City Paper Widget

Friday, January 30, 2015

Marge Maceda Elected Chair of Shaw ANC

At its regular monthly meeting on January 6, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw elected a new slate of officers, headed by Commissioner Marge Maceda (district 05) as Chair. Maceda edged out incumbent ANC6E chair Alex Padro (district 01) by a vote of 4 to 3.

In turn, Padro narrowly defeated Commissioner Rachelle Nigro (district 04) for Vice-Chair, also by a 4 to 3 vote.

Commissioner Kevin Chapple (district 02) was elected Treasurer and newly-elected Commissioner Antonio Barnes (district 06) was elected Secretary. Both Chapple and Barnes were without opposition and approved unanimously.

The vote was held at the beginning of the meeting by former ANC Commissioner Lydia Goring. Maceda took over the gavel immediately and led the balance of the meeting. 

ANC6E's next scheduled meeting is February 3rd at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library (1630 7th Street NW). No time has yet been announced on the ANC's web site, but ANC6E meetings often begin at 6:30pm.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

1017 12th Street: Arguments about "Light and Air" Come to the Central Business District

At a public hearing on January 6, DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) agreed to grant zoning relief to ALBA 12th Street LLC which will allow a solitary vacant red-brick holdout building with historic connections at 1017 12th Street NW to be redeveloped. However, its neighbors put up a fight, claiming that the "light and air" of the their surrounding taller modern office buildings would be disrupted by the proposed upward expansion of the historic building.

From BZA official documents
The petitioners had received endorsement from Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle -- see SALM blog post of November 13, 2014 -- and had been thanked by the ANC for working to preserve the historic building, which has a connection to Elizabeth Keckley, a freed slave who went on to become Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker and a local celebrity. In December, City Councilmember Jack Evans wrote a letter joining ANC2F in support, according to the BZA file on the case.

On December 9, 2014, the building owner appeared before the BZA and pledged to rename the renovated building "The Keckley", and said he hoped to arrange a post-renovation ribbon-cutting attended by Mayor Bowser and the actress who played Keckley in Steve Speilberg's 2012 film biography of Lincoln.

The building requires zoning relief because it has no parking, takes up 100% of the lot it stands on, and will be expanded to 10 stories -- still shorter than the buildings that surround it. This expansion will block the sunlight into and the view out of some of the windows of the building. Other windows in the neighboring tall office building are (in violation of the DC building code) too close to the property line of the new building and would probably have to be removed. As a result, the owners of the neighboring building came before the BZA in December to say that the proposal would have an adverse economic impact, meaning, it would reduce their office building's "light and air" and make it less desirable to renters.

In documents submitted to the board in January, the petitioners admitted the expansion of the building might have an economic impact on the existing buildings, but the impact would not meet the requirement of "substantial detriment to the public good" which would be necessary to deny the zoning relief request.

In December, the Board recommended the petitioners take a handful of actions in exchange for the approval of their variance. The petitioners pledged to do so. For example, they will have to provide bicycle racks and Smart Cards to mitigate the effects of zero parking. The petitioners were also advised to buy Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs), which they did. The quantity of TDRs they needed was so small in comparison to the transaction costs that the petitioners had difficulty finding a seller, but they eventually found one who was willing to participate, hoping for future good-will.

All three BZA members present voted to approve the zoning relief at the January meeting.

I did not attend this hearing. I gathered the information above by watching the archived video at the Office of Zoning's Interactive Zoning Information System (IZIS). Videos of both the December 2014 and January 2015 public hearings on this request, along with transcripts of the same meetings and supporting documents submitted by both sides (including the letter from Jack Evans), can be viewed by clicking on the link to IZIS above and entering case number 18878 in the search bar.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sherman Avenue & Barry Place: Howard University Changes Its Master Plan

A team developing a 60,000-square-foot plot of land at the northeast corner of Sherman Avenue and Barry Place NW into a six-story mixed-use building appeared before the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on January 20. Its aim was to get the first of many endorsements necessary to move the project forward.

From publicly-available zoning documents
The development cobbles together land owned by Howard University and two
other land owners. As a whole, the project will require a long and laborious trip through the DC bureaucracy, including a request to rezone the property from residential to commercial and a request to declare the project a
Planned Unit Development (PUD). In addition, Howard University has to jump through extra hoops to engage in development on its share of the land because it has a campus master plan on file with the DC Office of Zoning. The ANC vote was only to endorse the proposed amendment to the campus master plan. The developers will surely have to appear again before the Design Review Committee, mostly likely more than once.

The team presenting was led by Maybelle Bennett, Director of the Howard University Community Association. Other team members who spoke at the meeting were Leila Batties of the law firm of Hollard & Knight, and Steve Gresham from the Alexandria office of Atlanta-based architecture firm Niles Bolton.

"This is not a Howard University project," Bennett said. "Howard is a partner. A private corporation is the primary."

The company's name on official documents is Barry Place Partners LLC, with an address in Valdosta, Georgia. The Georgia address is the same as that of the Corporate Office of Ambling University Development Group, a self-described provider of "campus development solutions". Ambling University Development Group is also described as "lead developer" on official documents for this project.

