Random Notes from Beat26

from the June 21 Beat26 Newsletter … what is this?

It’s one of the many sidewalk markings along PA Avenue SE for the Pennsylvania Avenue Streetlight Upgrade Project underway in Fall 2021.

Location: 10th and PA Ave SE

from the March 25 Beat26 Newsletter …

Pennsylvania Avenue SE Streetlights & Traffic Signals Upgrade Project

Project Information as of April 2021

DDOT is now in the process of distributing these notices about the project to affected businesses and residents.  DDOT plans to start the work on or about April 5.  This initial work, however, may only include the contractor mobilizing and starting preparation work such posting construction warning signs.

from the March 2, 2021 Beat26 Newsletter …

VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK MILESTONE
After I don’t know how long … construction in the Park has finally concluded. For now.  There are no humps, invasive vegetation.  Instead, gentle slopes, new grass, concrete paths, 24 new trees, benches and tables, and a large reddish-orange gazebo.  To be added this Spring: a 2,700 sq ft playground.  And, off into the future (say 2025-ish) a planned bike/pedestrian path along the northern edge may be installed, connecting the existing Virginia Avenue bike path to 11th Street.

Of course, this newly completed center part of the Park is flanked by the existing Community Garden on the west and the Dog Park on the east.  Alas, the Great Lawn in the northern middle section is not much of a lawn.  It will be interesting to see if, as designed, pick-up sports occur there anyway.

Steve, the DDOT Urban Forester who planted the trees, seeks volunteers to water trees and de-compact their surrounding soils this Summer.  Incentives include lunch on him and naming rights for trees.  Details are not yet worked out but if you want to consider volunteering, send me your name and email address.  (The Park is located between 9th & 11th Streets SE and I-695 & Potomac Avenue SE)

From an Email Sent to DC Officials by a Resident of ANC6B on 12/22/20 …

“I am a homeowner who lives in the 1000 block of 13th Street SE. I am writing, as I have several times over the past few years, to plead that you more effectively address the violence that consistently occurs in our immediate neighborhood.

“Two weeks ago, there was a murder in the alley behind our house at 9:30 p.m. on a weekday night. I was sitting in our living room, which faces the alley. My wife was rocking our 3-month-old son to sleep in his bedroom, which also faces the alley. Our dog started barking and, thinking it was fireworks because there were so many shots in such quick succession, and not wanting the baby to wake, I let the dog out and stepped outside. I saw one of the shooters, and he could see me, before he got in a car and sped away down the alley. Shortly thereafter, I looked in the alley and saw a body lying toward the end of it … You don’t have to be a detective to deduce that the shooting behind my home was not happenstance.

“I gave a statement to an officer about what I had heard and seen. My neighbors did the same and provided their video evidence. But if you were to ask me whether I think anything will change after this, the sad answer is that I do not think it will. Inevitably, there will be another fatal shooting outside my home in the coming days or weeks. The cycle will continue.

“From the perspective of the residents of the neighborhood with whom I have spoken in the aftermath of yet another horrible shooting, including residents of Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Apartments, your approach to addressing the violence in the area has been a failure. For years, there have consistently been shootings and violence in four well-established areas: 1) the 1200 block of L Street SE, outside the entrance to Potomac Gardens; 2) the intersection of 12th and K Streets SE, outside the entrance to the Hopkins Apartments; 3) the intersection of 14th and L Streets SE, outside the entrance to the Hopkins Apartments; and 4) most recently, the intersection of 13th and L Streets SE, outside the entrance to the Hopkins Apartments, around the corner from where the man above was killed and another man was shot multiple times.

“All of the shootings and violence in the neighborhood follow a familiar, unending pattern. The police allow open-air drug markets to operate uninterrupted at a particular location outside the entrance to one of the public housing buildings. Inevitably, there is a shooting at one of these locations. The police increase patrols for a week or two that are limited to that immediate location. At the same time, the drug market shifts a few blocks to one of the other three locations in the neighborhood. That market operates, unmolested, until there is another shooting. And on, and on, and on.

“The operation of the open-air drug markets that are the foundation of the violence is obvious to any resident. Cars with out-of-District plates come and go at all hours solely and frequently at that location. Individuals shift to hanging out at the location, frequently mingling in the stairwells at the entrances to the housing complexes, servicing the drivers and some pedestrians. The hand-to-hands are blatant and often in full view of an idling police car or a collection of officers standing and chatting a little bit further down the block. When I, or the neighbors who witness these exchanges, call the police, they rarely come to investigate unless we can report there was a visible firearm. I have always offered to give a statement when asked by the dispatch officer over the phone. No officer has ever come to my door to take one.

“I do not place sole blame on the MPD for all of the inaction, though the lack of urgency or concern that I and my neighbors see in the day-to-day behavior of the patrol officers is troubling. Politicians have done little, if anything, to address the violence, despite repeated promises to do more.

