City Paper Widget

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 14 (The Smell of Death)

This is the fourteenth 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 13: The Smell of Death

Late 1989: "The corner of 14th and Rhode Island, ten blocks from the White House on the northern edge of the central business district, was safe enough by day but dicey after dark. Crack dealers peddled their wares hand-to-hand on 14th Street, and the Ramada was getting a reputation for drug busts and overdoses" (Kindle location 4019).

Marion Barry often met Charles Lewis, the black-sheep scion of a prominent US Virgin Island family, at the Ramada near 14th and Rhode Island to smoke crack cocaine. After Lewis attempted to entice a maid in his room with the promise of drugs, police moved in for an arrest.

"The hotel manager was having lunch in a dining room facing the foyer when Mayor Barry strolled by and waved. He didn't want the mayor mixed up with the drug bust, quickly radioed to the detectives, and aborted the undercover operation. Barry continued to room 902, smoked crack, and left with a few rocks" (l. 4045).

"The [Washington] Post, still scrambling for details, carried a low-key story the next morning on the Metro page. The lead flatly stated that police had abruptly cancelled a drug bust at the hotel. In the third paragraph, it mentioned that Barry had been visiting the guest in that same room" (l. 4058).

Barry called Post reporters into his office to tell the reporters that he was liable to be set up by drug dealers. He also attempted to contact police officers who were questioning Lewis. The officers refused to take Barry's calls.

On December 29, US Attorney for the District of Columbia "Jay Stephens announced that he had ordered a full grand jury probe of the Ramada Inn incident" (l. 4127), and "asked the mayor to testify before the grand jury on January 5 [, 1990]" (l. 4168).

Barry hired some good lawyers and the testimony went smoothly. In a one-on-one meeting, he swore to the editor of the Post that he did not do drugs. The business community made statements that indicated they still supported Barry.

On March 3, the FBI arrested Charles Lewis in the Virgin Islands for attempting to sell twenty-five rocks of crack to an undercover agent. He was held on $200,000 bond.

"The mayor carried on his antidrug crusade and held a rally that week at Potomac Gardens, a notorious public housing project plauged with drugs and violence just twelve blocks from the Capitol. As Barry walked through the project parking lot, someone hung a banner from a top-floor window: 'Mayor Barry, try some of our crack' " (l. 4263).

Barry's staff and friends, plus members of the City Council, tried to convince Barry not to run for another term -- unsuccessfully.

Meanwhile, two DC police officers, Al Arrington and Jim Pawlik, led the local investigation against Barry. They started to pressure businessmen and contacts on the fringes and worked their way in. Charles Lewis was indicted on cocaine possession charges and perjury. He was eventually jailed. The trail also led to Barry's lover Rasheeda Moore, who perjured herself during testimony about Barry's drug use, then moved to Los Angeles.

The drumbeat of drugs-and-sex stories gave Congressional opponents of District free rein to cut back local autonomy at every turn. "DC Delegate Walter Fountroy... was widely considered to be ineffectual and even at times damaging to the city cause" (l. 4395).

"In effect, home rule, the city, and Marion Barry were inextricably tied, a sad irony in that Barry had had very little to do with passage of the home-rule charter in 1973. Now he was dangerously close to giving Congress an excuse to take it away" (l. 4398).

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, August 28, 2014

1727 Massachusetts Avenue: Show You've Consulted the Neighbors and the ANC Will Support You

CORRECTION: In the original headline and first sentence, I incorrectly gave the address as 1717 Massachusetts Avenue. Apologies for the mistake.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle has reversed itself on a zoning variance request for 1717 1727 Massachusetts Avenue NW. ANC2B now supports the requested zoning variance. The decision came at ANC2B's regular monthly meeting on August 13.

Coming soon: office space in the basement
The zoning variance would enable the owner of a basement unit in the building to legally rent out the unit as office space. The unit functioned as a kind of
handyman's workroom at one time -- it has two rooms and a bathroom, but no kitchen. It has been the home of some kind of small business for over a decade, although strictly speaking the owner did not have authorization to use it in this way. The owner decided he wanted to rent out the office space to some kind of white-collar professional. He discovered he needed a zoning variance to do so.

Previously, the ANC voted to protest the zoning variance application. The ANC felt the other members of the condo community had not been consulted, so it voted to ask DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) to delay the hearing.

At the August 13 meeting, the unit owner, Arnie Litman, appeared before the ANC. He said that the condo bylaws had been reviewed. There was nothing in the bylaws that prohibited the conversion. Other members of the condo association were also notified and given opportunity to protest. None did.

The ANC voted unanimously to endorse the request for a special exception.

See a copy of the letter that ANC2B sent to the BZA here.

This request was also the subject of SALM blog posts on July 9 and July 14.

The documents in this case can be reveiwed by entering case number 18802 into the search bar of the BZA's Interactive Zoning Information System.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Logan Circle Condominium Offered $500,000 for Air Rights, Some Want More

The owners' association of the Zenith Condominium (1439 1437 Rhode Island Avenue NW) has been offered $500,000 by an abutting developer for the right to build seven stories of condominiums over the Zenith's driveway. According to one person familiar with the offer: "Several owners are very unhappy with the proposed deal."

Worth half a million?
They feel the condo association should hold out for more money.

The owners' association has hired its own evaluator. The evaluator is scheduled to return an opinion in the next week.

The counter-party in the agreement are representatives of Madison Investments, who is planning to build an eight-story residential condominium at 1427-1429 Rhode Island Avenue, directly to the east of the Zenith Condominium. They hope to get the deal done before September 15.

According to a document circulated at an August 7 meeting of Zenith Condominium unit owners, in exchange for the $500,000 dollars, the Zenith condo owners will agree to sell 1,151 square feet of driveway area on the east side of the Zenith property and "grant... a seven-foot wide 'light and air' easement along the entire east property boundary".

In return, the developers of the new condo will "grant Zenith Association a perpetual, exclusive easement for the use of a gated, covered street-level vehicular accessway".

Over the accessway will be seven stories of residential space. The space above the accessway on each floor will be part of a two-bedroom apartment that will extend into the lot that the developers already own, according to drawings by the developers.
See the drawings (particularly, page 7 of 13), which were submitted to Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle in March, here.
The historical preservation aspects of the project were approved by ANC2F at its meeting of April 10.

The blog District Source published articles about the progress of this development on March 29, April 14, and April 30.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Poor Attendance Records of Some ANC1B Commissioners Documented

Sedrick Muhammed (district 03) of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street is running for re-election this year. He attended 57% of Commission meetings during the last two year term.

