City Paper Widget

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rosario School Nominated as Historic Building

The century-old building now housing the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School (1100 Harvard Street NW) may soon become a historic landmark.

The school as seen from Harvard Street
The Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted 4 - 1 to support the petition by Historic Washington Architecture, Inc., to DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) to have the building declared a landmark. The vote took place at the Design Review Committee's meeting of October 28.

Kent Boese, President of Historic Washington Architecture, Inc., appeared before ANC2B to make the request. Boese is also chair of ANC 1A/Columbia Heights.

Boese explained the building was designed in 1910 by Snowden Ashford, a noted Washington architect. Although a designer of many DC schools, Ashford's most well-known building may be the North Hall expansion of Eastern Market.

The school started operation in 1913 and was originally known as the Washington Normal School. Later, it was called the James Ormand Wilson Normal School, after the then-superintendent of DC schools. It was a whites-only school in segregated Washington, dedicated largely to teacher preparation.

The application for historic protection outlines the school's more recent history:
After sitting vacant for a period, the property was leased to the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in 2001. At that time, the school was an abandoned shell with broken windows. So the school embarked on an $18 million renovation. Upon completion, the school moved into the building in 2004.
The DC government owns this property. However, the DC has decided charter schools are not subject to historic preservation rules to the same extent as schools run directly by the city. Boese explained this gave the school the freedom put on a new glass atrium at the front entrance of the building (see photo) without seeking HPRB approval.

If the school became a listed landmark, it would become more difficult to make  further changes to the appearance of the building. However, existing changes would remain.

The school is in ANC1B district 09. The Commissioner is James Turner. Turner sent a message to the committee asking for support for the application.

The Design Review Committee's recommendation will go to the full ANC1B for approval. Their next scheduled meeting is Thursday, November 7, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

The application for historic landmark status is available as a 28-page .pdf file here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Homeowners Plead for Exclusion from New Historic District

The Meridian Hill Historic District seems set to go ahead. But some people who live there don't want their homes to be a part of it.

The proposed non-contributing homes
Two owners of single-family homes facing Meridian Hill Park on the 2300 block of 15th Street NW appeared before the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on October 28. They asked that their historic district homes, and those of two neighbors, be officially listed as "non-contributing", meaning, they do not have historic or architectural significance.

Many renovations, large and small, done to buildings in a historic district are subject to review by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). However, if a building is labelled "non-contributing", owners have a wider, if not complete, freedom if they wish to significantly modify their homes. For example, owners can demolish non-contributing buildings in a historic district without HPRB approval.

Commissioner supports constituents

Appearing with the homeowners at the meeting was ANC1B Commissioner Ricardo Reinoso (district 05). The homes in question fall in Reinoso's district, but he is not a member of the Design Review Committee.

Reinoso said the creation of the district is being co-sponsored by DC's Historic Preservation Office (HPO) and is scheduled for a December hearing.

Reinoso asked the Design Review Committee to recommend that the full ANC both endorse the historic district in general as well as agree that the four single-family homes (2313, 2315, 2317, and 2319 15th Street) are non-contributing.

The committee saw a new HPRB document on design guidelines for the historic district. The document included a photograph of 2517 15th Street as an example of a non-contributing building, calling it "[c]learly contemporary in design".

Two of the four homeowners also appeared in person to plead their case.

A close vote to support

Still, some members of the committee felt the 15th Street homes should be subject to HPRB review. This review would not impose an onerous additional administrative burden on homeowners, they indicated. Because these members could not agree to the classification of the four homes as non-contributing, they voted against endorsing the historic district.

The final vote was three for endorsing the Meridian Hill Historic District with non-contributing buildings, and two against. This is an unusually close vote for the committee.

Voting for the endorsement and the homeowners was Commissioner Tony Norman (district 10). Norman is the chair of both the Design Review Committee and the ANC as a whole, and is also the only elected official on the Design Review Committee.

Parts of the proposed new historic district will fall into ANC districts 1A, 1C, and 1D as well. ANC 1A/Columbia Heights unanimously passed a resolution supporting the creation of the new historic district in July. A report on the vote by the blog New Columbia Heights includes a map of the proposed historic district.

Reinoso reported that ANC 1C/Adams Morgan has also voted to support the district.

The matter will probably be voted on at the next meeting of the full ANC. This is scheduled for Thursday, November 7, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

ANC Commissioners, Activists Criticize Voting Precinct Simplification Plan

DC's Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) held a public hearing October 24 on its proposed Precinct Boundary Efficiency Plan, which would redraw and simplify the District's voting districts. Fewer than 15 people attended. 

Five members of the public testified before the committee. Three were Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) members. The other two were the chair of the Ward 3 DC Democratic State Committee and the executive director of government watchdog group DC Watch.

ANC Commissioners: Polling Station Complaints

Commissioner Mike Silverstein (ANC2B/Dupont Circle - district 06) said many of his constituents would have far longer walks to the polls under the new plan. As an example, he talked of his constituents who live at 2301 N Street NW. These constituents now vote at Francis Stevens school (2425 N Street). Under the new plan, they would have to walk to the Charles Summer School (1201 17th Street, at M Street). According to Google Maps, this would mean a walk of 8/10ths of a mile or less, which might take 15 minutes, crossing eight intersections, including intersections at New Hampshire and Connecticut Avenues.

Silverstein invoked the memory of the civil rights movement and compared moving the voting place to acts of voter suppression of that era.

DCBOEE Board Member Devarieste Curry told Silverstein it was inappropriate to compare the Precinct Boundary Efficiency Plan to Jim Crow-era attempts to deprive the vote to African-Americans.

"Mr. Silverstein, I find it troubling in making a comparison to civil rights," Curry said.

Curry noted the DCBOEE had previously been taken to task for long lines at the polling stations. which discourage voting. The new plan aimed to reduce this obstacle, and encourage voting.

"Nothing suppresses votes like long lines," Board Member Stephen Danzansky said later.

Silverstein also repeated objections first aired at the October 9 meeting of ANC2B - see October 16 SALM blog post. ANC2B voted to oppose the new plan at that meeting.

Two Commissioners from ANC6E/Shaw - Rachelle Nigro (district 04) and Marge Maceda (district 05) - also protested the location of polling places.

Nigro, who is also ANC6E chair, took exception to two separate polling places.

Nigro asked the board to reconsider the decision to put a polling station in the United House of Prayer (1721 7th Street), located in her home district. Nigro noted that the United House of Prayer frequently puts up candidates for election to the ANC, including three in the last election. She said putting a polling place in this church would be like putting a polling place in the offices of a major political party.

