Upcoming Meeting on Barney Circle-SE Blvd Planning Study

July 22, 2014

On Monday, August 4, ANC 6B will host a community meeting to discuss the status and outcomes of the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Planning Study being conducted by the Office of Planning. The meeting, which begins at 7 pm, will take place in Sousa Hall on the 2nd Floor of the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE).

At the request of Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and ANC 6B, OP has been conducting a “rapid planning study,” with the goal of improving the District Department of Transportation’s initial design options for the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard project. During the Aug. 4 meeting, OP representatives will provide a brief presentation on the study, share some of the outcomes and answer commission and community questions.

If you are interested in the study but unable to attend the meeting, I do plan to post a brief summary of the meeting highlights. Councilmember Wells, OP, DDOT and ANC 6B also plan to have another community. meeting in the fall to share the study’s final recommendations.


ANC 6B July Meeting Recap

July 16, 2014

ANC 6B considered a DC Council resolution on DC General, 17th & 19th Street safety improvements and a long list of planning and zoning cases during its July 10 meeting. Here are the highlights:

  • The commission voted 10-0 to support PR20-854Sense of the Council for Closing DC General Shelter Resolution of 2014 and to authorize my testimony on behalf of the commission at a July 12 hearing on the resolution. 
  • The commission unanimously supported sending a letter (pdf) to DC Water urging the agency to accelerate its water main construction timetable so that planned safety improvements to 17th and 19th Streets SE are not delayed. The letter also asks why there was a lack of coordination/notice between DC Water and the District Department of Transportation. 
  • After a lengthy discussion and a couple of failed motions, the commission voted 6-4 to support a fast food special exception for &Pizza on Barracks Row under strict conditions. The detailed conditions include a 7 year time limit on the special exception and Board of Zoning Adjustment approval of a variance so that the building’s owner can construct an indoor trash storage room. I’m pleased that a majority of the commission voted to support the special exception. 
  • The commission unanimously supported Douglas Development’s variance request for its building at 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Douglas is seeking a variance from floor area ratio requirements that would allow a retail/restaurant establishment to open in the new building. 
  • The commission voted 10-0 to approve a resolution (pdf) on proposed elimination of Metrobus 30s lines stops in ANC 6B. The resolution includes a request for further study of the proposed elimination of the 30s stop at 17th and Pennsylvania Ave SE given pending development around Barney Circle SE. 
  • A number of historic preservation cases, including a proposed apartment building at 900 11th Street SE, were deferred for consideration by the commission in September. 
  • Commissioner Dave Garrison (6B01) announced his intention to resign his seat on July 12. The commission thanked Garrison for his years of service to ANC 6B, including terms as chair and secretary of the commission. His seat will remain vacant until a new commissioner is sworn in next January. 
  • ANC 6B’s September meeting will take place on Tues., Sept. 9, 7 pm at the Hill Center. 

Testimony on Sense of the Council for Closing DC General Shelter Resolution of 2014

July 10, 2014

This afternoon, I’m delivering ANC 6B’s testimony on PR20-854, Sense of the Council for Closing DC General Shelter Resolution of 2014 at a Public Oversight Roundtable being held by the DC Council’s Committee on Human Services. Below is the full text of my testimony.

Good afternoon Chairman Graham and members of the Committee on Human Services. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and is located immediately west of the DC General campus, located on Reservation 13. My district also includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club Building.

I’m here today to express ANC 6B’s strong support for Resolution 20-854, Sense of the Council for Closing DC General Shelter Resolution of 2014. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 10-0 during its July 8, 2014 meeting with a quorum present.

As you know, ANC 6B supports the closure of the temporary family emergency shelter at DC General. We view housing so many incredibly needy families in such deplorable conditions, including a large number of families with children, as an outrage and embarrassment to our city and as completely counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending homelessness.

When the city started housing homeless families at DC General in 2008, it was announced as a temporary measure. Soon after the shelter opened, the city began housing more and more families at the old hospital, particularly as shelters were closed in other parts of the city. Instead of working to find suitable housing and shelter options within existing neighborhoods, city leaders chose the politically convenient approach of housing more and more families and individuals in a deteriorating, depressing building totally separated from the surrounding neighborhood and city.

In addition to the shelter, the city opened and expanded clinics at the site, including a methadone clinic. So, in addition to an overconcentration of people, the site has an overconcentration of services.