Dyana Forester (district 06) is also running for re-election. She attended 67% of ANC1B's meetings in the last two years.

from (Used by permission)
This is some of the data posted by Nick Baumann, chair of ANC1B's liquor-licensing affairs committee, on his blog August 19 -- see image at right. In the image, the red blocks represent occasions when the commissioner missed the meeting. Green blocks are when the commissioner attended. White blocks are when the seat was vacant.

Habitual absences have recently gotten ANC1B some unwelcome publicity after unsuccessful attempts to achieve a quorum on July 10 and July 17. As a result of the lack of quorum, ANC1B was unable to protest the renewal of the liquor license of Signature Lounge (1920 9th Street NW). The Washington City Paper also reported the ANC's inaction might result in a failure to protest the liquor license of New Town Kitchen & Bar (1336 U Street), an establishment which "has not complied with previously agreed-upon noise-mitigation actions." However, in this case DC's liquor-licensing authorities agreed to "grandfather in" an ANC1B protest from last year.

Two other commissioners who are serving a full term on the present board are running for re-election. One is Juan Lopez (district 07). He has attended 76% of the ANC's meetings. The other is ANC Chair James Turner (district 09). He has -- according to the chart -- attended 20 meetings out of 21, or 95%. However, as noted below, I believe Turner missed one meeting he is credited with attending.

Two commissioners who won places on the ANC in uncontested special elections this year are running for re-election. They are: Mark Ranslem (3 meetings attended from 5, 60%) and Allyson Carpenter (2 out of 3, or 67%).

Of the other commissioners, the worst attendance record is Commissioner Deborah Thomas (district 04). Thomas attended only 33% of meetings, according to Baumann's chart, and missed 12 monthly meetings in a row.

There are two small pieces of information in the table above which, I believe, are incorrect:
  • The table indicates that Commissioner Ricardo Reinoso (district 05) is running for re-election. Reinoso has announced at an ANC1B meeting that he is not seeking re-election -- see SALM blog post of July 23. Reinoso has the best attendance record of ANC1B.
  • The table indicates that Commissioner James Turner (district 09) was present for the December 2013 meeting, at which the ANC failed to achieve a quorum. According to my records, Turner was not present for this meeting -- see SALM blog post of December 9, 2013.

Baumann's chart also does not show the occasions when commissioners were significantly late. For example, Commissioner E. Gail Anderson Holness (district 11) showed up 90 minutes late for both the December 2013 and February 2014 ANC meetings, missing several votes. She appears on the chart above as "present". Holness is running for election as Ward One candidate on the DC State Board of Education.

Baumann was selected to be chair of ANC1B's liquor licensing affairs committee at its February 7 meeting -- see SALM blog post of February 14.

See Baumann's tweet about this post here.

ANC1B, in addition to U Street, includes all or part of the following neighborhoods: Columbia Heights, LeDroit Park, Pleasant Plains, Shaw, University Heights, and lower Georgia Avenue.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 13 (Murder Capital)

This is the thirteenth 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 12: Murder Capital

Rayful Edmond's undisputed moment at the top of the drug-dealing heap was short-lived. By summer 1988, he faced two challenges -- one from locally-based Michael Salter (also known as Michael Frey or Fray) and the other from criminal gangs based in Jamaica via New York and Miami. The Jamaicans caused rival gangs to unite temporarily. Once the external threat receded, the gangs turned on each other.

"The number of murders shot up again in 1988 to set a record at 372. The rate of 60 killings per 10,000 residents put Washington ahead of Detroit as the murder capital of the nation. By comparison, New York's rate was 25. And it would get worse. On Valentine's Day 1989, 13 people were shot in one twenty-four-hour period" (Kindle location 3888).

"Eighty-nine percent of the victims were black; 96 percent of the assailants were black. Not one murder occurred in the white neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park" (i. 3893).

" 'I'm not going to take full responsibility for all these murders,' Mayor Barry told Newsweek magazine. 'The city government didn't import this drug into Washington' " (l. 3899).

"The public read about two separate car accidents, one in the dead of night. His chauffeur-driven car ran a red light and collided with a car driven by a radio reporter en route to work at 2 am. 'I'm just a night owl,' Barry said to explain his early morning meanderings" (l. 3913).

"At least half of the people killed were African-American males under the age of 25, and numbers of juveniles arrested on drug charges climbed from 1,111 in 1986 to 1,658 in 1987. In 1984 there were no children twelve or younger arrested for drugs; by 1987 there were 35. Twenty-five juveniles were charged with murder in 1988; 52 would be up on murder raps in 1989" (l. 3938).

"Barry's dissipation placed his young aides in a wrenching predicament. They were talented, honest, highly-motivated African-Americans. They felt indebted to Barry for his leadership in the civil rights movement. They believed that Barry and his comrades ... had changed the world and paved the way for their success. They also were totally committed to the notion that balcks could run the city government. It was their city" (l. 3953).

"Barry's staff became one more layer in the wall of silence that protected the mayor. But the wall had many more elements. Barry's friends kept their silence; his cocaine dealers never squealed; [then-wife] Effi Barry witnessed the damage and kept it to herself. The city watched Barry slur his speech, sweat profusely in cold room, stare from dilated eyes. Call them facilitators or enablers, to one degree or another, dozens of people were culpable. The whole town knew that the mayor was falling victim to drugs. 'What's the surprise?' an African-American cabdriver said one day. 'Everyone knows Marion's a street monkey who's addicted to cocaine' " (l. 3967).

"...[B]y the late summer of 1988, even Barry knew that he was in grave danger. Some friends who suspected Barry's addiction suggested he 'pull a Betty Ford' and check himself into a clinic for alcoholism. Some suggested he needed to take a real vacation and stop his party lifestyle. Barry was too proud and too scared politically to go public and check into a hospital. He decided to try to heal himself" (l. 3978).

He checked into the New Age Health Farm Spa in Neversink, New York.

"Barry's plan was to spend the week quietly and return to Washington refreshed and released from drugs and alcohol. But his insistance, for the first time, that a trip remain a secret raised suspicions in the press... Barry stationed two security guards in a New York City hotel for the week to distract reporters. Their bill, paid by taxpayers, exceeded $2,500" (l. 3995).

Barry went on a special diet and had colonic irrigation. After returning, he told the press in October that his health had improved: "I'm more controlled, more contemplative, more reflective, more caring" (l. 4005).

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.