“Charles, you, in particular, have been a vocal critic of the MPD. You and your colleagues on the City Council have pushed the end of the buy-bust approach to disrupting the drug markets, one of the few effective ways to address them. The violence that occurs between rival dealers and gang members is the inevitable result. As you have correctly noted, Charles, law enforcement cannot be the only solution to the problems that plague the community. Reforms in how policing is conducted are necessary. But when there is clear evidence of criminal activity occurring, police must step in and be part of the solution. A latex-gloved shooter who lived a 20-minute drive away did not turn up in the alley behind my home without having a reason for being there.

“The city’s housing policies and the lack of focus on community safety are also to blame. The Mayor, the City Council, and the ANC’s push to expand public housing in the district is important and laudable. But you cannot ignore the current state of the current stock of public housing that exists in the District and the role that it plays in the violence in our community. The Potomac Gardens and Hopkins buildings have been there for decades and their condition is deplorable. There is zero security presence at the entrances. Many of them do not even have doors. Perhaps, instead of obsessing over bike lanes, the ANC could make community safety a serious, sustained focus. The residents of Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Apartments deserve better from all of you. They deserve to be able to enter and exit their homes without having to pass by sustained drug activity and to face the serious risk of getting caught in crossfire on a bi-weekly basis.

“As I have said in the past, I welcome a dialogue with you all about these issues. More than anything, I implore you to take concrete action. Ramp up the use of undercovers to perform buy-bust operations to disrupt the open-air drug markets. Enforce parking laws to ensure that out-of-town drug dealers do not sit idle outside the buildings continually serving customers. Seriously consider the redevelopment of Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Apartments and hold hearings, starting at the ANC level and at the City Council level, on their future. In the interim, install security doors and hire security guards to protect the residents of these locations and ensure that individuals who are there to cause problems have a more difficult time exploiting them.

“I know these issues are not easy, but you must do more, and do better. The community demands it.”

From the December 14, 2020 Beat26 Newsletter:  “VPP.  6B’s Dec.  & Covid of course”

ANC6B DEC MEETING: December 8
This time I contributed to at least an additional 20 minutes of the 3H50M meeting. There was some good time spent thanking two departing Commissioners (Jayaraman & Waud) for their excellent service and hoping they hang around anyway.  The Commission will be greeting 3 new Commissioners in January: Peter Wright (6B08), Edward Ryder (6B07) and Alison Horn (6B09).  Commissioner-elect Horn fills the slot that has been vacant since early this year when Kasie Clark moved westward and the pandemic prevented holding a special election to replace her.

So, what else did we do?  We took a number of votes, of course. The easy ones were for those items on the Consent Agenda.  Included were 3 transportation ones (Pennsylvania & Potomac Avenues SE Intersection Improvement Project, 2020 DDOT I-695 & 11th Street SE Traffic Study, and a speed hump for the 1700 block of Bay Street SE); and 1 zoning case (BZA 20335, 741 12th Street SE).

Then we voted unanimously to approve a new Settlement Agreement and support the retail liquor license renewal for Harris Teeter; and send a letter to the ABC Board requesting a delay in the hearing date for our protest of the Handle-19 new license with gambling endorsement until January 2021.  Later on, the Commission discussed a need to authorize up to $20K to hire a lawyer to represent us at the hearing.  There was some discussion about whom to hire but no decision made as more research was deemed necessary.

Under Planning & Zoning, there ensued a lengthy discussion on a trash room to reduce rodent problems at the Chipotle establishment, 413 8th Street SE.  Chipotle is seeking a ten-year extension of a special exception to allow fast food use at this location.  However, in the end, no action was taken since the BZA hearing has been moved to February 2021.  This issue will re-emerge; most likely on the January agenda.

Another discussion involved a proposed text amendment (Zoning Commission 20-19) on heights and alley setbacks for accessory buildings in residential districts.  Ultimately, the ANC decided not to opine on the case.

Under the Transportation Committee, a 20-minute discussion took place on the aftermath of a November decision to send comments to DDOT on the Kentucky Avenue SE Advisory Bike Lane project.  A clerical error had caused a not yet reviewed draft letter to be transmitted to DDOT; after which I created an addendum incorporating the missing review elements. But I had balked at adding other info I considered to be out of scope with the original motion.  This all got settled amid some confusion and will be revisited at the ANC6B Executive Committee Meeting on 12/17.

Other actions: A letter to DGS and others with critics of the Eastern Market Governance Strategic Plan and the ANC’s 2021 Calendar were approved unanimously.  A resolution urging the DC Council to take action to correct the disfranchisement of voters at the DC Jail was approved by a vote of 8-1-0.

