City Paper Widget

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Scoop: Dolcezza Lacks Permit for Outside Seating

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted unanimously last night (July 30) to oppose an application for a public space use permit for Dolcezza Gelato (1418 14th Street NW). ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) voted to oppose the application because a representative of Dolcezza Gelato failed to appear before the committee in support of the application, and because Dolcezza Gelato has been using the space without authorization since shortly after their opening on June 28.

Enjoying ice-cream in violation of public space regulations
"They're already in violation," said Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02). Cain is the Chair of the CDC.

Dolcezza Gelato's application is for two outside tables. The space is surrounded by the same black wrought-iron fence that was there when the location was an empty storefront. However, before opening, Dolcezza Gelato removed it, cleaned it, and gave it a fresh coat of paint before re-installing.

To be fair, nobody on the committee seemed to be seriously opposed to Dolcezza's use of the space. No one from the community came to the meeting to complain or otherwise comment about the use of the space. Members of the committee were just concerned about the precedent: every applicant for a public space permit should appear before the committee.

Failing belated action by Dolcezza, the recommendation of the CDC will be ratified by the full ANC at their next scheduled meeting on August 6, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

The final authority to approve or refuse public space applications lies with the Public Space Management division of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Carriage Houses: Horizontal Pop-ups?

Summary: I believe DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) is encouraging, when possible, those wishing to expand homes in historic districts to forego pop-ups in favor of constructing new "carriage house-like" buildings at the rear of their properties. Plan for these new buildings often trigger a review by DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA), as the old and new buildings combined take up a greater percentage of the lot than is permitted by law. The BZA seems to be willing to go along with these rear additions. The small number that have been approved so far have not changed the profile or density of historic districts. If the trend continues, there may be negative consequences.

Homeowner a no-show at meeting

On Monday, July 21, the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street had a meeting. The only significant item on the agenda concerned 919 T Street NW. The owner sought ANC endorsement on a request to the BZA for a special exception to permit an addition at the rear of the property. The addition, the meeting agenda said, would serve as the primary residence of the owner.

919 T Street, as seen from 9-1/2 Street
There was a quorum of committee members, but owner did not show up. The chair of the committee called the owner. There was no answer. As there was no other business, the meeting disbanded. It is unclear whether the owner will be able to arrange another hearing with the committee and then with the ANC before a scheduled BZA hearing on September 9.

919 T Street is located in the U Street Historic District, so the owners got approval from the HPRB for their proposed new rear structure. The HPRB report characterizes the proposed new structure as a "two-story carriage house-like addition at the alley". (The alley is also known at "9-1/2 Street", and has 6-8 homes on it.)

The footprint of the proposed new building, combined with that of the original building, put the lot over the limit for "lot occupancy", which is why the project has to go before the BZA.

A pattern emerging?

This is the third "carriage house-like" rear structure that I've seen HPRB approve in the last two months -- see SALM blog posts for June 12 and May 30. (I also reported on one last October.) The properties are located in a variety of ANCs (1B/U Street, 2B/Dupont Circle, and 6E/Shaw) and historic districts.

In each of these cases, HPRB-approved rear structures (sometimes designed to look like long-demolished rear carriage houses) put the homeowner over the lot occupancy threshold.

In the cases reported on June 12 and May 30, the homeowner had been strongly discouraged by HPRB from pursuing a pop-up addition before receiving an approval for a rear addition. And, also in both of these cases, the homeowners subsequently received the zoning permission they sought from the BZA.

I don't know how many instances constitutes a trend, but there seems to be a pattern in HPRB, and subsequent BZA, approvals: more vertical living space -- no; more horizontal living space -- OK.

HPRB can be the good guy

This is probably a clever move for HPRB. Instead of being the agency that always says "no", they can be the agency that gives viable alternatives. It is then up to the BZA to be the bad guy if it turns down homeowners on the basis of lot occupancy, which could be perceived as an abstract, unimportant technicality.

So far, it seems like BZA is not inclined to be the bad guy, as evidenced by their approvals of lot occupancy exceptions.

Lot occupancy restrictions are, presumably, there for a reason. One DC Zoning Commission document from 2010 (21-page .doc download here) says the intent of lot occupancy restrictions to preserve adequate light and air to building residents. Another function is as a guard against excessive density. Yet more carriage houses (or alternately "out buildings" or "mother-in-law houses") on the rears of properties will surely increase density, and affect the light and air in the immediate area. Like popups, no one will mind the first carriage-house-like rear addition on a property, or maybe even the second. But what will happen when many houses on the block want them? Will the BZA continue to approve these requests?

More lot occupancy = more water runoff

More rear lot additions will also increase the amount of land in historic districts which is impervious to rainwater. DC Water is so concerned about impervious areas that it has instituted an "impervious area charge" on all customers. The impervious area charge is the single biggest component of this year's proposed 13 percent increase in water rate -- see SALM blog post of April 29.

The charge is based on how much impervious-to-water surfaces (such as rooftops, paved driveways, patios, and parking lots) a homeowner has on his or her property. Impervious areas contribute to groundwater runoff entering the District's sewer system. Popups, which by definition sit on top of existing buildings, do not increase the amount of impervious area on a lot.

More rear structures mean greater lot occupancy. Greater lot occupancy means more impervious area. More impervious area means more water runoff. More water runoff means more wear and tear on the sewer system, and also greater possibility of flooding during major rain events or hurricanes.

Solving one problem, creating another?

A few additional residential spaces by themselves are unlikely to cause more flooding, of course. But if a quick trip through the city bureaucracy becomes the norm for "carriage houses" and similar rear structures, the cumulative effect of hundreds of one- and two-story rear additions could be significant.

This may be a case of government agencies focused narrowly on their own briefs, to the exclusion of other considerations. HPRB's brief is the appearance of the exterior of properties in historic districts. The BZA's is to identify and prevent inappropriate and unsafe land uses. The knock-on effects of increased density are not an immediate concern to either body.

Will there be a time when we starting thinking that an attempt to control one problem (pop-ups) has opened the door to others?

See the latest HPRB document on 919 T Street here.

Documents concerning the request by the owners of 919 T Street for a special exception can be viewed by going to the BZA's Interactive Zoning Information System and entering case number 18810 in the search bar.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cheater's Guide to "Dream City" -- Part 8 (Black Power: The Making of a Machine)

This is the eighth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 7: Black Power: The Making of a Machine

Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice on the Supreme Court, swore Marion Barry in as mayor of Washington on January 2, 1979 at the District Building. His wife Effi stood by his side.

