City Paper Widget

Friday, May 30, 2014

One of Dupont's Oldest Houses Aims for Renovation, Addition

"The house was built before there was even a road," said one of the owners of 1528 Church Street NW at the May 19 overflow meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont.

The house abuts a parking lot (left)
The oldest part of 1528 Church Street was built around 1870 by owner William Jones for $800. A document from DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) says: "The subject house’s relatively small size, flat-front fa├žade, two-story height, modest Italianate detailing, and set back from the building line are all typical characteristics of this first wave of development along the 14th Street corridor."

Now the owners want to make it more liveable for a modern family. They are nearly at the end of a complicated trip through the DC planning and preservation bureaucracy. At the May 19 meeting, all the Commissioners present voted to endorse a request for a zoning variance and two special exceptions from D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). If the BZA concurs with ANC2B, actual work should be ready to start.

The new owners of the home, with their architect, came up with two options to expand and improve the house after they bought it in 2013. They had to submit their plans first to ANC2B and then to the HPRB because 1528 Church Street is located in the 14th Street Historic District. An HPRB document characterized the options: "Option A (the applicants’ preferred alternative) calls for constructing a partial third floor atop the house and a separate two-story carriage house along the alley; Option B includes adding a three-story addition connected to the rear of the house."

The Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee of ANC2B liked both options (see SALM blog post of January 9) and the full ANC voted to send a letter to HPRB expressing approval of both options. However, HPRB staff disliked Option A, and chose Option B.

The homeowners will need zoning relief to make Option B a reality. For example, because the addition to the house will sit behind, instead of on top of, the existing house, the combined area covered by the new and old structures will be 68.3% -- above the 60% lot coverage allowed for this zone district. In addition, since the existing house sits farther back on the lot than construction done even 20-30 years later, the rear yard will be narrower than normally allowed. The owners propose a rear-yard setback of five feet, but zoning regulation require 12 feet. Finally, the rear carport will be located 10 feet from the center line of the alley behind the house, while regulations require 12 feet.

The calendar on the BZA website indicates the case of 1528 Church Street will be heard on June 10.

BZA records concerning this case can be viewed at the Interactive Zoning Information System of the DC Office of Zoning by entering case number 18773 in the search bar.

On-line records show this property was bought in November 2013 for $740,000.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

St. Thomas' Parish Presents Revised Church and Residence Design

The leadership of St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church (1772 Church Street NW) with their architects rolled out a revised design for its planned expansion at the church on May 27. Representatives of MTFA Architecture and Hickok Cole Architects presented plans for the church and the adjoining apartment building, respectively. The plans had been altered in response to community input the project.

Proposed new design as viewed from 18th Street
About 80 people saw MTFA's James P. Clark and Hickok Cole's Laurence Caudle make presentations of the new design, which promised to reduce the impact of the project design, increase green space, minimize traffic impact, and connect to neighborhood character.

Original church plans had the proposed new church and the multi-story apartment building built all the way out to the property line on all sides of the property at the corner of 18th and Church Streets. The revised plan draws the design back a little, allowing a small stretch of green space in the front and side of the property, and more setback at the tops of both planned buildings.

The 18th Street side of the property will, according to the proposed new design, have green spaces flanking the church's front entrance. The dimensions on each side will be roughly ten feet deep by roughly forty feet wide, split by a walkway into the church. The green areas would be bordered on the property line by low stone walls, made from stone recycled from parts of the present building that will have to be demolished because they are structurally unsound.

The presenters also said that the church building will be drawn back three feet on the Church Street (north) side, and five feet from the abutting a row house on Church Street on the west side of the property.

Increased upper-story setbacks
There will be increases to the upper-story setbacks on both the church building and the residential building.

A topic which seemed to draw attention at the meeting was the proposal for a Montessori school in the new church building. This led to a great deal of discussion of the impact such a school would have on street parking. Neighbors asked if the church had done a traffic study. It had not. The discussion returned repeatedly to this topic, even though representatives of the church said there had been no final decision on establishing a Montessori school and it seemed unlikely the school could accommodate more than 25 students if it became a reality.  

General audience reaction

The reception to the new design was frequently positive.

"You've done very interesting things with the church," said one Church Street resident.

"You guys have done a really great job," said another.

Of course, not everyone was enthusiastic. For example, neighbors seemed concerned about density, as there was no change in the plans to have 50-55 residential units in the proposed apartment building

"I don't see much change," one man said of the new design. "In principle, I think they're the same."

Some of the audience were the same people who attended the meeting mobilizing opponents at the Keegan Theater the previous week -- see SALM blog post of May 27. However, some of the people seemingly most dead-set against the development were absent. Unlike previous meetings, no one suggested that the church abandon the plan entirely.

Next steps

The presenters laid out a timeline for getting approval for the project. There would be no further town meetings. The two parts of the project will move together through the next steps. The plan is to submit the paperwork for the project to the HPRB by June 20. In July, the project will be considered by the Dupont Circle Conservancy. In the same month, the project will be presented to the Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont. If the ZPD approves, it will be presented to the full ANC for a vote at its regular July meeting. The project will then have a HPRB hearing in September.

The slideshow which accompanied the May 27 presentation is available here.

A copy of the flyer "Frequently Asked Questions about St. Thomas' Building Program", distributed at the meeting, is available here.

The complex backstory to this project is explained in part in an SALM blog post of February 28, and in stories from the same time on the blogs Greater Greater Washington and District Source.

(Photo credits: details from the architects' presentation to the meeting)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Long-Delayed Federal Money Funds 7th Street Repaving, Sidewalk Upgrade, New Bike Racks

At its regular monthly meeting May 6, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw heard that the 7th Street NW corridor is about to be given a facelift with federal government money. If all goes as planned, streets will be repaved, street lighting will be given a elegant new look, sidewalks will be uniform, and bike racks will be installed on every block of 7th Street between N and Florida Avenue.
Coming soon on 7th Street

ANC6E Chair Alexander Padro (Commissioner for district 01) recalled that the project, which will cover the 1300 to 1700 blocks on 7th Street, has been in development for "the better part of a decade" and had been repeatedly delayed by "a number of missteps".

The project was originally part of the Howard Theatre renovation project, but it was detached so that the portion of the project near the Howard Theatre could go ahead using money from the D.C. budget. The Howard Theatre project was finished in 2012.

DDOT presentation

Richard Kenney and Adil Rizvi, program managers at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), told the ANC that 7th Street will be resurfaced and renovated. But don't call the project a "resurfacing project".

