City Paper Widget

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Merry Christmas from SALM

Due to family obligations, SALM must start its Christmas break early.

I look forward to posting again in the New Year.

Best wishes for a joyous Christmas, a happy holiday season, and a safe and prosperous New Year to all readers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Darnell's: "The Only Option These Residents Want is Closing The Establishment"

At its regular monthly meeting on December 4, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted to reject a draft settlement agreement with Darnell's Bar (944 Florida Avenue NW), even though the settlement agreement had been drafted by an ANC1B Commissioner. The vote was 4-2 against approving the settlement agreement, with one abstention and four Commissioners absent.

944 Florida Avenue (Google Street View)
Commissioners voting in favor of the agreement: Sedrick Muhammed (district 03) and ANC1B Chair James Turner (09).

Commissioners voting against the agreement: Ricardo Reinoso (05), Mark Ranslem (08), Allyson Carpenter (10), and Zahra Jilani (12).

Abstentions: Dyana Forester (06).

Absent: Mark Morgan (01), Deborah Thomas (04), Juan Lopez (07), and E. Gail Anderson Holness (11).

In the DC liquor licensing world, settlement agreements are made between licensees and members of the community -- often ANCs, sometimes neighbors or neighborhood groups, sometimes in some combination of the groups just mentioned. This settlement agreement which was to be between the licensee and the ANC only. The most important parts of the agreement dealt with the topic of noise. They specified that external amplified music was forbidden, that windows and doors would remain closed at all times, and that trash could not be taken out between 11pm and 7am.

The agreement was "fairly consistent" with other settlement agreements, ANC Chair Turner said at the meeting.

But some neighbors of the establishment were reportedly "not happy with the settlement agreement as written", Nick Baumann, chair of ANC1B liquor-licensing affairs committee, told ANC1B.

"The only option these residents want is closing the establishment," Turner said.

Darnell's has been in a prolonged battle with its discontented neighbors -- see SALM blog post of October 22 -- over its liquor license. The status of the liquor license was further confused recently when the ownership of the establishment was "transferred" (not further explained at the meeting), so the liquor licensing placarding and protest process must start again from square one.

Prior to the ownership transfer, ANC1B tried to broker peace by negotiating the settlement agreement detailed above. Commissioner E. Gail Anderson Holness (in whose district Darnell's is located) was designated as the Commissioner responsible. The agreement which was rejected was negotiated by Holness, but she was not at the meeting to defend it.

If the settlement agreement had passed, a group of six neighbors protesting the liquor license might have been eliminated from process. Section 25-609 of DC Code states:
In the event that an affected ANC submits a settlement agreement to the [DC Alcoholic Beverage Control] Board on a protested license application, the Board, upon its approval of the settlement agreement, shall dismiss any protest of a group of no fewer than 5 residents or property owners...
See a December 9, 2014, ABRA document (21-page .pdf) here in which the group of six neighbors is given standing to protest the liquor license application.

The neighbors were reported at the meeting to be dead set against reaching any agreement with the establishment. Opinion at the meeting was that the neighbors are working against their best interests.

"The neighbors will be unable to close this establishment," Nick Baumann said.

"The possibility of winning this protest is possibly zero," James Turner said.

No representative from Darnell's or the protesting neighbors identified themselves at the ANC meeting.

Even though the settlement agreement was rejected, ANC1B still wants a seat at the table. It was agreed at the meeting the ANC will write a letter asking that its previous protest of Darnell's liquor license be grandfathered in to the application of the new owners, so the ANC will still be part of the negotiations.

During the daytime, The Blind Dog Cafe, a coffee house, also operates at 944 Florida Avenue. The Blind Dog Cafe was not discussed at the meeting. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Columbia Heights Liquor Store Fined $8000, Closed 15 Days, For Serving Minors

Fairmont Liquors (2633 Sherman Avenue) has been fined $8000 and ordered to close for 15 days for selling alcohol to minors. The November 19th decision was announced and briefly discussed at the December 4 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street.

(Google Street View)
The announcement at the ANC meeting said the liquor would be closed for two weeks in December. However, the official document announcing the decision from DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) says "the Respondent's fifteen (15) suspension days shall begin on January 12, 2015 and end at midnight on January 28, 2015."
The liquor store has been a subject of brief discussion at several recent meetings of ANC1B's liquor licensing affairs committee. At the meeting neighbors claimed that the store was known as a place where students from nearby Howard University who had not yet turned 21 could buy alcohol.

The ABRA document notes the testimony of an Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer, who said, on the day he observed underage liquor sales (August 24, 2013): "Most of the individuals in line had on Howard University sweatshirts and other university gear."

The MPD officer called the Howard University Police Department (HUPD) for assistance. From the ABRA findings of fact on the case:
While MPD and HUPD were standing outside the store, a white male patron exited the store and one of the HUPD officers called him by name. They then questioned the white male patron regarding his age, and he disclosed that he was 19 years old. The white male patron also produced identification, a Maine Driver's License, indicating that he was 19 years old. The white male patron also disclosed that he bought the beer and that he always buys his beer at the Respondent's establishment. [Citations of other documents, which occur at the end of each sentence, omitted.]
The owner of the store, Abel Gizachew, denied selling alcohol to the 19-year-old.

On January 24, 2014, according to the report, ABRA investigators responding to "numerous complaints regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages to under aged students from Howard University" observed the sale of alcohol to a man who, when confronted, could only produce a Howard University student ID to identify himself. The man turned out to be 20 years old.

When the investigators returned to the store and confronted Gizachew and other store employees, the document says, "many of the patrons started leaving the store without any purchases."

In response to this second incident, Gizachew said the underage customer in question had "could have used a fake ID".  The ABRA investigator said that the underage customer was in the investigator's site at all times and at no time was ID asked for.

The DC liquor licensing board voted 5-2 that Fairmont Liquor violated DC law on three of four charges connected with the two separate occasions of sales to minors. These three charges, taken together, added up to the $8000 in fines and 15 day suspension. Two members of the board who dissented from the ruling felt that Fairmont Liquor should also have been found guilty on the fourth charge. The fourth charge could have carried an additional penalty of $2000 and five additional days of closure.

Monday, December 8, 2014

ANC1B Achieves Quorum, Does Business

At its last regularly-scheduled meeting of the year, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street achieved a quorum and conducted business. Seven out of 11 sitting commissioners were present. Six were required for a quorum.

From ANC1B Twitter feed
Commissioners attending the meeting: Sedrick Muhammed (district 03), Ricardo Reinoso (05), Dyana Forester (06), Mark Ranslem (08), ANC1B Chair James Turner (09), Allyson Carpenter (10), and Zahra Jilani (12).

Commissioners not attending: Marc Morgan (01), Deborah Thomas (04), Juan Lopez (07), and E. Gail Anderson Holness (11).