Here’s some information I gathered at the meeting.  Mr. Gerard Brown, manager of the DOH rodent abatement program, told us the program now has 17 pest & code inspectors.  During the pandemic, rodent problems have shifted from restaurant areas to residential trash.  Anyone can request their services via 311.  Mr. Brown said he is not sure their birth control abatement method is working but that carbon monoxide injected into burrows is very effective. ~ The Office of the DC Auditor has released a report “DC Lacked Uniform System to Track, Reduce Settlements & Judgements” ~ The Mayor has assigned new MOCRS to Ward 6: Talib Shakir and Isamar Vaquero.  Moving on to other jobs are Tyler Williams and Mikaela Ferrill. ~ The Boys & Girls Club project will not come back to the ANC until sometime in 2021. ~ Maurice Cook, recent recipient of a Brickie Award and Executive Director of Serve Your City, spoke about the need for the ANC to support affordable housing developments. ~ The artificial Christmas Tree and Menorah installed by CH BID in EMMP (Parcel 1) were blown down (but quickly were resurrected).

… and it all came to an end at 1050 pm.

Thanks for each and every 820 vote on November 3, 2020.
My new 2-year term begins January 2021.

From the October 22 Beat26 Newsletter “Vote now. Halloween. Census. Crime. 6B met.”

NO MORE CRIME (reports)?
After 15 years of tracking crime affecting us on Capitol Hill, I had no idea what occurred in September 2020 as I began to write this newsletter.  As mentioned a while back, MPD is no longer providing the relatively simple database from which I have been extracting monthly data (for ANC6B and PSAs 106, 107, and 108) and has replaced it with Crime Cards.

Not knowing was making me feel a bit vulnerable.  So, I stopped writing and played around a bit and managed to manipulate the Cards to show crime reports for ANC6B for the period September 1 through 30, 2020: They total 91 of which there was 1 assault, 2 robberies, 2 burglaries, 20 thefts from auto, 53 thefts, 13 stolen autos, and 0 arsons.  According to my August 2020 Crime compilation, there were also 91 total crime reports in August but the distribution differs with violent crimes cut in half from 6 then to 3 in September.

Crime Cards does enable one to download the background data but instead of the 8 data points I’ve been used to, I ended up with 29.  TMI, indeed.

The Crime Card I created is here.  It has a map, graphs, a list of the individual reports, and links to the First District roster for officials contact info.  And, more.  Not bad.  But, if you just want to check on crime periodically, go here to the MPD First District Google Group.

From the October 4 Beat26 Newsletter “Voting. 6B’s October. EMMP & More

VOTING. IT STARTS OCT 27. (EARLIER IF YOU USE A BOX)
Councilmember Allen’s Ward 6 Update: How To Vote in the General Election
It’s all here.

UPDATE ON EMMP PHASE TWO CONSTRUCTION
At the 10/1 virtual EMMP community meeting I had difficulties hearing the speakers and reading the slides presented.  What I do know is most of what I wrote in my 8/30 Newsletter is still accurate.  So, I have pasted an edited version of that write up below with any new information I gleaned from the 10/1 meeting.  The 10/1 presentation is here.

The EMMP project consists of 6 Parcels separated by roadways, centered at 8th & Pennsylvania Ave SE.  Construction on Parcel 1 (so-called EMMP Phase One) ended about a month or so ago but there are bits and pieces on a punch list (see below).  Construction on the remaining 5 Parcels (Phase Two) is scheduled to begin in October 2020, once permits are available, and be completed by April 2021.  This work will include various pedestrian safety/traffic improvements at the South Carolina Avenue SE corners of 7th & D SE and 9th & D SE and will cause some temporary traffic diversions.

Here are some details. Fences will surround each Parcel. Most sidewalks around the perimeters of the Parcels will remain open for the duration of the construction but will be temporarily closed toward the end of the work as they are repaired.  An exception is the fence that goes around the Metro plaza (Parcel 4); it will leave the Metro Station entrance and all perimeter sidewalks open except along the east side of 7th Street across from the SE Library.  This side of 7th will be the Phase Two construction staging area and the construction entrance to Parcel 4 will be at the corner of 7th & D SE.  The street itself will be temporarily closed at some point to install the “tabletop walkway” between Parcel 4 and the library.

The slip lanes on Parcels 3 and 6 will be permanently closed.   At Parcel 6, a once planned lay by for dropoff/pickups will not be created on Pennsylvania Avenue or along 8th Street.  Construction vehicles will be parked inside the fences surrounding these Parcels.

All the Phase Two landscaping and presumably installation of an art sculpture (on Parcel 4) will occur in the Spring.

To finish up Parcel 1, handrails will be added to the step midpoint on the 9th Street side, the shade structures for the playground are expected to be installed starting October 5, closing the playground for 3 days, way-finder panels should be installed in October and replacement trees in mid-October.

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.

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: www.ancnorm.org]