Barry and his team of aides redesigned the government, which had not changed greatly from its pre-home rule structure. They also changed the faces in city government. Barry made it clear that the city human rights office would investigation minority hiring practices of district firms and expected law firms, accountants, and retailers to hire more blacks and women.

In the city government, "...they moved swiftly to bring on more women and members of the gay and Latino community -- both to be fair and to pay political debts" (Kindle location 2173).

Barry's top aides were city administrator Elijah Rogers and "general assistant" Ivanhoe Donaldson.

They inherited a $100 million budget shortfall and $300 million in long-term debt from the previous administration.

In July 1979, Barry and "a small entourage" took a nineteen-day trip to Africa. He was greeted like a world leader. But while he was gone, Ivanhoe Donaldson was arrested for failing to pay a personal $2,700 debt to building contractor. But the debt was paid off and the bad publicity was minimal.

In October, the Washington Post ran a series of articles chronicling the theft and skimming of government money by Barry's previous wife and the organization they had run together. At the same time, the Washington Star newspaper reported that Barry had received a sweetheart deal on a home mortgage from an influential banker.

"Lillian Wiggins, a columnist for the Washington Afro-American, smelled a plot" (l. 2259). Wiggins labelled it the "Master Plan", eventually shortened it popular usage to "The Plan". Negative characterizations of black leadership were part of a plot to reinstall white leadership in the district. "In ominous shorthand it embodied the city's racial tensions; it also played into Barry's hand. A year into office, he'd become the lightning rod that was hot-wired directly into that most vulnerable and insecure part of the collective black psyche" (l. 2271).

"That kind of pressure led many black Washingtonians to circle their wagons around Barry to protect him" (l. 2275).

"The racial divisiveness made it easier for some whites -- who needed little from government except routine services -- to disengage themselves from it all" (l. 2276).

The Barry administration sent mixed signals to Capitol Hill. Barry met Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Leahy headed the Senate committee that controlled DC's budget. Barry said, "We want as much control as possible over our finances" (l. 2288). Congress seemed prepared to grant this wish, but then the Barry administration pulled back. Barry aide Ivanhoe Donaldson called a Leahy staffer later and said, "The budget autonomy is too risky. We like it the way it is now" (l. 2300).

The Barry administration was plagued by local problems (crime, rats) and national ones (recession, inflation).

Barry started seeing a woman named Karen Johnson, who kept a detailed diary of their relationship. The diary eventually came into the possession of a TV journalist and later the FBI. Johnson became pregnant and Barry ended the relationship.

Johnson's former boyfriend was a drug dealer. "Johnson's estranged boyfriend, Franklin Law, told police that he supplied Johnson, who shared it with Barry and eventually sold it to him on at least twenty or thirty occasions" (l. 2331).

Ivanhoe Donaldson was supposed to keep Barry in check, but he had problems of his own. He got in the habit of writing checks to friends from the unaudited Special Administrative Fund. The friends would then turn around and give the bulk of the fund back to Donaldson for his own personal expenses. "Ivanhoe Donaldson had embezzled $27,145 in five months from the emergency fund that became his personal slush fund" (l. 2352).

In March 1982, three women who worked in a strip club just south of Franklin Square told police Barry had come to the club for sex and drugs. An African-American police official reported this to the FBI and Justice Department, who did nothing. Eventually, the report was leaked to Barry and the police official was demoted.

In the 1982 election, Barry's main opponent was Patricia Roberts Harris, an African-American lawyer who had worked at the US delegation to the UN, and had been Ambassador to Luxembourg and Secretary for Housing and Urban Development.

Barry predicted he would beat Harris handily. "The mayor based his prediction on the three legs of his young political machine: campaign money from the business community, power and votes from the churches, and the loyalty that derives from political patronage" (l. 2420).

"He began by courting the city's powerful black ministers" (l. 2421), including the leaders of the Bible Way Church, the United House of Prayer for All People, and the Shiloh Baptist Church. He put city money at the disposal of various churches to provide much-needed programs like day-care and senior centers.

Also, "Barry dispensed carefully controlled constituent services, merging that office with his political apparatus under former campaign deputy Anita Bonds. She handled routine complaints on one hand, enforced political discipline with the other, and also bused adoring crowds to Barry's community meetings" (l. 2431). 

"Routine city services, such as trash collection and street cleaning, began showing up regularly in black neighborhoods unaccustomed to it. Barry also opened up new libraries and fire stations" (l. 2441).

Harris came off as aloof, Barry as a man of the people.

"'I have suffered a thousand wounds in trying to do right by the city', Barry told one candidate forum."

"'It's true, Mr. Mayor, that you have suffered a thousand wounds, responded council member Charlene Drew Jarvis.... 'Unfortunately, they're all self-inflicted'" (l. 2460).

Barry won the 1982 Democratic primary with nearly 60 percent of the vote. "The results marked the total shift of Barry's electoral support from an integrated base in 1978 to one that relied on the black middle class and poor. In 1978 the white vote put him over the top; in 1982 it alone couldn't defeat him. With the biracial coalition went the civil rights movement's liberal dream of social change, of helping the less fortunate, of bringing the races together. In its place, Boss Barry began to emerge" (l. 2470).

At this time, Barry's first group of advisors, including Elijah Rogers, left. Another advisor who left said: "The government became directed by greed" (l. 2491). 

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jackhammers on 19th Street: Let's Take This Outside

Bill Cate of Washington Real Estate Investment Trust (WRIT) came to the July 10 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle to seek extended hours to jackhammer. Cate is the supervisor of a renovation project of an office building at 1220 19th Street NW. The building is located between M and N Streets, and is home of I Ricchi restaurant. The Palm Restaurant is across the street.

1220 19th Street (Google Street View)
WRIT sought ANC2B's endorsement on a request to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). The waiver Cate sought included permission to work from 10am to 6pm on Sunday, and to do "quiet work" (i.e., staging, not jackhammering) starting at 5am. 

The project will beautify the front courtyard and install DC-standard pavers on the sidewalk. It is scheduled to take four months of daily work, seven days a week. The project has four phases, Cate said.

"Each phase has demolition activities," he told the ANC, meaning, many hours of jackhammering

The project is the ANC2B district 06. The Commissioner is Mike Silverstein.

"My concern is the Jefferson Row Condominium," Silverstein told Cate. Jefferson Row Condominium is located a stone's throw away at 1828 - 1834 Jefferson Place.

Silverstein told Cate he was against jackhammering at 7am on weekdays, which is the start time normally allowed under law.

