City Paper Widget

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

DCRA Director on Noise, Row House Crowding, Illegal Construction

Melinda Bolling, interim director of DC's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), answered some questions before the start of the the regular monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on April 2. The questions addressed various topics which are under DCRA's purview.

Bolling (center) answers questions
Bolling explained some details about about DC sound regulations. Noise was a constant complaint, she said, but DC was "hesitant" to impose new soundproofing requirements on existing buildings. Instead, DCRA concentrated on assuring that new constructions and buildings getting renovations were up to code in this regard.

"If you make renovations, you have to meet the code," Bolling said.

ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09) brought up a specific place which he predicted would be a future headache for Commissioners.

"We're going to have a problem with Nellie's," Turner said.

Nellie's Sports Bar is a popular establishment located at 900 U Street NW. It is next to a parcel of land likely someday to hold a multi-story mixed use building. This neighboring parcel is one of two parcels which are being considered (together as a single unit) for redevelopment by the Bowser administration. The other package in the deal is the nearby Grimke School (1923 Vermont Avenue).

A proposal to redevelop these two pieces of land was approved in the last moments of the administration of former Mayor Vincent Grey in December 2014. The award was "put on hold" shortly after Mayor Bowser was sworn in, and is now being reevaluted.

In response to a question on illegal construction, Bolling gave the name of the city official responsible -- Jill Byrd -- and a telephone number to call -- 202-442-STOP. (Byrd's email is However, Bolling says, "no one works on weekends", so complaints about any illegal construction happening after Friday evening will have wait until the next business day for action.

In response to a question about illegal rooming houses, Bolling said it was legal for six unrelated people to live together in one house.

ANC1B Commissioner Nick Ferreyros (district 05) said he had been told the actual legal limit is five or less.

No, Bolling said, six was permitted.

DCRA has the responsibility to enforce rules against illegal rooming houses but "we have to build a case", and it was often difficult to do so, she said.

Bolling also briefly addressed the DCRA"s "Third Party Inspection Program", meaning, practice of having private businesses to do inspections to ensure buildings are up to code, in lieu of inspectors on the city payroll. Bolling said many inspectors were hired by developers. There was a profit motive for inspectors not to scrutinize too closely the properties they were being paid to inspect, she admitted.

There was only one person in the audience who had a question, and the matter turned out to be one handled by another DC government agency.

The ANC thanked Bolling for coming. She departed and the ANC moved on to its regular agenda.

Bolling became DCRA interim director at the beginning of 2015. She was DCRA's General Counsel for several years prior.

Read here a February 27 post from the blog Park View DC about a recent Ward One town hall meeting where DCRA's chronic "unresponsiveness and failure to address issues" was the focus of many citizen complaints.

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