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 12 (Crack Attack)

This is the twelfth 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 11: Crack Attack

The star of this chapter is Rayful Edmond III, "the capital's first cocaine king" (Kindle location 3475).

Edmond started as a street drug dealer. Starting in 1985, he built an wildly successful crime organization using members of his extended family and childhood friends. His first kilo of cocaine was a gift from his father, a small-time gambler. "With the profits from the first kilo, Edmond bought two more, and an empire was born" (l. 3509).

Edmond operated an open-air drug market on Orleans Place and Morton Place NE from his mother's home in Prince George's County. He favored expensive cars but was also a Robin Hood-figure.

"... He'd make sure neighbors had turkeys on Thanksgiving; he bought meals for the homeless, cars for his top staff, and clothes for his friends. He sponsored a basketball team in the Police Athletic League called 'Clean Sweep', the name of the police operation designed to get drug dealers off the streets" (l. 3556).

The unlikely love interest for the 22-year-old Edmond was 45-year-old white divorcee Alta Rae Zanville. Their first meeting:

"He ran into her one day in the summer of 1986 when he stopped by the Florida Avenue Grill for lunch. The restaurant at the corner of 11th and Florida... is Washington's most celebrated southern food diner. It was also the home of a fencing operation run by the owner's sons" (l. 3563).

"... Alta Rae Zanville was just what Edmond needed at the time. They may have had an affair, but he wanted her for business purposes. His drug-dealing money was piling up. He was not sophisicated enough to lauder the cash through businesses or hide it in foreign bank accounts" (l. 3578).

Zanville started by renting an apartment in Crystal City on Edmond's behalf. She went on to larger operations designed to hide Edmond's mountain of cash.

The media and government began to pay closer attention to drug abuse and dealing at this time, thanks in part to the death by drug overdose of Len Bias, a star basketball player at University of Maryland. But Edmond's business continued to thrive.

"At his peak in 1988, Rayful sat atop an organization of nearly 200 employees that moved an estimated $10 million to $20 million worth of cocaine and crack a month from Columbia..." (l. 3646).

Crack appeared in DC in 1986. "Adding crack to Washington dispossessed neigbhorhoods had the same effect as throwing a match into a bucket of gasoline. Crack tore through other cities, but its impact on the capital was far more destructive. From 1984 to 1987 the number of patients admitted to emergency rooms with with cocaine-related problems tripled, according to criminal justice reports. The number of adults who were arrested and tested positive for cocaine increased by 43 percent between 1984 and 1988." (l. 3652).

"...[C]rack was able to dominate the capital because the metropolitan police department was ill equipped, ill prepared, and morally corrupted by its commander in chief, Marion Barry" (l. 3657).

"Barry cut the number of police officers as soon as he could and kept reducing the force to a low of 3,612 in 1982. At the same time he kept slicing the police department's share fo the city's budget. When he took office the police department got 8.6 percent of the budget; by 1985 it was down to 6.5 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office" (l. 3666).

The police department operated on ancient equipment at shared desks. Top appointments went to Barry cronies or good police somehow beholden to Barry.

"Rayful Edmond was perfectly situated to take advantage of the coming age of crack. His organization was as slick and well run as McDonald's. Morton Place and Orleans Place became so crowded that on some days Edmond's lieutenants had to order customers to form lines that stretched 100 buyers long" (l. 3707).

"Any kind of serious response was more difficult when it became apparent that Marion Barry, the commander in chief, was on his way to becoming a pipe head" (l. 3710).

"No direct connection was ever established between Rayful Edmond III and Mayor Marion Barry, Jr., though there was the odd case of Edmond's beeper that turned up in Barry's possession..." (l. 3772).

Barry also continued to have a stormy relationship with Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore. At one point she refused his sexual advances. He accused her of infidelity.

"Moore denied it. Barry slapped her once. She slapped him back. His second blow knocked her to the floor. He stood over her.

'I haven't hit a woman in 20 years,' he said. 'You bring out the worst in a man. Just get out!' " (l. 3797).

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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New "Hyatt Place" Hotel on K Street: "Plain Vanilla" liquor license

1522 K Street, between Archibald's Gentlemen's Club and Fast Eddie's Sports & Billiards on one side and by the St. Regis Washington Hotel on the other, is presently a gutted shell, but some day the former office building will be a Hyatt Place Hotel. So Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle heard about plans to get a liquor license for the day when the space is habitable.

Not yet fit for habitation
"What we have here is a plain vanilla Class C license," said Michael Fonseca, attorney for future operators of the Hyatt Place. See an explanation of liquor license categories here.

Fonseca told the ANC the hotel would have 164 rooms. Like all hotels, it will be open 24 hours a day, but it would only be authorized to see alcohol between 8am and midnight. There will be five bar stools and 30 seats in the lobby where people might drink, plus there will be a 28-seat roof garden "for guests and private functions". The hotel will not seek an entertainment endorsement, so there will no music coming from the roof deck.

Previous reporting on the Internet says Alexandria architects Cooper Carry are helping Atlanta-based Songy Highroads LLC convert the former 91,000-square-foot office building into a hotel. Songy Highroads LLC bought the property in 2013 for an estimated $23.5 million dollars.

The protest period for the liquor license will continue until September 2, and the hearing on the liquor license will take place on November 5. See page 5 of 7 pages of liquor-license announcements here.

Since there are no residential neighbors, the liquor license application will probably experience little resistance. The ANC decided to take no action on the liquor license application.

"We've done our due diligence," said Commissioner Abigail Nichols (district 05). The hotel will be in Nichols' district.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Claudia's Steakhouse Liquor License Moves Forward

Eden Brown Gaines of Brown Gaines LLC came before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle on August 13 to speak about the proposed liquor license for Claudia's Steakhouse. The legal address for Claudia's Steakhouse is 1501 K Street NW, but it will actually be located on the 15th Street side of the building, in a space which formally held an American Express office.

Future entrance of Claudia's on 15th Street
Brown Gaines told ANC2B there would be 300 seats in the restaurant and it would seek an entertainment license. The restaurant would feature music, including "latin jazz".

About the liquor license for Claudia's Steakhouse, Brown Gaines said the owners had "started the process early". The restaurant will not open soon.

"The architect has just started the plans," she said.

The restaurant will appear before the ANC again because it wishes to serve in the public space on the sidewalk along 15th Street. Since public space use will not be happening during winter, it was estimated they would be back with this request in early 2015.