The committee's discussion ranged over many different aspects of the project, including the width of the sidewalks (with a member of the committee calling the effect of the design "claustrophobic" for pedestrians), and the fate of a colorful mural on the side of an existing building (it will not be preserved, but it will be memorialized in a "digital representation" in the lobby of the proposed building), Other topics touched on included: the loading dock, curb cuts, green roofs, green walls, parking (both car and bicycle), and the plans for nearby Howard University property.

The presenters indicated that the building will add much-needed affordable housing. According to DC law, a development of this type must allot eight percent of its floor space to "affordable housing", renting below market rate.
At the meeting, the presenters said they planned to have "at least" 27 of the proposed 319 rental units designated as affordable housing, of which four units would be two-bedroom apartments. These would be designed as "affordable" by people making 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) -- about $87,000 annual salary for a family of four. A one-bedroom apartment in this case would rent for a maximum of $1,611 a month.

The four two-bedroom apartments would be affordable at 60% AMI (about $66,000 annual salary), the presenters said. This two-bedroom apartments might rent for a maximum of about $1,450 per month.

This amount of affordable housing is less than the amount promised a December 31, 2014, DC government document about the project, which said that ten percent, or 32 rental units, would be affordable housing, five of which would be two-bedroom.

There will be 59 further units priced at "affordable housing" prices, but these units would be set aside for Howard University faculty and staff. There would be nine two-bedroom units that would be affordable at 60% AMI. The rest would be smaller units affordable at 80% AMI.

The committee voted in favor of supporting the amendment to the Howard University Master Plan contingent on the provision of the promised benefits. Five committee members were in favor, none opposed. There were two abstentions.

Documents related to this project can be viewed by the Interactive Zoning Information System of the DC Office of Zoning. Put case number 14-21 into the search bar.

Articles about this development also appeared in the Washington Business Journal in November 2014 and the blog Urban Turf in September 2014.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Who Can Serve Alcohol in DC without a Liquor License?

DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) decided on January 21 to schedule a hearing on the issue of whether WeWork is required to obtain a liquor license, according to a January 26 email from Jessie Cornelius, an ABRA Public Affairs Specialist. A date for the hearing has not been scheduled.

Detail from last year's letter to the Hamiltonian Gallery
WeWork, which located in the Wonder Bread Factory (641 S Street NW) in Shaw, is a multi-city company that provides office space for start-ups and small companies. It provides beer free of charge to its tenants, along with water, coffee, tea, and soft drinks.

In a separate SALM post today, it was reported, on the same day as the ABRA decision, WeWork got the endorsement of the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street for both a temporary liquor license (effective sooner) and a permanent liquor license (takes a while to obtain).

A team of representatives from WeWork explained the events which had led to their appearance before the committee. In an effort to comply with the law after a visit by ABRA enforcement staff, WeWork applied for a category CX liquor license. A CX liquor license, according to the ABRA web site, "[p]ermits multipurpose facilities including theaters, museums, sports facilities, passenger-carrying ships and trains to sell and serve beer, wine and spirits." This category license would cost $1,950 and expire on March 30, 2016. It was reported at the meeting that ABRA then told WeWork it would need a category CT, or tavern, license, which could cost up to $3,120 and expire on September 30, 2016.

Committee member Joan Sterling suggested a liquor license was not necessary. (Sterling is also President of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance.) Sterling said there was new liquor-license-related rulemaking in the works which would make clear that businesses in this circumstance do not need a liquor license.

Sterling also said a similar set of circumstances existed last year when the Hamiltonian Gallery (1353 U Street) was visited by ABRA staff who informed the Hamiltonian it would need a liquor license to serve complimentary glasses of wine and beer at receptions that occurred once every six weeks -- see SALM blog post of July 22, 2014.

ABRA, Sterling said, decided that the Hamiltonian Gallery did not need a liquor license. A note on page 15 of a 28-page .pdf document here confirms that, on October 1, 2014, ABRA "determined no license was necessary". A transcript of the October 1 meeting (see page 17 of another 28-page .pdf here) shows DC liquor-licensing authorities voting unanimously that a liquor license was not necessary in this case "provided they [i.e., the Hamiltonian Gallery] comply with DC Code Section 25-102". ABRA spokesperson Cornelius confirms in his email that the Hamiltonian Gallery had received a letter signed by ABRA Director Fred Moosally stating a liquor licensing was not necessary.

Cornelius also explained in his email that DC ...
... laws and regulations provide that an entity—not a restaurant, tavern or other establishment that serves food, non-alcoholic beverages and/or provides entertainment—does not need to obtain a liquor license to provide alcoholic beverages gratuitously. A temporary liquor license or a caterer’s liquor license would still be needed for any event at a facility where:

(1) Alcoholic beverages are being sold or not provided gratuitously to guests;
(2) There is a cost, such as a cover charge or a requirement to purchase tickets to attend the event;
(3) The facility is being rented out for compensation;
(4) A caterer or bartender has been hired or is being paid to serve alcoholic beverages; and/or
(5) Non-alcoholic beverages, food, or entertainment are being sold or being charged for at the event.
At the January 21 ANC1B committee meeting, Sterling moved the ANC write a letter to ABRA stating the ANC does not believe a license is necessary. The motion was passed, and will be probably considered at the next meeting of the full ANC, scheduled for Thursday, February 5, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets) -- unless ABRA first makes a decision which renders the point moot.

