Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on the Shell Station

For a further articulation of some points I thought I'd point readers to this letter, sent out in September, asking for opposition to the proposal. The letter is from Councilmembers Tommy Wells, Mary Cheh, and Kwame Brown.

shell letter
shell letter2


Robby said...

Nice to see they can come together and screw over the little guy did any one bother to tell them that all but one of those six gas stations were owned by the same guy, and most are in Ward 5. I guess Mr. Thomas was excluded from this as well. Maybe people that actually dissent or at the very least care about the working poor, are excluded from the conversation.

It's funny, but hey, you get the government you pay for.

Funny how there's all this excitement over a gas station, yet... well you can see the other postings comments for that.

I'll just say this, where are any of these elected officials on issues that affect those w/o money and a web presence.

So much for that post racial post class Obmama-nation.

Yeah Jim Crow.

Hillman said...

Artificially protecting the 'minority owned convenience stores within a block of this location' is a stated goal, according to this letter.


Minority-owned is great (even though I'd argue that the 'minority' designation should really be an economic designation, not race-based). But I'd hardly hold these out as being fine examples of neighborhood shops, what with their constant loitering, actual drug deals on their 'public space', and general crappy conditions.

And since when do we advocate stifling competition for the sake of stifling competition?

This letter loses a lot of credibility by making this fairly ridiculous point.

BD said...

Robby, that's rich. The little guy? hahaha, yeah, the guys who own this are such a small operation...

Nice try bringing race of all things into this. I am now assuming that whoever will own this station is black, but I didn't know that previously and it wouldn't factor into my opposition one bit (and do you really, truly think this would be any different if he/she is white or asian?). I do think the station is in direct opposition to the city's stated goal of revitalizing this area (including all those planning sessions, overlays, etc). So I oppose it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, stop it. Robby is a crusader for the working poor, not some contrarian troll who feeds off this kind of stuff.

Hillman said...

"hahaha, yeah, the guys who own this are such a small operation... "

You are confusing the property owner with the developer.

The developer clearly has a good chunk of money.

The property owner? No one seems to know.

As for race, the opponents of the station have already brought race in, by declaring the need to artificially protect 'minority-owned' minimarts in the area.

8th and El said...

In general, I'm confused about the this letter. In particular, the letter references a section of public space regulations, and how this proposed gas "failed to meet the test," of the regulations. The section stated only specifies that the Director of DPW needs to investigate the request , find out if the use of public space follows the Public Space Act (I can' find this act online. Can anyone help?) and bring forth the his/her findings to a Public Space committee. Has this not happened?

ibc said...

The squeals of outrage from the pro-gas-station-absolutists are getting to be a little comical, here. Seriously, is there really some reason that folks can't get their gas from one of the 4-5 gas stations that currently exist in the Bladensburg/NY Ave corridor?

I know, I know, it's the principle of the thing. Who will stand firm with the outside business interests against the possibly-racist, gentrifying, child-death-apathetic NIMBYs? (i.e. 99% of your neighbors)

This is the way neighborhood politics works: the neighbors who want to live in a walkable, functional, urban environment fight like hell every step of the way to get unique, varied, interesting commercial enterprises on H St. At the same time, the forces of blind profit will fight to make H St look like Bladensburg Road.

After all, it's been shown over and over that that's the way to maximize return on investment. Concerns about the negative externalities that real human beings have to deal with because of unchecked/unguided development are just wooly-headed NIMBYism, right? The area's been run-down for decades, the new construction will be nice and clean. Plus their'll be ample parking!

And who are local residents to come along and tell the would-be captains of industry that they can't appropriate public space for personal gain? Heck, it would probably maximize private profit to turn the entire length of H Street into an "H Street Connection" style suburban shopping plaza. Who are the neighbors to say otherwise?

Hillman said...

If having a problem with selective, incomplete facts and questionable arguments to whip up a mob mentality against a taxpaying property owner is absolutism, then I'd be proud to be called such.

Again, I'm not arguing the merits of a gas station.

I'm simply saying we aren't being given all the facts, we are ignoring the history of the neighborhood and we're being less than honest (selective public space concerns and protecting the crappy existing mini marts? really?).

That bothers me.

BD said...

To me, it comes down to the fact that there's no RIGHT to public space, and if the vast majority of the neighborhood disapproves of it, then that's as good a reason as any to deny the use of public space to a private enterprise. I think that's just common sense, no? I think it is absolutely understandable for the public to allow/deny usage of PUBLIC space on a case by case basis. In fact, there's ample precedent.

I do usually agree with you, Hillman, and I agree that protecting the other minimarts doesn't factor into my decision-making... but in this case we'll agree to disagree. I don't think allowing a gas station to use public land is a matter of principle.

ibc said...

If having a problem with selective, incomplete facts and questionable arguments to whip up a mob mentality against a taxpaying property owner is absolutism, then I'd be proud to be called such.

