Monday, July 27, 2009

A Response to the Washington Post

For those who may have missed it, on Friday the Post ran what I can only call an "interesting" piece on how some U Street-area residents feel that the ambient noise along the corridor is too loud. As I read the piece on Friday morning, I began composing a response in my head addressing the points raised in what was, unquestionably, a slanted article.

And then I saw the response composed by area resident, former CSNA president and executive director of the 14th and U Main Street Initiative Environmental Programs Manager for the Downtown DC Business Improvement District Scott Pomeroy, that had been posted to the U Street Listserv. Scott's response encapsulated everything I could have hoped to convey, albeit from the perspective of a longtime neighborhood resident who has a tremendous understanding of the fabric of the neighborhood and the ways in which the neighborhood has progressed to its current state.

I thus asked Scott if he would acquiesce to having his response posted here, in the form of a guest commentator, and he obliged. What follows below is his response, verbatim, to the issues addressed in the Post article.


I felt compelled to encourage everyone (Washington Post writer included) who thinks (or reports) that 14th Street and U Street is just about bars and nightlife to take the time to come out next weekend and see the variety, quality, and quantity of retail offerings MidCity/14th & U ( has to offer its residents and visitors. There is an amazingly good mix of morning, daytime, early evening, and night time offerings to experience, even including 24-hour 7 Elevens for those late night early morning needs.

I am also writing today because I truly cringe every time I hear a community discussion about U Street started as the reporter did in this article:

“They worry that U Street will one day become like Adams Morgan, where traffic and crowds brought in by clubs and bars make living in the area almost unbearable.”

U Street is Not and Never will be Adams Morgan!

U Street and 14th Street were both designed and developed as retail destinations for the Washington, Maryland, Virginia region. The early car showrooms on 14th and the theatre district on U Street historically drew people from all over the region and even the world. Here are some additional reasons why U Street will never be Adams Morgan as Adams Morgan is perceived today:

Infrastructure and Design: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets are very well served by public transportation, with Metro subway entrances, multiple bus lines, and the new Circulator line, as well as dozens of Zipcars. The roads are all six lanes wide, to better manage parking, loading, unloading and all the traffic generated by business activity. These corridors, unlike 18th Street, also have wide alleyways that mitigate the competing needs of businesses and residences.

Sustainable Destinations: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets have a diverse array of preserved and well-supported live performance destinations -- Source Theatre, 930 Club, Studio Theatre, Twins Jazz, Lincoln Theatre, Black Cat, HR-57, 1409 Playbill, Busboys and Poets and others -- along with over a dozen galleries, cultural attractions and other features, that bring tens of thousands of people to the area every week in the early evenings, for something besides food and drink. But guess what? While they are here they do sometimes shop, dine and drink, before and after those performances. Or, they return to the area to make a purchase of an item seen in a store window or otherwise advertised in the neighborhood.

Leveraging Base: The fine dining restaurants that have been attracted to the area in the past few years are leveraging the base of neighborhood density and regional-serving entertainment venues which is why you see the dining nexuses that have developed around the theatres. We’ve also seen the development of several retail clusters that leverage the dynamic energy of the area. Fashion, home furnishings, design centers and boutique shops add to what makes our neighborhood unique and sustainable. Go into most any restaurant or retail business and take a look at the walls and you will see artwork from local artists, or the business owners themselves (as is the case at ACKC or Utopia), for sale as part of their business models.

Doing Things Now: We can and are dealing with the real issues of trash, noise, parking and safety: these are the quality of life issues that everyone complains about that can be mitigated by focusing on solving the specifics. Examples are:

  • Developers are advised not to put bedrooms on the fronts of buildings that face the commercial district, particularly on lower floors.
  • We are working with businesses on rodent proof compactor trash and recycling solutions that will minimize the number of trash truck visits to the alleyways that residents and businesses share.
  • Our Ward 1 and Ward 2 Council Members both have pending legislation that respectively, would help address overall parking and trash issues in the area and funding is pending to maintain the daily cleaning services for the commercial district.
...just to list a few.

