City Paper Widget

Friday, September 19, 2014

Interview with Danielle Pierce, Candidate for ANC2F District 06

This is a written interview with Danielle Pierce, who is running for Commissioner of district 06 in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle. It is the only race in ANC2F that will have two candidates on the ballot -- see SALM blog post of August 11.

(From ANC2F's website)
Pierce's opponent in the race is Charlie Bengel. An interview with Bengel appeared yesterday.

District 06 is the easternmost district in ANC2F. It included Blagden Alley and Naylor Court. It extends through Shaw and down to Mount Vernon Square. The Washington Convention Center is in this district. It is the green box on the right of the map at right.

Don't know your ANC district? There are two search tools: one by the DC government, the other by Code for DC.


-- Where can voters go to learn more about you?

There is a lot of information about me here. But, as a quick summary, I have been a part of the Ward 2 community for my entire adult life. I graduated from the George Washington University and GW Law, and I have worked in this neighborhood for the past 20 years. I became a homeowner in 2F06 10 years ago, and I have since spent a lot of time working to help the community. I love my neighborhood. It gives me great pride to have played a part in the incredible improvements in the area. I would love to continue this work as the ANC2F 06 Commissioner. As Commissioner, not only will I work to ensure that the revitalization continues in a sustainable fashion, but I will work to instill more of a sense of community here. I plan to hold regular single member district meetings to ensure that everyone has a voice, and I would be happy to come to condo board and other neighborhood meetings to update and seek input from those who may not have the time to attend the ANC meetings. If you have any questions, please email me at daniellewpierce@gmail.com.

-- What's your position on recent attempts by the DC government to limit conversions of single-family homes into multi-unit buildings?

I believe this issue needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Each block in our neighborhood has a different character. Some blocks are now filled with mostly multi-floored, multi-unit buildings with one or two very large houses in the middle. Some of these are vacant and in desperate need of renovation. In those instances, it wouldn't make any sense to require that these houses be kept as five or six bedroom single-family homes. But there are other instances in which a block may be filled with all smaller single-family homes and the conversion of one of these homes to a multi-unit building would affect the character of the block dramatically. In these instances, it may be wise to require that the building remains a single-family home.

Thus, although it is sometimes nice to have broad rules to shortcut decision-making processes, I don't believe that this is an instance where such broad-brushed rulings would be appropriate.

-- In June, Ward 2 City Councilmember Jack Evans went before ANC 2F and suggested a liquor license moratorium might be appropriate for the area. What do you think about Evans’ suggestion and about liquor license moratoriums in general?

I am not aware of the context of Councilmember Evans’ suggestion, but I am generally opposed to liquor license moratoriums.

I have seen how they can completely stunt the growth of a neighborhood. For example, a few years back, Cleveland Park was seemingly on the verge of a renaissance with a bunch of new restaurants drawing people to the area. But many of the storefronts remained underutilized because of the liquor license moratorium, leaving many vacant properties between the attractions. I think that these manufactured holes in the commercial strips were a significant cause of the loss of momentum, and now several of the prized restaurants - such as Palena and Dino - have had to close or relocate to other, more welcoming, areas.

ANC2F has some amazing commercial strips that are thriving. As explained in a City Paper article earlier this year, "The more restaurants there are within close proximity, the more the neighborhood becomes a destination where diners quickly fill streets and crowd bar stools." I understand that there are some types of restaurants and bars that we may not want to proliferate (and a few local ones that we may want to go away), but I believe that our single member district is actually attracting the exact type of restaurant that will make our neighborhood better.

Only a few years ago, there was very little in the immediate neighborhood aside from the treasure of El Rinconcito. Then Tom Power took the leap and opened one of the best restaurants in the city here, Corduroy. Then RJ Cooper followed suit with Rogue 24. These men, helped by the Brown brothers down the street (Passenger, Columbia Room, Hogo, Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency) put this neighborhood on the dining map. Others have been following, and now we are lucky to have Thally, Table, Baby Wale, La Columbe, Seasonal Pantry’s Supper Club, A&D, Sundevich, Cher Cher (which is my favorite Ethiopian at the moment; give it a try if you haven't yet), and so many other great places that have opened, and many great chefs are planning to move in soon. These are exactly the type of small businesses that we want in our neighborhood, and I want them to survive, both because I think that they are good for our neighborhood, and because I personally enjoy them. Moreover, without those restaurants, the storefronts would be dark at night, and the area would be less safe.

Thus, I do not think a liquor license ban would be good for our neighborhood at this time. On the other hand, I think that applications should be reviewed carefully every time they come up and when there are problems, so that we can avoid or get rid of neighborhood nuisances.

