A noisy and contentious ANC 4C meeting


Last night was a rather noisy and contentious ANC 4C meeting. (Reminder that all quotes are from my recollection, and anything you disagree with is the fault of the ANC. Any typos are my fault.) The evening started out with the basics (agenda items, etc). ANC 4C has $12,976.61 in checking and $16,736.83 in savings.

On a side note, it was the last meeting for Commissioner Joe Maloney (4C02), he’s resigning as he’s moving to Maryland. He was a strong voice on the commission and will be missed.

First up to speak was Matt Santoro, the Communications Director for Councilmember Brandon Todd. He gave his regards for the Councilmember and gave an update on how to contact the CM’s staff. (FYI, CM Todd was at ANC 4D Commissioner David Sheon’s special crime meeting held on Wednesday night in his SMD of 4D04). 

Commissioner Zach Teutsch (4C05) asked about status of funds for a limited bus service on 14th Street, and Santoro said he’d look into it. 

Santoro then discussed CM Todd’s plan on bringing back community policing, starting with Block Captains and Orange Hat Patrols. Todd’s office is reaching out to community members who have previously shown an interest in local safety and or police issues (I know of one person who was contacted already to be a Block Captain). 

Commissioners Rickey Williams (4C04), Taalib-Din Uqdah (4C01) and new Commissioner Elisa Irwin (4C03)

This caused some discussion, starting with Commissioner Taalib-Din Uqdah (4C01) who said that there has been talk about community policing for some time by MPD and city leadership, but nothing has happened. “Why use residents to augment taxpayer funded policing?”  Uqdah asked.  

Commissioner Kathleen Crowley (4C10) said that with community policing, “often nothing happens, and people fear getting involved.” Santoro answered that the DC Council was taking the lead on this program, not MPD. (So… we’ll see what happens with these two programs.)

Santoro did say that CM Todd was actively monitoring and responding on the Ward 4 listservs and doesn’t rely on staff to keep him updated or pass updates to him. “He gets the listserv emails on his phone,” said Santoro.

He also mentioned the upcoming Ward 4 Family Fun Day coming up on Sunday, June 28 (3-5pm Kingsbury Day School, 5000 14th St NW).

The Fire Department/EMS didn’t show up (they never do), and no MPD representative was present (4D Commander Manlapaz was at the ANC 4D04 crime meeting occurring at the same time).

The Community Comments period kicked off the contentious part of the ANC meeting.
(Note to the ANC… you should use that handy presentation timer for ALL presentations, whether during community comments or presentations on the agenda. That’ll help keep things moving along.)

Dr Linda McKay and Jubria Lewis from the Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy Public Charter School (that’s a long name for a school) asked for the ANC to officially support the move of their school back to the church on the corner of 16th & Kennedy. Commissioner Joe Maloney asked Dr. McKay to talk about it after the meeting. 

Daryl Payton got up to talk, and said he was a fire fighter but it was the fault of Office of Unified Communications that no one was present from FD/EMS. 

Crystal Sylvia spoke about her petition against E.L. Haynes’s efforts to put up 70 foot lights around their new (upcoming) soccer field. Another neighbor was concerned the proposed fencing (16’ high) may not be high enough. Another resident said he felt the school will not keep its word and will rent out the new field to other schools for a profit.

Then Rich Pohlman, the Chief Operating Officer of E.L. Haynes got up to speak and said that the school is “very interested in being a neighbor” and has tried to meet residents’ needs. (There’s been disagreement at the meetings and on the listservs how much that is true — do they really want to be good neighbors — I believe Pohlman thinks it’s very true, and I’ve met people who think it’s very not). 

Ada Loo talked about a Triangle Cleanup happening this Saturday at 8:30am at Quincy and Rock Creek Church road and they’re looking for volunteers. If you want to help mulch and beautify the area, show up at 8:30am. (You can RSVP for the event on Facebook.)

Commissioner Rickey Williams (4C04) said “It wouldn’t be an ANC meeting if we didn’t talk about pop-ups,” and then thanked the community for their input and support of the pop-up restrictions passed recently by the Zoning Board.

Khalil Thompson, one of the mayor’s Ward 4 liaisons, spoke about the recent neighborhood walk-through the mayor did along Georgia avenue with 20 residents and representatives from about 60 city agencies, MPD and Department of Housing. 

Khalil Thompson, Ward 4 Liaison for the Mayor

The ANC commission then passed two letters of support for stop signs: one at Quincy and Kansas Avenue and the other at 5th and Webster Street. Both are very much needed.

Then came a presentation on a request for a zoning exception for a new 7 unit conversion at 129 Varnum St NW that led to some rather heated discussion. In a nutshell, the property that is set to be converted is currently vacant, and the developer wants to put up a new, large condo unit. The developer took pains to try to show how they are fitting into the streetscape through landscape design (trees, bushes, etc) as well as architectural design (a rather interesting concept that uses the outside design to mimic the sight lines created by the bricks and attics of the other townhomes on the block. So from an architectural and landscape point-of-view, pretty cool.

But... Neighbors are really, really unhappy as the building is just ever so shy of hitting the maximum allowable limits. The height of the building is 42.6’, well above what is now allowable without an exception, and the building takes up a large amount of the footprint of the plot. Neighbors were concerned with the outsized scale of the building not fitting in on the block, of the 7 parking spots creating a traffic and driving problem in the small alley, and there are no affordable housing units (as pointed out by resident Jarreau Anthony). “We don’t want to be a mini New York,” another neighbor said. 