At this point, Silverstein suggested that he and Cate negotiate outside, instead of in public in front of approximately 100 people who were attending the ANC meeting for other reasons. Silverstein and Cate left the room.

Silverstein's daytime job is Ward Two representative on DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. Since participation in liquor license related matters could present a conflict of interest, he routinely recuses from the portions of ANC meetings that deal with these matters.

ANC2B then made a virtue of a necessity by jumping ahead to the liquor license related portion of the agenda, since Silverstein was already gone. They dealt with several routine matters over the next half-hour or so until Silverstein returned.

Silverstein told the ANC he had hammered out a deal with Cate. The deal would allow "quiet work" starting at 5am weekdays, but no jackhammering until 7:30am. The ANC would also support work of all kinds between the hours of 9am and 5pm Saturday, and 11am and 7pm Sunday.

All commissioners in attendance voted to support the proposal as presented by Silverstein.

See the letter ANC2B sent in support of the agreement with WRIT here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Aspiring ANC Candidates Start the Process

On 15 July, the DC Board of Election and Ethics (DCBOEE) released a list of people who had picked up (and, in a few cases, had already returned) nomination papers for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC). Below is information from the document about races in the ANCs I usually report on, occasionally supplemented by announcements, online information, and/or gossip I have heard at meetings.

Don't know your ANC district? There are two search tools: one by the DC government, the other by Code for DC.

According to tweets on July 21 by ANC2B Commissioner Stephanie Maltz, 240 candidates city-wide have picked up petitions. Of these, 121 are incumbents, 119 not. More than one-third of all ANC districts (109) have no candidates yet.

ANC 1B/U Street

Sitting commissioners who have picked up nominating papers for re-election: Deborah Thomas (district 04), Juan Lopez (07), Mark Ranslem (08), ANC1B Chair James Turner (09), Allyson Carpenter (10).

Sitting commissioners who have announced at public meetings they will not run for re-election: Ricardo Reinoso (05), Zahra Jilani (12).

At an ANC1B committee meeting, someone said that Commissioner E. Gail Anderson Holness (11) would not run for re-election.

Commissioner Marc Morgan (01) is seeking an At-Large seat on the DC City Council. I don't know if he is allowed to run for re-election at the same time. I suspect not. 

Non-commissioners who have picked up nominating petition for ANC1B seats, by district:

ANC 2B/Dupont Circle

Sitting commissioners who have picked up nominating papers for re-election: Stephanie Maltz (03), Abigail Nichols (05), Mike Silverstein (06), Leo Dwyer (07), and Noah Smith (09).

It took Nichols two days to collect sufficient signatures and file them. The DCBOEE clerk told Nichols she was the first filer, Nichols said in an email.

Commissioner Kishan Putta (04) is running for an At-Large seat on the DC City Council. He announced at an ANC2B monthly meeting he is not running for re-election to the ANC.

Non-commissioners who have picked up nominating petition for ANC2B seats, by district:
Note: "Justin Underhill" may be a misprint in the original document. A woman named "Justine Underhill" is active in a group in the district called "Neighbors of St. Thomas Church DC", which opposed the development of a multi-story residential unit and an expanded church.

ANC 2F/Logan Circle

Sitting commissioner who has picked up nominating papers for re-election: John Fanning (04).

Commission Walt Cain (02) announced at the last ANC2F meeting that he would not be running for re-election, according to a summary of the meeting on the ANC's web site.

Non-commissioners who have picked up nominating petition for ANC2f seats, by district:
ANC 6E/Shaw

Sitting commissioners who have picked up nominating papers for re-election: ANC6E Chair Alexander Padro (01), Rachelle Nigro (04), Marge Maceda (05).

Non-commissioners who have picked up nominating petition for ANC6E seats, by district:
See the full list (seven-page .pdf) from the DCBOEE web site of all people who have picked up nominating petitions for ANC Commissioner here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DC Inspector Tells Hamiltonian Gallery to Get Liquor License

Paul So, founder and director of the Hamiltonian Gallery (1353 U Street NW), received two visits in six weeks from inspectors of DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). The inspectors told him he needed a license to serve complimentary glasses of wine and beer at his gallery. As a result, So was at a meeting of the liquor licensing affars committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street July 16 to ask for endorsement on a liquor license request.

So told the committee he had been in the neighborhood five years. The gallery hosts receptions once every six weeks, at which wine and beer are served -- but not sold. He said the gallery is not planning to sell alcohol of any type in the future.

"I'll take you at your word that you won't do that," said committee chair Nick Baumann.

Baumann also said the facility would probably need a class D/X license, which "[p]ermits multipurpose facilities to sell and serve beer and wine," according to ABRA's web site. A D/X category license costs $650 and expires on March 31, 2016.

There was evidence of support from the community also, so the committee quickly voted unanimously to make a recommendation that the full ANC support the Hamiltonian's application.

So was present at the beginning of the committee meeting. Since he was not a familiar face, Baumann asked him why he had come. When the committee found out the reason, they moved his application to the top of the agenda. The debate and vote took less than 10 minutes, after which the committee wished So the best of luck, and he left.

The first ABRA hearing on the matter will be held on September 8.

Monday, July 21, 2014

1740 NJ Ave: Trust Everybody, But Cut the Cards

An attorney told Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw July 1 that there was no reason to vote against her project, because she would immediately ask for a postponement of the planned zoning hearing. But ANC6E voted to oppose the project anyway.

The property from across Rhode Island Avenue
Attorney Meredith Mouldenhauer of Griffin, Murphy, Moldenhauer & Wiggins, LLP appeared before the ANC as part of a team with developer Jimmy Edgerton of Newton Street Development 3, LLC. The team aims to develop a property at 1740 New Jersey Avenue NW, a wedge-shaped piece of land at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and S Street, which has been vacant from at least 2011. The house on the property now is in poor condition. The current aim of the developers is to build a single-family home and an eight-unit condo on the property.

The single-family home can be built "by right", meaning, without asking for any zoning relief. But the eight-unit condo needs zoning variances for several reasons, including lot occupancy and parking. The existing building is not zoning-compliant because it covers 100% of the lot, and because it has no parking. ANC endorsement for these variance requests will help it move more smoothly through DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA).

From remarks made at the meeting, it is clear that the developers and the ANC have been negotiating for quite some time about this project. There still has not been a meeting of the minds. The developers won't go below eight units; the ANC won't agree to eight units.

"I have been talking to the developers for months now and I have expressed strong opposition to their plans," said Commissioner Kevin Chapple (district 02).