"That's kind of misleading because we're including building-face-to-building-face streetscape improvements," Rizvi said.

Kenney and Rizvi told ANC6E the project would, in addition to road resurfacing, include street light and traffic signal upgrades, sidewalk replacement, the addition of green infrastructure, improvements to wheelchair ramps to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and other changes.

The work will start in "late summer to early fall" and will continue for nine to twelve months, "weather permitting". Work will be done from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday. There will be some Saturday work, but no Sunday work. The DDOT presenters said all blockage of traffic and detours would take place outside of rush hours.

The project will work to make the sidewalks uniform. Right now, there is a patchwork of brick and concrete, some of which is deteriorating, making the sidewalks unsafe. The sidewalks will be uniformly concrete. The areas around the trees will be given a uniform look as well, with low ornamental rails on three sides. DDOT assured the committee the ornamental rails will be well anchored and will not come up or fall over by themselves. However, these rails cannot withstand the impact of a vehicle.
Cobble pavers are green infrastructure

The tree space will also be given a uniform look, with cobble pavers to each side of the tree (see photo). These cobble pavers catch storm water and allow natural filtration to take place, which captures pollutants before they can become part of the storm water runoff.

Bike racks for all

The DDOT presenters asked for ANC and public opinion on bike racks. Members of the public spoke strongly in favor. Commissioner Padro said he had asked for bike racks along 7th Street many times but was told they should wait for the long-delayed repaving project.

"It seems like the biggest comment we have for you is: We certainly do want to see bike racks installed," Padro said. "A number of businesses have requested them."

Padro volunteered to walk the route of the project along with Shaw resident and Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) Vice-President Michael Moulton to suggest placement of the bike racks. Moulton was present at the meeting and advocated for bike racks as part of the project.

ANC6E voted unanimously to support the project and recommend bike racks be installed on every block.

About 2/3rds of the area of the renovation falls with the borders of ANC6E. The other third is in ANC 1B/U Street.

ANC6E videos its meetings and posts them, in their entirety, on their Youtube channel. This discussion can be viewed on video number 00047 here, starting at time 11:05.

(Photo credits: details from hard copies of the DDOT presentation to ANC6E)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

St. Thomas' Parish Church Watches Neighbors Organize Against It

The leadership of St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church (1772 Church Street NW) sat silently through a meeting of neighbors attempting to thwart its planned expansion. The May 20 meeting was organized Neighbors of St. Thomas Church, DC, a group critical of the expansion. It took place at the Keegan Theater (1742 Church Street).

Amid protestations of no ill feeling, nearly every speaker pronounced against the expansion. But there was a great difference of opinion on much else, especially how much the church was within its rights to go ahead with its development, and how militant the community should be in opposition.

The church plans to build a new church at the corner of 18th and Church Streets, as well as a six or seven-story apartment on Church Street. The income from the apartment building will fund the construction of the church. See an SALM February 28 blog post for previous coverage. 

Moderator Noah Bopp, Founder and Director of the nearby School for Ethics of Global Leadership (1528 18th Street) labored mightily, and nearly always successfully, to keep things civil.

A lot of people against the church

But, of course, the few very unreasonable voices make the best copy. One man said the apartment building would include "low income condos", which were a "scam". David Alpert of the blog Greater Greater Washington (and neighbor of the church) explained that less-expensive units in an apartment building were not a scam, but required under the "inclusionary zoning" requirements of DC.

Another critic said, more reasonably, that the project was "cost prohibitive" and the church's goal should be "community service". Yet another told members of the church present the project was "out of keeping with your responsibility for historic preservation."

"Can we find a win/win?" said one Church Street resident. "Personally, I am very skeptical."

Silverstein for the church

The only person seemingly willing to speak on behalf of St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church was Mike Silverstein. Silverstein is Commissioner for district 06 on Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont. Silverstein thanked the organizers and moderator, but he said some of the rhetoric he had heard before that night from anti-church partisans "bordered on hate speech", for example, terming the church "a failed franchise".

Such talk "damages what we as a community stand for", Silverstein said.

"We are a community and have to remain a community," Silverstein also said. He urged those assembled to "defend the rights of Christians like you defend the rights of anyone else".

Silverstein said the opponents of the church might find themselves on very shaky legal ground if they attempted to prevent construction of a church on land owed by that church. He recalled the case of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, formerly located at 16th and I Streets in ANC2B. This case dragged through the courts for years as historical preservationists attempted to block demolition of a church that parishioners no longer wanted. This case resembled the case of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Silverstein said, in that any serious legal challenge to construction of a new church would likely involve both the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), both of which would work in favor of the church.

There would be a "very, very high threshold to stop the church", Silverstein said. 

Silverstein admitted those who wish to stop the development might find safer legal ground if they chose to block the construction of the multi-story residential building only.

Silverstein's remark brought some discussion of RLUIPA, its wording, and its precedents, which was eventually closed by Bopp when it threatened to get too deep in the weeds.

At the end of the meeting, organizers invited attendees to stay and participate in small working groups to further advance the community's opposition to the project.

The proposed expansion of St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church has also been reported by Greater Greater Washington and District Source.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Moving Proposed Howard Theatre Beer Garden Discussed at ANC1B Meeting

Neighbors currently objecting to a proposed beer garden in the rear parking lot of the Howard Theatre (620 T Street NW) might consider dropping their objection if the beer garden were moved to the front of the theater. The idea was tossed around at the meeting of the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Committee (ANC) 1B/U Street on May 21.

Single-family homes on Wiltberger Street
"The devil would be in the details," one of the  neighbors said.

Two neighbors, residents and homeowners on adjoining Wiltberger Street, talked to the committee about their concerns. The neighbors said their homes would be less than 500 feet from the location of the proposed beer garden.

"We already have enough problems in the area," one said.

There are seven small single-family homes on Wiltberger Street, six of which are occupied. One of the homeowners is 90 years old and homebound, one of the neighbors told the committee.

A neighbor told the committee that he works in the music business, he had helped the Howard Theatre in the past, and he "couldn't feel more excited about its success". But he said the neighbors were concerned with the way they have been treated.

"The Howard could be a better neighbor," he said. "They haven't given any indication that it [i.e., the beer garden] would be anything other than a real mess."

The neighbor reminded the committee the rear parking lot where the beer garden is proposed to take place was actually slated to be the site of a cultural and music education center -- see drawings of the proposed center on the Howard Theatre's web site here. The theater was supposed to have raised six million dollars to build the center.