Claudia's Steakhouse will be in the district of Commissioner Abigail Nichols (district 05). Nichols recommended the ANC take no action on the request, meaning, neither endorse nor protest. Other members of the ANC agreed. In absence of an ANC protest, the liquor license will probably be issued. There seem to be no residential building nearby to generate protesting neighbors.

Claudia's Steakhouse will see regular (i.e., maximum) hours of operating, staying open until 2am Sunday through Thursday and 3am Fridays and Saturdays.

An DC government document here indicates objections to the application can be raised before September 8, and Claudia's Steakhouse will have a final hearing on their liquor license request on November 12.

Read a short report about Claudia's Steakhouse from DC City Paper's Young and Hungry blog here.

Claudia's Steakhouse will be operated by the Adams Restaurant Group,

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jack Evans Weighs in Against "Swann Dive" Tavern

CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION: As the commenter noted below, the August 6 Protest Hearing was open to the public. At the August 6 hearing (if I understand correctly), the Board decided to hold a further, closed meeting to deliberate before issuing a decision within 60 days. Apologies.

DC City Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward Two) has written a letter to DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) asking it to deny a liquor license for a new tavern planned at the corner of 18th and Swann Streets NW. Will Stephens, Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle, called the letter "highly unusual, because normally Council Members do not get involved in liquor license requests".

The tavern would be located in the basement
Stephens also wrote on his web site : "The only other time in recent memory that Council Member Evans sent such a letter was when we (the ANC) protested Marrakesh Palace (P Street) in their license renewal three years ago, when Marrakesh had different ownership and had been consistently problematic."

Stephens is also ANC Commissioner for district 08, in which the new tavern would be located.

The prospective tavern is currently named "Saloon 45", but the operator is petitioning to change its name to "Swann Dive". See a letter from David Stephens' attorney to ABRA in support of the name change here.

The prospective tavern operator is David Stephens (no relation to Will Stephens), who has a colorful history -- see SALM blog post of May 21. This blog post also reports on the May 19 decision by ANC2B to protest the liquor license application for this establishment.

Evans' letter in support of the protest is available here.

The official ABRA form documenting ANC2B's protest is available here. A similar form for a group of five neighbors is available here.

ABRA held a closed hearing about the matter on August 6, according to official records (see page 4 of a 22-page .pdf here), and will issue a decision within 60 days.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 11 (Boss Barry)

This is the eleventh 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 10: Boss Barry

With the sentencing of his long-time aide and friend Ivanhoe Donaldson to seven years in jail in December 1985, Marion Barry lost "the last person who could rein him in" (Kindle location 3045).

Meanwhile, problems mounted on all sides. A prominent homeless activist mounted a hunger strike. A Deputy Mayor resigned while under investigation for kickbacks. Prisons were overflowing. Massive protests about schools and jail were frequent.

"The government's mounting crises could have chastened Barry; instead he celebrated his fiftieth birthday as if he were a gangster. At one of two parties a stripper dressed as a policewoman popped out of a cake, handcuffed the mayor, and performed for the guests. 'Free at last,' Barry said as 'Officer Goodbody' removed the cuffs..." (l. 3066).

The unenviable task of restoring order fell to new chief of staff Carol Thompson. She did what she could: arranging aides and chaperones to accompany Barry, planting allies at public appearances, replacing alcoholic drinks with ginger ale. "Thompson realized within a few weeks that on many levels, starting with his schedule, Barry was controllable" (l. 3076).

In Barry's heart, the authors say, he yearned for the approval of both the white power structure and the city's black elite, but he believed this would never come. "The strut, the late entrances -- even the women and the drugs -- were an expression of that essential conflict between what Barry needed and what he knew he could never have" (l. 3090).

Around this time, Barry met Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore, a failed model and businessperson. "It was the beginning of a relationship that mixed sex and drugs" (l. 3112).

In 1986, Barry was easily re-elected. "The Republican party was powerless, in part because white conservatives shut out blacks. The local Democratic organization was an inept, petty debating society because Barry purged critics in 1979 and packed it with sycophants" (l. 3129).

"In other cities, politics was a way for ethnic minoirites to stake their claim to economic and political power, but Washington never developed a true local political class.... In Washington, congressional domination, disenfranchisement, and racism stunted the growth of homegrown politics. By the time an elective political ladder became available in the 1970s, ambitious black men and women who might have been interested in city government could command prestigious, well-paying job in the legal community, in the federal government, or in business. Municipal politics was a backwater" (l. 3141).

"The 1986 campaign turned into a besotted, drug-laden lark. Places in Barry's inner circle were taken by a fresh set of friends. The new crowd tolerated or encouraged the mayor recreational use of cocaine" (l. 3172).

But Barry was able to get big campaign contributions from Wall Street firms looking for a piece of DC's newly-established municiple-bond program. Since the campaign itself required little money, "Barry's campaign hired hundreds of low-level 'paid' volunteers to put on the semblance of a campaign. It was a private version of his summer jobs program" (l. 3181).

"Barry was doing so much cocaine during the campaign that he started having trouble coping with his daily schedule. It was at this time that he started taking Valium to bring him down from the cocaine. When the Valium proved too weak, he switched to Xanax, a stronger tranquilizer" (l. 3186).

Barry's opponent in the general election was Republican Carol Schwartz. Schwartz received no help from the national party. Barry got 61 percent of the vote, Schwartz 33. She lost everywhere but largely white Ward 3. White voters backed Schwartz over Barry, 76 percent to 15 percent.

January 1987 brought two blizzards totaling 26 inches of snow. Barry vacationed in California and watched the Super Bowl while the city failed to dig itself out.

"...[T]he city didn't actually know how many people were on the payroll. The 1988 census and an independent commission on budget and financial priorities put the count at 48,000 -- one worker for every 13 residents -- more government workers per capita than any other city or state government..." (l. 3240).

"...[T]he high cost and large number of workers didn't translate to high-quality service. Delivering a welfare check in the District consistently cost twice the national average, for example" (l. 3244). The book goes on to list many, many more instances of poor city services, including foster care, ambulance and fire, neonatal care, public housing and schools, with the poorest citizens often bearing the brunt of the city's ineptitude.

However, "[t]he African-American poor- and middle-class communities credited Barry with improving basic city services that most people take for granted: accurate water billing, street repair, garbage collection. These services didn't work totally efficiently, but they worked better than they had before" (l. 3294).

"From the African-American point of view, Barry had dramatically improved city services for the elderly and provided thousands of summer jobs for young people.... A typical black family might have one or two extended family members working for the city government, an elderly person in a city-subsidized home, a child in a summer jobs program, or a relative working either for the government or for a company that held city contracts" (l. 3307).