All of the Commissioners who did not attend the meeting either did not run for re-election or lost the election.

Two Commissioners who did not run for re-election (Reinoso and Jilani) attended their final meeting and said a few words thanking their colleagues.

Many Commissioners-elect observed the meeting, including: Brian Footer (01), Nicholas Ferreyros (05), Jessica Laura Smith (07), Robb Hudson (11), and John Green (12).

Commissioners-elect Footer and Kevin Cain (04) were already put to work. The ANC voted to have them draft new policies and procedures for the next session.

It was briefly noted that the race in district 06 will trigger an automatic recount. The incumbent, Dyana Forester, is so far the victor by a single vote (205-204) over challenger David Gilliland. No date was given for the recount or announcement of results.

The DC Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) certified the results of the November general election on December 3, according to an announcement on Twitter.

DC Councilmember-elect Brianne Nadeau also attended the meeting.

ANC1B has had difficulty achieving a quorum on several occasions this year -- see, most recently, SALM blog post of November 7.

Friday, December 5, 2014

1504 Swann Street: Residence Expansion Domino Effect

On December 1st, a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted to support the expansion of 1504 Swann Street NW. Architect Julian Hunt, Founder and Chairman of Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground, is supervising the renovation and expansion of this home, which he has owned since 1998 and lives in. In a publicly-available zoning document, Hunt has said that one of the purposes of the renovation is "to adapt the house by going up to recapture the light and air."

Second floor to go on top of 1504 Swann Street
In the same document explains Hunt and his wife Lucretia Laudi (also an architect) had been living in the house for 14 years when "the adjacent house to the south was sold and an enormous addition (pop-back) was built in 2012 and completely closed off all the air and light..." for Hunt's property. Ironically, this expansion was made possible after the adjoining home had been downzoned, a process that is supposed to make expansion of homes more difficult. However, in this case, Hunt explained, downzoning removed Floor-to-Area Ratio (FAR) restrictions, which enabled the neighbor to expand the footprint of the structure on his property, and, as Hunt put it, erect a "monster" expansion.

The Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee of ANC1B heard the case on December 1. They voted to support both the historic preservation and the zoning aspects of the expansion of the house. I was not present for this portion of the meeting. In an email, ANC2B Chair Noah Smith (also Commissioner for district 09, where this property is located) gave the following reasons for ANC endorsement:
The support is based on the unique circumstances created by a neighbor's previous addition, which eliminated light and air for this property to the south. Swann Street is a beautiful and well-maintained historic street and this project will enhance it while adding an interesting, but not out of place, fa├žade.
The proposed addition will add two additional stories, or about 20 feet, over  the structure in the picture above. On top will be a roof deck. According to drawings submitted to zoning authorities, the completed structure will be roughly as tall and as large as the neighbor's expansion. The new structure will contain a rental apartment, which the owners plan to use for income. This, they said in zoning documents, would allow them to "age in place" with "the security of a small income from the rental".

The expansion requires zoning relief because the building, built around 1870, is not in compliance with 1958 zoning regulations. It covers 100% of its lot, but zoning allows only 60%. In addition, zoning requires a rear yard, which is clearly not possible since the house covers the whole lot.

The historic preservation aspects will have to be reviewed by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) because the house is located in the U Street Historic District.

Endorsement of historic preservation and zoning aspects of this renovation is on the agenda for the next meeting of the full ANC, scheduled for Wednesday, December 10, at 7pm, at the Brookings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Avenue).

The plans for the expansion of 1504 Swann Street, along with other documents, are available from DC Interactive Zoning Information System here -- put in case number 18897 into the search bar.

Hunt's initial appearance in June before ANC2B in support of this project was the subject of the SALM blog post of July 1.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

941 S Street: Planned Renovation for Long-time Vacant and Blighted Building

On November 17, the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street endorsed the historic preservation and zoning elements of a proposed renovation at 941 S Street NW. This building has been vacant for many years and was designated a vacant or blighted building by the DC government as of March 2012.

945 S Street on the left behind tree
This item is on the agenda for the meeting of tonight (December 4) of the full ANC. The meeting is scheduled for 7pm at the Banneker Recreation Center (2500 Georgia Avenue).

Online information says this building was built in 1885 and was sold in July 2014 for $985,000. At the November 17 meeting, the tale of this building unfolded bit by bit. It became vacant after the 1968 riots. The city acquired the property through tax liens. It stood empty for a long time -- "at least 10 years", according to one member of the Design Review Committee. The same member recalled trying unsuccessfully to buy the property "20 years ago".

This property is located in ANC1B district 02, which is currently vacant. It has fallen to the recently-elected (but not-yet-officially-seated) Commissioner for this district, Ellen Nedrow Sullivan, to do some research and other spadework that a sitting Commissioner might ordinarily do. Sullivan reported to the Committee. She said that, after the 2011 earthquake, the nearby Westminster Neighborhood Association, of which she had been member, had determined who in the DC government had the authority to sell the long-vacant building. There had been a successful push over a long period by the neighbors and the Association to get it sold.

Unsurprisingly, the Westminster Neighborhood Association also supports the request for the necessary approvals from DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and zoning authorities so the building can stop being an eyesore and start being somebody's home.

The property falls under HPRB's jurisdiction because it is located in the U Street Historic District.

There will be a new rear roof deck addition to the house. This addition will not be visible from the street, and will not put the property over 60% lot coverage, so no zoning relief is required for this particular aspect. The sole zoning relief required will be for a side court on the property. The Committee supported this unanimously and members said that this type of zoning relief was granted in 99% of the cases. 

The committee also endorsed the historic preservation aspects of the renovation but suggested that cement not be used as a material. However, a member of the committee who objected to cement said if HPRB could live with cement, it was OK with him.

The owner and his architect said the renovation included painted brick and "all new windows to historic standards". There would also be a green roof, they said.

Both the HPRB and zoning aspects of this renovation received unanimous endorsement in separate resolutions.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

St. Thomas' Parish Church Tries Again

St. Thomas Parish Episcopal Church (1772 Church Street NW) was back before a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle on December 1. Their representatives presented a revised design for a controversial plan to expand the church and construct multi-story residential units at the site on the corner of 18th and Church Streets.  The revised plan dropped more than 1000 square feet from the previous iteration of the building.

It would not look as tall from the street (photo credit below)
Some neighbors attending the meeting of ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee complimented the new design, but there were also attendees who were determined to object to any construction on the site. A representative of developers CAS Reigler called these objectors "the elephant in the room".

Laurence Caudle of Hickok Cole Architects presented the new plan. He said Hickok Cole had "taken over" the project. Previously, the project had two architects -- one for the residential portion, another for the church. Hickok Cole had been in charge of the residential portion of the project and MTFA Architecture had been in charge of the church portion. It seemed like MTFA Architecture had left the project -- but the name of the firm was never mentioned at this meeting, and did not appear on the latest plans for the project.