I just hope that as we move forward as a community that we work together to utilize the limited resources available to cultivate, manage and adapt to our growth wisely, and focus on solutions for the real issues facing 14th & U Streets. I say let’s get away from wasting time trying to stop “U Street from becoming Adams Morgan" and instead, lets be U Street, a great place to live, work and experience.

Scott Pomeroy


Scott Pomeroy said...

I saw your credits and wanted to correct, I was the Executive Director of the 14th & U Main Street program, awarded in 2002, however it was officially closed down in 2006. I am now the Environmental Programs Manager for the Downtown DC Business Improvement District, managing a wide range of sustainable building and public space initiatives.

I am still involved on the boards of several local organizations and have been a resident of the area for over 2 years.


scott Pomeroy said...

oops. make that over 21 years as a resident....:)

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Sorry, it's corrected now. Blame the Interwebs...

CJ said...

Thanks for this post. I read the WashPost article with some dismay. I do think that valid resident concerns regarding noise should be addressed, but to use this same old tired scare tactic to anchor those claims is not responsible.

Anonymous said...

A response is appropriate but you've got it all wrong. The differences you're pointing out between Adams Morgan and U Street are inconsequential; it's not really pertinent that the alleys are bigger around U Street, it's served better by public transportation, and you want to restrict trash (for the record, people coming in from Virginia and Maryland to party on U Street are going to throw their pizza boxes and trash wherever they feel like it and won't give a damn if the ANC passed such-and-such resolution against it. Littering is illegal everywhere in DC and they still don't give a damn).

You still haven't addressed - either because you didn't understand the article or you don't want to admit it - that U Street is the new Adams Morgan because of the crowds it draws. Hordes of bachelorette parties drunkenly meander down 14th and U, not 18th anymore. People begging for change have moved away from 18th and onto 14th because there are more people with money. The "bridge and tunnel" crowd now goes to U Street, not Adams Morgan, therefore increasing noise, trash, and general debauchery.

So unless you want to sleep with earplugs and a fan and risk losing the worth of your condo because people are fed up with the noise, you might want to go back and look at how Adams Morgan was 10 years ago and figure out a way to avoid becoming a frat boy hellhole yet retaining some late night options. Admitting that U Street is heading down that road is the first step towards preventing it.

Anonymous said...

"Infrastructure and Design: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets are very well served by public transportation, with Metro subway entrances, multiple bus lines, and the new Circulator line, ...."

I think this is a double edged sword in respect to how the area develops. Couldn't one also say that more clubs/bars will open up due to the demand created by how easy it is to access the u st. area? The demand is there, check out the line in front of marvins on fridays and saturdays. I used to go to Chi Cha lounge a lot over the years. In past summers, they would never generate business due to how hot it gets in there. Every time I have been there this summer there was also a line out the door to get in. I have also seen long lines in front of station 9 lately. If the supply catches up to demand, I think U st. becoming an extension of 18th st. is not out of the realm of possibility, in regards to night life.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the comment I made above, I would like to say that saying "U Street will never be Adams Morgan as Adams Morgan is perceived today" is really far fetched. Literally half of U St. is not even developed yet. I think we will have to wait another 2 years before we make any claims.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Anon 10:34, sorry, but we're not in agreement here. U Street is a vibrant commercial corridor to be sure, but comaparisons to A-M are far-fetched. Density is a significant contributing factor to the noise/parking issues that one experiences in A-M, as is many of things that Scott mentioned. There are many differences between the two.

I'm sorry if you moved to the neighborhood expecting it to be one thing, and then found out that it is something else. U Street is a commercial corridor--it always has been, and it always will be. And restaurants, bars, lounges and performance venues will continue to be key components of the corridor as it grows and develops. As to the value of your condo, I don't believe you're goign to win many converts to that way of thinking. It's worth taking a look at real estate values in the neighborhood, and understanding what contributed to such a sudden and meteoric rise. Even in that cesspool of debauchery known as Adams-Morgan, real estate values have done nothing but climb, and are commensurate with--oftentimes in excess of--the values you find around U Street. Furthermoe, I would be far more concerned about an increase in crime affecting the value of my condo than the opening of new bars and restaurants--but that's just me.