"According to my last conversation with [Howard Theatre trustee] Chip Ellis, he raised zero dollars," the neighbor said.

The neighbor said the Howard Theatre has more general financial woes.

"The Howard told us that they wish to do this beer garden because they are having severe financial problems," he said.

"It's not the abutting residents' job to make sure a business is successful," a committee member said.

Liquor-licensing committee chair Nick Baumann floated the idea of moving the proposed beer garden to the Ellington Plaza area, in front of the theater on T Street. This would move the alcohol consumption, along with at least some of the noise and other problems associated with it, around the far side of theater building from their homes. The original proposal for the beer garden envisioned it being run in conjunction with activities on the T Street side of the theatre, which would be temporarily closed off and given over to displays by local artists.
The neighbors seemed willing to consider it but could not speak for the other homeowners.

Chip Ellis originally brought the beer garden idea before ANC1B's liquor-licensing affairs committee in April -- see SALM blog post of April 22. Since the border between two ANC districts runs down the center of Wiltberger Street, the neighbors have also appealed to their own ANC for support -- see SALM blog post of May 7.

There was no motion made or vote taken on this matter by the committee at this meeting, and no representatives of the Howard Theatre were present.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dupont First ANC to Support Repeal of Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle has become the first ANC to publicly support the repeal of the Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act of 2014. The ANC voted unanimously, with all nine Commissioners present, in favor of a resolution calling for the repeal at its regular monthly meeting on May 14.

David Grosso
Commissioners said Council Member David Grosso (I-At Large) had asked for the ANC's support of the repeal. Grosso introduced a bill that would repeal the Act in early April.

The resolution also "respectfully" asks D.C. City Council Member Jack Evans (D-Ward Two) to support the repeal of the act.

Jack Evans
The Prostitution Free Zones Amendment Act was passed by the City Council in its current form in 2012. Its chief proponent is Council Member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), in response to concerns about chronic prostitution in her district. D.C.'s Office of the Attorney General and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) have both expressed the opinion that the law is probably unconstitutional. ANC Commissioners at the May 14 meeting said they were in favor of "removing a law that's not being enforced".

Under the law, the Chief of Police may declare an area a Prostitution Free Zone for a period of up to 20 days. In such a Zone, police have enhanced and somewhat vague powers of search and arrest. For example (according to a police spokesperson), a person found loitering in a Prostitution Free Zone in possession of two or more condoms could be arrested. They could not be arrested in such a circumstance outside a Prostitution Free Zone.

ANC2B Commissioner Abigail Nichols (district 05) said the law raises "the potential for policing of a discriminatory and abusive nature".

The resolution itself states: "Prostitution Free Zones do not reduce prostitution and further marginalize sex workers, low income people of color, transgender people, lesbians and gays, and the homeless..."

This is the second resolution ANC2B has passed in opposition to the Prostitution Free Zone Amendment Act. The first resolution was in 2012.

Read an April 3 op-ed from the Washington Blade by Council Member Grosso advocating repeal of the Act here.

The resolution supporting repeal of the bill was championed by now-former ANC2B Commissioner Kevin O'Connor (district 02). O'Connor resigned effective at the end of the May 14 meeting. He is moving to Petworth.

(photo credit: from the web sites of the respective council members)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sure, He Can Operate a Nuclear Reactor, But a Dupont Bar?

At an overflow meeting on May 19, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted to protest the tavern application of Saloon 45 (1821 18th Street NW). The tavern, if approved, will operate in the former location of a flower shop. It will also be next door to Bar Charley, whose liquor license was the subject of dispute earlier this year -- see SALM blog post of January 16. Many of the same neighbors who protested Bar Charley were back to oppose Saloon 45.

At the corner of 18th and Swann
The applicant has an unusual background for a prospective bar operator. The ANC gave advice to the aspiring proprietor, but he didn't show any sign he would take it.

Proprietor before the ANC

David Stephens came before ANC2B to plead his case for the bar.

"We just want a quiet neighborhood bar," he said.

Stephens said he would be the sole proprietor of the bar, and that he had no experience running a bar. He said that he had been a nuclear reactor operator on the USS Enterprise, a recently-retired US Navy aircraft carrier.

Washington City Paper reported on April 14 that Stephens was also a professional poker player who had who had placed 45th in the 2013 World Series of Poker, winning more than $185,000. ANC2B did not ask him about this, and Stephens did not volunteer this information at the meeting.

At the meeting, Stephens said the architects would start working on the property next month, and their work would take 6 - 8 weeks. Any work on the exterior will have to be considered (separately from the liquor license application) by the ANC and D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) because 1821 18th Street is in the Dupont Circle Historic District.

"It's going to be a total rebuild," Stephens said. "The exterior is going to change."

After the architects do their work and permits are obtained, Stephens said there would be construction for another 10 weeks. Saloon 45 might be ready to open, if all goes well, in the autumn, but a possible opening by the end of the year was mentioned.

The resolution to protest

1821 18th Street is in ANC2B district 08. ANC2B Chair Will Stephens is the Commissioner for this district. No one at the meeting (including me) seemed to notice that the ANC Commissioner and the applicant had the same (very common) last name, but it seems pretty safe to guess that they are not related.

Will Stephens read a resolution protesting the liquor license application of Saloon 45. According to the resolution, the reasons for the protest include:
  • the requested opening hours for Saloon 45 (2am weekdays, 3am weekends) are longer than the hours just negotiated with Bar Charley (11pm weekdays, midnight weekends)
  • it would be unfair to Bar Charley, who just negotiated its opening hours with the ANC, to have an abutting competitor with longer hours.
  • David Stephens had no track record as a tavern operator
  • "there is a substantial concern among neighbors about the loss of retail... to liquor-serving establishments"
  • parking issues
A group of 10-15 neighbors, many of them residents of neighboring Swann Street, came to speak against the liquor license application. Many were among the group that was against longer hours for Bar Charley a few months ago. One neighbor said she was forming a "group of five" to protest the liquor license application alongside the ANC before D.C.'s liquor-licensing authorities. A neighbor called the application "detrimental on various levels" and said it would "create additional noise, trash and vandalism".

"This is a residential area, you know," another member of the audience said. "You're not raising a family here, we are."

At one point, a member of the group of protesting neighbors was lamenting the loss of Sandy's Flowers, the previous occupant, who had been a good neighbor. David Stephens revealed that Sandy of Sandy's Flowers was actually a family relation of his. Sandy, who has operated in the location since 1987, had suggested the location as an ideal location for a bar. There seemed to be a short period of surprised silence from the neighbors at this information.