-- After local businesspeople came before the ANC this year to plead for better parking, ANC2F proposed a study for a parking lot on S Street, on a property located in ANC1B, but abutted ANC2F. The proposal was quickly shot down by S Street residents and ANC1B. How can ANCs facilitate a response to chronic parking problems that will be satisfactory to the different neighborhood constituencies?


Parking is, and will continue to be, an issue here. There is no way around that. This just isn't the easiest area to park. But many residents are getting around that by using other methods of transportation. We should encourage that and make it as easy as possible. We should increase the access to Capital Bikeshare, ensure that bike lanes are safe and respected, provide more bike racks, and allow easy access to shared cars and rides. I have experience working with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) on these types of issues as the founder of the Transportation Committee for my child’s charter school, and I would like to continue such work in our own neighborhood.

But there will be times when parking can't be avoided. I think that ANC2F has done a wonderful job this year in creating a visitor's parking pass that has proven so effective that it will be used as a model for other parts of the city. To the extent that more spots are necessary for residents and valets, we may need to think out of the box more and work more closely with neighboring ANCs.

-- ANC2F was sued last year in connection with a far-reaching Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request which required Commissioners to divulge information from their personal email accounts. Should Commissioners be compelled to divulge such information? How can a balance be struck between a Commissioner's personal affairs and the need for transparency in government decisions?

Over the past 12 years of my day job as an attorney - as a law clerk in a local federal court, as an associate at a law firm, and as a federal government attorney - I have had the opportunity to view discovery and FOIA requests from many different angles. I have seen the importance of such requests, and I truly believe that our society is better because we are all armed with the ability to seek information that may not otherwise be available to us. Thus, I think that such requests must be taken very seriously.

On the other hand, the requests must be tailored for the specific situation. Only those documents that are relevant to the situation should be requested. Figuring out which documents are relevant is always a bit of a negotiation. Virtually all requests are originally overbroad, and a compromise must be reached. In the situation you cited above, my understanding is that the document request was worded very broadly, including a request for all emails with the term "resolution" in them. Clearly, as the ANC makes many resolutions about many issues, this would have resulted in many irrelevant documents. Thus, I would have tried to negotiate that we include only those documents that include the name of the restaurant at issue, the address and possibly a few other related terms.

Having been a litigator, I am not a fan of litigation. It is generally a waste of everyone's resources. Thus, to the extent possible, if someone has a question, I would love to discuss it with them before it gets to a point of formal litigation. I would work with them to find common ground, to provide what everyone can agree would be reasonable in a manageable timeframe. As the judge I clerked for, a star mediator himself, told me when I was interviewing with him while still in law school years ago, any case that is litigated to completion is lost. That is never the best result.

-- There was recently a proposal to allow churches and private businesses to be eligible for ANC grant money. Do you think churches and businesses should receive these grants? Why or why not?

I was at the meeting in which this was raised, and although there were valid points in favor of allowing churches and private businesses to receive grant money in some instances, I believe that there are easy work-arounds that would be more advisable.

As background, this was raised in the context of security cameras. Some residents had requested more security, including security cameras, in some areas. The discussion centered around whether the grants could be given to churches or local businesses who would use the funds to place security cameras on their property to watch the neighborhood as the residents had requested. Although it may make sense in some instances to install such cameras, there are currently rules forbidding the issuance of grants to churches and private business. This rule makes sense as we shouldn't be using city funds to prop up individual businesses or religious institutions.

However, it would be easy enough to achieve the same goal by funneling the grants through neighborhood organizations that would oversee the use of the funds for the intended purpose. In fact, this was actually done at the last meeting, when an organization that was not a formal non-profit applied for a grant. As there were concerns about sending the money directly to an individual, the Logan Circle Community Association, a local nonprofit, offered to receive the funds on behalf of the neighborhood group and oversee that they were used for the intended purpose. Thus, all the concerns were allayed, and the cause received the funds. The exact same process could be used by churches and private businesses if they have legitimate reasons to receive the funding.

-- Is there anything I should have asked but didn't?

Not that I can think of at the moment.

End of interview

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 4. Thanks to all candidates for responding to my questions.

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 17 (City on Trial)

This is the seventeenth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.by Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 15: City on Trial (two of three)

Just before the start of Barry's 1989 drug trial, one of the lead investigators on the case told another investigator: "Unfortunately, a lot of those jurors are going to base their decision purely on the issue of race. If I'm a juror, and think that the investigation was racially motivated, I vote to acquit."

