City Paper Widget

Friday, February 28, 2014

St. Thomas' Project: "It's an Unholy Alliance"

"How can you claim you want community involvement? Every move you make is in secret. You've done everything to hide this whole process. I think it's bullshit," said a man near the beginning of the meeting.

"It's an unholy alliance," said a woman later.

This park is church property
The parishioners and leadership of St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church (1772 Church Street NW) had to endure some abuse on February 26, when they held their first public information session about their planned project to build both a new church and a new apartment building to finance the new church. The new church will go up on a site that has functioned as a park since 1970, when a church on the site was burnt down by a still-unknown arsonist. The apartment building will go up on a nearby property owned by the church.

As the meeting went on, the most vocal attendees subsided a bit, but there were still occasional outbursts from the inadequately-socialized. In between, representatives of the church, property developer CAS Riegler, and Arlington-based MTFA Architecture, tried to give a briefing on their vision of the process, and sometimes more thoughtful voices both for and against the project were heard.

Hostile to the church

Some seemed not to like churches on principle. A man repeatedly shouted, often over the remarks of others, that the project was a done deal, implying the meeting was a sham. A woman thought the church should fold up and move in with another Episcopal Church.

"There are 35 churches and a cathedral within five miles," she said.

This woman suggested the land be sold to a Montessori school.

Others were resentful of the tax-free status of churches, and wanted to be sure St. Thomas' gave a cut of its revenue from this project to the D.C. government.

In reply, representatives of the church stated, yes, the lot that the church stands on will continue to be tax-exempt, but not the nearby projected apartment building. However, they went on, since the income from the apartment building was not enough to completely finance the building of the church, St. Thomas' will not have any money left to tax. In fact, they will have to ask parishioners to contribute funds to complete the project.

The man quoted at the top of this article came to the meeting a few minutes late. All the seats were filled. When given a chance to speak, the man said (in addition to the remarks above) that he had arrived late due to the last-minute change of venue of the meeting. This change, the man said, was part of a campaign to minimize objecting voices.

Commissioner Leo Dwyer (district 07) from Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle explained the venue move was not part of a conspiracy. The venue had been moved to the Chastleton Ballroom (1701 16th Street) the previous day in anticipation of a larger turnout than the tiny Dupont Circle Resource Center (9 Dupont Circle) could accommodate, he said.  Announcements of the venue change had gone out by social media and other outlets.

Over 75 people were in the audience, indicating that many had received the announcement.

Rev. Nancy Lee Jose tried to offer an olive branch.

"I am sorry that it is what it is," Rev. Jose said. "We do want to be good partners."

Cooler heads

Some, more reasonably, said they didn't want to lose a park on their front doorstep.

"You've grieved for the loss of your church for 40 years," said a woman. "Now we have to grieve for the loss of our park."

People were concerned about parking problems. The proposed site of the multi-story apartment building is now a parking lot. Kevin Riegler of CAS Riegler said the apartment building would have below-street-level parking.

A man who identified himself as a Catholic said: "No church can compete with this church for its contribution to the community."

The man continued: "The future is small-based community. Your mission is to serve the community, not architecture. You have what you need now. You are meeting your mission. Keep it up!"

In reply, a representative of St. Thomas' said the church was wasting money on stopgap maintenance measures for its aging building. In addition, since its worship space was accessible only by a staircase, handicapped people had difficulty attending. It was also impossible to host funerals, he said, because there was no way to get a casket up the stairs.

"We are not meeting our mission," he continued. "The space is falling apart around us. That wall on 18th Street was never meant to see the light of day."

Many of the complaints were about the lack of transparency in the process so far. The church leaders and development team stated repeatedly that the process had just begun, no irrevocable decisions had been made, and there will be additional community outreach. The team promised another public meeting in 3-4 weeks. They seem likely to encounter continued opposition.

"Radio silence is a bit of a problem," said Robin Deiner of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association. "No one wants it [the church] to leave. I see a lot of opposition going forward. This is putting a real distance between us."

"There's a great deal of rational skepticism about development in Dupont Circle," said one audience member.

"This church provides wonderful amenities," said Leo Dwyer. "If they leave it will be a loss for our community."

"This is step one of many many," said Kevin Reigler. "We're not blind or naive to the neighborhood concerns. Projects like this are never easy."

Other reports on the same meeting have appeared on the blogs Greater Greater Washington and District Source.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2100 Vermont Ave: 19 Microunits, No Parking

Richard Foster Architects has proposed a design for a six-story mixed-use building at 2100 Vermont Avenue NW. It would contain 19 rental units of between 430 and 716 square feet apiece. There will be no parking spaces. Residents will promise not to seek an on-street resident parking permit as a condition of their lease.

The property today as seen from V Street
The Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street heard a presentation from Richard Foster Architects about this proposed building at its meeting of February 25. The presenters are in search of at least four zoning reliefs and special exceptions from D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). If ANC1B endorses the zoning-related requests, they will probably travel more easily through the bureaucracy.

However, the initial reaction of the committee was less than enthusiastic.

Parking and other issues

The presenters described the 3,000-square-foot lot as "landlocked", meaning that all sides abutted either another building or a sidewalk without a curb cut for a parking ramp. Even if a sidewalk curb cut were made, it would be impossible to design a ramp to basement parking that would be wide enough for a car and also fit on the compact lot.

In addition to requiring tenants not to seek a residential parking permit, the presenters said they would coordinate with D.C authorities to put a block on the address at the permit-issuing office.

As the law stands today, the building would be required to have one parking space for every three residential units.

The committee asked about bike storage at the property. The presenters said bike storage was planned in the basement. To access the storage, the committee pointed out, tenants would have to carry their bikes through the lobby, through a doorway, down a circular staircase, and through another doorway, to access the storage area.

