City Paper Widget

Friday, October 31, 2014

ANC Candidate Interview Roundup

Early voting ends today (Friday, October 31) and Election Day is next Tuesday, November 4. Here is a roundup of SALM interviews of candidates with links, grouped by ANC.

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


District 01

Marvin L. Johnson

District 12

Colleen Costello


District 02

Jennie Nevin (withdrew from race)

Ellen Nedrow Sullivan

District 03

Patrick Nelson

District 04

Kevin Cain

District 07

Juan Lopez

Jessica Laura Smith

District 12

Matt Abbruzzese

John Green

Additional joint interview with Abbruzzese and Green


District 04

Thomas B. Martin

William K. Smith


District 02

Daniel Warwick

Jonathan Padget

District 05

Jonathan Jagoda

Abigail Nichols

District 08

Robert Sinners

District 09

Noah Smith


District 06

Charlie Bengel

Danielle Pierce

Interview with Marvin Johnson, Candidate for ANC1A District 01

This is a written interview with Marvin Johnson, who is running for Commissioner of district 01 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1A/Columbia Heights-Park View.

Johnson's opponent is Lester Cuffie. On October 23, I sent Cuffie (and Johnson) an email to the addresses they supplied to DC election authorities. I asked for responses to the written questions below. Cuffie did not respond.

District 01 is a compact district in the north of ANC1A -- see upper left of map. It is bordered by 14th Street NW on the east, 16th Street on the west, Ogden Street on the south, and Spring Road on the north.

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 find out more about you?

There are several ways voters can find out more about me. I am hosting a Get Out The Vote Rally at LA CabaƱa Restaurant, 3614 14th St., NW on Monday, November 3rd between 7:00 – 9:00 PM. Folks are welcome to stop by and chat with me and other neighbors. Our neighborhood is stronger when residents and neighborhood businesses work together so the rally presents an excellent opportunity to mix and mingle. Voters can also find out more about me at:

My email address is: or I can be reached by phone at: 202-417-8010.

-- Sixteenth Street borders your district on one side. What do you think about the proposed 16th Street dedicated bus line? Will a lane make 16th Street more congested, or less? Will it be easier or more difficult for commuters in your district to get to downtown jobs?

I have not owned a car in fourteen years and rely on public transportation to get around so I support bus lanes on a personal level. However, I empathize with residents who are concerned about the loss of off-street parking and drivers who want two lanes open for cars in each direction. The question is if we can accommodate all of those “wants” on 16th Street.

Currently, parking is restricted during rush hour which allows the curbside lane to carry traffic that could be used as dedicated bus lane. North of Arkansas Avenue and south of W Street, 16th Street is configured with just the four lanes, which leaves out a dedicated bus lane as a solution there. However, one idea I have heard of suggests using a five lane configuration that allows the curbside lane to be used for buses only during rush hour which seems to present a “win-win” situation for almost every side of the issue. The center reversible lane would remain as a 2nd general lane.

At least for the near future, the aforementioned is just wishful thinking since the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is planning a transit priority study scheduled to start in 2015 to “examine various alternative approaches for improving transit along the 16th Street NW Corridor.” This study presents the opportunity for residents and the ten ANCs (including 1A-D, 2A-F, 4A-D, and 4G) which are affected by the route to weigh in on the matter.

As the ANC Commissioner for 1A01, I would like to see and will advocate for an improved system for the movement of buses which also includes cross-town bus services that better connect neighborhoods. Increased service frequency along 14th Street is also of concern and I support the proposed MetroExtra Route 59 limited-stop service outlined in the October 2012, Metrobus 14th Street Line Study – Final Summary Report developed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in partnership with DDOT.

My ultimate goal is to support a comprehensive transit plan that not only decreases congestion on both the 14th (52, 53 and 54) and 16th Street Lines (S1, S2 and S4) but makes it easier for commuters to get to and from downtown as well as across town.

-- Public safety is always a big issue. Can ANCs do anything to make the streets safer for people? Is there anything the police might try to improve safety?

As Commissioner for ANC1A01, I will advocate for increased neighborhood foot and bike patrols during “peak” hours when neighborhood bars and restaurants along the Ogden to Spring stretch of 14th Street are busy and after they close.

While foot and bike patrols will make residents feel safer, it is important that even given our busy schedules that we get to know our neighbors and promptly report suspected criminal activity. Together, we can create a safer, friendlier community. Another goal for ANC1A01, which directly relates to public safety, is to facilitate partnerships with the Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA) and non-profit organizations to address alcohol/substance abuse issues exhibited along 14th Street where individuals have literally “passed out” on the sidewalk. As a neighborhood we must not become a gruesome illustration of the “bystander effect” – where people are less likely to intervene if others are present because each witness assumes someone else has already taken action.

-- Recently, the DC Office of Planning has proposed new regulations that would, if implemented, seriously cut back on the ability of residents to add “pop ups”, and for developers to buy row houses and convert them into multi-apartment units. Do regulations like that unfairly infringe on the rights of homeowners to do what they want (within reason) with property they own? If we don’t allow people to create more housing, how can we expect the price of housing to become more reasonable?

Zoning regulations should be revisited and considered with the overall character of the neighborhood and to ensure we are zoned correctly. The R-4 Zone is of concern to many today. The intent of R-4 is two unit, multi-bedroom housing. Some areas in Ward One that are currently zoned R-4 should be rezoned as R-5 to allow for block-wide high density development. We must have housing options for everyone, at all socioeconomic levels.

-- Parking is always a hassle. Everybody wants on-street parking for free, but the fact is that there are more cars than there are places on the street. What role does the ANC have in making parking less of a nightmare?

Parking is such a hot button topic in DC and will continue to be as the city becomes more densely populated. As I mentioned earlier, I have not owned a car since 2000. One of the reasons I decided to give up the car was because of parking. While I did have a zoned Residential Parking Permit (RPP), I still found myself circling my block several times and when I did find a spot it was always a pretty tight fit. I am certain my neighbors and their car bumpers were quite happy I stopped driving.

On a serious note, zoning for residential parking in Ward 1 which is the District’s densest ward is near the max with likely but albeit temporary solutions being raising fees for parking permits and/or making the zones smaller. The use of public transportation, bicycles, and car sharing can help ease the parking burden. However, as the city continues to grow parking will become even more of a challenge and it becomes impossible to have enough street parking to meet the demand.

-- How are the relations between liquor licensees and residents in your district? Do you think the current method of community input through ANCs for liquor license applications and renewal is working OK? Do residents have the ability to make the system work in the case of “bad actors”?

I believe that neighborhood is stronger when residents and businesses work together. Relations between the two stakeholders have improved and both realize that balancing economic growth along the Ogden to Spring Road corridor with the peace and sanctity of the residential streets is required to ensure the neighborhood reaches its maximum potential. Residents support a variety of neighborhood and specialty establishments which will undoubtedly include more bars, restaurants, and taverns that will require liquor licenses. One of my primary goals is to work with ANC1 to attract small business to fill vacant commercial property and facilitate effective collaboration between neighbors, businesses, and government agencies such as the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Agency (ABRA).

One of the corridor’s best assets is the expansive sidewalks, which are as wide as 20 feet. This presents a unique opportunity for local businesses to enhance landscaping and provide alfresco dining or find other appropriate ways to bring the activity from within the business to the outside.

