The Zoning Commission (ZC) met in a 2nd session on the Hine Redevelopment project from 630pm to nearly midnight on 21 June. But in those 5 hours the ZC did not manage to hear all wanting to testify in support of or opposition to the project. This, despite a 1st session on 14 June that lasted nearly as long.
Midway through the evening, the ZC chairperson interrupted the proceedings for an extended 45-minute discussion with all of the parties about the need for a third hearing in order to accommodate all who had asked to testify. Various options were considered including delaying the third session until the fall and in the end it was decided to hold the third and final hearing on Wednesday, 11 July. The date of the final session was made possible by the Chair’s decision to change the normal order of these proceedings and hear all of the opponents with “party status” that evening, as one of their witnesses was unable to be present on 11 July. The Chair announced that only those who had requested to testify by the end of the June 21 hearing would be permitted to speak at the July 11th final meeting.
So, what did happen on the 21st? The following testified and were cross examined: the applicant’s transportation expert, DDOT, ANC6B, and the opposing parties with status (Eyes on Hine, Hine School North Neighbors, EMMCA and Diverse Management). DDOT, whose testimony was delayed from the 14th so that more data and analysis could be obtained, seemed still not convinced of the need for a garage with 320 parking slots. But, a deal seems to have been struck on the 55’ truck delivery issue with the final solution to be determined by a public space permitting process during the post-ZC period. During cross examination, Ms Riehle of EMMCA pressed DDOT on the idea of putting the garage entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue rather than the new C Street. This idea was pretty fairly shot down by DDOT’s analysis of the traffic and pedestrian safety problems that would ensue and its statement that the one existing in the 600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue would never to approved today.
The ANC was next with Commissioners Frishberg and Pate presenting the ANC’s support in favor of the PUD application (somewhat modified by the MOA between the developer and the ANC). On balance, given the complexity and multifaceted nature of the Hine project, I feel the two 6B witnesses, who did not speak from a prepared text and instead worked from notes, did a credible job. However, in my view, some of their presentation veered a bit off course from what the ANC had actually seen and debated. I was particularly struck by an analysis of the existing Metro Plaza in support of opposition parties desire to restrict retail on a portion of the façade facing the Plaza, an analysis that had never been offered before the ANC. The ZC complimented the ANC’s presentation (as compared to what they normally hear from ANCs) but only asked a few clarifying questions.
During the opposing parties hour, Marcel LaFollette of Eyes on Hine presentation was eloquent but wrong in its analysis of the impact of the Hine complex on the lives of the residents of the 300 block of 8th Street SE. Bill Pate of the Hine School North Neighbors (200 block of 8th SE) suggested that the North Residential Building be excised from the project in favor of open space. He did not mention how the loss of 34 affordable units would affect the overall number of such units in the complex, which now stand at 30 percent of the total. EMMCA presented its written testimony, trying to make the case that what the developer has said were its goals for the project will not be realized by the current design.
Then, Diverse Management (owned by Michael Berman who runs the Sunday flea market on the Hine parking lot) had its presentation. It consisted of 3 witnesses (that the ZC decided were not “experts”) who discussed the monetary and social value of the existing flea market. The implication of this testimony being that it all would be lost with the current Hine design but it failed to put this potential loss within the context of what the Hine project and an enlarged Eastern Market weekend operation would generate. Berman showed his design for a redesigned Hine plaza that would hold 100 tents but, again, failed to identify the impact on the loss of 7-day a week brick and mortar retail or residential units above. None of the opposition testimony generated much comment by the ZC or cross examination.
At about midnight, Session 2 was over. Part III will resume the hearing with testimony by the Supporting Parties followed by all the individuals who will offer supporting and opposition testimony. Rebuttal will end this 3rd session, after which the ZC will debate internally to come up with its decision on the project. When this decision, in the form of an Order, will be publicly announced is unknown.
NOTE: Several folks have mentioned they did not see me at this Part II hearing. Right they are, as I watched the entire proceedings from the cool comfort of my home on my laptop. Also see my previous article on the Hine hearing for information about how to access documents submitted to the ZC.