The proposed development in Chapple's district, and he lives three houses down from 1740 New Jersey Avenue.

"Everyone that I've spoken to in my district is against such a dense unit at this location," he said.

When it became clear that Chapple was dead-set against the plan and the most of the ANC would probably vote with him, Mouldenhauer backtracked and promised to ask the BZA for a postponement of their hearing. But Chapple was not inclined to let the matter rest at that.

"We'd have to take your word for it," he said, about Moldenhauer's promise to ask for a postponement. 

There was some consternation in the audience that someone would not take an attorney at her word.

"She's a member of the bar!" exclaimed an attorney sitting next to me.

It was also mentioned that, if Mouldenhauer went back on her word now, she would never get another favorable hearing before the ANC again.

But Chappell seemed to want to be better safe than sorry, and put forward a motion to oppose the zoning variances. It passed 6-1. The lone vote against was Commissioner Marge Maceda (district 05).

After the vote ANC6E chair Alexander Padro (commissioner for district 01) said: "We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with you. We just wanted to have a placeholder to express our concerns, so you'd understand where we were coming from."

Online information indicates this property was sold in December 2013 for $775,000.

The blog District Source has also written about this case.

The documents related to this case can be examined by going to the BZA's Interactive Zoning Information System and putting case number 18794 into the search bar. A request to postpone the BZA hearing until September has been recently added to the file.

The remark "Trust everybody, but cut the cards" is attributed to American humorist Finley Peter Dunne.

Friday, July 18, 2014

ANC1B Fails to Achieve Quorum for Second Time This Month

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street once again failed to achieve a quorum last night (July 17).

4 Commissioners out of 12 attended
This meeting was an attempt to take care of the business originally scheduled for the ANC1B meeting of last Thursday, July 10. That meeting, too, failed to achieve a quorum -- see SALM blog post of July 11.

This is the third month in the last eight that ANC1B has failed to achieve a quorum at its regularly scheduled meetings -- see also SALM blog posts for March 10 and December 9, 2013. This is the first time ANC1B has failed twice in a month to achieve a quorum.

Of the twelve Commissioners, seven were necessary to achieve a quorum.

The Commissioners who were present at the meeting were Marc Morgan (district 01), Deborah Thomas (04), Ricardo Reinoso (05), and ANC1B Chair James Turner (1B09).

The absent Commissioners were Jeremy Leffler (02), Sedrick Muhammad (03), Dyana Forester (06), Juan Lopez (07), Mark Ranslem (08), Alyson Carpenter (10), E. Gail Anderson Holness (11), and Zahra Jilani (12).

Of the absentees, Leffler, Ranslem, Carpenter, Holness, and Jilani had said beforehand they would not attend, so ANC1B required 100% attendance by the other Commissioners to achieve a quorum.

As a result of not having a quorum, ANC1B will miss deadlines to protest the liquor license applications of M & I, LLC (637 Florida Avenue NW) and Signature Lounge (1920 9th Street). The liquor licensing affairs committee of ANC1B had recommended that both of these license be protested on the basis of peace, order, and quiet.

The ANC was also due to talk about the relocation of the Capital Bikeshare station at 13th and U Streets -- see SALM blog post of June 25. While the Commissioners waited in the vain hope that other colleagues would show up, they heard a report on the topic. The Bikeshare station will move temporarily while the property on the southwest corner of 13th and U is redeveloped. There had been a plan to relocate the Bikeshare station permanently at another location, but apparently this plan had been vetoed by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

After the meeting broke up, ANC1B liquor licensing affairs committee chair Nick Baumann sent out a tweet promising to post a spreadsheet of ANC1B Commissioner attendance statistics.

ANC1B's next scheduled meeting is Thursday, August 7, at 7pm, at the Greater First Baptist Church (2701 13th Street, at the corner of Fairmont Street).

Cheater's Guide to "Dream City" -- Part 7 (A Man for All People)

This is the seventh installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 6: A Man for All People

This chapter starts with a description of the 1973 murder of seven members of the Hanafi Muslim sect (including four children) by Black Muslims at a brick mansion at 7700 16th Street NW. The murderers were  tried and sentenced to long prison terms, but the Hanafi Muslim group descended into paranoia, saying, for example, Jewish judges had been too lenient. They turned their 16th Street home into an armed camp.

On March 9, 1977, the Hanafi Muslims struck back. They stormed the offices of the B'nai B'rith and the Massachusetts Avenue mosque called the Islamic Center and took hostages.

Marion Barry heard about the incident on his way to the District Building for a committee hearing. "He was unaware that a smaller group of Hanafis at that moment was beginning to seize offices inside the District Building" (Kindle location 1873). He was shot as he stepped off an elevator. He suffered a minor flesh wound, but the pellet was lodged two inches above his heart.

Mary Treadwell, recently divorced from Barry, ran to his side at the hospital. There, she met Effi Cowell, then 33, who would become Barry's next wife. Advisers ensured that future visits did not occur at the same time.

From his hospital bed, Barry made the decision to run for mayor in 1978, against incumbent Walter Washington and City Council President Sterling Tucker in the Democratic primary. Initial polls showed him in third place. Barry and advisers felt Washington and Tucker would split the black vote. They formulated a strategy that would "allow Barry to slip into office by corralling white votes and picking off pockets of support from disaffected blacks and the emerging block of gay voters" (l. 1923). The existing black elite was not likely to vote for Barry, they felt.

Barry pursued white and black businesspeople who didn't like the other choices, including restauranteurs who had difficulty getting liquor licenses.

Barry was living with his girlfriend, Effi Cowell. Advisers felt a candidate for mayor could not be living with someone. In February 1978, they were married in a quiet ceremony. But she was a problem for the campaign, as she had a quiet manner that appeared aloof and was so light-skinned that many voters thought she was Caucasian.

Barry continued womanizing. He was seen out alone with other women. There were difficult-to-confirm accusations of sexual assault.

Candidates hustled for endorsements. Barry received the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, in spite of his previous run-ins, because he proposed legislation to give them annual raises.

Barry also charmed the Washington Post editorial board. He received six separate editorials praising his campaign. He resisted pressure from the Tucker campaign to drop out. Barry won the primary by 1,400 votes out of 89,460 votes for the three major candidates, and buried the Republican candidate in November.

Barry reached out to those who had supported other candidates. President Jimmy Carter and members of Congress (including Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the committee that oversaw the city's budget) met with Barry.