The ground floor would have room for 2,100 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, with doorways facing both V Street and Vermont Avenue.

The plan is for 19 rental units in the building. There would four units each on floors two through five. They would be between 430 and 490 square feet. On the sixth floor, there would be three apartments, the largest of which would be 716 square feet.

BZA approval will be required because the building is slightly (four inches) taller, and covers slightly more (1.2%) of the lot, than zoning permits. In addition, the building as designed would not meet requirements for a rear yard for retail, and for roof setback.

Committee vetoes design

The Design Review Committee was reluctant to endorse the zoning-related requests. The members of the committee simply did not like the design, which was largely floor-to-ceiling windows, broken up by six-floor-high white columns. When time came to make a motion about the proposal, no one on the committee wanted to.

"You are packing as much as you can into a tiny site," said committee member Joel Heisey.

"Is this viable as a smaller building?" he asked.

The presenters said it was not.

Heisey compared the design to a "1960s office park building". Other committee members seemed to agree the design was lacking, especially the exterior "skin" of the building.

After some discussion, one of the presenters said: "We are more than willing to look at some skin alterations."

The presenters said they do not yet have a date for their BZA hearing, so there would be time to reconsider the design and return with an altered design.

The next scheduled meeting of ANC1B's Design Review Committee is on Monday, March 17, at 6:30pm, at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street).

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ANCs Push for 16th Street Bus Lanes

An effort is underway to have local Advisory Neigbhorhood Commissions (ANCs) pass nearly identical resolutions urging more progress on proposed dedicated bus lanes on 16th Street NW.

16th Street looking South from S on a quiet morning
ANC 2B/Dupont Circle passed the resolution (available here) at its last meeting on February 17th, by a vote of 6-0 with one abstention. On February 20th, the Transportation Committee of ANC 1B/U Street voted to recommend the full ANC approve a similar resolution. The recommendation was passed by a voice vote with no audible objections. ANC1B will probably vote on the resolution at its next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, March 6, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

ANC2B Commissioner Kishan Putta (district 04) and Cheryl Cort, Policy Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, appeared before the ANC1B Transportation Committee to urge they endorse the resolution. Cort said the purpose of the resolution was to urge the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to move forward on the long series of public consultations and studies (e.g., air quality approval, environmental assessment) necessary before the lanes can become a reality.

"We'd like them to go through the whole process," Cort said.

The committee discussed the exact definition of a dedicated bus lane. Such a lane, in this case, would also allow bicycles and right-turning cars and taxis.  If not turning right, taxis would be forbidden from the bus lanes.

ANC1B Chair James Turner (district 09), although not a member of the Transportation Committee, was present at the meeting. He said he wouldn't support the resolution, because it does nothing to address the congestion problems of buses that pass through his district, for example, buses that travel on 14th Street, 11th Street, and Georgia Avenue. Cort replied improved 16th Street service would draw off riders currently taking 14th Street buses, relieving congestion.

The ANC1B version of the resolution will have some additional language in it pointing out that bus demand has exceeded capacity on both 14th Street and Georgia Avenue buses as well.

Putta has been campaigning vigorously to get the bus lanes moving forward, most recently testifying at a D.C. Council hearing on February 20.

He has also been working hard to inject the issue into the April 1 D.C. primary elections, often asking candidates for their views at public events.

Putta says D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser (Ward Four) has declared herself in favor of the bus lanes, after initially expressing skepticism about the proposal. Other candidates from the city council -- Jack Evans (Ward Two) and Tommy Wells (Ward Six) -- have also expressed their support. In addition, both candidates in the Ward One City Council primary -- Jim Graham and Brianne Nadeau -- have told Putta they support the proposal.

"DDOT itself did a study last year recommending a rush-hour bus lane.  Now they need to make it formal and implement it," Putta said.

The 2013 DDOT study found that bus lanes could reduce commute time by 30%, Putta said.  They could also increase total bus capacity by 10% because buses could be reused faster.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tonight: ANC1B Hearing about S Street Parking Proposal

The Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street will hold a meeting tonight, Tuesday, February 25. On the agenda for discussion will be a proposal to study having a parking facility at 1325 S Street NW. The property is currently used by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.

1325 S Street (Google Street View)
This is the first time the proposed facility is on an ANC1B meeting agenda.

The meeting starts at 6:30pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street).

This idea was endorsed by ANC 2F/Logan Circle at its last meeting -- see SALM blog post of February 6. ANC2F abuts the property on its south side. See a post about the proposal on ANC2F's web site here, and a .pdf presentation about the plan (starting at page 8) here.

The idea was brought up by a community member during the concluding "new business" portion of ANC1B's last meeting on February 6. At that time, ANC1B Chair James Turner (district 09) expressed disappointment that ANC2F had not chosen to consult ANC1B before releasing the plan. But he said ANC2F had not overstepped over its authority.

"They abut. They have a right," Turner said.

At a separate meeting of ANC1B's Transportation Committee on February 20, Turner said the ANC might consider doing a joint resolution with ANC2F on the proposal. Turner emphasized the proposal was at its very beginning, and the property would have to be declared surplus property by the D.C. government and sold, and there would have to be a traffic pattern study before any proposal could move forward.

Turner also said D.C. City Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward 1) had come out against the proposal.

Another Transportation Committee member spoke against the proposal as well.

"We understand that parking is a problem but more parking is not a solution," he said.

Today's meeting will be the first Design Review Committee meeting under its new chair, Lela Winston. Winston was selected as the chair at ANC1B's February meeting.

See the full agenda for tonight's meeting here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

ANC1B Joins Protest Against MOVA Lounge

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street has joined the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association (MHNA) in protesting the liquor license renewal application of MOVA Lounge (2204 14th Street NW). The ANC voted to protest at its regular monthly meeting on February 6.

