Last night, ANC Commissioner Laina Aquiline (1A05) hosted the final community meeting to discuss issues related to Z Burger’s public space application to have a sidewalk cafe. Z Burger’s proposed plan is available here. The outdoor cafe would be along the Park Road frontage of the Tivoli Theater. The DDOT Public Space Committee will hear this application on Thursday.
Public Space Committee meetings are open to the public and citizens are encouraged to attend. Meetings begin at 9 am. Preliminary agendas are available the Thursday before the meeting. The meetings are held at 1100 4th Street, SW, 2nd Floor, unless otherwise notified of change in location. Residents unable to attend may send written statements for consideration to email@example.com.
Approximately 30 members of the community attended last night’s community meeting including the owners of Z Burger and DDOT Public Space Committee Chairman Matthew Marcou. The three main issues in need of consensus were:
- The proposed removal/relocation of an existing granite bench;
- The proposed fencing around the seating area; and,
- The number and arrangement of seats.
The meeting began with Otto Condon describing the design history, process, and intent of the Columbia Heights Public Realm. In short, the goal of the design is that of all of the public space from building facade to building facade around the public fountain and down to the Metro to be treated as a large public plaza. Condon emphasized that sidewalk cafes were always intended to be a part of the plan and would help enliven the streetscape. He also spoke to the goal of uniform furniture that would unite the space and how fencing off portions of the public space was contrary to the goal of the plan.
Peter Tabibian and Robert Sockwell, representing Z Burger, briefly presented their proposed design for the use of public space. They explained that they no longer proposed moving or removing the bench. They also explained their logic behind the seating they proposed.
Perhaps what was most interesting in the meeting was that the bench and seating were largely resolved issues between those in attendance. What wasn’t resolved was the proposed fencing. Z Burger steadfastly insists that the fence is needed to maintain the safety of families while eating at Z Burger (i.e. help keep children from running into the street) and to keep non-customers from using their area. Much of the community was opposed to the fence and wanted a much more open and welcoming environment.
During the discussion Mr. Tabibian was noticeably frustrated, dug in his heels, and refused to budge or compromise on the fence. He even stated that he’s considered just walking away from this venture. After much discussion about the fence, Commissioner Bill Brown (1A06) made a statement that he understood the need to have some control or boundary around a sidewalk cafe area. Following up, he posed the question as to if anyone was against some type of barrier other than a fence, such as planters or stanchions. The general mood of the room was that this was acceptable. Tabibian countered that planters required maintenance and he didn’t want those. Brown again followed up that there were other options that were not fences that could accomplish the same thing and asked that Z Burger consider them.
A lot will depend on if Z Burger continues to steadfastly insist that a fence is required for their business or if they are willing to look at alternative solutions that accomplish the same thing. ANC 1A will consider its resolution on the issue at its May 9th meeting.