"We switched design teams in midstream," said Kevin Reigler of CAS Reigler.

Size is the issue

Laurance Caudle, presenting the revised plans, said the new design was "less of a block". The total area of the residential building is between 1,000 and 1,200 square feet less than before. The upper stories were set back further from the street, so that a person standing on the sidewalk on the far side of Church Street would not see any stories above the fifth story (see example in photo above).

"This breaks it down to essentially a five-story building," Caudle said.

"We've effectively lowered the mass of the building one story," Caudle said at another point.

However, the rear side of building, facing an alley, still looks like a seven-story building, as the neighbors were quick to point out. One Church Street resident said that DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) had recommended a larger church and a smaller residential component, but this revised design did not follow this recommendation.

"You say that it's 50 feet [tall] when it's really 80 feet," the neighbor said.

Ramon Estrada, President of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, said: "The project still looks too big, too massive, too tall."

"If the HPRB says shave this further, you're prepared to come back?" Estrada asked.

The presenters answered that they were.

The plans are a "moving target"

The presenters said they met with a committee of neighbors three times in the last month, and had sent to the interested neighbors a set of revised plans shortly before Thanksgiving, i.e., about 4-5 days before the meeting, as they had promised. The neighbors came to the meeting prepared to comment on these plans. However, the plans that were presented to the ZPD Committee were further revised, that is, they were not the same as the pre-Thanksgiving plans sent to the neighbors. There seemed to be suspicions that somebody was trying to get away with something.

"I am becoming less and less sympathetic to this concept of evolving plans. We were presented with a different set of plans," said Noah Smith, ANC2B Chair and Commissioner for district 09.

"We're simply trying to respond to comments," said Kevin Reigler.

"I'm very concerned with this moving target," said Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06).

The presenters' goal, they said, was to get an agreement on the "massing" of the building (meaning, the general shape and size) before moving on to matters like the materials used on the exterior, the design of the rear loading area, traffic patterns, shape and size of the windows, and so on. The presenters said that massing was the only issue the neighbors wanted to talk about so far.

After a lot of discussion, the ZPD Committee decided they would review the newer version of the plans, and said ANC2B would publicly post them. This promise has already been kept -- see a 39-page .pdf file of this version of these plans here.

Members of the committee will review the documents and prepare a draft resolution ready for the next full meeting of ANC2B, scheduled for December 10, at 7pm, at the Brookings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Avenue). The resolution would address the concept and massing of the building only. It would be worded to make clear that any approval of the concept and massing should not be construed as approval of other aspects of the design, e.g. the materials or colors.

See the full agenda for the December 10 meeting of ANC2B here.

(photo credit: detail from a drawing presented by Hickok Cole to the ZPD Committee)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

1918 11th Street: Restoration, Renovation, Addition

On November 17, the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street unanimously endorsed the historic preservation aspects of a planned renovation at 1918 11th Street NW, on the west side between T and U Streets.

1918 11th Street (photo credit below)
From the project description submitted to the Design Review Committee: "This project includes the restoration, renovation and addition of an existing 2-story + cellar building. A 3 story addition will be constructed at the rear, and the new building will be converted into a residential flat...."

According to Design Review Committee records, Eric Gellman of Bonstra Haresign Architects presented.

There will be a total of four parking spaces under the new design -- two official, "legal" parking spaces at the rear edge of the property, plus two "tandem" parking spaces. The latter means the parking spaces will be inside the legal parking spaces, so cars in the tandem parking spaces could not leave unless the car in the legal parking space was first moved.

There will also be a new spiral staircase at the rear of the building, which would allow direct access to the new apartment at the third floor rear. The third floor addition would not be visible from the street. There would be a roof deck on the third floor as well, toward the front of the building, to the rear of an newly-added skylight.

The windows, roof, and interior of the building would also be renovated.

This matter will probably be on the agenda of the next meeting of the full ANC. Unless someone shows up at the meeting with a serious objection, it will probably be approved without much further discussion.

The ANC meeting is scheduled for Thursday, December 4, at 7pm, at the Banneker Recreation Center, 2500 Georgia Avenue NW. It will then move on to the HPRB for final approval.

The renovation requires HPRB approval because the property is located in the U Street Historic District.

Online information shows this home was sold for $625,000 in May 2014.

(photo credit: from documents submitted to the Design Review Committee)

Monday, December 1, 2014

9th & L Street PUD: "You'd Have an Attitude Too If It Were Your Money"

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle, the developers of a large parcel of land at 9th and L Streets NW, and various community members took a first crack at hammering out some sort of deal at its November 19 meeting. The deal would take the form of a Planned Unit Development (PUD), in which the developers would give money to certain community and school groups in the vicinity of the planned development. In return, the developers would be able to forego the long and uncertain process of applying to the DC government for many individual instances of zoning relief.

Artist's conception of the development (photo credit below)
It will be difficult to come to an agreement that pleases all parties, if the lengthy discussion at the last meeting of ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) is any indication. From the summary of the meeting on ANC2F's website: "Several members of both the Committee and community rebuked what they felt was a closefisted $15,000 in financial support..."

The developers did not think they were closefisted. A leader of the development team -- Robert Knopf, Senior Vice-President of the Quadrangel Development Company -- said: "I think we've gone out of our way to accommodate everyone's request."

A few minutes later, a committee member told Knopf had an "argumentative attitude".

"You'd have an attitude too, if it were your money," Knopf shot back.

Jockeying for a piece of the PUD

PUDs are complex animals governed by a bewildering variety of laws, regulations, and customs. Lawyers get paid handsomely to understand them. My understanding, by comparison, is rudimentary.

However, I believe that the money or other benefits that developers are supposed to hand over to the community as part of a PUD are in theory supposed to defray or help repair damage that the proposed development will cause. For example, this development may render one or two small parks nearby (specifically, 10th Street Park and Samuel Gompers Park) less inviting during construction and more in need of cleaning up after the construction is finished. 

So, groups of "friends of" these parks came forward to ask for a contribution to upkeep and improvement as part of the PUD. At the meeting, a representative of the developers said that a group that supports one of the parks asked for an annual contribution of $500. The developers consulted with DC zoning officials and discovered they don't like open-ended commitments of money. So the developers are now offering a one-time payment of $2,500 to each park. The supporters of Samuel Gompers park have accepted the offer, the developers reported. But there was some confusing talk later in the meeting about whether this was really the case.

The developers seemed less enthusiastic about supporting other groups who wished to claim some PUD benefits. In one case, a community association in Logan Circle wished to get a contribution toward the maintenance of streetside tree boxes. Discussion at the meeting indicated the developers considered supporting this request until they discovered the tree boxes would not be anywhere near the site of the development, and therefore would not compensate for damage to the community. In at least one case, they said, the tree boxes to be beautified would be in front of a competing hotel. The developers cut this project out of its proposal.

