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.


ANC 6B May Meeting Recap

May 16, 2014

We had a packed agenda and full house for ANC 6B’s monthly commission meeting on May 13. Here is a brief recap of the major actions.

  • The commission voted 9-0-1 to send comments (pdf) to the DC Department of General Services on their planned Request for Offers for the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). The comments included feedback received by ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force at two April community meetings on the topic. DGS is currently working to schedule a public hearing on the building and plans to issue the RFO this summer. Thanks to all who attended the meetings and weighed in on the future of this important building.
  • On the relocation of the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter at DC General, ANC 6B voted 9-0-1 to send a letter (pdf) to the Zoning Commission opposing the city’s request to permanently change zoning on Reservation 13. Instead, the commission supports the city seeking a special exception to allow the shelter to move from Building 9 to Building 27. A special exception would keep the existing zoning in place and would allow the Zoning Commission to put a time limit on the use. I plan to write a separate post on the shelter relocation issue soon.
  • ANC 6B voted unanimously to support the public space permit application for outdoor seating at Curbside Cafe (257 15th Street SE).
  • The commission voted 8-0-2 to oppose a fast food special exception request for &Pizza, a local restaurant chain that wants to open a location at 405 8th Street SE (currently Oxx0 Dry Cleaners). However, the commission also voted to support the owner’s request to delay his Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing to allow more time for negotiation. I was one of the abstentions on this vote. While I understand neighbor concerns about the number of fast food restaurants and rodent problem on the 400 block of 8th Street SE, &Pizza would be a welcome addition and would not contribute to the rodent problem like some existing tenants on the block. I’m hopeful that a compromise can be reached.
  • After a back and forth between the owner, commissioners and neighbors, the commission voted unanimously to approve a new settlement agreement with Nooshi (524 8th Street SE). The new agreement will allow the restaurant to seek permission to serve food/drinks on its elevated outdoor patio deck.
  • The commission voted 10-0 to support sending comments to the District Department of Transportation on its new policy regarding private use/improvements of pocket parks. ANC 6B wants to ensure that DDOT policy protects open space and provides ANCs an opportunity to review permit applications for private improvements to triangle and pocket parks. The Capitol Hill Corner blog has more background on the pocket park controversy.
  • A request for a fast food special exception for the vacant commercial space at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue SE was withdrawn from the ANC 6B agenda by the owners of New York Pizza (1401 Penn Ave SE). The owners, who plan to expand their operations, have asked for a delay in the case.
  • ANC 6B’s June meeting will be on Tuesday, June 10, 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE).

*UPDATED*Hill East Cases on May 13 ANC 6B Agenda

May 13, 2014

ANC 6B will be discussing and voting on a number of Hill East cases during tonight’s full commission meeting, 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE). Here is a brief rundown:

  • Sidewalk Cafe Application for Curbside Cafe – The owners of Curbside Cafe (257 15th Street SE) are seeking a public space permit to allow outdoor seating at their location. I fully support this application ANC 6B’s Planning & Zoning Committee unanimously recommended approval of the application and it will be on the commission’s consent agenda.
  • Fast Food Special Exception for 1400 Penn Ave SE – The owners of New York Pizza (1401 Pennsylvania Ave SE) are seeking to expand their operation across the street to the vacant commercial space at 1400 Pennsylvania Ave SE. To do so, they need to ask the Board of Zoning Adjustment for a fast food special exception. Assuming the owners can address the trash, delivery and other concerns of nearby neighbors, I’m still puzzled why NY Pizza would seek to operate the same restaurant on both sides of Penn Ave. I hope to get some answers tonight. This case will likely be considered in the 7:45-8:15 pm time frame.
  • Relocation of Women’s Shelter at DC General/Reservation 13 – Due to environmental and safety concerns, the city needs to relocate the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter from Building 9 to Building 27 on the DC General campus. To allow this to happen, the Office of Planning is asking the Zoning Commission to approve a text amendment (pdf) to the Hill East District zoning (the zoning code that exists for Reservation 13). I’m going to encourage my colleagues to oppose the text amendment and instead urge the Zoning Commission to approve a time-limited special exception to allow the move. I’d also like to see demolition of Building 9 clearly stated in the final order. This case will likely be considered in the 8:45-9:00 pm time frame.
  • Comments on Planned Eastern Branch Building RFO – The commission will consider final comments to the DC Department of General Services on the planned Request for Offers for the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). The comments reflect the community feedback ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force heard during our two April community meetings. This case will likely be considered in the 9:00 pm hour.

