Rhetorical Analysis of the Office of Planning Website

Logo for the District Government Website, taken from their website.

In the District Government Website (DC.gov), the Office of Planning (OP) uses a series of sources to give its audience a picture of different complex local systems. More specifically, according to OP’s “About the DC Office of Planning” page they use historic resources research, community visioning, and the mapping and analysis of US Census data to guide the development of the District of Colombia (DC). In other words, they use outside sources to detect strengths and weaknesses to then create strategic plans and goals to not only revitalize spaces but preserve them. For example, every fiscal year OP releases a performance plan that emphasizes initiatives for improvement and highlights faults that hinder progress against goals for specific regions. For the Office of Planning, then, their mission is to preserve and revitalize neighborhoods, specifically distinctive neighborhoods like Dupont Circle because it leads to positive development of the complex local systems of the District of Colombia.

Logo for the District of Colombia Office of Planning, taken from their website.

In the District Government Website about us page, DC.gov explains that their website is a portal for District government services and information. More precisely, the portal has become a commonplace for over one hundred sub-websites of District government agencies to communicate their information about state, county and municipal functionality. For example, one of the sub-websites in DC.gov is the Office of Planning who as previously clarified provides a series of material that when put together communicates information about the District of Colombia’s different regions. What this means then is that DC.gov uses a variety of different agencies to weave together a complete and extensive data base of all things District of Colombia. For DC.gov, then, providing information and services on their website is important because it facilitates District business and residents to deal with their government. The successful relationship between the website and its audience is what contributes to the success of sub-websites like OP.

A picture of the director of the Office of Planning, Eric D. Shaw.

Who writes these websites? In the DC.gov portal, DC.gov, as suggested before, uses a multitude of authors to create their information database. More specifically, the sub-website (which from now on will be the main focus) for the Office of Planning is managed by a director and senior staff. For instance, OP writes in their ‘Directors Biography’ page, “Eric D. Shaw was appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser to serve as Director of the DC Office of Planning January 2015.  As director, he manages a staff of 75 who are responsible for neighborhood and systems planning, urban design strategies, data and mapping, historic preservation and development review… He is a strong proponent of equitable development, innovative community engagement and community led implementation of plans”. For OP, this means that finding a leader who shares its common values of equitable growth, original community engagement and community led implementation of plans is essential for its success.

The Office of Planning achieves its goal of positive community development by gathering specific content for specific people equally. Source here.

It was just established who writes for OP, but who is the office writing for? The District Government Website writes in their ‘About Us’ page that their overall audience is visitors from the US and abroad, state and Federal agencies, and District residents and businesses. More specifically, (although not implicitly stated) from their list of divisions it can be inferred that OP targets neighborhood planners, city wide planners, zoning agencies, historic preservation organizations, geographers, and District residents and business. Why target this audience? OP provides very accurate and comprehensive material for not only District business but even for Federal agencies to use and therefore must target an audience that has use for their information. Providing information to the wrong audience would not leads to positive development of the complex local systems of the District of Colombia.

DC Office of Planning Functional Organization Chart September 2016

Now that we know the writer and audience of the Office of Planning let’s expose what information they provide and its sources. As previously mentioned the director of the Office of Planning appointed three senior staff or deputy directors who manage the three major divisions in OP that deal with place, policy, and project. More specifically, according to OP’s ‘DC Office of Planning Functional Organization Chart’ the three major divisions are: Citywide Strategy and Analysis (policy); Planning, Engagement, and Design (place); and Development Review and Historic Preservation (project). According to their website these divisions gather information by, “OP performs planning for neighborhoods, corridors, districts, historic preservation, public facilities, parks and open spaces, and individual sites. In addition, OP engages in urban design, land use, and historic preservation review. OP also conducts historic resources research and community visioning, and manages, analyzes, maps, and disseminates spatial and US Census data”. What this means is that OP uses a combination of internal and external sources to build their information data base. For the Office of Planning, then, using outside sources to make their database more complete is not a problem because it leads to the better development of DC.

Why should any of this matter? Websites like DC.gov provide agencies like the Office of Planning a platform to not only compile their information but to publicize it for other agencies to use for their initiatives. OP uses its platform to communicate information that contributes to initiatives that work towards redeveloping and preserving complex local systems. The importance of the information that OP provides is that it is not exclusive to any one party. Promoting transparency and inclusivity the Office of Planning becomes a common place that engages all communities of DC to participate in the positive development of their district.

A chart of the steps of community engagement. First, the Office of Planning informs; second, its audience consults the sources; third, its audience gains the desire of involvement; fourth, a collaboration is made; and finally, the community is empowered. Source here.

  • Format was changed, single author template was used
  • Multimodality and links were added
  • Essay was rewritten to answer the following questions:
    • What’s the Website’s rhetoric?
    • Who wrote it?
    • To whom? Does it speak to specific group of people?
    • Why?
    • What purpose does it have?
    • Does the document borrow ideas or language from other sources?

**ORIGINAL BELOW**

The District of Columbia Office of Planning (OP) manages the development of the District of Columbia by preserving and revitalizing characteristic neighborhoods such as, Dupont Circle (District of Columbia Office of Planning, “About the DC Office of Planning | Mission”). OP uses historic resources research, community visioning, and the mapping and analysis of US Census data to create a Performance Plan, which exposes initiatives for improvement and emphasizes faults that hinder progress. In their website, the District of Columbia Office of Planning uses a series of analysis, reports, and documents to create a performance plan that all together depicts the why’s and how’s of the past, present, and future of Dupont Circle. While the District of Columbia Office of Planning explores Dupont Circle as a whole, this essay aims to take their conclusions and apply them to the Dupont Circle Club (DCC), an independent business in Dupont Circle.