Right, but as far as I'm concerned, you're being nitpicky.

Most people here aren't being whipped into anything--they just don't see the space as appropriate for a gas station. That's all they need to know.

Of course, the desires of the community would be mostly irrelevant, other than the fact that those plans require the business to appropriate public space in addition, which means that the community has some leverage.

Personally, I don't want a gas station there. I think it's out of character for the plans for the "starburst" intersection and the surrounding blocks. Not only that, but there are plenty of other gas stations on the six-lane divided highway called Bladensburg Road about 15 seconds driving distance away.

The fact that some councilmembers wrote a letter in which they threw in references to "preserving minority businesses" is also ridiculous, but irrelevant. It's a debating point (by them, not you).

If they build a gas station I won't be torn up about it--my guess is most of the "Shell No!" crowd won't be either. I just don't think it's the best use of what is and will be pretty valuable real estate.

And as far as Robby's concerned, not-so-subtle accusations of racism are getting pretty played out right about now. Not really sure what the point of that is...

Don't you think that throwing around tags like "Yeah Jim Crow" is insulting to the folks who actually fought and marched and died to end segregation?

It's like a guy who compares his sports franchise moving to a different city to the Holocaust.

Yeah Inappropriate.

Hillman said...

"Don't you think that throwing around tags like "Yeah Jim Crow" is insulting to the folks who actually fought and marched and died to end segregation?"

I disagree with that statement.

But, then, I didn't make it.

But I'd say equally insulting would be the 'protection' of 'minority-owned' mini-marts of dubious quality. What exactly are we protecting? The loitering or the drug dealing?

rick said...

Yeah, Hillman, I'm afraid you're a little off on this one.

You think you're on a high horse of principle (respect the neighborhood's history! no mob mentality!). But it's more like a Shetland pony.

It seems you've concocted a movie-of-the-week scenario in your head of an embattled small business owner, making his way when times were toughest, forced out by blight and disinvestment in the neighborhood, who now wants to rebuild the only business he's ever known and name it after his dear, departed father...

I mean, please. There's no evidence it's the same guy who used to run a gas station there. (If indeed there was one. Every old timer I've talked to says Checkers was a gas station but this lot was not.)

And, anyway, your answer to decades of neglect rebuild one of the gas stations that was here in the difficult years?

Most people have more than enough information to call this one. And they're not relying on bizarre versions of historical justice.

Now, let's all be sure to email the city with our comments, instead of just hyperventilating on blogs.

Hillman said...


Beating a dead horse....

This gas station ain't never going to happen. No way. No how.

It's the precedent we are setting that bothers me.

The process is important. And the process of how we got to this point is disturbing at best.

Hillman said...

"If indeed there was one. Every old timer I've talked to says Checkers was a gas station but this lot was not."

According to the city 1400 Maryland Ave has had at least two C of Os for a gas station.

But, then, I had to dig for even that information. It certainly wasn't provided by the anti-station folks.

And that's my concern.

Anonymous said...

"Seriously, is there really some reason that folks can't (get their gas) EAT DINNER from one of the (4-5) MANY (gas stations) RESTAURANTS that currently exist in the (Bladensburg/NY Ave) H STREET corridor?"

Pretty silly, no?

ibc said...

Pretty silly, no?

I think we can say that most readers of this thread will probably agree that that's a pretty silly comparison.


wylie st kind of fella said...

i don't know about all these tangential arguments, but i do know i don't support public space being used to build yet another gas station in an area with several gas stations within a mile radius.

that, i think, is the crux of the argument. if it requires public space, it requires public support. they ain't got it, so they're screwed. end of story.

MikeS said...

dude, there are 2 other gas stations within 800 FEET! It's not about turning it into Bladensburg, it's about turning it into Rt. 1

h is for happy said...


what world are you living in? the point of advocacy is to argue your point, not the other side's point. shell-no didn't position itself as an objective destination on information related to 1400 maryland. it's stated goal is to advocate for those who believe the gas station is a bad idea. who cares if the shell-no site doesn't mention that a c of o for a gas station was approved a number of years ago? you really are being nitpicky and what's worse is your picking at facts that don't matter (the fact that shell-no makes no mention of the past use). do you think the gas station proponents are going to point out facts supporting shell-no's position? shell-no, brother! they would fire their lawyer if he brought up those points.

you act like shell-no is up to something novel and sneaky. how dare shell-no advocate it's own points and not the gas station owner's?! yeah, imgaine that. for shame on the shell-no folks.

if you were a lawyer, i'd love to see you argue your cases while sticking to your high ideals on full disclosure. i imagine something like:

"ladies and gentlement of the jury, my client is innocent of the charges before you, but in all fairness i should point out that my client really is a scumbag. he regularly abuses his wife, cheats on his taxes, operates a dog fighting ring and sells amway products full time."

come back to the land of reality, holmes.

