City Paper Widget

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

1216-1226 9th Street: "Peace in the Valley" Sought over Zero Parking Building in Blagden Alley

A group of neighbors of a proposed development at 1216-1226 9th Street NW have asked DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) for standing as an interested party in an application for zoning relief, especially for a request to reduce the number of required parking spaces from 14 to zero. As a result, the BZA has postponed a hearing on the application, originally scheduled for January 27, to March 11, while the developers and their representatives attempt to get the neighbors on board for the relief.

Millstein (right) presents the project
Toward this end, Douglas Development had a public meeting, attended by representatives of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle and some of the neighbors, at La Colombe Coffee (924 M Street in Blagden Alley) in the early evening of February 11.

Paul Millstein of Douglas Development started off the meeting by stating: "We always appreciate a turnout."

Millstein and Andrea Gourdine of Douglas Development were joined by attorney Leila Batties of Holland & Knight, as well as a traffic engineer, and others, six in all. This was about the same number as the neighbors who came to the meeting. Ten neighbors, all living on the 900 block of M Street, signed the BZA document asking for standing.

Millstein told the neighbors he sought "peace in the valley".

He then recapped many of the details of the project, including its prospective high-end tenants who have signed leases (including celebrity chef Jeremiah Langhorne and a new incarnation of the "award-winning" cocktail bar The Columbia Room). Millstein also explain the reason why the developers are seeking zoning relief now, after the project had started, rather than the usual order of approval first, construction second. Most of these details were unchanged from November 2014, when the developers successfully sought ANC endorsement of the zoning relief -- see SALM blog post of November 24, 2014. The full ANC endorsed the zoning relief request at its December 2014 meeting.

In reply, a neighbor made the primary concern plain.

"Parking is a nightmare," she said. This building was one of many in the area trying to get permission to build without the required parking spaces (for an example, see SALM blog post of November 10, 2014). The neighborhood would be overwhelmed by cars coming in from the suburbs to eat and drink at "destination" restaurants and bars.

"Parking enforcement is part of the problem," the neighbor said. "We want to make sure these things are addressed now."

As a negative example, the neighbors sited the case of Le Diplomate (1601 14th Street).

"There was no dialogue", one neighbor said. As a result, there were constant traffic problems caused by the Le Diplomate's valet parking service at the corner of 14th and Q Streets, the neighbor said.

About the petition for standing in the zoning case, the neighbor said: "We filed because we want to make sure these things are addressed now."

Millstein urged the group to "get a collective voice", meaning, a point of contact who could negotiate on behalf of the whole group. If that happened, maybe some parking remedies could be put in writing and agreed on.

"If you don't get parking, you can't proceed," one neighbor said.

"We're going to hammer something out," Millstein said.

Millstein also told the neighbors that customers for both Langhorne's restaurant as well as the Columbia Room would, if the proposal went ahead as planned, enter and exit through Blagden Alley, rather than through the building's front on 9th Street, which would have other tenants, including Reformation Fitness. The prospect of cocktail bar patrons exiting through the alley did not seem to please the neighbors, but there seemed to be agreement that this had to be handled as part of the liquor-licensing process (which will take place later), and not as part of the zoning process.

The neighbors were urged to act as quickly as possible, as the filings for the March zoning hearings were due on February 18.

ANC2F Commissioner Charlie Bengel (district 06), in whose ANC district the property is located, announced the meeting at the February 4 meeting of ANC2F. Bengel and ANC2F Chair John Fanning (Commissioner for district 04) attended the meeting.

The documents related to the request for zoning relief, including the petition by the neighbors for standing, can be seen by going to DC's Interactive Zoning Information System and entering case number 18905 into the search bar.

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