The second investigator "simply couldn't believe it; he certainly could never accept it. 'You're dead wrong', he said. He looked away for a moment and said, 'I hope you're dead wrong' " (Kindle location 4909).

On the first day of the trial, Barry sat with his lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, an African-American. His wife Effi sat in the second row of spectators. US Associate Attorney General Jay Stephens also was in the audience. Ricky Roberts ("tall, stiff, light-skinned African American" (l.  4948)) made the opening statement for the prosecution on June 18, 1990.

" 'This is a case about deceit and deception,' he told the jury" (l. 4928).

Mundy's tactic was to put the government on trial.

" 'This case is about the deals the government made with the devil,' he said, asking jurors to remove the headlines from their minds, and pretend they had just awakened from a long sleep. 'Seven years ago the government made a determination that it would get Marion Barry, and it would to to any lengths, any extremes to get him' " (l. 4930).

"Ken Mundy... was a master of making jurors see the world through his eyes. He played the homeboy attorney, talking to the twelve men and women as if they were neighbors" (l. 4955).

"Mundy had no special love for Barry and vacillated before taking the case after the Vista bust. He had supported his cousin, former council chairman Sterling Tucker, against Barry in the 1978 mayoral campaign. He knew that defending Barry now would require a full frontal assault on the system of justice, and he wondered what the members of the 'club' would think of him. In his moment of indecision, NAACP executive director Benjamin Hooks personally urged him to take the case" (l. 4960).

Nelson Mandela started a visit on DC on June 25, while jurors heard testimony from women on the receiving end of Barry's unwanted sexual advances.

"The mayor had vowed to keep a proper distance between his tawdry trail and Nelson Mandela's triumphant celebration and put his intentions in a letter to Mandela's tour committee ..." (l. 4992).

However, Barry appeared at a private fundraiser for Mandela. "Barry showed up with ten aides, bodyguards, and a photographer. Pushing and shoving, they forced their way into the room just so that Barry could have his photograph taken with Mandela. Barry's stunt preempted the fundraiser, and thousands of dollars were lost as the mayor kept the Mandelas occupied while one of his aides went looking for a key to the city" (l. 5001).

Barry showed off his pictures with Mandela in the courtroom to reporters in the press section.

Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore described her multi-year drug-fueled affair with Barry. Mundy made Moore look bad on cross-examination.

"Street vendors did a brisk business in T-shirts that said: 'Bitch set him up' " (l. 5027).

"Effi Barry escorted her husband back to the District Building after Rasheeda Moore's first day of testimony, took him into his office, and slammed the door. Aides then heard the First Lady scream: 'I'm a person too. I have to sit and listen to all this. How do you think I feel?' " (l. 5028).

"That night the mayor took his wife for a suprise appearance at a rally for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at the Convention Center, just one night after Nelson Mandela's speech..." (l. 5029).

Barry had had a "rocky relationship" with Farrakhan, a vocal anti-Semite. He accused Barry of "bowing down" to the Jews who had contributed to his election campaign. But at this moment they made common cause.

The next day, Farrakhan tried to appear in the courtroom as Barry's guest. The judge barred Farrakhan for the duration of the case. The action was eventually reversed after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complain, but by that time Farrakhan had moved on.

On the same day Farrakhan was barred, the jury saw the video of Barry smoking crack at the Vista Hotel for the first time.

Outside the courtroom, "...most saw the quick clips played on the TV news. The distilled version showed two scenes: the mayor drawing deeply and professionally from the crack pipe, and authorities crashing noisily into the room. The people who judged Barry's guilt or innocence on the single frame that made newspapers all over the world -- the picture of Barry hitting the crack pipe -- got an even more one-dimensional view" (l. 5086).

"The issue of who first mentioned drugs was debatable, but once Barry had the crack pipe, it was quite clear that he knew exactly what to do with it. There was no doubt he bought crack, that he possessed crack, that he smoked crack. The evidence seemed to ensure a conviction, but it was neutralized by the following scene showing the police and FBI agents piling into the room. It was a violent and disturbing scene" (l. 5094).

"The Vista tape, besides being an embarrassing peep show, left the impression that Barry was hoodwinked twice: once to come to the room and again to smoke crack. It didn't fit the legal definition of entrapment, but that was irrelevant. It looked like a trap, a con job" (l. 5095).

"Ken Mundy knew that, and he made certain that the jurors saw the tape over and over again. It turned out to be his best weapon" (l. 5096).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Interview with Charlie Bengel, Candidate for ANC2F District 06

This is a written interview with Charlie Bengel, who is running for Commissioner of district 06 in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle. It is the only race in ANC2F that will have two candidates on the ballot -- see SALM blog post of August 11.