"I represent 400 members of the United House of Prayer," Nigro said. However, other residents "have made it clear to me that they do not want to vote in a house of worship."

Nigro also objected to the choice of the J.O. Wilson Elementary School (600 K Street NE) as a polling place for district 06. Some residents will have to walk 13 blocks to the school.

Clifford D. Tatum, DCBOEE Executive Director, later said he did not know the school was 13 blocks from the district. The DCBOEE would consider changing the polling place, he said.

The text of Nigro's statement to the DCBOEE is available on her Facebook page.

Commissioner Maceda said the proposed new polling place in her district (Walker Jones Elementary - 1125 New Jersey Avenue NW) would be a serious inconvenience for some voters. Some would have to walk "at least" 13 blocks, she said.

Activists: Too fast, not enough community input

The first person to testify was Shelley Tomkin, Chair of the Ward 3 Democrats. She said her organization needed more time. She also said the new plan would disrupt Ward 3 Democrats, who are organized by precinct. It had the potential to break up political communities. She urged the DCBOEE to delay implementation until the 2016 elections

"The decision to rush through is wrong," she said. "The sensible way to approach the proposal is to give the community time to comment."

In response, Devarieste Curry wondered aloud whether it was appropriate for the board to consider the effects of the changes on a political party.

Other testimony was heard from Dorothy Brizill of DC Watch. She urged the board to extend the time for public comment and to make the 58-page report (.pdf here) on the plan easier to read, photocopy, and display on mobile devices. She also said the maps in the report were poorly designed and ANCs had not had sufficient time to comment. 

Brizill was extremely unhappy with the way the board presented the plan to the public, and felt that the board was not taking comments on the plan seriously. Brizill got into an argument with members of the board. While board members were speaking to her, she got up from the table where she was giving her testimony, collected her things, and walked out. 

"I didn't come here to be talked to" were her last words to the board as she rose to leave.

Board Chair comments

At the end of the meeting, DCBOEE Board Chair Deborah K. Nichols said, "We need to have something in place before the 2016 election. It would be good if we had a dry run in 2014."

Although this meeting is the last scheduled one, Nichols said: "We may have another public hearing."

"I don't want anyone to think this is a done deal. It's not a done deal," Nichols said earlier in the meeting.

Monday, October 28, 2013

ANC2F Contingent Support for 1101 Rhode Island Avenue Development

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle has endorsed a request for support by property developer CAS Riegler for a handful of zoning variances. But there are strings attached.

CAS Riegler is the developer of 1101 Rhode Island Avenue NW (see photo). Until recently, the property was the headquarters and service station for Diamond Cab. The proposed new building will have 38 apartments, 14 parking spaces, and space for retail on the ground floor.

The center and right-hand buildings will be torn down
The building's future neighbors are concerned about a variety of issues, including parking, building height, roof setback, and site density. The neighbors, CAS Riegler, and ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) met the previous month to consider the same issues -- see the SALM blog post of September 30.

The strings attached

ANC2F endorsement is contingent on the successful negotiation of a memorandum of understanding (MOU). CAS Riegler was concerned about organizing negotiations, because the neighbors are not all members of an organized civic group, nor do they have a clear leader. CDC Committee Chair Walt Cain (district 02) said ANC Commissioner John Fanning (district 04) would be the principle point of contact for the negotiations.

The proposed new building is in Fanning's district. However, he was not at the meeting, probably because ANC2F's liquor licensing affairs committee was meeting at the same time at another venue. Fanning is the chair of the liquor licensing affairs committee.

What will the agreement cover?

"There are no limits except reason," said Commissioner Cain.

Normally, there are three actions an ANC can take about a zoning variance application. It can endorse the application, take no action, or protest the application. If the MOU is signed, the application to DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) will have ANC2F's endorsement. The MOU will become part of the BZA's decision and will be an enforceable contract.

If the MOU is not approved, the application will go forward as if the ANC decided to take no action. Cain did not offer circumstances under which the ANC might protest the zoning application.

The negotiations will have to be completed before CAS Riegler's December 3 BZA hearing date.

Can an agreement be reached?

The atmosphere of distrust between the two sides may make it very difficult to negotiate an agreement. The neighbors want a lot of changes which would reduce the income CAS Riegler could derive from the site. CAS Riegler did not give any indication it would consider changes from its present design.

There was little the two sides could agree on. There was much discussion of the exact meaning of the two phrases - "exceptional practical difficulties or exceptional and undue hardship" and "substantial detriment to the public good" - in DC's zoning code. How these words are interpreted will determine how easy or difficult it wlll be for CAS Riegler to get a zoning variance.

CAS Riegler said they had been forthcoming in sharing information with the future neighbors, including holding a town hall meeting at CAS Riegler offices the previous week. The neighbors responded that much of the important information had been sent to them only five hours before the Wednesday evening (October 23) meeting. This was too late for the neighbors to read, analyze, and prepare a coherent response, the neighbors indicated.

In an effort to refute neighbor claims about parking difficulty in the neighborhood, CAS Riegler had expert testimony by Jami Milanovitch of transportation consultants Wells and Associates. She had led an investigation into parking availability in the area. Although the parking spaces on some blocks were 100 percent occupied (or more, with illegal parking), Milanovitch said, other blocks were only 58 to 85 percent occupied on a weeknight evening and 66 percent occupied overnight.

The neighbors were extremely skeptical of this claim. In response to questioning, it was revealed that Milanovitch's figures were based on a single observation on a weekday evening, and another observation on a weekend evening. The neighbors (and some committee members) felt that these were too few observations to permit any sort of conclusion. Milanovitch responded she had used well-established standard procedure in the industry. Other neighbors said they had lived in the neighborhood for years and Milanovitch's figures were wrong.

The CDC's contingent endorsement was approved unanimously at the October 23 meeting. Unanimously-approved motions from the committee are often approved with little or no further discussion by ANC2F. The next meeting of ANC2F is scheduled for 7pm on November 6 at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Friday, October 25, 2013

ANC2B Endorses 1421 Swann Street Renovation

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle endorsed a planned renovation of 1421 Swann Street NW at its regular monthly meeting on October 9. Two resolutions in favor were passed unanimously.

1421 Swann Street NW
The renovation will require a special exception of DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). It will also require the consent of DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) because the house is located within the Greater U Street Historic District. ANC2B's endorsement will appear on both requests. The ANC unanimously approved separate resolutions, one for the BZA and the other for HPRB.

