Random Notes from Beat26

From the August 30 Beat 26 Newsletter “6B in September & Other Things”

VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK … almost!
In about two weeks, the renovations on the southern part of the Park may be completed.  Meanwhile, here’s a photo of the shade structure (“gazebo”) being installed along the walkway.

Shade structure being installed in Virginia Avenue Park, Aug 2020

From the July 19 Beat26 Newsletter (Heat Emergency. ANC6B on July 14. Miscellany) here’s an excerpt on the July 14 ANC meeting:

ANC6B JULY MEETING SUMMARY
We talked and voted for 3 hours and 15 minutes on July 14.  There were a number of controversial issues: grant applications, school names, heliport, a zoning case we’ve reviewed innumerable times, …

The proposal of a Resolution to support DC Council Bill B23-0234 to establish an Advisory Commission on Monuments, Markers, and Symbols was combined with renaming Tyler and Brent Elementary Schools.  This combination caused problems for some Commissioners including me. On the one hand it asked us to support a process to settle difficult issues we are confronting these days about historical figures in our public spaces. At the same time, though, the Resolution urged, without applying a thorough process, that both school names be changed.

Wisdom prevailed and the Commission separated the two parts of the Resolution.  Ultimately, we voted 8-0-0 to support the Council Bill and then 5-2-1 in support of changing the school names while acknowledging that the school communities rather than the ANC should play a leadership role that process.

The zoning case for Rear 203 3rd Street SE involves adding a second story to an alley garage structure to create a two-level single family dwelling.  We’ve been reviewing the plans often over the year.  As an alley structure, it abuts residential lots that face 3rd Street.  We went several rounds on the preceding historic preservation case and now are doing the same with the zoning case, which introduces issues of privacy and sunlight.  The applicant produced a sun study which shows minor changes from the existing situation.  Complicating the situation is a history of distrust between the alley lot owner and an abutting neighbor.  After a long and sometimes heated debate, the ANC voted 7-1-0 in support of the zoning case.

With no institutional background in grant giving, the ANC plunged into it when the DC Council allowed us to expend our excess funds for humanitarian purposes during the pandemic health emergency.  Commissioners Waud and Sroufe took the lead in setting up an Accelerator Grant Program and soliciting applications with an initial deadline of July 13.

At the July 14 meeting we had two requests to consider.  One— Serve Your City—asked for more funding than the ANC’s maximum per application of $15,000. The request was complicated. Rather than proposing to fund a specific activity, the application included an array of programs.  Since we don’t have a definition of “humanitarian purpose,” each Commissioner had to individually decide whether this array fit. The ANC voted 7-1-0 to fund the request at $15,000.  I voted in opposition because of my uncertainty about the humanitarian nature of some aspects of the application (which had only been available for review ½ hour prior to the meeting). The other applicant— Everyone Home DC—asked for $5,000 to purchase new winter clothes for the children it serves so they don’t have to share with one another this Fall as the pandemic continues.

The next grant round deadline is in September.  Details are on the ANC website here .  With $20K granted in July, the ANC has $25K remaining to offer.

The Heliport Issue has suddenly resurfaced! For months the ANC has been unable to determine the status of any plan to move the current facility from Buzzards Point to the Washington Gas remediation site along the Anacostia River at Water & 12th Streets SE. In late 2019 we, along with others, made a bit of noise (in opposition) about this possibility, which got an Assistant DC Administrator to appear at the November 2019 ANC meeting. Mr. Jay Melder followed that appearance by sending the ANC an email responding to a series of questions, including the following statement:

“Additionally, as you are aware, the disposition of public land involves a public process. If a project were to be officially proposed and considered, all necessary review, studies, public engagement, and legislative processes would be carried out, including engagement of any impacted ANCs and stakeholder groups.”

Early this year, we learned that the private operator of the heliport had made an unsolicited request of the DC Administrator to move his operations to the Washington Gas site.  To date, the DC Administrator’s office and the Office of Planning have evaded any ANC or other inquiries about the request.

So … ANC6B voted unanimously on July 14 to initiate a “map amendment” process to change the zoning category of the lots in question to one in which a heliport would not be an allowable use.  There will be more on this.  Where is that promised public process?  Why aren’t OP and the DC Administrator talking?   What’s going on behind our backs?

Here’s a few of the simpler unanimous actions the ANC took in July.

  • Agreed on 3 points to raise at an upcoming Zoning Commission Roundtable regarding possible text amendments requiring Expanded IZ  to apply to zones currently exempt from Regular IZ.  (IZ or “Inclusionary Zoning” determines how many affordable units are required for developments.)
  • Sent a request to DDOT to change curbside parking along the west side of the 500 block of 8th Street SE to a pedestrian walkway to improve the Covid-19 safety of pedestrians.
  • Supported Historic Preservation applications for residence renovations at 741 12th Street SE and 715 10th Street SE
  • Asked the Zoning Commission to schedule its hearing on the 1333 M Street SE PUD to enable the ANC to take its final vote at our September 8 monthly meeting since the Commission does not meet in August.
  • Supported the ANC’s FY20 3rd Quarter Report which shows interest and allotment income but no expenditures during the period.

From the July 3 Beat 26 Newsletter: “ANC6B in July & Other Miscellany ”
Kirsten Runs Again (sign her petition), Slow Streets across DC, New Bike Racks in Ward 6 and more.  Subscribe via Beat26@aol.com.