You have held a number of hearings on the topic of DC General, Mr. Chairman, and have heard directly from shelter residents about poor, unsafe conditions at the deteriorating old hospital campus. DC General should not be our city’s answer to addressing homelessness. ANC 6B strongly believes that the city’s goal should be closing DC General and transitioning homeless families and individuals to better housing options. We also believe that these alternative housing options, including a smaller scale shelter and permanent supportive housing, should be a part of the Reservation 13/Hill East Development.

The lack of a humane and holistic plan for housing homeless individuals in this city concerns us greatly, and developing such a plan should be a top priority of the Mayor and the Council. We support PR20-854 because it is a step in the right direction. The resolution outlines clear benchmarks that the city must meet to close DC General, and we urge the Mayor and Council to pursue strategies to achieve these benchmarks immediately.

To that end, we would ask that the committee consider amending the resolution to strengthen the time component. While we appreciate the resolution’s reference to closing DC General before the height of the 2014-2015 hypothermia season, our preference would be for the resolution to set a date, or request that the Mayor set a date, for DC General to be closed. Setting such a date would have the combined effect of pushing the Mayor and Council to develop a plan to achieve the benchmarks and to provide the funding necessary to identify and invest in better housing alternatives for families at the shelter.

Another option would be to amend the resolution to direct the Mayor and Council to produce a plan to achieve the benchmarks by the fall of 2014 or spring of 2015. Without some sort of time component, we fear that both the Mayor and Council will ignore this resolution to the detriment of shelter residents and the city.

Once a plan to close DC General is in place, the Mayor and Council will have to make the investments necessary to make it happen. We support the idea that the savings from the closure of DC General (around $14 billion a year) should be used to fund alternative emergency shelter capacity. And we agree that the Mayor and Council need to fully fund homelessness prevention and affordable housing programs such as permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing and the local rent supplement program. Of course, it is easy to state this in a resolution versus actually funding these investments in the budget. We are going to need the Mayor and Council to follow through on these commitments.

Finally, we want to thank you, Chairman Graham, for introducing this resolution and for your strong support and commitment to closing DC General and identifying better housing options for homeless families. We also want to thank the seven other co-sponsors, especially Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, for recognizing that DC General should not be our city’s answer to addressing homelessness.

Thank you for your time, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.


Neighborhood Town Hall Project Updates

June 30, 2014

A big thanks to all who attended my June 19th Neighborhood Town Hall meeting. I’m particularly grateful to Kristi, Sam and the Curbside Cupcake Team for hosting the town hall at Curbside Cafe.

If you missed the meeting, here are some brief updates on major projects happening in Hill East.

Hill East Development/Reservation 13
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Donatelli/Blue Skye Development team continue to negotiate at Land Disposition Agreement for Phase I (parcels F1 & G1) of the Hill East Development (Reservation 13). DMPED hopes to have a LDA ready for DC Council consideration this fall.

I also shared my concerns about the impact of DC’s Olympic bid on mixed-use development plans for Reservation 13.

DC General
We discussed the Zoning Commission’s recent ruling to allow the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter to move from DC General’s Building 9 to a Building 27 for a period of 5 years. The city has also announced its intent to demolish Building 9 once the relocation is complete.

While Building 9’s planned demolition is progress, there has been significantly less progress made by the city in closing the main DC General Family Shelter. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, who chairs the Council’s Committee on a Human Services, has introduced a Sense of the Council Resolution that calls for the closure of DC General once certain benchmarks are met. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a plan or significant funding in the FY15 budget to make closure a reality anytime soon. I will continue pushing the city to craft a plan and announce a date for closure of DC General.

17th and 19th Streets a Safety Improvement Project
DDOT informed me last week of a significant delay in construction of the safety improvements to 17th Street SE (narrowing to one lane, adding a bike lane, adding curb extensions, etc.). The improvements, originally scheduled to be implemented in spring 2014, will now not happen until Fall 2015. The reason appears to be some previously unannounced DC Water water main replacement work between C Street SE and Potomac Ave SE that is scheduled to happen in Dec. 2014/Jan. 2015.

Needless to say, an additional 18 month delay on these much needed safety improvements is unacceptable. I plan to ask ANC 6B to support sending a letter to DC Water asking why the neighborhood were not previously notified of this work and why their construction timeline cannot be expedited.

DDOT does plan to begin construction on the 19th Street improvements this fall.

