Environmental Assessment
Northside Barrier Replacement
Lafayette Park

February 1998

Prepared by the
United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service
for the
United States Department of the Treasury
United States Secret Service

Washington, D.C.


Purpose of and Need for Action 1
Context for the Alternatives 2
Interrelationships with Other Plans and Projects 5
Alternatives 8
Alternative A: No Action 8
Alternative B: Proposed Action 8
Actions Considered But Rejected 12
Affected Environment 16
Significant Plans for Lafayette Park 16
Cultural Resources 17
Natural Resources 21
Environmental Consequences 25
Alternative A: No Action 25
Alternative B: Proposed Action 26
Consultation and Coordination 30
Federal Compliance Requirements 30
D.C. Permitting Requirements 32

A: Significance of Historic Structures and Districts in or near Lafayette Park 33
B: Trees in Lafayette Park 36
C: Root Pruning and Aeration Methods for National Capital Region Parks 37
D: Determination of National Register Eligibility for Lafayette Park Lodge Structure 39
E: Photographs of Existing Conditions and Visual Simulations of Conditions under the Proposed Action 43
Selected References 53
Planning Team and Consultants 55


Site Plan: Proposed Action 9
Site Plan: Jackson Place at H Street: Proposed Action 10
Site Plan: Madison Place at H Street: Proposed Action 11


H Street at 16th 45
Northwest Corner of Lafayette Park 47
Jackson Place at H Street 49
Madison Place at H Street 51


In May 1995 additional security measures at the White House and President's Park (which includes the White House and its surrounding grounds, plus Lafayette Park to the north and the Ellipse to the south) were taken by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a result of a security review. These measures included the placement of portable steel- reinforced concrete barrier structures, known as "Jersey barriers," along H Street bordering the north side of Lafayette Park. The placement of the barriers was undertaken in conjunction with measures to block public vehicular access to the White House and to provide additional security for its occupants. The individual barriers are 12' long, 32" high, and 24" wide at the base and 6" wide at the top; they are hooked together to provide a wall for blocking vehicular access. Planned to serve as temporary security measures until permanent security measures could be designed and installed, the barriers do not meet security criteria, and they are out of character with the dignity of the site. Furthermore, their location has impeded pedestrian access to the sidewalk on the north side of Lafayette Park.

This document analyzes designs for permanent bollards to replace the concrete barriers along the north side of Lafayette Park, a 7-acre rectangular property bordered by H Street on the north, Jackson Place on the west, Pennsylvania Avenue on the south, and Madison Place on the east. The primary purpose of the action is to provide permanent security by restricting public vehicular access. This action is also expected to (1) enhance pedestrian accessibility to Lafayette Park and its immediate surroundings, and (2) improve the appearance of Lafayette Park and its immediate surroundings.

The need for the action is to help achieve the following desired conditions for public use, executive office functions, District of Columbia relationships, historic preservation, and safety:

Security: The bollards should be unobtrusive security measures with the ability to accommodate protective and functional needs of the U.S. Secret Service, as well as the law enforcement needs of the U.S. Park Police and local law enforcement organizations.

Public Use: The bollards should identify a park area that is accessible to the public, and they should not create pedestrian safety hazards.

Executive Office of the President: The bollards should present an open, accessible appearance at pedestrian entryways while controlling vehicle access.

Relationship to the Urban Setting: The bollards should be of high-quality materials that complement both the features of President's Park and the rest of the District of Columbia, as described in the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital: Federal Elements (1983, as amended) and District of Columbia Elements(1984, as amended). The design should not hinder the openness or ease of pedestrian access through President's Park.

Historic Preservation: The bollards should present design solutions that are sensitive to historic resources in and adjacent to President's Park, and that maintain the eligibility of all properties listed on or determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and for all potential or designated national historic landmarks.

This document presents one design alternative for replacing the security barriers on the north side of Lafayette Park. A no-action alternative, or a description of existing conditions, is also analyzed as a baseline for analyzing the proposed action.