"The resulting political constellation presented a unique opportunity in American politics. In 1978, in the capital city, there was a chance to create a truly integrated body politic" (l. 2128).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"High End Liquor Store" Proposed for 12th and U Streets

Tucker Gallagher, a 28-year resident of the U Street area, plans to open up a "high end liquor store" near the corner of 12th and U Streets NW. Gallagher came before the liquor licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street last night (July 16) to give a preliminary briefing on the project.

1939 12th Street
Gallagher told the committee he had "reached an agreement" with the landlord of 1939 12th Street, a few steps south of U Street. The planned store will open in a vacant storefront next to a Menchie's Frozen Yogurt shop.

The store will sell locally-sourced beers and liquors, including bourbons, vodkas, and ciders. It will also sell organically grown wines.

The liquor store will require a Class A license from DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). Class A licenses are for liquor stores and wholesalers.

There was some discussion about whether Gallagher might have trouble getting a liquor license due to a perceived "overconcentration" of liquor stores in the area. The nearest Class A licensee is located on 14th Street, just north of U Street, across from the Reeves Center.

There is a Class B liquor licensee, Eleven Market, on 11th and U. (Class B licenses allow grocery stores and wholesalers to sell beer and wine only.) Eleven Market briefed the ANC liquor liquor licensing affairs committee last month (see SALM blog post of June 24) on plans to convert to a liquor store with a Class A license.

ABRA told Gallagher that Eleven Market had not yet submitted their application for a conversion to Class A license. If there is a determination that there is an overconcentration of liquor stores in the area, it is possible that the later of the two licensees (i.e., Eleven Market) will be the one to lose out.

Gallagher told the committee he has no experience with a business that required a liquor license. Online information shows that Gallagher was the marketing manager at the national office of AARP, a realtor, a blogger, and an unsuccessful candidate for ANC1B.

Gallagher said he plans to employ staff with experience, including someone who had worked at Archibald's (1520 K Street).

An official placard announcing the request for a liquor license has not appeared at the proposed location of the store. Once a placard appears, there is a 45-day waiting period for public comment and protest.

Gallagher's presentation was purely informational. There was no request for ANC1B support at this time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

1532-34 5th Street: "It Looks Like They're Planning to Do Something Illegal"

The request for a curb cut at 1532-34 5th Street NW, mid-block between P and Q Streets, was on the agenda for the July 1 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw, and it was taken off. But the matter was discussed at the meeting anyway.
The property at the end of June

Commissioner Kevin Chapple (district 02) told the audience that developer, who is building a new house on the empty lot at that address, realized he would not get ANC support for the curb cut.

"He asked for a postponement to talk to the neighbors to try to convince them or to garner some support for the project before he came to the ANC," Chapple said.
The property on July 14

The audience was skeptical. A neighbor said that the developer was already building a driveway on the property, curb cut or no.

"Why are they spending all this money to do construction? If they know they don't have support but they're building a driveway, I think to me it looks like they're planning to do something illegal," the neighbor said.

Chappel told the neighbor the ANC could weigh in on the curb cut, which is on public land, but not on what an owner constructs, by right, on his or her own property.

"If someone wants to put a driveway on their property, we can't stop them," Chappel said.

The neighbor said the contractor had visited him to disclose plans to start construction. Since then, though, there had been problems when excavation of the property caused the neighbor's fence to fall into the excavated space. The neighbor wanted his property restored to its original condition.

There were promises made to contact the DC building inspector's office to see if anything could be done. Getting a stop work order was mentioned. But construction appears to be continuing (see photos).

The matter of the curb cut will be considered by an ANC6E committee. ANC6E has not, until now, published on its web site the times and places of their committee meetings.

After that, ANC6E is tentatively scheduled to be on the agenda of the next meeting in September. The ANC's recommendation will then go to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which has final authority.

Online records indicate the empty lot was sold for $375,000 in October 2013.

ANC6E posts its meeting in their entirety on its YouTube channel. This meeting is posted in five parts.  The discussion mentioned above can be viewed by following this link to part four. The discussion starts at time 29:20, and continues on through the beginning of part five.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

14th Street Taylor Gourmet: Sidewalk Seating Too Ambitious

At its regular monthly meeting July 9, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to recommend cutting back a request by Taylor Gourmet (1908 14th Street NW) for outdoor serving space.

Taylor Gourmet as seen from the far side of the curb cut
Taylor Gourmet asked for two sets of outdoor tables. One set would be situated on the sidewalk up against the 14th Street (i.e., front) side of the establishment. The other set would be close the curb. Pedestrians on 14th Street would walk in an aisle between the two sets of tables.

In addition, Taylor Gourmet asked to extend its hours of operation. They asked for permission to be open 10am to 10pm, Monday-Thursday, and 10am to 3:30, Saturday and Sunday.

Commissioner Noah Smith (district 09) negotiated with Taylor Gourmet, which is in his ANC district.

ANC1B agreed to endorse operating hours of 10am to 11pm, Monday-Thursday, and 10am to midnight, Saturday and Sunday.

At the meeting, Smith also said the original proposal was for tables to be situated a foot from the curb of 14th Street. No other restaurant in the area has this configuration of sidewalk space.

"If approved, it is potentially precedent-setting for the block," Smith said. He noted that other newly-opened establishments nearby, like the Wydown Coffee Bar (1924 14th Street), were considering outdoor space applications. Someone said the only restaurant in DC that has permission for the split configuration of sidewalk tables is Jaleo on 7th Street in Penn Quarter.

Smith advocated eliminating the two table (and four chairs) closest to the street for several reasons. The tables would be too close to both the street as well as a curb cut that allows cars in and out of the building now housing the next-door Trader Joe's. Diners would be in danger. Also, the tables and diners would block the sight line of the cars exiting Trader Joe's garage.

Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06) agreed with Smith.

"This areas is going to have an enormous population increase," he said. "Our responsibility is to care for the public".

During the public comment period, audience members said the proposed configuration would make it difficult for two people to walk abreast, and this type of public space configuration has not been approved for any other cafe in the area.

If the curbside tables are eliminated from the plan, Taylor Gourmet will end up with permission for only one outdoor table, with two seats, next to its front window.

The request will now go to the part of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) that deals with public space management for final adjudication.

Monday, July 14, 2014

1727 Massachusetts Avenue: "I'm Not Trying to Pull the Wool over Anybody's Eyes"

At its regular monthly meeting on July 9, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to oppose the zoning application of Arnold K. Litman of Newlettman Associates LLC. ANC2B will ask D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) for time to review the application. Because the BZA doesn't meet in August, this will delay the application two months, assuming the request is granted.