At the end of the discussion, Commissioner Leo Dwyer (district 07) advised Stephens to try working at a bar for a period before deciding to open one. It would be very easy, Dwyer said, to run through a lot of money very quickly due to inexperience.

David Stephens did not respond to Dwyer's suggestion.

All the Commissioners present voted in favor of protesting the liquor license application.

See an article about this same discussion from the blog District Source here.

See a short April 28 article from the blog Popville about Saloon 45 here.

Due to a heavy workload, the full ANC2B had to have two separate meetings this month. The first one was on May 14.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Carter Woodson Park to Get a Long-awaited Facelift

The contract has been awarded, the statue has been cast in bronze, and construction will start in June on a long-awaited improvement of Carter G. Woodson Park in Shaw. That's what the D.C.'s Department of General Services (DGS) and Office of Planning told Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw at its regular monthly meeting on May 6.

"We are at the end stage of going through this review process," said Chris Shaheen of the Office of Planning.

Carter G Woodson Park now
The park is located on a triangle of land bordered by Rhode Island Avenue, 9th Street, and Q Street NW. The park was named after Woodson, an African-American writer and historian, in 2001, whose nearby home is a national historic landmark. Since the park was named in honor of Woodson, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to improve the park so that it adequately honors Woodson. Right now, the park is mostly a triangle of asphalt with no place to sit down (see photo).

Presentation about the park

A representative of DGS made a presentation to ANC6E and solicited the ANC's comment on their project and its design. The DGS representative said at the meeting that a copy of his slideshow was available on the website of D.C.'s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). I could not find it there. However, I did find a copy on the website of the National Park Service. View a copy of the presentation, with artist's renderings of what the park will look like, here.
(Artist's rendering from the presentation)

The park will feature a statue of Woodson (see photo), which has already been cast in bronze, the ANC heard. The statue will face Rhode Island Avenue when installed. The redesign of the park will take place around a mature tree on the site. All the details have not been finalized, but the plans include grass on much of the site which is now asphalt. Six benches are also in the plans.

Suggestions from ANC6E

The committee had two suggestions for the presenters. The first was that they refrain from using bricks on the site's walkway. Bricks often look good at the opening, but then are not maintained properly.

"I do not recommend putting bricks down anywhere because they never get repaired," said Commissioner Rachelle Nigro (district 04).

A member of the audience asked about a water source to maintain the green areas of the park. The presenter said irrigation had been discussed but "that's still in the works".

ANC6E Chair Alexander Padro (Commissioner for district 01) said he had been a participant in earlier stages of the planning and a water source had always been included.

"I am shocked to hear that there has been a change in terms of the water source," Padro said.

Carter G. Woodson Park is in Padro's ANC district.

Padro also remarked at the meeting of the long string of failed attempts to get a fully-funded park project. A 2007 blog post said design work was underway for the park, including a "larger-than-life" statue of Woodson. A 2008 post on the same blog said the renovation of the park had been put on hold due to "funding technicalities". Another blog said in 2009 that "2010 should bring us a redesigned triangle park honoring Dr. Carter G. Woodson".

ANC6E voted unanimously to endorse the plans for the park, provided that there is a water source in the park, and that paths or walkways are made of limestone or concrete materials.

According to Shaheen, the project will now go to a commemorative works committee, with representatives from nine D.C. agencies plus three citizen members. After that, it will go to the City Council for final formal action.

ANC6E videos its meetings and then posts them in their entirety on its Youtube channel. The section of the May 6 meeting dealing with this topic can be viewed by going to video 00046 here, starting at 29:45. The discussion continues on the next video, 00047, here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

CORRECTED: Kenyan McDuffie Said He Wanted to "Voice My Opposition" to McMillan Development, But He Didn't Mean It

CORRECTION: The Zoning Commission has added another hearing on McMillan on May 27 at 6:30pm. It will be held in Room 220 South at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street NW. Thanks to the anonymous commenter below for bringing this to my attention. 

At the last second-to-last in a series of hearings by the D.C. Office of Zoning May 13 about the development of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site (also known as McMillan Park), City Council Member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward Five) said he had come "to voice my opposition" to the Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the site as negotiated by Vision McMillan Partners and Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 5E/Bloomingdale. Then he praised the project. Under questioning, he confirmed he was not, in fact, opposed to the project.

Screenshot from Office of Zoning video
Later McDuffie said he meant to say "state my position" but misspoke.

Perhaps McDuffie's mind wasn't completely on the project because, as he said at the beginning of his statement, he had just come from City Council budget negotiations and was planning to return to them.

If any supporters felt they were witnessing a surprise change-of-heart, they were probably reassured by McDuffie's characterization of the McMillan Plan which followed:
It's a balanced plan. It's one that's been worked on for the last seven years by the development team, the city, and the community. The result, in my opinion, is a world-class project that achieves the objectives of the District, the comprehensive plan, and the community, including open space preservation, mixed income housing, jobs, an increased tax base, and the opening up of a wonderful historical asset for the city and all the residents of the District of Columbia.
McDuffie said the community had not been able to enjoy the McMillan site "for the 38-39 years I've been on this earth" and previously in his parents' and grandparents' time. The opening up of the site presented "a unique opportunity... to develop a large parcel with no displacement and tremendous workforce development". He continued:
Let me be clear: We need these jobs, we need the retail, we need the affordable housing in the District of Columbia. We need the park space for our families and our children.
He concluded by asking the Office of Zoning to approve the PUD.

Witnesses at an Office of Zoning hearing are subject to cross-examination. This allowed Silvia Pinkley, Chair of ANC5E, to ask: "You started out with saying you were in opposition to this project, do you realize that?"

McDuffie answered, "I did not realize that and if I said that I did not intend to say that."

McMillian Park is located in Council Member McDuffie's district.

The development of the site has drawn opposition from community groups, including Friends of McMillan Park and the McMillan Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture, who wish to see the site turned into a park and an urban aquaponic farm, respectively. The meeting at which McDuffie testified continued for several more hours, taking testimony from both sides. It was a continuation of an earlier contentious hearing about the project, reported here.

Council Member McDuffie's testimony can be seen here through the Office of Zoning's Video on Demand page, starting at time 1:01:55

Friday, May 16, 2014

637 Florida Avenue: A Pizza Restaurant or a Nightclub?

On May 1, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted to protest the tavern license application, with endorsements for entertainment, dancing, and cover charge, for an as-yet-unnamed establishment to be located at 637 Florida Avenue NW.