I am pleased with the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act which went into effect in 2013. In my opinion, this bill allows for ample community input through the ANCs for liquor license applications and really clarified the provisions that are permitted to be included in a Settlement Agreement. I also liked the fact that it created a new permit for Wine Pubs and would encourage such a business in my ANC district. I also think the ABRA orientation training for new licensees as well as the general public on existing ABC laws and regulations, noise abatement and sound management, and working proactively with ANC is beneficial.

-- Is there any question that I should have asked you but didn’t?

Yes. What made you decide to run for ANC1A01?

I have lived in this ANC district since 2005 and support the neighborhood restaurants, bars, dry cleaner, corner stores and want to see more small businesses fill vacant commercial property. The neighborhood is a great place to live and I would like to make it even better. I am also very interested in learning how my neighbors would like to see the area grow.

My great-grandmother had a saying: “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason – to listen as much as you talk.” As Commissioner for ANC1A01, I promise to do just that by hold block by block listening sessions and working with homeowners, tenants, and neighborhood businesses. I won’t have all the answers or enough expertise on every issue, but I am willing to listen, learn, and strongly voice neighborhood concerns to the most appropriate source.

I have the time to devote to the work of the commission and believe in giving back to the community and feel this is the best way to do so. Public service means availing yourself to those who have entrusted you as their voice. I strive to be accessible and responsive to the needs of the neighborhood and I am asking for your vote. In turn, I promise to respond to your inquires, listen to your concerns and heed your advice once elected.

End of interview.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, but early voting centers in nine neighborhood areas (including Columbia Heights) opened on October 25. There is also early voting downtown at Judiciary Square. Today (October 31) is the last day of early voting.

Thank you to the candidate for responding to my questions.

Interview with Noah Smith, Candidate of ANC2B District 09

This is a written interview with Noah Smith, who is running for Commissioner of district 09 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle.

Smith's opponent in the race is Edward Hanlon. On October 14, I sent Hanlon (and Smith) the questions below, and set a deadline of October 28. At an ANC candidates' night on October 16, Hanlon told me he intended to respond. On October 28, he sent me an email asking for a few more hours to consider his answers. I was happy to grant this very reasonable request. Since then, I have not received answers from him. I have sent him two reminders. Given that the election is next Tuesday, I am publishing Smith's response.

District 09 is bounded by 14th Street NW on the east, S Street on the south, and U Street on the north. Its eastern boundary is mostly New Hampshire Avenue. See a map of ANC2B 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 find out more about you and your campaign?

Since I was elected ANC Commissioner in 2012, I have maintained a neighborhood website and listserv. There you can learn more about me, what’s happening in our community and how you can be part of it’s continuing improvement. Of course anyone can email or call me anytime at and 202-688-5416.

– Parking is always a hassle in DC. People feel that free or nearly free on-street parking is close to a constitutional right. Meanwhile, merchants must tell their customers that, basically, if they have a car, they are out of luck. Developers are chipping away at parking minimums by routinely asking for exemptions. What can ANCs do to inject a note of sanity into the discussion?

Parking remains a serious concern of residents in our neighborhood because of the high demand from residents, business patrons and visitors. Earlier this year I established the Transportation and Public Infrastructure Committee within the Dupont Circle ANC to build consensus on neighborhood transportation issues and act to improve them. The ANC is committed to pilot testing innovative parking solutions in our neighborhood and DDOT has committed to coming to us first.

In August we brought in the DDOT citywide parking manager, Evian Patterson, to discuss the feasibility of options to address these issues, like reducing the size of residential parking zones or piloting parking policies in our commercial corridors that raise or lower prices based on demand.

Why not just reserve all residential streets for residential parking?

Enhanced residential parking restrictions have been tested in many parts of the city with limited success. Our own test case, Caroline Street, has led to some increase in residential parking but extremely limited visitor parking for when friends come over for dinner or repairs are needed on a home. DDOT is no longer accepting petitions for enhanced parking restrictions until a city-wide plan is developed. Changing one block’s parking policies just pushes the problem down another block and isn’t a neighborhood-wide solution. There is no silver bullet.

– I believe your entire ANC district is also a historic district. Is it too much of a hassle for homeowners to renovate or expand their own properties? Have DC historic preservation authorities been sufficiently customer friendly to homeowners who need to navigate the bureaucracy? How can ANCs help make the process more transparent?

The ANC’s role in historic preservation applications is just as much about the process as the outcome. While I have helped several residents through the bureaucracy, I’ve been most proud of leading over a dozen applicants and their neighbors to compromises that work for everyone and the historic neighborhood we all enjoy. As ANC Commissioners, we bring neighbors together to make sure that everyone understands what is being proposed and how their opinions can be heard.

We’ve done a good job of keeping this transparent. Meeting agendas are posted weeks in advance on the ANC’s website and on my neighborhood blog. I knock on doors and make sure people are aware of what is being proposed, and I set up meetings to get questions answered. As Chair of the ANC, I’ve tried to focus on the quality of life impact these projects have and not just the architectural design.

– You have several liquor licensees in your district. What's your opinion of the liquor licensing process? Do residents have sufficient leverage when they have a problem with a local licensee? Are restaurants and bars at the mercy of small groups of unreasonable individuals?

The liquor licensing process is difficult and bureaucratic; my experience makes me a strong advocate for residents who live nearby (or on top of) bars and restaurants in our neighborhood. One example is that we are in the process of negotiating a new liquor license agreement right now with Art Soiree, which is opening an art gallery and event space at 1832 14th Street. I posted the draft agreement and explained the process on my blog. Low-key venues and art galleries are a perfect example of what makes our neighborhood a great place to live.

There can’t always be compromise though – I was at an Alcohol Beverage Control Board hearing until 2am with the ANC and neighbors protesting a proposed new bar on the residential block of Swann Street at 18th. The ABC Board listened to the ANC and flat out denied their application.

We’re also working hard to address late-night noise in our neighborhood. I’ve worked with the DC Noise Task Force (Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)) to get more enforcement on U Street and 14th Street and I successfully lobbied MPD to add ten new foot patrol officers on U Street on weekend nights.

– Sixteenth Street runs through your district. What do you think about the proposed dedicated bus lane on 16th Street? Is the District Department of Transportation dragging its feet on this proposal?

Anyone who has waited for a bus and watched one (or two or three) pass them by on 16th Street while trying to get to work can tell you that there is a clear need for more buses that move more quickly. I established and chair the ANC’s Transportation and Public Infrastructure Committee to bring neighbors together on issues just like this.

As early as February, the ANC acted and sent five requests to DDOT to improve bus service on 16th Street; routes that have seen a 25% increase in ridership over the last five years. Since then, DDOT has increased the number of busses and the size of busses (using the articulated type when possible) and folks are reporting a noticeable improvement. Where we haven’t seen progress is on prioritized signaling for buses so they can make it through lights more easily, and studies on the impact of a part-time dedicated bus lane on stretches of 16th Street. I’d like to see a stronger push to implement the tactics already studied, like prioritization, as a stopgap while dedicated lanes are studied.

