ANC 6B October Meeting Recap

October 19, 2014

Thanks to a large number of planning and zoning cases that ended up on the consent agenda, we had a relatively light load for ANC 6B’s Oct.14 meeting. Here are the highlights:

  • After a lengthy debate, the commission voted 6-0-2 to protest the application for a substantial change to the liquor license at Ugly Mug (723 8th Street SE). The Ugly Mug is seeking to almost double their seating capacity by expanding into second floor and adding a retractable roof. In considering the case, the commission heard from a number of neighbors about problems with noise and trash at the property, including the illegal storage of kegs in the alley. Though my inclination is to try to work with Barracks Row businesses on expansion plans, it is clear that the Ugly Mug is having trouble managing noise and trash at its current capacity. Thus, I voted with the majority to protest the substantial change.
  • The commission voted to approve liquor license renewal requests for Roland’s of Capitol Hill (333 Pennsylvania Ave SE), Capitol Supreme Market (501 4th Street SE) and 7th & L Street Market (700 L Street SE). All three establishments signed settlement agreements with the commission outlining how they will deal with noise, trash, etc.
  • The commission did vote 7-0-1 to protest the liquor license renewal for Yes! Organic Market (410 8th Street SE), mainly to afford the commission and owner some additional time to reach a compromise on disputed settlement agreement language. I’m confident we will reach an agreement.
  • ANC 6B voted 7-0 to send a letter (pdf) to the Metropolitan Police Department requesting a red light camera on the south side of the Pennsylvania Ave and 7th Street SE intersection.
  • The commission also voted 7-0 to send a letter (pdf) to the District Department of Transportation in support of the proposed expansion of the Navy Yard-Union Station and Potomac Ave-Skyland Circulator bus routes. However, the letter does urge DDOT to ensure that the proposed expansions do not diminish reliability of service on the lines and to add weekend service to both of the lines.
  • Interim DC Fire and EMS Chief Eugene Jones provided an update the commission and community with an update on the department. Chief Jones will likely serve as interim chief until a new mayor is sworn in next January.
  • I announced that the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s office would be holding a disposition meeting for parcels F1 and G1 of the Hill East/Reservation 13 development on Wed., Oct. 29, 6 pm – 8 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave SE).
  • Two representatives from development teams interested in responding to the Eastern Branch Building RFP introduced themselves and shared brief details about how they would use the site. The RFP deadline is Fri., Nov. 20.
  • The commission voted unanimously to ratify ANC 6B Executive Committee action for a one-month lease extension for the commission office at the Hill Center and for the funds to pay an additional month’s rent. The commission still plans to move its office to Eastern Market but is working with the Department of General Services on an appropriate office space.
  • Since the second Tuesday of November is Veteran’s Day, the commission’s November meeting will be on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 7 pm at the Hill Center.

Mayor Releases Plan to Close DC General Shelter

October 15, 2014

On Oct. 14, Mayor Gray released a plan to close the temporary Emergency Family Homeless Shelter at DC General. The plan calls for replacing the units in the dilapidated, deteriorating old hospital building with 5-10 smaller scale shelters across the city. If new sites are identified and appropriate investments are made, DC General could be closed for good in the fall of 2015.

While the plan is certainly a step in the right direction (and something my ANC 6B colleagues and I have been asking for since 2011), I am concerned about some of the plan’s details (or lack thereof) including:

  • Location of new shelters – the plan is vague on where the 5-10 smaller scale shelters would be located. I was hopeful that the Administration would identify at least one or two locations.
  • No closing date identified - while the plan notes that the shelter could be closed for good in 2015, the Gray Administration avoids selecting a specific date for closure. Without a date, I’m concerned that the Mayor and Council will not make the investments necessary to see the plan implemented.
  • Open-ended Solicitation for Offers – the plan notes that the DC Department of General Services has issued a SFO seeking privately owned facilities that could be used as shelters. But there is no deadline on the SFO, which means that there is no time pressure for developers/owners to respond to the SFO. If the city wants to close DC General by fall of 2015 and wants to consider multiple responses, shouldn’t there be an end of year deadline on the SFO?
  • Recent increase in families being housed at DC General - If the goal is to reduce the number of families living at DC General, than the city’s recent decision to move more families into the shelter is perplexing at best. And with no funding in the FY15 budget to house families in hotel rooms, the city will have no choice but to continue operating DC General at capacity this winter.

Despite these concerns, Mayor Gray deserves credit for developing a plan to close DC General. Now it is time for the Mayor and Council to step up, identify shelter sites and fund the plan so it becomes a reality. I will certainly continue to push the city to close DC General and find better, more humane housing options for our homeless families.

