ZC Adds Hine Part III at Part II

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.

ZC on Hine, Part I

At the initial Zoning Commission hearing on the Hine Redevelopment project (14 June), the session began with a lot of procedural matters.  There were instructions to the audience on how to behave and discussions among the 4 Commissioners as to which groups would be given party status, which enables them to cross examine witnesses.

Three community groups (Eyes on Hine, Hine School North Neighbors, and EMMCA) and Diverse Management (which owns the Sunday flea market operations) were successful in their bids to gain status.  A few others were denied.

Then, Stanton Eastbanc the developer of Hine and the applicant before the ZC was given an hour to present its case. The presentation included testimony by two of the SEB partners, the architect, and the firm that designed the landscaping.  For anyone who has sat through the numerous Hine presentations over the last few years, this ZC one was not much different in content but clearly structured for the purposes of informing the ZC Commissioners.

There was a bit of drama when the lawyer for Diverse Management aggressively grilled the landscape architect during cross examination.  Many of the questions were outright rude and beside the point.  But, DM is fighting for its livelihood as there is no guarantee that once Hine is built and the new Eastern Market legislation is in place that DM or the owner of the Saturday market will be back running a “flea market.”  Most of the vendors could be accommodated but this notion has been lost in the “Save the Flea Market” campaign being waged by the 2 current owners.

Next up to testify was the Office of Planning (OP) who summarized its report.  This report is in basic agreement with plans of the Hine applicant but has a few quirks.  A major one is a recommendation for cantilevering one of the buildings facing the Plaza to enlarge it, an odd design feature that the Historic Preservation Review Board would surely not support.

Donna Scheeder, chair of the Eastern Market Citizen’s Advisory Committee, then testified.  The EMCAC statement focused on the need for parking in the area and did a powerful job of blowing a big hole in the controversy over the size of the Plaza for weekend flea markets.  On parking EMCAC supported the developer’s plan to provide over 300 spaces in the underground garage. On the flea market, EMCAC put the flea markets in context with the rest of the Saturday/Sunday outdoor elements at Eastern Market and with the pending new Eastern Market legislation that will alter the governing structure of the Market.

After some grilling of Ms Scheeder by the DM lawyer, the 1st ZC session on Hine concluded after 4 hours give or take 10 minutes or so.

Note:  All of the prepared statements by witnesses are available on the Zoning Commission’s website under Case # 11-24.  Also available on the website is video of all the sessions.

Hine Moves From ANC to ZC

The Hine Redevelopment zoning package skimmed through ANC6B on 12 June (2012) with a narrow vote of 6-4 in favor of supporting the Memorandum of Agreement between the ANC and the developer, Stanton-Eastbanc.  Now, it will be up to the Zoning Commission to shape the final form of this complex of offices, residential units, and retail shops.

Including myself, Commissioners Frishberg, Garrison, Flahaven, Metzger, and Pate cast the 6 votes in favor.  Commissioners Campbell, Critchfield, Green, and Glick voted in opposition.  My dilemma on this vote, discussed in “Hine Begins to Wrap Up”, was resolved when changes were made in the MOA over the weekend as I said in my  Statement on Hine at ANC6B June 12 Meeting.

Once the ZC speaks in the form of an order, SEB will negotiate its final agreement with the city, assume ownership of the property, and construction can begin.  SEB has estimated that construction will take 27 months including demolition of the Hine school building, excavation for the underground garage and retail space, and building of the structure.

HINE Begins To Wrap Up

The ANC and the community are nearing a major milestone in the so far 4-year review of the Hine Redevelopment Project. The case moves out of our arena into the hands of the city’s Zoning Commission (ZC) on June 14.

As the end nears, the volume of the strident voices of the “anti forces” has been increasing. But the blooming of DownSizeHine yard signs seems to have reached a plateau. As someone who has attended countless Hine meetings–ANC and otherwise–over the last 4 years, I must say that listening to constant negativity and the same old arguments can grate on a person. I happily look forward to a summer relieved of “Hine.”