The front door of Winthrop House
This application for a special exception will allow a room originally meant as a janitor's living space or workroom to be converted into office space. The room is located in the basement of a 142-unit building at 1727 Massachusetts Avenue, also known as Winthrop House. The application was the subject of the SALM blog post of July 9.

ANC2B Commissioner Leo Dwyer (district 07) started the discussion of this case by reading a resolution he had drafted opposing the special exception. (The property is in Dwyer's ANC district.) The resolution stated the applicants did not "reach out in a timely manner" to the ANC, nor did they receive relevant documents to review before meetings. The ANC had had no contact with the condominium association of Winthrop House. It was impossible to determine the impact of this request on the building residents.

After the resolution was read, moved, and seconded, Litman and two associates came before the ANC to discuss the case.

Litman said he was unable to attend an ANC committee meeting two days before owing to the death of a close friend. Dwyer said he was sorry for Litman's loss.

Litman told the ANC he had bought the unit ten years ago. The sellers had represented to Litman that the property was zoned for commercial activity. Since then, the space has been home to a printer, a fitness studio, and a massage therapist. The tenants of the building have seen this unit rented for years. Only recently did Litman find out the space required zoning approval for this type of activity.

Litman described the property as two rooms and a bathroom.

"It has no kitchen," he said.

The property has no direct access from outside. To get to it, you must go through the front door, past a desk which is manned 24/7, Litman said.

Litman then said he was also the president of the Winthrop House condominium association, and he had a letter, signed by himself, stating that the special exception would create no hardship in the building. Perhaps recognizing that this alone might not be enough, Litman also brought the vice-president of the condominium association, who agreed with Litman's statement, and had also signed the letter.

Litman was asked if the condomium board had voted on the matter. It had not.

Litman said every unit owner in Winthrop House had gotten a letter about the matter.

"I'm not trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes," he said.

After Litman's testimony, there was some discussion. There was  a friendly amendment to the original resolution. The friendly amendment changed the language so that the ANC requested a delay to the BZA hearing, but did not object outright to the project.

The resolution opposing the project can be seen on ANC2B's web site here -- about half-way down the page. As of this writing, the resolution published on the this web page is NOT the resolution that the ANC passed -- it is Dwyer's original resolution. Dwyer said in an email the post would soon be changed to reflect the friendly amendment.

Friday, July 11, 2014

ANC1B Fails to Achieve Quorum Due to Rain

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street failed to achieve a quorum last night at its regular monthly meeting last night (July 10). ANC1B will try again next Thursday, July 17, at 7pm, at the Banneker Recreation Center (2500 Georgia Avenue NW), according to ANC1B Chair James Turner (commissioner for district 09).
(Image courtesy Borderstan)

The skies opened up a little after 6:30pm last night. This apparently kept most of the commissioners away from the 7pm meeting. I was also delayed and did not arrive until 8pm. The meeting was just breaking up as I arrived.

I saw the following commissioners at the aborted meeting: Turner, Marc Morgan (district 01), Juan Lopez (district 07), and Zahra Jilani (district 12). Other commissioners may have been there as well.

Some of the topics scheduled to be discussed on July 17 include:
This is the third time in eight months ANC1B has failed to achieve a quorum at its regularly scheduled meetings -- see SALM blog posts for March 10 and December 9, 2013.

Cheater's Guide to "Dream City" -- Part 6 (Bombthrowers to Bureaucrats)

This is the sixth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 5: Bombthrowers to Bureaucrats

The 1968 destroyed large parts of Washington, and little rebuilding took place immediately. In 1969, President Nixon promised assistance. Neighborhood groups squabbled over who should represent the neighborhood, and millions in federal funds went unused (l. 1475).

But there was also opportunity. Fourth-generation Maryland housebuilder Oliver Carr bought up downtown property cheap, starting with a building at the corner of 17th Street and Connecticut Avenue NW. "From that first bold move, Carr built an empire..." (l. 1482).

DC Mayor Walter Washington changed what had been a department of the federal government into the DC government, while also handling wave after wave of anti-Vietnam War protestors.

"...[W]hen one million peace protesters descended on the capital in May 1971, Richard Nixon called him from Camp David to say, 'You're in charge'" (l. 1487).

"In one of the least reported and documented developments in Washington local politics, the timing of the District's movement toward independence coincided with the continued ingathering of former student civil rights leaders. Many of the men and women who had stood on the front lines of the movement -- Ivanhoe Donaldson, John Wilson, Courtland Cox, Lawrence Guyot, Frank Smith, and others -- saw the city's unique black majority community as fertile soil to carry on a civil rights movement as it changed into a struggle for economic power. Eventually, nearly the entire leadership of the student civil rights movement found its way into the capital and joined the battle wrest power from Congress, the white power structure, and the native black elite" (l. 1489).

Meanwhile, Marion Barry became the bridge between the white power structure and the African-American community through his organization, Pride, Inc. "He wore a tie and jacket to disarm the businessmen; he wore a dashiki and an amulet with a bullet around his neck and armed himself with a .38 for his work at Pride, Inc" (l. 1495).

Pride, Inc., started as an alley cleaning operation and expanded into gas stations, real estate, and confections.

Barry was arrested in May 1969 after he and companions started a fight with a police officer over a parking ticket. He was hit with a blackjack and spent the night in the hospital. Staff on Pride, Inc.'s payroll demonstrated against Barry's arrest. A trial on the charge a year later ended in a hung jury.

A month after that, Barry and an ally stormed a meeting of First Lady Pat Nixon and Republican Senate wives to draw attention to the fact that cars double-parked outside the building were protected by police, while regular citizens would have gotten tickets. He got positive press attention.

Soon after, Barry helped negotiate an end to a threatened teacher's strike.

Pride, Inc., was the subject to near-constant legal scrutiny, including FBI (which had also infiltrated the organization) asking "Pride officials whether they had had any dealings with the Mafia, Red China, H. Rap Brown, or drug dealers" (l. 1543). FBI reports included information on Barry's love life and choice of clothes. The most damaging finding was $10,000 in phony payroll checks out of about $8.5 million in federal grants, an amount the authors call "minimal" (l. 1548).

"The FBI's surveillance continued into the early 1970s, when its reports noted in deadpan prose that the 'negro militants' were becoming elected officials" (l. 1560)

In 1971, Walter Fauntroy became DC's first delegate to Congress, defeating three other candidates with 44 percent of the vote. Appointed City Council President John Hechinger got the downtown business community behind Fauntroy "and establish[ed] an enduring pattern of white money behind black candidates" (l. 1586).