Friday Quick Takes: Barracks Row Fest, Res. 13, Potomac Ave, 1600 Penn Ave SE

September 26, 2014
  • The Barracks Row Fall Festival is tomorrow (Sat., Sept. 27) from 11 am – 4 pm on 8th Street SE. Always a good time with great food and activities. I’ll be at the ANC 6B booth from 1-3 pm near District Doughnut. Be sure to stop by and say hello!
  • The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s Office has announced an Oct. 29 surplus meeting for parcels F1 & G1 at Reservation 13/Hill East Development. I’ve posted some additional information about the meeting.
  • On Thurs., Oct. 2, I’ll be holding a meeting on the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE project at 7:30 pm at New York Pizza (1401 Pennsylvania Ave SE). Greg Selfridge of NOVO development will be on hand to provide updates on the construction and answer questions.
  • Beginning Monday, Sept. 29, the District Department of Transportation will be conducting a roadway improvement project on the 1400 block of Potomac Ave SE. The project, which is expected to last 3 weeks, will include a much-needed resurfacing of the roadway and repairs to sidewalks, curbs and gutters and wheel chair ramps. Note that traffic will likely be reduced to one lane on this block during construction hours.
  • The Department of General Services has scheduled a second building tour for development teams interested in responding to the Eastern Branch Building RFP. The tour will be on Tues., Sept. 30. from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm I’m working with DGS to schedule a separate community tour date and time.
  • If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to register for the Dead Man’s Run 5K on Saturday, Oct. 4, 6:00 pm at Historic Congressional Cemetery.

DMPED Schedules Res. 13/Hill East Surplus Meeting for Oct. 29

September 24, 2014

The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s Office will hold a property surplus meeting for parcels F1 & G1 of the Hill East Development (Reservation 13) on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 6-8 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave SE).

Currently, DMPED is negotiating a land disposition agreement with Donatelli/Blue Skye, the development team awarded the right to develop parcels F1 & G1 (phase I). Since the parcels are District property, the parcels must be declared surplus property – property not required for a future public (city) purpose. The Oct. 29 meeting is required by law and is an opportunity for DMPED to receive public feedback and comments on the District’s plans to surplus the parcels. All comments, including written comments received by Nov. 10, 2014, will be submitted to the Council for its consideration.

DMPED’s scheduling of a surplus meeting is a positive development and suggests that the city and development team are making progress in their negotiations. Hopefully, the land disposition agreement will be considered by the Council by the end of the year.

Learn More About Curbside Cafe’s Plans for a Liquor License

September 22, 2014

Curbside Cafe owners Kristi and Sam Whitfield plan to apply for a liquor license for the cafe in the near future. If you are interested in learning more, please stop by a community meeting tonight (Mon., Sept. 22) at 6 pm at Curbside Cafe (257 15th Street SE).

Note that ANC 6B will have an opportunity to weigh in on the liquor license request once an application is filed. If you can’t make tonight’s meeting, there will be a few more opportunities to weigh in on the request.

ANC 6B September Meeting Recap

September 15, 2014

The reopening of the Southeast Freeway, the location of a Francis Marion Memorial and more comments on the city’s comprehensive zoning update were among many items on ANC 6B’s September 9 agenda. Here is a brief recap of major actions:

  • The commission voted unanimously to oppose the reopening of the Southeast Freeway between Barney Circle and 11th Street SE. In a letter to DDOT (pdf), ANC 6B urges the agency to use available funding on the final recommendations of the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard transportation planning study.
  • ANC 6B voted unanimously to provide testimony at the Department of General Services’ Sept. 16 Surplus Hearing for the Eastern Branch Building. The testimony (pdf) highlights issues raised by ANC 6B in formal comments submitted earlier this year. The Eastern Branch Building RFP has been issued.
  • While voting 4-3-2 to support Marion Park as the appropriate location of a planned memorial to Francis Marion, ANC 6B also urged the National Park Service (pdf) to improve outreach to surrounding neighbors and to provide additional details on how the memorial would be maintained (I voted with the majority). A number of residents who live Marion Park noted a lack of communication by NPS on this project and other construction projects at the park.
  • The commission voted unanimously to support the design concept of a proposed 48-unit residential building located at 900 11th Street SE (the corner of 11th and I Street SE).
  • The commission voted unanimously to send a letter (pdf) to the Zoning Commission with comments on the Office of Planning’s proposed alternative amendments to its Zoning Regulations Review proposal. In the comments, ANC 6B urges the Zoning Commission to approve the zoning update and to oppose a number of OP’s suggested changes related to corner stores, accessory units and parking. The comments also include suggestions on how to better define fast food restaurant for purposes of zoning.
  • The commission voted unanimously to send comments (pdf) to DDOT on its proposed rules for the Visitor Parking Pass program. The new rule requires residents to request visitor parking passes using an online system. ANC 6B suggested that the passes be limited to parking in a resident’s ANC single member district versus the entire commission area as proposed.
  • In an effort to help the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop stay in its present location at 545 7th Street SE, ANC 6B voted unanimously to send a letter (pdf) to the DC Department of General Services encouraging the agency to sign a new lease with CHAW at its existing terms.
  • The commission voted unanimously to send a letter (pdf) to the city’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer encouraging the agency to expand internet and wi-fi access at Potomac Gardens (1225 G Street SE).
  • In October, the commission will be moving its office from the Hill Center to Eastern Market. All commission meetings, including committee and task force meetings, will continue to take place at the Hill Center. The move is necessary due to continued funding cuts to the commission’s budget and the reality that ANC 6B can get free office space at the city-owned Eastern Market.
  •  ANC 6B’s October meeting will be on Tuesday, October 14, 7 pm at the Hill Center.