"...Barry's political machine was fueled by the fear in the black community that whites would take it all away if they could" (l. 3309).

In May 1987, a top Barry official named Larry Rivers was arrested in a 17-month-long sting operation. The arrest led to FBI raids on many friends and colleagues of Barry's, including a former girlfriend, Karen Johnson. After the raids, a TV reporter "obtained Johnson's private diary and disclosed the early 1980s sex and drugs spree that she had so carefully documented" (l. 3375).

Johnson had served "eight months in jail on contempt charges for not talking about the mayor's cocaine use with her in the early 1980s" (l. 3374).

Now, "Karen Johnson seemed to be a different person. With guidance from her attorney, G. Allen Dale, she told law enforcement authorities that she had received much as $25,000 from Barry's close associates.... The two businessmen first denied and then acknowledged giving money to Johnson..." (l. 3380).

Johnson resisted the blandishments of media heavyweights Katie Couric, Mike Wallace and Bob Woodward. She would not give interviews.

"Enough facts leaked from the Johnson affairs to paint a convincing picture for most Washingtonians that Barry used cocaine and tried to silence a potential witness. But for all the leaked details, graphic news accounts, and innuendo, [US Attorney Joseph DiGenova couldn't bring charges."

Barry marshalled allies for a counter-attack, including Cathy Hughes, owner and on-air personality of radio station WOL-AM. But he was soon fighting on another front as his then-wife, Effi, after a long period of avoiding the news media, gave a TV interview in which she criticized her husband's "indiscretions".

Despite promises to friends and supporters to change his ways, Barry took a vacation to the Bahamas in the company of women other than his wife. He was followed by a Washington Post reporter, who published details.

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, August 14, 2014

Heurich House Museum Needs Help Filing a Liquor License Application

The management of the Heurich House Museum (1307 New Hampshire Avenue NW) appeared before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle last night (August 13) to ask for help applying for a liquor license.

See Sunderland Place in the lower right
Many places that wish to sell alcohol have difficulty getting a liquor license. But Heurich House Museum (also known at "The Brewmaster's Castle") has not yet even reached this step. It is having trouble getting a liquor license application from DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). The reason is that the authorities believe that the Heurich House Museum is in the West Dupont liquor license moratorium zone.

It is not in the moratorium zone -- see map, taken from ABRA's web site. The Heurich House Museum is on the southeast side of New Hampshire Avenue, at the corner of 20th Street and Sunderland Place. The border of the moratorium zone runs down the center of New Hampshire Avenue, in front of the museum.

So, the management was in front of the ANC, asking for a resolution supporting Heurich House's request for a liquor license application, on the basis that it was not, in fact, located inside a liquor license moratorium zone.

Heurich House Museum is seeking a C/X class license, which "[p]ermits multipurpose facilities to sell and serve beer, wine and spirits", according to ABRA's web site. This will allow Heurich House Museum to hold regular beer-tasting events in partnership with local breweries. Until now, they have had to rely on the liquor licenses of the companies which cater the events, which is often inconvenient.

Assuming ANC2B's resolution successfully convinces ABRA to allow Heurich House Museum to have an application form for a liquor license, the Museum will have to return again in the near future to the ANC for a separate endorsement of the actual application.

The vote was unanimous, with all the commissioners present voting to support Heurich House Museum.

Section 23-307 of DC Municipal Regulations concerns the West Dupont liquor license moratorium zone. Find a link to the text of Section 23-307 here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Should Churches or Private Businesses Receive ANC Grant Money?

Martin Moulton, a Shaw community activist, is shopping an idea to Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs). The idea is that ANC grant funds should be used to help local organizations -- especially churches and businesses -- install outward-facing security cameras on their buildings. The security camera footage could be of use to police when crimes take place in the vicinity.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So far, Moulton has attempted to interest ANC 2F/Logan Circle and 6E/Shaw in the idea. He has prepared a model grant form. But he cannot get the ANCs to commit to even considering the applications, because the grant application process is designed to benefit non-profit community groups and secular organizations only.

ANC2F Commissioner Peter Lallas (distrcit 01) brought up Moulton's proposal at the ANC's last regular monthly meeting on August 7. (Lallas is chair of ANC2F's Crime and Public Safety Committee.)

ANC grants are supposed to be for projects that produce a public benefit. It was agreed at the meeting there could be sufficient public benefit to security cameras that monitored public spaces, no matter where they were located.

However, ANC2F must first change its bylaws, because as presently written a church or a private business might not quality. The by-laws say that ANC2F "may approve grants only to citizens groups that are public in nature".

It was argued at the meeting that churches are public in nature, because anyone can walk into a church.

Gottlieb Simon of DC's Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions was present at the August 7 meeting. He confirmed the obvious fact that grant money could not be used to further religious activity. Outward-facing security cameras, however, were not a religious activity, so could be funded with ANC money, Simon said.

However, it was clear that private businesses could not, under any circumstances, qualify for a grant under the by-laws as they are currently written. Changing ANC2F's bylaws was discussed, but no proposal was put forward at the meeting.

Moulton told ANC2F he had not shopped the proposal to any area businesses yet, but would like to be in the position where he could.

ANC6E has also discussed this matter at a previous meeting but has not moved forward with a grant.

The discussion above is mentioned briefly in the summary of the meeting on ANC2F's web site here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

CORRECTED: Threat of Zoning Code Revision Delays Q Street House Sale, Expansion

CORRECTED (7AM, August 14): Ellen McCarthy, Acting Director of the DC Office of Planning, has made a comment (below) saying that this report is not correct. McCarthy says the Q Street project is a matter of right and is "continuing forward". The DC Zoning Administrator's Office is reviewing projects in R-4 zones and "not holding up approvals pending a decision by the Zoning Commission on the proposed changes".

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

The planned sale and expansion of a residential property at 1310 Q Street NW is being delayed while the DC Office of Zoning considers new regulations to limit conversions of single-family homes into apartment buildings. This was reported at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle committee meeting July 30. Helen Kramer, a member of a committee of ANC2F's Community Development Committee (CDC), also said "the DC Office of Zoning has decided to put a hold to all permits while it considers revisions to zoning code", according to a meeting summary posting on the ANC's website.
1310 Q Street (right) plus vacant lot to be developed

1310 Q Street, a row house, is on a double-wide lot zoned "R-4". The proposed changes would apply to all properties zoned R-4. (R-4 zones are primarily for single-family residences -- see definition here.) The changes would, among other things, reduce the height to which an R-4 zone property could be expanded "by right" (i.e., without seeking city permission) from 40 to 35 feet. The proposed changes also say a building cannot be converted from a single-family home to an apartment building if the building was built to be part of a residential row of houses.