(From ANC2F's website)
Bengel's opponent is Danielle Pierce. Read an interview with Pierce here.

District 06 is the easternmost district in ANC2F. It included Blagden Alley and Naylor Court. It extends through Shaw and down to Mount Vernon Square. The Washington Convention Center is in this district. It is the green box on the right of the map at right.

Don't know your ANC district? There are two search tools: one by the DC government, the other by Code for DC.


– Where can voters go to learn more about you?

First, thanks David, for allowing me to answer your questions and publishing your blog. It’s a great resource for residents who cannot make the ANC meetings.

A bit about me: I was born in Fairfax and grew up in Florida, returning to the DC area over 15 years ago to work in the family real estate business, where I am now the CEO. I am privileged to lead a top 50 real estate company in the US with nearly 500 agents and employees working in offices in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. A few years ago I was named a 40 Under 40 Business Leader by Washington Business Journal and, earlier this year, to the prestigious Top 200 US Real Estate Leaders list by the Swanepoel organization. Once elected, I will be the only Commissioner in 2F to own a business (three District locations; one in Shaw), which makes me uniquely qualified for the position of Commissioner since so many of the Commission's duties intersect with small business owners.

In the community, I previously volunteered as an Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) reserve officer for a number of years, which gave me a unique perspective on crime, its prevention and the importance of an active citizenry in crime reduction. I also continue to mentor high school students as a volunteer mentor and have been assisting my condo board with the large Marriott development that is proposed behind our building.

Additionally, I have raised nearly $750,000 for Children's Hospital in the District through my leadership position in my company and our generous agents, staff and community.

To learn more and follow my campaign, voters can check out BengelForDC.com, twitter.com/BengelForDC, and facebook.com/BengelForDC. I also urge voters to email me at Charlie (at) BengelForDC.com as I very much would like to meet voters for coffee and discuss community concerns and ideas.

– What's your position on recent attempts by the DC government to limit conversions of single-family homes into multi-unit residences?

This is a very complex issue as it deals with affordable housing, private property rights, the original intent of the R-4 zoning designation and the simple fact that most people do not want new development next door.

Currently, R-4 allows for up to two units per building and I do not believe that adding two more would drastically change a neighborhood as long as any addition fits in with the character of the neighborhood. We have all seen what appear to be aesthetically pleasing pop-ups and pop-ups that clearly do not fit within the character of the neighborhood.

The reality of housing demand is that the units priced lower are much more in demand and affordable to younger professionals - typically those moving into the city. If that housing stock can be increased without destroying the characteristics of a neighborhood, I am supportive.

Lastly, the Office of Planning needs to proactively plan! Instead of a patchwork of rules made to deal with a particular issue, the city needs real planning in order to deal with current and future housing needs. As this occurs and allows for the development of housing that is needed, the row home issue can be readdressed.

– In June, Ward 2 City Councilmember Jack Evans went before ANC2F and suggested a liquor license moratorium might be appropriate for the area. What do you think about Evans' suggestion, and about liquor license moratoriums in general?

Instead of a blanket moratorium, I’d prefer to deal with bad actors on an individual basis. Most of the liquor license holders are good business people and neighbors and we should be encouraging growth of businesses that the community wants. That said, I believe that the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) needs to improve when it comes to aggressively dealing with businesses that are an ongoing nuisance to the community.

– After local businesspeople came before the ANC this year to plead for better parking, ANC2F proposed a study for a parking lot on S Street, on a property located in ANC1B but abutted ANC2F. The proposal was quickly shot down by S Street residents and ANC1B. How can ANCs facilitate a response to chronic parking problems that will be satisfactory to the different neighborhood constituencies?

Parking in an urban area is always challenging and there are no easy answers. However, I do not think that the government building or providing a facility for parking is the answer. Let's recall that the city spent $40 million on a taxpayer-funded garage for DC USA. At one point, due to lack of use, the garage was losing $100,000 a month. I do think the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) should study parking rates, as District meter rates are quite inexpensive when compared with the most expensive rates in the country. I'd also like to see a graduated fee program studied, similar to demand-based pricing on express lanes in Virginia. Regardless, parking will remain an issue and, with the public transit options we have, including Metro, the Circulator, Capital Bikeshare, Uber and the like, customers should try to leave cars at home whenever possible.

Also regarding parking, I am in favor of the renewing the visitor parking permit program for ANC2F as it allows residents to let friends and contractors park when they visit.