The house will remain a single-family home and the renovation "will not alter the light or air quality of the neighbors nor the historic character of the neighborhood", according to ANC2B's BZA resolution.

Both ANC2B resolutions were drafted by Commissioner Noah Smith (district 09). 1421 Swann Street is in Smith's district.

The improvement will fill in a dogleg at the rear of the property, but the house will not extend any further back than its neighbors. In addition, the home owners are reducing the size of a rear deck so that the house will fall below 70% lot occupancy and therefore will be eligible for expedited processing through the zoning bureaucracy.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

ANC2F Committee Supports Removal of 14th Street Bus Stop

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle will likely vote at its next meeting to support the elimination of a bus stop on 14th Street NW. The bus stop in question is located on the west (southbound) side of 14th Street between Rhode Island Avenue and N Street. It is directly in front of the Ghana Cafe (1336 14th Street).

The notice posted on the bus stop
The Community Development Committee (CDC) of ANC2F unanimously passed a motion to recommend sending a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) requesting the removal. Motions passed unanimously by the CDC are often approved with little or no debate at the next meeting of the full ANC.

The vote took place last night (October 23).

The owner of the Ghana Cafe appeared before the committee in support of the
request. He said local homeless people used the bus stop as a "living room", often after begging for money in front of the nearby 7-11 and then buying alcohol from the liquor store across the street.

"It's a place where a lot of nefarious activity takes place," said Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02). Cain is also chair of the CDC.

At the June ANC2F meeting, the owner of the Ghana Cafe complained that homeless people were using the bus stop as a place to have oral sex and also to harass his customers.

Another member of the community testified in favor of the elimination of the stop. He said that the stretch of 14th Street between P Street and Thomas Circle (which includes this bus stop) is the only place in the area with a bus stop every block for three blocks. The bus stop in front of the Ghana Cafe is the middle stop of the three.

"This is a redundant bus stop," he said.

Prior to the meeting, ANC2F posted a notice on the bus stop (see photo) and attempted outreach in the area likely to be effected by the proposed bus stop elimination.

The matter will likely be voted on at the next meeting of the full ANC, which is scheduled to take place on November 6 at 7pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ANC1B Committee Protests Indulj Liquor License, Approves Many Others

The liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street will recommend a protest of an application by Indulj Restaurant and Lounge (1208 U Street NW) to renew their liquor license. The decision was taken at a meeting of ANC1B's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Committee last night, October 22.

Indulj in December 2012 (Luis Gomez Photos)
Commissioner Jeremy Leffler (district 02), chair of the committee, reported that, according to ANC1B's newly adopted guidelines on liquor license renewals, more than three liquor-license-related infractions by an applicant would cause the committee to debate protesting their license renewal application. Indulj had had five infractions related to their liquor license during the last three years.

Much of the discussion of Indulj centered around a December 3, 2012, incident where three men were shot outside the bar. The incident caused DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier to close Indulj down for several days. Indulj reopened, and DC liquor-licensing authorities took no further action against Indulj as a result of the shooting.

The committee voted unanimously to protest the liquor license renewal application until Commissioner Zahra Jilani (district 12) can discuss what additional steps, if any, Indulj has taken to modify the establishment's security plan. Indulj is located in Jilani's ANC district.

No representative of Indulj was present at the meeting.

It is the season for ANCs throughout the city to consider the renewal of tavern licenses. This means quite a bit of work for ANC1B. A long list of local restaurants and taverns received ANC support to liquor-license renewal with little or no debate at the same meeting. These included: Cafe Saint Ex, Bar Pilar, Mockingbird Hill, Twins Jazz, Ben's Next Door, and Dodge City, among others.

Applications for renewals by DC9 and Bohemian Caverns generated some discussion at the meeting, because, like Indulj, they had had more than three infractions in a three-year period. Also like Indulj, these clubs had had recent high-profile brushes with the law. Unlike Indulj, both DC9 and Bohemian Caverns sent someone to speak at the meeting.

The committee decided to support the renewal applications for these two establishments.

The recommendations made by the committee will come up for approval before the full ANC. The next scheduled meeting is November 7, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Policy Restaurant Seeks Extended Thanksgiving, New Year's Hours

The manager of Policy Restaurant (1904 14th Street NW) appeared before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle October 9 in connection with his restaurant's settlement agreement. It was the third ANC meeting in six months at which they appeared.

Policy's T Street side
Raj Multhani, owner/operator of Policy Restaurant, asked the ANC to approve later opening hours on the day before Thanksgiving (November 27) and New Year's Eve. If the hours are not approved, Policy will have to close at half past midnight. Many of its competitors can stay open later.

The competitive disadvantage

DC regulations routinely allow liquor licensees to stay open an extra hour or more on the day before holidays. However, if the licensee's normal operating hours are explicitly stated in the settlement agreement, then the operator must seek permission for extended hours from all the counter-parties.

In this case, the counter-parties are ANC2B, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, and a group of five neighbors. 

Multhani was before the ANC in June, seeking to terminate his settlement agreement. At that time, he noted that newer neighboring establishments had negotiated settlement agreements that do not state operating hours. Multhani's requests to keep Policy open as long as other liquor-licensees were rejected by some settlement agreement counter-parties.

Two previous attempts by Policy to extend hours on holidays have failed, according to information presented at the meeting.

Policy's recent behavior

"I have not received a single complaint since I have been in office," said Commissioner Noah Smith (District 09). Policy is in his district. Smith has been in office ten months.

Smith said Policy Restaurant has been fined twice in the last five years by the DC government. In 2010, it was fined for a violation of its settlement agreement. In 2012, it was fined for keeping inadequate records.

Smith said he would compose a letter to liquor-licensing authorities indicating the ANC is willing to grant Policy's request.

ANC2B voted 6-0 in favor. Two Commissioners were out of the room when the vote was taken, and one recused himself.

Settlement agreements are negotiated between liquor-serving establishments, ANCs, and members of the community. There may be two parties to the agreements, or more. They usually set in writing certain aspects of operations that effect the community, like opening hours, trash collection, vermin control, and public space use.

Multhani was also before ANC2B in August on behalf of Policy-- see the August 23 SALM blog post.

Monday, October 21, 2013

ANC2B Statement against Smash-and-grab Man

On Friday, October 18, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle published a community impact statement against Gregory Teal, a man who has been arrested 43 times for thefts from cars, often in the Dupont area. Teal will be sentenced on October 28 by Stuart G. Nash, an associate judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, for second-degree theft (felony), related to a July smash-and-grab from a car.