637 Florida Avenue in May 2012
Two members of the public came to the May 1 meeting voice their opposition to the liquor license, but no one from M & I, LLC., the aspiring proprietors of the establishment, was at a meeting. It was reported the M & I, LLC., were looking for a rooftop deck that will operate until 2 in the morning. Neighbors were concerned there would be music you could hear outside the establishment after 11pm.

ANC1B is working on a settlement agreement with M & I, LLC., which may specify, among other things, hours of operation and noise control measures. However, at the time of the meeting, no agreement had been reached.

637 Florida Avenue is in ANC1B district 01. The ANC Commissioner is Marc Morgan. Morgan told the ANC he supported the protest. The vote was unanimous with two abstentions.

Earlier committee meeting on M & I

ANC1B's liquor-licensing affairs committee had previously voted to recommend a protest to the full ANC. On April 16, the committee heard from the prospective owners of the establishment through their attorney, Andrew Kline of The Veritas Law Firm. Kline represented the establishment as a pizza restaurant with music, but members of the community voiced the opinion that the establishment would really be a nightclub.

Some of the partners of M & I, LLC., are also owners of the nearby Flash Nightclub (645 Florida Avenue). Neighbors told the committee Flash Nightclub is the source of loud music and is not responsive to neighbors' requests to turn it down.

"Every night Flash is open I hear noise," one said.

Kline told the committee the establishment was seeking a capacity of 450. He also said there would be a roof deck with walls on all sides.

The committee asked how many seats would be on the rooftop desk.

"As many as we can," Kline answered.

Kline said the owners planned to use a series of small, evenly-spaced speakers, facing inward, to keep the music inside the area of the roof deck.

The committee asked for a seating plan, but was told it was "still being developed."

The motion to recommend a protest passed unanimously.

"We're not trying to block the business from opening," said liquor-licensing affairs committee chair Nick Baumann just before the vote.

After the vote, one of the owners of the new establishment, who had sat mostly silent during the presentation and vote, asked to speak. He said he had put more than five million dollars into the 600 block of Florida Avenue in the 25 years he has been in business there.

"I went bankrupt one time," he said, then added: "Not completely bankrupt."

"I invite all of you guys to come," he concluded.

"Everyone's happy to see new investment in the neighborhood," Baumann said in reply.

There will a preliminary hearing on the case of M & I, LLC., at D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) next Monday, May 19, at 10 am. The hearing will take place at ABRA's offices on the fourth floor of the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

Read a short article with pictures about M & I, LLC., from the blog Popville here.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

ANC2B Endorses Two Marijuana Dispensaries But May Only Get One

At its regular monthly meeting last night (May 14), Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to endorse the establishment of two marijuana dispensaries. But they heard that the D.C. Department of Health (DOH) is planning to give only one of the two permission to open.
(Image courtesy Wikimedia)

ANC2B voted nearly-identical letters of support for Herbal Alternatives LLC (1710 Rhode Island Avenue NW) and National Holistic Healing Center (1718 Connecticut Avenue).

Herbal Alternatives LLC received endorsement from ANC2B last year, but had to return because their original approval was at another address (1147 20th Street).

Jen Brunenkant of Herbal Alternatives LLC briefed ANC2B on its proposed location at 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue. It will be on the third floor of an office building. There will be a larger dispensary room and three smaller consulting rooms. Counseling will be given on nutrition and alternative forms of intake, such as by vapor.

Brunenkant told ANC2B medicial marijuana can only be consumed legally at the dispensary or in the patient's home. Under current DOH regulations, she said, medical marijuana can only be prescribed for patients with HIV, cancer, glaucoma, and certain motor diseases like multiple sclerosis. There will be a vote this month about whether to include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on the list of conditions treatable by medical marijuana.

Brunenkart said she had notified her future neighbors, including a YMCA and a church, and she had not heard any objections.

Brunenkart also explained only one of the two dispensaries would be given permission to open by the DOH. The DOH is using a system of points to decide which dispensary will be given permission to open. ANC approval will garner each side some points. The dispensaries will also be evaluated on security, site suitability, educational brouchures, packaging, labeling, marketing, and other criteria.

Brunenkart also spoke about the medical marijuana situation generally in response to questions from Commissioners. She said D.C. doctors are reluctant deal with dispensaries.

"The problem D.C. is running into right now is the physicians," she said.

Commissioner Kishan Putta (district 04) asked why.

"They're concerned about the legality," Brunenkart replied. Many doctors are connected to university hospitals as well, which are worried about endangering federal funding by finding themselves on the wrong side of this issue.

When it was time to question representatives of the National Holistic Healing Center, it was agreed that most questions had been answered already. This establishment was represented by a doctor from Howard University who specialized in infectious diseases. The dispensary will be located in the basement of 1718 Connecticut Avenue. It will cover about 1500 square feet and provide one-on-one consulting with patients.

Both establishments comply with legal requirements as far as distance from certain types of establishments, like day care centers and half-way houses for former drug addicts.

After hearing both of the petitions, ANC2B added to its endorsements some language saying that there is no overconcentration of medical marijuana dispensaries in Ward Two (in fact, there are none). Commissioners indicated they would welcome both establishments. ANC2B Chair Will Stephens (Commissioner for district 08) suggested saying in a cover letter to the DOH about the endorsement that the ANC had no problem with having two medical marijuana dispensaries.

The vote was unanimous, with one Commissioner temporarily out of the room.

According to the web site of the Marijuana Policy Project, there are three medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in D.C.: Metropolitan Wellness Center at Eastern Market, Capital City Care on North Capitol Street, and Takoma Wellness Center in Takoma Park. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shaw Car Owners Ask to Retain Ward Two Residential Parking

"This issue is not dead yet," said Rachelle Nigro of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw. "We'll fight to the very end for my constituents."

Ward Six, north of New York Avenue
The issue is the residential parking permits (RPPs) of about 1,100 car owners living north of New York Avenue NW in Shaw, surrounded on three sides by other wards (see map). Up until 2011, these car owners lived in Ward Two. As a result of redistricting, they now live in Ward Six. They have lobbied successfully to retain Ward Two RPP up until now. Currently they are resisting an attempt by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to change the street signs in their area so that they will be required to have Ward Six stickers on their windshields to park on the street.

Nigro said the majority of people in this area wished to retain Ward Two residential parking permits. She said she would need to have some organized show of support, like an online petition, to demonstrate this.

The ANC passed a resolution at its regular monthly meeting May 6 asking the city council, and specifically Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward Six) to introduce the necessary legislation to implement this. The resolution passed with one vote against, by Commissioner Marge Maceda (district 05).