– The Reeves Center is in another ANC, but it also is a stone's throw from your district. What do you think about the proposed land swap? Is the city getting the most possible value out of the deal as currently proposed? Assuming the deal goes through, how can ANCs ensure that whatever comes after the Reeves Center is what the community needs?

I have several concerns about giving away our most valuable piece of land in the city to a developer without any public input on how that space will be used. There are so many neighborhood priorities for that space, which have never heard the light of day because of the sole-source nature of a land swap. Though this seems great for development of Southwest, I’m not sure our neighborhood is getting the best deal.

Our neighborhood worked hard to preserve the Post Office in the Reeves Center and there is a real risk that it could be lost. I’m equally concerned about the DC Center for the LGBT Community, which the ANC strongly supported in its move to the Reeves Center. I’ve asked both major mayoral candidates to take a fresh look at the swap upon taking office and they were amenable to it. I look forward to a more open process, with ANC involvement, with a new mayor.

– Is there any question that I should have asked but didn't?

Yes, what have you accomplished in your time as ANC Commissioner and why are you running for re-election?

I ran for ANC in 2012 because I wanted to meet more of my neighbors and have a positive impact on our community; I have accomplished both! Together, we have:

  • Helped to pass a law that protects pedestrians and cyclists from dangerous and inconvenient construction;
  • Improved pedestrian and cyclist safety by expanding bike infrastructure and maintenance so cyclists feel safe on the street and leave more space for pedestrians on sidewalks.
  • Held a series of public safety listening sessions to gather input from residents on exactly what the crime and traffic safety concerns are in our neighborhood.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done collaboratively to improve our neighborhood, and it’s because of this work I was recently elected by my colleagues as Chair of the Dupont ANC.

I’m running for reelection to make our transportation system more effective no matter how you travel, to improve the safety and beauty of our neighborhood, and to provide a voice of reason in city decisions where logic does not always prevail. This is work that impacts every person every day.

Advocating for your needs requires knowledge, relationships with key city officials, and practice. In short: experience matters. I’m excited to represent you for two more years.

End of interview.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, but early voting centers in nine neighborhood areas opened on October 25. There is also early voting downtown at Judiciary Square.

Thank you to the candidate for responding to my questions.

ANC1B District 12 Candidates Hand in Their Homework

Matt Abbruzzese and John Green, candidates for district 12 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street, have turned in their homework.

There was not enough time at an October 16 ANC Candidates' Forum for all of the questions that were submitted in writing. So the sponsors, the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance and the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association, sent the candidates home with some of the questions that went unanswered. Below are the responses from Abbruzzese and Green.

-- There are a lot of people moving into DC but do not change the registration of their cars. How do you address neighbors who avoid paying DC taxes by failing to register their cars in DC?

Abbruzzese: The specific District of Columbia government agency responsible for Registration of Out-of-State Automobiles (ROSA) enforcement is the Department of Public Works (DPW).  As a city, we must first step up our ROSA patrols.  DC could give $100 fines to those who try to swindle DC law. Otherwise, a potentially effective way to address this issue is by telling the person who hasn't transferred yet that you know about it.  Using positive peer pressure in these types of situations can be quite effective.

Green: More than likely, individuals who do not register their cars in DC will get ticketed frequently or rent private parking spaces to avoid these fines. We all can agree that the Department of Public Works (DPW) does a fine job of ticketing, towing, and booting non-registered and registered cars. If elected to the ANC, I would work closely with DPW enforce the District’s parking regulations.

-- How have you/will you promote unity within our community?

Green: This is a great question. I will work with community leaders, churches and civic associations in our community to build more unity. I would like to see the ANC sponsor an annual block party to benefit a local charity and work to plan, promote and seek community assistance for such an event. I will be a leader that promotes community involvement at the grass-roots level.

As my campaign flyer states: “The U Street Corridor is more than a place where people go for entertainment. It is a community.” I stand by my statement 110%!

Abbruzzese: Bringing community and people together is my forte. As Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 1B12, I will continue to promote unity within our neighborhood by hosting single member district 1B12 (SMD 1B12) meetings on a quarterly basis. There is a lot of tension between residents of the U Street Corridor that isn't addressed by our local community leaders. Fights aren't breaking out frequently between neighbors; however, there's a certain silence that blankets over much of our community. With roughly 1,000-1,200 people moving into the District every month, many of them are attracted to the increasingly densely populated neighborhoods around 14th and U. I love living in a diverse urban environment where the number of new transplants versus long-term and native Washingtonians, and its cultural and socio economic diversity is vast. But still silence between neighbors on the streets prevails. We need a leader who can and will work hard to turn that around. A leader who values unity and understands that face to face communication is key to achieving a better corridor for more Washingtonians.

My vision is one in which more community engagement achieves more. 1B12 neighborhood meetings should absolutely take place at the very start of 2015. Ideally, meetings will be hosted in locations more conducive to a higher turnout of attendance from residents and local business owners. The day and time in which these meetings take place is certainly a critical factor to high attendance, as well. For example, meetings to discuss and inform on the issues and opportunities affecting our neighborhood and all other community events might take place in the morning to early afternoon hours on a Saturday in the community room at the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments or in the community areas at other residential properties within SMD 1B12. Face to face communication between more neighbors will bring us closer. I know that a closer, friendlier community can lead to a more informed, safer environment for those who live and work within it. And it might make for a more effective local government, too!

--  Do you favor mandatory restrictions not allowing residential parking permits for new condos and rentals?

Abbruzzese: I favor strict enforcement of the mandatory restrictions not allowing residential parking permits for new condos and rentals that already have those restrictions in agreements already in place.  I do not favor mandatory restrictions for future development projects, because we don't yet have enough proof on record that this city (i.e. - DMV, MPD) has the capabilities to effectively enforcing them.  I need to see a better organized operation that uses more advanced technologies to centralize information between agencies in order to feel comfortable enough to favor proposed project plans that include this type of restriction.  As a Commissioner, I'll advocate for real "smart growth".  It isn't smart to a strike deal with a developer on a deal that favors high density living without enough space allocated for parking.  More people = more cars.  Let's not be fooled and finally elect the most experienced candidate with a backbone to lead an effective fight to maintain our good neighborhood quality of life.

Green: Yes, for developments that do not provide parking for residents or obtain parking variances from the city. This is a thorny issue that will only get worse if we as a community do not address it head-on. The ANC can lead on finding a solution for parking, but we need a strong voice to advocate for 1B12. I am that strong voice.

-- ANC 1B fails to have quorum at many of its meetings, and therefore no decisions can get made. What can the ANC itself do to improve? What should the City Council do to improve them?  Should ANCs be abolished or defunded?

Green: The ANCs should not be abolished or defunded. The ANC as a whole should amend their by-laws to address commissioners who chronically miss meetings. It is a travesty certain elected officials cannot satisfy the basic function they were elected to preform. We need to hold them accountable.

I am the only ANC candidate who has publicly pledged the following: “If elected ANC 1B12 Commissioner, I will not miss a single monthly ANC 1B meeting during my term. In the event that I do miss a meeting, I will not seek reelection. That is my promise to voters, residents of 1B12, and the community, period.”

