Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle has voted to protect the crowded sidewalk space near 14th and U Streets NW. At its regular monthly meeting March 11, ANC2B voted to recommend that The Wydown Coffee Bar (1924 14th Street) be required to array proposed sidewalk tables to allow a gap ten feet wide for pedestrians on the 14th Street sidewalk, just south of U Street. Wydown had made a request at the meeting for an eight-foot gap, scaled back from its original proposal of a six-foot gap.
ANC2B Chair Noah Smith (Commissioner for district 09) said, "While we
normally ask for ten feet, we are instructed to consider requests on a case-by-case basis."
Wydown is in Smith's ANC district.
There is currently a gap of 13.5 feet between the front of Wydown and the planter boxes that border 14th Street (see photo). Wydown's owners said the planter boxes were not in the design for the space when they agreed to occupy the property.
The ANC publicly reviewed the precedents. Last summer, ANC2B voted to dramatically scale back a sidewalk space request from the nearby branch of Taylor Gourmet (1908 14th Street NW) for outdoor serving space -- see SALM blog post of July 15, 2014. Smith also noted the case of Doi Moi restaurant (1800 14th Street) -- most of their tables create a ten-foot gap but they were allowed a few tables at eight feet.
Members of local community organizations spoke against reducing the gap.
"I think with that precedent you are going to have to be very conservative," said Ramon Estrada, President of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association.
"Fourteenth Street is almost impossible to traverse without going Indian-file," said Tom Bauer of the Dupont Circle Conservancy. (Bauer made it clear that, in this case, he was speaking for himself only, not for the organization.)
The commissioners were split. Commissioner Daniel Warwick (district 02) said he would vote in favor of more sidewalk space for Wydown, i.e., in favor of a smaller gap.
Commissioner Nicole Mann (district 08) agreed: "I don't think it's a huge issue."
Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06) thought the density of the location required special consideration: "This is about as busy as area as can be. I'm not sure whether I'm comfortable with eight feet."
Smith's original resolution supported an eight-foot gap. Silverstein made a motion to change the eight-foot gap to a ten-foot gap. Silverstein's motion to amend the original proposal passed, six votes to three. Then a motion to pass the entire resolution as amended passed, eight votes to one, with one abstention. Warwick was the vote against both the amendment and the entire resolution as amended.
ANC2B's recommendation will now go to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which has final authority over the commercial use of public space.