DDOT Response Misses the Mark on Southeast Freeway Reopening

September 12, 2014

The District Department of Transportation is now sending an e-mail response (pdf) to anyone who has urged Mayor Gray to halt the reopening of the Southeast Freeway segment between Barney Circle. While I appreciate DDOT acknowledging concerns of Hill East residents, it does not alleviate my concerns about the agency’s plans.

Here is my response to the response, section by section:

We at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) have received your concerns about reopening the connection between the Southeast/Southwest Freeway (I-695) between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle.

This is an important connection for District residents east of the Anacostia River, primarily in Ward 7.  Reopening this roadway segment will reestablish traffic movements (for example, eastbound I-695 to eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE toward Ward 7; westbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE to westbound I-695). However, the restricted lanes under Barney Circle to access Capitol Hill neighborhoods will remain closed.

Thanks to a productive conversation last weekend, I certainly have a better understanding of the traffic issues and concerns raised by Ward 7 residents. A major issue is the poor design and layout of freeway ramps at I-295 and Pennsylvania Ave, where merging traffic leads to numerous accidents. But reopening the freeway connection will encourage more vehicles to exit I-295 off of these ramps and will likely lead to more congestion on the Sousa Bridge, making it more difficult for Ward 7 drivers to even access the new connection.

Additionally, DDOT does not need to rebuild a freeway to “reestablish traffic movements between I-695 and Pennsylvania Ave SE.” Traffic movements can also be reestablished by building a boulevard or more neighborhood-friendly connection. That is the purpose of the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard project and why DDOT should be putting taxpayer dollars toward the final project recommendations.

This reopening is expected to have positive effects for residents of Capitol Hill and surrounding neighborhoods. It will reduce traffic on streets such as Potomac Avenue and I Street SE, which have been used by residents to access Pennsylvania Avenue SE from east of the Anacostia River.  As part of the 11th Street Bridges Environmental Impact Statement, it is also necessary to open these to meet projected traffic levels within the project area.

The reopened freeway is not going to significantly reduce traffic on Potomac Ave and I Street. As long as 17th Street remains a two lane one way thoroughfare through the neighborhood, commuters are going to continue to use 17th, Potomac and I as a shortcut route when I-295 is backed up at East Capitol Street. Implementing the long-delayed 17th Street safety improvements (narrowing the street to one lane, adding curb extensions and a bike lane, etc.) will do more to help traffic on Potomac Ave and I Street than reopening the freeway.

Also, when the new freeway connection inevitably backs up as drivers continue to try to get around backups on I-295, vehicles are going to continue down Pennsylvania and take Potomac Ave and I Street once again, merging with all the traffic originating on 17th Street.

And while DDOT does plan to prevent vehicles from accessing the freeway from 17th Street, it does not change the fact that the agency is re-establishing a barrier between the neighborhood and waterfront. If you build a freeway connection, it is going to attract more high-speed traffic into the neighborhood and along the waterfront. This cost significantly outweighs any (if any) “positive effects” of reopening the freeway.

Finally, DDOT fails to address two major risks associated with reopening the freeway connection:

  1. The use (waste?) of around $6 million of 11th Street Bridges funding to rebuild the “temporary” freeway, money that could be used to fund the construction of the permanent boulevard and circle, and
  2. As David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington points out, the significant risk that the temporary reopening becomes a permanent reopening (for a Hill East example of this phenomenon, see DC General Temporary Emergency Family Shelter).

The city has a great opportunity to connect the neighborhood to the Anacostia waterfront and correct a mistake of the past. Let’s not waste it. If you haven’t already done so, please contact Mayor Gray and urge him to halt the reopening of the Southeast Freeway.



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