I was pleased to see The Georgetowner newspaper this week take a strong stand in the dumpster debate. It's not online, alas, but they basically said the ANC needs to review the rules and take some kind of action to protect residents from what is bascially contractor abuse. The city has to take some blame, too, because it costs virtually nothing for a contractor to get a dumpster permit, as well as permits to occupy residential parking.
There's no question its a fraught subject. There's deep frustration among residents who are directly impacted. I live in the vicinity of two big renovations -- the Cafritz house at 31st and O and the Levy house at 31st near P. Both have dumpsters and both have huge fleets of workers whose trucks and vans and cars take up anywhere from 6 to 12 residential parking spaces on any given day, including weekends (when they often go un-used by workers but still not available for residents to use).
I now also know first hand the frustration of the contractors and builders. One of the contractors involved with the Cafritz house stopped me on the street the other morning while I was walking the dog. He thought my position was unfair. I listened to him. His argument is that the houses need to be renovated and the projects involve a lot of workers and they need to park near the job. "What are they supposed to do?" I suggested maybe they be brought to the site by bus, with one supply truck on hand. As for the dumpsters, he said they are essential. I countered that one noted contractor, John Richardson, has managed to do many Georgetown renovations without ever using dumpsters. Also, they are banned in old-town Alexandria. Use dumptrucks instead. He said that was not a solution and would make the job harder for his crew, and attract rats and other problems.
This man felt the residents were being unduly judgmental toward the renovations, the home owners and the contractors. But I pointed out, "Just yesterday there were 11 parking spaces occupied by workers serving these two houses and in the space of a block and a half. This frustrates the people who live near these houses." I mentioned, too, that when the residents talk to the contractors they feel their objections are dismissed out of hand. He found that difficult to believe. They have a job to do. He said the Cafritz renovation was now using more street spaces because the swimming pool is being built and it's not possible for all the service vehicles to park in the back yard, as they were doing before.
Yes, I know, these are the problems of the one percent, but still. As the Georgetowner points out, a dumpster permit is about $120. That's a cheap price for months of parking on crowded residential streets. If one of the neighbors parked in those empty "no parking" zones on a Saturday or Sunday they would get a ticket.
The extreme view expressed by some neighbors is, "why are these people moving to Georgetown? Why don't they move to Potomac?" Well, because Georgetown is a great place to live, a charming alternative to Potomac. Only, Georgetown doesn't have the space for the kinds of renovations typical to Potomac.
One other issue that is creating some unhappiness is the vacuuming out of the portable potties. On the mornings when that happens, and its usually at breakfast time, the stench of human waste pervades the area of 31st, O and P Streets. I don't live next door or across the street from one of these projects, but I hear about it from the folks who do.
And now I've heard about it from one of the contractors, as well. Here's hoping that when they meet in September, the ANC makes it possible for the debate to have a full and robust forum and some kind of resolution.