Eastern Branch Building
The Department of a General Services is working to schedule the required public hearing on the disposition of the Eastern a Branch Building. The hearing will likely take place at the end of July or in September. DGS must hold a public hearing before issuing it’s planned Request for Offers (RFO) for the building. The department does plan to include ANC 6B’s comments(pdf) as part of the RFO.

Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Study
I’ve been part of a group of ANC 6B Commissioners who have been meeting with Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, the District Department of Transportation and the Office of Planning to discuss how to improve DDOT’s design options for the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard project. The Office of Planning is conducting a “rapid planning study” of the project with recommendations due out sometime this fall. ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee will be discussing the status of the study at the committee’s Wed., July 2 meeting, 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE). Once the study’s recommendations are finalized, ANC 6B and Councilmember Wells will hold larger community meetings to discuss the results.


Take Part in My June 19 Neighborhood Town Hall

June 18, 2014

On Thursday, June 19, I’ll be holding a Neighborhood Town Hall meeting from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at Curbside Cafe (257 15th Street SE). During the meeting, I’ll provide updates on key Hill East projects, including:

  • Development plans for Reservation 13 and the status of DC General
  • Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project
  • 17th & 19th Street Safety Improvement Project
  • Eastern Branch Building Request for Offers

Attendees will also have an opportunity to share concerns about other issues affecting our neighborhood. And it will be a great way to meet and catch up with neighbors.

Hope to see you there! And thanks to Curbside Cafe for hosting!


How DC’s Olympic Bid Could Affect Hill East

June 16, 2014

On June 13, the United States Olympic Committee announced that DC is a finalist to be the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. In a press release, Ted Leonsis, vice chair of DC 2024, the committee of local business leaders working on the DC bid, stated:

“This is about how investments will accelerate existing development plans for Washington, Virginia and Maryland to create a permanent legacy of affordable housing, employment, transportation and environmental improvements in our neighborhoods. It is also about the Washington region building the most transparent, greenest, most wired and most athlete-centric Games in history. And it is about bringing the world to Washington and bringing Washington to the world.”

Well, given that there is almost zero information about the bid, budget and venues on the DC 2024 website, the “most transparent” games in history are off to a shaky start. But the Leonsis quote also gets at another common argument made by supporters of hosting an Olympics – that the two-week extravaganza can address major issues and concerns facing the host city. The reference to affordable housing is not an accident as everyone is aware of the lack of affordable housing in DC. But do we need to spend $10+ billion to bring the Olympics to DC to address the city’s affordable housing crisis?

Olympics supporters also like to point out how the event can increase civic pride, boost tourism and push cities to invest in infrastructure and transportation improvements that will benefit residents after the games are over. In a July 2012 article in The Atlantic, Andrew Zimbalist, an economist from Smith College who studies the economic impact of mega-sporting events, does a great job of debunking these arguments. Unlike other cities, we certainly do not need the Olympics to boost tourism or put us on the map. And we shouldn’t invest millions in sports infrastructure that will be rarely used.

While all DC residents should be concerned about a potential Olympic bid, Hill East residents should be especially concerned. Why? Though DC 2024 has not released any information about the location of proposed venues, the Washington Post has reported that the current RFK Stadium site is under consideration for a new Olympic stadium. And given the need for numerous other venues to be located in close proximity to housing for the athletes, I think it is safe to assume that Reservation 13, the 67-acre site of the former DC General hospital campus that sits immediately south of RFK Stadium, is also under consideration in the plans.

This is not good news for our neighborhood. The city has just moved forward on the first phase of the long-stalled, community-supported Reservation 13 master plan. And with DC United set to move out of RFK Stadium in the coming years, the city has an opportunity to think creatively about future uses of this critical site. The Olympics bid potentially puts all of this on hold and creates additional uncertainty about development plans.

If Reservation 13 and RFK Stadium are part of the Olympics  bid, I hope DC 2024 and city officials will answer the following questions:

  1. How will the Olympics benefit Hill East? The land targeted for Olympic venues is already valuable and will be even more so in the coming years. What is the opportunity cost of locking this land up for the Olympics versus pursuing mixed-use development now?
  2. Why is an Olympic stadium used for two weeks and perhaps 10 days annually thereafter the best future use for the RFK Stadium site? I’ve previously shared my concerns about building a new stadium.
  3. What advantages does an Olympic plan for Reservation 13 have over the community-supported master plan? Why should we develop this land to the specifications of the International Olympic Committee versus the reality of what best serves the neighborhood and city?
  4. Does Reservation 13′s inclusion in the Olympic bid mean the city really does have a strategy in place for relocating the emergency homeless shelters and other services at Reservation 13? It is amazing how supposedly insurmountable political obstacles tend to crumble when sports-related facilities are proposed (see training facility debate).
  5. How much is DC 2024 (or more likely, the city) going to spend to building Olympic venues and housing at RFK/Reservation 13?
  6. What is the city’s current involvement in the Olympics bid? Does Mayor Gray support the bid? And who on the Council supports the bid?