"If the first law of Washington politics was white money behind black candidates, the second was that Washington was a one-party town. The Republican party never organized in the capital and never attracted more than a tenth of the electorate, in part because it was run as a club for white conservatives" (l. 1604).

Barry ran for a seat on the DC school board against Anita Allen, a member of the city's light-skinned African-American elite. Handlers groomed him to act in a manner more acceptable to middle-class voters. "I'm a situationist," Barry told a Washington Post reporter at the time. "I do what is necessary for the situation" (l. 1633).

Barry won with 58 percent of the vote. 9.3 percent of the city's registered voters went to the polls. Other candidates, whom Barry had supported, elected him school board president.

In May 1973, Barry married Mary Treadwell, his second wife. Two months after that, he barely escaped arrest for an incident late at night in the apartment of a female colleague. "The story never became public, in part because the woman realized that if she exposed Barry it could hurt certain initiatives she was working on, including the home rule drive. She didn't want to give Congress another reason to keep the District from governing itself" (l 1719).

1973 saw another try at a home rule bill. Autonomy was chipped away as it progressed through committee. The right to a locally-elected district attorney was lost. Congressional representatives traded their support for home rule for a guarantee of no commuter tax. Federal properties would not be taxable. Instead Congress and the President would determine a yearly lump-sum payment. Congressman Gerald Ford led the opposition to the bill, but his attention went elsewhere when he was appointed Vice-President.

Barry found the problems of the city's schools intractable and wanted to move on. With the help of Ivanhoe Donaldson ("brilliant, articulate, courageous") and others, Barry considered running for city council president. But the city's political elite had other ideas. Barry was told to run for an At-large seat.

"Barry bristled, postured, argued -- then did as he was told. But he would never forget" (l. 1789).

Walter Washington won the first election for DC mayor. "Sterling Tucker was elected city council chairman and promptly made his first mistake by appointing Barry to head the powerful finance and revenue panel, which controlled taxation. For the next four years, Barry used his committee as a club against Tucker and Mayor Washington on one hand, while with the other he began to woo white business interests" (l. 1795).

Barry and staff also rejected Washington's tax-raising budgets and devised tax-cutting budgets of their own, although rich property interests got some special breaks.

He also kept his activist edge. He said DC tax money "flows out of the pockets of DC taxpayers and into the hands of predominantly white male, suburban-residing police officers" (l. 1810). He won the election, and also separated from his second wife.

Barry seemed to be cleaning up his act. He stopped smoking. He drank only white wine. But it was at this time, the authors say, "that Barry first came into contact with cocaine" (l. 1838).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

In the 9th Inning of the Gray Administration, the Score: Deputy Mayor 11, ANCs 0

"It's important to remember that our recommendation is only that," said Alexander Padro, Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E/Shaw at the last regular monthly meeting on July 1.

"The Deputy Mayor in this administration has frequently ignored the
recommendation from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. I've been tracking eleven of them in the Gray administration and zero for eleven have actually gone to the bidders that had the support of the ANCs," Padro said.

The 8th and O parking lot and the church (left)
Padro (also commissioner for district 01) made his remarks about the DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) directly after the ANC voted to recommend the plan of Four Points LLC to develop a plot of land at 8th and O Streets NW. The land is currently the site of a church parking lot.

Five of the seven members of ANC6E attended a community meeting on the 8th and O development the previous evening, June 30, where they saw full presentations by the four contenders for DMPED permission to develop the land: Four Points, A & R Development, Madison Investments, and Roadside Development. All four did an abbreviated version of the presentation at the ANC6E meeting.

The winner of ANC endorsement had a very different proposal from the others, because Four Points LLC is also aiming to buy -- in a separate transaction -- the property next door, the Scripture Cathedral Church, and then unite the properties in a single building with 172 rental units and 11,400 square feet of retail space.

It was reported at the ANC meeting that the Scripture Cathedral Church is moving all its operations to its Maryland campus in Landover.

Details and artists' renderings of the four proposals as they appeared at the June 30 community meeting were reported on the real estate blog Urban Turf here.

A report on ANC6E's decision to choose the plan of Four Points LLC appeared on the blog District Source here.

ANC6E videos their meetings in their entirety and post them on its YouTube channel. See Padro make the remarks quoted above on video 00061 here, at time 28:30.

The entire June 30 community meeting on this property can also be viewed on ANC6E's YouTube channel.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

1727 Massachusetts Avenue: Janitor's Apartment to Lawyer's Office?

"They thought it was legally permitted to be office space," the owners representative told a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle July 7.

But it wasn't.

Winthrop House, with orange zoning placard in front window
The owners of 817 square feet in the basement of The Winthrop House condominium (1727 Massachusetts Avenue NW) will have purchased themselves an expensive storage area unless they can convince DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) to grant them a special exception. The owners' representative was at the most recent meeting of ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee to ask for an endorsement of their request.

According to information presented at the meeting, the space was originally meant as a basement apartment for a janitor or maintenance man. It has its own toilet and a window well. Now, he said, it was not considered a legally habitable space. The new owners wanted to convert it into office space for a lawyer, architect, or accountant. They need zoning permission to change its purpose.

The representative of the owner told the committee "two individuals" bought the property, and the individuals were under the impression that office use was permitted when they bought it.

Who are the owners?

A publicly-available BZA document indicates the property is owned by Lettermen Associates LLC. The address of Lettermen Associates is 14705 Dunleith Street, North Potomac, Maryland. Online information indicates that 14705 Dunleith Street is owned by Arnold K. Litman and F. J. Litman.

Another BZA document gives the name of one of the owners as Arnie Litman. Yet another is signed "Arnie Litman, Letterman Associates".

Arnie Litman is described on one web site as
a licensed real estate broker who serves as a contractor and property management consultant with more than 25 years of experience in successfully developing affordable housing projects in the Washington, DC area. Mr. Litman has negociated [sic] over 3,000 commercial and retails leases. Currently he is the broker of record for Tysons II Mall and two premier office buildings in Washington, DC.
Litman Development has successfully managed thousands of apartments units in some of the toughest neighborhoods...
A Linked-In profile describes Arnold (Arnie) Litman as "an independent real estate broker" of 38 years experience. From 2011 - 2013, Litman worked at Zalco Realty of Silver Spring.

A 1989 document (also available online) from the Office of Administrative Law Judges of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development indicates that Arnold K. Litman was debarred from participation in federal contracts for three years. This, the documents say, was after Litman pleaded guilty and was convicted in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on February 15, 1989, of false statements on six separate occasions in 1983 and 1984. Litman was "committed to the custody of the Attorney General for nine months for each of the counts, which were to run concurrently". He also received a $5,000 fine.

What steps have they taken so far?

The representative began his presentation by apologizing. He had left most of the relevant documents, which he was supposed to share with the committee, back at his office.

"Have you reached out to the building?" asked ZDP Committee Chair Leo Dwyer (commissioner for district 07). Winthrop House is in Dwyer's ANC District.

The representatives said that he, personally, had not, but the owners had. He had no details.

Was such a conversion possible under the bylaws of the Winthrop House condominium?

They would have to check the condo bylaws, the representative said.

"The bylaws will say what is allowed and what is not allowed," said Tom Bauer of the Dupont Circle Conservancy.

There would be no separate entrance to the proposed office. It would only be accessible by going through the lobby. Did the building have a concierge?

"They don't have a 24-hour concierge now, but they're heading towards one," the representative said.

The representative wanted the full ANC to consider the matter at its next full meeting, scheduled for tonight, July 9, at the Brookings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Avenue). He said he would try to get condo board support, check the bylaws, and get back to Dwyer before the Wednesday meeting, two days hence.

"Also reach out to the residents of the building," Dwyer told him.

Commissioner Stephanie Maltz (district 06) suggested someone from the condominium board should come to the ANC meeting.

Dwyer said the resolution at the meeting would recommend more communication with the condo board, and the establishment of a 24-hour concierge on the front door. Dwyer also said he might ask the BZA to delay their hearing on the matter, which is currently scheduled for July 27.

"It seems a little too much of a reach for a special exception," Dwyer said.

The BZA documents about this case are available for public inspection by going to the Interactive Zoning Information System and putting case number 18802 into the search bar.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

928 O Street: "Extinguish Your Torches and Put Away the Pitchforks"

"I think you need community feedback," said Walt Cain, representative for district 02 on Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle.

928 O Street last week
The draft agenda for the June 25 meeting of ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC) showed a late addition. The architects and developers of a new property to be built at 928 O Street NW, backing on to Naylor Court, wished the CDC to recommend endorsement of a modern-looking three-story grey box of a structure in a historic district, so the plan could go ahead to DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Neighbors, quite unhappy, had come to oppose the project.

Cain, who is also chair of the CDC, started off the segment of the meeting pertaining to this project with the request (see headline) about torches and pitchforks. He told the meeting that, contrary to the posted agenda, the petitioners, Brook Rose Development and McGraw Bagnoli Architects, had come to make a preliminary presentation only. No HPRB request was imminent.

"The building is non-contributing," added Commissioner Greg Melcher (district 06), in whose district the building is located. When a building is "non-contributing", it means that, although it is located in a historic district, it is not deemed to have particular architectural merit.

Architect David Lee Bagnoli presented. He told the committee that the property abuts a two-story house on the east, and a vacant lot on the west.

Melcher said the neighbor to the west considered the "vacant lot" to be his side yard.

The developers are limited to a building of three stories, forty feet high. Their proposal is for a three-unit building. One unit would have two levels, a second three, and the third unit would be in the basement.

"It looks really massive," Melcher said. "Nothing else on the street looks like that."

The initial concept is a grey box with a glass bay on the front.

"We thought a light grey would be an appropriate color," the presenter said. "We're open to discussion on the color."

The property also backs onto Naylor Court. The proposal had a wall with a roll-up door facing the alley.

"A roll-up door won't fly," a committee member said. There were two roll-up doors on the alley already. Committee members advocated some type of structure facing onto the alley, but the presenters noted that the total footprint of two buildings would likely put the project over the maximum lot occupancy allowed under zoning regulations. The committee continued to urge a structure on the alley.

There wasn't much the committee liked about the project.

"I don't think you're heading in the right direction on this," a committee member said.

"Yours looks like a pop-up," another said.

After the committee was done, the floor was open to members of the community, who were equally unenthusiastic about the project, objecting especially to its scale.

Further discussion of the project was on and was then taken off the agenda of the next meeting of ANC2F, scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, July 9, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle)

The project requires HPRB approval because it is located in the Blagden Alley/Naylor Court Historic District.

See a summary of the entire June 25 CDC meeting prepared by ANC2F here.

See coverage of this same presentation by real estate blog Urban Turf, with pictures of the proposed designs, here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

1820-1822 Jefferson Place: Long-delayed Expansion to Move Forward

It was seen by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) in 2009 and got approval from the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) in 2010, but the project to expand 1820-1822 Jefferson Place NW is only now under contract. So it was necessary for the owners to go back to HPRB for review. They also had to request that the BZA extend the special exceptions they had received for rear yard requirement and lot requirement, which had expired in May 2014.

From HPRB case document
So, attorney Cynthia Giordano of Saul Ewing LLP had to visit the June 11 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle to request a letter stating the ANC had no new objections to the project. The ANC had endorsed it several years ago.

The two addresses are actually a single conjoined office building. They were separate buildings when built 125 years ago and still have two separate entrances.

The proposal is to build a six-story (plus basement) office building to the rear of
the historic building. There will be not effort to make the addition blend into the existing structure -- it will look like a different building.  

The property today
The ANC unanimously agreed to accept the project as presented, except to agree with a recent recommendation by the Dupont Circle Conservancy that the proposed roof decks on the structures be set back.

According to BZA documents, special exceptions were granted for insufficient rear yard setback and for failure to provide sufficient parking spaces given the increase in the size of the building. Rear yard setback was granted in part with the rationale that considerations of privacy, light, and air to the neighbors to the rear were not important in this case, as the buildings to the rear are not residential. They are office buildings or buildings converted to retail uses, like nightclubs or liquor stores.

According to zoning regulations, the developers should have to provide nine parking spaces. They will only provide three. The parking exception was given on the rationale that additional parking could not be provided without substantial hardship to the developers, meaning, they would have to excavate in a small space underneath a historic structure.

See the letter that ANC2B sent to the BZA and HPRB endorsing this project here.

See the HPRB report on this project here.

The documents concerning this project's zoning application can be viewed by following this link and putting case number 18064 into the case bar.

ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee will have its regular monthly meeting tonight, July 7, 7pm, at the Dupont Circle Resource Center (9 Dupont Circle). On the agenda will be the controversial project by St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church (1772 Church Street) -- see most recently the SALM blog post of June 27.