ANC2B Commissioners Kishan Putta (district 04) and Noah Smith (district 09) organized, drafted, signed, and sent the statement to the judge. They were authorized to do so by an ANC2B resolution passed at the end of their last monthly meeting on October 9.

Previously, Teal has been charged with second-degree theft (misdemeanor), which carries a maximum sentence of 180 days. After his last conviction, he was released after less than 90 days in prison. However, owing to his many arrests and convictions, Teal can now be charged with a felony, which means he is eligible for up to ten years in prison.

ANC2B's community impact statement urges Judge Nash to sentence Teal to at least two or three years "to give our residents some minimal relief (and justice) and to show other criminals that such callous recidivism will not be tolerated".

The statement includes three pages of community comment which Putta and Smith gathered by email over the course of a week. A sample:
Our morning walks to work should not have to include a daily check to see if there are any new smash and grabs overnight.  Caroline Street is a quaint and surprisingly quiet one block street immediately south of the bustling U Street corridor 16th and U Streets NW.  This guy was relentless. I personally witnessed two neighbors dealing with the aftermath of smash and grabs while they were in the process of moving into their residences! According to the Caroline Street group email list, during the last year we have a record of 11 smash and grabs on our block and around the corner on adjacent 15th Street.  Now mind you, these are only the ones that have been noted and reported via our email. Clearly the actual number is higher and for the past several years the number must total dozens. 
It is not a particularly welcoming message to have to tell new neighbors moving in, or friends visiting, that they should strip their cars clean of contents or risk a smash and grab. More important, they should not have to do this!! The Nation’s Capital should not have to erect a warning sign at the borders, just below the “Welcome” sign that says, do not leave anything in your cars or our smash and grab experts will empty your car.  How welcoming is that?
The particular crime which Teal will be sentenced for did not take place in the Dupont Circle area. However, as part of the sentencing process, the ANC is still allowed to submit comments about the effect of a criminal's activity on a community.

The full text of the ANC2B community impact statement against Teal is available as a .pdf file here.

A short explanation of community impact statements, with links to other examples, can be found at the end of the September 23 SALM blog post.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rat Summit II: East Side of 14th between N and Rhode Island

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANF) 2F/Logan Circle held its "rat summit" last night (Thursday, October 17). It formed a plan of action which will include block-by-block meetings between businesses, residents, and DC government to address the rat problem. The first block to be targeted will the east side of 14th Street NW between N Street and Rhode Island Avenue.

"We're going to take the city back from them one block at a time," said Gerard Brown, Program Manager at DC's Department of Health (DOH).

ANC Commissioners Linn and Fanning, plus media coverage
The first block we'll take back

Residents of the 1300 block of Rhode Island Avenue showed up to lobby to be the first block.

"Are there inspectors for rivers of sludge?" one of the residents asked DC officials. The questioner then reported a particular river of sludge, flowing out behind Barrellhouse Liquors (1341 14th Street) onto Rhode Island Avenue.

After the meeting, I looked at the alley in question. The river of sludge exists. It does NOT originate at Barrellhouse Liquors. It flows underneath a dumpster further up the alley, but it is not clear where it comes from.

The food-related establishments on this block of 14th Street, moving from Rhode Island Avenue south to N Street, are: Birch and Barley, W. Millar and Company (a caterer), Teak Wood, La Villa, and Popeye's.

ANC Commissioner John Fanning (district 04) said he would work together with DOH's Gerard Brown and other officials to get the businesses in the same room with the residents. Brown asked the residents to help the process by remaining polite at all times.

"When we get together, can we be cool?" he asked.

Another speaker, Pamela Washington of DC's Department of Public Works, cautioned there were limits to what officials could force a business owner to do.

"It is up to the restaurant owner to decide that it is better to take meaningful steps than getting citations," Washington said. "I can't make that restaurant comply with the law."

Reporting rat-attracting conditions

At the beginning of the meeting, Brown talked about what citizens can do if they see conditions likely to attract rats. If the possible offender is a commercial property, defined as having four units or more (residential, commercial, or mixed), you can call Brown's office. The main number is 202-536-2636. Brown's office is 202-535-1954.

For smaller properties, residents are advised to call 311 or DC's Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Program (SWEEP) at 202-645-7190.

ANC2F residents who wish their blocks to be on the list for a rat summit with businesses and DC government officials may contact Commissioner Fanning through the ANC2F web site.

No food-related local businesses identified themselves or spoke at the meeting. However, Fanning reported that representatives of Eat Well DC (operator of nearby restaurants The Pig, Logan Tavern, and Commissary) and Whole Foods had attended.

The meeting attracted mainstream media coverage, including a reporter from WTOP.

ANC2F Commissioner Chris Linn also attended the meeting, which was held at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ANC2B Urges Redskins Name Change

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle passed a resolution supporting a DC City Council call to change the name of the Washington Redskins. The ANC resolution was passed 8-0, with one abstention, at a regular monthly meeting on October 9.

The 'skins in 2005 (Wikipedia)
The resolution is the first by a DC government body to condemn the Redskins' team name, according to ANC2B Commissioner Kishan Putta (district 04). Since the vote, Putta said in an interview later, ANC2B has received support from members of other ANCs. Putta also said other ANC may soon join ANC2B in passing resolutions condemning the team name.

In a statement before the vote, Putta noted that, of all names of sports team, "Redskins" is the only word which is listed in the dictionary as "offensive". Putta also cited Martin Luther King Jr.'s remark concerning judging people not by the color of their skins, but the content of their character.

The DC City Council resolution is proposed by Councilmember David Grosso (I - At Large). The council will vote on Grosso's sense-of-the-Council resolution on November 5, according to information on Twitter. Eight other Councilmembers have already indicated they will support the resolution.

A .pdf copy of the resolution is available here.

Abigail Nichols (district 05) was the abstaining Commissioner.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ANC2B Public Space Protest against Sette Osteria

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to protest a new public space application by Sette Osteria (1666 Connecticut Avenue), a pizza restaurant located at the corner of R Street. The vote took place at ANC2B's regular monthly meeting on October 9.

Sette Osteria's sidewalk cafe
Sette Osteria made a request for ANC endorse of their request to increase the size of their sidewalk planters, but then did not show up at the ANC meeting to explain why.

"We have a history of this establishment saying one thing and doing another," said Commissioner Kevin O'Connor (district 02). Sette Osteria is located in district 02.

