Whether David Gregory deserved the heat he took for his recent parking outburst at the DC Design House is a subject that has no doubt been debated at cocktail parties all over Washington. Who could resist the dish? He’s a media celebrity, he lives in a wealthy neighborhood, and parking is always a hot topic in DC—so many cars, so few spaces, and so many eager parking enforcement agents on the prowl. The ill will between the community and the Design House is tense, and not necessarily because of Gregory. He only kicked over the hornet’s nest. It’s got enough invective, though, to be worthy of a segment on his NBC show, Meet the Press.
The whole contretemps came back to us this week when a neighbor got in touch to complain that “there are still no-parking signs up all around his house,” and feared they would be there for the whole month of May. They could be. The signs went up April 13, after the Gregory outburst, and are scheduled to come down after 5 PM on May 12, but the area Advisory Neighborhood Commission expects to ask for an extension. Commissioner Kent Slowinski, whose region includes the Gregory house and the Design House, says the episode has caused a lot of unhappiness and places the blame solely on the Design House organizers. He calls them “unprofessional,” “confrontational,” and, in the case of one individual, “homophobic.”
In case you missed the initial gossip, here’s the backstory. On April 10 the Washington Post broke a story that was none too flattering to Gregory, whose home is around the corner from 2507 Foxhall Road, the location of this year’s DC Design House, a charitable endeavor that raises money for Children’s Hospital. According to the Post, “The broadcaster was distressed that visitors to the show house had parked on a nearby street, some directly in front of his home.” The story went on to colorfully describe a “scene” he caused on the front lawn of the show house—“waving his arms and complaining”—that was witnessed by guests at an opening party for members of the media.
Gregory said he would take his complaints to his local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and he did. A few days later the DC Department of Transportation, (DDOT) posted “emergency no parking” signs along one side of Dexter Street and some adjacent streets, including in front of Gregory’s home. The Dexter Streets signs say “No parking this side only.” At the bottom, Slowinski’s name is listed as the contact. He says the signs were supposed to have gone up even before Gregory’s public outburst.
“Show house organizers were supposed to provide a parking and management plan, which they never did,” he said in a phone conversation with us on Wednesday. “Because the show house didn’t do what they were supposed to do, it fell to ANC.” He says Gregory was not the catalyst, but “David went and talked to them and they didn’t do anything. I went and talked to them; they didn’t do anything. David sent me an e-mail, and I’ve talked with him, and we had the same problem: We couldn’t get down Dexter Street. It was a public safety issue.”
Relations with the show house went from bad to worse for Slowinski when, he says, the Design House’s founder, Skip Singleton, inadvertently included him on a group e-mail to show house organizers. “He made homophobic remarks about me. Those kinds of remarks are not proper,” Slowinski says. Is Slowinski actually gay? “No. I’m married,” he says. “I showed the e-mail to my wife—she’s a psychotherapist—because I didn’t understand what he meant by some of the stuff. I tried contacting the CEO at Children’s, letting him know that the DC Design House founder is circulating e-mails like this and that it reflects poorly on the Children’s National Medical Center. He wouldn’t return my message.” We asked whether he had also reached out to Singleton. “I asked for an explanation. He sent back a short e-mail offering his apologies. It was probably written by a lawyer.”
We reached out to Singleton via e-mail and also left phone messages at his office and on his cell.
When we visited the scene on Tuesday morning, we had a friendly conversation with Dorothy Woodcock (not the neighbor who initially got in touch with us), who lives between Gregory and the Design House and near the French ambassador François Delattre and his wife, who do a fair amount of entertaining. The Delattres relocated to the Foxhall rental while the official French residence is under renovation. Woodcock admits that between the arrival of the French and the show house there has been a lot of action in the neighborhood, but nothing that can’t be survived. She feels the French are doing a good job handling the parking for their events. As for the Design House—“I don’t want to be negative about any of this,” she says, but added there has been “a lot of confusion” about where show house visitors could park. She says after the official no parking signs went up, “security guards at the Design House told people to ignore the signs, that they could still park on Dexter Street.” Those who did got tickets. Woodcock doesn’t feel Gregory should be blamed for being upset. She says the heavy amount of parking traffic can get frustrating for neighbors. “Kent Slowinski took care of all of it.”
The Design House closes on May 12, which is the current end date for the parking restrictions. “But with breakdown, when they move all the furniture out, we will have all the same problems we had before the show house opening,” says Slowinski. “We’re going to be proposing they restrict all pickup to non-rush hour and that we keep the emergency no parking signs up until all the show house activities are finished.” He said that could mean until the end of the month.
Slowinski also says the Design House promised to give the neighbors complimentary tickets. When he went door to door to hand out a flyer outlining the parking restrictions, “I asked everyone if they received their complimentary tickets, and no one had. I did receive two complimentary tickets the day after I went door to door.” Woodcock noted amiably, but with a shrug, that she’s still waiting for hers.
Update: After posting this story we received this message from Sherry Moeller, the spokesperson for the DC Design House: "Kent and David Gregory, as I'm sure you read, have been the only Foxhall neighbors to my knowledge who have had an issue with the Design House parking on the neighborhood streets—which offer public parking with no restrictions."