Ashamed of Ward Six?

Earlier, during the debate, Maceda asked Nigro: "Are the people in your area ashamed of being in Ward Six?"

"No, it has nothing to do..." Nigro began.

"It certainly is," Maceda said.

A member of the audience resisted Maceda's tendency to interrupt.

"I've been living in this neighborhood all my life...," the audience member began.

"And it's changing," Maceda said.

"Excuse me, let me finish," the audience member said. "One of the things that's happened now is this new little piece of carve-out. If I go one block east, I'm in Ward Five. If I go one block north, I'm in Ward 1. If I got four blocks west, I'm in Ward Two. I can't even go to a restaurant, my cleaners, and park there anymore."

At the end of the debate, Nigro said of the request for legislation: "If it works, great. If it doesn't, we will just move forward as Ward Six, but at least we're trying our best."

Who needs Georgetown?

ANC6E Chair Alexander Padro (district 01) said he expected City Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward Two) to oppose the legislation because he doesn't want more people parking in Georgetown.

"We don't need to go to Georgetown anymore to go to restaurants and clubs," an audience member said. "We've got our own neighborhood now. We just can't park there."

ANC6E has a Youtube channel, on which it posts its monthly meetings in their entirety. The discussion on this matter can be seen on video 00048 here, starting at 5:15.

See a current map of Ward Six from the D.C. Office of Planning here.

(Map from D.C. Office of Planning website)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ward One Church and Community Parking Task Force "Summit" June 10

At its regular monthly meeting on May 1, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B/U Street heard plans for meetings -- both public and private -- by the Ward One Church and Community Parking Task Force. The task force will have a town meeting-style "summit" at Cardozo High School (1200 Clifton St NW) at 7pm on June 10. Members of the public are invited to this meeting.

"We hope you'll come with solutions," ANC1B Commissioner E. Gail Anderson  Holness (district 11) said.

St. Augustine Catholic Church, 15th and V Streets
Among the people scheduled to participate, Holness said, are Dr. Earl D. Trent Jr. of Florida Avenue Baptist Church (623 Florida Avenue), Father Patrick Smith of St. Augustine Catholic Church (1419 V Street), Rev. Dr. Winston C. Ridley, Jr. of The Greater First Baptist Church (2701 13th Street), Rev. Dr. Paul H. Saddler of the Twelfth Street Christian Church (1812 12th Street), and Chief of Staff Calvin Woodland from the office of D.C. City Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward One).

"We tried to include people from all the quadrants of Ward One," Holness said. 

Holness also announced there would be a meeting at 7pm on May 22 for members of task force and ANC1B Commissioners only. A location for the meeting had not been set at the time of Commissioner Holness's announcement.

Holness announced the creation of the task force at the April 3 regular monthly meeting of ANC1B -- see SALM blog post of April 7. At that time, the subject of the task force was announced to be facilitating parking on Sundays at the 67 churches around Ward One.

At the May first meeting, Holness said the task force was working on a variety of issues, including parking, but also including public safety, senior housing, and taxation.

"A lot of people don't understand what churches do -- how they benefit the community," Holness said.

In preparation for the meeting, Holness said an online survey was being prepared on the website Survey Monkey. Participants would be invited to the survey via email.

Monday, May 12, 2014

1620 Q Street: Single-family House into Six Apartments -- Just Like Next Door

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle heard a proposal on May 7 to convert a single-family row house at 1620 Q Street NW into six condo units. The planned development has much in common with the house-to-multiple condo conversion now taking place right next door at 1618 Q Street. For example:
1620 Q Street
  • It has the same architectural firm, Workshop T10.
  • It has the same presenter, Desiree Hollar.
  • It is requires approval from D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board, because...
  • It is located in the Dupont Circle Historic District.
  • The basement will be excavated to enable conversion to living space.
  • A third-floor pop-up will be added to the rear of the building.
  • The third-floor pop-up will not be visible from Q Street.
  • There will be two parking spaces in the rear of the building
It was reported at the meeting of ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee that the former owner of the house at 1620 Q Street was a man who had protested vigorously a few months to ANC2B against the renovation at 1618 Q Street. The man told ANC2B last December, for example, the proposed new roof deck on 1618 would look directly into his bedroom and "destroy my peace". The former owner was also concerned with damage to his home's foundation from the next-door renovation, and with noise.

There was no additional information at the meeting about the recent sale of the house at 1620 Q Street, or about the motivation for the sale. On-line information shows only that the house was sold to Abdollah Poozesh in 2003 for $680,000.

Robin Deiner of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association said the former owner had been "driven out of the neighborhood".

Workshop T10 told the ZPD Committee the basement of 1620 Q Street was currently 6 feet 8 inches high. There would be excavations so that the floors were nine feet below the ceiling.

Of the planned six units, five will be one-bedroom apartments. The other will be a two-bedroom apartment on the top floor. This apartment only will have access to a roof deck. 

Consulting the neighbors on this project is easy for Workshop T10. They are developing the building to the east. The building to the west is Hank's Oyster Bar. The developers had tried to get in touch with Hank's but had had no response. No one anticipated Hank's was likely to complain about the conversion.

There was no official vote on the project but the committee seemed favorably disposed toward the project. ZPD Committee Chair Leo Dwyer (Commissioner for district 07) indicated a resolution would be prepared endorsing the project.

ANC2B has a lot on its plate this month, so it has scheduled two separate meetings of the full ANC. 1620 Q Street will be considered at the second of the two meetings, which will take place at 7pm on Monday, May 19, 2014, in room 500 of the Berstein Office Building (1717 Massachusetts Avenue) of Johns Hopkins' School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Friday, May 9, 2014

CORRECTED: T Street Bike Lane in Shaw to Become a Trench for the Summer

CORRECTION: Ben Klemens emails that the bike lane will be a trench for "four to six weeks", and NOT months as I reported. Apologies for the error.

Ben Klemens, Chair of the Transportation Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street, told the ANC on May 1 travel along the T Street bicycle lane in Shaw will be disrupted for four to six weeks several months. The disruption should start in May or June, and last four to six months.

T Street between 7th and 11th Streets will receive a set of more elegant-looking street lights from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) -- see SALM blog post of April 28. DDOT officials told the Transportation Committee about the project at the Committee's meeting of April 16. At that time, the officials said that's as part of the project, they'd need to dig a trench, in sections, along one side of the road. A committee member asked if the trench would be on the side of T Street with the bike lane, or the other side. DDOT promised to check and get back to the committee with the information.