Scott Pomeroy said...


Sounds like you don't want to admit that there is anything more to 14th & U Street other than drinking. You ignore the multiple performance and other venues that don't exist in Adams Morgan, and focus only on symptoms of an unmanaged commercial district in making the comparison's. As I stated originally U Street and 14th Street were designed as and will continue to be a destination, however unlike Adams Morgan it has a wide diversity of draws and good infrastructure to manage its role as a destination.

Dog Days is going to bring 1000's of people to 14th & U primarily for shopping, many of them will stay or come back and take in a show or dinner. The theatre base that has expanded greatly over the last five years, with the tripling of the size of the Studio Theatre, the preservation of the Source Theatre, and the rebirth of the Lincoln Theatre, all show that we have a variety of draws to appeal to a wide base of potential customers, not just drunken suburbanites.

That said I do agree with the comments about a double edge sword, needing to look at Adams Morgan 10 years ago, and that the area of 14th & U is not completed yet. Which is why it is important to understand the dynamics that make 14th & U Streets different from Adams Morgan as we move forward proactively to manage the issues that need managing.

While not offering any solutions, you scoff at our working on trash management, saying the drunk suburbanites will deposit their pizza boxes wherever they want. So, you are right they will do what they want, however we make sure if it does happen it’s picked up and in the mean time we are starting to work with all businesses in various blocks to implement trash compactor and recycling solutions that collectivize the pickups, using rodent proof compactors, that can reduce the number of trash truck visits to these common alleys by up to 80%. Anyone that lives adjacent to one of these alleys can tell you what an issue waste management can be and how noisy trash trucks and slamming dumpsters can be. This will make a difference in people everyday quality of life and makes good business sense, and is good for the environment. To me this is a good use of time and resources.

So I get your point that you are trying to make about where we could be headed and now I hope you get mine. Let’s focus on being 14th & U Street, instead of not being like Adams Morgan, all that does is take energy away from proactive efforts. I am off to the Arts Overlay final meeting at the Studio Theatre, where they have an all star line-up of speakers, commenting on what can be done on 14th Street. I say come out tonight and learn, and come out on Saturday and Sunday to spend and enjoy. I love where I live..


PS: A look at where Adams Morgan was 10 years ago in next post:

Brandon Green said...

I hope you're right and that U Street never does become like Adams Morgan.

Alex said...

Oh noes bachelorette parties on U street!!

And for the record my drunken fraternity brothers who live in the suburbs pretty much refuse to come to the U Street area, preferring to relive our college days in Georgetown and Adams Morgan, much to my chagrin. I'm pretty sure the guys in striped shirts and pressed chinos at Marvin are your neighbors.

AR said...


well said, both times. As someone who recently moved to U street (compared to 21 years, my 2 is less impressive) I can tell you the main reason I move to the neighborhood and continue to love it is the vibrant community and nightlife.

I love being able to walk out my door and down the block for dinner or drinks, weekday or weekend on a whim. I love not having to take a cab home after a night out and having my friends WANT to come hang out in my neighborhood. I love hearing jazz come out of twins on my way home.

I love wandering into goodwood or Pink November on my way home to window shop when i have some extra time. I am loving the ever growing farmers market on Saturday morning.

I love walking by the preschool class at the municipal building because every morning they make me smile and enjoy the polite hellos on my way to work from strangers. I love the Gospel music at St Augustine's on Sunday morning and watching all the women in hats strut their stuff. I love being too tired to cook and stopping for some lemon pepper fried chicken and good conversation at oohs and aahs.

This corridor has so much to offer.

Scott Pomeroy said...

Reminder: Shop MidCity during Dog Days, visit the new website at to find out the latest panned happenings.


