’t always agree with him, but he is a smart man and usually has the best interests of the community in mind. If he’s arguing for something, he almost certainly has a well-thought-out reason why backed with real data and studies. Compare that to most people who just want stuff (like streetcars, for example) with absolutely no compelling argument or data about what the costs and benefits might be.

      That said, I will never take seriously people who complain about the ANC in Mount Pleasant. Jack and Gregg have both been commissioners for nearly TWO DECADES. Each of them is elected with typical under 100 votes.

      Is there not anyone out there who dislikes them who can be bothered to either run against them organize voters to vote them out? It would be about the easiest thing imaginable if you cared.

      Or could it be that most people who complain about Jack (and Greg, who I do agree is a nutjob) aren’t willing to put their money where their mouths are.

      Jack is a longtime member of the community and cares a lot about it. He probably spends more hours in a month working for his community than most people here will spend in their lifetimes. If you really care then do something about it, and do better. But for all the problems that people have with Jack McKay, there are few people who actually work as hard as he does to do good for his community. Even though I don’t agree with him and find his tactics sometimes abrasive I would never vote for some johnny-come-lately who (for example) thinks that their entire political position should be on getting live music into restaurants in Mt. Pleasant Street. There is much more to being a public servant than single issues.

  • This is a classic case of the problem with ANCs: they demand that everyone else kiss their ring before allowing anything to get done. McKay’s problem is that he’s apoplectic that some other organization thought about, applied for, and got grant money to do something without asking for his approval, and now he’s throwing a tantrum.

    It’s just a matter of time before ANC commissions start saying that they would have preferred that residents “come to them first” to “have a dialog” and “get community input and have more study” before getting married or having children.

    • Alternatively, it’s a classic case of a bunch of privileged people in Mt. Pleasant who don’t bother showing up for a single ANC meeting until it’s time for them to get through some headache involving zoning or a nuisance property.

      But then when they decide they know the best way to spend a quarter-million dollars in public money, they complain about the ANC wanting to be involved.

      I’m sorry – did the proposal-writers here publish notices of their intent to submit this proposal? Did they have public meetings? Did they discuss it with anyone other than, er, themselves? Isn’t that the entire purpose of the ANC?

      I am sure the ANC is guilty of all sorts of crap that you can point to over the years. However, I fail to see how that excuses anyone else acting badly.

      • yes they did. The ANC was supportive of the application! and now they say they do not want it but would like the $$$.

    • This comment hits the nail on the head.

      They were beside themselves that they didn’t have their holy ring kissed by the rest of the neighborhood. In this case, the neighborhood stands to get 1/4 of a million dollars for beautification projects (FREE money that will go somewhere else if we don’t take it) And they were mad because someone else thought ahead of time and spent time applying for the grant without their approval, and they’re taking their ball and going home, plain as that.

      Thanks for posting this, and I hope this helps get the word out about these obstinate ANC members.

  • These are all great points, but my favorite is that all politics are local and you get the representation you vote or don’t vote for. And guess what, the election cycle is happening again. Nominating petitions are due in July. Election is in November. Get involved!

    • Ward 3 solved the Frank Winstead problem admirably. There’s no reason the problem of these ANC commissioners can’t be solved as well. But the problem isn’t the commissioners. The problem is the existence of the ANC and the fact that they even have authority over this. DDOT thought that this was a perfectly good use of the FHA money. The ANC’s complaint should be with DDOT, and the ANC shouldn’t be able to interfere with DDOT now that the grant is approved; the ANC should just know for next time and lobby the city council to give them more authority over these sorts of grants (which the city council should not give them). DDOT’s mistake was giving the ANCs any sort of ability to stymie the dispensation of these grants after they’re awarded.

      • I think it’s funny that your complaining about how the system is set up when it’s so easy to get the system to work for you.

        If I got a group of like minded community members together and Mr. Barry and I decided to put a methadone clinic on my block would my neighbors want the ANC to have some power then? You bet your *** they would.

        ANC’s are not a problem for me. They keep tabs on local business issues when no one else cares.

        I agree with the earlier poster that if you want to do a beautification project, you need community input and the ANC represents the community whether you like it or not.

        • There was community input, including input from the ANC.

          Ref above “Prior to filling out the grant application, our team solicited feedback from residents, business owners, ANC members, and neighborhood groups. It received letters of recommendation from the Mount Pleasant Business Association, Historic Mount Pleasant and the Latino Association of Mount Pleasant.”

          captcha = “the damned”. Yikes!

  • Starbucks wanted to put a store in MtP a few years ago at Irving and Mt Pleasant – where current Irving Liquors is now. ‘They’ put the kabosh on that for God knows what reason.

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