City Paper Widget

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Agreement Reached in Logan Circle Air Rights Deal

Barry Madani of Madison Investments told a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle that his company had reached a deal with the board of the Zenith Condominium (1437 Rhode Island Avenue) which will allow Madison to build a part of a seven-story condominium over the Zenith's driveway. Madani told ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) of the deal at its last regularly-scheduled meeting on February 25.

This space will change hands.
"They were interested, we came to an agreement," Madani said.

However, Madani did not say how much Madison Investments will pay the Zenith Condominium for the air rights. Last year, there were reports that the owners' association of the Zenith Condominium had been offered $500,000, but some members wished to hold out for more -- see SALM blog post of August 27, 2014.

The ANC does not have to endorse or even know about the deal, but it creates a situation in which Madison Investments needs to court the ANC's endorsement.

Madison Investments will get "fee simple" (meaning, unconditional) ownership of a slice of land, which is now a driveway to some outside parking on the side and rear of the Zenith Condominium. The slice is roughly the width of one curb cut. Its length starts at the public sidewalk in front of 1437 Rhode Island Avenue and ends somewhere in mid-lot.

In exchange, the Zenith Condominium will get (in addition to a large cash payment) a "perpetual easement", so vehicles coming and going from the Zenith can use the driveway just as they do now.

The change of ownership of the strip of driveway means that Madison Investments will now be responsible for the curb cut leading to Rhode Island Avenue. Madani explained that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) treats this change of ownership and responsibility as "a new development", so Madison Investments must apply for a curb cut like it was a new one, even though the curb cut already exists and will accommodate the same cars moving and parking on the same land.

"For all intents and purposes, everything will remain as it is," Madani said.

The CDC unanimously endorsed this request with very little debate. It will recommend to the full ANC that a letter be sent to DDOT in support of the "new" curb cut. Normally, requests approved unanimously by the CDC are approved by the full ANC with little further debate.

This matter is on the agenda for ANC2F's next regular monthly meeting, scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday), March 4, at 7 pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Monday, March 2, 2015

New Blagden Alley Construction: "I Envision a Restaurant" Next to Rogue 24

A team from Douglas Development unveiled a plan for a new building to be constructed in Blagden Alley at a regularly-scheduled monthly meeting of a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle on February 25. The address will be 920 N Street NW. The building will abut Rogue 24 restaurant to the east. The space is currently a fenced-in empty lot which sometimes functions as a sculpture garden or a location for outside events.

Black building (right): Artist's conception of proposal
Paul Millstein of Douglas Development told ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) told the committee the project was "a matter of right from a zoning perspective", meaning, it will not be necessary to seek zoning relief. However, the design, concept, and massing of the building must be approved by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) because the building is located in the Blagden Alley/Naylor Court Historic District

The black building on the right of the picture is the proposed new building.  The architect told the CDC the plan is for the building to have a two-story, 32-foot-tall building with a black brick veneer. It would be three feet taller than La Colombe coffee shop (left in photo), but still well within the zoning-dictated limit of 50 feet tall. Its design would "differ from [neighboring] historic buildings but have certain nods".

"We wanted to see the reaction to the brick," one of the presenters said.

The reaction to the color of the brick was not positive. Many members of the committee said they thought it should be changed. Some said it would not be possible to exactly match the color of the brick of the neighboring structures but recommended that the new building have "a similar color".

The new construction would also have access to an improved roof deck over neighboring Rogue 24.

Paul Millstein said there was no tenant committed to the space yet, but the building was built with food service in mind.

"I envision a restaurant," he said.

This lead to a discussion of practical aspects of a restaurant operating in the space, such as valet parking and trash collection. Millstein said he thought the future restaurant would have valet parking on 9th Street.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend the full ANC endorse the historical aspects of the new construction, with the provision that Douglas Development work with HPRB on the color of the brick.

The CDC's unanimous endorsement of this project will now move to the full ANC for approval. The case is on the agenda for ANC2F's next regularly-scheduled meeting on Wednesday, March 4, at 7pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle). In the case of unanimous committee endorsements, the full ANC in the past has often ratified decisions without much further debate.