Updated 5/13/14 1:00 pm – The applicant for the fast food exception for 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue SE has withdrawn the case from tonight’s agenda. This may move up commission consideration of the DC General and Eastern Branch letters.


Community Feedback on Eastern Branch Building RFO

May 3, 2014

Below is a DRAFT summary of the community feedback ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force received at the two community meetings on the DC Department of General Services’ proposed Request for Offers on the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). Please post your comments and feedback on the draft summary below by Tuesday, May 6. You can also e-mail me your comments and feedback directly.

ANC 6B’s Planning & Zoning Committee will consider this draft summary and any comments received during its meeting on Tues., May 6, 7 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave SE).  The full commission will then vote on final comments to DGS at its Tues., May 13 meeting, 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE).

Proposed Request for Offers for the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE)
DRAFT – Community Feedback – DRAFT
ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force held two community meetings in April 2014 to get community feedback on the DC Department of General Services’ plans to issue a RFO for the Eastern Branch Building. The city-owned building, home of a former Boys & Girls Club, is in need of significant repair and has been vacant since 2007.

Constraints

  • No city funding anticipated.
  • City wants to lease, not sell.
  • Zoning is R-4 with an exemption for social service uses. Need clarity on what is included in exemption and whether exemption carries with property if building razed.
  • Roof needs to be replaced.
  • Electrical needs to be replaced, plumbing needs significant repair.
  • No air conditioning.
  • Pool has significant damage and has not been in use for past 15 years.
  • No ADA features such as elevators or ramps.

Feedback

  • Preference to use existing building and/or preserve façade. City should give preference to proposals that seek to keep as much of the building as possible. City should also be open to receiving responses that involve demolition of building. If new building necessary, should be consistent with current building and include a nod to original building’s history such as reusing small elements.
  • Community open to housing in a portion of the building to make project financially attractive to developers/organizations. Particular interest in senior housing and/or housing for families. Envision housing on top levels of building.
  • Desire for some community space in the building. The space could be flexible and used for multiple purposes. Envisioned on the first floor.
  • Preferred uses for community “flex” space – daycare, adult daycare or senior services, recreational use (dance or fitness classes, etc.) and community meeting/event space. Community would like to see this flex space used by all ages.
  • Recognizing that Eastern Branch was the only recreational facility in the neighborhood, city should commit to investing in recreational activities in the neighborhood, particularly use of existing facilities at Payne Elementary and Eastern High School.

Other Comments

  • Lease length needs to be significantly longer than 20 years (at least 60 years).
  • When RFO is released, it should be open for at least 60 days.
  • DGS should conduct an updated analysis on the state of the building to inform the RFO. Should make it clear if city funding may be available to help with capital costs.
  • DGS should include a projected cost to demolish the building in the RFO.
  • DGS public hearing on disposition should be at Payne Elementary School.
  • Responses should speak to how potential uses will impact surrounding neighborhood and include plans to mitigate parking, noise issues.
  • Community, through ANC 6B, should have an opportunity to weigh in with comments on RFO responses received.

DRAFT Summary (pdf)

Brief Recap of the April 30 Meeting

We had another good turnout for the second ANC 6B Hill East Task Force meeting on April 30 to discuss the DC Department of General Services’ planned Request for Offers for the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). Like the first meeting on April 9, we began the second meeting with a discussion of the building’s current condition and constraints on uses at the site. We then broke up into three groups and considered two questions: 1) should DGS be open to RFO responses that involve the full or partial demolition of the building and 2) what potential uses should be priorities in the RFO. While the answers to question 2 were similar to the answers we heard at the April 9 meeting, more attendees at the second meeting preferred that DGS give preference to responses that involve retaining the existing building.

 


Eastern Branch April 9 Meeting Recap

April 11, 2014

On April 9, ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force held the first of two community meetings to discuss plans by the DC Department of General Services (DGS) to issue a Request for Offers (RFO)  for the Eastern Branch Building, the vacant, city-owned former home of a Boys and Girls Club. A second community meeting will be held on Wed., April 30. The goal of the meetings is to get community feedback on the RFO and what the neighborhood would like to see in the building.

