ANC6B Votes 9 Dec 2014

At our last meeting of 2014, three hours of discussion resulted in about 20 votes, most of them 9-0.  While a host of items (Minutes and zoning cases) were voted on in a block under the consent agenda, the rest of the agenda included:

  • 1 Historic Preservation case (1013-1015 E Street SE). Vote was 8-0-1 to support the application.  This case is troubling to nearby neighbors and others as it converts two individual houses into 6 condo units with the addition of a 5-unit carriage house on the alley in the rear.  Most of the objections cannot be dealt with within the context of historic preservation, so they await the zoning case to follow if the HPRB votes in favor of the application.  My motion to support included the assumption that the Board will assure various aspects are designed in keeping with HPO guidelines.  [Update: On 12/18 the Board denied the application which causes the developer to have to rethink the project.]
  • A long debate on the merits of zoning text amendments proposed by the Office of Planning that are designed to curtail the growing number of “pop-ups” (those 3rd story additions on top of row houses).  The major piece of the proposal would limit the “by right” height of houses in R-4 districts (most of Capitol Hill) to 35 feet with zoning relief through a special exception (SE) process to gain the current 40 feet height.  The Commission voted 6-3 on that piece after lengthy debate on the SE provisions and voted 7-1-1 against the change in definition of a mezzanine, 9-0 on the height of a roof structure, and 6-1-2 on the conversion of a residential structure to an apartment house.  The pop-up provisions affect mainly those areas of 6B not already protected by the CH Historic District.
  • Several liquor license matters, one of which is a major annoyance to 6B.  The ABC Board is requiring us to change text language in our Settlement Agreements that the Board has previously approved.
  • 2 letters to DDOT (8-0 and 9-0).  One asks for the replacement of pedestrian crossings along 11th Street SE at K and L Streets SE that were removed to facilitate vehicle movements among the various new on and off ramps for the 11th Street Bridge.  The other one asks that specific one way streets be converted to two way streets now that the on ramp at Virginia Avenue and 9th Street SE no longer exists.  A 3rd letter to DDOT on the Penn-Potomac pedestrian study has been delayed until January.
  • Lots of other letters; among them were to: (1) HPRB to ask that 6B have an opportunity to review the final plans for renovation of the old Remington’s building at 639 PA Ave; (2) Zoning Commission as a followup to its hearing on the PUD for 1333 M Street SE, which 6B has supported; (3) Dept of General Services asking that it move quickly to start the environmental assessment for the Eastern Market plaza redesign project; (4) Marine Barracks Washington with comments on its proposed Section 106 plans under its study to locate a site for a new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters building; (5) DC Council Chair Mendelson asking that he continue to have a Committee on Education rather than fold education into the Committee of the Whole; and a Resolution on the Pepco-Excelon merger (vote 6-0-3); and Position and testimony on the disposition of two parcels at Reservation 13/Hill East.  [Update: The DC Council has voted to support this disposition.]
  • Then, to close out the meeting, were items pertaining to the end of the year and the upcoming new Commission in January: a preliminary schedule for our 2015 meetings and acknowledgements.  Chief among the latter were a resolution thanking CM Wells for his service to Ward 6 and a resolution thanking the 6 departing Commissioners (Campbell, Frishberg, Loveland, Opkins, Pate, and Peisch) and already departed Commissioner Garrison for their service ranging from 2 to 12 years.

After Commissioner Campbell’s final opportunity to recess 6B meetings, at 10pm some of us reconvened (but did not vote on anything) at Beuchert’s for a bit of cheer.

ANC6B Meets and Votes (Oct 14)

Once again, it took 3 hours to plow through the ANC6B monthly agenda.

The most heated, lengthy debate?  Ugly Mug’s (723 8th Street SE) request to almost double its capacity by building an addition to the second floor with retractable roof in the rear.  This one ended up with the ANC voting 6-0 (with 2 abstentions) to protest the “substantial change” in its ABC license.  Major points of contention: hours that the roof can remain open, total number of added capacity, and lousy trashing handling compounded by former promises not kept and general impacts on the community.

Protesting means that the ANC will have to negotiate terms under the auspices of the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration and appear before the ABC Board.  This puts a delay in Ugly Mug’s ability to go forward and a lot of work for the ANC.  Hopefully, the nearby neighbors–who sent Commissioners copious emails in opposition–will provide some assistance.  And, still to be settled: whether or not the building addition will be approved since Ugly Mug is located within the Capitol Hill Historic District.

Another case took up some time: 429 12th Street SE Rear.  This one is a historic preservation/zoning review case.  I ultimately voted against one element of the zoning relief requested because I do not think that the applicant offered the appropriate argument (didn’t “meet the test of the variance”) to gain approval for adding 2 dwelling units in an alley.  My view did not prevail, however, as the ANC voted 5-3 in favor of granting the relief.  I did vote in favor of the other zoning relief requested and voted with the majority on supporting the separate historic preservation case.

Other matters.

  • The ANC voted in favor of the renewals of 3 ABC licenses (7th & L Market, Capitol Supreme Market, and Roland’s); the last case (Yes! market) needs a bit more negotiation on the Settlement Agreement so the ANC voted in favor of a protest in order to provide the time needed for that discussion with the applicant.  (ANCs only have three ways to vote on liquor licenses of all kinds.  We can vote in favor of the application, vote to take no position (virtually the same as the former), or vote to protest.)  In Yes! case, our protest vote is a technicality quite unlike the protest vote on Ugly Mug.
  • 8 Historic Preservation cases received ANC support
  • 2 Transportation Committee letters (Red light camera request for 7th & Pennsylvania Ave SE and Comments on the DC Circulator Transit Development Plan) got unanimous votes in favor.  Both draft letters are included in the Oct 8 Committee report.
  • 3 votes taken by the Executive Committee on September 30th were ratified.  Two involved our pending office move from the Hill Center to Eastern Market.  (Note: The ANC like all ANCs gets a stipend from DC but it is not sufficient to pay office rent at the Hill Center or elsewhere any more.  As a government building, rent at Eastern Market is free.  For a while, however, we will have to put up with the fact that the space is only valid as storage.  CM Wells office got us this far and is still working on getting the space approved for human occupation. In good weather, you may find us outside under the shed with our laptops.)