(Photo credit: from documents distributed at the CDC meeting by Douglas Development)

Friday, February 27, 2015

14th Street Sidewalk Cafe for Slipstream Coffee

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle unanimously endorsed a request for a sidewalk cafe for coffee shop/cocktail bar Slipstream (1333 14th Street NW) at a regular monthly meeting on February 25.

(Photo credit below)
A settlement agreement signed by the establishment and ANC2F in 2013 dictates that the sidewalk cafe cannot have more than 20 seats. The same agreement also says Slipstream can serve sidewalk patrons starting at 8 am seven days a week. They can continue until midnight Sunday to Wednesday, and 1 am Thursday to Sunday, plus the evening before federal holidays.

Ryan Fleming, co-proprietor (with wife Miranda) of Slipstream, told ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) that DC public space regulations will also limit the number of tables to four.

In order to use public space like a sidewalk, it is necessary to get a public space permit from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). A letter of endorsement from the ANC makes the process go more smoothly.

The plan is to put tables outside during hours of operation and pull them in at closing -- no permanent fixtures. There will be no railing fences at the perimeter of the space. The committee recommended putting planters at the corners of the outside space.

There were comparisons to the outdoor space of their immediate neighbor, the restaurant Birch and Barley (1337 14th Street) when Fleming told the ANC that slipstream would have an awning.

"Will it be as imposing as Birch and Barley?" asked CDC member Jim Lamare (Commissioner for district 05).

"The awning is not similar to theirs," Fleming said. He further explained that the awning was already in place and, unlike Birch and Barley, was attached to the building.

In many cases, after getting a public space permit from DDOT, a liquor licensee has an additional step of going back to DC's liquor-licensing authorities for specific permission to sell alcohol outside. However, in this case, the proprietors had the foresight to have provisions about outdoor service written into its original settlement agreement (an 11-page .pdf viewable here), even though they did not immediately use it. At the meeting, Fleming said Slipstream did not start outdoor service directly upon opening because it did not have the money to buy extra tables, chairs, planters, etc.

This matter is on the agenda for the next meeting of the full ANC, scheduled for Wednesday, March 4, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle). Matters passed unanimously by the CDC are routinely passed by the full ANC without further discussion, unless someone from the community shows up to object.

There is a September 20, 2013, SALM blog post about this establishment when it was still in its planning stages.

(Photo credit: Joe Flood/flickr.com - Creative Commons License 2.0)





Thursday, February 26, 2015

Columbia Heights Property Tries to "Make It Legal"

CORRECTION: When first posted, the committee chair was identified as Patrick Brown. His name is Patrick Nelson. Apologies for the error.

2807 Sherman Avenue NW, a property with a colorful recent history, will get a facelift if the new owners can get some zoning relief from DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). So one owner and his attorney were before a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on February 23 to ask the committee to recommend support to the full ANC.

2807 Sherman Ave (to right of streetlight) in May 2014
"This has been a nuisance property for a long time," said Patrick Brown Nelson, chair of
ANC1B's Zoning, Preservation & Development Committee.

"There were like 20 people [living] there," said Brown Nelson of the building which is located between Girard Street and Gresham Place.

On-line records (see .pdf here) show the then-owner of 2807 Sherman Avenue was arrested in August 2012 for assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon. On the same day, other people at the same address were arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use.

In the early morning hours of January 25, 2013, a fire broke out in the floor and walls of 2807 Sherman Avenue, according to a tweet from the DC Firefighters Association. A post with photographs on the District of Columbia Fire Department website (about half-way down the page here) says the fire broke out between the second and third floors and seven residents were "forced into the freezing pre-dawn cold" by the fire.

New owners

The house was sold in June 2014 for $417,000, according to online records. One of the current owners, Matt Medvene, appeared before the ZPD Committee with attorney Martin Sullivan of Sullivan & Barros.

The new owners did not get off to a good start with the building. Medvene told the committee he originally hired an architect from Baltimore who was unfamiliar with DC regulations. While Medvene was out of the country, he said, the architect went ahead with demolition and started building without city permission. This unauthorized construction included a structure on the top of the building, which is still now half-completed. The unauthorized work was stopped and Medvene had to pay three fines totalling several thousand dollars, he said, before he could start the process of making the up and out expansion legal. Medvene blamed the Baltimore-based architect for the illegal construction, and said he is no longer working with him.