Anonymous suggested that I look at what was going on in Adams Morgan 10 years ago. So I thought I would relate. I was working for Councilmember Graham 10 years ago, coordinating the Adams Morgan/U Street Parking and Transportation task force, so I had an insiders birds eye view of what did and didn't get done at that time. Adams Morgan, which grew during the 90's when the city was in receivership and basic city functions did not get done, was at the time debating how to address the wide range of quality of life issues that were affecting the neighborhood affected by all the recent growth.

What started out as a process to address a wide range of quality of life issues; trash, noise, parking and public safety, ended up instead focusing almost all effort on the tool of choice, the moratorium, and the potential development of the surface parking lot. Given the circumstances at the time in the city and how the growth in Adams Morgan occurred, I think a moratorium was appropriate,

However the process so polarized the community that parking solutions (residential only on side streets for 2 blocks til midnight), or promises to provide clean and safe services on side streets, to working with a group from CA, the Responsible Hospitality Institute on how to manage the levels of activity, that were all active and in play, all waned as the sides became more polarized as each side focused their efforts on the passage or failure of the moratorium. Traces of that polarization are still evident today.

There are a whole lot of committed individuals and groups trying to make a difference in Adams Morgan and considerable resources have been and are being spent by MPD and the property owners and businesses via the BID, and I in now way want this to be seen as a criticism of them, however the public perception as portrayed in this article is that Adams Morgan is broken and not manageable.

The lesson I learned then and from other experiences is we can fight over and debate the rules and tools of engagement, such as ABC regulations, a moratorium or voluntary agreements, til we are blue in the face and we will still have come no closer to actually addressing the issues facing our community. Real progress will come through direct management of specific issues and a coordinated plan of action that uses the right tools for each situation. You don't use a sledge hammer to drive finish nails.


Next installment: Working with the Responsible Hospitality Institute - Planning, Managing, and Policing Hospitality Businesses.

California said...

Where is Scott Pomeroy when you need him?

I just returned home from walking my dog. Just as Poochie and I were approaching 13th & T a car with Maryland plates, chock full of drunk, white 20-somethings from the suburbs, came screeching over to the curb so Frat Boy inside could open the door and vomit on the sidewalk of our "vibrant corridor." Wish Scott had been there to see that and then look me in the eye and say it's not Adams Morgan here.

Scott is obviously a well educated man and knows a lot about the neighborhood (although he could benefit from the talents of a good editor). But his recitation of facts obscures the undeniable truth that the U Street Corridor is now perceived in the DMV primarily as a great place to come and get wasted - just check postings on Yelp if you don't believe me. Even the Washingtonian reviews restaurants here based on how well the menu satisfies the need for drunk eats. And an annual summer sidewalk sale isn't enough to combat that.

I also have no idea what Scott is saying about this area having plenty of morning/daytime businesses, or about trash getting picked up. I'm up and out before 7am on Sunday mornings, and there's NOTHING in the U Street corridor at that time except all the trash from the night before. Oh, wait, the Starbucks is open at least...

Scott Pomeroy said...


I saw saw some drunk guys in Adams Morgan jump in their car and drive over to U Street just to throw up. Did they hit you and your pooch? You could charge them with assault with a deadly weapon, used beer and vodka....and then we could ban them from the neighborhood forever... if that is the criteria for being Adams Morgan, then lots of neighborhoods are Adams Morgan. I never said people don't get drunk in this neighborhood, I said we were not Adams Morgan, we have more to offer.

And as for stuff being open at 7:00 on Sunday morning's aren't we being a bit picky and specific. I've lived in states with blue laws that don't allow any businesses to be open on Sunday at any time and even Dog Days starts later on Sunday than on Saturday. Are you saying we don't have more to offer than Adams Morgan?

The cleaning program does not begin until 8:00 am, it is not out at 3:00 am, so yes there will be trash out there at 7:00 am and guess what it will get worse rather than better, because despite all the revenue that is generated from this area, and this area still attracting new businesses while others are losing them, the city just removed the funds required to provide that service from the 2010 budget.