The ensuing discussion mentioned previous dealings the ANC had had with Sette Osteria. The story is summed up nicely in a February 2009 post from the blog Greater Greater Washington, which reads in part:
In November [2008], Sette Osteria, the pizza restaurant at Connecticut and R in Dupont Circle, proposed putting a retractable awning over their outdoor seating. The awning would enable service in a wider range of weather. The restaurant's manager initially told the community that they planned only to request the awning, not a complete enclosure. However, only a few months after receiving approval for the awning, they have requested permission to install removable panels that would completely enclose the space during the winter.
Members of the ANC at the October 9 meeting said they would try to get Sette Osteria to move their sidewalk cafe back.

The motion passed 7-0. Commissioners Mike Feldstein (district 01) and Kishan Putta (district 04) were out of the room at the time of the vote.

ANC2B Opposes Voting Precinct Simplification Plan

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted to oppose the DC government's plan to simplify the District's system of voting precincts. The new system may save money and make elections easier to administer, but it may also mean a longer trip for many Dupont residents to their polling station.

The vote, 7-1 to oppose the plan, took place at ANC2B's regular monthly meeting on October 9.

Clifford D. Tatum, Executive Director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE), appeared before ANC2B to state the case for the new plan.

The plan for new voting districts

As it stands now, DC election precincts are drawn completely without regard to ANC districts. As a result, residents of a single ANC district may vote at three or four different polling places, and a polling place may need to have several different ballots on hand, one for each ANC district in which a voter might reside. The idea is to align ANC districts and voting precincts, so that a single precinct would receive all voters in an ANC district. Voting precincts would handle one to four ANC districts, with the overwhelming majority handling two ANC districts.

According to DCBOEE's 2013 Precinct Boundary Efficiency Plan (58-page .pdf here), the number of ballots that would have to be printed under the new system would drop by 50 percent. Based on the number of ballots printed for the last general election, DCBOEE estimates the new system would save the city $80,000 in printing costs alone. There could be further savings as the reduced number of ballots would be both easier to proofread and administer, and would require less training to use.

An additional benefit for ANC candidates would be (in many cases) a reduced number of polling places to campaign at. Plus, when a candidate visited a polling place, he or she could be certain an arriving voter is eligible to vote for the candidate.

The DCBOEE document contains testimony from ANC2B Commissioner Abigail Nichols (district 05) about this point. During her unsuccessful 2012 ANC Commissioner bid, Nichols wrote,
My ability to reach out to potential constituents was hampered both by having to spread myself among three polling places but also by not knowing which voters at each polling place were my constituents. Although voters approaching the polls were tolerant, I was wasting the time of up to three quarters of them as I tried to figure out which [district] they were from.
Nichols eventually won a spot on ANC2B in a March 2013 special election.

ANC opposition

Although the total number of voting precincts will remain roughly the same (141 proposed vs. 143 presently), some voting places will change. Of these, some voters will have a longer trip to their voting place. This was the basis of ANC opposition, which was led by Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06).

Silverstein's district has a long, thin dog-leg shape, running from Rock Creek at N Street NW on one end to 17th Street and G Streets, near the White House, at the other. Now, his district is in three different voting precincts: 4, 14, and 17.

Under the new plan, Silverstein's district would be combined with neighboring ANC2B district 07 into a single voting precinct. Residents of both districts would vote at the Charles Summer School (1201 17th Street, at M Street). This polling place is located outside the boundaries of the proposed new district. It would mean a longer walk for most voters, Silverstein said, across several major intersections.

Silverstein said the plan put ease of election administration and campaigning before voter interest.

"It's not our convenience," Silverstein said.

Silverstein also said he opposed changing voting precincts within six months of a primary election. (There will be a primary election on April 1, 2014.) This would increase voter confusion, he said.

The choice of polling places may be controversial in other places as well. Recent tweets indicate some residents of ANC6E/Shaw may not be happy with the choice of a church for their new polling station.

Opportunity for public comment

There will be two public hearings for those wishing to comment on the plan. The first is on Friday, October 18 at 10am in the Office of Zoning Hearing Room, 2nd Floor South, One Judiciary Square. The second is on Thursday, October 24, at 6pm in the Old Council Chambers, First Floor South Lobby, One Judiciary Square.

The public is also invited to submit written comments through Wednesday, October 30, using email or postal address

Board of Elections
Government of the District of Columbia
One Judiciary Square
441 4th Street NW
Suite 250 North
Washington, DC 20001

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

1315 T Street Renovation Passes ANC1B on Third Try

The third time was the charm for the owner of 1315 T Street as Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street finally expressed support for his proposed renovation. The renovation was approved at ANC1B's October 3 meeting.

An August 29 SALM blog post detailed the initial endorsement of the renovation by ANC1B's Design Review Committee. The renovation's two unsuccessful attempts (in spite of the Design Review Committee's recommendation) to get full ANC approval were the subject of a September 11 SALM blog post.

1315 T Street
Since the September 11 ANC meeting, the 1315 T Street renovation was reviewed and approved by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), reported architect Will Teass of Tektonics Architecture. The proposal was now slightly revised due to HPRB adjustments. These included an adjustment to the height of the proposed roof of the third-story addition to the house.

Still, ANC support was sought for the proposal's second approval process -- this one scheduled for October 22 at the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA).

As requested by the ANC at its September meeting, the architect and owner did extensive outreach with the "Wallach Place Neighborhood Association", which was characterized as "not necessarily a formal group".

Commissioner Ricardo Reinoso (district 05) thanked the presenters for their extra effort.

Commissioner Zahra Jilani (district 12) noted that, after the consultation, the project had "even more letters of support". She said the additional letters were "really a waste of paper".

1315 T Street is in Jilani's ANC district.

The project received unanimous approval from the seven ANC1B Commissioners present at the meeting. Five Commissioners were absent.

1618 Q Street: 7 Units from Single-family Home

There are plans in the works to convert the two-story, single-family home at 1618 Q Street NW into a three-story, seven-unit apartment building. The Dupont Circle Conservancy heard an initial presentation from the Workshop T10 design studio at its regular monthly meeting on October 8.

1618 Q Street today
The design would require an additional 18 inches of excavation in the basement.
There would be two basement apartments, two apartments each on the first and second floors, and a pop-up structure at the rear of the house. The pop-up would contain one complete apartment, and the upstairs bedroom for the second-floor front apartment.

The largest apartment would be 772 square feet, and the average apartment would be 570 square feet. The design envisions maintaining the front double-doors as the primary entrance, with an additional entrance in the rear.

The third-floor pop-up would not be visible from Q Street, the presenter said. It would be 13 feet tall at its highest point and be set back 33 feet six inches from the front facade of the building.

The pop-up would be visible from Stead Park, which the building abuts in the rear.