Abbruzzese: ANC 1B Commissioners need to collaborate more to work more like a team and in a much better fashion than ever before.  One of the top reasons I'm running is because I'm deeply afraid of the next 2 years playing out like the last 2.  All 12 of ANC 1B's Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners need to know each other better and trust each other more.  The DC Council could work closer with ANC bodies across all 8 wards to learn more about what works and what doesn't.  More resources need to be leveraged and in much smarter ways to begin resolving our government's operational issues.  We must also be informed voters when we cast our ballots on election day!  Putting the right person in the right job will make a difference.  And no, ANCs should not be abolished.

End of candidate responses.

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.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, but early voting centers in nine neighborhood areas opened on October 25. There is also early voting downtown at Judiciary Square. Today (October 31) is the last day of early voting.

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

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 23 (Afterword)

This is the twenty-third 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.

Afterword (one of four)

The first edition of this book ends in 1994. For the 2014 issues, the authors wrote a long afterword, speeding through the last 20 years of DC politics. During that period, there were four mayors: Marion Barry, Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty, and Vincent Grey. This installment of the summary covers the final term of Marion Barry.

"As the 1994 race for mayor of the District of Columbia unfolded, the nation was aghast that the city was on the verge of electing Marion Barry once again" (Kindle location 5840).

"The city remained segregated by race and class.... Ambulances didn't show up when called. School buildings still were falling apart, and classrooms were failing to educated their children. Young thugs with guns fighting over drug turf controlled the streets in Shaw, Trinidad, Congress Heights, and scores of other neighborhoods.... In that tense and unsettled landscape, Marion Barry recognized familiary political terrain. He was 58, fit, and had reassembled his political team" (l. 5854).

Opposition to Barry was split between unpopular incumbent Sharon Pratt Kelly and buttoned-down at-large city councilmember John Ray.

"It didn't take polling or deep political insight for Barry to realize that he could rack up more votes than either Kelly or Ray: They would split the opposition... Barry's core constituency of African American voters east of the Anacostia River believed he had been run out of office by federal prosecutors in 1990. On the campaign trail, he portrayed himself as a flawed individual who had overcome his problems and was ready to lead the city once again" (l. 5889).

"In the September primary, Barry trounced his competitors. He won with 66,777 votes, 47 percent of the total. John Ray came in second with 37 percent. Sharon Pratt Kelly got just 13 percent of the vote, a measly show for an incumbent in
any election nationwide" (l. 5900).

"...[H]is victory was split along sharp racial lines. In largely white Ward Three, only 586 of the 17,333 votes went to Barry. In Ward Eight, where Barry punched up registration, 10,497 of the 12,791 ballots were cast for him" (l. 5901).

In the general election, Barry beat city councilmember Carol Schwartz with 58 percent of the vote.

"In the early months of [Barry's] term, congressmen read banner headlines projecting a $722-million deficit in the District's $3.2-billion budget, most of which he had inherited from Kelly. The Congressional Budget Office in February declared the District 'technically insolvent' " (l. 5926).

Congress "establish the Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority. Under the law, a five-member board had the authority to regulate DC spending, disapprove labor contracts, and delve deeply into agencies to reform the government. It reduced Barry's influence and rendered the 13-member council essentially powerless" (l. 5939).

Barry had the authority to appoint a chief financial officer for the city. On the advice of Jeffrey Earl Thompson, Barry appointed Anthony Williams.

"...Tony Williams seemed to be the perfect choice for Barry's purposes. Williams came across as shy and mild-mannered to a fault. He had few local connections.... A California native, Williams had a gold-plated resume: undergraduate degree from Yale, law degree from Harvard, master of public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a stint in the Air Force.... His only flirtation with politics had been his election as an alderman in New Haven when he was at Yale. Tony Williams seemed meek, wore bow ties, often spoke in a mumble" (l. 5950).

"Marion Barry complained when Tony Williams got the authority to hire and fire, but the mayor was powerless to intercede. Williams drastically reduced the city work force that Barry had padded in his three terms" (l. 5975).

"Marion Barry was no longer having fun. On May 22, 1998, the 'Mayor for Life' summoned reporters and supporters to the DC council chambers to call it quits" (l. 5985).

The career politicians who declared themselves candidates for mayor did not inspire. A genuine grass-roots "draft Williams" campaign emerged. Williams resisted, then succumbed.

Williams won 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary against three opponents, and easily outpolled Carol Schwartz in the general election.

"In conversations on the streets and in barber shops, African Americans still wondered if Williams was 'black enough' to represent their interests.... But the majority of voters where interested in a mayor who could manage a city ready to emerge from federal control...." (l. 6023).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts are 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, October 30, 2014

ANC1B Candidate Withdraws From Race

Jennie Nevin, candidate for district 02 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street, said in an email yesterday that she will be dropping out of the race for personal reasons. Nevin said she submitted her paperwork confirmed her withdrawal to DC election authorities this week.

This means that the only other candidate on the ballot, Ellen Nedrow Sullivan, will almost certainly be elected. See a written interview by SALM with Sullivan here.

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

Nevin's withdrawal means there is now only one candidate running in eight out of 12 ANC1B seats.

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.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, but early voting centers in nine neighborhood areas opened on October 25. There is also early voting downtown at Judiciary Square.

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

Reply by ANC2B Candidate Ed Hanlon to Yesterday's SALM Post about Temporary Protection Order

Yesterday (October 29), I published a post about a Temporary Protection Order taken out against an ANC candidate by a neighbor. Today, I am publishing the candidate's complete and unedited reply, as I promised.

Dear Mr. McAuley:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to assertions that I and a neighbor were acting improperly when we attempted to observe and document the on-going construction of a large outdoor deck and carport which covers 100% of an entire back yard in the 1500 block of T Street. This deck blocks the view of other neighbors, crosses over a century old right-of-way that serves four other dwellings and nine other households, and violates multiple sections of the building code. When completed, this deck will have outdoor speakers and lights sitting atop 4 poles more than 18 feet above the ground.

I and other neighbors have opposed the construction of this deck and we are currently taking legal action to halt its construction or alter its design. Because of our successful efforts, DCRA revoked the previous permit issued for this deck.

The homeowners who have built this deck have filed various complaints against multiple neighbors over the last 12 months, not just me, and are presently involved in litigation with at least four other neighbors over this deck. And they have repeatedly complained to the police about a number of their other neighbors. The police have repeatedly told these homeowners that I and other neighbors have the legal right to be where we were and do what we were doing. The police investigated the numerous complaints and have told the deck owners most recently in writing that "[M]embers of MPD determined that no crime had been committed." The deck owners after learning that the police had investigated their numerous accusations and found no wrong doing on my part or on the part of any of their other neighbors, nevertheless, got upset with the police and went down to the Superior Court and filed their own baseless handwritten accusations against two of their neighbors when the police refused to do so, and even after the police told them there was no wrong doing.

But there’s something even more serious and disturbing I wish to address here. As you know, I am a candidate for ANC Commissioner in ANC2B09. This is a serious election and my campaign message has been received with considerable enthusiasm. And, this has frustrated some of those who support my opponent.

Surely as a reporter, you must have thought it strange that you received court documents 'thrown over the transom' at night, a week before the election from a source that you said wishes to remain "Anonymous" with no police report thrown over the transom with them supporting any of the alleged and fabricated incidents. That is because there is no such police report.