Most people just whine about things on a list serve or email MPD or their Councilmember for a quick fix. You want to be useful, how about helping us get those funds restored...then you can ask them to start at 6:30am to meet your needs.


Anonymous said...

Yo, go easy on Adams Morgan. Yeah, we have a bar/club strip, it's what, a whole 3 blocks long from calvert down to the tennis courts where things pretty much chill out. We have drunken B&T's, I don't want to hang out with them any more than the next DC snob and it would be nice to have a metro stop to funnel them into, but in NW you have 2 choices for how your neighborhood works: Vibrant commerce and nightlife with the attendant annoyances or anti-commercial pockets of NIMBYs where everyone wants to refight the last class war and can't figure out how why the ANC can't make a law that says goods must appear on store shelves and trash must disappear without any trucks showing up during any hour when a human could possibly be sleeping or wanting to ride the #42/S2/Circulator/whatever.

Yeah, living in the apartment over Chi Cha probably isn't any more fun at last call than living in the one over Pharmacy Bar, but come on, either that airport was there when you bought the house at the end of the runway or you got in before the boom and can take your nice little 200% condo value increase and move to a quiet street in Logan. Chi Cha has been there for 12 years, when did you hipsters move to U street?

So yeah, Scott makes excellent points, but the rest of you quit trashing Adams Morgan. I've lived in "urban renaissance" areas in 3 other states and I've never been as happy with my neighborhood as I am a block off of 18th. The noise factor is nil unless you are right on the strip -- I'm between 18th and 16th, and with all my windows open the buses, trucks, and MD idiots honking their horns on 16th are louder at 8:45 AM than the MD idiots yelling on 18th are at 11:45 PM. Ditto for litter, I pick up about one beer bottle a week in front of my house - OH! THE HORROR! Parking is a pain during certain hours, but again, you have two choices: live within walking distance of restaurants or have easy parking.

California said...


I think you will find that my desire to have some commercial activity at 7am on a Sunday is not as individual as you think. In other major cities on the eastern seaboard - like Boston, Philly, and especially New York - there are any number of diners, bakeries and bagel stores open well before 7am to serve the residents' needs. Even less-well-planned West Coast cities like San Diego and L.A. offer these types of businesses. I'd rather hold ourselves to standards set by major metro areas, rather than the standards of Blue Law states you lived in 21+ years ago.

Being a newcomer to the area, the only way I know of to ask for funding for trash clean-up is by e-mailing my Councilmember. Please advise me of a better way to help, as I'd be happy to get involved.

Finally, some public relations advice: if you want to influence newcomers to the area as much as you've obviously influenced residents in the past, I recommend you avoid the type of sarcasm that was laced throughout your response to me. Count to 10 before you respond. Or, better yet, wait a day. When you lose your cool, you lose your credibility.

Anonymous said...

Some U Street history is needed here.

The U Street corridor was the answer to a racist DC. This was in a DC where Blacks could not enjoy the same life as the rest of DC. Black artist and business people came together and U Street was born. U Street is also part of the Black Renaissance, which is what makes it “historical”.


Now we have people who either do not know or do not appreciate the historical significance of U Street, who want to change it to meet their wants. That is very selfish to say the least. I don’t understand how some one can move into an area, not do their research beforehand, and then want to change the area.

You would not see that in London, Paris, or Rome. Only in DC is that even considered an option. London, Paris and Rome residents would not even entertain such a slap in the face of their culture. And let us not be mistaken, this is exactly what is happening. Because the prevalent culture of U. Street is of color and specifically historically Black, it is not deemed important or relevant.