Here is a brief recap:

  • I opened the meeting with a brief summary of the task force’s Feb. 18 meeting with DGS. I noted that DGS had agreed to push back its original timeline for feedback and is allowing the community and ANC 6B to submit formal comments on the RFO by mid-May.
  • Before discussing what attendees would like to see in the building, the task force took some time to consider the current state of the building and constraints on uses at the site. Chuck Burger, who chaired Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells’s Eastern Branch Task Force, distributed a packet of background information (pdf) that greatly informed the conversation. The following issues were identified:
    • Zoning for the lot is R-4 with an exemption for social service uses, so commercial uses are prohibited. The building is not in a historic district nor is it classified as a historic landmark.
    • Roof needs to be replaced.
    • Electrical systems need to be replaced. Plumbing condition unknown but likely needs significant repair or replacement.
    • No air conditioning. Heat plant operable.
    • Pool has significant damage and has not been in usable condition for the past 15 years.
    • No parking on the site.
    • No ADA features such as an elevator or ramps.
    • DGS wants to lease the building/site, not sell it.
  • Funding was another constraint discussed. During the Feb. 18 task force meeting, DGS representatives said that the building was classified as surplus property and the city had no plans to use the building to house city offices/services. And DGS made it clear that there would be no funding for the building in the Mayor’s proposed FY15 budget. Given that DGS plans to use the RFO process to identify developers or development teams interested in developing the site and the lack of public funding, attendees focused on potential uses that could be financially viable for a developer and at the same time meet a community need.
  • After discussing the state of the building and constraints, the task force and attendees identified existing uses in the neighborhood using a map (pdf) provided by the Mayor’s office. The map shows the current location of schools, recreation centers, playgrounds and primary care centers within a half mile radius of the Eastern Branch building. The task force and attendees added other existing services/conditions to the map, including the Board of Childcare daycare facility at 308 15th Street SE and the commercial zoning on 15th Street SE and at Reservation 13.
  • There was some discussion around whether the building should remain a recreation center or have a recreation component. A number of attendees felt it would make more sense for the city to invest in and support recreational activities at nearby Payne and Eastern High schools, facilities which have more actual and potential indoor and outdoor recreation space than the Eastern Branch building (though the key is the city investing in these “wrap-around” activities at the schools). Others thought that a recreational use should still be considered for the building given the lack of recreational space in the neighborhood.
  • After outlining the current state of the building, constraints and existing uses in the surrounding neighborhood, the task force and attendees were assigned to three breakout groups to discuss 1) whether the group felt the city should be open to RFO responses that require partial or full demolition of the building and 2) what potential uses should be priorities in the RFO.
  • On Question 1, all three groups agreed that the city should be willing to consider RFO responses that involve full or partial demolition of the building. Many attendees thought that the site would attract more interest if development teams had the flexibility to construct a new building to fit the new use. One group hoped that if demolition was considered, the development team and city would work to recognize the site’s recreational history in the new building (preserve the “autograph” wall, reuse materials from the building, etc.).
  • On Question 2, some areas of consensus on uses emerged, including:
    • Housing – all three groups were open to private residential use on a portion the site. A development team is only going to bid on the site if they can make it work financially and, in the absence of city funding, attendees felt that housing is probably the use that will make the project viable and attractive to both developers and the neighborhood.  There was particular interest in senior housing, housing for families and affordable housing.
    • Community space – all groups wanted some community space, or flex space included in the building/project. This space, which could be on the first floor below the private residential area, could be used for community meetings, daycare or elder care, nonprofit offices, vocational training, dance classes, etc. One idea was to have a community space attached to a commercial kitchen.
    • Inter-generational use – there was a general consensus that the neighborhood would prefer community uses that would serve all generations of residents, from young children to senior citizens.
  • Other interesting ideas included selling the building and using the proceeds to fund the construction of recreational fields on the RFK parking lots, seeking a college or university public policy program or DC internship program to operate out of the building and finding a use related to urban agriculture for a portion of the building.
  • In preparation for the April 30 meeting, the task force will prepare a document that summarizes the feedback received during the April 9 meeting. Attendees at the April 30 meeting will have an opportunity to weigh in on the document and suggest additional ideas/uses with the goal of moving further towards consensus. The task force will also continue to update and refine the map of existing neighborhood uses/services in close proximity to the Eastern Branch Building.

Thanks to all who attended the meeting. We made a lot of progress.  If you were at the meeting, please post your thoughts or anything I missed below. And if you missed the meeting and want to weigh in, please plan to attend the next community meeting on Wed., April 30, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE).