City Paper Widget

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10th and O Streets: "Based on Past Experience, We Don't Have Confidence that We Will Like Your Final Product"

A tidy vacant lot at the northwest corner of 10th and O Streets NW will change from an unofficial dog park to three-story townhouse, if plans by Suzane Reatig Architecture are made reality.

Coming soon: one less place to walk the dog
However, a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle said it will "recommend to not recommend approval" of the planned project at 1001 O Street because it is "not consistent with historic preservation guidelines, scaling and massing of elements". ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) passed a motion against the plans as presented at its last meeting on February 25.

Megan Mitchell of Suzane Reatig Architecture led the team that made the presentation to the committee. 

"A significant amount of green will remain on the corner," Mitchell said.

She also said the proposed building would have two "likely to be" condo units with entrances at the front of the building. It will have two parking spaces -- only one is required. The plan is for the building to be "slightly under 40 feet maximum" -- taller than neighboring buildings but still not tall enough to trigger the need for zoning relief.

Mitchell said that corner buildings in DC are often taller than mid-block buildings.

Artists' conceptions of the building show a pink building with windows that wrapped around the front corner. Members of the committee asked if this color was what the finished product would actually look like. The presenter said no, that this color was used in the illustration to make the building stand out against its neighbors. Were there illustrations that would show how the finished building would look? No, a lot of those details hadn't been decided.

"Our understanding is that we don't have to present exact color and materials," a member of the team said. "We change things, we adjust things."

The architects would work with DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) on the details, they explained.

This did not match up with the committee's idea of its own responsibilities, which included approving the materials. Members of the committee asked what materials the presenters were thinking of. A member of the team said ironspot bricks. See an example of a house fronted with ironspot bricks here.

"The committee needs to get guarantees that what is presented is what is built," one member said.

The committee also objected to what appeared, on the artist's conceptions, as an exterior staircase to the second floor, facing 10th Street, which would be on public space, meaning, over the sidewalk.

The architects said they were planning a building in a more modern style, as opposed to something that matched or recalled the styles of the older buildings nearby. The committee wasn't enthusiastic. A member of the team asked the committee if they hadn't ever, when in Europe, been in an old section of a city, and come upon "a little jewel, a little glass box" and been impressed with how beautiful it was? This line of argument failed to win over the committee.

Instead, the committee suggested the design should "pull something in from around it" -- meaning, it should resemble other buildings in the neighborhood.

Members of the committee asked the presenters if they had looked at the ANC's guidelines for presenters, which are posted online. The presenters had not.

"Every single time that firm presents there's confusion about the process," a committee member said after the architecture firm had left.

1232- 1234 10th Street (photo credit: BadWolfDC)
Community members also came to the meeting and cited previous works in Shaw by the same firm with disapproval. See 2012 blog posts about their work at 926 N Street on the blogs Preserving DC Stables and DCmud, and a 2014 post about their work on 1232-1234 10th Street (see photo) on the blog BadWolfDC.

"Based on past experience, we don't have confidence that we will like your final product," a committee member told the presenters.

This item is on the agenda for consideration by the full ANC at its the regular monthly meeting, scheduled for tomorrow, April 1, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Is Blagden Alley a Street?

The proprietor of the Lost & Found bar (1240 9th Street NW) came to a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle on March 25 to propose an outdoor patio of four tables and 16 seats. The proposed outdoor patio would be in Blagden Alley out behind the building where the bar is located. As proposed, it would take of seven feet of space in the alley and close at 10pm. It would be located in a corner of the alley, near where the alley dead-ends.

Chairs and tables here an impediment?
The discussion at the meeting is only preliminary -- no official application to use the public space has yet been made, nor has Lost & Found applied for the necessary revision to its liquor license that would enable outdoor service.

Members of ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) were reluctant to encourage the application. The main sticking point objection seemed to be that Blagden Alley was a "street right of way" -- also known as a street. Vehicles would have the right to pass, make deliveries, etc., so you could not put tables in Blagden Alley any more than you could put tables in 14th Street.

"I'd want a clarification that you can use that land," said one committee member, directing Lost & Found's proprietor to get an opinion from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which has authority over public space use issues.

One woman, a resident of the 1200 block of 10th Street, told the committee she supported the public space application because the area would be safer if more businesses were open and operating in the evening.

"It would be a real opportunity to make a safe space on the street," she said.

Another person, whose property abuts Blagden Alley, was against the use of alley space for safety reason.

