Adams Morgan BID: “ANC1C will vote tonight to reduce sidewalk cafe space on 18th Street in Adams Morgan”

From the Adams Morgan BID:

“All business owners and property owners on 18th Street who are interested in having a sidewalk cafe after the 18th Street Streetscape construction has concluded or expanding your current sidewalk cafe should attend tonight’s ANC1C meeting.

The meeting will begin at 7 PM TONIGHT October 5th at Mary’s Center (the pink building) at 2355 Ontario Rd., NW.

At last night’s PZT Committee (Planning, Zoning and Transportation) meeting of ANC1C, the committee voted to support the following change to DCMR 24-311; 204 and 316:

“All rental of public space, whether for a café or other commercial use, must have an adjacent clear and unobstructed passageway not less than 12 feet in width at all points. Sidewalk cafes located at street intersections shall provide corner clearance of 12 feet to the corner. No sidewalk cafes shall be within 15 feet of a bus stop, a bus shelter or a Metrorail station entrance (24-311.6 and 24-311.7.7). The Public Space Committee has the authority to approve an adjacent passageway as narrow as 8 feet.”

How this is different from current law:

The existing city-wide law provides for 10 feet in width at all points
and an exception as narrow as 6 feet.

To be clear, ANC1C is proposing that there be 12 feet rather than 10 feet from the edge of the railing of the café (or other perimeter) to the curb. Thus the ANC’s proposal would create a greater distance from the curb to the edge of a sidewalk cafe and reduce available cafe space.

The ANC has not justified why they think that 18th Street should have different sidewalk cafe measurements than the rest of the city. Please attend tonight’s meeting and voice your opinion if this issue is important to you and your business or tenants.”

23 Comment

  • Why are they doing this now? 18th Street is getting new, wider sidewalks. So, any crowding problems might be alleviated when the project is done.

  • Maybe it’s because the entire point of the Streetscape project is to widen the sidewalks so that people don’t end up in the streets on Friday and Saturday night. If you just widen all the sidewalk cafes, you sort of defeat the purpose of the Streetscape project. Maybe.

    • Ding ding ding. Glad somebody thought it through before raising his/her arms in indignation.

    • Where do yu read that the sidewalk cafes would widen?

      The sidewalks will now be 14-16 feet. 10 feet cafes leaves 4-6 feet, which is plenty on a two lane bi-directional street.

  • Maybe modify the requirement for hours? So brunch times, you can have more seating but on weekend nights, you have to come into compliance.

  • Seriously, why make it 12 feet, when the rest of the city is 10 feet? Keep it at 10 feet like the rest of the city.

    One of the best things about living in Adams Morgan is the sidewalk cafes. If you have to chagne the city limit of their size because of the Friday/Saturday thuglings… that would be quite stupid.

    • You’d actually see a net expansion in the size of sidewalk cafes because the city is widening the sidewalk by a greater number of feet than this regulation seeks to take away from the cafes. Under this regulation, every additional foot of widening over 2 feet can go directly to widening the sidewalk cafe.

      For example:

      The existing sidewalk is 25 feet wide. 10 goes to pedestrians, 15 goes to the sidewalk cafe.

      The new sidewalk is 35 feet wide. 12 now goes to pedestrians, 23 now goes to the sidewalk cafe.

  • If anyone actually walks up and down the existing sidewalks, you can see they’re not in compliance with current rules. In some places, pedestrians only have 2ft of sidewalk space, with the rest going to an outdoor cafe.

    • +1.
      The problem seems to be enforcement – if the Adams Morgan sidewalks truly had 10 feet clearance from cafe to curb, it would be adequate for a sidewalk. I don’t see any reason why 12 feet would be needed, but I haven’t been to the ANC meetings so maybe there is some rationale.

  • Here’s an idea: close 18th Street to traffic from Columbia Road to Kalorama Road between Friday evening and Sunday morning. Great cities all over the world have entire areas devoted to foot traffic and outdoor cafes, DC has…Truckeroo?

    • we tried that in dc. it was a disaster.

      the city is more civilized now. maybe it could work. but old memories die hard.

    • 2-Steps-Back’s idea of closing 18th Street to traffic from Columbia to Kalorama Road on weekends is an excellent idea for many reasons, but then visiting motorists could not get to the large parking garage which has only one entrance/exit on the 2400 block of 18th.

      Personally I can’t wait to see these new wide sidewalks on both sides of 18th Street with 22 foot bulb outs at all intersections and a return to parallel parking.

      The whole new 18th Street Streetscape together with the the eventual development of the Washington Edition Hotel may well garner and pave the way for a new and better Adams Morgan some day, more sit down restaurants and sidewalk cafes, less of the bar scene, perhaps more up scale long term, and even more cosmopolitan with a steady stream of high end hotel guests visiting our nation’s capital.

      • The cops can barely control the crowds of drunken assholes that invade AM every weekend. So now you want to close off the entire area, making it a complete free for all in the streets? 2 Steps Back’s idea would take the neighborhood about 10 steps back and would result in more violence, arrests, property crime, etc.


        • I feel that having more space for people to move would lead to fewer confrontations. The road is essentially pedestrian on weekend nights already, has been for my lifetime, and this year, cops have frequently closed the turn onto 18th from Columbia anyways.

          But the wider sidewalks should not lead to a land grab of public space by these businesses, who are always trying to encroach more of the sidewalk. The proliferation of sidewalk cafes is much of the reason why the sidewalks need to be widened.

        • It’s pretty much a free for all now so what’s your point?
          Giving people more space to move around in might actually lead to less confrontations and less tension. Haven’t you ever seen that Schoolhouse Rock bit on “elbow room”? Everybody needs elbow room.
          The violence in Adams Morgan is not about the configuration it’s about the composition of the crowds. Georgetown is packed on Friday and Saturday nights and you don’t have anywhere near as many incidents there. And there are far fewer cops.

  • andy

    Keep Locolat the way it is. Actually, let it widen its sidewalk space!

  • The Capitol Riverfront BID is proposing a demonstration zone where businesses would be REQUIRED to have sidewalk cafes!

  • my knee-jerk reaction was indignation that outdoor drinking spaces were getting taken away from me. and then I remembered that every time I walk down 18th street I always end up giving up on the sidewalk and weaving through the cars. (and this is during daytime hours, wouldn’t even try on a weekend night…)

    • Yep, exact same reaction here. I hate the notion of losing sidewalk cafes, but I also hate having to walk into traffic, especially on 18th. Can’t we all just get along?????

  • The restaurants in Adams Morgan blow anyway

  • These supposed regulations all sound quite ridiculous. There are some very busy stretches of sidewalk around the Chinatown/Penn Quarter areas that are barely wide enough for two people to pass each other.

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