This neighborhood deserves a serious debate on the issues affecting our community, not dirty tricks. The reason I am running for ANC commissioner is that I have seen how frivolously building and zoning code variances are endorsed by our current ANC commissioner that negatively affect the historic and residential character of our neighborhood, and the lives of its people. This is something I hope to change. I also want to do something proactive about our rising crime problem, and our horrible parking situation. And I want to help protect the residents living near commercial establishments from trash, rodents and excessive noise.

These are the things I intend to focus on, not unfounded complaints or mischievous political games.



Ed Hanlon

End text of reply.

See a .pdf file of the original letter here.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, but early voting centers in nine neighborhood areas opened on October 25. There is also early voting downtown at Judiciary Square.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Neighbor Gets Temporary Protection Order Against ANC Candidate

Edward Hanlon, a candidate for a contested seat on Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle, has been named in a Temporary Protection Order issued by a judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Detail from the Temporary Protection Order
The documents orders Hanlon not to assault, threaten, stalk, harass, or physically abuse a neighbor or the neighbor's husband. It also orders Hanlon not to contact the neighbor, directly or indirectly, by telephone, in writing, by text, or by social media.

At the top of the document (see detail), Hanlon is told to stay 100 feet away from the petitioner's person, home, work place, vehicle, and husband. However, in a hand-written addition on the same page, the distance is reduced to 40 feet. Hanlon is also permitted to drive to and from his home by an alley, which presumably comes closer than 40 feet to the neighbor's home or property.

The order was originally set to expire on September 19. It was extended to October 9, and then, with Hanlon's consent (according to an annotation on page one of the document), to December 2.

The petition requesting the order says the neighbor "is fearful for her safety and for the safety of her husband", "is afraid to stay in her home alone and is forced to stay with friends or family when her husband is out of town", and "keeps her home security system on at all times of the day or night".

The petition also accuses Hanlon of unlawfully entering the neighbor's property on at least two occasions and interfering with outdoor construction work taking place at the neighbor's house. Hanlon also took pictures of the neighbor's house on at least two occasions, according to the petition.

On October 27, I sent Hanlon an email asking for comment. There was no reply. On October 28, I contacted Hanlon by phone. When asked for comment, Hanlon said: "It's all untrue." Hanlon said he did not have sufficient time to respond before publication, and that he wished to respond in writing. I promised to publish Hanlon's response in full when he sends it to me. 

See a copy of the six-page Temporary Protection Order here.

I have followed the wishes of the person who brought this document to my attention and I blacked out the name of the neighbor and the neighbor's husband, as well as the neighbor's address. I have also blacked out the name of another person, who (it appears) was named in an earlier draft of the complaint, and then removed.

Finally, I have blacked out Hanlon's address, but not his name.

Hanlon is running against incumbent Noah Smith for Commissioner from District 09. This district is bounded by 14th Street NW on the east, S Street on the south, and U Street on the north. Its eastern boundary is mostly New Hampshire Avenue. See a map of ANC2B, including this district, here.

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

Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, but early voting centers in nine neighborhood areas opened on October 25. There is also early voting downtown at Judiciary Square.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Endangered" L Street Building to Be Retained, Moved

A part of 911 L Street NW in Shaw, a historically-protected Civil War-era building that made the DC Preservation League's 2014 "Most Endangered Places" list, will saved from the wrecking ball, preserved, and moved down the block. This was announced at an October 23 public hearing of the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB).

911-913 L Street (DC Preservation League, by permission)
The raze of the building, along with the building next door at 913 L Street, was endorsed by a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle on September 24, and then by the full ANC on October 1, before it appeared on the "Most Endangered Places" list, published on October 8.

Steve Callcott of HPRB staff said that the "transitional Greek revival townhouse" at 911 L Street was "a rarity" and "arguably the more important of the two" buildings, owing to its age. In a deal approved by the DC Preservation League and the developers of a complex of hotels and residences slated to go on the block where the building is located, the building will be retained "to a depth of 16 feet" and moved down L Street until it is adjacent with another historically-protected building. The facades of the buildings will be preserved, and the interiors renovated.

Screenshot of planned development from HPRB video archive
The picture on the left is a the architect's photoshopped vision of what the preserved building will look like as part of the completed hotel and apartment complex. The preserved and renovated version of 911 L Street is the three-story building with the black roof in the lower center.

913 L Street is still slated for complete demolition, however. The fate of both  buildings will probably remain on the November agenda of J. Peter Byrne, the Georgetown University professor of law who is also the Mayor's Agent for historical preservation. The Mayor's Agent has to approve the demolition of any building in a designated historic district. 911 and 913 L Street are located in in the Shaw Historic District.

The demolition of these buildings is a small part of a large land-use deal which  is part of a Planned Unit Development (PUD). See a short explanation of PUDs here and 21 pages of official PUD regulations here. The PUD is on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting of ANC2F's Community Development Committee, scheduled for 7pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

HPRB live-streams its meetings and then preserves them in a video archive. The discussion of the deal to preserve part of 911 L Street can be seen by going to this page and clicking on the link for the October 23 meeting, then clicking the tab labelled "Shaw Historic District".

Monday, October 27, 2014

ANC1B Commissioner Calls for Resignation after Committee Vote on 2724 11th Street Zoning

Mark Ranslem, Commissioner for district 08 on Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street, has called for the Chair of the ANC's Design Review Committee, Lela Winston, to resign. Ranslem first called for the resignation in an October 21 email which went to both a group of fellow ANC1B Commissioners and neighbors of a troubled Columbia Heights building (2724 11th Street NW).

October 5 rally of tenants and neighbors of 2724 11th Street
2724 11th Street is a rent-controlled building in serious state of disrepair and vermin infestation. The family who has owned the building for more than 50 years has recently gotten permission to raise rents by 31% and is also asking for zoning relief, including relief from parking minimums, to facilitate a building-wide renovation. On October 20, the Design Review Committee voted unanimously, with one abstention, to oppose the zoning relief -- see SALM blog post of October 24.

In his initial email, Ramslem was replying to a neighbor of 2724 11th Street who reported and praised the committee's decision. The email said:
As a commissioner, let me be very blunt. I think [the Design Review] committee has gone way outside its jurisdiction and overstepped. The committee has allowed itself to be drawn into the emotional part of this matter when it hasn't stuck to what its role is intended to be. 

While the plight of the tenants is very serious, the committee has made this situation almost unworkable. 

I also disagree with your assessment that Lela Wilson [sic] is an able chairperson. She has proven that she is is not. I call for her resignation.
On the same day, Winston replied to Ranslem and the other addressees:
I take high offense that you would call my capabilities into question regarding a case conducted by the Design Review Committee simply because a routine decision was not to your satisfaction.  I understand you are new to the ANC, but that is the democratic process, Mr. Ranslem.  

What's more, to suggest that emotion fulled the decision without actually having attended the meeting, further calls into question your claim.  Also, If I am correct, you are not the Commissioner for 1B09, where this property is located.  

Having been a member on this committee and now a chairwoman, I can say that such decisions happen often.  Just last ANC meeting you were on the forefront of a vote not to recommend by-right use of a rear yard simply because doing so would make rear access unavailable to neighbors, despite the fact that the owner had a right to build and it was his property.  Shall I call into question your judgement and capabilities?  


