Tuesday Quick Takes: ANC 6B, Playtime Project, Renovator’s House Tour, Congressional Cemetery

October 13, 2015
  • ANC 6B’s October meeting is tonight (10/13), 7 pm at the Hill Center. Meeting materials are available at www.anc6b.org. The commission will be considering raze permit requests for 1620-1622 E Street SE, a letter to Mayor Bowser on the Events DC RFK Stadium Redevelopment study and a resolution on homelessness.
  • The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, a great nonprofit organization that works to provide playtime and learning opportunities for children living in temporary housing, is currently constructing a new preteen and teen space at the DC General Family Shelter. While they have plenty of volunteers signed up to help with the construction, the Playtime Project is still raising funds for the new space. You can donate or learn about other volunteer opportunities on the Playtime Project’s website.
  • This Sat., Oct. 17 is the 15th Annual Renovators House Tour, an event that raises funds for the Capitol Hill Cluster School. The tour, which goes from 10 am – 4 pm, kicks off in my Single Member District (6B09) with stops along Kentucky Ave SE and E Street SE. You can purchase tickets for the tour at http://renovatorshousetour.org/.
  • In case you missed it, the Washington Post had a great feature article on Historic Congressional Cemetery!
Advertisements

Initial Thoughts on Mayor Bowser’s Proposed FY16 Budget

April 6, 2015

On April 2, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser released her proposed FY16 budget. As with any budget, there are a lot of proposals that I could highlight. I’ve chosen to focus on three items of particular interest to Hill East:

Replacement of DC General
The Mayor’s proposed budget includes $40 million to fund 4 smaller scale homeless shelters to replace the deteriorating DC General shelter. After years of rhetoric about the need to close DC General, it is refreshing to see some actual funding in the budget to achieve this goal. While we still need to see her closure plan, Mayor Bowser deserves credit for making the closing of DC General the budget priority it should be.

Infrastructure Funding for Reservation 13/Hill East Development
I was also happy to see $11.2 million in the Mayor’s proposed capital budget for infrastructure funding for phase I of the Res. 13/Hill East Development. The 11.2 million, which would be spent over 3 years, would be used to fund the roadway extensions (Mass Ave SE, the new 20th Street SE, etc.) surrounding the Donatelli/Blue Skye mixed-use development.

School Modernizations
While the Mayor’s FY16 capital budget includes funding for the modernization of Watkins Elementary School (30.9 million in FY16 and FY17), the budget plan further delays modernization funding for a number of other Capitol Hill schools. Long overdue modernizations at Eliot-Hine and Jefferson Academy Middle Schools are delayed until FY19. These delays are totally unacceptable, particularly in a budget document that claims to make strengthening middle schools a priority. (Councilmember David Grosso’s office has put together a nice breakdown of how the Mayor’s budget will affect school modernizations).

Look, I understand that budgeting is not easy, particularly when the city has to fill a budget gap. And DC has limited borrowing authority and must stay under a statutory debt cap. This means that Mayor Bowser and the Council have to make tough choices. I get it.

But it is hard to accept further delays to school modernizations when the same capital budget includes $106 million in new capital funding (all borrowed) for the DC United Stadium at Buzzard Point – a stadium that the DC Council’s own independent consultant estimated would provide only $40 million in benefits (and is going to eventually cost taxpayers a lot more than $106 million). So the Mayor and the Council (OK, the previous Council) have essentially prioritized a giveaway to a professional soccer team over better (and safer) school buildings. This cannot be labeled a tough choice. This can only be described as a really, really bad decision.

So while I give Mayor Bowser credit for her proposed investments in new shelters, affordable housing and Reservation 13, she also deserves criticism for supporting a soccer stadium that is taking capital dollars away from school modernizations. Hopefully, the Mayor and Council will work to restore some of this funding during consideration of the budget in April and May.


More Information on the DC Olympic Bid

December 14, 2014

On Dec. 16, Washington 2024, the organization leading the city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, will make their final presentation to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Washington 2024 is competing against Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco to be the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Games.

