City Paper Widget

Friday, October 31, 2014

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.

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