Because I know that this a democratic republic of men and women who work together with the rule of law to make democratic decisions--who give their time to make their city better.  Because these are individuals, regardless of whether I agree with one decision or another, I respect, because they volunteer their free time to support our republic.  I know and understand that these decision will not always be to my satisfaction.  That is democracy and we have all pledged to be a part of that regardless of the outcomes.  We vote.  We all vote and that right should not be taken away--nor the right of the citizens of our good city to exercise freedom of speech and be heard by a government for the people and by it.

Quite frankly, I am not sure which I am more offended by--your unfounded and baseless call or your calling into question of our democratic process simply because a decision did not go the way you intended.  Quite frankly, sir, I am shocked and disturbed.
I sent an email to Ranslem asking if he had any further comment. His October 23 reply:
I stand by my call for Ms. Wilson's resignation. Aside from the fact she doesn't know how to operate under Robert's Rules of Order, things are out of control. It's heartbreaking to see what's taking place. These tenants live in deplorable conditions and deserve so much better. At the last ANC meeting, we heard from many of the tenants. Like the other commissioners, I was shocked to hear that problems were this bad.

Ms. Jennifer Parker has taken the reigns of the [2724 11th Street] property from her father in law and is starting over -- planning to renovate and make living conditions acceptable. Transitions aren't pretty. They had to start somewhere, and they can't do it without cooperation. That cooperation begins with partnering with the ANC and working through the parts to make this work. To mix the tenant rental negotiations and the design elements is comparing apples to oranges. Ms. Wilson refuses to accept this fact. She seems to see this as an opportunity to light the torches and grab the pitchforks and go to the top of the hill like in a Frankenstein movie and burn the monster alive.

This is in Chairman [James] Turner's SMD [meaning, "Single Member District", or ANC district -- in this case, district 09]. He and others have fought hard for a balanced approach. That means a win/win. Instead, this matter is headed into the ditch. So, instead of trusting in the process that was unfolding under Mr. Turner's leadership, Ms. Wilson seems intent on circumventing the ANC and to scold the developer. I think it's a lose/lose unless things are quickly turned around. Imagine: instead of redeveloping the property, the landlord just sits back and does nothing. The property falls in further disrepair and is ultimately condemned. Everyone loses. We need to point this in the right direction and give the developer the chance and the tools do right for the tenants. This doesn't mean not being critical along the way, there have been problems along the way. However, I've been to enough of committee to know where things have been headed. Nothing personal, Ms. Wilson is a delightful woman. I just think it's time for her to go.
The following day, Ranslem wrote a separate email:
The Design Review Committee is supposed to review designs and make recommendations to the ANC-- nothing more, nothing less. It is not-- and let me emphasize-- it is NOT-- a mini ANC. 

Any responsible chairperson at that committee meeting on October 21 might have said something like this, "The concerns of the tenants are at the very heart of why renovation is needed, the spirit of which was duly noted at the October ANC meeting. Therefore, it's doubly important to get it done right and urge that it be done expediently. The purview of this committee is limited. We are here to deal with zoning, architectural plans, and other related elements based on their own merits. With that said, please keep your comments focused on the subject at hand."
Winston has not commented further on the case.

Ranslem was not present at the portion of the October 20 meeting devoted to this case, but he has witnessed several earlier Design Review Committee meetings. I was present at portion of the October 20 meeting that dealt with this case.

Thanks to Ranslem and Winston for permission to quote their emails.

Winston was voted Design Review Committee chair in February -- see SALM blog post of February 13.

Ranslem has been ANC Commissioner since May. He ran unopposed in a special election.

(Photo credit: Amal Mimish, used with permission)

Interview with Colleen Costello, Candidate for ANC1A District 12

This is a written interview with Colleen Costello, who is running for Commissioner of district 12 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1A/Columbia Heights-Park View.

From ANC1A web site
Costello's opponent is Margaret Hundley. Normally I print interviews with both candidates. In this case, Hundley did not respond to emails sent October 10 and October 22 to the address she gave to DC election authorities. She also did not respond to a phone message left on October 22 at the phone number she gave to DC elections authorities.

District 12 is a compact, mostly residential district on the lower left of the map at right. It extends in an irregular rectangle from 13th to 16th Streets NW, and from Fuller Street to Columbia Road.

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 find out more about you?

I encourage voters to contact me at I’m happy to answer any questions residents might have about my goals as their representative. I’ll also be knocking on doors again between now and the election and hope to meet more residents then!

– Sixteenth Street borders your district on one side. What do you think about the proposed 16th Street dedicated bus lane? Will a lane make 16th Street more congested, or less? Will it be easier or more difficult for commuters in your district to get to downtown jobs?

I applaud efforts by ANC member Kishan Putta and other advocates to address the increasing demand for public transportation along the 16th Street corridor by seeking a designated bus lane. Many 1A12 residents rely on public transportation along 16th (and 14th) Street NW to get to work. Unfortunately, we live near the lower end of the 16th Street route, which often means overcrowded buses and lengthy wait times, particularly during inclement weather when demand is high.

A designated bus lane on 16th Street is just one of several ideas being considered by the D.C. Department of Transportation to meet commuters’ needs. DDOT has also begun to add longer buses to the route and optimize traffic signal times to keep buses moving along 16th Street, which has resulted in a small improvement in bus wait times and congestion.

We’re not out of the woods yet, though. While some of these improvements might address current demands, there’s no guarantee that they’ll satisfy future needs. DDOT has promised to study the feasibility of creating a buses-only lane along 16th Street during rush hour. I urge DDOT to quickly complete its feasibility study to determine whether a designated bus lane will meet both current and projected future demand without exacerbating congestion problems.

Commuters can also play an important role in easing congestion by using public transportation, walking, or biking whenever possible. DDOT should ensure that any solution to this problem will enable residents to safely and easily use multiple modes of transportation along 16th Street.

– Public safety is always a big issue. Can ANCs do anything to make the streets safer for people? Is there anything the police might try to improve safety?

ANCs can absolutely play a role in addressing safety and security concerns. When problems arise, ANC representatives should serve as liaisons between their constituents and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to ensure that MPD district commanders are aware of problems and develop a plan to address them. ANCs can also work closely with residents, community leaders, and District agencies to ensure that other safety problems—poor lighting, dense shrubbery, blighted properties, etc.—don’t contribute to increased criminal activity. ANCs should also identify opportunities to help build a stronger sense of community within their districts so neighbors feel comfortable relying on one another to be vigilant against criminal activity.

– Recently, the DC Office of Planning has proposed new regulations that would, if implemented, seriously cut back on the ability of residents to add “pop ups”, and for developers to buy rowhouses and convert them into multi-apartment units. Do regulations like that unfairly infringe on the rights of homeowners to do what they want (within reason) with property they own? If we don't allow people to create more housing, how can we expect the price of housing to become more reasonable?

Recently-proposed regulations would limit the building height restrictions for rowhouses zoned R-4, reducing height limits from 40 to 35 feet. Nearly 95% of the city’s R-4 properties currently stand at 35 feet or less; the proposal essentially seeks to keep these homes at or below that height. Parties seeking to build beyond that limit would have to request a variance from the Board of Zoning Adjustment — a process that could add additional costs to the project, which could in turn get passed along to renters and buyers. Before the city reaches a final resolution on this proposal, residents need to be given ample opportunity to learn how it will affect them and to weigh in with officials.