"We're making it legal," he said.

The owner said he planned to have a two-unit building, and live in one of the units. The building is already a two-unit building, he said, "with separate addresses".

Although the building will be taller, it does not require zoning relief for height, as it is still within what the owner can do "by right". In addition, it is not located in a historic district, so no review by DC historic preservation authorities will be necessary. Finally, the neighboring house to the north is already taller than 2807 Sherman Street (see photo). Medvene said this neighbor has indicated support for his expansion.

The building requires zoning relief for lot occupancy. It is already over the maximum lot occupancy for the zone -- 60% permitted, 70% existing. It is unclear how the building got that way. Medvene reported the previous owner had no documentation about whether he made alterations to the house.

Both committee members and the owner said they did not like the color of the house.

"It looks kind of putrid," the owner said. "We'll be repainting. We're looking at a cool gray."

Committee decision

The committee voted, 5-1, to support the request for zoning relief. The matter will probably be considered by the full ANC at its next regularly scheduled meeting on March 5, at 7pm, at a location to be determined.

The applicants told the committee their case was scheduled for a public hearing at the BZA on April 7.

The documents relating to this case can be accessed by going to the DC government's Interactive Zoning Information System and putting case number 18960 into the search bar.

This is the first meeting for ANC1B's Zoning, Preservation & Development Committee. It will take up most of the business formally handled by the ANC's Design Review Committee, which has been disbanded. The February 23 meeting was a make-up for a meeting that was originally scheduled for February 17, but then cancelled due to snow.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Cork Market In Danger of Losing Liquor License over Ownership Issues

DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board is investigating Cork Market & Tasting Room (1805 14th Street NW) for possible "ownership interest issues". According to ABC Board document available here, the ABC Board is investigating to determine if it is appropriate to forward the matter to the DC Office of the Attorney General for prosecution, and to determine if the ABC Board can legally renew their liquor license.

A hearing on the matter was scheduled for yesterday, February 25, at the ABC's Board offices at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets). The hearing was postponed until April 22.

The ABC Board document cited above asks the proprietors of Cork Market & Tasting Room, Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, to supply all bank records for the establishment plus their federal income tax returns for 2012 and 2013.

The document also said the Board was looking into whether Cork was "not in compliance" with several parts of the DC Code. One of them is section 25-301 (a)(5), which states that, before the ABC Board will issue or renew a liquor license, the applicant must be able to show that he or she
is the true and actual owner of the establishment for which the license is sought, and he or she intends to carry on the business for himself or herself and not as the agent of any other individual, partnership, association, limited liability company, or corporation not identified in the application.
Another section cited is section 25-403 which states in part
The making of a false statement, whether made with or without the knowledge or consent of the applicant, shall, in the discretion of the Board, constitute sufficient cause for denial of the application or revocation of the license.
Khalid Pitts ran unsuccessfully for an At-Large City Council seat last year. His Linked In profile says he is active in an executive capacity in a number of other organizations, including Democracy Partners, DC Health Link, and USAction.

Cork Market & Tasting Room's sister establishment, Cork Wine Bar, is located across the street at 1720 14th Street. It is not named in the ABC Board document. Cork Wine Bar was one of the first upscale establishments to appear on 14th Street. It won Pitts and Gross the title Restaurateurs of the Year from Washingtonian Magazine in 2009.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

All Souls Bar Meets Opposition to Outside Service

David Batista, owner/operator of All Souls Bar (725 T Street NW), came before the liquor licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on February 18 to re-open the question of outside service. He met opposition from neighbors, at least one of whom is on the committee.

Lot on the left, normally grassy, was recently snowy.
"We've been open for 14 months. We've been good neighbors," Batista said.

Batista asked the committee to consider approving a patio to be located on a large grassy lot (see photo) adjacent to All Souls Bar on the west, facing 8th Street. Batista characterized the area "a city lot that we maintain". However, everyone agreed, it is not public space in the sense that the sidewalk is public space. Public records available at Property Quest, DC's public land-use database, indicate that the grassy area and the bar building are located on a single lot of property. The place in the database where the name and address of the lot owner normally appears is blank.