Another group pursuing financial support from developers was from Thompson Elementary School (1200 L Street). This request seemed to greatly raise the ire of Robert Knopf of Quadrangle Development, because the school asked for $2,500 to fund a ski trip for the school. He said at the meeting that a ski trip was an inappropriate use of PUD money. Some members of the community reminded Knopf that some of the children who go to the school reside very near the site of the construction. In addition, the ski trip is a opportunity to get urban-dwelling kids out of the inner-city. Knopf gave no indication he was convinced by these arguments.

After much debate, CDC Chair Walt Cain (Commissioner for district 02) asked the developers to consider what was said at the meeting. He said the developers should come back with their "best and final offer", identify specifically what public benefits are on offer, and show comparisons with other projects with PUDs.

"We're giving you an opportunity to take the feedback and respond to the feedback," Cain said.

See explanations of the PUD process -- one by the U Street Neighborhood Association here and another by the blog Greater Greater Washington here.

This project has already cost developers more than anticipated (they said at this meeting) as they are obliged to partially salvage, renovate, and integrate a handful of historic buildings into the city-block wide development. The developers made an unsuccessful attempt to get permission to demolish one historically protected building on L Street. This was the subject of SALM blog posts on September 30, October 21, and October 28.

(Photo credit: from publicly-available documents of DC's Office of Planning. Please note that the image is not the latest iteration of the design, specifically, it does not include historic buildings that were originally slated to be torn down but now will be preserved.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from SALM

Will resume posting next week.

Logan Circle ANC Committee Endorses Outdoor Seating for "The Pig"

An application for a public space use permit for The Pig restaurant (1320 14th Street NW) will go ahead after a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle endorsed the application unanimously. The endorsement took place at the regular monthly meeting of ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) on November 19.

(Luis Gomez Photos. Used by permission)
The matter was dispatched in a matter of minutes at the beginning of the meeting. David Winer, principal of The Pig and other restaurants operated by EatWellDC, presented. Four tables with eight seats on 14th Street in front of the restaurant are planned. There will be no fence or barrier between the tables and passing pedestrians.

At its narrowest point, there will be an 8-foot-wide gap for pedestrians to pass, but mostly the gap will be 12 feet wide. The sidewalk seating will not "jut out" as far as that of the neighboring B Too restaurant (1324 14th Street) because The Pig has a flat front onto 14th Street, as opposed to B Too's bay window.

The sidewalk seating will operate until 10:30pm weekdays and 11:30pm weekends.

Winer was scheduled to present at the last meeting of the CDC but then didn't show up. The CDC voted to recommend opposition to Winer's sidewalk cafe permit. Winer came to the last meeting of the full ANC on November 12 prepared to present but was told he had to appear before the CDC first -- see SALM blog post of November 6.

See a summary here of the November 19 CDC meeting where this matter was discussed.

The matter will now move to the full ANC for endorsement. Matters approved unanimously by the CDC, like this one, are normally approved by the full ANC without much further debate. The next scheduled meeting of ANC2F is Wednesday, December 10, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

After that, the matter goes to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which has authority over public space use, for final approval.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2724 11th Street: "We Do Know What We're Talking About"

The owners of 2724 11th Street NW came away empty-handed from a hearing of DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on November 18. Jennifer Parker, representing the family that has owned the building for more than half a century, and attorney Martin Sullivan, of the firm Sullivan & Barrow, led the team who were in search of a handful of zoning variances for a troubled Columbia Heights apartment building.

Parker (center) and Sullivan (right) -- screenshot of BZA video
For many months, the rent-controlled building has been the site of a battle between, on the one side, the tenants and nearly all neighbors and, on the other, the owners and their representatives. The dreadful conditions of the building have drawn far greater public attention than normal to this application for zoning relief. This attention includes a detailed report on the vermin-infested apartments on WAMU and letters to the BZA in support of the tenants from two city council members.

According to section 11-3103 of DC Municipal Regulations, the applicants must show that strict application of zoning requirements "would result in peculiar and exceptional practical difficulties to or exceptional and undue hardship upon the owner of the property". Toward this end, they submitted spreadsheets and other documents intended to demonstrate finanicial hardship.

Attempts at humor probably not a winning strategy

The Board was not impressed with these documents. For example, members of the Board felt that professional expenses of $150,000 were not adequately explained. Parker said the expenses were for lawyers and accountants. She then said she was a lawyer and asked rhetorically if the Board was aware what attorneys cost these days.

Lloyd Jordan, Chair of the Board, replied that he was a lawyer himself and was aware of the going fees for lawyers.

"We do know what we're talking about, despite what you might think," Jordan said.

Jordan expressed further scepticism of the applicants financial statements.

"I don't know if I can accept your financials," Jordan said. Jordan asked the applicants to return with convincing evidence that "your numbers are real".

ANC Commissioners, community testify

Two Commissioners from Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street testified before the Committee.

ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09) was first. 2724 11th Street is in Turner's ANC district, he told the Board. Turner also told the Board lives on the same block as the building. He told them the matter had been on the agenda for the November meeting of the ANC, but a vote could not be taken because a quorum was not achieved -- see SALM blog post of November 7.

Turner testifies to the BZA
"Sadly, in November, we could not reach a quorum," Turner told the Board.

"It happens," a Board member said sympathetically.

"Too frequently," Turner said.

A Board member, still sympathetic, said it was difficult for Commissioners because they were "volunteers".

"We're not volunteers, we're unpaid," Turner said. The members of the Board laughed and suggested jokingly that all present could start a labor union.

But about the absences, Turner said: "It is unacceptable".

Turner went on to tell the Board about the previous actions of the ANC and its committees, including the October ANC1B vote to protest the 31 percent rent increase on the rent-controlled apartment -- see SALM blog post of October 8.

Turner said Parker's predecessors had not been good landlords but Parker herself in the last two years had made "good faith efforts" to improve the property. Approving the zoning variance would be "the fastest path" to getting better housing for the tenants, Turner said.

Next, ANC1B Commissioner Mark Ranslem (district 08) testified in favor of the applicants. Ranslem characterized the building as in a state of "horrible disrepair". To allow the current dispute to drag out, Ranslem said, would create a "lose-lose situation" in which the building might eventually be condemned. but approving the variance would create a "win-win".

Opponents of the zoning relief had, by the time the hearing took place, gotten 44 people to write in objection to the zoning relief, including the two DC Councilmembers mentioned above. (Sullivan characterized most of these as "form letters".) They also got several people to come to the mid-week hearing in person to testify. The Board had to make clear that not all would be allowed to do so, in the interests of time. In all, four representatives of the opposition to zoning relief, including one actual tenant of the building, testified.

