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At the end of a long day of legislating, the City Council this evening passed an emergency bill to expand the number of spots for vendors on the streets near Nationals Park. I haven't seen a copy of the bill, but apparently it specifically mandates 14 new vending slots, seven of them on Half Street between M and N, and other specific slots on N Street and on First between N and N Place. This was done because of what council member Graham referred to as the "cruel joke" of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs placing the original 28 vending slots in locations that can't charitably be called "near" the stadium. (See the map to judge for yourself.) As mentioned in this morning's entry, the Nationals are not in favor of vending south of M Street, considering it competition.
Council members Cheh and Wells opposed the measure, saying that the council should not insert its own judgment if DCRA and DDOT consider these locations to be a "threat to public safety" because of the construction in the area and the movement problems that there could be in case of a mass egress from the ballpark (like if Zimmerman busts the Capitol dome again). Wells tried to say that the council perhaps doesn't know better than DCRA how to apportion space for vendors; council member Barry explained how he walked the area around the ballpark with vendors and police officers, measuring out locations, sidewalk sizes, etc. Originally council member Catania said he would not support the bill because of the "haphazard" way that the new slots would be awarded to vendors (Barry took offense to "haphazard," but I think he was misunderstanding what Catania was referring to, which was the lottery system and not the identifying of new slots).
Barry asked for the vote to be deferred, and at 7:50 pm, it returned to the agenda, with some tweaked wording--the mayor has until June 21 to add these 14 new positions and hold a lottery for them that will allow the winners to have the spaces until the end of the year. (The lottery for the original 28 spaces will be handled as before, with new drawings held every month for the spaces.) Council sources tell me that the original version of the bill required that 14 new slots go to RFK vendors only--the amended version allows any qualified applicant to enter the lottery for these spots. This gave Catania what he needed to support the bill; Cheh and Wells renewed their objections. In the end there were enough votes to pass the bill on an emergency basis.
Catania was strongly in favor of preferences for District residents, but those have proven problematic when attempted in other areas. However, Barry said that he and Catania and Graham will work on ways to get a residential preference, perhaps by leasing the slots, which would then allow the city to use Local, Small, Disadvantaged Business (LSDBE) rules. More to come, I'm sure.
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Edna Wellthorpe says: (7/2/08 11:10 AM)
The Nationals and MLB need to get their head out of their...out of the sand. The best ballparks and the most successful ballparks are the ones that have great neighborhoods around them. Until we get the neighborhood built, the vendors are the next best option to liven things up. (Even after the buildings are built, vendors are a great way to add street activity.) And the "construction" issue is a total red herring. If you look at the existing vendor map there is tons of construction going on near those locations!

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