City Paper Widget

Friday, September 19, 2014

Interview with Danielle Pierce, Candidate for ANC2F District 06

This is a written interview with Danielle Pierce, 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)
Pierce's opponent in the race is Charlie Bengel. An interview with Bengel appeared yesterday.

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?

There is a lot of information about me here. But, as a quick summary, I have been a part of the Ward 2 community for my entire adult life. I graduated from the George Washington University and GW Law, and I have worked in this neighborhood for the past 20 years. I became a homeowner in 2F06 10 years ago, and I have since spent a lot of time working to help the community. I love my neighborhood. It gives me great pride to have played a part in the incredible improvements in the area. I would love to continue this work as the ANC2F 06 Commissioner. As Commissioner, not only will I work to ensure that the revitalization continues in a sustainable fashion, but I will work to instill more of a sense of community here. I plan to hold regular single member district meetings to ensure that everyone has a voice, and I would be happy to come to condo board and other neighborhood meetings to update and seek input from those who may not have the time to attend the ANC meetings. If you have any questions, please email me at

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

I believe this issue needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Each block in our neighborhood has a different character. Some blocks are now filled with mostly multi-floored, multi-unit buildings with one or two very large houses in the middle. Some of these are vacant and in desperate need of renovation. In those instances, it wouldn't make any sense to require that these houses be kept as five or six bedroom single-family homes. But there are other instances in which a block may be filled with all smaller single-family homes and the conversion of one of these homes to a multi-unit building would affect the character of the block dramatically. In these instances, it may be wise to require that the building remains a single-family home.

Thus, although it is sometimes nice to have broad rules to shortcut decision-making processes, I don't believe that this is an instance where such broad-brushed rulings would be appropriate.

-- In June, Ward 2 City Councilmember Jack Evans went before ANC 2F 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?

I am not aware of the context of Councilmember Evans’ suggestion, but I am generally opposed to liquor license moratoriums.

I have seen how they can completely stunt the growth of a neighborhood. For example, a few years back, Cleveland Park was seemingly on the verge of a renaissance with a bunch of new restaurants drawing people to the area. But many of the storefronts remained underutilized because of the liquor license moratorium, leaving many vacant properties between the attractions. I think that these manufactured holes in the commercial strips were a significant cause of the loss of momentum, and now several of the prized restaurants - such as Palena and Dino - have had to close or relocate to other, more welcoming, areas.

ANC2F has some amazing commercial strips that are thriving. As explained in a City Paper article earlier this year, "The more restaurants there are within close proximity, the more the neighborhood becomes a destination where diners quickly fill streets and crowd bar stools." I understand that there are some types of restaurants and bars that we may not want to proliferate (and a few local ones that we may want to go away), but I believe that our single member district is actually attracting the exact type of restaurant that will make our neighborhood better.

Only a few years ago, there was very little in the immediate neighborhood aside from the treasure of El Rinconcito. Then Tom Power took the leap and opened one of the best restaurants in the city here, Corduroy. Then RJ Cooper followed suit with Rogue 24. These men, helped by the Brown brothers down the street (Passenger, Columbia Room, Hogo, Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency) put this neighborhood on the dining map. Others have been following, and now we are lucky to have Thally, Table, Baby Wale, La Columbe, Seasonal Pantry’s Supper Club, A&D, Sundevich, Cher Cher (which is my favorite Ethiopian at the moment; give it a try if you haven't yet), and so many other great places that have opened, and many great chefs are planning to move in soon. These are exactly the type of small businesses that we want in our neighborhood, and I want them to survive, both because I think that they are good for our neighborhood, and because I personally enjoy them. Moreover, without those restaurants, the storefronts would be dark at night, and the area would be less safe.

Thus, I do not think a liquor license ban would be good for our neighborhood at this time. On the other hand, I think that applications should be reviewed carefully every time they come up and when there are problems, so that we can avoid or get rid of neighborhood nuisances.

-- 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 is, and will continue to be, an issue here. There is no way around that. This just isn't the easiest area to park. But many residents are getting around that by using other methods of transportation. We should encourage that and make it as easy as possible. We should increase the access to Capital Bikeshare, ensure that bike lanes are safe and respected, provide more bike racks, and allow easy access to shared cars and rides. I have experience working with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) on these types of issues as the founder of the Transportation Committee for my child’s charter school, and I would like to continue such work in our own neighborhood.

But there will be times when parking can't be avoided. I think that ANC2F has done a wonderful job this year in creating a visitor's parking pass that has proven so effective that it will be used as a model for other parts of the city. To the extent that more spots are necessary for residents and valets, we may need to think out of the box more and work more closely with neighboring ANCs.

-- 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 balance be struck between a Commissioner's personal affairs and the need for transparency in government decisions?

Over the past 12 years of my day job as an attorney - as a law clerk in a local federal court, as an associate at a law firm, and as a federal government attorney - I have had the opportunity to view discovery and FOIA requests from many different angles. I have seen the importance of such requests, and I truly believe that our society is better because we are all armed with the ability to seek information that may not otherwise be available to us. Thus, I think that such requests must be taken very seriously.

On the other hand, the requests must be tailored for the specific situation. Only those documents that are relevant to the situation should be requested. Figuring out which documents are relevant is always a bit of a negotiation. Virtually all requests are originally overbroad, and a compromise must be reached. In the situation you cited above, my understanding is that the document request was worded very broadly, including a request for all emails with the term "resolution" in them. Clearly, as the ANC makes many resolutions about many issues, this would have resulted in many irrelevant documents. Thus, I would have tried to negotiate that we include only those documents that include the name of the restaurant at issue, the address and possibly a few other related terms.

Having been a litigator, I am not a fan of litigation. It is generally a waste of everyone's resources. Thus, to the extent possible, if someone has a question, I would love to discuss it with them before it gets to a point of formal litigation. I would work with them to find common ground, to provide what everyone can agree would be reasonable in a manageable timeframe. As the judge I clerked for, a star mediator himself, told me when I was interviewing with him while still in law school years ago, any case that is litigated to completion is lost. That is never the best result.

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

I was at the meeting in which this was raised, and although there were valid points in favor of allowing churches and private businesses to receive grant money in some instances, I believe that there are easy work-arounds that would be more advisable.

As background, this was raised in the context of security cameras. Some residents had requested more security, including security cameras, in some areas. The discussion centered around whether the grants could be given to churches or local businesses who would use the funds to place security cameras on their property to watch the neighborhood as the residents had requested. Although it may make sense in some instances to install such cameras, there are currently rules forbidding the issuance of grants to churches and private business. This rule makes sense as we shouldn't be using city funds to prop up individual businesses or religious institutions.

However, it would be easy enough to achieve the same goal by funneling the grants through neighborhood organizations that would oversee the use of the funds for the intended purpose. In fact, this was actually done at the last meeting, when an organization that was not a formal non-profit applied for a grant. As there were concerns about sending the money directly to an individual, the Logan Circle Community Association, a local nonprofit, offered to receive the funds on behalf of the neighborhood group and oversee that they were used for the intended purpose. Thus, all the concerns were allayed, and the cause received the funds. The exact same process could be used by churches and private businesses if they have legitimate reasons to receive the funding.

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

Not that I can think of at the moment.

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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