On May 1, Klemens told ANC1B the trench would go "right down the bike lane", according to DDOT. When crews were not working in the trench, Klemens said, they would cover them with sleet plates. It was agreed that this was not the optimum arrangement for bicyclists, especially when it rains.

When the project is finished DDOT will install manhole covers and resurface T Street.

At the same time, DDOT will also be working on the neighboring sidewalks, so using them as an alternate route may not be an option.

The next meeting of ANC1B's Transportation Committee is scheduled for 7pm on May 15th at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street NW).

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Collapsed Building Strip Club Gets ANC6E Valet Parking Endorsement

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw took a request by The Cloakroom (476 K Street NW) off of the agenda for its May 6 meeting. It seemed a reasonable move, since the the strip club's building had suffered a spectacular mid-day collapse only four days before. It is unlikely they will be doing business anytime soon.

From D.C. Fire Department web site
However, The Cloakroom is apparently moving forward under the assumption they might be back in business someday.

"They don't know if they will be there or not," an ANC6E Commissioner said.

Before the collapse, the club requested ANC6E consider endorsing a request to operate valet parking on K Street, at the corner of 5th Street. The request, if approved, will take one public parking space, next to a fire hydrant, out of use.

The club and the parking space are in the ANC district 6E05. The Commissioner is Marge Maceda. Maceda told ANC6E she was in favor of granting the valet parking endorsement to the Cloakroom. She also said people in the area had no objection to the request.

ANC6E voted unanimously to endorse the request. It will now to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) for final approval.

No one at the meeting identified themselves as working for or connected to The Cloakroom. No commissioner asked if representatives of The Cloakroom were present. However, as soon as the endorsement passed, three or four people in the back of the room got up and left. I don't know if they were connected to The Cloakroom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Howard Theatre Neighbors Mobilize ANC6E Against Beer Garden

At its regular monthly meeting last night (May 6), Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw heard from neighbors opposing a planned beer garden in the rear parking lot of the Howard Theatre (620 T Street NW). ANC6E voted to send a letter to D.C.'s liquor-licensing authorities stating it wished to be included in the decision-making process concerning the beer garden.

Wiltberger Street (Google Street View)
A trustee of the Howard Theatre rolled out the idea on April 16 to the liquor-licensing affairs committee of ANC 1B/U Street -- see SALM blog post of April 22. At that time, the trustee said the planned beer garden would operate in the parking lot behind the theater on Saturday and Sunday evenings during the summer until 11pm.

The Howard Theatre, and its rear parking lot, is located on the border between two ANC districts. The theater is in ANC1B. Its neighbors are in ANC6E. The border runs down the center of Wiltberger Street, on the east side of the Howard Theater. On the west side of Wiltberger Street are seven small single-family homes, six of which are currently occupied. A resident of Wiltberger Street appeared before ANC6E to ask for help.

"We really don't think this parking lot on Wiltberger Street is the right place", the resident said. "We're really concerned about the noise issue."

"The Howard Theatre has not been a particularly good neighbor," she also said. "We don't think they'll get better."

The ANC Commissioner for the neighbors is Kevin Chapple (district 02). Chapple told ANC6E he had met with the Howard Theater May 5. The meeting was "unsatisfactory", Chapple said.

Chapple then said -- incorrectly -- that ANC1B had voted to support the beer garden. He urged ANC6E to oppose it.

ANC6E Chair Alexander Padro (Commissioner for district 01) said he had communicated with ANC1B Chair James Turner on this matter. Padro said the liquor license application had not yet been placarded so it was not yet the right time to protest the application. Instead, Padro suggested sending a letter to D.C.'s liquor-licensing authorities, asking them to include ANC6E as "active participants" in the deliberations about the Howard Theater's liquor license.

ANC6E voted unanimously to support Padro's proposal.

Read an article about the Howard Theater's planned beer garden from Washington City Paper's "Young and Hungry" blog here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prospective Blagden Alley Restauranteur Accused of Theft, Sabotage by Investors

Now-bankrupt investors who bought Barracks Row restaurants from Xavier Cervera, aspiring owner/operator of the restaurant "The American" in Blagden Alley, are accusing him of stealing property and deliberately sabotaging his former restaurants. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle is protesting the Cervera's application for the Blagden Alley liquor license -- see SALM blog post of March 12.

According to an April 24 Wall Street Journal blog post, the investors claim Cervera, after selling his restaurant properties, kept a Vespa motor scooter and artwork belonging to the restaurants. The investors also claim Cervera used his role as a paid consultant to subvert the operations of his former properties. Cervera's ultimate goal, the documents claim, was to get the investors to default on their payments so he would regain control of the properties.

In their court filing, the bankrupt investors did not make clear how they believe Cervera went about sabotaging their operations.

Cervera has denied the allegations both in the original Wall Street Journal blog post and in a statement to the blog Capitol Hill Corner. Cervera said he "had no ownership, management, or financial control over any of the Debtor’s operations at any time following the sale." Cervera said in the statement to the Wall Street Journal that the scooter and artwork were his personal property.

Meanwhile, The American (official address: 1209 - 1213 10th Street NW) has had a contentious set of negotiations with its neighbors and ANC2F over its liquor license. There were allegations the placards announcing the liquor license hearing were not properly displayed -- see SALM blog post of February 11 -- which led to a delay of the process by several months. The American had a preliminary hearing before D.C.'s liquor-licensing authorities on March 24. On April 2, the liquor-licensing authorities approved a motion from the restaurant's attorney (page seven of 20-page .pdf here) to delay the next scheduled hearing on The American's license.

Monday, May 5, 2014

1310 Q Street: Six New Units a Stone's Throw from Logan Circle

An unoccupied lot just off Logan Circle, now a garden, will soon be the site of four dwelling units. The house next door, built in 1887, will be renovated and transformed from a large single-family home into two dwelling units. A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle heard about plans for the single project that will alter the two properties at its April 30 meeting.

Say goodbye to the garden
Architect David Morris of Trout Design Studio presented to the Community Development Committee (CDC) of ANC2F. He told the committee no zoning relief would be required for the development -- only the approval of D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) because the building is located in the Logan Circle Historic District 14th Street Historic District.

The house to be renovated is at 1310 Q Street; the garden is on the building's eastern side.

The documents submitted to the committee say the development will include five parking spaces, but Morris said "we may provide up to nine spaces". Only two would be required under current zoning regulations.