WeWork's Liquor License: "I Didn't Realize It Was a Big Deal until the Police Came In"

A DC branch of WeWork, located in the Wonder Bread Factory (641 S Street NW), has gotten endorsement of both permanent and temporary liquor licenses  from the liquor licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street.

641 S Street in November 2013
The committee also voted to draft a letter to DC's liquor-licensing authorities stating that the ANC does not believe WeWork actually needs a liquor license. Whether WeWork actually needs a liquor license is the subject of a separate blog post today here.

The decisions occurred at the most recent committee meeting on January 21.

WeWork is a New York-based start-up that "creates collaborative co-working communities". It has branches in 13 cities in four countries. According to, the company "takes out a cut-rate lease on a floor or two of an office building, chops it up into smaller parcels and then charges monthly memberships to startups and small companies that want to work cheek-by-jowl with each other." A report in said the company was valued at $5 billion.

At the January 21 meeting, Carl Pierre, head of DC Operations for WeWork, called the company a "shared office space collaborative environment". It supplies to tenants, as part of their leases, a shared kitchen stocked with water, tea, coffee, soft drinks, and beer, at no additional charge. The beer is sometimes deployed to lubricate "speed business coaching" and computer coding sessions, but is locked up at 10pm.

WeWork operated in this matter until they were visited by the enforcement division of DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).

"I didn't realize it was a big deal until the police came in," Pierre said.

The committee held a single vote that recommended to the full ANC that they endorse both a stipulated liquor license and a permanent liquor license for WeWork. The vote was nine in favor, one against, one abstention.

A stipulated liquor license, explained here, is one of the few acts which an ANC can take on its own authority. If the ANC approves a stipulated license (and if there are no other objecting parties), then an establishment can start serving alcohol immediately after the payment of a $100 fee to ABRA, while the establishment's paperwork for a permanent license works its way through normal channels.

The full ANC will probably consider endorsement both the stipulated liquor license and the permanent license at its next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, February 5, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

However, as explained in a today's other blog post, it is possible that WeWork does not actually need a liquor license, in which case the time and money Pierre and others at WeWork spent engaging consultants, visiting the ANC committee meeting, etc., will have been unnecessary. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

ANC1B Committee Votes to Protest License for 24-hour Operation by Satellite Room

Satellite Room, a "hipster diner" located across from the 9:30 Club at 2047 9th Street NW, is asking for a change to its liquor license which would allow 24-hour operation. However, Ian Hilton, one of the co-owners of the Satellite Room, told the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on January 21 that the intention was to operate 24 hours only on weekends, from opening at 5pm Fridays to "last call" Sunday night.

Satellite Room in 2012 (Photo credit below)
The sought-after changes would not only allow the establishment to stay open all night, but also to serve alcohol, both inside and outside, until 3am. Hilton said the intention was to stop serving alcohol at 2:30 am "last call" and not resume until 11am. Those remaining would be able to order food and remain inside.

The committee voted to recommend to the full ANC a protest for the proposed change in the license until a modified settlement agreement can be worked out between the Satellite Room, the ANC, and a group of objecting neighbors who are resident at The Floridian condo (929 Florida Avenue). The motion was made by ANC1B Commissioner John Green (district 12). Eight of the 11 committee members present voted for the motion, none against, three abstained.

A settlement agreement is a binding legal agreement. In the case of DC liquor licensees, a settlement agreement often deals with hours of operation, noise, trash disposal, parking, and other matters of community interest. A settlement agreement is part of the establishment's liquor license.

In this case, a settlement agreement (see page 4 of a 6-page .pdf here) was entered into in 2011 by the establishment (then called "Satellite Pizza") and the ANC. It allows the establishment to routinely stay open until 3am on the weekends. If the Satellite Room wishes to get DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to consent to the increase their opening hours, they will have to get the ANC to agree, as well as placating the residents of The Floridian who are planning to file a "group of five or more" protest.

Nick Baumann, chair of the ANC1B liquor-licensing affairs committee, said he had received "several emails" objecting to the extended hours. Baumann read one email as representative of all. The email complained of the noise from the Satellite Room's rear outdoor patio, which is legally defined as a "summer garden", even though it is largely concrete.

A married couple were present at the meeting to represent the residents of The Floridian. They reported that about 1/3rd of the units in face the Satellite Room on 9th Stree. They had 16 signatures of Floridian residents against the change in hours, and planned to get more.

"All of the unit owners are bothered by the current state of affairs," one of the Floridian residents said.

"You get the bass, the people talking over the music," she said.

She also said that, although the summer garden has a legal capacity of 24 seats, there are "roughly a hundred people there on many nights".

"Everyone's having difficulty sleeping," she said, adding that residents have to use white noise machines and ear plugs.

In addition, there have been problems with late-night smokers congregating in front of the condo, as well as on-street vomiting near the condo.

Owner Ian Hilton disputed that noise had been a problem, noting that DC authorities had visited his establishment after the neighbors had complained. ABRA had taken readings, and NOT cited his establishment for noise violations, unlike some of his neighbors.