MOVA Lounge with placards last week
Last year, the ANC had voted to endorse MOVA Lounge's application in what
seemed at the time to be a routine case with no neighborhood concerns. After it seemed too late to reverse its decision, ANC1B learned that late-night noise from MOVA Lounge's rooftop garden had caused the MHNA and a group of 19 neighbors to protest the renewal application.

An MHNA representative told an ANC1B Committee (see SALM blog post of December 3, 2013) the protesters were unaware the ANC was going to deliberate on this matter because MOVA Lounge had not properly displayed a placard announcing the renewal application.

D.C. liquor licensing authorities apparently agreed with the improper placarding claim. MOVA Lounge was compelled to start the renewal application process over. This gave ANC1B the opportunity to weigh in the on side of the protestors.

At the February 6 ANC meeting, no representative of MOVA Lounge appeared, nor did MOVA Lounge respond to an invitation to attend a February 18 MHNA meeting where the matter was discussed.

At the February 18 meeting, a representative of the neighbors at 1407 W Street said the group had sent "about five emails" to MOVA's lawyer Andrew Klein. There was "zero response", he said.

MOVA Lounge has a rooftop garden at the rear of its building. At its closest point, it is separated from 1407 W Street only by a narrow alley. The 1407 W Street representative told the MHNA that amplified music from MOVA Lounge could be heard until 3am some evenings.

"We are not aggressively against MOVA Lounge," he said.

MHNA voted to continue the protest "in hope of establishing a settlement agreement" with MOVA Lounge.

At the MHNA meeting, Commissioner Ricardo Reinoso (district 05) said ANC1B's protest letter was "signed and ready to be delivered" before a March 3 deadline.

This is the second time in less than a month that a midcity liquor licensee has been tripped up by the placarding process. Last month, after accusations of improper placarding set the process back to square one, ANC 2F/Logan Circle voted to protest the new liquor license for Xavier Cervera's new Blagden Alley restaurant, The American -- see SALM blog post of February 11.

The MOVA Lounge vote was unanimous, with Commissioner Tony Norman (district 10) abstaining. Commissioners Sedrick Muhammed (district 02) and Deborah Thomas (district 03) were not present at the ANC meeting.

MOVA Lounge is in the ANC district of Commissioner Thomas.

Friday, February 21, 2014

1225 10th Street Renovation: Back to the Drawing Board

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle has sent the team planning to develop the vacant lot at 1225 10th Street NW back to the drawing board. At its February 19 meeting, the Community Development Committee (CDC) said the current design for a new four-unit condo, tentatively approved by D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), was unacceptable. The committee's recommendations were in contradiction of the HPRB's recommendations. The owners, architect, and developers are left to find a solution which pleases both parties.

The vacant lot as seen from Google Street View
Architect Shawn Buehler of Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects led the presentation team at the meeting, which included S2 Development and the lot owners. 

The plan is to build a four-unit condo on the 25-foot-wide site. Three units would be in the planned three-story main building facing 10th Street. The fourth unit would be the existing carriage house at the rear of the property. There would be a courtyard between the front and rear buildings, only accessible through one of the buildings. The owners plan to sell three units and live in the fourth. It was estimated the construction would take 9-12 months.

The development is "by right", meaning, it does not require any zoning variances or special exceptions. However, it must be reviewed by the HPRB because it is located in the Blagden Alley-Naylor Court Historic District.

The architect had already consulted HPRB staff and had modified his original drawings to include HPRB input. CDC members were not satisfied.

"I'm quite concerned about the windows," said Helen Kramer. "They're quite different from anything else in the row."

Joel Heisey thought the design's symmetrical facade didn't match its surroundings.

"The whole block is asymmetrical facade," he said.

Buehler responded: "I'm smiling because we started with an asymmetrical facade."

Buehler explained that his original asymmetric design (which he showed the committee on his Apple laptop) had been rejected by HPRB staff. The result was the design he was presenting to the CDC. Committee members told Buehler he should go back to HPRB with the ANC's recommendation and sell them on an asymmetric facade. 

"Don't let HPRB design your building," Heisey said.

The CDC did not approve the design, nor did it pass a motion to protest the design. It told the architect to come back with a new design at a future meeting.

The CDC voted unanimously to recommend the full ANC approve the concept and massing of the building. The full ANC will probably consider the recommendation at its next regular monthly meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, March 5, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

On-line records indicate 1225 10th Street lot is 3,573 square feet and was sold in August 2011 for $815,000.

See more details about the project, including drawings of the rejected facade, at the blog BadWolfDC.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Safety for Cooperative Play Program in Stead Park to Be Studied

Before D.C.'s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) commits to establishing a Cooperative Play Program in Stead Park (1625 P Street NW), it wants to make sure the 163-year-old building there can be made safe for children.

Built during the Millard Fillmore administration
DPR Director Dr. Sharia Shanklin led a delegation of DPR employees to Stead Park on February 18 to meet local parents and other interested parties to discuss the status of the effort to bring Cooperative Play to Stead Park.

Deputy Director June Locker said, "We will find a way to make this happen."

"We need a few more weeks to think about it," Chief Operating Officer Bridget Stesney said. "We're not saying no."

The building in Stead Park that would house the program was built in 1851. It does not meet present-day requirements for a building that hosts child-care programs. For example, the building might have to be fitted with restrooms for children and also with a sprinkler system. In addition, if the program uses the second floor of the building, a staircase may have to be modified so children can more easily use it, especially in case of emergency.

"This is definitely an old building," said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (district 2B-04) Kishan Putta, who organized the meeting. Putta is also on the board of the Friends of Stead Park.