Of course, there is no guarantee that DC will be selected as the U.S. bid city (Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco are also in the running) nor is there a guarantee DC will ultimately be selected to host the games. But the longer that DC stays in the running, the more likely the unacceptable status quo for both RFK Stadium and Reservation 13 remains in place. And that would be a shame for the city and Hill East.

What do you think about DC’s Olympic bid and its potential impact on Hill East? Post your thoughts below.

 


ANC 6B June Meeting Recap

June 13, 2014

We had a good turnout for ANC 6B’s June 10 meeting at the Hill Center. Here is a recap:

  • After a presentation by the owner and a lengthy discussion, the commission voted unanimously to support a raze permit for the “shotgun house” at 1229 E Street SE, the vacant, boarded up one story building located in the Capitol Hill Historic District. The commission’s support included language urging the Historic Preservation Review Board to hold the owner, Larry Quillian, accountable for “demolition by neglect” and a desire to see the curb cut leading into the property removed. Mr. Quinlan presented the commission with an engineer’s report that recommended the building be demolished.
  • Given uncertainty about whether the city would allow a curb cut on the property, ANC 6B voted 9-0 to urge the HPRB to postpone a hearing on the design of a proposed condo building at 1220 Potomac Avenue SE. The placement or non-placement of a curb cut really changes the design of the proposed building and the size of the units (without parking, the owner would prefer smaller, one bedroom units). Hopefully we will see this case again once the curb cut issue is addressed.
  • The commission voted 9-0 to send a letter (pdf) to Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith with some general feedback on the Student Assignment and School Boundary Review. In the letter, the commission highlights the need to continue with the review process and voices strong support for matter-of-right neighborhood schools. You can learn more about the process and review the latest proposal on the Deputy Mayor for Education’s website.
  • After Commissioner Francis Campbell and I provided a brief summary of the May 29 ANC 6B Hill East Task Force meeting, ANC 6B voted 9-0 to send a letter (pdf) to the Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Community Action Group (CAG) seeking additional information related to their plans for 124 15th Street SE.  CAG recently received city funding to resume construction of the planned community center for the site.
  • The commission voted 8-1 to support the DC General Short-Term Playground Amendment Act of 2014 and to authorize my testimony at the upcoming June 30 Committee on Human Services hearing on the bill (pdf). ANC 6B previously voted to support a temporary, movable playground to serve the 500-600 children living at the temporary DC General Emergency Family Shelter. In addition to voicing our support for a temporary playground, I plan to remind the committee of the need to commit to a plan and closing date for the DC General shelter.
  • Jon Whitney of the District Department of Transportation’s 11th Street Bridge Project announced some good news and bad news related to the project. The good news is that an eastbound exit ramp from the SE-SW Freeway to 11th Street SE will be opening on June 21. The bad news is that DDOT will be closing the 11th Street SE entrance to the SE-SW Freeway for two months (June 21-August 23) to complete final construction of the ramp. Mr. Whitney also announced that DDOT also plans to temporarily re-open the freeway between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle SE to “help move traffic through this corridor,” while the agency works with the Office of Planning on refining concepts for the Southeast Boulevard. I’m not a fan of the city spending money to clear, re-surface and temporarily re-open a section of freeway that will just encourage more commuter traffic to use 17th Street SE and other neighborhood streets.
  • Representatives from DC Water provided a brief update on the Clean Rivers Project, a multi-year tunnel project designed to significantly reduce combined sewer overflows into the Anacostia River. Construction on the Anacostia River Tunnel, a segment that runs along the river between RFK Stadium, Congressional Cemetery and down by M Street SE and Water Street SE, is currently underway and is expected to be completed by November 2017. DC Water also hopes to wrap up work on the M Street diversion sewer, which is taking place at M Street and 9th Street SE, by November 2014.
  • ANC 6B’s July meeting will be on Tuesday, July 8, 7 pm at the Hill Center.

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