"We've had visits from ABRA," he said. "We've been a compliant owner."

Hilton called the accusations of noise from his establishment "a case of mistaken identity"

The Satellite Room is in ANC1B district 11. The newly-elected ANC1B Commissioner for the district is Robb Hudson. Hudson was present at the meeting, and it seems like the task of trying to negotiate an agreement will fall to him.

The full ANC will probably vote at its next regularly scheduled meeting on the recommendation to protest the application for the liquor license change. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 5, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

ABRA will have a "roll call" hearing on February 17, 10am, at ABRA headquarters on the fourth floor of the Reeves Center. The ANC and "group of five or more" will have to show up and have standing as a protesting group officially accepted. After that, there will probably be attempts at mediation.

(Photo credit:, used by permission)

Friday, January 23, 2015

1309-1315 Clifton Street: "Affordable Housing *is* the Public Amenity"

At its regularly-scheduled monthly meeting on January 20, the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street heard a presentation from a team hoping to develop two adjoining parcels of land (1309-1315 Clifton Street NW) into a 160-170 unit, six-story apartment building. The team includes Aria Development Group, attorneys from the firm Goulston & Storr, and Cunningham Quill Architects. They presented their ideas to the committee for review before it applies to the DC Zoning Commission for a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

Artist's conception of the finished building
No vote on the project was sought by the developers or taken by the committee. The plan is still in the discussion stage.

The group had had an initial consultation with the Design Review Committee the previous month. At that time, the Committee indicated components of a development they were interested in, including off-street (car) parking, bicycle parking, and affordable housing.

Off-Street parking: The two parcels of land are zoned R-5-B. According to Section 11-2101.1 of DC Municipal Regulations, an apartment building on this category of land would be required to have one parking space for every two units, meaning in this case 80-85 parking spaces. The original proposal provided 22 parking spaces. In December, the Design Review Committee suggested more parking. The team came back with a revised design that provided for 36 parking spaces.

Bicycle Parking: According to documents submitted by the team at the meeting, 55 bike parking spaces (one per three units) are required. The current design envisions 80 long-term bike parking spaces and 10 short-term. The bike storage area will have its own ramp from the public alley in the rear of the building. The building will also have a "bike workshop" area.

Affordable housing: Also at the suggestion of the committee, the building plan includes a increased contribution to local affordable housing, as defined by the Inclusionary Zoning Affordable Housing Program of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. Specifically, it increased to eight percent (perhaps 12-14 units) the planned number of rental units that are intended to be affordable for people earning 50% of Area Median Income (AMI). (Washington area AMI in 2013 was $107,300.)

The committee approved of this pledge for increased 50% AMI housing.

"We're not having developers who are willing to go into 50% AMI," one committee member said.

According to a 2013 official document, an two-bedroom apartment designated as affordable at 50% AMI could be rented for a maximum of $1,207 per month.

In addition, the development team said, a further two percent (perhaps 3-4) units would be designated as affordable at 80% AMI. An two-apartment designated as affordable at 80% AMI could be rented for a maximum of $1,931 per month.

When the DC government declares a PUD, a developer pledges "public amenities", to the community. In return, the developer gets to build a something which might otherwise require zoning relief. The result is community groups (e.g., groups devoted to the beautification of local parks), schools, or other organizations appear after the declaration of a PUD and ask for "amenities", often in the form of cash, from developers.

After the developer's presentation was finished, a member of the Design Review Committee reminded the developer: "A PUD requires public amenities."

The developer seemed to be trying to avoid getting into the business of giving away money.

"Affordable housing is the public amenity," a member of the development team said.

(Photo credit: from documents submitted to the Design Review Committee)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

CORRECTED: Assaults by Staff at 14th and U Club Alleged at ANC1B Committee Meeting

CORRECTED: After publication, I received an email from one of the woman mentioned below with a list of corrections. As I result, I rewrote parts of this article. I have tried to indicate edits with strikethrough for deletions and italics for additions. Also, I am adding the text of the email at the end of the article.

Two women came before the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street last night (January 21) to allege that they had been assaulted inside the dance club Tropicalia (2001 14th Street NW).

"He dragged me down to the floor," one woman said. "He slammed me to the wall trying to drag me out."

Tropicalia is downstairs from the Subway at 14th and U
Although both of the women identified themselves (and their attacker) by name at the public meeting, I am not printing any of the names out of an abundance of caution, even though one of the women specifically gave me permission to print her name. After the meeting ended, I asked permission from both of the women to write a story about their testimony. They both agreed without hesitation.

One of the victims identified herself as a 24-year-old woman. She went to Tropicalia on New Year's Eve in early December, but neglected to take identification. She was allowed into the club, but was marked with a black "X" on her hands to indicate that she could not drink in the club. Nevertheless, she managed to obtained a drink from a performer. When the staff member saw the woman with the drink, he told her to leave the club approached her. She attempted to talk to him, and put the drink down and apologized. The staff member then assaulted her without warning, in the manner quoted above, she told the meeting. She also said the incident took place in front of five witnesses, one of whom was punched in the face.