Applicants told to return

The Board told the applicants they should come back in January with improved financial statements. Also, Lloyd Jordan said he "really had a concern" about the state of the building. Other members of the Board agreed with him.

Anthony Hood, Chair of the DC Zoning Commissioner, also attended the hearing. He told the applicants things might go a little easier if they returned with written evidence of a plan for relocating the tenants during the proposed renovation, as well as evidence of better communication with the building's tenants.

The request for a variance will be heard again on January 13, 2015, at 9:30am. BZA hearings are held in Room 220 South, 441 4th Street NW (Judiciary Square Metro).

I did not attend the November 18 BZA hearing. The information above is based on watching a video of the hearing. This video, along with many documents related to this case, can be viewed by going to DC's Interactive Zoning Information System and putting case number 18790 in the search bar. The portion of the meeting dealing with this request starts at time 2:07:53.

Monday, November 24, 2014

1218 9th Street: Zoning Relief for Future Home of Celebrity Chef Jeremiah Langhorne

At a November 19 meeting, a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted unanimously to endorse zoning relief for Jemal's 9th Street Gang of 3, LLC, and Douglas Development, developers of 1218 9th Street NW. The building in question will be the future home of the Dabney, a new restaurant from celebrity chef Jeremiah Langhorne, as well as The Columbia Room, an "award-winning" cocktail bar migrating from a nearby Blagden Alley location.

What the finished project might look like (credit below)
The developers appeared before the Community Development Committee (CDC) of ANC2F to tell how changing plans for their development have dictated a mid-development application for zoning relief. Previously, the project had been "by right" (meaning, not requiring zoning relief).

If the third floor were to be residential space, no zoning relief would be required. However, since the developers are now planning office space, and have rejiggered the design to add 4,000 square feet of space, the number of parking spaces the developer is required to provide on-site has increased from zero to 14. There is clearly no room on site for 14 parking spaces.

One member of the committee asked the developers to explore offering parking mitigations (e.g., bike/car share memberships) to tenants. Aside from that, there was no objection from the committee.

One member of the audience, a frequent attendee at ANC meetings, remarked that ANC2F had at their previous meeting endorsed a request by a neighboring building for the relief of the requirement to supply 66 parking spaces for over 130 residential units. In comparison to that request, the audience member said, this request was very reasonable, and he agreed with it.

The ANC's endorsement of the developers request also includes endorsement of zoning relief for floor-to-area ratio (FAR). (See an explanation of FAR here.) The maximum allowed now is 1.5 FAR. The developers seek 2.07 FAR.

In April 2013, the developers successfully sought endorsement for its plans from the CDC prior to petitioning DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). The project was required to go through HPRB because it is located within the boundaries of two separate historic districts -- the Shaw Historic District and the Blagden Alley/Naylor Court Historic District.

The documents related to the request for zoning relief can be seen by going to DC's Interactive Zoning Information System and entering case number 18905 into the search bar.

See a Douglas Development webpage advertising the development here and a flyer here.

See a June 2014 post about this property from the blog DC Vacant Properties here.

(Photo credit: detail of artist's rendering of finished project from publicly-available documents of the Office of Planning.)

Logan Circle ANC Write-in Winners Announced

On Friday, November 21, DC's Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) announced the winners in the 19 Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) races in which all of the candidates were write-ins. These districts had no candidate on the ballot because no one managed to gather the required 25 valid signatures from voters in the ANC disrict before the deadline.

From Twitter feed of Pepin Tuma
In ANC 2F/Logan Circle, two districts -- districts 03 and 07 -- had no candidate on the ballot. The write in winners are:
  • District 03: Pepin Andrew Tuma
  • District 07: Kevin Slyvester
I gathered the following information via Google: Tuma is a lawyer. As of 2012, he was Director of Regulatory Affairs at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "the world largest association of food and nutrition professionals". Tuma was briefly in the news in 2009 after he was arrested on U Street for disorderly conduct after singing "I hate the police" in the presence of police officers. He wrote about the incident in the Washington Post. In 2009, he sued the DC police about the incident. A 2011 report says Tuma successfully had the arrest expunged from the record.

There is not as much information about Slyvester. A Google search gives evidence that there is someone with that name who works or worked here in DC at the Federal Highway Administration Office of Operations, part of the US Department of Transportation. Other online records show Kevin Slyvester bought a house on the 1200 block of 12th Street (in ANC2F district 07) in 2010.

There was no information about how many votes candidates received, other candidates who received votes, or the winners' margins of victory.

The press statement on write-in winners is a Microsoft Word document which can be accessed at the DCBOEE home page under the "News" tab.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Two Leads in ANC Races Remain in Single Digits as "Final" Count of Ballots Released

The DC Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) released a "final" but not yet official tabulation of votes at a few minutes after 2pm yesterday (November 20).

Board of Elections tweet from yesterday
In district 06 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street, the number of votes won by each candidate remained unchanged from the previous release of ballot count information -- see SALM blog post of November 19. This means that incumbent Dyana Forester retained her single-vote (205 to 204) lead over challenger David Gilliland.

In district 05 of ANC 2B/Dupont Circle, challenger Jonathan Jagoda again shaved a few votes off the lead of incumbent Abigail Nichols. After the last release of absentee and special ballots, Jagoda was behind by six votes -- 231 to 225. Now, he is behind by four votes -- 233 to 229.

In a tweet yesterday, Jagoda noted that DCBOEE rules mandate a recount when the margin of victory is less than 10 votes. In a separate tweet, Jagoda said he was "going to a recount".

There are two write-in-candidate only races in ANC 2F/Logan Circle. A tweet from DCBOEE yesterday said the write-in winners "will be notified by letter and posted to the web" today, Friday, November 21.

In a press release yesterday, DCBOEE said some precincts will be randomly chosen for manual audits. The drawing to determine which precincts will be audited will take place today, and the audit itself will be conducted on Monday, November 24, in Room 1117 at 441 4th Street NW (a.k.a. One Judiciary Square).

The final results will be certified by the DCBOEE at its next regularly-scheduled meeting on December 3.

Sex Club Building Conditional Demolition Endorsement from ANC Committee

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted unanimously to give conditional endorsement to a request to raze 1618 14th Street NW. For years until 2009, the building was the site of the gay sex club "Men's Parties", which was closed after a man fell to his death on premises.

1618 14th is at the corner of Corcoran (Luis Gomez Photos)
The support for the demolition of the building is "strictly contingent" on the retention of the 14th Street facade of the building, according to the resolution passed by the Community Development Committee (CDC) of ANC2F.

The request to the committee was made by the "personal attorney since 1989" of Stephen Jaffe, the owner of the building. A NBC4 report about the lawsuit by the DC government following the 2009 death says the building was owned by 1618 14th Street LLC, "a company listed at 9464 Newbridge Dr. in Potomac, Md., the home of Stephen and Pirjo Jaffe."

