City Paper Widget

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Interview with Charlie Bengel, Candidate for ANC2F District 06

This is a written interview with Charlie Bengel, who is running for Commissioner of district 06 in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle. It is the only race in ANC2F that will have two candidates on the ballot -- see SALM blog post of August 11.

(From ANC2F's website)
Bengel's opponent is Danielle Pierce. Read an interview with Pierce here.

District 06 is the easternmost district in ANC2F. It included Blagden Alley and Naylor Court. It extends through Shaw and down to Mount Vernon Square. The Washington Convention Center is in this district. It is the green box on the right of the map at right.

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

– Where can voters go to learn more about you?

First, thanks David, for allowing me to answer your questions and publishing your blog. It’s a great resource for residents who cannot make the ANC meetings.

A bit about me: I was born in Fairfax and grew up in Florida, returning to the DC area over 15 years ago to work in the family real estate business, where I am now the CEO. I am privileged to lead a top 50 real estate company in the US with nearly 500 agents and employees working in offices in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. A few years ago I was named a 40 Under 40 Business Leader by Washington Business Journal and, earlier this year, to the prestigious Top 200 US Real Estate Leaders list by the Swanepoel organization. Once elected, I will be the only Commissioner in 2F to own a business (three District locations; one in Shaw), which makes me uniquely qualified for the position of Commissioner since so many of the Commission's duties intersect with small business owners.

In the community, I previously volunteered as an Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) reserve officer for a number of years, which gave me a unique perspective on crime, its prevention and the importance of an active citizenry in crime reduction. I also continue to mentor high school students as a volunteer mentor and have been assisting my condo board with the large Marriott development that is proposed behind our building.

Additionally, I have raised nearly $750,000 for Children's Hospital in the District through my leadership position in my company and our generous agents, staff and community.

To learn more and follow my campaign, voters can check out,, and I also urge voters to email me at Charlie (at) as I very much would like to meet voters for coffee and discuss community concerns and ideas.

– What's your position on recent attempts by the DC government to limit conversions of single-family homes into multi-unit residences?

This is a very complex issue as it deals with affordable housing, private property rights, the original intent of the R-4 zoning designation and the simple fact that most people do not want new development next door.

Currently, R-4 allows for up to two units per building and I do not believe that adding two more would drastically change a neighborhood as long as any addition fits in with the character of the neighborhood. We have all seen what appear to be aesthetically pleasing pop-ups and pop-ups that clearly do not fit within the character of the neighborhood.

The reality of housing demand is that the units priced lower are much more in demand and affordable to younger professionals - typically those moving into the city. If that housing stock can be increased without destroying the characteristics of a neighborhood, I am supportive.

Lastly, the Office of Planning needs to proactively plan! Instead of a patchwork of rules made to deal with a particular issue, the city needs real planning in order to deal with current and future housing needs. As this occurs and allows for the development of housing that is needed, the row home issue can be readdressed.

– In June, Ward 2 City Councilmember Jack Evans went before ANC2F and suggested a liquor license moratorium might be appropriate for the area. What do you think about Evans' suggestion, and about liquor license moratoriums in general?

Instead of a blanket moratorium, I’d prefer to deal with bad actors on an individual basis. Most of the liquor license holders are good business people and neighbors and we should be encouraging growth of businesses that the community wants. That said, I believe that the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) needs to improve when it comes to aggressively dealing with businesses that are an ongoing nuisance to the community.

– After local businesspeople came before the ANC this year to plead for better parking, ANC2F proposed a study for a parking lot on S Street, on a property located in ANC1B but abutted ANC2F. The proposal was quickly shot down by S Street residents and ANC1B. How can ANCs facilitate a response to chronic parking problems that will be satisfactory to the different neighborhood constituencies?

Parking in an urban area is always challenging and there are no easy answers. However, I do not think that the government building or providing a facility for parking is the answer. Let's recall that the city spent $40 million on a taxpayer-funded garage for DC USA. At one point, due to lack of use, the garage was losing $100,000 a month. I do think the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) should study parking rates, as District meter rates are quite inexpensive when compared with the most expensive rates in the country. I'd also like to see a graduated fee program studied, similar to demand-based pricing on express lanes in Virginia. Regardless, parking will remain an issue and, with the public transit options we have, including Metro, the Circulator, Capital Bikeshare, Uber and the like, customers should try to leave cars at home whenever possible.

Also regarding parking, I am in favor of the renewing the visitor parking permit program for ANC2F as it allows residents to let friends and contractors park when they visit.

– ANC2F was sued last year in connection with a far-reaching Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request which required Commissioners to divulge information from their personal email accounts. Should Commissioners be compelled to divulge such information? How can a proper balance be struck between a Commissioner's personal affairs and the need for transparency in government decisions?

Without commenting on the merits of this particular suit, I believe that Commissioners are compelled to follow FOIA requests. Commissioners should also use a separate email account, ideally the account provided by the city, for commission business.

– There was recently a proposal to allow churches and private businesses to be eligible for ANC grant money. Do you think churches and business should receive these grants? Why or why not?

First, I think it is great that ANC 2F has a plan to deal with surplus cash instead of hoarding it like some other ANCs do.

I think that businesses and churches can, and often, do good work in our community. If the businesses and churches can articulate that the money will be used for non-commercial and non-religious use, I am supportive. I am also supportive of the grant program to encourage property owners to install cameras, as these cameras have been integral in the apprehension of criminals.

– Is there anything I should have asked but didn't?

In the next few years we will continue to see massive growth within 2F06, much of which will take place in Blagden Alley and the parcel between L & M Streets along 9th St NW. My front window faces Blagden Alley, and I drive past the proposed Marriott development every time I leave the parking garage. The community needs an advocate during the planning and construction process of all of the planned development, large and small, and I will be that advocate.

The development proposals discussed above, along with the upcoming “The Colonel” apartment building, could add 500 residents and 500 hotel rooms in ANC 2F06 alone. With this will come more activity, retail and likely raise property values. Unfortunately there will also be increased parking issues, noise and other nuisances.

Regarding those nuisances, I feel strongly that an ANC Commissioner should be the primary liaison between residents and city agencies and other elected officials. If a resident calls 911 or 311 and does not receive a solution to his or her problem, the Commissioner should step in and do everything possible to get to resolution, all the while communicating promptly with all parties. As a resident, I have already had numerous quality of life issues (illegal parking, illegal dumping, potholes, crime, missing parking signs, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) permitting confusion, etc.) addressed by the city and I look forward to continuing that progress as Commissioner.

End of interview

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 4. Thanks to all candidates for responding to my questions.

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