"The determining factor should be: Can you get a fire truck down there?" the property owner said.

The committee directed the proprietor to get a written opinion from DDOT on its right-of-way policies and also to consult the Blagden Alley Naylor Court Association before moving forward with the application.

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Everybody That Goes to Popeye's Must Be Drunk"

When the Popeye's Fried Chicken on 14th Street NW between N Street and Rhode Island Avenue closed recently, some were sad. It was inexpensive, and also had a drive-up window on the neighboring alley.

The leaders of Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church (1306 Vermont Street) were not so
sad. For decades, the back wall of the church has been victimized by drivers in the alley. Many, the church management thinks, might have been customers of Popeye's with the late-night munchies.

How it was (Google Street View)
"We always said, 'Everybody that goes to Popeye's must be drunk'," a representative of Mt. Olivet's building committee told a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle on March 25.

Why were the church and the Community Development Committee (CDC) discussing the sobriety of the drivers emerging from a now-closed business? Because now Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church must spend $100,000 to repair and repoint the rear wall of the church.

It is using $50,000 of its own money on the job, and asking the DC Preservation League for a matching $50,000 grant. A representative of Mt. Olivet appeared before the CDC to request a letter of support.

The church yesterday
The church will be repointing and repairing the whole length of the wall, but it is not clear yet on how high the labor-intensive repairs can go -- assuming the church gets the $100,000 it wants.

"Mt. Olivet has always been a valued member of the community," said a CDC member.

The committee unanimously passed a motion to send a letter of "unqualified support of the matching grant" to the DC Preservation League. The matter will now move to the full ANC for approval, where it will probably meet with little opposition or discussion.

Once repaired, the wall may not be subject to the same level of wear-and-tear, as the proposed new mixed-use building for the location will fill in the alley, as wall as replace the two neighboring buildings. 

See the agenda of the next meeting of ANC2F here. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 1, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Popeye's will soon open a more upscale version of the franchise across 14th Street from its former location.

See a short video explaining repointing brick walls here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Owner Pledges Cat Cafe Will Not Attract Rodents

On March 24, DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) voted unanimously to support a request for zoning relief by Crumbs & Whiskers (3211 O Street NW), which will become the area's first "cat cafe". Crumbs & Whiskers anticipates an opening this summer, according to its website.

Future site of Crumbs & Whiskers
"What a unique situation!" BZA Chair Lloyd Jordan said at the meeting.

"I'm not a cat person per se," Jordan said. "But I think this is really innovative to me."

The application was unusual in several ways. Beau Archer of the Washington Humane Society wrote a letter and also appeared in person before the BZA to support the project. Two electronic petitions in support with 86 signatures total were submitted. It was also perhaps the first time the BZA received a Powerpoint presentation where one of the bullet points was "Hairballs".

The Powerpoint presentation also detailed the steps the owner would take with trash and waste disposal so that the cafe would not attract rodents and other vermin.

The BZA supported the application on the stipulation that the cafe have not more than 20 cats at any one time, a point the owner Kanchan Singh was clearly comfortable with. The 20-cat maximum was a stipulation in the resolution of support for the cat cafe passed by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2E/Burleith-Georgetown. The establishment needs zoning relief because it is officially classified as "animal boarding use" since the cats will be there overnight.

The atmosphere of Singh's appearance before the board was very cordial. No one on the board or in the audience objected to the request. The hearing took eight minutes to complete.

After approving the application, Jordan asked Singh how much she was going to charge patrons at the door to enter. Singh said the cover charge hadn't been decided yet. Then he asked what type of beverages would be served. This had also not been decided.

"So, I pay $20 to play with the cats and drink? OK, that works," Jordan said.

The documents related to the case, along with a streaming video of Singh's appearance before the BZA, can be seen by accessing DC's Interactive Zoning Information System and putting case 18954 into the search bar.

In the last three days, articles about Crumbs & Whiskers have appeared on the blogs Washington DC Eater and DCist, plus on the website of WNEW news radio.

Crumbs & Whiskers also has a Facebook page.

(photo credit: from BZA files)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Two Questions about Outdoor Seating for All Souls Bar

CORRECTION: Someone wrote to me that the "neighbor" mentioned below does not actually live in the neighborhood. Whenever he is referred to as "neighbor" in the text below, I changed it to "man". Apologies for the error.