The other woman said her incident took place on New Year's Eve, and did not detail what happen to her at the club, but she said she was injured and had to go the hospital. She also said the incident took place in front of five many witnesses, two of whom gave statements to the police.

"It's hard enough for me to talk about this," said the second woman.

The woman said she was in the club and felt a man touch the small of her back. She told him not to touch her there. She told him to say "excuse me" when trying to get by, instead of touching. The man grabbed her, picked her up bodily, crushing her ribs while walking her around. He told the woman he could touch her wherever he wanted.

Both women have reported the incidents to the police and have police reports.

One of the women The 24-year-old woman said the owner of the club had called to apologize. The owner also said the employee would be removed. But when the woman went to Tropicalia to meet with the owner, she said, the owner was absent but her assailant was present. The assailant told her that he would not be losing his job, that he had never actually touched her, and there was no footage of the incident from security cameras.

She also told the committee the assailant said: "Bitch, I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm astounded and I'm shocked," said one committee member, himself a liquor licensee.

The same committee member told the women that they might wish to press the owner on the matter of security footage because, according to DC law, licensees were only obligated to hold onto security footage for 30 days. By the end of the month, the liquor licensee would be able to legally destroy the video of the New Year's Eve incident.

Members of the committee told the women that this matter was one to be brought before DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). They also advised the women to make sure that ABRA got a copy of the police reports. Committee Chair Nick Baumann said the incident would certainly come up when the liquor license came up for renewal in 2016, but there was a feeling at the meeting that it was a long time to wait.

"People need to be accountable for what they do," a committee member said.

Baumann said he would ask the licensee to come to the next meeting of the liquor-licensing affairs committee, scheduled for February 18. Would the women be willing to return and talk with owner in front of the committee?

They would, they said.

Committee members called up public records at the meeting which indicated that there had been an alleged assault at the club in 2014, but ABRA declined to take any action against the club in relation to the event.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

UPDATE: Below is the text of the email from one of the women, correcting the record:


I would correct the following inaccuracies:

Woman #1

·       This occurred in early December
·       She did not buy a drink, the performer passed one to her
·       The staff member did not tell her to leave the club, he simply approached her
·       She put the drink down and said sorry before he assaulted her, without saying anything
·       At least 5 witnesses, one of whom was punched in the face
·       When she went back and was surprised he was not fired as the owner had promised, the security staff told her, “Bitch, I’m not going anywhere.”

Woman #2 (me)

·       31 years old
·       New Year’s Eve
·       I felt hands on the small of my back from a random person walking through the crowd. I told the man, “Don’t touch me there.” I told him he could say excuse me when trying to get by, instead of putting his hands on my body. He got aggressive, grabbed me, put me in a bear hug, and crushed my ribs while lifting me up and walking me around, telling me “I can touch you however I want.”
·       I only found out when I talked to the police that he was the head of security.
·       Many witnesses, 2 of whom were with me and have given statements to MPD
·       Owner called me to apologize, but this is disingenuous; he already knew about this particular staff member assaulting women, because he knew about what happened to woman #1.

end quote

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Heritage India/The Zanzibar: DC "Will Permanently Ban" Entertainment, Promoters

DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board "will permanently ban" entertainment, including DJs, from the establishment known as the restaurant Heritage India during the day and at night as The Zanzibar or The New Zanizbar (1901 Pennsylvania Avenue NW), the Board said in an announcement on Friday, January 16. As part of the ban, the establishment will be forbidden from charging a cover, having live music, or engaging promoters.

The latest word from DC government
However, the establishment may still be able to re-gain its liquor license pending further deliberations by the ABC Board, the announcement said. This might allow the establishment to continue functioning as a conventional restaurant.

The decision to ban entertainment came in the wake of a January 3 incident where a patron was stabbed in a late-night melee.

At its regular monthly meeting on January 14, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to send a letter to the ABC Board which urged the establishment be permanently shuttered.

"ANC2B believes this event indicates an emerging pattern of violence at this establishment," the letter said.

The letter recalls that, in November 2011, the establishment, operating at a different location in Dupont Circle, was the sight of a gunfight in which one man was killed and five wounded. The next month, the ABC Board cancelled the entertainment endorsement on the establishment's liquor license, ordered the establishment to close by midnight, and ordered a security plan.

The letter continues:
In the Spring of 2014, Heritage India approached ANC2B and requested changes to their negotiated settlement agreement to allow for entertainment and other late-night activities at the Pennsylvania Ave location. The ANC was willing to negotiate a new agreement with the owners and one was reached in May to allow for entertainment and promotion activities.
At the January 14 meeting, ANC2B Commissioner Stephanie Maltz recalled: "I spent a lot of time on this. They brought a very detailed security plan and hired a firm with a proven record in DC."

However, according to information given at the ANC meeting (citing a police report on the January 3 incident), when push came to shove, the staff did not follow the security plan. A Washington Post article on the melee said there were only four staff members on duty for "250 to 275" patrons, in violation of the security plan which mandated one guard for every 50 patrons. The Post article also says security camera footage shows club employees mopping up blood before the police had a chance to investigate, in spite of efforts of one of the victim's friends to wrestle the mop away to preserve the crime scene.