Anonymous said...

ibc, it's called freedom of choice. if everybody is happy with the choices they already have, then opening a gas station at that site would be a bad business decision and the owner would lose money. if it is a better location or provides better service, owner would make money. same goes for a restaurant on H Street or anywhere else.

i personally would prefer to see something else locate on this vacant lot, but it isn't my property. maybe you could buy it and open a pet store?

Anonymous said...

To All:

Get real its a gas station. The Shell No people got together and influenced their councilmember and two others to draft a letter that is about as meaningful as use toilet paper.

You can say that race is not a factor, but as has been stated, the Council injected race into it.

I say yeah Jim Crow, at least segregation was consistent and honest. This "Smiling Faces" routine that they employ, they glad hand minority businesses and use them as political foot balls is sick. We should block a gas station because a black guy somewhere may be hurt. Yeah, sure, hmm. No.

And They= The Council.

Lest I be accused of being divisive.

-Robby AKA St Robby of Trinidad :)

ibc said...

ibc, it's called freedom of choice. if everybody is happy with the choices they already have, then opening a gas station at that site would be a bad business decision and the owner would lose money.

Right, but we haven't got to that point yet, because the owner of the site is still coming, hat in hand, to ask his neighbors for the use of this public space, and the neighbors have overwhelmingly said "No."

So the "American Way" would be to develop a business plan for which his site is suitable. If he can't make it as a gas station without coming around begging for free use of public land, perhaps he *should* open a pet store.

As you said, there's a tradition of "freedom of choice" in America. There's no imperative that neighbors subsidize a private business in some endeavor which is both a) deeply unpopular; and b) massively overrepresented in the area.

If the private land the guy owns is insufficient for a slaughterhouse, let him open a pet store.

Anonymous said...

This "public space" would be called a "right of way" in any other city in America. It is the same as your own front yard. It is not a park or some other space that has been designated as Green Space. Even though your front yard is technically "public space," I'll bet you would call the police if some homeless person pitched a tent there.

I am sympathetic to those who chose to purchase a home close to this location. But at the time they made that decision, this property was either a gas station, a car lot, or a vacant lot with history of those uses. Now these neighbors are trying to restrict the owner's use of his property to enhance the value of their own property.

Gee it's great to live in a town with so many lawyers.

ibc said...

Gee it's great to live in a town with so many lawyers.

True. That plus neighbors who care enough to use the law to improve their living conditions, and to put the long-term public good over the short-term individual's profit motive.

It's odd that there seem to be a small subset of folks who think this is some kind of situation that's unique to DC, though. When in fact this kind of thing happens *every* single day in non-dysfunctional municipalities (e.g. Montgomery Co, NoVa, etc...).

It's as American as apple pie.

In case anyone's interested in the actual dimensions of the land-grab, it's mapped out here:

Anyway, when my "front yard" that I'm claiming as a "right-of-way" is in fact significantlylarger than the lot I own, we have a problem that supersedes semantics.

Campy said...

All this talk and not one comment on the fact that Kwame Brown signs his name with a ridiculous symbol.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Campy, Humor is good.


Hillman said...

"what world are you living in? the point of advocacy is to argue your point, not the other side's point."

You advocate your point, but you don't intentionally bury information that is relevant, especially when asked about it, and you don't make up bullshit like 'minority-business protection' for crappy corner stores that are hardly good for the neighborhood.

How many times have I asked for more info about the property owner and more on the history of this whole mess?

And what has the response been?

Very little actual substance, mostly just vague 'these people are rich scumbags' rationale.

That's not neighborhood advocacy and dissemination of information.

That's selective dissemination of information. Which is not the same as honest neighborhood activism.

And I believe Inked is an ANC rep? As such, it's her job to disseminate information, not selectively represent some facts and bury others, as has been done here.

If anyone had presented a detailed case that this property owner is a scumbag (which those associated with used car lot dealers in DC often are), then I'd be on board with everyone else.

That hasn't been done. At least not on this blog, and not on the Shell No website.

Anonymous said...

Gee IBC, how did I know you were a lawyer? Just a lucky guess, I suppose.

Unless you never ride in a vehicle that uses gasoline, give me a break with the "public good." This is about property values and personal aesthetic preferences.

Anonymous said...

Who's crazy enough to by gas in DC anyway. Gas is 10 to 20 cents more in than in DC than MD or VA.

Anonymous said...


So sorry to those who wanted a gas station at 1400 Maryland Ave.

Thanks to everybody who signed petitions, displayed "Shell No!" signs, and who came to support the cause at today's hearing.

Job well done.

Robby said...

Will you all join in the efforts to reform the BPs?

Tom A. said...

Council member "symbol" must now be known as "The Council Member Formerly Known As Kwame."

Robby said...

So what now.