City Paper Widget

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Interview with Ellen Nedrow Sullivan, Candidate for ANC1B District 02

This is a written interview with Ellen Nedrow Sullivan. Sullivan is a candidate for Commissioner in district 02 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street.

Sullivan is running against Jennie Nevin. An interview with Nevin appeared here yesterday.

District 02 contains some of the fastest-developing territory in the U Street NW corridor. It extends from 12th Street in the west to 8th Street in the east. The southern border is S Street. The northern border is a jagged line, mostly defined by Florida Avenue. See bottom center 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.

-- Tell a little about your online presence. What will voters find there? What other ways can potential voters find out about you?

Voters can find me online at my Facebook page, Ellen Nedrow Sullivan for ANC 1B02. There I’ll be posting about issues that matter to our community, hearing directly from neighbors, and giving campaign updates. I really enjoy getting out and talking with people so I’ll be knocking on doors and hosting a meet and greet on Oct. 19th. When I collected signatures to get on the ballot, it was a family affair with my husband, our toddler, and our dog joining me (our cat declined) so I hope to do that again though with cooler weather this time.

-- At the last ANC meeting, Commissioners agreed that your district is the one generating the most work -- liquor licenses, historic preservation requests, zoning. How will you balance your volunteer responsibilities as a Commissioner with your day job?

If I am elected as the Commissioner for ANC 1B02, it will be my day job. I will start a long planned break from working in the Senate at the beginning of January and that flexibility will allow me to work for our neighborhood during business hours and not just when I can fit it in.

I have also been an active member of our ANC’s ABC committee for two years and as a homeowner, I have worked with both the historic preservation and zoning offices. I know that these issues areas are time intensive and need someone who can attend the daytime meetings where the decisions are being made.

-- Your district has a lot of retail in it, and parking is always a problem. What, if anything, can ANCs do to help businesses get the local parking that they need?

I live on 9th right off of U St. NW so I see the fight for parking every day with businesses and residents both wanting more. While we work on big solutions like zoning regulations for parking requirements in new developments, resident only parking and a visitor pass system, and improving our mass transit system we also need to focus on how to make improvements now. Small things affect someone’s decision whether to drive or not- is the bus going to be late, is the metro escalator out, is the sidewalk so broken that using a wheelchair, granny cart, or stroller is impossible? If we work on these issues and improve street lighting and crosswalk safety while adding bike racks then we can decrease the number of cars inching along looking for a parking space.

 -- There is push back now against density in residential area, particularly in favor of limiting “pop ups”? What do you think about these proposed new regulations? How is it possible to have more affordable housing if it is so difficult to add to the housing stock?

Density, pop-ups, and affordable housing are three separate issues to me. DC is not going to solve the need for affordable housing through pop-ups; it will take a partnership between our government and developers to build mixed income housing. Pop-ups, like all matters of zoning, should be clearly regulated and so I think reviewing the current regulations and exploring the need for new ones are the right first steps. Increased density has positive and negative impacts and they deserve their own debate. As a founding co-chair of the Westminster Neighborhood Association’s Business Improvement Group (WNA BIG), I have worked for two years with neighbors, developers, and business owners to find the right balance and type of density in our part of the neighborhood. We surveyed our neighborhood association members and brought their opinions directly to the ANC meetings and the developers pushing for amenities like a grocery store that will benefit all of us for years to come.

-- Several liquor licensees in your district are the targets of chronic noise complaints from the neighbors. How can the ANC and the district government more adequately address these complaints?

I have been an active member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Committee for our ANC for two years during which every liquor license in our ANC came up for renewal so I’m familiar with these issues. We discuss ways to prevent noise issues with every establishment that comes before the committee and most are very willing to work with us because they don’t want complaints from neighbors. So they close windows, don’t dump bottles in the middle of the night, have their security keep things more orderly as people wait in line, close outdoor areas a little earlier, etc. and the noise levels improve. I feel the committee has been successful in brokering these types of compromises especially with new applicants so I think things are improving and will continue to do so.

The cases like the ones I think you are referencing are normally about bigger problems than just noise. These are the establishments that require the neighbors, the ANC, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), and in very unfortunate cases the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to work together to build a case and either make the punishment harsh enough and frequent enough to change the behavior of the owners or as a last resort to take away their license. With this type of case it is important to have an ANC representative that can attend all of the ABRA hearings and meetings that take place during business hours and keep the pressure on ABRA.

-- What is your position on the proposed Reeves Center land swap? If the deal goes through, what would be the best use of the current site of the Reeves Center?

I grew up playing soccer and have been playing in a DC area league since 2006, my dad played, my brother played, and we have already started our son in a neighborhood toddler soccer group. It is a great sport. But this is a major financial decision for the city and it needs careful consideration and not just an emotional response. I would need to see all of the details before making a decision.

If the deal were to go through, I would like to see a development that combined daytime use such as offices and retail with residential so that we would see benefits from it 24 hours a day. To me, the Reeves Center was built as a symbol of promise and any new development on that corner should aim to do the same.

 -- Why vote for you, and not the other person?

Seventeen years ago I came to Washington, fell in love with the city and politics, and chose to make this my home. My husband and I moved to Shaw five years ago and we are raising our son in a home and community we love.

Community matters to me. It is why I have worked in the US Senate for thirteen years for Senators who fight to improve healthcare, transportation, and education. It is why I have enjoyed serving on the ABC Committee for our ANC. It is why I founded and co-chair the Westminster Neighborhood Association’s Business Improvement Group, working directly with business owners and developers as our neighborhood changes. We all have a responsibility to be involved and work together because that is how our community will flourish. I hope to be given the chance to put my experience and commitment to our community to work as your representative on our ANC.

I have been impressed with Jennie Nevins’ involvement with the ANC and with her quickness in becoming involved after moving to DC. I look forward to getting to know her as we both campaign and to working with her in the future.

End of interview

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.

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

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