The case for the raze

Accompanying the attorney was Peter Neubauer of Neubauer Consulting Engineers.

The attorney began his presentation by warning the committee the discussion and vote should be about the demolition only, and not "what comes after".

The attorney and the engineer detailed recent study of the building. The building has been "fully vacated" since December 2010. An architect retained in 2011 recommended facade repairs and full interior demolition. In May 2012, an internal demolition of the building received official approval and was done. The true condition of the building was revealed. Moisture at ground level had rotted the floorboard and led to termite infestation according to Neubauer.

A June 2013 raze request met objections from ANC2F and DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). There has been some further study since then.

The building is in terrible condition and some of the walls are bowing. It is structurally unsound, Neubauer said. In order to restore the south wall facing Corcoran Street, for example, the original bricks in the wall would have to be removed individually or in groups and then replaced. Some of the wall would be lost in the process.

"The brick is failing," Neubauer said.

Three sides of the building (south, west, north) are unsound in part because the bricks are only two-deep. However, the east wall is three-deep (the usual standard). The engineer said in response to committee questioning that the east wall (facing 14th Street) was not structurally unsound.

Historic Preservation attends the meeting

The new raze request seems to have the support of HPRB, although that support is not yet official. Steve Callcott of HPRB appeared in support of the raze request, waiting patiently for over two hours while the CDC considered other matters.

Callcott said the building dates from the 1870s.

"It probably wasn't intended to last this long," he said. "It's significant for that reason. It's a nice reflection of the earliest period of the neighborhood."

However, as the structural integrity of the building is failing, the building may no longer be considered a contributing building to the 14th Street Historic District, in which it is located. 

New ANC Commissioner responds

This building is located in ANC2F district 01. Katherine Gordon was elected earlier this month to be the Commissioner for this district after running unopposed. Her term will start in January.

Gordon told the committee she had spoken to neighbors and the building has been a problem since 2001. (Jaffe bought the property in 2005.) The building owner has not listened to neighbor complaints about the condition of the building since he owned it.

"It has been demolition by neglect," Gordon said.

"I've been expecting this," the attorney replied.

Jaffe only became aware of their concerns after "the 2009 horrific event".

"The neighbors never voiced concerns." the attorney said. "My client was unaware of their concerns."

"If my client had been aware of concerns," the attorney said, "my client would have responded."

The attorney said the building owner now addressed graffiti and vermin problems "weekly".

The raze application resolution will now move to the full ANC for approval. The next meeting of ANC2F is scheduled for Wednesday, December 10, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

All requests (like this one) to demolish contributing buildings in a designated historic district must be heard by the Mayor's Agent in the DC Office of Planning.

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 26 of 26 (Afterword)

This is the twenty-sixth and last installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, 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.

Afterword (four of four)
The last part of this book describes the rise of Mayor Vincent C. Gray up until April 2014, when it went to press.

“[Gray] grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Northeast Washington.... His partents never attended high school. Gray graduated Dunbar High School... and went on to George Washington University.... After graduating college, Gray went into social work, first for senior citizens, later for people with developmental disabilities” (Kindle location 6363).

“Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly appointed Gray to run her human-services department in 1991. When she lost reelection in 1994, Gray became executive director of Covenant House, an organiation that served the homeless and at-risk children. He ran it for a decade” (l. 6364).

“In 2004, at the age of 62, Vince Gray won the Ward Seven seat on the council... Just two years later in 2006, Gray ran citywide for council chairman and won.... He was deliberate, patient, collegial – all qualities that helped the 13-member legislative group function well. He watched the new Mayor Fenty treat the council with indifference” (l. 6364).

“Members of the 'old guard' lobbied Gray and promised to raise funds for his campaign.... Polls showed Gray could challenge Fenty. In March the council chairman declared his candidacy for mayor; a month later Fenty officially entered the race” (l. 6375).

“On quality of life and civic accomplishments, Mayor Fenty could run on a solid record. The city was safer. Crime was down. Homocides had fallen to 140 in 2009, a 45-year low. District agencies were running more efficiently.... Residents said in polls that the city was headed in the right direction” (l. 6377).

“But Fenty could not shake the widespread impression that he was arrogant and insensitive. He refused to accept polls that showed his popularity in free fall” (l. 6377).

“An undercurrent theme in the campaign to unseat Fenty was that Gray would resurrect Marion Barry's power base, bring back his machine, and redirect the flow of city contracts to Barry's friends. Fenty had tossed many old-guard Washingtonians from his government and from city contracts. Encouraged by Barry, they wanted back in” (l. 6402).

“In the decisive Democratic primary on September 14, Vince Gray trounced Fenty with 54 percent of the vote to Fenty's 44 percent. The city cleaved along racial lines: In black precincts across Anacostia in Ward Seven, Gray polled 82 percent of the vote. Fenty got 80 percent of the mostly white votes in Ward Three” (l. 6404).

“Mayor Vincent Gray was in office for fewer than two months when more than a few voters experienced an extreme case of buyer's remorse” (l. 6415).

“Gray had run as the clean candidate – 'Character, Integrity, Leadership' – and promised high ethical standards and a more approachable city government than Fenty had run. Gray had barely moved into the executive suite when news broke that his appointees and staff in top jobs in his administration were busy installing dozens of family members and friends in other posts with high salaries” (l. 6416).

Sulaimon Brown had run against both Fenty and Gray for mayor, but spent much of his time on the campaign trail attacking Fenty. Brown then got a $110,000-a-year job in the Gray administation.

“When his past legal problems surfaced in the news, Brown was fired and escorted his office by police” (l. 6421).

Brown accused the mayor of paying him to attack Fenty.

“The mayor and his campaign advisors scoffed. Gray hastily called a news conference and called for an investigation to clear his administration's name. But Brown produced documents, money order receipts, and phone records to help prove his account” (l. 6427).

"When Gray could rise above the fray, he governed well..." (l. 6432).

"His economic-development aides helped jumpstart projects that had been in the planning stages during the Williams and Fenty administrations. Construction cranes once again defined the District's skyline. Gray cut ribbons for the long-stalled Skyland shopping center in Ward Seven; new shops, offices, and housing at the O Street Market site along 9th Street, Northwest; and a total redevelopment of the Southwest waterfront along Maine Avenue" (l. 6444).

"... Young couples pushing baby strollers began showing up in traditionally African American neighborhoods like Petworth along Georgia Avenue. Newcomers moved into row houses in Bloomingdale and Eckington, east of North Capital Street" (l. 6540).

"Nowhere was the revival more evident than on 14th Street north of downtown. The eight blocks from Massachusetts Avenue to U Street became famous -- and infamous -- for redevelopment and gentrification. Developers knocked down warehouses and replaced them with condominiums. The Central Union Mission, which had housed homeless people for decades at 14th and R Streets, sold its building and moved to another location...." (l. 6543).