"They clearly didn't care," said Commissioner Patrick Kennedy, visiting ANC2B from neighboring ANC 2A/Foggy Bottom. "There is no remedy short of revocation."

In its announcement, the ABC Board said it had referred the case to the DC Attorney General's office to bring formal charges against Heritage India. If charges are brought, it may generate the need for further ABC Board hearings. The Board promised to announce any future hearings on its web site.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deadline for Comment on Pop-up Legislation Extended, February Hearing Scheduled

At the end of a marathon January 15 public hearing about proposed rules that would limit "pop-ups" in many DC residential neighborhoods, DC Zoning Commission Chair Anthony Hood announced that the deadline for comment would be extended to 3pm on Thursday, January 29. Hood also announced that public deliberations on the proposal would take place at a meeting scheduled for 6:30pm on Monday, February 9, at a Zoning Commission hearing room on the second floor of 441 4th Street NW (metro: Judiciary Square).

Screenshot from video of January 15 meeting
A page here at the DC Office of Zoning website outlines two ways to submit comments to the Zoning Commission. One of the methods requires setting up a name and password to access the Office of Zoning's Interactive Zoning Information System (IZIS). The other, somewhat easier, method is to send an email to before the deadline. In order to be part of the public record, an email submitted to the Zoning Commission must:

  • be in the form of an attached .pdf document, signed by the author
  • be less than ten pages long
  • contain the case number and name in the subject line, in this case: 14-11 Office of Planning
At the hearing, Hood repeatedly expressed his desire to hear from all people who had come to testify, which in the end numbered about 100 people. To this end, a strict time limit on comments was made and enforced. With a few exceptions, current DC homeowners and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners (ANCs) testified in favor of the proposal to limit popups, including ANCs from Wards One, Four, and Six. A smaller number of homeowners, plus several developers and attorneys for developers, spoke against the plan.

DC government representatives held public meetings in Columbia Heights last summer and fall to talk about the proposed regulations -- see SALM blog post of August 5 and September 29, 2014.

Read coverage of the January 15 hearing from the blog Urban Turf here.

You can both read public submissions of support and opposition (including a four-page letter of opposition by Harriet Tregoing, former Director of the DC Office of Planning) to the proposal, as well as watch an archived video of the January 15 hearing on this topic, at the IZIS portal here. Enter case number 14-11 in the search bar.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2724 11th Street: Zoning Relief Rejected for Controversial Building

On January 13, DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) rejected the request of Jefferson-11th Street, LLC, for zoning relief that would have allowed a controversial renovation at 2724 11th Street NW to go forward. Four members of the board voted unanimously against the request, and one member was absent.

Protest at 2724 11th Street in October 2014
The request for zoning relief has been the subject of a long battle between the building owner on one side and the tenants and neighborhood allies on the other. As a result, the request has drawn a lot more attention than normal, including coverage by WAMU, letters of opposition from City Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) and now-former City Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward One), and appearances last fall in support of the tenants at the building by future Ward One City Councilmember Brianne Nadeau and the Eposcopalian Bishop of the Diocese of Washington Marian Budde.

The owners argued that relief was appropriate because of undue hardship and exception financial difficulties that the strict application of zoning regulations would cause. The Board said the owners had not proven that this was the case. Specifically, the board took exception to the financial data that the owners had submitted.

"I clearly cannot find the financials submitted to this board credible," said BZA Chair Lloyd Jordan. "The financials are not in the customary form."

The Board had warned that applicants at a public hearing in November (see SALM blog post of November 25, 2014) that their "financials" were not convincing and that clarifying documentation was needed.

"The submitted documentation did not make it any more credible," Jordan said.

"I find what was submitted to us troubling and just kind of hard to swallow," said board member Anthony Hood.

Board Vice-chair S. Kathryn Allen commended the ownership for "attempting to deal with the issues of this building, and hoped the owners intended "to make good on it promises to the tenants".

"I did find the opposition in this case, which was significant, compelling. I respect very much the concerns of the folks who took the time to come and testify," Allen said.

I did not attend this meeting. I gathered the information in this report by watching a streaming video of the hearing. The video is available on the website of the DC Office of Zoning here -- click on the hearing of January 13. The segment dealing with this case starts at 34:07.

Documents pertaining to this case can be accessed by going the BZA's Interactive Zoning Information System and entering case number 18790 in the search bar.

(Photo credit: Amal Mimish, used by permission)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

ANC2B Officers Elected, Liquor License Moratorium Working Group Created

At its regular monthly meeting last night (January 14), Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle had its newly-elected membership sworn in by City Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward Two). The ANC then elected its leadership and created a working group for the West Dupont Moratorium Zone.

Evans speaks after swearing in the new ANC
Commissioner Noah Smith (district 09) was re-elected Chair of ANC2B. Smith was first elected Chair in September 2014 when former Commissioner Will Stephens stepped down.

The ANC also elected the following officers:
  • Vice Chair: Stephanie Maltz (03)
  • Treasurer: Michael Upright (04)
  • Secretary: Nicole Mann (08)
The four officers were nominated as a slate and elected unanimously. Upright and Mann are newly-elected Commissioners.