There is a much smaller paved area in front of the bar, and allowing outside seating there was discussed as a substitute for or an addition to the outside seating as Batista requested it.

Batista also told the committee that his appearance was supposed to be the beginning of a dialogue and no official request had been filed. Batista said he hoped the outside seating could be open until 11pm Sunday to Thursday and 1am on Friday and Saturday, and that there would be no music, live or recorded, outside the bar.

In June 2012, All Souls Bar was granted a liquor license by DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) despite strong opposition centering on the bar's location across T Street from Cleveland Elementary School (1825 18th Street NW). Unusually for a liquor license application, the hearing of the case of All Souls Bar in March 2012 generated TV news coverage from WJLA (Channel 7) -- see video here.

Batista told the committee he had intended to have outside seating from the bar's opening but had withdrawn the request from his original application in the hopes it would make the process go more smoothly. 

Of the four people who came to the meeting to object to outside seating, none of them identified themselves as having a connection to Cleveland Elementary School. All of them self-identified as neighbors. 

"We don't want a patio," said one neighbor, who is also a member of the committee.

Another neighbor, who owns an abutting property, told the committee that the neighbors had fought for a settlement agreement with All Souls that excluded outside seating, and that they did not want the agreement changed. The tenant of the same abutting property also appeared and said she was against outside seating.

Yet another neighbor said he was against the bar at its opening but was now a customer of All Souls Bar. Still, he said, he was against outside service.

No vote was taken on the request. ANC1B Commissioners will take on the difficult task of finding common ground between the parties and negotiating an agreement

See the 2012 ABRA order issued a liquor license to All Souls Bar here. The settlement agreement with the neighbors is attached as the final two pages of the 13-page .pdf document.

The 2012 application was the subject of coverage in many blogs, including Borderstan, Popville, GrassrootsDC, and Greater Greater Washington.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Liquor License Revoked for Restaurant of "Convicted Felon"

DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABRA) has revoked the liquor license for El Sauce restaurant (1227 11th Street NW). The order was issued on February 11. ABRA also referred the case to the office of the DC Attorney General.

The order says the liquor licensees are Maria and Jose Carcamo. Maria Carcamo divorced her husband in 2008 and renounced all claim to the establishment in the divorce settlement.

Jose Carcamo has been convicted of a Class II felony, the order says. Therefore, under DC law, he cannot hold a liquor license.

However, the order said, the establishment was no longer being run by Carcamo. Instead, the establishment is being run by Blanca Rubia, who is not named on the liquor license.

In an February 19 email, John Fanning, Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle, said, "El Sauce has been a troubled business establishment for years in our neighborhood." Fanning (Commissioner for district 04) said problems over the years included a "crime scene regarding a homicide, a reported stabbing, numerous fights amongst the patrons, serving alcohol to intoxicated individuals and neighbors witnessing and reporting after hours operations."

El Sauce was the scene of a homicide in the early morning hours of March 27, 2011. The shooter was later sentenced to 18 years in jail.

This incident was not the only problem that it caused the neighborhood. At a May 23, 2013, ANC meeting, commissioners saw and discussed
a two-page long list of 23 incidents, including five assaults with a deadly weapon (including a brick and a head-butt) and an assault on police. In addition, there have been 11 fines for violations of various types and a long list of lesser offenses. ANC Commissioners reported witnessing fist fights and receiving reports both of harassment of women near the establishment and of operation at 4:30am, long after the licensed closing time.
ANC2F continued to press for action against El Sauce when it could, for example, when ABRA Director Fred Moosally came to address ANC2F's liquor-licensing affairs committee in September 2014.

In his recent email, Fanning said: "I believe the finds regarding El Sauce are a direct result from [the committee's] September meeting requesting that Director Fred Moosally to expedite enforcement inspections."

In an announcement unrelated to El Sauce, ANC2F will have the first meeting of the year of its Crime and Public Safety Committee on Thursday, February 26, at 7pm at the National City Christian Church (5 Thomas Circle -- enter on 14th Street).