There would be two parking spaces behind the building.

No projected prices or rents for the apartments were mentioned, nor did the participants discuss if the units would be rentals or condos.

Desiree Holler Pollard of Workshop T10 made the presentation.

The Dupont Circle Conservancy is an all-volunteer non-profit organization, dedicated to historic and architectural preservation in the Dupont Circle Area. Its members frequently hear presentations from homeowners and developers who wish to get official blessing for major building improvements. The Conservancy's opinion is regularly heard and treated very seriously by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle and DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), so can stop or delay renovation projects.

The presenter and the Conservancy promised to be in touch. No decision was made immediately.

Friday, October 11, 2013

15 Dupont Circle: ANC2B Supports Hotel Developers

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted on October 9 to support the architects Studio 3877 and hotel developers French Quarter Hospitality in their first step toward acquiring the Patterson Mansion (15 Dupont Circle NW) and turning it into a luxury hotel. The vote was 7 for, 2 against. The proposal will now be considered by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) on October 23.

ANC2B's previous deliberations on this proposal were the subject of an October 7 SALM blog post.

The Patterson Manson
A shorter presentation

Architect David Shove-Brown of Studio 3877 made a shorter version of his presentation to the full ANC. Some details are unchanged: the annex building next door to the mansion will be demolished, and a new six-story building will be built on the space. The new building will connected to the renovated mansion on the inside.

As a result of some comments from the ANC and the Dupont Circle Conservancy, changes were made to the design. The facade is now a darker color, matching more closely with the neighboring building on P Street, which is the Consular Section of the Embassy of Iraq. In addition, the mechanical penthouse is a different shape, and the loading dock will be moved to the back of the building.

The Dupont Circle Conservancy had met the previous evening to consider the proposal, a representative at the ANC meeting reported. They voted to support the massing of the proposed design generally, and endorse the use of darker materials. However, they asked that the size of the mechanic penthouse be minimized and that there be no roof deck.

"Massing" is a term of art meaning the extent to which a building's facade is in harmony with the facades of the nearby structures.

Commissioner comment
This annex will be demolished

"Some of you may think we're rushing this. This building is iconic. It's precious
to all of us. There are things in terms of the adjacent building [i.e., the new structure] we may have to give up. This is being protected at all costs," said Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06).

Silverstein also mentioned the case of Toutorsky Mansion, a building at 1720 16th Street that now houses the Embassy of the Republic of the Congo. Local objections made it impossible for a commercial enterprise to operate in the location, so it was sold to the Republic of the Congo. In 2011, the Embassy disregarded commitments it had made to preservation groups about  preserving the character of the property.

"You can't always control what you get," Silverstein said.

Other Commissioners felt they couldn't support the project.

"I feel like this is being rushed," said Commissioner Abigail Nichols (district 05).

"My great great great grandchildren are going to be looking at this. You won't be able to change it. Once it's there, it's there," said Commissioner Mike Feldstein (district 01).

Nichols and Feldstein were the votes against endorsing the project.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

ANC2F to Protest Ghana Cafe Entertainment Endorsement

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted unanimously on October 2 to protest the application by the Ghana Cafe (1336 14th Street NW) for an entertainment endorsement to its liquor license.

(Luis Gomez Photos, used by permission)
The move came after neighbors from an abutting property on the 1400 block of Rhode Island Avenue told the ANC the Ghana Cafe had not been following the terms of its existing settlement agreement in the areas of vermin control and parking in the rear of the property.

"Don't endorse the new agreement until they comply with the first agreement," a neighbor said.

The neighbor said they had filed a formal complaint about the Ghana Cafe to DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABRA).

The proprietor of the Ghana Cafe said he had been complying with the settlement agreement. He said the ANC had no reason to protest the entertainment endorsement and was just protesting for the sake of doing so.

Prior to the neighbor's complaint, it was indicated, ANC2F had had a amicable negotiation, with the Ghana Cafe agreeing to certain limitations on hours of entertainment operation, types of entertainment, and hours of loading and unloading.

What sort of entertainment Ghana Cafe might provide was not discussed.

The ANC authorized its liquor licensing affairs committee to negotiate with the Ghana Cafe about the issues of pest control, parking, and noise from the property's ventilator. If the problems are resolved, the ANC will withdraw its protest.

ANCs often officially protest attempts to renew or modify liquor licenses as a way to maintain leverage in negotiations, but eventually withdraw their protests if an agreement is reached.

The Ghana Cafe is in the middle of the block of 14th Street that will be the prime target of ANC2F's planned rat summit, which will take place on October 17 at 7pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Park at 14th Owner: ANC2F Agreement "Handcuffs"

Mark Barnes, co-owner of The Park at 14th Nightclub (920 14th Street NW), compared his settlement agreement with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle to handcuffs and "an electric collar". He wants it terminated. He made the comparison at ANC2F's monthly meeting on October 2.

The request was the subject of a September 25 SALM blog post.

ANC2F listen to Mark and Ann Barnes
Barnes makes his case

Barnes, appearing with his wife and co-owner Ann Barnes, told the committee the club had a long track record as a reliable member of the community. He feels the club is no longer an unknown quantity.

"The neighbors said they didn't know who I was," Barnes said. As a result, he "had to wear an electric collar for six years".

Meanwhile, Barnes continued, his club had generated $6 million in revenue for DC and had not one liquor-license-related violation within 1000 feet of the club.

"We don't think there's a reason to have an electric collar," he said. "Everything we can do, we do."

As an example, Barnes said his staff washed his and neighboring buildings every night, to counteract the effects of public urination, even though there are  neighboring clubs that contribute to the problem but do nothing. This is because the neighboring clubs were not obligated to enter into settlement agreements.

Later in the meeting, ANC2F Chair Matt Raymond (district 07) said it had been the ANC's practice for several years to allow bars and restaurants in the downtown business district (below M street) to operate without settlement agreements. The rationale is there are no residential neighbors to be bothered by late-night noise and other by-products of liquor-serving establishments.

ANC Commissioners asked Barnes if there were specific provisions he objected to.

"No, I don't like handcuffs," Barnes said.

The third party to the agreement

The third party to the settlement agreement is 1400 K Co, LLC, owners of the abutting property. They were represented at the meeting by John Patrick Brown of the law firm of Greenstein DeLorme & Luchs.

"My clients are opposed to terminating the agreement," he said.

Brown went on to say the agreement covers important issues. The most important of these was the "cure provision", which outlined the process by which the two parties can resolve disputes.