See a copy of a memo about the zoning change proposal here. The proposed changes were discussed at an August 4 town hall meeting in ANC 1B/U Street -- see SALM blog post of August 5.

ANC2F has already considered the historic preservation aspects of the project (see SALM blog post of May 5) and gave the concept and massing of the project its blessing at the May 14 meeting of the full ANC. The project also met a generally favorable reception at the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) according to this May 22 memo, although the memo also said "more detailed drawings should be submitted for review" before the project could go ahead.

1310 Q Street is located in the 14th Street Historic District.

Monday, August 11, 2014

50% of Commissioners Running Unopposed in U Street, Dupont

12/16/14 NOTE: I have removed the name of the candidate who dropped out of the race for ANC1B district 10 per the candidate's request.

Half of the candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) seats in the 1B/U Street and 2B/Dupont Circle districts will be unopposed in November. Of the seven seats in ANC 6E/Shaw, only one district will have an unopposed candidate on the ballot.

On Friday (August 8), DC Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) released a list of candidates who had successfully filed petitions with 25 signatures or more. There will be a 10-day challenge period, during which registered DC voters can question the validity of the signatures that a prospective candidate has collected. DCBOEE will investigate signatures on a petition only if a registered voter files a challenge. Otherwise, it is assumed the signatures on the petitions are valid.

Below are the lists of candidates in ANCs 1B, 2B, and 6E, by district:

ANC 1B/U Street:

01: Brian Footer
02: Jennie Nevin, Ellen Nedrow Sullivan
03: Sedrick Muhammed (incumbent), Patrick Nelson
04: Kevin Cain
05: Nicholas Ferreyos
06: Dyana Forrester (incumbent), David Gilliard
07: Juan Lopez (incumbent), Jessica Laura Smith
08: Mark Ranslem (incumbent)
09: James Turner (incumbent, ANC Chair)
10: Allyson Carpenter (incumbent), [name removed per candidate's request]
11: Robb Hudson
12: Matt Abbruzzese, John Green

ANC 2B/Dupont Circle:

01: Mike Feldstein (incumbent)
02: Jonathan Padget, Daniel Warwick
03: Stephanie Maltz (incumbent)
04: Michael Upright
05: Jonathan Jagoda, Abigail Nichols (incumbent)
06: Mike Silverstein (incumbent)
07: Justine Underhill
08: Allison Fitzsimmons, Nicole Mann, Robert Sinners
09: Edward Hanlon, Noah Smith (incumbent)

ANC 6E/Shaw:

01: Alexander Padro (incumbent, ANC Chair), Mary Sutherland
02: Kevin Chapple (incumbent), Eugene Simms, Leroy Joseph Thorpe Jr
03: Kennith James, Frank Wiggins (incumbent)
04: Clyde Brown, Rachelle Nigro (incumbent)
05: Marge Maceda (incumbent)
06: Antonio Barnes, Alvin Judd (incumbent)
07: Alfreda Judd (incumbent), Rosemary Segero

If you are a candidate and I missed your website, or if you wish me to link to website other than the one above, please email me at shortarticlesaboutlongmeetings at gmail and I will change the link.

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

See here for a separate post about the candidates for ANC 2F/Logan Circle.

Two of Eight Logan Circle ANC Posts Have No Candidates

According to records released by DC's Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) on Friday (August 8), two of the eight districts in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle will have no candidates listed on the ballot. Apparently no one living in districts 03 and 07 was able to collect the required 25 signatures of registered voters and return them before the August 6 deadline.

It will be possible to write in names on the November ballot.

From ANC2F's website
The seats for districts 03 and 07 are currently held by Stephanie Dahle and Matt Raymond, respectively. Dahle recently won an uncontested special election. Her first ANC2F meeting as a commissioner was in May. Raymond is the Chair of ANC2F and has served several terms.

Three ANC2F incumbents filed a petition in time to appear on the November ballot -- Commissioner John Fanning (district 04), Jim Lamare (05), and Kevin Deeley (08). All three are running unopposed.

Only one district (06) has more than one candidate.

Here is a list of all the candidates for ANC2F seats who have filed petitions by district:

01: Katherine Gordon
02: Karin Berry
03: [no candidate]
04: John Fanning (incumbent)
05: Jim Lamare (incumbent)
06: Charlie Bengel, Danielle Pierce
07: [no candidate]
08: Kevin Deeley (incumbent)

If you are a candidate and I missed your website, or if you wish me to link to website other than the one above, please email me at shortarticlesaboutlongmeetings at gmail and I will change the link.

There is a "challenge period" for nominating petitions, which begins three days after a candidate files a petition, and continues for 10 days. During this period, any registered voter can challenge the validity of signatures on a petition. DCBOEE automatically accepts submitted petitions as valid unless there is a challenge.

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

See here for a separate post about the candidates for ANCs 1B/U Street, 2B/Dupont Circle, and 6E/Shaw.

Friday, August 8, 2014

ANC1B Achieves Quorum, Votes on Liquor License Matters

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street achieved a quorum last night (August 7) and engaged in a variety of routine business.

10 of 12 ANC Commissioners in attendance
A quorum was achieved at 7:20pm, 20 minutes after the announced start of the meeting, when Commissioner Marc Morgan (district 01) joined Commissioners Sedrick Mohammed (03), Dyana Forester (06), Mark Ranslem (08), ANC Chair James Turner (09), Allyson Carpenter (10), and Zahra Jilani (12). Within 25 minutes, they were joined by Commissioners Ricardo Reinoso (05), Juan Lopez (07), and E. Gail Anderson Holness (11).

Commissioners Jeremy Leffler (02) and Deborah Thomas (04) did not attend the meeting.

ANC Chair Turner said Leffler had moved out of the district but had not yet officially resigned his seat, so he still had to be counted toward a quorum.

ANC1B attempted to meet twice last month -- on July 10th and July 17th -- but could not muster enough commissioners for a quorum either time. 

As a result, the ANC was not able to officially register its planned protest against a renewal of the liquor license of Signature Lounge (1920 9th Street NW).

However, it was reported at the meeting that the ANC was able to officially protest the liquor license of New Town Kitchen & Bar (1336 U Street), even though the ANC failed to vote on the matter last month. ANC1B had voted to protest the liquor license a year ago, but the process had had administrative delays. DC's liquor licensing authorities accepted ANC1B's year-old protest as still valid.