David Batista, owner/operator of All Souls Bar (725 T Street NW), with his attorney Andrew Klein of Veritas Law Firm, appeared at last meeting of the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on March 18. They wanted to talk about the details of proposed outdoor seating at the corner of T and 8th Streets. They had artist's renderings already on set up on easels, ready to show the committee. But the papers covering the drawings were never removed, and the committee never saw them, as neighbors once again were there to object.

All Souls Bar (grey building left) wants to serve here
"Not much has changed since the last meeting," said committee chair Nick
Baumann. The only development, Baumann said, was that he had received about eight emails total on the topic -- some for, some against.

All Souls Bar has not officially applied to DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) for permission to serve outdoors. The ANC has taken on the task of trying to negotiate between the parties.

ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09) urged all parties to try to arrive at a durable solution.

"Everybody wants a patio, a roof deck, a pop up, a pop out, a shoot out," Turner said in exasperation. Turner told both sides the ANC wanted "something we're not going to get a noise complaint about later".

The discussions at the meeting generated two questions...

Was the decision to allow the bar to open illegal?

"ABRA put a bar there even though there is a law against it," said one of the neighbors man about a 2012 decision (13-page .pdf here) that allowed All Souls to open.

Attorney Klein said: "I would suggest that he [the neighbor man] familiarize himself with the law." Klein sarcastically referred to this neighbor man as "the gentleman from Montgomery County".

The law the neighbor man refers to is a DC law forbidding issuance of liquor licenses to establishments within 400 feet of a school -- in this case, the Cleveland Elementary School (1825 18th Street), which is across T Street.

The neighbor man would be wise to take the attorney's advice about familiarity with the law. As this Greater Greater Washington blog post explains, ABRA found the prohibition against a liquor licensee within 400 feet of a public school did not apply in this case, since there was already another licensee (an Ethiopian market/restaurant on 7th Street) operating within 400 feet. This stipulation is clearly laid out in the law -- see DC Code §25-314(b) here.

The neighbor man could, perhaps more accurately, state that enforcement of the spirit of the law -- to protect schoolchildren from seeing and interacting with drunk patrons -- had been violated over a technicality. The Ethopian market/restaurant on 7th Street is around the corner and out of sight of the school, therefore drinking there not a matter of immediate concern to parents. The tavern, on the other hand, is across the street, clearly visible from the school.

However, this argument also is unlikely to gain traction in this case for two reasons: (1) All Souls is committed to operating only outside of school hours, and (2) ABRA's 2012 decision clearly states it is not in the business of shielding children's eyes from seeing establishments where liquor is served.

What's the law on outdoor service near schools?

Rule 23-302.5 of DC Municipal Regulation (available for download here) says
No alcoholic beverage shall be sold or served by a licensee upon any portion of any premises which fronts upon, abuts, adjoins, or is opposite to the premises of any of the institutions or recreation areas mentioned in this section unless that portion of the premises where alcoholic beverages are served is within a building; provided, that the restriction of service within a building is not applicable to Class C or D licensees on non-school days, weekends, and after 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, allowing alcohol products to be served on licensed outdoor patios which are part of the licensee's premises.
All Souls Bar is a class C licensee, so service after 6pm school days, and longer hours on other days, is possible, according to the regulations. So neighbors of the bar will probably make a case for denying outdoor service on the basis of "peace, order and quiet" -- this being the most frequently used language when neighbors oppose a liquor license.

All Souls Bar is located in ANC1B district 01 -- Brian Footer is the Commissioner. It is also borders on district 02 -- Ellen Nedrow Sullivan is the Commissioner. These two will have the task of trying to bring the sides together. Sullivan is on the liquor licensing affairs committee and said she was planning to start meetings with a protesting neighbor in the week following the meeting.

No vote was taken on any aspect of this proposal at the March 18 meeting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Long-delayed Dog Daycare at Florida and 14th Moves Forward

A long struggle to open a dog daycare facility on the ground floor of the View 14 apartment building (2303 14th Street NW, at the corner of Florida Avenue) appears headed toward a successful conclusion. The aspiring proprietors had to engage in a multi-year struggle to change DC zoning. In addition, they also had a conflict over the name of the new establishment, which was very similar to a local pet care organization of long standing.

From Doozy Dog's submission to DC zoning authorities
The establishment has changed its name -- it will now be called "Doozy Dog". This name was arrived at after much research, the management team told a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street. The research could uncover no establishment with this similar name, not only here in the DC area, but indeed anywhere in the US, a team from Doozy Dog told ANC1B's Zoning, Preservation and Development Committee on March 16.