"I disagree with the handcuffs of Mr. Barnes," Brown said.

Brown said there had been 25 "investigative incidents" connected with the club in the last six years.

"This includes four assaults on police officers," Brown added.

"This had nothing to do with me," Barnes replied.

Following this exchange, there was some discussion between Barnes and ANC Commissioners. Barnes said he had been a good neighbor. As an example, he said he sent staff out to wash the dumpsters daily.

ANC Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02) noted this practice was specifically called out in the agreement.

"If the settlement agreement is lifted, would your practice change?" Cain asked.

"No," Barnes replied.

In conclusion, Barnes said the settlement agreement had already cost him $50,000 in lost revenue during the last Presidential inauguration, because he could not stay open as late as his competitors.

"We've proven we're model," Barnes said.

Further negotiations

The ANC voted unanimously to send the matter back to ANC2F liquor licensing affairs committee for further negotiations, but not before a member of the community in the audience made an accusation.

"What I hear is bias against Mr. Barnes," she said.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

ANC1B Homeowners May Face Renovation Catch-22

A motion passed by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street at the very end of its October 3 monthly meeting may create a Catch-22 situation for some area homeowners who are seeking to renovate.

The burden of a historic district home

Homeowners: first go here
Then go here
The motion applies to local homeowners whose homes fall into one of the area's historical preservation districts. At least three historic districts -- the U Street Historic District, the LeDroit Park Historic District, and the 16th Street Historic District --  fall in whole or part within the boundaries of ANC1B. If a home is located within one of these districts, a long list of home improvements -- especially improvements visible from the outside the home -- are subject to review and approval by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB).

The motion, championed by ANC1B Chair Tony Norman (district 10), requires homeowners get ANC1B endorsement of their planned improvements before, not after, they approach the HPRB. If homeowners don't do so, it is implied, then ANC endorsement will be withheld.

This order (ANC first, then HPRB) is the order in which homeowners are supposed to approach the city bureaucracy. Homeowners, however, are sometimes confused by the process and unable to get clear guidance on how to proceed.

A problem might occur when a local homeowner, unversed in local law but desiring to be compliant, approaches the HPRB first. In some cases, the HPRB has issued approvals conditional on ANC endorsement.

The Catch-22

So, a homeowner, wishing to obey the law, may find him- or herself in the position where there is approval from one part of the DC government conditional on endorsement from a second part of the DC government, but the second part of the DC government will not give endorsement, not because of any objection to the project itself, but only because it was not consulted first.

Commissioner Norman made the motion at the October 3 meeting, minutes after ANC1B unanimously voted to approve the proposed renovation of a house at 2241 12th Place. (The details of the renovation were the subject of an SALM blog post on August 28.) The homeowner of 2241 12th Place is someone who approached the DC bureaucracy in an incorrect manner, and received HPRB approval contingent on ANC endorsement, which he received.

Although he had already received his approval and would not be directly effected by the new policy, the homeowner, after hearing the motion, pleaded with Norman to do outreach to HPRB first to insure that future well-meaning homeowners would not find themselves in a bureaucratic bind. Norman and the ANC made no indication that they would do so.

In addition to being Chair of the ANC as a whole, Commissioner Norman is also Chair of ANC1B's Design Review Committee. This Committee frequently deals with HPRB applications before the full ANC votes on them.

HPRB: non-cooperation previously noted

Last year, ANC 2B/Dupont Circle passed a resolution criticizing the HPRB for its lack of coordination with ANCs. It said that the HPRB
is the only regulatory board that does not currently send a notice document directly to ANCs for each application within the respective ANC that will be on the board’s agenda. This is contrary to the practice of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, the District Department of Transportation Public Space Committee, the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and the Zoning Commission.
This practice, the resolution said, prevents ANCs from carefully reviewing HPRB applications and from providing timely and thoughtful opinions.

Given ANC1B's decision and the HPRB's history of poor communication, it seems like only a matter of time before a historic district homeowner will find his or her renovation ensnared in this Catch-22. It will probably cost some poor unsuspecting homeowner time, money, and aggravation.

Monday, October 7, 2013

14th & Wallach: ANC1B Unanimous in Favor

Madison Investments and allies completed their trip through the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) system on October 3 when ANC 1B/U Street voted unanimously to support its projected mixed-use building at 14th and Wallach Streets NW.

From August 19 design committee meeting
ANC1B will produce documents in support of the development when it appears for consideration before DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA).

Details about the nature of the multiple zoning reliefs and other contentious issues are available here.

Efforts at outreach

Sia Madani of Madison Investments made one last appearance before ANC1B to outline his efforts to get community sign-on to the project. Efforts included community outreach to, and soliciting letters of support from, "almost every single Wallach Place resident" and two neighborhood associations. Flyers about the project were also delivered to every house within a four-block radius of the project site.

Parking was a prime concern. As a result, future residents of the building will be restricted from getting residential parking permits. There will also be 36 spaces of bike parking.

Wallach Street residents also were eager to see commercial operations other than restaurants and bars on the first floor retail space. To that end, discounted rent for retail stores will be offered. There have been expressions of interest from two pet stores, a yoga studio, and a pilates studio. Members of the community urged Madani to encourage a hardware store to open.

Madani repeated the intention to own the building and rent out units, as opposed to selling it as condos.

"We're going to own this as an apartment building," he said.

Other locals on the project

Several attendees spoke up in favor of the proposed development. In addition, Commissioner Zahra Jilani (district 12), in whose district the development will be, read statements of support from other members of the community and ANC Commissioner Emily Washington (08), who was unable to attend the meeting.

Jilani also read a statement from the U Street Neighborhood Association. It does not support the proposal for a variety of reasons. They include the negative impact of the building's design and height on community space.

A member of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance asked that the developers be extra vigilant in connecting with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) on the issue of denying resident parking permits to building residents.

Of the twelve members of the ANC1B, seven were present to vote unanimously for the project. They were: Chair Tony Norman (10), Jeremy Leffler (02), Sedrick Muhammad (03), Ricardo A. Reinoso (05), Dyana Forester (06), James Turner (09), and Jilani.

15 Dupont Circle: Move Fast or No Deal

"We are under pressure from the seller. If I don't move fast, they will sell it to someone else," said a presenter to a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle on October 1.

"Everything inside me says go slow on this," said ANC2B Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06). "We have to walk a very fine line."

The Patterson House
The property is 15 Dupont Circle NW. This Italian neoclassical mansion, known as the "Patterson House", is on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by Stanford White in 1903 and for many years was the home of the Washington Club. The asking price on the property is $26 million.