"The city's revival failed to lift all boats: The District's poor residents suffered from unemployment, poor health, and violent crime, especially if they lived east of the Anacostia" (l. 6552).

"The first polls in the mayor's race showed Gray with a lead, thanks to his base in the black wards east of the Anacostia River and a field jammed with challengers...." (l. 6579)

Meanwhile, corruption investigations that had been picking off members of the Grey administration closed in.

"On March 10, three weeks before the election, [businessman and Gray confidant] Jeff Thompson pleaded guilty to violating campaign-finance laws. Among many admissions, he said he had paid former councilmember Michael Brown to drop out of the 2006 mayor's race and endorse Linda Cropp against Adrian Fenty. He admitted to funneling more than $2-million in illegal contributions to local and federal campaigns over a six-year period. His pleas detailed how he had raised and directed more than $650,000 for Gray's 2010 election" (l. 6591).

"The blockbuster: In open court, Thompson alleged that Vincent Gray knew of the illegal contributions. Vernon Hawkins and other Gray aides had asked Thompson for $400,000 to help Gray get out the vote" (l. 6592).

"Mayor Gray needed to rally his base in the black wards. He never had much support among white voters, who pined for Fenty... and assumed Gray knew of the corrupt campaign" (l. 6594).

"Whom was he going to call? Marion Barry" (l. 6603).

"On Wednesday, March 19, Barry showed up in the basement of Matthews Memorial Baptist Church in Anacostia to endorse Gray's reelection bid. He had to help helped onto the stage" (l. 6604).

"The weekend before the April 1 vote, Barry joined a caravan through African American wards. Riding shotgun, Barry used a megaphone to exhort voters to turn out for Grey" (l. 6617).

"[Muriel] Bowser won the April 1st primary decisively. She captured 44 percent of the vote to Gray's 32 percent" (l. 6618).

"Few voters showed up citywide to vote on April 1. The 83,000 votes cast represented the lowest turnout in nearly 30 years. Precious few showed up in the black precincts Gray needed to win. While half of the voters turned out in some white precincts, fewer than 10 percent bothered to vote in black precincts along the Prince Georges County line" (l. 6621).

"Gray had failed to assume the cloak of victimhood that Barry tried to pass to him. In his first campaign defeating Fenty, Grey had received more than 25,000 votes east of the Anacostia. In the new election, despite Barry, Grey got fewer than 9,000 votes" (l. 6624).

"At the Democratic Unity Breakfast a few days after the election, Gray had to be goaded into shaking Bowser's hand" (l. 6629).

The chapter ends with a brief portrait of David Catania and the threat his campaign might pose to Muriel Bowser. At the time of the writing, Carol Schwartz had not announced her candidacy.

The books ends with a nod to its subject, Marion Barry.

"Marion Barry showed up in a wheelchair at Grey's election-night party. He said it was time for city voters to rally against Catania. Barry, the survivor, endorsed Bowser" (l. 6641).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City ends

This summary is cross-posted on the Cheater's Guide to Dream City blog.

There was a lot of fascinating detail in this book which I left out of this summary. If you want to understand the local politics of DC, you must read this a great book in its entirety.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

2724 11th Street: Graham, Grosso Weigh in Against Zoning Relief

DC Councilmembers Jim Graham (D-Ward One) and David Grosso (I-At Large) have written letters in opposition to a request for zoning relief by the owners of 2724 11th Street NW. The troubled Columbia Heights property has been the subject of a long struggle between tenants and neighbors on one side and the owners on the other -- see SALM blog posts of October 23, October 8, September 17, August 4, and June 23.

Tenants rallied against the zoning relief on October 5
The letters of Councilmembers Graham and Grosso came in advance of a November 18 hearing of DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on the request for zoning relief. The request was not granted at the hearing, which will be the subject of a separate blog post.

From Councilmember's Letters

Graham's letter says: "...there is no need for the owners to develop new units given the existing vacancies and the poor living conditions present in the building."

"After decades of neglect and deferred maintenance," Graham's letter says, "these owners have permitted the building to reach a state of advanced dilapidation, including rodent infestation, mold and advanced disrepair."

"On October 29, I toured the building and four individual units," says Grosso in his letter. "I was disturbed by the visible dilapidation caused by long-term neglect, rodent and vermin infestation, mold, and general disrepair of the building. There is no evidence that the property managers or owners have taken any steps toward improving these conditions for the safety and welfare of the tenants...."

Grosso also says: "... this renovation is not in the interests of the current tenants..." and "... this variance would only perpetuate the unaddressed issues that have plagued this building for years."

The letters of Councilmembers Grosso and Graham, along with 43 other letters or emails in opposition to the zoning variance (plus one in support), can be seen by going to the BZA's Interactive Zoning Information System and entering case number 18790 into the search bar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1508 Caroline Street: ANC Says Popup OK, Just This Once

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to endorse a request to add two additional stories on a residence on Caroline Street NW, one of which will be visible from the street. The unanimous endorsement occurred at the ANC's regular monthly meeting on November 12.

The aim is to make it symmetrical-looking from the street.
At the meeting, and in the resolution subsequently approved by the ANC (see text halfway down the page here), it was emphasized that this property had a unique situation and the approval of additional stories should in no way be construed as setting a precedent for the neighborhood.

Caroline Street is runs one block from 15th Street to 16th Street, just south of U Street. With the exception of 1508 Caroline Street, it is made of matching pairs of two-story houses, constructed at the same time in the 1880s.

A third story was added on 1508 Caroline Street sometime before 1900. This makes it the only three-story building on the block, and the only building on the block which does not match its next-door neighbor.

The new owner of 1508 Caroline Street has also owned 1506 Caroline Street next door since 1989. He told the ANC he had meet with neighbors two weeks ago to brief them on his plans for the renovation and expansion. It includes a complete interior renovation and the removal of the chain link fence in front of the house, which the owner believed was the last chain link fence in the neighborhood.

HRPB placarding on the property
The owner said the basement will also be excavated to create a basement apartment. The apartment will have a side entrance which will not be visible from the street.

On top of the new third floor, built to match its neighbor, there will be a fourth floor, set back nine feet two inches from the front of the third floor.

Tom Bauer, President of the Dupont Circle Conservancy, testified that his group intended to endorse the "unique semidetached" project. The renovation would make the pair of buildings look more consistent and historic.

"This third story should not set a precedent," Bauer said.

The owner of neighboring 1510 Caroline Street asked about the time of day when construction would take place. The owner said construction work would generally take place during normal working hours with "rare" weekend work.

Since the building is in the U Street Historic District, the renovation and expansion must get the approval of the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Consideration of the project on the HPRB's agenda for its next pair of meetings, the first of which is on November 20.

However, the proposed matching third-story popup on the front of 1508 Caroline Street has not been viewed favorably by HPRB staff -- see report here. The rest of the project, including the two-story rear addition and the basement alterations, raised no objections.

Online records show this building was last sold in July 2014 for $725,000.

Lead in ANC1B Race Changes Hand as Incumbent Gains One Vote Lead

The DC Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) did a fresh release of ballot counts last night, November 18, at about 5:30pm, including a fresh batch of special and absentee ballots to the total, according to information posted on its website.

A tweet from DCBOEE yesterday said there was at least one more update to come -- "we hope to have more tomorrow or Thursday".

As a result, the lead in one Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street race has changed hands. Incumbent Dyana Forester now leads challenger David Gilliland by a single vote, 204 votes to 203, for the position of Commissioner from District 06.

The first release of preliminary results directly after the November 4 election gave Gilliland a three-vote lead. A updated results including some special and absentee ballots last Friday (November 14) increased Gilliland's lead to six.

Meanwhile, Abigail Nichols held onto her single-digit lead over challenger Jonathan Jagoda in the race to retain her seat as Commissioner for district 05 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle. Nichols initially had an 11-vote lead. The first release of special and absentee ballots closed the gap to 6 votes, 221 for Nichols to 215 for Jagoda. After this latest update, the difference remains 6 votes -- 231 to 225.

See the latest results for all DC contests at the DCBOEE website here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

1420-1422 12th Street: Stop Work Order on Logan Circle Renovation

DC's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has issued a stop work order for a renovation of conjoined residences at 1420-1422 12th Street NW. However, it is not clear if this is in response to last week's letter protesting the renovation from Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle -- see SALM blog post of November 12.

These properties to be inspected
The details of the stop work order were outlined in a recent email from Rohan Reid, the Zoning Enforcement Officer at DC's Office of the Zoning Administrator, to Joel Heisey, a member of ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC). Several ANC Commissioners and other interested parties were cc'ed on the the email, which was sent at the end of the business day last Friday, November 17.

The email says "the property was inspected several times within the past months and was issued a stop work order (SWO) following one of those inspections for a violation(s) of the building code regulation." The email does not say when the property was inspected or when the stop work order was issued. It also does not make completely clear why the stop work order was issued.

However, the email says: "The inspection results, land records, and maps, indicated that the footprint [of the buildings] was changed over time. Based on this information we met with the property owner and informed him to submit building plans..." The owner agree to submit plans "as soon as possible," according to the email.

The email promises an update once documents are received from the owner and analyzed.

This email seems to contradict certain statements made at the November 5 ANC meeting. At that time, members of the community said they had, after many unreturned phone calls and emails, managed to contact DCRA only to be told that the agency found no basis for action against the renovation.

Meanwhile, the property at 1422 was featured yesterday on the blog Popville, which noted that it was for sale on line for $999,900. Popville also reported last month that the property at 1420 was for sale for $1.2 million.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Few ANC Races Still Cliffhangers as DCBOEE Inches Toward Final Election Results

The margin of victory in one race for Commissioner in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle slipped from 11 votes to 6, while the margin of victory in one race in ANC 1B/U Street increased from 3 votes to 6, as DC's Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) released revised vote counts late Friday afternoon, November 14.

There are still ballots to be counted.

Updated numbers from DCBOEE
Incumbent Abigail Nichols now has 221 votes to 215 votes for Jonathan Jagoda in the race in ANC2B district 05. In ANC1B district 06, David Gillliland increased his lead slightly, winning 194
votes to incumbent Dyana Forester's 188.

Numbers of votes changed in every ANC district covered by SALM. The districts mentioned above were the only ones where the margin of victory is in the single digits.

In a press statement Friday, DCBOEE said it had processed 5,400, or 27 percent, of the approximately 20,000 special ballots cast in the election November 4. In addition, last Thursday, November 13, was the last day to receive absentee ballots postmarked on or before election day. DCBOEE had processed 6,000 absentee ballots as of November 13.

According to a tweet by WAMU's Martin Austermuhle, the counting of special ballots should be done by tomorrow, November 18. A separate tweet by Austermuhle said that the winners in races where all of the candidates were write-ins could be revealed at that time.

The final results will be certified by the DCBOEE at its next regularly-scheduled meeting on December 3.

DCBOEE updated the information at 5pm Friday afternoon. A tweet from DCBOEE seemed to indicate that there would be an additional update on Saturday, but as of this writing there are no further updates to the vote count.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Two Longtime Dupont Restaurants Seek Change to Tavern Licenses

At the regular monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle on November 12, two liquor licensees asked to have their liquor license category changed from CR (restaurant) to CT (tavern).

The two establishments are Recessions (1823 L Street NW) and Selam Restaurant (1524 U Street), both of which have been operating for more than 15 years.

Restaurant licenses are cheaper than tavern licenses, but in order to maintain a restaurant license, the licensee must meet several requirements. They include: the licensee must keep the kitchen open until at least two hours prior to closing, the licensee must meet certain minimum standards of revenue from food sales, and the licensee must emphasize food in its advertising. In addition, the licensee must apply separately if it wishes to have dancing or entertainment. See a summary of DC liquor license categories and endorsements from the blog Barred in DC here.

At the November 12 meeting, owner Mohammed Haji appeared on behalf of Recessions, which has been operating on L Street for 18 years. Haji told the ANC that, in recent years, the appearance of food trucks have taken a significant bite out of the revenue he gets from food sales. Haji seeks a tavern license so he will be freed from the obligation of minimum revenue from food sales.

Since the establishment is in the downtown business district, there seemed to be no residential neighbors who might object to the possibility of increased late-night noise or drunkenness. The ANC decided to take no action, meaning, it will neither endorse or oppose the application to change liquor license category. Barring other objecting parties, the change will probably be granted.

Recessions' application for a license category change will get an initial hearing before DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) at 10am on December 1, at ABRA's offices at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets), 4th floor.

Selam Restaurant is at the other end of ANC2B and has been operating since 1997. It backs onto Caroline Street, which is residential. It has good relations with their residential neighbors.

(From, used with permission)
"Their close neighbors seem to love them," said ANC2B Chair Noah Smith
(Commissioner for district 09). Selam Restaurant is in Smith's ANC district.

However, Smith said he could not support the license change yet because he had not completed consultations with neighbors. He moved that the ANC protest the proposed change on the grounds of "peace, order, and quiet", with the provision that the protest would be withdrawn if the ANC's concerns were resolved. Smith emphasized that he hoped the ANC would withdraw its protest, barring an unexpected appearance of unhappy neighbors who up until now had been silent.

"We don't want you to move," Smith told the owners of Selam Restaurant.

The motion was passed unanimously.

See a copy of a 2008 settlement agreement Selam has with ANC2B and a group of neighbors here.