ANC2B will select Chairs for its committees at its regular February meeting. As of this writing, ANC2B has the following standing committees: Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), Community Involvement, Public Safety Liaison, Transportation and Public Infrastructure, and Zoning, Preservation and Development.

The ANC also set up a working group to deal with the upcoming expiration of the West Dupont Circle Moratorium Zone. The West Dupont Circle Moratorium Zone has been in effect since 1994, and has been renewed at least four times. The last renewal was in 2012. It extends approximately six hundred feet in all directions from the intersection of 21st and P Streets NW. In its current form, it forbids the issuance of nightclub licenses in the zone area and limits the number of possible license in some other categories (e.g, liquor stores, grocery stores, taverns, and "multi-purpose facilities"). At its last renewal, the limit on the number of liquor licenses for restaurants in the zone was dropped.

The West Dupont Circle Moratorium Zone will expire on May 17, 2015. The working group will hold public meetings and make a final recommendation to the full ANC at its regularly-scheduled April meeting.

There was some discussion about whether the ANC might have to request a 120-day extension of the zone in order to give the ANC and DC liquor-licensing authorities to make the decisions and generate the documents necessary, no matter what the decision is. Commissioner Mike Silverstein (06) suggested that an extension might be necessary. Newly-elected ANC Daniel Warwick (02) said he had been in contact with a staff member of the appropriate DC government department and had been assured that a decision in April would be timely.

Warwick was elected chair of the West Dupont Moratorium Zone Working Group. The moratorium zone falls completely with his ANC district. Warwick's election was unanimous.

There are five liquor license moratorium zones in DC (Adams Morgan, East Dupont, Georgetown, Glover Park, West Dupont). Once created, no liquor license moratorium zone in DC has ever been completely abolished.

See an explanation of DC liquor license categories here.

A .pdf copy of the official regulations concerning the West Dupont Circle Moratorium Zone is available here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ANC1B Elects James Turner Chair, Solicits Applications for Committee Chairs

James Turner, Commissioner for district 08 of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street, was re-elected chair of the ANC at its first meeting of the year on January 8. Turner reported in an email that the following Commissioners were selected at the same meeting as officers of the ANC:
    James Turner testifies at public hearing

  • Vice-Chair: Robb Hudson (district 11)
  • Treasurer: Nick Ferreyros (05)
  • Secretary: Jessica Laura Smith (07)
Hudson, Ferreyros, and Smith are all first-term Commissioners.

Commissioners Hudson and Ferreyros tweeted yesterday (January 12) that ANC1B is accepting applications for the position of ANC committee chairs through January 26. People interested were invited to send Hudson or Ferreyros a message, or indicate their interest via the ANC's web site.

In 2014, ANC1B had five standing committees -- ABC (liquor licenses), Design Review, Grants, Public Safety, and Transportation. The committee chair positions are unpaid, just like the position of Commissioner itself.

(photo credit: screenshot of video of December 2014 hearing of DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment)

Monday, January 12, 2015

ANC1B Approves Settlement Agreement with Darnell's

At its regular monthly meeting January 8, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted to enter into a settlement agreement with Darnell's Bar (944 Florida Avenue NW). The vote was unanimous.

Darnell's via Google Street View
The agreement says Darnell's will close at 1am on weekends and midnight on weekdays. It also says there will be no outdoor music and all windows and doors will be shut except when patrons are entering or leaving the establishment. Darnell's will also guarantee that there are noise-dampening curtains in the windows at all times. 

This was the second meeting in a row where ANC1B voted on a settlement agreement with Darnell's. At the last meeting of the ANC, the outgoing commissioners voted to reject a draft settlement agreement -- see SALM blog post of December 10. After that rejection, there were additional negotiations with neighbors who have been involved in a lengthy dispute with the bar, and the new version of the settlement agreement was more to their liking.

It was reported that, although the neighbors were "satisfied" with the settlement agreement, they would continue to protest the liquor license renewal application before DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).

There are two parties protesting the liquor license renewal. One party is a group of five or more neighbors. Under Section 25-609 of DC Code, ABRA will automatically dismiss this group's protest once it approves the ANC's settlement agreement.

"The group of five is OK with that," said Nick Baumann, chair of ANC1B's liquor-licensing affairs committee, in his report to the ANC.

The other party is a single individual who is an abutting neighbor to Darnell's. Specifically, the neighbor lives upstairs. As an abutting neighbor, this protest falls into a different category and will not be automatically dismissed as a result of the settlement agreement. It seems like likely that more hearings and attempts at arbitration will result. However, it has been reported that the upstairs neighbor is interested in no other outcome than the complete closure of the bar.

Darnell's is known alternately as Manchester Bar and Darnell's Manchester Bar. During the daytime, The Blind Dog Cafe, a coffee house, operates in the same space.

New ANC1B Scores Perfect Attendance

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street started off the new year correctly by scoring perfect attendance on its first meeting. The meeting started at 7pm. By 7:10, all 12 Commissioners were in place.

In 2014, ANC1B often had difficulty gathering enough Commissioners to achieve a quorum -- see, most recently, SALM blog post of November 7. Some of the chronic no-shows have left office. Seven of ANC1B's 12 Commissioners are new.