That about covers the major votes.  If you see something on the agenda that you want more information about, let me know.

Note: This article is a slightly edited version of the one I sent out to all subscribers of my Beat26 Newsletter.

It’s All About Parking?

As an ANC Commissioner I spend most of my time on parking.  Parking passes, parking enforcement, parking signs, parking this, parking that …

So it is not a surprise to me to see that the recent 6B committee votes in support of the Office of Planning’s draft proposal to remove minimum off site parking requirements in certain zoning categories has caused a storm of protest.  Some of it is quite understandable because residents have come to depend on public space to park their cars.  But some of it is off the mark based on a misunderstanding of the proposals.  Some of it is a bit elitist: I’m inside; now shut the door and don’t let anyone else in.  

These new zoning proposals, of which parking is just one of many issues, are intended to set the stage for the next 40 years of development in DC.  We have trouble predicting what technology will be available years ahead to facilitate the movement of people and goods but we do know that we can’t continue to add vehicles to our roads.  Two really good related reasons why: increasing congestion and increasing pollution.  Plus climate change.  So, yes, an objective of some of the proposals is to reduce the impact of vehicles on all of us now and in the future and one way is to make parking them less attractive.

So, the proposals simply remove existing minimums for new developments, be they one house or multiple units in an apartment building.  A large portion of 6B is in the Capitol Hill Historic District.  Nothing changes for this large area under these new parking proposals because historic district residential zones are already exempt from the off site requirement.  In any case, removing minimums does not mean developers won’t provide any off street parking.

But, changing zoning is not enough.  City officials need to do more.  The current Residential Permit Parking system is sorely in need of an overhall.  Why do we let an unlimited number of vehicles per household pay $35 per year for permits to park curbside?  This, when renting an offsite private space might cost $100 or more per month?

We also need to build more attractive, efficient, reliable transit systems.  Under the MoveDC initiative to plan DC transportation 30 years out, maybe we will do that.

Some think I am “anti-auto” because I don’t own a car and, thus, don’t fully understand the frustration of seeking a parking space.  Not true.  I haven’t owned an automobile for over 40 years.  I sold my beloved racing green TR-4 back when I lived at the base of Russian Hill in San Francisco.  One day I realized that I wasn’t moving my car but, rather electing to walk or take transit to where ever I wanted to go because I didn’t want to have to search for a parking space when I returned home.  When I factored in the cost of that car that mainly sat curbside, I sold it.  And, have been car-less since.  I understand frustration.  What I don’t understand is why frustrated DC “parkers” don’t do what I did.  And, I did it long before people dreamed up neat alternatives like Zipcar, Car2Go, Uber, and so on.

I know that everyone can’t give up their automobiles.  But, more could.


My New Year’s Resolution …

is to KEEP THIS BLOG UPDATED in 2013 … or, cancel it!  So, here– on 2013 Day 1–are some updates.

Kirsten Won Reelection in Nov 2012 thanks to the help of many people in the community who sent checks, volunteered their time, and spread the word.  I look forward to serving the residents of 6B04 (see map) for another 2 years.

What’s the Status of the Hine Redevelopment Project?” is probably the most frequent question I get.  And, the short answer is that the historic preservation and zoning reviews are basically completed.  (Details of the final version of the project are here.)  Now, the developers–Stanton East Banc–are negotiating the final financial terms with DC, their architect is drawing up the building plans, and, last I heard, construction will begin in the 3rd Quarter of 2013.  Completion of the complex is estimated to be late 2015.

ANC6B Begins a New Term in January 2013 with 4 newly elected Commissioners joining 6 re-elected Commissioners.  I don’t expect the same fireworks that erupted in January 2011 when 4 new Commissioners joined 6B and created a voting block of 6 that persisted pretty much up until the final vote on Hine in 2012.  This time, even before we begin, I feel a spirit of cooperation prevails.

But … we shall see.

Major Issues in 2013 Abound.  In January 6B is conducting its first round review of the huge proposed revision of the DC zoning regulations.  And, we expect the draft EIS on the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel project to land on our laps for review in early 2013.  This spring DDOT ought to be announcing the start of a NEPA Environmental Analysis of the Barney Circle, SE Boulevard, and Potomac Avenue Metro area project.  Sometime in 2013, DDOT will be developing the Traffic Management Plan for the Hine project construction phase.  There will be continuing detours as the Local bridge of the 11th Street Bridges project is completed and the new intersection on 11th Street SE between K and M Streets is created.  We will be evaluating the proposals, sometime in Spring or Summer, for initial development of Reservation 13.

There’s more but I am becoming fatigued just thinking about it.

What About That Expansion of PBP?  Well, Commissioners Garrison, Frishberg, Pate, and Oldenburg are still talking with DDOT on the final details.  The ANC passed the Resolution requesting DDOT to expand the boundaries back in September 2012.  My guess is that we will be half way through 2013 before the new “Zone 6 Only” signs are installed north of Pennsylvania Avenue. [PBP=Performance Based Parking]

In Conclusion: What are your Capitol Hill Issues for 2013? And, what should ANC6B do about them?

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.

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:]