NOTE: Since the March 12th issue of my Beat26 Newsletter, almost the entire contents have been on the Coronavirus situation we find ourselves in the midst of.  Below are some key links to DC information on Coronavirus shared in those issues.  All of the official District of Columbia actions, information, and data are on this website:  https://coronavirus.dc.gov/
Key sections are News (for Mayor’s Orders and daily updates on COVID-19 cases), Recovery (for financial assistance for individuals and businesses), Meals (site and times of distribution by Seniors and students), Testing (for information on where tests are conducted in DC and the criteria for eligibility) and Phase One and Phase Two.  Official sites for Maryland and Virginia.

From the January 10 Newsletter: “Changes, Trees, Crime & Verdi”
29 TREES for VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK

A week before Christmas, Casey Trees and a large group of its hardy volunteers spent a rainy morning planting a mixed variety of trees to ultimately provide shade for users of the Park.

Background on the Park:
https://www.kirsten6b.org/renderings-of-virginia-avenue-park/
and the Friends of Virginia Avenue Park
https://www.kirsten6b.org/friends-of-va-park/

From the November 29 Newsletter:

UPDATE ON HELIPORT: As I requested at the November ANC6B meeting, Mr. Jay Melder, Assistant City Administrator, has sent the ANC responses to the list of questions from the Heliport Community Meeting on August 26.  (See ANC6B Letter of September below.) In the 11/27 email Melder says “I feel it is important that I first reiterate that there is no new heliport project currently planned for 11th and Water Street, or any other site.”  For those many questions which would be specific to an actual project/process, Mr. Melder declined to speculate.

Content of Jay Melder Email 11-27 on Heliport

From the November 10 Newsletter:

HELIPORT ANYONE?  The Commission has been informed that the Deputy City Administrator will appear at the Tuesday, November 12 ANC6B Monthly Meeting.  This is an opportunity to ask questions about apparent plans to relocate the existing heliport from Buzzard Point to the Washington Gas site, 12th & Water Streets SE, next to the 11th Street Bridge Park.  (See September 27 notes below)

2020 VISITOR PARKING PASSES
You can register for a 2020 VPP starting on Tuesday November 12.  To qualify, your household address must be on an RPP street; only one pass per household.  The VPP can only be used for parking within your ANC boundary. Go to https://vpp.ddot.dc.gov/vpp to apply.
Go to https://ddot.dc.gov/node/538662 for program details.

LEAF COLLECTIONS BEGAN NOVEMBER 3
Once again this annual program has split Ward 6 into 5 sections.  Sections A & B are in NE areas of the Ward.  Section C covers areas in both NE and SE on the eastern edge of the Ward.  Sections D & E are in SE.

If you live within Section A, leaves should have been raked out by Sunday Nov 3 for the first round pick up the week of Nov 4.  Section B is next with rake out by Nov 10; Section C, Nov 17; Section D, Nov 24; Section E, Dec 1. The second pick up round begins in Section A on Dec 15 and so on.

DPW told me that the 2019 brochure was mailed to all households. But, like last year, I didn’t receive one.  I’m relying on a digital version at https://dpw.dc.gov/service/leaf-and-holiday-tree-collection

From the September 27 Newsletter:

ANC6B Letter to DC Mayor on Heliport
09-2019_ANC 6B_Relocation of the South Capitol Street Heliport

From the August 29 Newsletter:

Photo of Heliport
at 1725 South Capitol SE and potential location in ANC6B

Thanks to the 40+ residents who attended our quickly organized 8/26 Community Meeting on DC’s apparent plans to install a heliport at the Washington Gas site at 12th & Water Street SE next to the Anacostia River.  A key thing I learned is to call the current and proposed facility “heliports” rather than “helipads.” A helipad provides a take-off/landing surface for helicopters like the ones atop hospital buildings.  The heliport has, in addition to 2 pads, a fueling station and other facilities used by various helicopters flying over our heads.   If DC is successful, this is what would we have situated next to the 11th Street Bridge Park.

Most of the meeting was spent generating a long list of questions about the DC proposal for which we still know very little and for which we will now try to get answers.  We did learn from Congressional Aviation, the operator of the current heliport, that its lease expires in 2022 and their sense that the city is quite focused on moving existing operations to the ANC6B site.  Some questions centered on current heliport operations to better understand potential impacts. We also want to know what other sites are being considered, what selection criteria are being used, what impacts are being studied, and the City Administrator’s timeline for making a decision.

The answer to “why close the current heliport” appears to clearly be pressure to develop the land it occupies in Buzzard Point.  See this Urban Turf article, for instance.

Here are links to the dcist story on the 8/26 meeting and to the summary of Congresswoman Norton’s recent meeting on helicopter noise

From the August 17 Newsletter:

Helipad Aug 26 Community Meeting

DO YOU WANT A HELIPAD ON CAPITOL HILL??
The District is exploring the installation of up to TWO active helicopter pads on Capitol Hill and is considering placing these helipads at the old Washington Gas site at 12th & Water Street SE along the banks of the Anacostia River.

A helicopter landing pad will cause noise pollution for nearby residents and for river activity on Boathouse Row and could impede the existing Anacostia River Trail.  In addition, placing a helicopter refueling station on site presents ecological dangers to a restored Anacostia River.

To learn more and/or help develop a strategy, come to a Community Meeting on Monday, August 26 at the SE Library, 403 7th Street SE from 630 pm to 830pm.

This meeting has been organized by ANC 6B Commissioners: Corey Holman 6b06@anc.dc.gov, Kelly Waud 6b07@anc.dc.gov and Kirsten Oldenburg 6b04@anc.dc.gov.