To add insult to injury, the following was left in the comments section:

“JeffB-27 wrote:
It's really not the noise of restaurant patrons I have the most trouble with. It's the nuisance noise of motorcycle racing, and ghetto-blaster car stereos that cause the bulk of the noise pollution. The area restaurants also need to do a MUCH better job of managing the smells coming out of their exhaust systems (the whole neighborhood reeks from the stench billowing out of Dukems and Ben's Chili Bowl). Also, older restuarants, like the Islander, don't maintain their rooftop equipment which is in disrepair and terribly noisy, and Ben's Next Door mounted equipment on their roof the size of a small battleship. I think people need to realize that the 'hood is no longer filled with auto repair shops and dive hiphop clubs. There are people living here now in $1 million condos and we should not have to deal with BOOM BOOM BOOM at 3am!”

Mr. JeffB-27’s comment concerning the “stench” of the multi-cultural restaurants on the U Street Corridor is racist . before you disagree, noticed he only listed Black Restaurants. Not one non-Black restaurant was listed as having stench coming from it or not having the latest equipment on its roof.

Why move into a historically black neighborhood when you obviously do not appreciate it? Is that the 2009 version of conquering the natives?

Mr. JeffB-27, you are correct in the following:
“I think people need to realize that the 'hood is no longer filled with auto repair shops and dive hiphop clubs. There are people living here now in $1 million condos and we should not have to deal with BOOM BOOM BOOM at 3am!”

My answer is:
1. If you paid a million for a condo in the U street area, you are foolish and got gypped.

2. You should not “have to deal with Boom Boom Boom”, you should sell your condo for the 1.5 million that you may be able to get by some other foolish person and MOVE, because U Street will NOT change the way that you want it to, it has too much pride.

Alex said...

It's really hard to understand how anyone is foolish enough to move to a commercial corridor like 14th Street and then complain about noise. Did you not check it out before you bought?

11th Street said...

Anonymous 12:57 AM:

Calling out a poster as racist is all good and fine. Just watch your own words ("gypped").

Scott Pomeroy said...


I agree with you as I would like to see Sunday morning business activity and I think one of the main reasons people really wanted the diner/tryst at 14th & T, was to fill that unmet need for a quality 24 hour destination/hangout.

However, I also know how far we have come in a relatively short time. As part of the 14th & U Main Street program there was a focus on diversifying range of products and identifying opportunities.

Our promotions/marketing committee was pulling together business information for a visitors guide, identifying services, hours, primarily retail, food, entertainment and attractions. At the same time the economic devvelopment committee had a volunteer that coordinated a market study for 14th & U that included a time of use analysis.

We found that there were very few brunches and few of the restaurants were open for lunch during the week and on weekends, even though our time of use analysis showed that both were viable opportunities with large amounts of people on the street particularly on weekends.

We helped connect the dots and in just a few years, as this past Dog Days showed, we do have daytime activity, including multiple options for lunch and particularly for bunches on weekends, as well as shopping and cultural attractions that meet the demand of that customer base.

You said one sidewalk sale does not make a big difference, I would have to disagree. Dog Days brought thousands of people to commercial district primarily for shopping, some entertainment, and while here they dined a whole lot. This day is the impression they will take back and the reason they will return. It also was a major break for the retail merchants who are struggling like everyone else in this economy.

There is a whole lot that can be done in the community if you would like to get involved, and I do think that Sunday's are an untapped opportunity, and I would be happy to discuss this and other subjects with you further offline.


Anonymous said...


I read both the WP article and your blog post hoping for some mention of these sound menaces - but sadly there were none. I live right above Lovecafe at 15th and U, and the motorcycles crank their engines and roar down the street from about 8pm on thursday until 3am on sunday...almost nonstop.

I don't know where they came from and why they descended upon the corridor, but it's a new and alarmingly loud element (there were practically none last summer or the one previous) that i have seen absolutely nothing done about. There has to be some kind of noise code violations they are breaking - i know this is swiftly becoming a "retail district" but there are HUNDREDS of us residents dotting the corridor who frankly cannot deal with the noises at night. Motorcycles, drunk visitors or any other kind.

DC Socialite said...

Great post! I feel like this is pretty ridiculous too. You move to the middle of the Nations Capital and complain that its to noisy. If you want quiet peacefulness move to the country!