This proposal came as a result of concerns raised by residents about increased development in low-density neighborhoods, which is driving up the cost of single family homes and pricing out many would-be buyers. The city only has a finite supply of single-family homes, and costs are already too high for many buyers. I share these concerns, and I support efforts to preserve D.C.’s supply of affordable single-family homes.

At the same time, I believe that these initiatives must be carefully balanced with the growing demand for affordable rentals and multi-family housing. The city has made a compelling case for the need to preserve single-family homes, but I think it also needs to more thoroughly explain how these proposed changes will affect the cost and availability of new rental and condo units, and how this proposal fits in with the city’s Comprehensive Plan for planning and development. I hope to have the opportunity to raise this issue with officials on behalf of residents as the next ANC 1A12 Commissioner, and I will urge city officials to ensure a fair regulatory process that takes into account everyone’s concerns.

– Parking is always a hassle. Everybody wants on-street parking for free, but the fact is that there are more cars than there are places on the street. What role does the ANC have in making parking less of a nightmare?

Parking will always be a problem in D.C.’s congested neighborhoods. Unfortunately, our area is no exception. One of the most important responsibilities of an ANC is to listen to residents and ensure that their concerns are addressed. I look forward to working with 1A12 residents to find creative parking solutions. Those might include taking another look at mandatory parking minimums (for off-street parking) and finding ways to reduce the need for street cleaning (thus freeing up on-street parking).

I also hope to work closely with residents to identify smart solutions to the increased demand for public transportation and other alternative modes of transportation. D.C. has some of the best walk, bike, and transit scores in the country, and the 1A12 district is among the top 10% most accessible neighborhoods in the city. That’s a statistic we can be very proud of. As ANC, I will work hard to ensure that public transportation continues to be a viable option for residents who want or need to forgo reliance upon a car.

– How are the relations between liquor licensees and residents in your district? Do you think the current method of community input through ANCs for liquor license applications and renewal is working OK? Do residents have the ability to make the system work in the case of “bad actors”?

ANC 1A12 is almost entirely residential and, to my knowledge, has no liquor licensees. Although there are liquor licensees in bordering districts, 1A12 residents have told me that their chief concerns are affordable housing, development, noise, crime, trash, and safety issues. As ANC, I hope to help give voice to these concerns in ANC meetings, policymaking deliberations, and by engaging regularly with D.C. agencies and other stakeholders on behalf of 1A12 residents.

– Is there any question that I should have asked you but didn't?

What motivated you to run for this position?

I love our neighborhood and I want my neighbors to know they have someone they can rely on who will respond to their needs and solve problems when issues arise. 1A12 is a very diverse district, not unlike the broader Columbia Heights neighborhood, and I hope to find a way to address the concerns of both longtime residents and newcomers in a way that preserves the fun, vibrant character of the community.

End of interview.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, but early voting centers in nine neighborhood areas (including Columbia Heights) opened on October 25. There is also early voting downtown at Judiciary Square.

Thank you to the candidate for responding to my questions.

Friday, October 24, 2014

1108 16th Street: Renovation of Former Planned Parenthood Building Moves Forward

At its regular monthly meeting October 8, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle endorsed the redevelopment of 1108 16th Street NW. The building, formerly the DC headquarters of Planned Parenthood, is to be transformed into a mixed-use commercial office and residential building.

1108 16th Street
Planned Parenthood has sold the building and is moving to H Street NE.

The ANC endorsed both the historical preservation aspects and requests for zoning relief by separate votes. Both votes received unanimous approval by the six commissioners present at the time of the vote.

Attorney Christine Roddy of the law firm Goulston Storrs and Jane Nelson of Nelson Architects led the team of presenters. The presenters said that the building started its life as three buildings in 1880s, was renovated to make it a single flat-front building in the 1920s, and then was "inexpertly renovated" (the presenters' words) in the 1950s.

The facade of the first two floors of the building (see photo) will be retained as is, according to current plans. Six additional stories will be added.

There will be four stories of commercial space and four stories of residential space. The current plan calls for 20 residential units.

The project requires zoning relief in three areas. The area that received the most discussion was parking. Normally, zoning would require 14 parking spaces for this building. It currently has five. It would have three if the proposal goes through as presented. The ANC discussed if there would be sufficient parking for deliveries as well as for handicapped accessibility. The presenters said there would be -- at least one of the spaces would be, as required, extra wide to accommodate people with special needs.

There are few residential neighbors, and none of them have any objection, according to ANC2B Commissioner Abigail Nichols (district 05). The project is in Nichols' district.

"This is perfect for what you are going to do," said Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06).

The historical preservation aspects of this case are on the October agenda to be reviewed during one or more of the scheduled meetings of the HPRB. The meetings are scheduled for October 23 and 30. See the HPRB staff report on the historical preservation aspects of the renovation here.

The case of 1108 16th Street is on the BZA's calendar for consideration on December 2.

Documents related to the request for zoning relief, including plans and drawings for the building, can be seen by going to the Interactive Zoning Information System and entering case number 18866 in the search bar.

See previous reporting on this project from the blogs District Source here and Urban Turf here.

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 22 (Epilogue)

This is the twenty-second 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.

The epilogue of this book was written in 1993 or 1994. It suggests some possible futures for the city, but first it describes the crime and violence-ridden atmosphere under then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly.

“Sharon Kelly wasn't much of a field marshall, but even if she'd been George Patton, she would have had little chance of winning the war. The police force she inherited was not prepared to fight, because her predecessor, Marion Barry, had wrecked it” (Kindle location 5749).

“For all his achievements and failures, the dispirited and desperate  state of the city's police department in a time of turmoil was perhaps Barry’s most damning legacy” (l. 5750).

“Given the uniqueness of the setting, Barry had the opportunity to create a modern urban center that worked.... Expecting Marion Barry and [his allies] to make the city function at an ideal level may be unrealistic, but there's no reason it had to sink to the level of poverty, infirmity and fear that it occupies today” (l. 5762).

“...[T]he District of Columbia had become a mesmerizing mirror for black and white America's inability to integrate African-Americans -- economically, politically, and socially” (l. 5773).

“In essence, the poor parts of the city were becoming unhitched from the upper and middle class sections of the capital -- and from the rest of America” (l. 5786).

"As Mayor Kelly and other politicians jockeyed for position in the 1994 mayoral and council campaigns, wealthy whites and middle class blacks were voting with their feet. The District’s population in 1993 dipped below 600,000 for a 25 percent loss from the high of 800,000. Nearly 50,000 black Washingtonians had left during the 1980s, and the exodus picked up momentum in the early 1990s” (l. 5801).

“Thus the conundrum: Washington, D.C. won’t die because it’s the capital city; but if it weren't the capital, it might not be in such dire straits. If it hadn't been under the thumb of racists in Congress for a hundred years, it might have developed politics such as those in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, or other cities” (l. 5810).

“Lacking clear divisions of power and identity, the city and its residents have become addicted to the blame game. No one is responsible for his or her actions -- not the people, not the politicians, not the criminals. The well-healed whites of Ward Three have little stake in the city, and most don't care about the politics or the government. What happens across the Anacostia River doesn't concern them. African-Americans often pin their problem on racism and blame Ward Three” (l. 5814).