Before analyzing the Dupont Circle Club its environment, Dupont Circle, must first be studied.  The District of Colombia is divided into eight wards. Dupont Circle resides in the second ward, which is home to some of the oldest and prestigious residential neighborhoods of the district (“About Ward 2 | Op”).  Within the ward, Dupont Circle is bounded by Connecticut Avenue NW from Florida Avenue south to K Street and P Street from Dupont Circle west to 22nd St. These boundaries encompass embassies, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, businesses, and restaurants that create an urban, historic, and diverse environment. Dupont Circle is divided into two major sub-regions, north and south, that each attract and cater to a different kind of individual. One the one hand, the fact that the two very different sub-regions attract a variety of individuals is what makes Dupont Circle’s cosmopolitan reputation.  On the other hand, an increase in rent has pushed out some of the unique independent businesses replacing them with retail chains that endanger Dupont Circles heterogeneous reputation (Retail Action Roadmap,38).

To understand why Dupont Circle has a such a unique reputation OP created a brochure that gives insight into the circles history (Dupont Circle Historic District). Dupont Circle’s enrichment began in the 1960’s when artists and young counter-culture individuals infiltrated the home of some of the wealthiest citizens of the United States. These individuals catalyzed the opening of independently owned business, specialty shops, art galleries, non-traditional bookstores, and restaurants that created a cultured environment. Another enrichment event is the arrival of the Metro because it gave less-affluent citizens of DC access to the model urbane neighborhood. This influx of citizens from the larger city gave way to the construction of affordable row houses which diversified development. Now instead of a homogenous population individuals of varied economic statuses lived side by side creating the start of a heterogeneous community.

After the second world war Dupont Circle faced developers wanting to rezone the residential community for high density use. The commercialization of Dupont Circle would have destroyed the heterogeneous environment that had developed. For this reason, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, created by prominent citizens to protect the interests of Dupont Circle’s residents, advocated to list Dupont Circle in the National Register of Historic Places. Dupont Circle was established as a historic district in 1976 and its boundaries were amended in 2005.
In their website, OP includes a document and maps that list and illustrate the historic boundaries of Dupont Circle and the structures that contribute to it. In these maps (figures 3 and 4), it can be seen that the location of the Dupont Circle Club is a contributing structure to the historic district. According to the National Register of Historic Places, historic boundaries are determined by the following criteria: “The boundaries…include properties that contribute to a broad understanding of the architectural and historical evolution of Dupont Circle”(National Park Service). This means that if the Dupont Circle Club is listed as a contributing structure to the historic district then it must contribute to either the architectural or historical evolution of Dupont Circle.

Now that a better understanding of Dupont Circle has been reached, the Dupont Circle club can be analyzed as an independent business within Dupont Circle. What is the DCC? The Dupont Circle Club (DCC) is as a local meeting place in DC for 12-step recovery located on 1623 Connecticut Avenue. The club has resided in the building 1623 for 28 years (since November of 1989); however, the building is one of the oldest of the node as can be seen in figure3 (District of Columbia Office of Planning, Dupont Circle Historic District Dates of Construction). One the one hand, the building 1623 is architectural evidence of evolution. On the other hand, the club itself is evidence of historical evolution in Dupont Circle because it is a product of the crack epidemic that occurred in the District of Colombia in the 1980’s. Consequently, the DCC fits both criteria for being a historically contributing structure. Apart from qualifying as a historic structure the club is a big source of diversity and this can be seen in their website when it writes, “These meetings bring hundreds of people a week into the rooms of DCC. Our central location, a block north of Dupont Circle provides for a rich diversity of ethnicity, class, gender, and geographic origin, with many out-of-town visitors”(Dupont Circle Club). This means that the DCC is a contributor to the cultured and historical community that has developed in Dupont Circle, especially the north region.

The Office of Planning created a SWOT analysis of Dupont Circle’s Connecticut Avenue that lists the strengths and weakness of the area. The OP in page eleven of the report concludes the following “North of the Circle, rental price point has forced out local, specialty retailers in favor of national credit tenants, threatening this area of the Dupont sub market’s eclectic charm” (DC Retail Action Strategy,11). This means that rising rent is endangering the continuance of local independent business, like the DCC, that brand Dupont Circle. Rising rents affect some business more than others especially non profit organizations like the DCC. As a non-profit organization, the Dupont Circle Club’s success is based on outside donations. Offering a variety of payment methods and membership categories, that range from a fifty-dollar annual charge to a twenty-four-hundred-dollar annual charge, they make it very accessible for outsiders to donate. However, what happens when the donations they receive aren’t enough to sustain their expenses? Will the Dupont Circle Club be forced to relocate or will the fact that it’s a historical structure save it?

The District of Columbia Office of Planning in their website has a page dedicated to preservation grants. It details that community groups, organizations, and nonprofits whose interests are to preserve history, architecture, and memory of residential neighborhoods can apply for preservation grants from two major entities: the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Humanities Council of Washington, DC (“Preservation Grants | Op”). This means, that as a nonprofit and historically contributing structure the Dupont Circle club can apply for preservation grants that will allow for a historically important part of Dupont Circle to remain in Dupont Circle.  

 

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