But, while a frustrating period, the last 4 years have also been invigorating. My knowledge about development, historic preservation, and zoning and the processes that govern them has increased immeasurably. I have learned by listening how not to fight against something. I have met and engaged in conversations with many people because of Hine. Many of these discussions revealed how we feel about our Hill and how we perceive its future. The differences abound but we all care about our community. Some simply do not want it to change. Well, in the 25 years I have lived on the Hill, it has changed immensely. More change is inevitable. We may live in a historic district but it has been a long time since it was a Victorian village.

At its critical Planning & Zoning Committee meeting on Tue 5 June, the ANC punted. Lots of discussion, issues placed on the table, but no decisions were made. On Tue 12 June, it is up to the full ANC—as the officially recognized representative of the community–to finally decide what to tell the Zoning Commission about this major change coming to the center of our Hill.

Punting on the 5th was caused partly by the fact that Commissioners did not receive decision documents until 1/2 hour before we were scheduled to meet to vote on Councilmember Wells Eastern Market bill. This gave us no time to review the documents prior to the Hine meeting.  The ANC’s PUD (Planned Unit Development) review process has been problematic throughout. Perhaps it was the overly complex structure the ANC set up. Or, the lack of communication with Commissioners on negotiation details between public meetings. Whatever the cause, we constantly have had to make decisions without full debate as meeting time ran out and/or documents were presented at the last minute. At this stage of the PUD process, one week from the ZC hearing, the ANC ought to be tying up loose ends not making major decisions. Now, as a Commissioner, I am forced to vote next Tuesday up or down on an agreement between the ANC and the developer; a 10-page document with 44 paragraphs plus innumerable “Whereas” clauses.

The whole purpose of any PUD is for a developer to give back to the community in return for being granted a change in zoning that will enable its project. While there are many aspects of the agreement with which I can agree, I find the core element–benefits to the community at large–miniscule. I also feel that denying residents in the affordable units the ability to park a car in the underground garage or curbside to be unfair.  Eighteen of the 44 paragraphs in the agreement deal with transportation issues, most of which will be decided by public space permitting processes after the ZC has spoken. Nine of them are about retail issues that will be covered in a post-ZC Retail Plan that the developer has to submit to the city before the final land transfer occurs. Several others deal with the weekend flea market (and partly overlap with the Wells legislation) or other management issues.

What’s left as true tangible community benefits? A grant of $50,000 to help pay for the redesign of the Metro Plaza, restricted community use of a conference room, and a promise to help fund a 24-infant daycare facility—on or off the site. Another benefit was lost when the developer was convinced to take one floor off the office building component of the complex. (I am a well-known opponent of that “taking”.)

Against stiff opposition from one Commissioner, I and two others have argued that the infant care facility serves a very small segment of the Hill population even if all spaces are used by Hill families rather than parents working in the office building who live elsewhere. As an alternative, we have proposed that the developers fund a children’s playground somewhere on the Hill to benefit all families with children of all ages.  Earlier in the process I proposed that the developer replace the basketball court that used to be in the Hine parking lot area but I lost that vote.  (Note: Community benefits do not have to be located on the development site but can be anywhere within the boundaries of ANC6B.)

ANC6B will not be the only voice speaking to the ZC next week. DDOT has issued a report on traffic issues that is critical of parts of the developer’s analysis. The Office of Planning (OP) issued its required report. This key report basically supports the Hine project as designed but OP came up with a bizarre solution to “Save the Flea Market.” It suggested cantilevering the North Residential Building’s top floors (i.e., setting back the ground floor) to provide additional space in the Plaza. OMG … this is a design nightmare. [Look folks, the flea markets will be just fine. There’s the whole 300 block of 7th, the Metro plaza, that triangle of brick in front of Hine, and the large space in the north parcel of the Metro plaza. We need to move on from this issue … or, at least deal with facts.]

Also in the mix is a report to the ZC from the DC Housing and Community Development that embraces many aspects of the project including the 7-floor height of the office building, and calls for the placement of retail all along the ground floor of the two building segments that face the Metro Plaza. The agency does question some features of the plans for 46 affordable housing units, however.

I–who can react negatively to change–have embraced the changes the Hine Redevelopment Project will bring to our neighborhood. It will provide a surge of energy and liveliness and I look forward to being a part of all. But, my immediate dilemma is whether to vote against the ANC’s position and, thus, the project itself because I do not agree with parts of the “agreement”

Notes from ANC6B Nov 2011 Meeting

The November 2011 meeting brought ANC6B back to the Old Naval Hospital (The Hill Center) after an absence of over a year.  We had presentations by and Q&As with Councilmember-at-Large Michael Brown and Matthew Marcou of DDOT’s Public Space Operations Project and … voted 9-0 (i.e., unanimously) on just about everything.

The Commission supported ABC license renewals for Marvelous Market, Motts, Rolands, Southeast Market, and Harris Tetter; the latter two contingent on a new, signed Voluntary Agreements.  Voted to protest the license renewals of 7th & L Market and Pennsylvania Avenue Market.  And, voted to take no action (i.e., remain silent) on the renewals of Congress Market, P&C Market, and Yes Organic Market.   Voted to support the application of Pound the Hill (621 Pennsylvania Ave SE) for an ABC license so the establishment can serve beer and wine with its new dinner service.   Also approved were the historic preservation applications for 117 C Street SE and 629 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (La Plaza restaurant, which plans to add a 2nd story to its building).

The Commission voted to send letters to (1) MPD requesting the deployment of photo enforcement technology on 17th Street SE, (2) FHWA and DDOT about the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project, and (3) the DC Protective Services Police Department requesting it provide crime report data for the Reservation 13 area of Hill East.

Plus, the Commission voted to revise its October 2011 Resolution on Redistricting because of decisions CM Wells has made to recommend that 6B not lose territory to 6C as was proposed by the Ward 6 Redistricting Task Force.  Unfortunately, Councilmember Brown, during the meeting seemed to suggest that the DC Council Subcommittee on Redistricting, which he co-chairs with Councilmember Jack Evans, may decide to adopt the Task Force reports rather than the Ward Councilmembers’ recommendations based on those reports. (Is this just a ploy to leverage bargaining?)  Ultimately and rather quickly this citywide redistricting process has to be concluded with a DC Council vote by the end of December 2011.  CM Brown was unable, however, to provide any hearing schedule information.

Opposed by the Commission was an application for zoning relief (two “use variances”) at 1200 Potomac Avenue SE because the applicant never managed to provide any cogent rationale for the zoning change.  The applicants have proposed to establish a coffee shop on the ground floor and a pet supply store on the 2nd floor.  The zoning relief is required because the building is in a residence zoned area and neither commercial business is allowed “by right.”

The Commission voted 8-0-1 on the slate of Resident Members for its newly formed Subcommittee on the Hine PUD. The confirmed Resident Members and the organizations or groups they represent are: Roger Tauss (EMMCA), Steve Sweeney (Eyes on Hine), Bill Pate (residents in 200 block of 8th St SE), Ken Jarboe (At Large), Monte Edwards (EMCAC), Julia Christian (CHAMPS), and Gary Peterson (CHRS).  In addition, Commissioner Brian Pate was confirmed as vice-chair; joining Commissioner Ivan Frishberg, chair.  All other ANC6B Commissioners can serve on the subcommittee.  [I was the 1 abstaining vote on the slate.  If you want to know why, read “If I Were Chair …” below. And, if you want to know more about PUDs, visit Commissioner Metzger’s blog: www.ancnorm.org]

If I Were Chair …

As a community we have completed the conceptual historic preservation review on the Hine Redevelopment Project. We will soon enter into the next phase: zoning. This PUD or “planned unit development” process will take as many months as did the first phase. Perhaps longer. My guiding principle has been and will continue to be that this project will affect ALL of us who live on Capitol Hill. Ultimately, what gets built on the Hine site should reflect the entire community.

Thus, if I had been entrusted with the challenging job of chairing ANC6B’s Subcommittee on Hine PUD, I would’ve gone out of my way to make sure that Resident Membership on the subcommittee could not be perceived as biased toward any one perspective and was broadly representative of the residents and businesses on the Hill.