So far, Washington 2024 has refused to share their plans with the public. In attempt to learn more about the bid’s potential impact on Hill East, ANC 6B sent a letter (pdf) last month to Washington 2024 requesting a community meeting prior to the USOC’s final decision on a U.S. bid city. Unfortunately, Washington 2024 declined ANC 6B’s meeting request (pdf). They plan to start their community engagement process when/if Washington, DC is selected as the U.S. bid city.

While Washington 2024 declined ANC 6B’s invitation for a meeting, the organization did accept an invitation to speak at Councilmember Vincent Orange’s Small Business and Economic Development Summit held on Fri., Dec. 12. Since we can’t get a meeting with Washington 2024 in Hill East, I decided to attend the summit to learn more about the bid. Here is what I heard:

  • The USOC’s decision on a U.S. bid city could come as early as next week or as late as next January. If Washington, DC is selected, the USOC and city will have until Sept. 2015 to formally apply to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host the 2024 games. The IOC will make its final decision on a host city in Sept. 2017.
  • Not surprisingly, Washington 2024 did not share the specific plans they will be presenting to the USOC. I’m not sure if the decision to keep the public in the dark about the plans is being made by Washington 2024 or the USOC but it is a bad decision. Putting on an Olympics requires a multi-billion dollar public investment. The secretive nature of the process has helped fuel skepticism about the bids in Washington and the other three potential bid cities.
  • RFK Stadium and Reservation 13 are under consideration for a new Olympic Stadium and Olympic Village respectively, though other sites are also being considered for these venues.
  • Robert Sweeney, senior advisor to Washington 2024, noted that the Olympics could be a catalyst to develop sites like Reservation 13 where redevelopment plans largely have failed to take off. I responded that the city is largely to blame for the state of Reservation 13 today and that it shouldn’t take the Olympics to develop a waterfront site sitting on top of a Metro station.
  • Sweeney did mention the Reservation 13 master plan and said that Washington 2024 would follow the plan in developing an Olympic Village if the site is chosen for such a use. I was pleasantly surprised that the organization was aware of the master plan and had thought about how to incorporate it. However, using the site for an Olympic Village would mean the city wouldn’t see the housing and retail slated for Reservation 13 until 2025 at the earliest.
  • Sweeney reaffirmed that Washington 2024 would begin an “extensive” community outreach campaign beginning in Jan./Feb. 2015 if the city is chosen as the U.S. bid city. Community briefings would be held in all eight wards and he recommitted to holding a community meeting in Hill East.
  • There was a lot of focus on the legacy of an Olympic Games. Andrew Altman, former head of the legacy corporation created for the London 2012 games (and former head of the DC Office of Planning) talked about how London began their Olympic planning by envisioning what the Olympic park and venues would look like in 2030. Washington 2024 is modeling their effort after the London games.
  • In addition to Councilmember Orange, Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser spoke at the Summit in support of the Olympic bid and will be attending the Dec.16 USOC presentation. It appears that the Mayor, Mayor-Elect and DC Council are all behind the bid though they haven’t held a single hearing on the subject nor officially voted to support the bid. If Washington, DC is awarded the games, the city will have to sign a financial guarantee to fully fund the games and any cost overruns.

Community engagement should be the centerpiece – not an afterthought – of an Olympic bid. Residents shouldn’t have to attend business roundtables and summits to learn basic details. I plan to continue pushing city leaders and Washington 2024 to share more information about the bid.


Hill East Task Force Recap: DC General Closure Plan, Eastern Branch Bldg RFP

November 11, 2014

Around 25 people attended the Oct. 30 ANC 6B Hill East Task Force meeting to discuss Mayor Gray’s DC General Shelter replacement plan and the status of the Eastern Branch Building Request for Proposals. Here is a recap:

  • I opened the meeting with a quick update on the status of Phase I of the Hill East Development (Reservation 13). The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s office held an Oct. 29 disposition meeting on parcels F1 & G1. Attendees at the meeting spoke in support of the disposition and urged DMPED to get disposition legislation in front of the DC Council as soon as possible. ANC 6B and the Hill East Task Force will continue to monitor progress on Phase I.
  • The task force discussed Mayor Gray’s plan to close the temporary family emergency homeless shelter at DC General. I provided a brief summary of the plan which was released by Mayor Gray on Oct. 14. ANC 6B is on record in support of closing the shelter at DC General and has urged the city to identify better housing alternatives for homeless families.
  • Generally, the plan calls for replacing the 288 units in DC General with 5-6 smaller scale, neighborhood-based shelters throughout the city. The Department of General Services and the Department of Human Services are working to identify privately-owned buildings and city-owned buildings that could be quickly converted into shelters. If efforts are successful, DC General could be closed as early as fall 2015.
  • Though pleased that the Mayor released a plan, the task force agreed that the plan is very vague. Concerns raised about the plan included:
    • Open-ended Solicitation for Offers – the Department of General Services has issued a Solicitation for Offers seeking privately owned facilities that could be used as shelters. The SFO is a “rolling solicitation” without a deadline. The task force is concerned that the lack of a deadline will remove the time pressure necessary to encourage developers/owners to respond to the SFO.
    • Lack of Potential Locations – the plan is silent on potential locations for the smaller-scale shelters. The task force would feel better about the plan’s prospects if at least one or two potential locations were identified.
    • Lack of a Specific Closing Date – while the plan states that DC General could close as early as the fall of 2015, the Administration does not identify a specific closing date. Again, the lack of a closing date contributes to the sense that there is a lack of urgency to close DC General.
    • Recent Increase in DC General Population – if the goal is to close DC General, why is the city continuing to move more families into the deteriorating building. Recently, 60 families were moved from hotels into DC General. The city should be working to reduce the population at the shelter so it can be closed.
  • The task force also discussed potential drug activity at DC General. Resident Member Pat Taylor said that she had recently seen evidence of a significant open air drug market taking place outside of the shelter next to the new playground. Attendees suggested working with MPD, DGS Protective Services, CSOSA and the DC Department of Corrections to address these issues on the site.
  • The task force agreed that ANC 6B should send formal comments on the plan to Mayor Gray. Flahaven offered to write draft comments to be reviewed by the task force and then forwarded to the full commission for Nov. 12 consideration.
  • The task force transitioned to discussing the current Request for Proposals for the Eastern Branch Building, the former Boys and Girls Club building located at 261 17th Street SE. DGS released the RFP in mid-September with a deadline of Friday, November 20.
    Organizations/development teams who plan on responding to the RFP were invited to share their concepts with attendees. The following three representatives shared their concepts:

    • Corey Powell of Dantes Partners shared his firm’s concept for a senior housing facility combined with first floor community space. The preliminary concept includes adding a two-story addition to the existing building, with a total capacity of 49-units.
    • Joel Kelty of Century Associates shared his firm’s concept also includes senior housing but without additional stories (Kelty suggested that an existing cell tower lease may make building any rooftop additions impossible). Century Associates envisions 24-30 larger residential units with a children’s activity space in the existing building’s gymnasium.
    • Mai Fernandez, a Capitol Hill resident and executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, envisions using the existing building for 39-units of senior housing and office space for her NCVC. Training space for NCVC could also be used by the community for meetings and recreation. She is seeking a development partner for the residential side of the project.
  • Attendees asked each representative a number of questions, including whether their concepts would be consistent with the site’s R-4 zoning and whether they planned to use tax credits to fund the housing portion of their projects. HillNow.com has an excellent recap of this portion of the meeting.
  • The task force thanked Ms. Fernandez, Mr. Powell and Mr. Kelty for their presentations and reminded attendees that ANC 6B would have an opportunity to review and comment on RFP responses.
  • The meeting adjourned at 7:50 pm so that attendees could individually ask questions of the three developer/organization representatives.

ANC 6B Hill East Task Force to Discuss DC General, Eastern Branch on Oct. 30

October 24, 2014

The next ANC 6B Hill East Task Force will be on Thursday, Oct. 30, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at Congressional Cemetery Chapel (1800 E Street SE). The task force plans to take up two items:

Regarding the Eastern Branch RFP, the task force invites any organizations/developers who are considering or planning a response to the RFP to attend the meeting and provide some brief remarks about their plans. The Eastern Branch RFP discussion will likely begin around 7:15.

The chapel is located in the center of the cemetery. Attendees can enter Congressional Cemetery through the main gates at the intersection of 18th, E and Potomac Ave.