Design Guidelines for President's Park

L'Enfant's original 1791 concept (as interpreted by Andrew Ellicott in 1792), Andrew Jackson Downing's 1851 plan, the work of the National Park Service in the 1930s, and that of John Carl Warnecke Associates during the 1960s are the site-specific major plans that have generally guided the development of Lafayette Park during the past 200 years. Although other plans, including the McMillan plan of 1901 (Senate Park Plan) have had some effect, particularly on surrounding traffic patterns, succeeding proposals have been based on L'Enfant's original vision.

The L'Enfant plan physically shows the functional relationship of the three branches of government; the White House and President's Park represent the executive branch. These elements will continue to exhibit a sense of unity and to be an integral element of the urban fabric, with a direct connection to the District of Columbia, the Monumental Core, and the National Mall.

The following design principles and guidelines for President's Park have been adopted by the executive committee working on the development of the comprehensive design plan for the White House, which constitutes the ongoing master planning effort for this area (NPS 1997a). They define the parameters for future design, providing designers a philosophy and a framework within which to provide creative, yet appropriate, designs for the White House and President's Park.

1. Site elements from earlier significant planning efforts will be respected and conserved, including the classical 18th century forms that are inherent to the layout of President's Park and the city of Washington, D.C. All components of President's Park are designed historic landscapes, and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Preservation will be followed in the management and treatment of these landscapes.

2. The distinct character of each of the site's three areas - Lafayette Park, the White House, and the Ellipse—will be respected, while recognizing that together these areas function as a significant design element in the layout of Washington, D.C.

3. The design vocabulary and palette for the site will complement and articulate the dignity and importance of the resource, drawing from the existing appropriate architecture and landscape architecture in and around the site. To this end, proposed design elements will respect the size, scale, mass, proportion, and aesthetics of existing elements, and the spatial relationships between them.

4. The traditional vistas from the White House to the north and south, as well as vistas toward the White House, will be respected at all times.

5. All designs will incorporate sound environmental principles and environmentally and economically beneficial resource management technologies and practices.

6. The quality of the pedestrian experience will remain a high priority in all designs.

7. The need to accommodate service, security, and ceremonial functions will be met in a manner that is consistent with the dignity and importance of the site.

8. Neither security nor aesthetics will be compromised by actions on site.

9. Design elements that communicate appropriate visual quality, continuity, and consistency will define the boundaries of President's Park and will create a specific identity for the park, but will also complement the design qualities of adjacent areas. For example,

· Materials used on the site will be compatible with its unique character. To this end, all items used in the park--benches, stonework, grillwork, fences, light posts, and other elements--will relate to the whole and will complement the overall District of Columbia federal park system.

· All elements must be designed to withstand intense use while still imparting a sense of dignity and elegance.

· Transitions into President's Park should show a connection with the city. The quality and appearance of materials will announce a special precinct. President's Park and the National Mall need special treatment as transition zones that reinforce mutual relationships.

· Signs and signals will be kept to a minimum within and adjacent to President's Park, consistent with adequate visitor orientation and safety messages.

10. Plant materials will reflect traditional landscape elements in mass and alignment. The choice of specific plant materials will remain flexible but will be guided by the intent of principle 1 and will complement the palette of existing plant materials.

· The landscape design will continue to use vegetation to define and refine spatial relationships.

· Plantings and planting designs outside the White House fence will complement those inside the fence in quality, scale, and selection.

11. Designs for President's Park will remain flexible and capable of being appropriately adapted in response to technological advances, future demands, and changes in adjacent historic and commercial neighborhoods.

First Amendment Activities

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the right of the people peaceably to assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances. With its proximity to the White House, Lafayette Park has become a highly visible stage for demonstrators on a wide variety of national and international issues. Before 1920 women demonstrated to obtain the right to vote and chained themselves to the White House gateposts. During the 1960s demonstrations over the war in Vietnam were common images that were broadcast around the world. In the l990s demonstrations on a broad range of issues have continued in Lafayette Park, with participants ranging from the lone picketer to thousands of persons.

The National Park Service recognizes the important function Lafayette Park serves for First Amendment activities. As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, the national parks in Washington, D.C., "are unique resources that the Federal Government holds in trust for the American people." First Amendment activities, however, are subject to reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions. In that regard the Supreme Court has recognized that the Park Service is "charged with responsibility for the management and maintenance of the National Parks and is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations for the use of the parks in accordance with the purposes for which they were established" (Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S.288, 289-90, 1984).