On the existing house (in right of photo), exterior brickwork, the roof, and windows will be cleaned and repaired as needed. The plumbing and electrical work will be modernized. A rear porch will have to be removed to provide space for the new building. But there will be no pop-up and the heights of all levels of the building will stay the same.

The presenters had several different ideas for the new building to be erected on the site of the garden. One proposed design had a modern-looking flat front. An alternate idea was to include a projecting bay, like the older building next door. The presenters solicited input from the CDC.

Some members of the committee like the flat-front design, some the projecting bay. An abutting neighbor said she liked the design with the bay, calling it "traditional" and appropriate for the street.

Abutting neighbors from both sides of the property were present. They lamented the green space they would be losing, but told the committee they approved of the project.

The house is in the ANC district 04, whose representative is Commissioner Walt Cain. Cain is also chair of the CDC. He urged the committee not to vote on the proposal that evening because, he explained, there had to be "more opportunity for dialog with the community". Nevertheless, other members of the committee seemed ready to approve the concept and massing of the more traditional design that evening, in part because the architects would have to prepare for their HPRB hearing in the near future.

Cain put forward a motion to pass a resolution endorsing the project but encouraging "engagement with the community". The motion passed, with Cain voting against. Cain asked the architects to come back and present again at the next meeting of the full ANC, which will take place on Wednesday, May 14, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Online records show that 1310 Q Street was put up for sale in November 2013. The asking price was $4.4 million. The price was reduced to $4.1 million in March. The property was taken off the market on April 5.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Grimke School Redevelopment Recommendations Throw Out by ANC1B

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted last night (May 1) to throw out recommendations developed by a community group to guide the redevelopment of the Grimke School (1923 Vermont Avenue NW) and an adjoining property (912 U Street). The ANC then substituted less specific language of its own making.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) had asked for community input on a Request for Proposal (RFP) to develop the two properties. An ad hoc group of local residents, the Grimke Redevelopment Working Group, formulated a set of desired outcomes for the redevelopment. The Design Review Committee of ANC1B met on April 21 and voted to endorse the working group's recommendations -- see SALM blog post of April 23 -- and proposed they be adopted by the full ANC. Specifically, the committee voted to recommend the inclusion of three main points from the working group's document to the main body of the RFP, and the entire working group document be attached to the RFP as a guideline for potential bidders.

The discussion of the Grimke School redevelopment came at the bitter end of last night's meeting. The discussion started with the ANC praising the working group's efforts on the final document. Jeffrey Willis of Grimke Redevelopment Working Group spoke briefly in support of the proposals.

Dr. Frank Smith, Director of the African-American Civil War Museum, then addressed the committee. The African-American Civil War Museum currently operates in the Grimke School. As it stands now, the museum may receive a free-of-charge renovation and rent-free use of the land as a condition of the RFP. Smith seemed to be concerned that the RFP would create conditions that might ultimately mean his museum might have to pay $4 million to use the space -- money the museum did not have. He asked the full ANC to reject the recommendation of the Design Review Committee, that is, to exclude the recommendations in any form of the Grimke Redevelopment Working Group from the RFP.

The Grimke Redevelopment Working Group was not given a chance to reply. Willis raised his hand but was not acknowledged by the ANC. Willis was too polite to interrupt.

Commissioner E. Gail Anderson Holness (district 11) made a motion to exclude the recommendations of the working group. It passed by a vote of five to one, with three abstentions.

Commissioners voting to exclude the working group proposal: Marc Morgan (district 01), Deborah Thomas (district 04), Juan Lopez (district 07), James Turner (ANC Chair, district 09), and Holness.

Commissioner voting against: Zahra Jilani (district 12)

Abstentions: Sedrick Muhammed (district 03), Ricardo Reinoso (district 05), Mark Ranslem (district 08).

Absent: Jeremy Leffler (district 02), Dyana Forester (district 06)

ANC1B district 10 is currently vacant.

ANC Chair Turner made a motion to substitute language that made references to taking community concerns into account. I think the language sounded weaker and less specific than the working group proposal, but I cannot characterize it any further because it was read quickly and not very clearly by Turner. Community comment was not solicited on Turner's proposal -- it went quickly to a vote.

The motion to adopt the substitute language was passed unanimously with one abstention (Ranslem).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

1738 14th Street: Renovation to Bring Eight Apartments near S Street

A planned renovation on 14th Street NW will bring eight apartments, retail space, and two parking spaces to a busy and popular intersection.

"Not a restaurant" here
Architects Andy Schiefer and Joel DeLeon of Architects Group Practice of Alexandria, Virginia, came before a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle last night (April 30) to ask for endorsement of their concept and massing of a top-to-bottom, front-to-back renovation on the entire lot of 1738 14th Street NW.

Right now, the building that fronts onto 1738 14th Street is a historically-protected building, built in 1890. It recently housed a gym and a hair salon. Behind it were two newer shorter buildings, attached to the main building, that are not considered historically significant. The three buildings together take up nearly 100 percent of the lot.

The Community Development Committee (CDC) of ANC2F heard a plan to preserve and restore the building at the front of the property, and demolish the two rear buildings. After the renovation, the front building will have retail on the first floor. The presenters said they had an expression of interest from a real estate company --"not a restaurant" -- for the first floor space.

Above the retail space there will be a single dwelling unit each on the second and third floors. At the rear of the property there will be a separate, new building, which will have six "efficiency apartments". Of these, three will face the rear alleyway, and three will face a courtyard between the new and old buildings. This rear building will be accessed by a door and a flight of stairs from 14th Street, and a secondary entrance from the alley.

There will be two parking spaces, accessible through the rear alley.

The architects may have to seek zoning relief in the future, in which case they will most likely appear before the CDC again. But last night they asked the CDC to endorse the project so it can move to D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for approval. Any major renovation of this building must be considered by the HPRB because the building is located within the Fourteenth Street Historic District.

The north facade of both the old and the new buildings would be completely exposed, because there is an empty lot currently used as a parking lot on the southwest corner of 14th and S. Rumor has it that the empty lot may someday house a 4- or 5-story building. If this is the case, the rear building at 1738 14th Street will not be visible from the street. But, for time being, both buildings and their northern facades will be plainly visible from 14th Street. HPRB told the architects "they want us to do something with the exposed facade" on the north side of the property.

The CDC voted unanimously to endorse the concept and massing from the 1738 14th Street project. It will now move onto the full ANC for approval at their next scheduled meeting, which will take place on Wednesday, May 14, at 7pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

Online records show 1738 14th Street was sold in November 2011 for $1.4 million.