The authors (again, writing in the mid-1990s) imagine two possible futures for the district.

“One leads gradually toward true home rule, independence, and possibly statehood. This would require the kind of incremental change envisioned by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, as opposed to any quick fixes” (l. 5822).

The authors consider a possible deal with Congress. It proposes, as possibilities, the hiring of a professional city manager, doubling the size of the city council but halving its salary, and increasing city control of finances, the judiciary, and criminal systems. These include the local election of an attorney general, and the election of judges, or perhaps appointment of judges by the city council and the mayor.

“To spur economic development, laws could be changed to make the city into a haven for corporate headquarters, similar to Delaware. Or it could become a tax free zone that would promote jobs and development on hundreds of acres of prime vacant land, much of it east of the Anacostia” (l. 5834).

“On the other hand, the federal government could tighten its control over the city. As we finish our work, there is growing unease about the financial stability, of the local government, even as the city's social problems draw the attention of both demogagic and well meaning members of Congress” (l. 5835).

“We've argued that Washington is unique, but we can argue the other side, as well. It is enough like other cities with financial and racial strains to be a barometer for how well the nation tends to urban America. The problem of race -- so evident in the District -- is the paramount domestic problem facing America” (l. 5842).

The original version ends at this point. The newly-released revision continues the story up to 2014 in an Afterword.

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts are 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, October 23, 2014

2724 11th Street: Opposition to Zoning Relief Recommended

At a regular monthly meeting on October 20, a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted to oppose zoning relief for the owners of 2724 11th Street NW, a rent-controlled Columbia Heights apartment building. The vote was unanimous, with one abstention.

2724 11th Street a few weeks ago
The motion said the committee would reconsider its opposition if the owners could show they had arrived at a "concrete agreement with the tenants" about how the renovation would proceed.

The matter was referred back to the Design Review Committee of ANC1B from the full ANC at its last meeting on October 2. The petitioners failed to provide the full ANC with promised drawings and documents to support their request in time for the previous meeting, so consideration of the request was taken off the agenda at the last minute. However, residents and neighbors who had come to the meeting in anticipation of a vote were allowed to tell the ANC about the state of advanced disrepair into which the building had fallen -- see SALM blog post of October 8.

The owners ask again for relief

The petitioners, lead by Martin Sullivan of the law firm Sullivan & Barros, appeared with drawings that more accurately reflected their revised plans. However, Sullivan didn't think the referral back to the Design Review Committee was necessary.

"I didn't think we needed to come back," Sullivan said.

The original proposal (see SALM blog post of June 23) added 11 new basement units to the 25-unit apartment building. The revised plan will result in a net gain of eight units. One above ground unit would be eliminated to create a trash disposal room, and nine units would be added to the basement. This revised proposal was first presented to the Design Review Committee last month -- see SALM blog post of September 17 -- without appropriate drawings.

The architect, presenting the September 17 proposal once again, said the new design created a "neighborhood-friendly" and "street-friendly" building.

"We plan to do rather a lot of landscaping," he said.

The architect said the proposed new basement units would be "more of a terrace unit" with direct access to the outside. The proposed new design would improve handicapped access, he said.

"It's a terrific way to save the building," he said. "It makes it economically feasible."

Attorney Sullivan then asked for committee endorsement on two zoning variances, the most significant of which is the requirement to add three addition parking space for the new units. The variance, he said, would qualify for zoning relief as it met the legal requirement of "no substantial detriment to the public good".

The tenants and neighbors testify

One tenant testified about the infestiation of rats, mice, and other vermin that the tenants have to deal with every day. He said that the owners had, last year, proposed a renovation and suggested that, if the tenants didn't agree, they should move out.

The tenant characterized the renovation as "a tool to try to push people out".

Speaking next, Janet Laskin, a student attorney representing the tenants, said the last year's deal referred to by the tenant above was part of a proposed condo conversion deal which was now "taken off the table".

Laskin said some repairs are now being done.

"Our legal team has just begin to speak with the owners," she said. "It's a bad, bad, bad situation."

One neighbor testified that an unauthorized renovation last year, started and then abandoned, left a big hole by the side of the building that filled up with water when it rained. This showed the owners had a bad track record on construction, she said.

Other neighbors concentrated on the effects the proposed variances might have on the neighborhood. One said the parking relief would create more cars wishing to find on-street parking where it was already very difficult to do so. Another said a proposed trash pick-up area on the rear alley would block the alley for service and emergency vehicles.

An owner responds

A woman who said she was a member of the family who owns the building had a chance to respond.

"There are so many untruths here," she said about the testimony of the tenants and neighbors.

"You may think we're rolling in dough, but we're not," she said.

About the renovation, she said: "We want to make this a beautiful building. You have drawings in front of you -- it could be a beautiful building."

Committee comments on the motion to deny

Committee member Joel Heisey made the motion to deny endorsement, and said there was "no compelling interest for the community".

"I agree this building needs to be renovated," Heisey said, but the owners were not entitled to "special treatment due to deferred maintenance".

Other committee members announced themselves against the motion, with one exception: Patrick Nelson.

"I'm at a total state of frustration," Nelson said. "For me, that's a lot of BS. There's stuff that's being brought in that has absolutely nothing to do with it [i.e., the zoning variance request]."

But others disagreed.

"Everybody wants to see the building renovated," committee member Tony Norman said. Norman commented on the testimony of tenants and neighbors: "I think all of this is relevant."

Norman also quoted ANC1B chair James Turner, who said that the tenants and neighbors should continue to come to the relevant meetings if they wished to influence the process.

Turner is commissioner for district 09, where 2724 11th Street is located.

The request for a zoning variance will probably be considered once again at the next meeting of the full ANC, which is scheduled for Thursday, November 6, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets). The zoning variance request for 2724 11th Street is on the calendar for consideration by DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on November 18 at 9:30am. The BZA holds open meetings at its offices at 441 4th Street (Judiciary Square).

Astonishingly Short ANC Committee Meeting

Last night, the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle met. It completed all its business in 12 minutes. This is the shortest ANC-related meeting I have attended.

No one from the community appeared to object to any of the liquor license renewal requests.

The most complex item concerned the Capitol Supermarket (1231 11th Street NW). The committee wanted to include an item in the establishment's settlement agreement stating that deliveries will be taken from 11th Street (i.e., the front of the supermarket) and not the rear alley. The owner said he would, except in cases where official or construction vehicles took up the parking spaces in front of the building. The committee agreed to include language to this effect.

The second item was the liquor license renewal for Whole Foods (1440 P Street).

"No one objecting to the rowdy crowds at Whole Foods?" a committee member asked in mock astonishment.

The third item was a request by Studio Theater (1501 14th Street) to change their liquor-license category from D-X to C-X. This will allow the theater to serve hard liquor, in addition to wine and beer, to patrons.

The fourth item was a liquor license renewal for Cork & Fork (1524 14th Street). No one objected to that either.

Congratulations to all involved on the short meeting.

The items above will now be considered at the next meeting of the full ANC, scheduled for Wednesday, November 5, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle). Items like those above, which pass the committee unanimously with little controversy, normally are passed by the full ANC as a slate with little or no discussion.