The team from DPR said they would have to hire an architect in early March to examine the building for compliance with building code. If all goes well, the architect's report should be done by late March and a plan to implement the needed changes in place soon after.

It's still possible to get all this done before September, when the proposed program might start. However, enrollment for Cooperative Play Programs in other locations in DC will start on March 10. It seems unlikely there will be a decision on whether to green-light the program in Stead Park before then. At this meeting, parents were told they could sign up for a Cooperative Play Program elsewhere and still be eligible to sign up for the Stead Park program if it becomes a reality later this year.

If safety issues are resolved, it seems likely the program will go ahead.

"I feel pretty confident that we're going to have the staffing," Dr. Shanklin told the Dupont Current newspaper in January.

The initiative to start a Cooperative Play Program in Stead Park was also the subject of the January 21 SALM blog post.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

UPDATED: Neighbor Attempts to Put Pal the Mediterranean Spot Out of Business

UPDATE Friday, February 21: The neighbors have dropped the appeal today -- see document 22 of case 18716, accessible through the Interactive Zoning Information System of Office of Zoning.

Yesterday, the D.C. Attorney General said the appeal should be dismissed -- see document 21D on same page.

I do not imply this blog post influenced the outcome. The outcome was clearly caused solely by events prior to this post's publication. 

Thanks to U Street Buzz for this information.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street will support the management of Pal the Mediterranean Spot restaurant (1501 U Street NW) in a struggle with an abutting neighbor to the north over whether their space is zoned for restaurant operation.

The northwest corner of 15th and U
The case of Pal the Mediterranean Spot will come up before D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on March 4. According to publicly-available BZA documents, the abutting neighbors who are bringing the appeal are Christina and Mark Parascandola. They will attempt to prove that the restaurant's certificate of occupancy to operate a 50-seat restaurant was issued in error.

ANC1B voted unanimously to send a letter to the BZA opposing the appeal. The vote took place during ANC1B's regular monthly meeting on February 6.

At the meeting, ANC Commissioners noted the neighbors had recently lost a long struggle to deny Pal the Mediterranean Spot a liquor license. A decision, documented in a D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board order of January 22 (available here), grants Pal the Mediterranean Spot a liquor license for restaurants and also permission to operate a sidewalk cafe until 11pm, Monday - Thursday, and midnight Friday and Saturday. Another ABC Board document (287-page .pdf available here) is a transcript of the October 16, 2013, hearing on the matter.

Having lost the liquor license battle, the neighbors are now attempting to show that the restaurant does not have the right to operate, ANC Commissioners said. An on-line DC zoning map confirms 1501 U Street is zoned R-5-B. This zone is for single-family dwellings and apartment buildings. Its abutting neighbors to the west on U Street are zoned to allow commercial use.

ANC Commissioners at the meeting characterized the restaurant as a Mom-and-Pop operation, run by immigrants who could ill afford the lawyers it needed to defend themselves against the continuing legal actions.

"It's a tragedy and we need to look into this," one said.

This is not the first time zoning regulations have been used to attempt to thwart prospective or current liquor licensees. In July 2013, it was used in an attempt to derail the opening of Compass Rose (1346 T Street).

None of the parties involved identified themselves as present at the meeting.

Documents relating to Pal the Mediterranean Spot's BZA case can be viewed at the Interactive Zoning Information System of Office of Zoning by entering case number 18716 into the search bar.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

1324 W Street: Renovation Shorter, Less Visible

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted at its February 6 meeting to endorse a planned pop-up and rear expansion on a row house located at 1324 W Street NW. The original proposal (reported in an SALM blog post of November 20, 2013) was modified after the local community and D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) expressed concerns.

1324 W Street in 2013
The pop-up will be 15 inches shorter than originally planned and not visible from the street. The HPRB in its latest report on the project pledged to conduct pre-construction tests to make sure the pop-up would not be visible from the street.

The same report noted the planned front basement entry had been removed. The size of planned rear balconies had been reduced as well, so that they no longer wrap around the back of the building.

Jim Shetler of Baltimore-based Trace Architects told ANC1B the building will still have four apartments, as originally planned, on three stories and a cellar. There will be 4000 square feet, Shetler said.

The Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association and U Street Neighborhood Association have both approved the project.

Shetler sought ANC1B endorsement before returning to HPRB for final approval.

He will need to return to ANC1B for a separate endorsement of his application for a special exception from D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA). The proposed modification requires BZA approval because the renovated building will have a floor area ratio (FAR) of 2.2. D.C. zoning regulations say buildings in this district should not have an FAR of more than 1.8.

ANC1B's Design Review Committee recommended that the full ANC endorse the renovation as modified.

The vote was 6-1 with two abstentions.

Commissioners voting in favor: Marc Morgan (district 01), Juan Lopez (07), Emily Washington (08), James Turner (09), Tony Norman (10), and Zahra Jilani (12).

Commissioner voting against: Ricardo Reinoso (05).

Abstentions: Jeremy Leffler (02) and Dyana Forester (06).

Commissioner E. Gail Anderson-Holness (11) arrived too late to the meeting to vote on this project.

Commissioners Sedrick Muhammed (03) and Deborah Thomas (04) were not present at the meeting. 

1324 W Street is located in the ANC district of Commissioner Thomas.

Friday, February 14, 2014

ANC2F Liquor License Endorsements: Marriott Marquis, Number Nine

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle at its regular monthly meeting February 5 voted to endorse liquor-license-related requests from the soon-to-open Marriott Marquis Hotel (901 Massachusetts Avenue NW) and long-time neighborhood fixture Number Nine (1435 P Street).

Marriott Marquis

Marriott Marquis General Manager Dan Nadeau and Bob Knopf, senior vice president with commercial property firm Quadrangle Development Corporation, appeared before ANC2F to ask for an endorsement for liquor service in multiple locations in the Marriott, which is scheduled to open on May 1. There are plans for bars inside the hotel as well as sidewalk service and on the roof.