First, if I as a Commissioner already represented nearby residents, I would’ve asked a fellow Commissioner to be Vice chair whose constituents live away from the Hine Redevelopment site to assure a wide diversity of residents were represented within the leadership on the subcommittee. Second, I would’ve selected some of the ablest, most experienced community members to serve. Third, I would’ve asked that the three ‘nearby neighbors’ groups, who have made the most noise about the project to date, select one joint representative for the 6B subcommittee. And, I would’ve found other 6B residents to serve on the subcommittee because, again, this development will affect ALL of us who live on Capitol Hill, not just the residents and businesses who abut it.

Commissioner Frishberg, who is Chair of the 6B subcommittee and whose single member district includes the Hine site and thus represents one of the nearby neighbors groups, has done it differently. He has selected Commissioner Brian Pate, whose single member district includes two of the “nearby neighbors” groups to be Vice chair. And, all three of the “nearby neighbors” groups (EMMCA, Eyes on Hine, and 200 Block of 8th Street SE) have been individually nominated to serve as Resident Members. Hopefully providing some balance, knowledgeable representatives of longtime Hill organizations–CHAMPS, CHRS, and the Eastern Market Citizen Advisory Council—have been asked to serve along with former Commissioner Ken Jarboe, as an At Large Resident.

How the dynamics of the subcommittee will play out are unknown. But, I plan to be fully engaged in and watchful of the PUD process going forward.  And, I urge you too to get involved.

The first meeting on the subcommittee is Monday, November 21 at 7pm at the Hill Center’s 3rd floor conference room.  If you cannot attend, then come back here where I will post my meeting notes.



The Hill Center Finally Opens

After a year and a half of building renovations and organizing and even more years of planning, The Hill Center has finally opened at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.  Diana Ingram, the Center’s Executive Director, has announced several community events:

12 Nov Sat & 13 Nov Sun, 10am to 3pm: Community Bulb Planting
19 Nov Sat, 1130am to 4pm: Salute to Hill Center: Flag Raising, “Fence Raising” and Open House

More details on these events are at www.hillcenterdc.org along with information on and how to register for a wide range of upcoming programs.

The Center’s liquor license was granted by the ABC Board on October 5.  Usage will be governed by the terms of Voluntary Agreement passed by ANC6B unanimously on June 13, 2011.  A copy of that agreement, signed the next day by ANC6B and The Hill Center is here:  Hill Center Voluntary Agreement 14June2011

The Old Naval Hospital Foundation – Order on Voluntary Agreement with ANC 6B and Withdrawal of Protest 10-5-2011 is the official document from the ABC Board and it details the events leading up the the October 5 approval.

ANC6B has moved back to the Old Naval Hospital and into an office on the 3rd floor.  The monthly ANC meeting and most committee and task force meetings will be held in the building (see schedule under Events & Meetings).

ANC6B & its SMDs Get Scrambled

The Ward 6 ANC Redistricting Task Force (TF) has completed its work and will now be reporting back to Councilmember Wells, who appointed its members.  At this point, ANC6B has not fared very well, to say the least.  Several blocks north of Independence Avenue SE have been given to ANC6C, and the TF has created a Single Member District (SMD) boundaries map for what remains of 6B (without a formal vote on it by 6B Commissioners).

The TF map is here: http://bit.ly/q9RGlO It places current 6B01 Commissioner David Garrison within 6C while reducing 6B from 10 SMDs down to 9.  [Artifact: Since the 2000 Census redistricting, 6B has had 11 SMDs but one of them is the DC Jail so it effectively has been a 10-member commission.  During the 2010 Census Ward redistricting process, the jail ended up in Ward 7.]

According to the TF approved map, I live in SMD06.  If I run again in 2012 and win, I would represent an area bounded by 11th (on the west), 15th (east), C (north), and G (south) Streets SE and including a strip I find difficult to even describe.  Only 4 blocks of my current SMD04 are included in this new SMD06.  Thus, many of the residents I have come to know and issues I have worked on for the last 4 years (such as, Marine Barracks, Lower 8th, Hill Center, Barracks Row, Performance based parking, and so on) would be outside my district, beginning in January 2013.  The same type of situation exists for  just about every other current 6B Commissioner’s SMD.  In two cases, existing Commissioners would have to run against one another in 2012.