– ANC2F was sued last year in connection with a far-reaching Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request which required Commissioners to divulge information from their personal email accounts. Should Commissioners be compelled to divulge such information? How can a proper balance be struck between a Commissioner's personal affairs and the need for transparency in government decisions?

Without commenting on the merits of this particular suit, I believe that Commissioners are compelled to follow FOIA requests. Commissioners should also use a separate email account, ideally the account provided by the city, for commission business.

– There was recently a proposal to allow churches and private businesses to be eligible for ANC grant money. Do you think churches and business should receive these grants? Why or why not?

First, I think it is great that ANC 2F has a plan to deal with surplus cash instead of hoarding it like some other ANCs do.

I think that businesses and churches can, and often, do good work in our community. If the businesses and churches can articulate that the money will be used for non-commercial and non-religious use, I am supportive. I am also supportive of the grant program to encourage property owners to install cameras, as these cameras have been integral in the apprehension of criminals.

– Is there anything I should have asked but didn't?

In the next few years we will continue to see massive growth within 2F06, much of which will take place in Blagden Alley and the parcel between L & M Streets along 9th St NW. My front window faces Blagden Alley, and I drive past the proposed Marriott development every time I leave the parking garage. The community needs an advocate during the planning and construction process of all of the planned development, large and small, and I will be that advocate.

The development proposals discussed above, along with the upcoming “The Colonel” apartment building, could add 500 residents and 500 hotel rooms in ANC 2F06 alone. With this will come more activity, retail and likely raise property values. Unfortunately there will also be increased parking issues, noise and other nuisances.

Regarding those nuisances, I feel strongly that an ANC Commissioner should be the primary liaison between residents and city agencies and other elected officials. If a resident calls 911 or 311 and does not receive a solution to his or her problem, the Commissioner should step in and do everything possible to get to resolution, all the while communicating promptly with all parties. As a resident, I have already had numerous quality of life issues (illegal parking, illegal dumping, potholes, crime, missing parking signs, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) permitting confusion, etc.) addressed by the city and I look forward to continuing that progress as Commissioner.

End of interview

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 4. Thanks to all candidates for responding to my questions.

Beau Thai Liquor License: How Early is Too Early?

At its regular monthly meeting September 1, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E/Shaw voted to endorse the application for a liquor license for the new branch of Beau Thai. The restaurant will be located in the new Jefferson MarketPlace development at 1550 7th Street NW. It is moving from its current location at 1700 New Jersey Avenue NW, at R Street, also in Shaw.

Beau Thai's future home earlier this year (photo credit below)
Steven Whalen of Veritas Law Firm presented for the management of Beau Thai. Whalen said the restaurant will have 99 seats and a total occupancy of 120. There will be a 24-seat outdoor cafe.

Beau Thai will be located in ANC6E district 01. ANC6E Chair Alexander Padro is the Commissioner for that district. Representing the ANC, Padro and Beau Thai have signed a "settlement agreement", which at the time of the meeting was pending approval by DC liquor-licensing authorities. Padro characterized the agreement as "standard".

As a result, the permitted operating hours of the new restaurant will be the same or similar to its neighbors. For example, the outside patio will normally open at 11am. It will stay open until 10:30pm weekdays, and until 11pm weekends. There will be no live music. The inside hours of operation will be the maximum normally allowed by DC law, that is, until 2am weekdays and 3am weekends.

The settlement agreement also allows alcohol consumption at 8am. A neighbor noted this detail at the meeting. She had observed it on the mandatory liquor licensing placard on the future site of the restaurant.

She called this "much, much too early in the a.m."

"If we don't have enough alcoholics, we will have enough alcoholics," she said. "That's like an invitation."

There followed a long discussion in which the neighbor attempted unsuccessfully to get the morning hours reduced. Whalen repeated there was no intention to serve alcohol early in the morning on a regular basis, but the restaurant wished to leave its options open in case it decided, for example, to serve brunch.

Commissioner Rachelle Nigro (district 04) asked if it was possible to amend the signed agreement so that liquor service could not start until 10:30 or 11am, "whenever normal lunchtime is". Whalen and Padro were dead-set against it.

"We already have an agreement negotiated. I would not support any changes to it," Padro said.

Nigro said there was a "neighborhood concern" about the hours.

Padro said one person (i.e., the person protesting at the meeting) "was not a neighborhood concern".

"I'm not the only person who's concerned about this," the neighbor said.

Padro directed the neighbor to bring up her concern at the ABRA hearing about the liquor license. The neighbor promised to do so.