2011: Marriott Marquis construction begins (Wikipedia)
There will be a lobby bar, plus bars named "High Velocity" and "The Dignitary", the presenters said. They also said the hotel will have a third-party leased restaurant, which will request a liquor license separately.

ANC2F was asked to endorse standard hours of operation. This means alcohol service until 2am on Sunday - Thursday, and 3am on Fridays, Saturdays, the day before holidays, and possibly other special occasions as declared by the D.C. government. The Marriott is also seeking permission to keep its "upper-floor summer garden" open until 11pm on Sunday - Thursday, and midnight on other days, as above.

An attendee used the opportunity to say that the hotel had no plan for handling taxi traffic. The presenters said the taxi waiting area would be around the side of the property, so taxis would not block Massachusetts Avenue.

ANC2F voted 6 - 1 in favor supporting the request of the Marriott Marquis. Commissioner Greg Melcher (district 06) was the lone vote against.

The hotel will be located in Commissioner Melcher's ANC district.

Number Nine

John Guggenmos came before ANC2F to request two amendments to Number Nine's 2001 settlement agreement. One amendment would allow Number Nine to feature a solo live piano player on Friday nights between 9 and midnight. The piano player will be audible only through the bar's in-house audio system, which will be easy to adjust in case of need.

The second amendment will eliminate the prohibition against fundraisers at the bar. Guggenmos explained that, many years ago, fundraisers were an excuse for certain long-departed nightclubs to have loud late-night operations. Everyone seemed to agree this was no longer a problem.

ANC2F voted unanimously to support the request for the two amendments. In addition, ANC2F voted to give Number Nine a "stipulated license" that would temporarily allow it to have music and fundraisers until the matter was decided permanently by D.C. liquor-licensing authorities.

Both of these votes were unanimous, but Commissioner Melcher was not in the room at the time of this vote.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

ANC1B Chooses New Committee Chairs

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street chose new chairs for its committees at its regular monthly meeting of February 7.

The meeting gets started
ANC1B has five committees: Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), Design Review, Grants, Public Safety, and Transportation. In 2013, four of the five chairs were also ANC1B Commissioners. In 2014, only one will be. At the February 7 meeting, Commissioners said they would still be active in committees, even if they are not chairing them.

Nick Baumann will be chair of the ABC Committee, which reviews liquor licenses and related issues. Baumann is already a member of the ABC Committee.

Baumann's day job is Senior Editor at Mother Jones magazine. He has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, and other publications. Last year, he wrote some posts about the proposed U Street liquor license moratorium on his blog.

Also nominated for chair of the ABC Committee was Lela Winston, who eventually was chosen as chair of the Design Review Committee (see below).

The voting:

For Baumann: Commissioners Marc Morgan (district 01), Jeremy Leffler (district 02), Ricardo Reinoso (district 05), Dyana Forester (district 06), Juan Lopez (district 07), Emily Washington (district 08), James Turner (district 09), and Zahra Jilani (district 12)
For Winston: Commissioners Tony Norman (district 10) and E. Gail Anderson-Holness (district 11)
Absent from the meeting and all votes: Commissioners Deborah Thomas (district 02) and Sedrick Muhammed (district 03)

Baumann replaces Commissioner Leffler, who proposed Baumann for the job.

Lela Winston will be chair of the Design Review Committee, which often reviews requests to expand, renovate, or alter commercial and residential properties. Winston is already a member of the committee. She is a freelance journalist, media consultant, and founder of Winston Media Concepts.

All ANC1B Commissioners voted for Winston with the exception of Commissioner Reinoso. Reinoso voted for an absent community member whom he had nominated. I did not catch the community member's name.

Winston was nominated by Commissioner Anderson-Holness, and replaces Commissioner Norman.

Jennie Nevin will be chair of the Grants Committee.

She has done this job before -- in 2012, according to an online document. She was approved by acclamation.

Nevin replaces Commissioner E. Gail Anderson-Holness.

Commissioner Sedrick Muhammed will remain chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Two members of the community were also nominated to chair the committee. One of them was Winston (see above), the other identified herself as Jessica Rucker. The voting was confused. Commissioners Leffler, Lopez, Norman, and Anderson-Holness voted for Muhammed. The other candidates split the remaining vote.

Ben Klemens will remain chair of the Transportation Committee.

Klemens is a statistician at US Census Bureau, according to his LinkedIn Profile. He is also the author of three books. He has a Wikipedia page.

Klemens received the votes of all ANC Commissioners except Reinoso, who voted for the same absent community member he had once again nominated.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

McMillan Park Redevelopment Roadshow Comes to ANC1B

Anne L. Corbett, the project director of Envision McMillan, came before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on February 7 to brief about the proposed redevelopment of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, also known as McMillan Park. The entire area is listed as a historic place by the National Park Service.

How it might look (photo credit below)
McMillan Sand Filtration Site is located in ANC5E/Bloomingdale. It was reported at the ANC1B meeting that ANC5E had approved the proposal on the stipulation that nearby ANCs also approved it. Another abutting ANC has already approved the proposal.  ANC1B abuts McMillan on McMillan's west side.

Development of the site will be part of a public-private partnership, Corbett said.

Two flyers given out by Envision McMillan at the meeting, plus Corbett's testimony, yield the following profile of the proposed McMillan development:
  • 17,000 square foot community center with 25-meter-long pool
  • 12 acres total of open public green space, including an 8-acre park on the south side of the development
  • 50,000 square foot grocery
  • 30,000 square foot of "neighborhood-serving retail", enough for "more than 10 retailers"
  • 146 rowhouses
  • "at least" 425 apartments
10% of the row houses, and 20% of the apartments, are designated as affordable housing, according to one flyer. A family of three would have to have an annual income of less than $77,400 to qualify for these units. The units will rent for less than $2000/month for two-bedroom apartments, less for smaller units. These numbers come D.C.'s Department of Housing and Community Development.