Doozy Dog is the first branch east of the Mississippi for a Los Angeles-based chain of dog daycare facilities known elsewhere as Citydog! Club. When it first appeared before a committee of ANC1B over a year ago asking for zoning relief -- see SALM blog post of December 18, 2013 -- it used this name. Shortly afterward, a local business called City Dogs Daycare, Dupont Circle-based and open since 1999, objected to the new establishment's name -- see SALM blog post of January 6, 2014. The dispute seemed to lead to the decision to change the name of the local branch of the chain.

In addition to changing the name, the proprietors and their attorneys were involved in a successful effort to change DC zoning requirements regarding pet boarding, grooming, and care businesses. As a result, it is no longer required that such an establishment be at least 25 feet from a residence. Another revision to zoning regulations now allows pet care establishments to open in the basement of a mixed-use buildings as a "matter-of-right", that is, without needing any zoning relief.

In addition, the former requirement that such an establishment be in a "sound-proof building" was relaxed -- instead, the establishment must show it will produce no "noise objectionable to residential units" in the same building or nearby buildings. A similar relaxation of standards was made in regard to odor.

With all these problems solved, Doozy Dog is now ready to take the final steps. These involve obtaining an officially-blessed revision of a 2006 Planned Unit Development (PUD) agreement that allowed the View 14 building to be built in the first place. This revision will allow Doozy Dog to open without seeking further zoning relief.

Representatives of Doozy Dog allowed that applying for a revision of a PUD so long after the initial agreement was "unusual".

The ANC committee heard the case for the planned revision of the PUD. The proprietors and their attorney reviewed some details of their planned operation, including disposal of animal waste. Parking was also discussed -- there will be a 15-minute drop-off zone. No other parking mitigation is planned. The proprietors expected most of their customers would come on foot.

The committee voted unanimously to endorse the proposed revision to the PUD. The committee's recommendation will go the full ANC for approval. It will probably be on the agenda of the next scheduled meeting of the full ANC on April 2. The meeting will be at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets) and is scheduled to start at 6:30pm -- 30 minutes earlier than usual.

A hearing before DC zoning authorities on this case is scheduled for April 20. There was no mention at the meeting of when Doozy Dog was planning to open.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tropicalia Assault Case Report: No Blame on Club

The owner of the dance club Tropicalia (2001 14th Street NW) gave a freshly-minted official report to a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on March 18. This report, the owner said, exonerated his club of any wrong-doing concerning two alleged cases of assault by club bouncers against women customers -- see SALM blog post of January 22.

Tropicalia is in the basement of this building at 14th and U
Jesse Cornelius, Public Affairs Specialist at DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), said in an email the report (see copy here) states that ABRA "took the matter under consideration and decided to take no further action."

The chair of the liquor-licensing affairs committee, Nick Baumann, began the discussion as a part of the committee's regularly-scheduled committee meeting. Baumann had invited both the customers and the club ownership to the meeting to discuss the incident, and both sides were present.

"It's not our role to rule on the facts," Baumann said.

Baumann then said ABRA had not yet ruled on the case. It was at that moment that Tropicalia owner Amanollah Ayoubi first informed the committee of the ABRA report's existence. Ayoubi said the report had been issued that day and had "dismissed the case". He gave the committee a copy of the report.

Ayoubi was given the floor and disputed much of the customers' version of events as presented to the committee in January. The owner's version of events largely agrees with that presented in the ABRA report. For example, one customer stated at the January committee meeting she had been assaulted by the nightclub bouncer. However, the report says the only assault that occurred at that time was when the woman struck the bouncer after refusing to leave.

The owner also said there was no video of the incident. The club keeps surveillance camera video for two weeks. They were notified by ABRA of the investigation 17 days after the incident took place, the owner said.

The owner also accused the customers of waging an unfair campaign against the club on social media.

ANC Commissioner John Green (district 12 -- where Tropicalia is located) asked if the bouncer involved in the incident was still working at Tropicalia.

Another member of the management team said the bouncer involved in the incident had left -- "for unrelated reasons".

The customers who had made the allegations and their allies sat silently while the owner talked to the committee. When he was finished, Baumann asked if they wished to say anything. One of them took up his offer.

"The reason I came before this body was to give you a heads up," she said.

She said she had been "attacked and injured" at the club and a report had been "filed with the prosecutor". However, she said, she understood the owner's perspective.

"I want to prevent that from happening again," she said.

Barring further developments, this seems to be the end of the case. The committee did not take any action or any vote on this matter at the meeting.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)