City Paper Widget

Friday, October 10, 2014

Interview with Jessica Laura Smith, Candidate for ANC1B District 07

This is a written interview with Jessica Laura Smith, who is running for Commissioner of district 07 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street.

Smith's opponent is the incumbent, Juan Lopez. An interview with Lopez was published yesterday.

District 07 is a compact district in the northwest corner of ANC1B (upper left of map). It includes much, but not all, of the territory between 14th and 16th Streets NW, and between Euclid and Girard Streets.

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 information about you and what you stand for?

Residents can receive more information about my campaign activities and platform at They should also feel free to reach out to me directly at (202) 627-0724 and follow me on Twitter @JessicaLSmith07.

– ANC1B issues are often about development issues (parking, zoning, liquor licenses) on heavily-travelled main streets. But your district is tucked in a corner, away from 14th Street, U Street, and George Avenue. What are some of the issues that are important to voters in your district?

ANC 1B07 is one of the smallest Single Member Districts (SMD) and lacks the number of restaurants, bars, and business that many other SMD’s have. While it can be a generally quiet area, it is still a vibrant, fun, and diverse neighborhood. After canvassing our area and talking with constituents, I’ve learned one of 1B07’s biggest setbacks is our lack of community engagement and connection. As the new commissioner, I would help promote a stronger sense of community and awareness by producing and distributing monthly community newsletters, hosting quarterly SMD meetings, and forming and maintaining an active “News and Needs” online listserv. When speaking with community members I also learned about their concerns regarding crime and safety, especially near Girard/14th Street. As the 1B 07 Commissioner, I will engaged police and crime prevention specials to discuss how we can create a stronger partnership between local law enforcement and residents. However, we have to take it a step further by also supporting community leaders and creating systems such as community watches and safe streets programs in order to take control of our neighborhood and not solely rely on the Metro Police Department for assistance.

– What, if anything, can ANCs do to improve the on-street parking situation for residents in your district?

Street parking is an ongoing issue in the District and few tangible solutions have been provided to improve it. Resident parking needs to be taken into consideration as the ANCs considers new building and restaurant proposals. While we want to promote more business within our communities, we need to remember that those entities bring more traffic and less parking for residents. It is also important that we are monitoring and following up with the use of VIP/valet parking in front of restaurants and construction companies. These third party services are many times not functioning within legal parameters and take away parking spaces for residents who live in the nearby area.

– In the abstract, people agree that greater density in city centers is a good idea. In practice, no residents want expanded buildings and large developments near the homes they own. How can ANCs help reconcile this conflict? How can we achieve greater density if residents continue to oppose larger, taller, and bigger buildings?

Housing development and zoning are important issues that the ANC is charged with. It is important to take each proposal on a case by case basis and make sure all options are explored before moving forward. In addition, it is vital that we hear from the neighboring community members about proposed redevelopment. We need to ensure that the integrity and quality of life for these neighborhoods and residents are not being compromised by new buildings and pop up additions. For example, the commission needs to continue to host meetings regarding the proposed R-4 zoning law changes. We need to make sure we are educating community members and making them aware of new laws so recommendations can be made to the Office of Planning at their public hearing in January.

– Sixteenth Street runs along one side of 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?

DDOT’s MoveDC plan outlines some great ideas on how to improve our city’s traffic and commuting experience, but it lacks a clear plan of action on how to implement them. Before any improvements are made, a feasibility study needs to be conducted in order to ensure that we have all the options and are making the best decision for the community. I ride the 16th Street buses every day to work and while they are sometimes crowded or delayed, it is a minimal inconvenience compared to some of the other buses I’ve taken in different sectors of the city. I am delighted to live in an area that has so many public transportation options. While improvements to public transportation are always welcome, I am hesitant to implement major changes, such as bus only lanes and street cars, before conducting assessments that ensure we are making positive transformations.

– The Reeves Center brings daytime life to 14th and U Streets. What do you think about the proposed land swap deal that would probably mean the sell-off of the property to private developers? If the deal goes through, what should be priorities for the use of the land? What's the best way to insure that community interests are heard?

The District of Columbia is extremely rich is history and while it has developed and truly transformed over the years, it is important to remember and reflect on our past, especially in the U Street area. The Reeves Center is an example of a historical landmark that should remain untouched. It is an active and widely used facility that brings the community together and selling it to private developers with the potential for it to be demolished would be such a loss. I have attended the meetings and listened to the community’s thoughts about this potential sale, and it has been clearly expressed that the community is not in favor of selling the center. We need to continue to host community forums and bring this issue up at ANC meetings in order to ensure that all community members can weigh in on this topic.

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

What are your main priorities as an elected commissioner?

-Connect the great community and raise awareness through monthly newsletters, quarterly Single Member District meetings, and an active community “News and Needs” online listserv.

-Create partnerships with residents and local police officers to keep residents safe and crime rates down.

-Communicate resident’s needs and concerns to the entire commission and/or higher governing bodies.

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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