One of the flyers said: "all 24 historic buildings perserved". However, there was some discussion about the necessity of demolition on the site. It is possible this referred to demolition of things other than buildings. The ANC was told all demolition on a historic site must be approved by the Mayor's Agent in the D.C. Historic Preservation Office

Envision McMillan's redevelopment plans won provisional approval from D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board in October 2013. The most vigorous opponents to the plan are a group called Friends of McMillan Park.

The ANC did not vote on the proposal. It will probably be considered by the ANC's Design Review Committee, who will issue a recommendation to the full ANC for a later vote.

"This is an ongoing process," said Commissioner Tony Norman (district 10). "They will be back before this commission."

Norman's ANC district is the district that abuts the McMillan Site. 

See the location of McMillan Park on Google Maps here.

See a video about the development made by Envision McMillan on Vimeo here.

(Photo credit: from a flyer distributed by Envision McMillan at the February 7 ANC meeting.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ANC2F Votes to Protest Liquor License for The American in Blagden Alley

Neighborhood Advisory Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted unanimously at its regular monthly meeting February 5 to protest the liquor license application of The American, a new restaurant by local serial restaurateur Xavier Cervera. The street address of the restaurant will be 1209 - 1213 10th Street NW, which is in the Blagden Alley-Naylor Court Historic District.

The notices were put on the roll-up door, right
The American seemed well on its way to getting a liquor license last year. As reported in the SALM blog post of September 24, 2013, ANC2F had missed a deadline to protest The American's liquor license application. This meant that the ANC had much less leverage in negotiations for a settlement agreement on such contentious issues as noise abatement and outside operating hours.

However, some neighbors complained that the liquor license application notice had been improperly displayed on the side of the building (see SALM blog post of November 14, 2013) . The notice had been placed on a roll-up door, which was open part of the day, the neighbors said. D.C. liquor licensing authorities, apparently sympathetic, required that the process start over from the beginning, including freshly-posted notices elsewhere on the site. This gave ANC2F a chance to recover and gain legal standing as a protestant.

It was announced that the ANC would try to reduce the hours that the establishment could operate, ask for additional trash compactors, clear vermin control measures, and a mechanism to remedy disagreements.

ANC2F Chair Matt Raymond (Commissioner for district 07) said the protest would be on the basis of the possible disruption of peace, order, and quiet in the neighborhood, and that any Commissioner was empowered to negotiate on the ANC's behalf.

After the meeting, a posting summarizing the February 5 ANC2F meeting appeared on the web site of the Blagden Alley Naylor Court Association. It is signed by "BANCA", but may have been written by Commissioner Greg Melcher (district 06), in whose district The American plans to operate, or by another commissioner. The post says:
Voted to protest the license for the American.  I will attempt to negotiate better terms than we had prior however I need to note that the agreement we approve at the ANC level will be generally consistent with other agreements (modeling the SA [settlement agreement] on the Glass House which has a second floor summer garden on the rear facing the rear of residential properties on the 1300 block of Vermont and Rhode Island Avenues very similar to the American).
The next meeting of the full ANC2F is scheduled for 7pm on Wednesday, March 5, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Monday, February 10, 2014

ANC2F Votes to Exit Agreement with The Park at 14th

On February 5, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted to exit a three-sided settlement agreement with the liquor licensee The Park at 14th and abutting neighbor 1400 K Street, LLC.

The vote was 6-1 in favor of exiting the agreement, with Commissioner Chris Linn (district 03) the lone vote against.

The decision reverses the ANC2F decision of November 2013 to protest a termination
of this settlement agreement. It also standardizes ANC2F policy concerning liquor licensees in the downtown office district.

In November 2013, ANC2F passed a resolution stating that all liquor license applications within the ANC's jurisdiction should be reviewed, no matter where in the ANC the liquor licensee was located. This decision was a change in a long-standing informal ANC2F policy of not requiring review for liquor licensees outside of 2F's residential districts, which often meant below M Street.

With last week's decision, the ANC2F policy to review central business district licensees remains. But ANC2F is trying to standardize its practice on settlement agreements, because requiring settlement agreements of some licensees and not their neighbors may put those with settlements agreements at a disadvantage.

"To make the policy standard, we're doing this," Commissioner John Fanning (district 04) said. Fanning is also head of ANC2F's liquor licensing affairs committee.

1400 K Street LLC was represented at the meeting by attorney John Patrick Brown of the law firm of Greenstein DeLorme & Luchs. Attorney Brown unsuccessfully attempted to convince the ANC to remain a party to "a long-standing binding legal agreement."

"He [The Park at 14 owner Mark Barnes] has offered no reason for terminating this agreement," Brown said.

"I guarantee you we will be the most impeccable place in the city," Barnes told the ANC. In response to questioning from the committee, Barnes also said absolutely no aspect of the running of his club would change if the agreement was terminated.

Barnes also repeated a characterization, made at previous meetings, of the settlement agreement as shackles.

"You've got me wearing at ankle bracelet," Barnes said at this last meeting.

At an October 2013 ANC2F meeting, Barnes had compared the settlement agreement to handcuffs and "an electric collar".

Friday, February 7, 2014

1309-1311 13th Street: Car Wash to 67-unit Luxury Condo

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle revisited familiar territory on February 5 when yet another plan to develop a luxury apartment building brought neighbors out to make sure their interests were protected.