Consistent with its mandate, NPS regulations govern the use of Lafayette Park. Based on the protection of park aesthetics and resources, the visitor experience, and the unique security concerns for the White House, NPS regulations detail the rules and procedures for demonstrations, special events, structures, and signage in Lafayette Park. Subject to various legal challenges over the years, courts have upheld the constitutionality of the Park Service's existing regulations.

Use by the Homeless

Homeless people are frequently found in Lafayette Park, just as they are found in many other urban areas. Some of these homeless individuals are mentally unstable or intoxicated. While it is beyond the scope of this document to address how society can meet the needs of the homeless, it is a fact that their presence has sometimes discouraged other public park visitors and has increased safety concerns. Further, prior to the closure of Lafayette Park's lodge building for public health reasons in October 1997, many park users reported that they felt unsafe and uncomfortable using the lodge's public restrooms. This was because the structure appeared to have been taken over by homeless individuals who left it unsanitary. Even before the restrooms were closed, however, homeless individuals have publicly defecated and urinated in Lafayette Park and used its fountains for bathing.


Interim vehicle barriers and gatehouses will be installed on Jackson and Madison Places as part of another project and thus are not considered in this compliance document. The interim gatehouses and vehicle barriers, which are now being fabricated, are to be installed during spring 1998 before design for the northside barrier replacement project has been completed. The interim measures are required to provide the necessary level of protection and will be identical to the interim gatehouses and vehicle barriers now on Pennsylvania Avenue. The permanent bollard lines described below in the proposed action will be compatible with these interim measures.

It is anticipated that the interim vehicle barriers and gatehouses will eventually be replaced with permanent installations. Compliance on those permanent elements will be undertaken at that time.

The Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital

The 1983 Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital: Federal Elements guides federal planning actions in the city. The plan was developed by the National Capital Planning Commission, the planning agency for the federal government in Washington, D.C. The preservation of historic and natural resources is articulated in the portion of the plan entitled "Parks, Open Space and Natural Features." Lafayette Park is identified as one of the "Monumental and Decorative Parks":

1. Monumental and Decorative Parks . . . should serve as settings to enhance public buildings, monuments and memorials; as such, their fundamental integrity should be protected. Additionally, they should serve as outdoor areas for displays and cultural activities, as well as areas for passive and controlled active recreational activities, including lunchtime picnics and gatherings (NCPC 1983, p. 179).

5. Park areas like . . . Lafayette Park . . . should continue to serve their primary function as decorative landscaped areas and settings for fountains, monuments, memorials, and other features of civic art adding visual amenity to the city. Additionally, these parks should provide areas for cultural activities, organized gatherings, and lunchtime picnics by providing and maintaining open lawn areas and benches (NCPC 1983, p. 180).

The 1984 Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital: District of Columbia Elements, section 718, "Policies in Support of the Streetscape Objective," states:

Section 809, "Policies for Special Streets and Places," states:

Section 919, "Policies in Support of the Street Orientation and Design Objectives," states:

The proposed action considered in this document makes adjustments and changes in the design of Lafayette Park, and those changes are compatible with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital.

Environmental Assessment for the Long-Term Design,
Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House

At the same time that the temporary concrete barriers were installed at Lafayette Park, public vehicular traffic was restricted on Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets and or Jackson and Madison Places. The National Park Service was subsequently requested by the White House to coordinate the development of long-term plans to improve the appearance of the area, including Pennsylvania Avenue. The alternative considered in this document is compatible with solutions described in the Environmental Assessment for the Long-Term Design, Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House (NPS 1996b).

National Capital Planning Commission's Extending the Legacy

Extending the Legacy, prepared by the National Capital Planning Commission in December 1997, is intended to guide future development in Washington to preserve and enhance the Monumental Core of the national capital. The plan presents ideas for the National Mall and surrounding areas as they could look 50 to 100 years from now. Over the next 50 years, the number of tourists will exceed some 40 million annually. Sites for dozens of new museums and federal buildings, and as many as 60 new memorials must be found.