The proposal

The development proposal, presented by architect David Shove-Brown of Studio 3877 and Ronnie Ben-Zur, CEO of French Quarter Hospitality of Atlanta, Georgia, is to turn 15 Dupont into the front part of a hotel. An adjoining two-story annex building on P Street will be demolished. In its place, a new six-story  building in a completely dissimilar modern architectural style will be constructed. The plan is that the new building will connect in its interior to the old building.

But first the concept must be approved by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) in October and a handful of special exceptions, waivers, and zoning variances must be obtained from DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on December 3. If the developers don't have all the approvals they need after the December 3 meeting, the sale is off.

An ANC does not have the authority to stop or accelerate proposals of this type on its own, but an ANC endorsement is given "great weight" by the HPRB and BZA. A statement of opposition can be enough to delay or even derail a project. A statement of support makes the going easier.
This annex would be demolished

The presenters said the Patterson house would be "restored to its original glory". The first floor would contain hotel reception, a bar, a library, and lounges. The second floor would have three banquet rooms and a ballroom. There would be a total of forty guest rooms in both the historic building and the new building, plus a roof-top patio and a green roof.

Overall, 75 percent of the interior of the old building would be preserved, the presenters said. Ninety percent of the interior would be preserved on the first two floors.

Criticism from the committee

There were many aspects of the proposal for the new glass-and-steel building that the committee did not like. This generated a long discussion.

"This proposal puts so much glass on P Street," one committee member said. "It will have a negative impact."

There was a suggestion to take two levels off the front (i.e., the P Street) side of the building and make the building taller in back.

"Pushing it two floors back is not practical," a presenter said. "We are not likely to get a height variance."

An abutting neighbor in attendance said, "We would oppose a height variance."

Commissioner Leo Dwyer (district 07) continued to advocate for a height variance, and offered to lobby on the presenters' behalf if it became necessary. The presenters expressed no enthusiasm for the proposal.

Dwyer is the chair of ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation, and Development Committee (ZPD), which held the meeting where the proposal was made.

Dwyer and others had serious criticism for another part of the project. As currently planned, a mechanical penthouse, would protrude from the top of the new building and over the old building. It would be clearly visible behind the old building from all over Dupont Circle, according to illustrations provided by the presenters to the ZPD Committee.

"Get rid of the obvious penthouse on the west side," Dwyer said.

The presenters said this would be impossible, because the building could not be made any taller and because the mechanical penthouse could not be moved.

Wanted: a hotel everyone can live with

Toward the end of the discussion, the presenters said, "The intent is not to anger the neighborhood. The intent is to have a working dialog with the community."

All parties were conscious that a hotel -- as compared to a private club or an embassy -- would be the only way that the general public would be able to see and enjoy the interior of the building.

"An embassy, we lose nearly all control," said Commissioner Silverstein.

There was no motion at the ZPD committee to either support or oppose the proposal before any DC government body.

The next stop for the prospective buyers is the HPRB on October 23. The subject of the HPRB will be the proposed new building's "massing". Massing, explained on page 7 of an HPRB .pdf document here, is the extent to which a building's facade is in harmony with the facades of the nearby structures.

"The massing of a new building should be compatible with the massing of existing buildings," the HPRB document, titled "New Construction in Historic Districts", says.

If that hurdle is cleared, then the prospective buyers will make a separate request for ANC2B support of their BZA application. Details of the exceptions, waivers, and variances being requested are available on page one of a BZA word processing document available here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jack Evans Asks What's on ANC2F's Mind

DC City Councilmember for Ward Two Jack Evans introduced DC Chief of Police Cathy Lanier at the October 2 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle NW). He then listened to Chief Lanier's remarks, occasionally adding a comment. After Chief Lanier concluded and departed, Evans stayed on to answer questions on various topics from the standing-room crowd of 80-90 community members.

Chief Lanier's remarks are reported in a separate blog post.

ANC2F listens to Jack Evans
Evans and Lanier

Evans said Lanier was "doing a fabulous job". He noted that last year's homocide rate was the lowest in 60 years, and that this year's was on track to be even lower before the recent shootings at the Navy Yard.

During Lanier's Q-and-A session, ANC2F Commissioner Peter Lallas (district 01) asked about anti-loitering laws as a tactic to get drug dealers off the streets. Lanier said such laws have often been found found to be unconstitutional.

Evans said if Lallas could find a law that would pass constitutional muster, Evans would be happy to support it.

"If you can find a better law, I'll introduce it immediately," Evans said.

Evans alone

After Lanier's departure, Evans talked briefly about DC's financial situation in the wake of the federal government shutdown. DC has about 1.5 million dollars in the bank, and will be able to make payroll through October -- but not after that.

Evans introduced Sherry Kimball Sherri Kimbel, constituent services director for Ward Two, to a round of applause. Kimball Kimbel told the meeting that "all the circles" -- e.g., Logan, Scott, Thomas -- are US Park Service property. As such, they are effected by the federal shutdown of non-essential services, particularly in the area of trash collection. Kimball Kimbel said that the Logan Circle Community Association was looking to spearhead a drive to keep the circles relatively trash free. She urged community participation.

Then Evans tooks questions from the community.

"What's on anybody's mind?" he asked.

Community Questions

Someone asked about a plan to move the Spy Museum to the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square. Evans didn't have any information about this, but ANC2F Commissioner Greg Melcher (district 06) said there was "plenty of time for community input".

In response to a question, Evans declared himself "dead against changing the height act".

Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02) asked about the recent Council decision to reject proposed changes in the visitor parking pass program.

A woman from Vermont Street asked about an "uptick in the homeless". She was against just shooing them away, but couldn't something be done.

 "These people gravitate to Ward Two, the center city," Evans said. "The homeless issue is a very delicate issue."

There were two questions about traffic lights. One resident of N Street said DC traffic lights were not synchronized, were too short, and were getting shorter.

Evans agreed, saying he drove up 15th Street to R Street every day, then west on R. He found the traffic lights infuriating. "If I get to be king," he said, stopping for audience laughter, "I'm going to fix all that. There's no reason in the world for it."

The second resident complained about drivers at the corner of 15th and N. Drivers did not pay sufficient attention to pedestrians. Evans promised to look into it.

An ANC2F resident complained about the proposed K Street trolley line. City officials were bent on connecting the trolley to Georgetown, whether it was practical, and regardless of the inconvenience caused.

"There's a large vocal group against it, including businesses on K Street," Evans said. "There's a smaller but still vocal group in favor."

Evans received a round of applause when he departed.