The Iowa apartment building is on the left
In this case, the property in question is 1309-1313 13th Street NW. These adjacent lots are currently occupied by a just-closed car wash and a Chinese carry-out. The Holladay Corporation plans a 67-unit, six-story apartment building on the site. According to the Holloday Corporation, the construction is "matter of right" -- meaning, the developers do not have to ask for any zoning variances or special exceptions, nor do they have to submit to review by D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB).

"This is why most people are here," ANC2F Chair Matt Raymond (district 07) told the standing-room-only audience at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle). Before the presentation by the Holladay Corporation, I counted 77 people. After the presentation and subsequent Q-and-A were finished, 35 people remained. Many had adjourned to the corridor just outside the meeting room to continue to pepper the presenters with questions and comments.

The Presentation

Senior Vice President Rita J. Bamberger and Vice President of Construction Stephen H. Weatherby led the presentation for the Holloday Corporation.

Bamberger said Holloday Corporation is a third-generation family-owned company. It has developed two other local residential buildings: The Matrix (1529 14th Street) and The Rutherford (1211 15th Street).

The building will have 27 parking spaces. This is within DC zoning regulations of one space for every three dwelling units for this category of property. 14 of these spaces would be underground, according to the presenters.

It will be entirely residential -- no retail on the first floor. The average size of the apartments will be 760 square feet. One bedroom apartments will be about 600 square feet. Two bedroom apartments will be between 900-1000 square feet. Of the 67 apartments, five will be "inclusionary", meaning, they will be built in order to meet D.C. rules about affordable housing. This is the minimum amount required by law, the presenters said. The rest of the units will be "market rate", i.e., more expensive.

The developers hope to break ground this summer and finish construction in 15-18 months. Construction will start at 7am and end by 5pm. There would be construction activity some Saturdays, but not on Sundays.

Q-and-A session

Many of the audience members were from the Iowa Condominium (1325 13th Street), which borders the planned new construction on the north. When construction is finished, many Iowa residents will look into their neighbors' windows over a narrow alley.

"The project will impact my semi-panoramic view," admitted one Iowa resident.

"How would you feel if you lived in The Iowa?" another asked.

The presenters explained the building would be 60 feet tall to the main roof line, topped by setback penthouses of 15 feet in height. Again, the developers are allowed this "by right", so there was not much the Iowa residents could do but complain, which they did. A few individuals presented themselves as local residents who were in favor of the proposed development, citing it as an improvement over a car wash and Chinese take-out. Public arguing between audience members resulted.

The presenters promised an email address and daytime phone numbers which residents could call in case of need. But Holloday Corporation pushed back against repeated Iowa resident demands for Weatherby's personal cell phone number or another number which would be answered by a live human 24/7.

Weatherby promised that Holloday Corporation would follow DC policy concerning rat abatement. They would place new bait boxes out weekly, he said.

Some residents were concerned their own properties would be damaged by vibrations and other side effects of construction. Weatherby promised an independently-conducted pre-construction site survey of adjoining properties, with photo documentation, to aid in possible later claims.

Another resident asked for an additional meeting or two with Iowa residents, but Holloday Corporation did not publicly commit themselves to further meetings.

See coverage of the same meeting by real estate blog Urban Turf here.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

ANC2F Champions More Parking in ANC1B

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle last night endorsed a plan to study setting up more parking -- in a neighboring ANC.

ANC2F would like more parking here.
1325 S Street NW is D.C. city government property and used for parking and other purposes by the Department of Parks and Recreation. The property borders on ANC2F on its south side. But it is located in ANC 1B/U Street.

The Community Development Committee (CDC) of ANC2F thinks it would be an ideal place to put additional public parking. Last month the CDC recommended "the full ANC endorse the exploration of public parking options by the City Council for the lot". Last night, February 5, the full ANC approved the committee's report -- agreeing that plans to explore the possibility should go forward.

"It's a very very very early stage of the process," said ANC2F Commission Walt Cain (district 02). Cain is the chair of the CDC.

"There's a lot of conversations that need to happen," Cain said.

The proposal brought several people across the border from 1B into 2F to speak against the idea.

"I have an email from [D.C. City Councilmember] Jim Graham saying that he is opposed," said one man.

Another local resident said ANC2F was advocating the construction of a parking garage in ANC1B. Commissioner Cain said there were many options, and ANC2F was not advocating the immediate construction of an above-ground parking garage. Later, Cain said among the many options was a below-ground parking garage with a park over it on the ground level.

Other residents suggested property developers JBG, one of the authors of the plan, was hoping to gain ANC support in order to get its hands on a valuable property without adequate community input.

"The community doesn't have the opportunity to get on board about what's going on there," one resident said.

Sherri Kimball, constituent services director for D.C. City Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward Two), said ANC2F's plan was "a suggestion". She also said there was a rumor that the lot might be included in the Reeves Center land swap deal, rendering the current debate pointless.

There is a Powerpoint presentation about the plan on the ANC2F web site (available here, starting with slide 8).

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

No Entertainment License for Ghana Cafe

D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board has rejected a request that would have enabled the Ghana Cafe (1336 14th Street NW) to feature live entertainment, potentially until 2 am. The decision came at an ABC Board public hearing on January 15 (see .pdf here).

(Luis Gomez Photos - used by permission)
A group of neighbors, all of whom live in nearby properties on the 1400 block of Rhode Island Avenue, protested Ghana Cafe's request to amend its liquor license to allow live entertainment. The neighbors and Ghana Cafe are parties to a settlement agreement. Some of the neighbors' concerns centered around whether Ghana Cafe has previously honored the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement. The neighbors also wished the details about the proposed live entertainment to be more clearly defined, and enforcement of any amended agreement spelled out.

Attempts by a D.C. government mediator to reach an agreement prior to the meeting were unsuccessful.