The plan is not a blueprint and does not insist that buildings be located in specific areas. Rather, its suggests where federal buildings should be located so that all areas of the capital can thrive. The artistic images rendered in the plan are meant to spark the imagination to envision how the city could look.

Comprehensive Design Plan for the White House and President's Park

The National Park Service, in cooperation with other agencies and entities that have responsibilities at the White House and President's Park, is developing a comprehensive design plan for the White House. This planning project is looking at a variety of needs facing the site over the next 20 years. Topics being addressed include resource conservation and protection (including site character), support services for the White House as the home and office of the president, visitor use and services, special events, transportation, and site management and operations.

The proposed action considered in this document does not conflict with any element being examined as part of the comprehensive design plan. The draft environmental impact statement for that plan is scheduled for public review during 1998.



Portable steel-reinforced concrete barriers, as previously described, would remain along the north side of Lafayette Park. Individual barriers would be replaced when damaged or deteriorated, and painted as needed to cover graffiti or vandalism. Their location would not be changed.


Under this alternative, the following actions would occur:

Permanent bollards would be of black metal and identical in pattern and character to those used along E Street for the southside barrier project. These bollards are approximately 42" high, placed 4' on center to provide protection while allowing pedestrian access. These small scale black bollards would visually recede, making them even less visible from a distance. Bollards would be set on a granite foundation cap, and would be located behind the existing 7" high by 10" wide quarter-round granite curbing that outlines the grass panels on the north side of the park. At pedestrian entryways the bollards would be set at the sidewalk grade. Granite curb terminus pieces would define the transition from the bollards atop and behind the curb to those bollards at sidewalk elevation. Granite curbing that had been damaged, previously removed, or replaced with concrete, would be repaired or replaced with similar granite. Curb radii near corners, no longer extant on the north side of Lafayette Park, would be replaced to match the original curbing, some of which still exists elsewhere in Lafayette Park.

The lodge structure and its associated walled enclosure at the north edge of Lafayette Park would be removed when NPS funding permits. In October 1997 the National Park Service closed the restroom facilities portion of the building in response to a U.S. Public Health evaluation. When NPS funding permits removal of the structure, the resulting gap in the barrier line would be filled with bollards.

Access to Jackson and Madison Places for official and emergency vehicles and vehicular deliveries would continue to be provided through the interim vehicle barrier and gatehouse areas set between the permanent bollard lines (see "Interrelationships with Other Plans and Projects," page 5). Both Jackson and Madison Places would be repaved where necessary to repair construction damage. To maintain adequate storm drainage and avoid pending, drop inlets would be installed uphill from the interim gates or level crosswalks. At the vehicular entrances to Jackson and Madison Places off H Street, level pedestrian crosswalks would be designed to reinforce security and to slow vehicles entering each street before they reached the interim vehicle barrier. Paving materials, curb and gutter lines, and road width would help redefine the entry points, pedestrian areas, gatehouses, and vehicle checkpoints. Any work on the roadways or the townhouse sidewalks along Jackson and Madison Places would require permits from the District of Columbia, which administers these spaces.

Permit staff parking would continue to be provided on Jackson Place.


One action considered but rejected involved installing permanent security bollards along the street curb at H Street on the north edge of Lafayette Park. This location was rejected, because the bollards would create a visual barrier along H Street. They would also present logistical difficulties to persons getting on and off Metro buses on the south side of H Street, and they would make snow removal and park operations difficult. Trees and Metro utility lines would further make it difficult to install a continuous bollard line, and the construction work would result in the loss of trees. Emergency access to the Metro would be impeded.

Another action considered but rejected involved placing the permanent security bollards around the north edge of the park inside the park perimeter sidewalk but in front the park curb and corner statues. This action was rejected because such placement would have a detrimental visual impact on the two historic Revolutionary War statues at the northwest and northeast corners of the park, would constrict the sidewalk at the edge of the park, and would result in an unfinished appearance. Furthermore, it would make snow removal and park operations difficult, allow refuse to collect at the bollards, and result in a loss of trees or severe root pruning.

Alteratives and Impacts