The election of new officers was on the meeting's agenda, but I had to leave the meeting before the vote took place.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

ANC2F Endorses $45,000 Benefits Package from Developer to Community Groups

At its regular monthly meeting last night (January 7), Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle endorsed a Planned Unit Development (PUD) package that would, if accepted by the DC government, allow a planned hotel-and-apartment complex at 9th and L Streets NW to go ahead. The package was passed by the ANC without audible objection.

The future site of the development
As part of the PUD package, the ANC implicitly endorses the design and zoning aspects of the project. In return for this, Quadrangle Development pledges to contribute $45,000 to three community groups, specifically:
  • $5,000 to Thompson Elementary School (1200 L Street) to purchase "equipment"
  • $20,000 to a community group dedicated to the maintenance of Samuel Gompers Park, located at intersection of 10th Street, L Street, and Massachusetts Avenue.
  • $20,000 to a community group dedicated to the maintenance of 10th Street Park, located between L and M Streets.
Last November, ANC2F held a committee meeting in which community organizations asked for a total of $55,000 in benefits, and Quadrangle Development came back with a counter-offer of $15,000. The committee asked Quadrangle to come back to the committee's December meeting with a better offer (see SALM blog post of December 1, 2014, for more details). Quadrangle apparently did so, and the offer as presented to the full ANC was approved by the committee at its December meeting. The ANC's decision last night ratified the unanimous committee vote.

See explanations of the PUD process -- one by the U Street Neighborhood Association here and another by the blog Greater Greater Washington here.

John Fanning to Chair Logan Circle ANC

John Fanning was elected Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle at the ANC's first meeting of the year last night (January 7). Fanning represents ANC2F district 04 and will serve as Chair until the end of 2015. The motion to elect Fanning chair passed without apparent objection.

ANC2F Chair Fanning (photo credit below)
See a description of Fanning's experience on ANC2F's web site here.

Fanning also announced at the meeting that he has recently started working for the administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser as Ward Two liaison.

The ANC also selected Commissioners to fill other offices. They are
  • Commissioner Pepin Tuma (district 03) as Vice Chair, and also as Chair of the Education Committee
  • Commissioner Karin Berry (02) as Treasurer
  • Commissioner Kevin Deeley (08) as Chair of the Community Development Committee
  • Commissioner Kate Gordon (01) as Chair of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Policy Committee
  • Commissioner Charlie Bengel (06) as Chair of the Crime and Public Safety Committee
(photo credit: from the website of ANC2F)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

1618 14th Street: "That Wall Could Collapse at Any Point Right Now"

A structural engineer testified to DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) on December 18, 2014, that the south wall of 1618 14th Street NW "represents a significant safety hazard" and "bracing should have been installed quite a while ago".

"That wall could collapse at any point right now," said Nathan Hicks of Robert Silman Associates, a Georgetown-based structural engineering firm, in testimony concerning the owner's application to knock the building down.

"I have severe concerns about the integrity of that wall and the potential for its collapse," said HPRB Chair Gretchen Pfaehler at the same meeting.

The building sits on the corner of 14th and Corcoran Streets. The unsafe wall under discussion was the wall that runs along the Corcoran Street side. As of three days ago, when I last saw the building, there was no visible exterior bracing, nor was there any indication to passing pedestrians that the building was potentially unsafe.

Stephen Jaffe, owner of 1618 14th Street
HPRB against raze of the building

After hearing testimony both for and against the raze, the HPRB voted 7-2 to reject the owner's application. Many board members made statements opposing the application.

"We've protected and preserved buildings in far worse condition," said Joseph Taylor.

"We need to preserve this building," said Robert Sonderman.

"I'm not convinced that the owner is not partially responsible for its condition and he hasn't been very aggressive about remediating it," said Maria Casarella.

Building owner testifies

Stephen Jaffe, the owner of the building, testified in favor of the demolition. He told the HPRB he had bought the building in the year 2000, but he had no idea it was structurally unsafe until the year 2012, when the interior dry wall was taken down and the extent of the damage to the building was made clear.

Jaffe also told the HPRB of his intentions concerning the size of a successor to the present two-story building -- should he ever get permission to knock it down.

"We're thinking that it's going to be the same or possibly a three-story building," Jaffe said. "But basically the same style to fit in with the neighborhood. We're not looking to make a big change in this building."

At another point in the hearing, Jaffe told the Board he owned two other buildings in DC historic districts -- one of which is the building which houses Le Diplomate restaurant, one block away on 14th Street.

Other testimony at the meeting detailed the building's history as the location of first an African-American-owned tailoring business, followed by a high end photo studio. A sex club took residency in part of the building in 1991, according to testimony, and eventually expanded to the entire building. The club allegedly made unauthorized changes to the building's interior walls and was the scene of a fire in 2005. The sex club was finally closed in 2009 after a man fell to his death there. 

The request to raze the building was conditionally endorsed in November, 2014, by a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F/Logan Circle (see SALM blog post of November 21, 2014). The committee's decision was ratified at the December 2014 meeting of the full ANC.

I did not attend this meeting. This report is based on viewing the archived video of the meeting, available here, starting a time 1:11:34.

(photo credit: screenshot of HPRB video of the meeting)