At the meeting, ABC Board chair Ruthanne Miller said Ghana Cafe's request should be dismissed because an entertainment endorsement would be in violation of the settlement agreement. Tony Opare, the owner of the Ghana Cafe, said the settlement agreement should be voided because he had been unable to set up a sidewalk cafe as the originally envisioned in the settlement agreement. Miller did not accept this argument.

Then, the motion to dismiss the application was made, seconded, and approved by the ABC Board. Left unanswered were the questions regarding the appropriateness of a restaurant being allowed to modify their agreements and being allowed to host live entertainment until 2 am.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle had a representative at the meeting and is another party to the settlement agreement. It was signed in 2009, at which time settlement agreements were called "voluntary agreements". A copy of the agreement is available as a .pdf document here, starting at page four.

ANC2F's efforts to mediate between the parties was the subject of the December 20, 2013, SALM blog post. ANC2F voted to protest Cafe Ghana's request for an entertainment endorsement on its liquor license in October 2013.

A settlement agreement is an agreement between a liquor-serving establishment and other interested parties. They often address topics such as hours of operation, noise levels, vermin control, parking, and outside service. See a model settlement agreement here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Graham, Nadeau, Weaver at Ward One Candidates Forum

The three candidates for D.C. City Councilmember from Ward One -- incumbent Jim Graham, Brianne Nadeau, and Bryan Weaver -- spoke to prospective voters at a forum on Thursday evening, January 30. It was held in the Good Will Baptist Church (1862 Kalorama Road NW) and sponsored by the Kalorama Citizens Association (KCA).

Topics included education, the future of D.C. United's stadium, and liquor license moratoriums.

Graham late so Weaver speaks

Bryan Weaver at the January 30 forum
The forum sponsors were reluctant to start without Graham, who was 30
minutes late. After some attendees agitated to start without Graham, moderator Dennis James, head of the KCA, announced that Bryan Weaver would be given five minutes to speak before the scheduled main event between Graham and Nadeau.

Weaver had announced the previous evening that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary scheduled for April 1. Instead, Weaver will run as an independent in the November general election.

"D.C. is a broken system," Weaver said. "We have a warlord problem. I know what you’re thinking. Warlord -- you're thinking of Joseph Kony. You're thinking Taliban. You're thinking right-wing death squads."

Weaver then went on to compare "political brokers" in D.C. to these warlords, in that each was close-minded and change-averse, and each exploit the existing political system.

"Our system is completely broken," Weaver said.

In response to an audience question, Weaver said he would make his candidacy official in June.

"We think we're well within the guidelines," he said.

After Graham arrived, Weaver concluded: "I'd like to thank Jim Graham for giving me the time to speak."

Education, charter schools, neighborhood schools

Weaver also got a question about education. He said there needed to be more resources and better quality education.

"I don't exactly agree with [D.C. City Councilmember] David Catania's plan," he said.

Later, the two Democratic candidates fielded a question about the state of childhood education.

Nadeau noted that, in Ward One, there were more children in public charter schools than neighborhood schools.

"What I'm afraid is happening in some cases is that parents are choosing [charter] schools simply because neighborhood schools aren't good enough," Nadeau said.

Nadeau said she wanted to make it easier for parents to choose a school.

"We want them to be choosing it because it's good for their kids -- not because the other option is bad for them," she said.

In reply, Graham noted his long history of support for bilingual and charter schools in D.C.

"I think that charter schools bring us great richness," Graham said.

Graham went on to say he thought D.C. could have an active charter school movement and good neighborhood schools at the same time.

Various stadium deals

The candidates talked about the competing plans for a new home for D.C. United: a plan by City Councilmember Vincent Orange renovating RFK Stadium vs. a new stadium at Buzzard's Buzzard Point. The latter deal would involve swapping Ward One's Reeves Center (14th and U Streets) for a parcel of land at Buzzard's Point in Southwest Washington.

"The deal for Buzzard's Buzzard Point cannot proceed until we've analyzed RFK," Graham said. Graham noted he had co-sponsored a proposed law by Councilmember Orange about the RFK renovation.

Graham listens, Nadeau speaks
Nadeau was more positive about the Reeves Center/Buzzard's Buzzard Point option, but also wanted to make sure that the successor to the Reeves Center included community space, not just high-end housing.

"I'd like to see that deal move forward," she said. Then she said: "We need to see more transparency."

Adams Morgan and liquor license moratoriums

KCA head and forum moderator Dennis James got into a quarrel with Graham about certain actions Graham may or may not have taken five or more years ago in connections with attempts to renew the liquor license moratorium in Adams Morgan. James eventually yielded to audience members who shouted: "Let the candidates speak!"

"I think one of the biggest issues we're having here is really not about whether there's a moratorium of not," Nadeau said. "It's about whether or not you've got enforcement of the laws on the books. You know, it's whether or not a nightclub -- which is prohibited under the moratorium but is effectively operating under a restaurant license -- is allowed to do that."

Graham said that, when he started on the council, city alcohol inspectors refused to work at nights, but during Graham's period of oversight they began to work at night. Graham also said he found money in the city budget for extra auditors. These auditors worked to ensure liquor licensees complied with city rules so de facto nightclubs could not masquerade as restaurants for licensing purposes.

"The enforcement is so much better," Graham said.

About the effects of moratoriums in general, Graham said: "I think by and large they have been positive." Graham said that, without moratoriums, the pressure of increasing rents would drive all non-alcohol-dependent businesses out of an area. This was why, Graham said, there were no hardware stores or antique shops in the area anymore.

Punch line

At the evening's end, the candidates were given a final opportunity to speak. Graham ended his speech by saying: "In the immortal words of FDR, 'Just one more term'."

"That's a joke," he added.

Read coverage of the same forum in Washington City Paper here.