If 6B has to live with the borders voted on by the TF, I prefer this 6B alternate SMD map which was also prepared but rejected by the TF.  It does not change the SMD in which I live so radically but does create a 9-member commission.  I have not analyzed how the other current 6B SMDs are affected by this map.

I do not know how the other Ward 6 ANC’s & their SMDs have fared in this process but I suspect better than 6B has.

But, the game is NOT over.  It is now Ward 6 Councilmember Wells turn to have his say on how he thinks the ANCs in his Ward ought to be organized.  At this point, I do not have information on how his process will unfold.

Talk with Kirsten …

Announcing … the second ANC6B “SMD04” gathering of 2011:

Sunday July 10
2 to 4 pm
The Corner Store (900 South Carolina Avenue)

It is an opportunity for us all to talk informally about neighborhood issues of concern and how to make The Hill and even better place to live.  There may be a Q&A session about 230pm (Stump the Commissioner!) with the rest of the time available to mingle and talk one-on-one.

While the event is primarily for residents who live in my single member district, anyone is welcome.  If you are not sure whether you live in SMD04, check the map (see above).

ANC6B’s June Meeting

The June 14th meeting went on so long (7p to 10p) the Commission had to cut out several items at the end of the agenda as our host had expected us to end the meeting by 9pm.  Still, post meeting, we have been accused of not letting residents speak as long as they wish …

What took up about 1 hour of the 3 was the discussion about and vote on the liquor license application for The Hill Center.  During the week between the ABC Committee meeting (6/9) and the ANC meeting, I spent considerable time communicating with residents who live south, north, east and west of the Center and with Center principals to get their views about the contents for a Voluntary Agreement with the intent to further restrict certain aspects of the license.  As a result, the Center came to the ANC meeting with several changes to the draft and I offered 3 amendments, which were accepted by the Center and other Commissioners.  In the end, the ANC voted unanimously to support the  license application and amended VA.  After the vote, there was a loud boo from many in the audience, mainly my constituents.  I know my vote in favor of the license/VA has angered many of those whose lives have been negatively impacted by the growth of licenses along Barracks Row.  Some think I ought to have offered up even more stringent terms.  I could have done that but would not have gotten concurrence from the rest of the Commission and we all may have ended up with less in the end.

The other controversial item on the agenda was Chipotle‘s application for zoning relief so they can open a fast food restaurant at 413 8th St SE.  Even with several corporate folks attending, the Commission could still not get clear answers to questions.  So that matter has been put off until the ANC July meetings for resolution.

What else happened?  We had two interesting presentations.  One from Respect DC and the other by Pepco explaining their electric meter replacement program.  DC Respect is an organization of people concerned about the quality of life in DC’s communities and committed to securing decent, living wage jobs.  A current campaign is centered on Walmart’s plans to open stores in DC.  [Go to <www.respectdc.org>; for more information]  Pepco is currently installing Smart Meters at all residences in DC.  The meters are intended to help customers better manage their energy use.  The installation process is quick but most likely will require a cut in electric service for a short time.  [Call 202-833-7500 for more information]  If you have critical equipment at home that would be damaged by a cut in service, you should definitely call and let Pepco know.

Other votes.  The Commission approved a substantial change to the Lola’s (711 8th St SE) ABC license so it can expand two floors above the current ground floor operation.  Two pool tables, a shuffle board table, and a bar will be located on the 2nd and 3rd floors.  Also approved were Verizon’s plans to add three sets of 5 wireless service antennas to the roof of 801 Pennsylvania Avenue SE and Aqua Al 2 restaurant’s historic preservation application to build a one-story addition at the rear of its building (212 7th St SE).  The Commission also approved up to $600 to cover moving expenses for the hopeful move of its office back into the Old Naval Hospital.  Dropped from the agenda due lack of time: the Transportation Committee and the Eastern Market Reports.