There was some testiness between the developers and the ANC commissioners, and the ANC voted against supporting the exception. (This clearly upset the architects, as one of them somewhat aggressively came and took away all the color printouts of the building designs from the commissioners after the vote — felt a little petty, frankly.) 

Then the real hot topic of the night came up: field lights at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School. Haynes is building a new artificial turf soccer field and wants to put three 70 foot lights around the field in case of evening use. Residents who live immediately around the school, and just a few blocks away, vehemently disagree with the need for the lights, saying they haven’t been needed up to this point, and it is a quality of life issue for neighbors. 

Commissioner John-Paul Hayworth (4C07) led the discussion, saying “there have been a significant number of community meetings with the school, and there is still significant opposition to the lights.”

Long story short, the school is willing to commit to a Community Agreement that stipulates when the field and lights can be used and other community requests. (Past behavior makes many neighbors doubt how well the school will keep to this non-binding agreement.)

Hayworth said “One group says Yes, one says no [about the lights], and they won’t come to an agreement. The ANC doesn’t have any authority to enforce a Community Agreement, but there’s more benefit to have an agreement rather than opposing one.” He pointed out that the school has the right to do what it wants without community input, so it’s better to have a voice in the process.

There was a lot of disagreement by residents, and many got up to speak and share their concerns and their lack of trust in the school. Chair Vann-Di Galloway (4C06) mentioned the old school (Clark Elementary) never had these neighborhood issues, and new Commissioner Elisa Irwin made a comment that charter schools should act more like public schools if they want to be treated like public schools.

Rich Pohlman, the Chief Operating Officer of E.L. Haynes, and the main person involved in the community engagement and discussions for months and months, stood up and weathered the criticism, and said that the school commits to being responsive. He gave out his cell phone number and told residents they are welcome to contact him with concerns “I keep my phone on my bedside table, you can reach me.” He added that he felt the Community Agreement doesn’t have much new in it from what the school already does, such as keeping the gates open and the field and one of the playgrounds open to residents. He added that the proposed lights are 20 foot candle strong, compared to Roosevelt High School on Upshur / Iowa that has 50 foot candle lights. The school feels the lights will not add more “light bleed” than the street lights already to, as they will be positioned to focus on the field, not out toward the houses. (In comparison, street lights are 1 foot candle in strength.)

The ANC barely passed their approval of the Community Agreement (6 for, 4 against). Lots of grumbling and many people left the meeting after that.

Proposed design for 20-unit apartment building.

The owners of Latney’s Funeral Home at 3831 Georgia Avenue came in to present their plans for the construction of a new apartment building on the grounds where the Funeral Home is now located and to request support for offering dramatically less parking than the city code allows. (20 unit building, 4 on a floor with retail on the first floor.) 

John Latney said that the Home has been at the corner of Georgia and Randolph since 1962 and they need to expand: “We’ve outgrown the location.”

Latney and his developer wants an exception to the parking spot requirement (1 spot for every 2 units is the rule). With 20 units, they want to offer only 2 parking spots (one of which will be a handicapped spot). Commissioner Timothy Jones (4C08) said that the proposed vote in front of the ANC was “not a resolution on the survival of the funeral home, but on the request for parking relief.” 

Personally, I’m not sure how well it’s going to work with 20 units and only two parking spots (one set aside for handicapped parking). If the developer offered free car- and bike-sharing memberships and/or metro pass discounts for residents, that might help mitigate some of the resident concerns. The ANC decided to kick this decision down the road and tabled the request for a special exception. 

Then DCRA Director Melinda Bolling came up to speak and answer questions from ANC commissioners and residents. Time was tight, as the heated meeting ran long. I recorded a couple of the questions from the commissioners (but not residents). You can see the video below.

I do want to point out that ANC 4C and 4D has a problem with one resident who presents himself like a bully. He tries to bully commissioners (“Where’s the food? You should have food at these meetings. People like food...” is an almost constant refrain from this guy at both meetings.)

At this meeting, when it came time for residents to ask questions of Director Bolling, he cut in line in front of other residents and then got belligerent and aggressive, yelling at the commissioners and specifically Commissioner Zach Teutsch, who pointed out that this fellow had in fact cut in front of someone. 

The resident started yelling about “That guy!” and pointing at Teutsch, at which point I politely interrupted him: 

“Commissioner Teutsch. The name you’re looking for is Commissioner Teutsch, not ‘that guy,’” I said.

“What?” he replied, looking confused.

“He isn’t ‘that guy.’ His name,” I said, “is Commissioner Teutsch.”

“Oh yeah? Yeah?” Then he tries to stare at me really intently, and then rubs his nose with his middle finger. 

(Shake my head. I really don’t like bullies.)

Meanwhile, while the resident is throwing a tantrum, Commissioner Uqdah quietly got up, took the microphone and gave it to the woman standing politely in line. And the grown-ups proceeded to talk.

After residents asked their questions and Director Bolling answered (seemingly very knowledgeable about each person’s case), our resident bully then got his chance to berate the Director. I give her credit, Ms. Bolling was very polite. “Your case was turned down because the board did not find the evidence you supplied credible,” she said. 

The meeting was quickly adjourned after that, as the library staff had already come down to shoo us out of the building.

Angry resident man stomped by me and said “You take my picture and I’ll sue you.” Perhaps he doesn’t realize he’s at a public meeting, in a public building? (His picture is in the gallery below, by the way, and only because he stood so close to other residents trying to talk.)

Afterwards, another resident asked me why he he hadn't read about this guy at other meetings on my blog. I said I don’t report on his antics. I don’t support bullies, remember?

Thanks for reading to the bottom! Enjoy the gallery!