Nigro recommended that the neighbor sit down with the restaurant owner first.

The neighbor said she would "follow through on that".

The vote on Padro's motion to endorse the liquor license request was 5 to 2. The two "no" votes were Commissioners Frank Wiggins (district 03) and Marge Maceda (district 05).

ANC6E records its meeting in their entirety and posts them in half-hour chunks on its YouTube channel. One of the half-hour chunks (part two of five) -- during which part of the discussion above took place -- was missing when I last looked. However, most of the discussion above can be viewed on part three of five, starting at the beginning of the video, here.

See previous coverage of the Beau Thai's infra-Shaw move from the blogs BadWolf DC here and Popville here.

Beau Thai has another branch in Mount Pleasant.

(Photo credit: BadWolf DC. Used by permission.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2724 11th Street: "We're Very Divided on This"

The committee vote was three in favor, two opposed, and two absentions. The person who eventually cast the deciding vote at first responded: "I don't know".

2724 11th Street in August
However, the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street will recommend to the full ANC to support zoning variance which would allow the owners to renovate and enlarge a blighted rent-controlled building at 2724 11th Street NW, at the corner of Girard Street. The full ANC will probably take up this matter at its next scheduled meeting on Thursday, October 2, 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

This was the second time attorney Martin Sullivan of Sullivan & Barros presented to the Design Review Committee. There had been some changes, made at the suggestion of the committee, since Sullivan's last appearance before the committee -- see SALM blog post of June 23. For example, the proposed curb cut on the side of the building facing Girard Street was eliminated due to neighborhood opposition over the loss of on-street parking.

Another change was the number of units the building will have after the proposed renovation. It currently has 25 rent-controlled units. The original proposal would have added 11 more units, for a total of 36. Under the revised proposal, there will be nine new units, but one existing rent-controlled unit will be eliminated to create space for trash collection.

Yet another proposed changed is that ground-floor units would open on to small individual gardens -- four facing 11th Street, two facing Girard Street.

"The architect is making the building more street-friendly and neighborhood-friendly," Sullivan said.

The entire building will remain rent-controlled. However, the new units will enter the market at a much higher rent.

The building has been the focus of an organized action by tenants and community activists to improve the conditions of the residents and, if possible, to force the current owners to sell the building to someone who would take better care of it -- see SALM blog post of August 4. The two groups have formed "Save 2724 11th Street", which has a web site, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and online petition.

However, there seemed to be no representatives of the group at the Design Review Committee meeting.

After a chilly initial reception at the meeting, Sullivan said he thought the committee wished to "punish the owner", a wealthy family that had allowed the building to fall into a state of neglect during half a century of ownership.

"That's the impression I got the last time I was here," Sullivan said.

"The default is a property owner owns a property," Sullivan also said. "But we're in the District of Columbia, so that's not the case."

Sullivan said the owners had made $8,000, net, on the property last year. They proposed to invest $3 million on the renovation.

The first motion was to deny endorsement of the zoning requests, because there were "not significant community benefits".  This motion went down to defeat -- two in favor, three against, two abstentions.

Design Review Committee Chair Lela Winston then made a motion in favor of recommending to the full ANC endorsement the zoning variances, if the applicants provided drawings for a further revised design which incorporated changes made by the committee at the meeting. These changes would increase the number of two bedroom units and decrease the number of one bedroom and studio apartments. This is the motion that was eventually approved by a 3-2-2 vote.

"We're very divided on this," a committee member said.

Sullivan said that the zoning variances at scheduled for a hearing at DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on October 21.

ANC1B, in addition to U Street, includes all or part of the following neighborhoods: Columbia Heights, LeDroit Park, Pleasant Plains, Shaw, University Heights, and lower Georgia Avenue.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview with Robert Sinners, Candidate for ANC2B, district 08

Robert Sinners is a candidate for Commissioner for district 08 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle. Of three candidates, Sinners is the only one who responded to my request for an interview. I normally like to receive replies from both candidates and then publish them, so one candidate doesn't have the advantage of reading the other candidate's answers. In this case, I decided to go ahead and publish the one candidate who responded.

Nicole Mann is a second candidate. On the sidelines of the August 13 ANC2B meeting, I asked her if she would respond to written questions. She agreed. On August 14, I sent the same questions as below. Responding to a follow-up inquiry, Mann promised answers by August 25. I received nothing. Since then, I have sent two additional emails and two private messages on Twitter, asking if she intended to respond. I have received no reply to any them.

A third candidate, Allison Fitzsimmonds, said via email that she has dropped out of the race.

ANC2B district 08 is on the north side of ANC2B. Its borders are (roughly) Florida Avenue and U Street NW on the north, New Hampshire Avenue on the east, Swann Street on the south, and 19th Street on the west -- see top of map at right.

Don't know your ANC district? There are two search tools: one by the DC government, the other by Code for DC.

-- What relevant experience do you bring to the job?


I bring two dynamics to the job; I bring experience in public policy on all levels- both public and private sector and, I bring a blunt, humorous persona that believes that the truth is often ugly but must not be suppressed. Combine these two and you have someone who is both knowledgeable in public policy, yet unwavering in the efforts to ensure the appropriate solution to the policy question is implemented. My public policy experience exposed me to processes both good and bad on local, state, and federal levels. I learned that change is local, and doesn't really happen in the halls of Congress, or necessarily in the Wilson Building, as we so thought. I also learned working with both Republican and Democratic officials that politics and good policy often diverges- sharply. The true vehicle of change is local, civic involvement. I'm attracted to the ANC because it's a unique form of a hyper-local legislature, truly one of a kind. I think the model of government stands at the front lines of community development, and interested and engaged individuals have a duty to be involved.

-- If elected, what single issue to you anticipate will take up most of your time? Why?


ANCs should devote more attention to zoning. When I decided to pursue real estate as a career, I was fortunate enough to position myself in a role that constantly looks at the changes occurring in DC neighborhoods- real estate, demographics, and construction issues mostly. The issue that brought me into this race is the parking garage that will be demolished along Florida/U/17th. While it may be under an adjacent jurisdiction, I followed the issue. It received very little community pushback. I don't think enough attention was raised and still most citizens don't realize the only public parking garage in vicinity to ANC 2B08 is about to be demolished to make way for a 150 unit condoplex- one in which even the residents aren't guaranteed parking. As it stands, parking is a crisis in Ward 2, and one of the strongest resources is about to go way of the Dodo. A larger community discussion needs to be had in these cases, and I think this one slipped right past. This project sits right above the border of Ward 2, in Ward 1, yet many Ward 2 residents rely on it for parking. The public relies on it for parking. And it's as good as gone.

-- What can be done to make parking less of a hassle in the Dupont area?

In addition to the above response, greater communication among neighboring jurisdictions is key. "Policy Diffusion" is a term in political science stating that policy implemented in one jurisdiction will influence or affect neighboring jurisdictions . The statistics are mostly applied on the state level, but I think it applies in practice with the ANCs and how they implement policy. If we want to establish committees in ANC 2B to tackle the issue of parking, and have it as a predominate discussion at meetings, then the demolition of the largest parking garage in the area must be in that discussion- the discussion with neighboring jurisdictions is part of that. The best solution to issues with parking is to look at other ANCs and see what's working and what isn't. I know jurisdictional boundaries aren't necessarily shutting off communication but, a greater part of ANC work and public discussion should center on looking citywide rather than insular, and seeing what has been an effective policy model in other jurisdictions.

-- There are two liquor license moratoriums now in place in ANC2B. What is your opinion of the effectiveness of these moratoriums?

Eigthteenth St/Adams Morgan recently lifted their moratorium. Did those initial regulations that introduced the moratorium have the desired effects? I don't think so. Restricting bars actually increased the amount of people on the streets. In Dupont, we don't have the same issues with violent crime, so it's an entirely different scenario. CT/DT and CN/DN licenses may have reached a reasonable cap in Dupont and I would support continuing that policy- we have a community that isn't a real nightclub or tavern culture. It's a residential area and we should preserve that character in 2B. However, there are issues with restricting restaurants, lunch spots that wish to serve wine and beer, and retail. Anytime you set regulations, it's hard to speed up that process for those who are clear "wins" for the community and induce little controversy. That's why I'm admittedly very torn to the issue of a moratorium- must in moving forth I think it's important to recognize the citizens that want greater nightlife options, the owners who want to stay competitive in the marketplace, and, the citizens who have to worry about noise, property damage, and overall reduced quality of life from literally having it in their backyard. Just ask my friend Larry, who I met while collecting signatures. His backyard backs up to a bar and has become the bathroom trawl for rowdy patrons.

-- Most (perhaps all) of ANC2B is part of one historic district or another. Is the DC government now striking the right balance between the desire for historic preservation and protection of the property rights of homeowners?

Micromanagement is a headache. According to historic preservation guidelines in DC, there are regulations for utility meters and how they can be displayed on historic buildings and in historic districts. Is that where we need to invest our efforts? My senses tell me there might be more important issues in preserving a neighborhood aesthetic than that. However, regulations should be used in order to ensure that homeowners help to maintain that standard in good faith. Some of the guidelines don't make sense to me- they are too involved in the details, rather than in the spirit. Often times when regulations are formed down to the detail, rather than the spirit of the law, it becomes a matter of personal preference and works against those who are regulated. So, in that regard, I think personal property rights will always be in jeopardy.

-- The DC government is considering new regulations to limit conversions of single-family homes into multi-unit dwellings. In your opinion, are these new regulations a good idea?

It depends. Pop-ups are unsightly and often go against the character of neighborhoods. I am especially opposed to pop-ups because of the nature of the investment. Often times the owner isn't even from the neighborhood, thus, doesn't have an appreciation for the character and history of the surroundings. To the savvy investor, the dollar is the almighty achievement- not maximizing the aesthetic appeal of the property. I would totally support reducing the ability of investors in 2B to move forward with condo and apartment conversions with pop-ups as the modus.

However, on the other side of that argument is the reality that "affordable" housing is growing increasingly sparse. Washington Post had an article about it Tuesday, August 19. With all of these 200+ unit buildings being delivered, 3-6 unit spots offer a weathered, and often times, cheaper alternative. So, there's that mindset to consider. Overall though, I would say that I am strongly opposed to pop-ups being the solution. They detract from the character of the neighborhood.

-- How are you different from the other candidate in the race?

I think the most important aspect of community service is maintaining an open mind and being approachable. Often times, folks become involved in local activism thinking that they are out to represent one group or ideal. Outsiders are even sometimes viewed as threats or nuisances. That's the wrong way to go. I bring an independent streak and an energy that doesn't quit until the work is done. I love people, and I truly feel fulfilled when I help others achieve their goals.

I am someone who has worked all his life to build what I am. I have experienced great fortune, and great defeat. Through it, I have grown to understand that if I am to be a servant of the community, then nothing is too trivial to deserve my attention or my care. I will work to find a solution or at least, listen to a concern with my full attention and ambition in order to deliver a solution. I want to be a resource to the public. In fact, email me anytime if you have any questions, and I will respond.

End of interview.

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 4. Thanks to all candidates for responding to my questions.

Monday, September 15, 2014

1534 5th Street: Owner Has a Driveway but Can't Get a Curb Cut

At its regular monthly meeting September 2, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw voted unanimously to oppose a curb cut in the middle of the 1500 block of 5th Street NW in Shaw, between P and Q Streets. A curb cut would reduce on-street parking on the block by at least two spaces.

1534 5th Street in July
"Parking is such a huge problem on this block and there's no other property that has a curb cut," said Commissioner Kevin Chapple (district 02). Chapple made the motion to oppose the curb cut.

The proposed curb cut would be in front of 1534 5th Street, which is in Chapple's district.

Abraham Soquar came before the ANC to plead his case. He is a newcomer to the neighborhood, and is building a three-and-a-half story semi-detached row house on the formerly empty lot. He talked about when he first saw the lot.

"When I passed by," Soquar said, "people would throw rubbish there, have homeless people living there, and so on."

He said the house, which is currently under construction, is his "first project" and he is hoping to live there. It has space for a driveway on the north side of the property, but there is no rear alley or other way for a vehicle to park there.

Soquar said the completed house would be "more of a sightly place and a better benefit to the street."

Soquar had a letter of support from one of his immediate neighbors, but many of the people in the area were opposed to the curb cut.

"I have received many, many other notices from my constituents that they are opposed to the curb cut," Chappell said.

Other than the next-door neighbor, Chappell said: "Everybody else who has contacted me -- and I've contacted -- are opposed to it because it would put added stress on everyone else..."

Shaw activist and neighbor Martin Moulton spoke briefly against the curb cut. Moulton said he had lived in the neighborhood for 14 years and had never seen homeless people camping out on the property when it was vacant. However, he conceded: "It was sort of a blight."

Moulton said there had been "at least three or four ground-up constructions" in the same block and "no one has received a curb cut."

"It's totally out of character with the types of blocks we live on," Moulton said.

Soquar had hoped to get ANC endorsement before a District Department of Transportation (DDOT) hearing scheduled for later this month. Curb cuts are the responsibility of the DDOT.

The proposed curb cut at 1534 5th Street was the subject of the SALM blog post of July 16.

ANC6E videos its monthly meetings in their entirety and posts them in half-hour segment on YouTube. See ANC6E's YouTube channel here. The discussion of the curb cut for 1534 5th Street can be on seen here, starting at time 24:10.