ANC1B's attempts to protest the liquor licenses of Signature Lounge and New Town Kitchen & Bar were the subject of a July 23 article in Washington City Paper.

The ANC also voted unanimously on the following liquor-license related matters:
  • approval of a settlement agreement with Cloud Lounge (1919 9th Street) and M&I LLC (as-yet-unnamed establishment at 637 Florida Avenue)
  • endorsement of liquor license application for Hamiltonian Gallery (1353 U Street)
  • protest a liquor-license application for Merkato (1909 9th Street) on the basis of peace, order, and quiet. There have been many community complaints about Merkato, the contact phone number is disconnected, and the establishment has just this week been cited by DC authorities for operating outside of business hours. 
  • grant a stipulated liquor license to Right Proper Brewery so it may serve alcohol on their outside patio while waiting for their official paperwork for a permanent license.
The meeting took place in the basement of the Walker Memorial Baptist Church (2020 13th Street). ANC1B's next scheduled meeting is on Thursday, September 4. The location has not yet been announced.

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 10 (White Power)

This is the tenth 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 9: White Power 

On February 23, 1985, Marion Barry attended the swearing-in of the new US Attorney-General, Edwin Meese III. "The new attorney general was trying to blunt his image as a rightwing ideologue who was insensitive to blacks. For his part, Barry thought that it enhanced his power to be seen with the nation's new chief law enforcement official. But Barry had an ulterior motive. He hoped that his mere presense ... might have some influence on the Justice Department investigation that was closing in on his closest political adviser and friend -- Ivanhoe Donaldson" (l. 2796).

Donaldson was appointed deputy mayor for economic development. "Donaldson used [the job] to wring cash from the government" (l. 2802). He forged signatures on checks. He directed city contracts to friends in return for cash. He produced doctored paperwork and got bank loans through the influence of developers who did business with the city. He continued to embezzle DC funds even after he got a job in private industry.

This same period saw the rise of Joseph E. DiGenova, then-US attorney for DC. His first successful prosecution, in 1984, was of Marion Barry's ex-wife Mary Treadwell, who got a three-year prison sentence, a $50,000 fine, and five years' probation for conspiracy in a case involving misappropriation of government funds.

Also in 1984, DiGenova's office indicted former Barry girlfriend Karen Johnson for selling cocaine. A previous boyfriend of Johnson told the FBI as part of the investigation that Johnson was selling cocaine to Barry. The boyfriend wore a wire, which recorded a conversation with Johnson "during which she discussed her cocaine sales to the mayor and other city officials" (l. 2869).

Eventually, Johnson pled guilty to drug-related charges and was sentenced to four months in prison. "As she walked out of the courtroom, prosecutors presented her with a subpoena ordering her to testify before the grand jury. DiGenova was still hoping that she would give up the mayor. His ultimatum: Testify or face a contempt charge and more prison time -- away from her infant son" (l. 2936). But Johnson refused to talk, and did the prison time.

DiGenova filed legal documents in the case that referred to "an individual" to whom Johnson sold cocaine to "on twenty or thirty occasions" (l. 2938). Unidentified sources told reporters that the individual was Barry. Barry denied the reports. Other reports of drug use by Barry surfaced, and were locked in the police department files of Barry-appointed officials.

Federal and DC officials continued to investigate Ivanhoe Donaldson, but he managed to get long-time friends and city government contacts to help cover up his embezzlement of city funds.

"Mayor Barry was campaigning in Minnesota for Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro at the end of August [1984] when The New York Times reported that the mayor was under investigation for perjury in connection with the Karen Johnson investigation" (l. 2976). Barry returned to DC and went on the offensive, charging that there was an offensive to discredit him because he was a successful black politician. He compared the charges against him to a lynching."

In January 1985, some of the friends who had been covering Ivanhoe Donaldson's tracks got cold feet and started to tell the truth. By December, Donaldson had pled guilty to stealing $190,000 in city funds, covering up the theft, and evading taxes. He was sentenced to seven years in jail and $127,500 in fines.

At a press conference, DiGenova said he was "very pleased" with the outcome.

" 'This is not an isolated case,' he declared. 'The system of controls in local government are not adequate....' " (l. 3021).

"The mayor said that he was 'shocked, surprised, and saddened' by Donaldson's guilt. He called the entire affair 'a tragedy'. He already had watched Karen Johnson go to prison in August 1984. A year later, Mary Treadwell exhausted her last appeal and left for her three-year term. Donaldson reported to the minimum-security prison in Petersburg, Virginia, a few weeks after his sentencing" (l. 3041).

Barry "had said privately a number of times that the only two people he could count on were [his then-wife] Effi and Ivanhoe. Now the mayor was almost alone" (l. 3043).

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, August 7, 2014

UPDATED: "Average Price Points" Bar Proposed for Former Ghana Cafe Space (1336 14th Street)

UPDATED: A tweet from Jamie Hess makes it clear that the new bar will be named "Crowbar".

The prospective co-owners of a bar to be located at 1336 14th Street NW came before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle last night (August 6) to brief on their plans. The space, between N Street and Rhode Island Avenue, is the former home of the Ghana Cafe, which closed in early June.

1336 14th Street yesterday
One of the prospective owners is Steve Zarpas, former proprietor of Crow Bar (which was located at K and 20th Streets and closed in 1998). The other is Jamie Hess, one of the operators of Ivy and Coney (which opened at 1537 7th Street in Shaw less than a year ago).

Zarpas and Hess told the ANC they were "lifelong residents" of DC. They wanted to alert the ANC and the community of their intentions before they signed a lease on the space, they said.

"We're professionals, decent honorable people," Zarpas said.

Speaking of the Ghana Cafe, Zarpas said: "Given the history of that restaurant, it's ripe for innuendos."

The Ghana Cafe was the subject of a long and contentious battle involving the ANC and a group of neighbors. The dispute led to the ANC being sued by one of the neighbors. The lawsuit is still ongoing.

Ghana Cafe had a restaurant-category liquor license, which obliges the owner to show he earned a certain percentage of revenue from food. If the new establishment wants a tavern license, they will most likely have to petition for a completely new license, instead of buying the liquor license of the Ghana Cafe.

"I'll be honest," Zarpas said. "It's definitely more of a bar."

The prospective owners told the ANC they wished to get a tavern license, but they intended to serve a full menu of "comfort food" at "average price points".

Zarpas said he was "astounded" at the $20 hamburgers routinely found at restaurants along 14th Street. He wished to open a place with more reasonable prices.

Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02) asked if they proprietors would have entertainment on the premises.

The prospective owners said their initial plan was to show sports on television. After opening, they said, they might consider renovating the basement and offering recorded music there.

James Kane, the neighbor of the former Ghana Cafe who brought the lawsuit, was present at the meeting. There was an opportunity for community comment after the presentation, and Kane asked about characterizations on the Internet that Crow Bar was a "biker bar".

Zarpas said that "biker bar" was "a mischaracterization", but it had been a hang-out for bike couriers and popular with the motorcycle enthusiasts who came to DC every Memorial Day weekend for the Rolling Thunder Rally.

"Is that a group that you are planning to target?" Commissioner Cain asked.

"We have no plans to target that community specifically," Zarpas said.

After the presentation, there was a short scheduled break in the meeting. Kane, Zarpas, and Hess had a seemingly amicable conversation in the hallway outside the meeting room.

The prospective owners did not say what name they planned for the bar. The ANC2F meeting agenda said the prospective business was named "Crowbar".

The briefing was strictly informational. There was no vote of any type taken on the proposed establishment. If the lease on the property is signed, the proprietors will have to return to the ANC for liquor-license related approval, and probably other matters as well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

1608 14th Street: Let's Talk Again When Everybody Is Back from Vacation

On July 30, the owner of 1608 14th Street NW was out of the country, and the architect was in Florida. Instead, they sent a tenant of the building -- Sak Pollert, co-owner of Rice Restaurant -- to the meeting of a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle.

Proposed addition to go here
1608 14th Street is located in the Fourteenth Street Historic District, so any exterior modification must get the approval of DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). The owner and architect propose to put a second story on the rear of the building. The proposed addition would not be visible from 14th Street but would be visible from Q Street.

The petitions hoped to get ANC endorsement of their request, but Pollert did not have enough information to adequately answer the questions the questions of ANC2F Community Development Committee (CDC).

"Your explanation has me more confused," a committee member said at one point.

Pollert emailed drawings of the project to the committee before the meeting, and brought hard copies to the meeting. Committee members said the drawings were not detailed enough and difficult to read. The committee could not tell how the new construction might look from the street or rear alley. So, CDC Chair Walt Cain (Commissioner for district 02) said the CDC would take no action until they could hear from more knowledgeable parties. No one on the committee objected to Cain's decision.

1608 14th Street from the front
Pollert was vague about the date of the HPRB hearing on the matter. An HPRB document shows the matter was on the agenda for one of the Board's July meetings. One of these meetings was scheduled for July 24 (a week before the CDC meeting), the other was scheduled for July 31 (the day after the CDC meeting).

The committee asked about outreach to the community. Pollert said the building's owner had met with the president of a neighboring condo and also with the management of the abutting Ghibellina Restaurant (1610 14th Street). But Pollert didn't have any information on the content of the meetings.

"We have not gone through the community," he said.

Pollert reported that the purpose of the proposed addition was residential. A roof deck on the second floor was also part of the plan.

The tone was amicable. Everyone seemed to agree that Pollert was just the messenger and not responsible for the inadequacy of the presentation. Committee members seemed to think the project was likely not to be controversial and could have a favorable reception if properly presented.

Pollert was advised to tell the owner and architect to reach out to the community and come back with improved drawings.

"We need to have a back-and-forth," one committee member said.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Joint ANC Town Hall Pushes Back Against Density

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 1A/Columbia Heights and 1B/U Street hosted a joint town hall last night (August 4) to discuss legislation that will push back against increased density in residential districts. The primary front in the offensive is a proposal by the DC Office of Planning which would, among other things, reduce the height to which a residential-district home can grow "by right" from 40 feet to 35 feet. The second front is the passage into law of a long-brewing idea: the creation of "conservation districts", sort of a "historic district lite".

DC government presenters were Jennifer Steingasser, Deputy Director for Development Review and Historic Preservation at the Office of Planning, and Steve Callcott, senior preservation planner in the Historic Preservation Office (HPO).

DC Office of Planning logo
Office of Planning Proposal 

Steingasser briefed on an Office of Planning proposal (Case Number 14-11, a nine-page .pdf document here) to limit both pop-ups as well as conversions of rowhouses to multi-family units.

The proposed new regulations would apply to houses in R-4 zones. R-4 zones are zones largely of single-family residential houses. Much of the area south of U Street NW between 14th and 7th Streets is an R-4 zone, as is much of the area north of Clifton Street between Georgia and 14th.

The proposed regulations would
  • reduce the height to which houses could be expanded "by right" (i.e., without applying for zoning permission) from 40 feet to 35 feet (measured from the sidewalk)
  • allow height up to 40 feet if the homeowner has obtained a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA)
  • place severe restrictions on the circumstances under which a rowhouse could be converted into an apartment house.
Steingasser said this proposal stands apart from the general DC zoning rewrite. The period during which the public will be allowed to comment on this matter will stay open after the comment period for the general rewrite is closed.

During the post-presentation Q-and-A session, Steingasser was asked for a possible timeline for adoption, assuming the proposal were "accepted on a reasonable schedule". Steingasser said it was possible there would be public hearings in late October or early November, after which there would a mandatory 30-day Federal government review period. Final action could potentially take place "by the end of December".

Historic Preservation on Conservation Districts

Steve Caldcott reported that the idea of conservation districts was moving forward. The legislation is still in draft form, Caldcott said, but he expected the legislation to be "wrapped up this month" and ready for presentation to the DC Council this fall.

A conservation district would be similar to a historic district, but the level of protection for buildings would be lower. Once a conservation district had been established, however, any proposed demolition or major alteration of a building would have to come before the HPO. Additions to a building that "fundamentally expand" a building would also be subject to review. Front alterations would also be investigated by HPO, but Caldcott said the office would not get into as much detail as they might in a full-fledged historic district. Finally, all new construction would be subject to review.

A community would have to petition to be considered a conservation district, in much the same way as areas today petition to be historic districts.

After Caldcott and Steingasser presented, people attending were asked for a show of hands, for or against the proposals. The vote passed too quickly to count hands, but my impression was that 75-90% of the audience was in favor.

The emcee for the evening was ANC1B Commissioner Mark Ramslem (district 08). ANC Chairs Kent Boese (ANC1A Commissioner for district 08) and James Turner (ANC1B Commissioner for district 09) also spoke, as did Commissioner E. Gail Anderson Holness (ANC1B district 11). 

"Should this go forward, it would effect the community in a significant manner," Kent Boese said.