DDOT issues abound at ANC 4C August meeting

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4C met on August 10th and had what amounted to be a typically wonky meeting. MPD talked about 14th Street, DDOT presented and answers questions from the ANC (sans Director Dormsjo), and the topic of bike lanes and safety along New Hampshire Avenue got both the commissioners and the community in a tizzy. 

As is normal, these ANC notes are long and caution is advised, opinion also abounds.

Soap box moment (these are my opinions, and the ANC are elected representatives — critique come with the job): Biggest takeaways from this frustrating meeting is that the ANC is not publishing resolutions and decisions for the public prior to meetings. It appears the ANC doesn’t believe residents need to be informed on the decisions they make or why they make them. They seem to view the meeting as a public viewing of a private meeting of the commission. While there is a Community Comment section, it’s one-way, no discourse, no follow-up. 

ANC 4C is an elected commission meant to represent 22,000 constituents, but presently, all discourse between them is held via email, at executive session and then voted on at meetings. Nothing in public. Commissioner Jonah Goodman is trying to open that veil up (see his tweets), and Commissioners Joe Martin and Zach Teutsch do try to shed light on issues once in a while (via listservs), but when was the last time your commissioner held a Single Member District meeting to explain the issues the ANC tackle? How often have they presented resolutions to the public BEFORE actually voting, in order to get resident feedback? 

One example: The ANC voted to oppose DDOT’s Livability Study draft recommendations for pedestrian, bicyclist and driver safety along New Hampshire Avenue with little discussion and plenty of angry attitudes, before actually reading the draft document. Commissioner Timothy Jones apparently discussed the issue with 20 or so people in his SMD, but no one else was involved. When Commissioners Hayworth and Teutsch requested to delay a vote in order to gather community comments, Commissioners Uqdah and Jones both became angry. Either way, your thoughts as a resident and constituent were not asked. (See related: ANC 4C prematurely votes against the DDOT Livability Study.)

I’ll point out, again, with $16,745.22 in savings and $9,626.98 in checking, how little of the ANC’s budgeted money has been used in the community on events, improvements, grants and the like. Squeaky wheel and all that, but I’d like to see the commissioners step up and look for ways to spend the money on the betterment of the community.

Bear in mind, the election for commissioners is this November, and almost no commissioner has an opponent. In 4C, only SMD 4C01 is contested. Every other seat has a single candidate. Without a write-in campaign, there won’t be any choices for residents to make, nor pressure for commissioners to step-up their game. Commissioners Hayworth, Uqdah and Galloway are not running for re-election. Generally, I think the commissioners want to do well for the community, they just don't seem to be organized on how. The commissioners should have SMD meetings and agenda items should be published prior to meetings along with the agenda. 
/soap box

MPD officers Nunez and Vega

As for the meeting...

Lt Raul Figueras, the PSA manager, said that robberies in PSA 404 are way down, as are violent crime (side note, the more recent gun violence in Petworth has occurred in PSAs 403 and 407). 

MPD officers Vega and Nunez from PSA 404 attended the meeting and spoke about their concerns with the tree boxes on the 3900 block of 14th Street not being well maintained. Officer Gabriel Nunez said that the responsibility to keep those tree boxes clean is on business owners and residents, and if they’re not taken care of, they can be removed. In fact, Nunez had a petition to get tree boxes removed to stop people from, as he put it, sitting in there, drinking, defecating, etc. He said the goal is to keep the trees, replace with mulch, and make them less likely for littering and loitering. Much respect to Nunez and the 404 officers for taking the initiative on the petition.

Pat Host

During the Community Comment section, resident Pat Host said he was unhappy about the “yellow" HAWK lights at 14th & Randolph. He said the intersection is still dangerous, with cars blowing through the lights. He suggested red blinking lights to slow traffic and give pedestrians a chance. (This intersection has been the scene of too many collisions.)

Grayson Dixon

Grayson Dixon, a local resident got up to share his concern about DDOT’s recommendation to put a bike lane on New Hampshire Avenue, saying he was concerned about them removing a lane of traffic. “What to do about church parking?” He asked the audience to raise their hands if they were there about the potential of losing parking for parishioners along that stretch of New Hampshire (between Grant Circle and Georgia Ave).

Greg Billing

Greg Billing, the Executive Director of WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association) spoke, and said that Petworth has one of the highest rates of bikers in DC. He and his organization, who have 400 members in the area, want the city to study the bike lane project. He said he believes there is an opportunity to work with residents and the city to find a workable compromise. He asked the ANC not to take a position too early (before DDOT released their recommendation).

Ms. Armstrong spoke against a bike lane, and shared her concerns about buckling sidewalks due to trees with shallow roots. She suggested paving over the trees. 

Resident Wayan Vota also spoke out against a bike lane on New Hampshire Avenue, saying he’s a bicyclist. He said he didn't like the changes that occurred to Sherman Avenue when DDOT changed it from two lanes to one, and believes 5th Street is a better choice for a bike lane, but said that the street needs better paving. He said that a bike lane would mean losing parking for parishioners on Sundays, and not wanting to go back to the past arguments between the churches and residents about double-parking. 

Andy Solberg

Resident Andy Solberg spoke about Emerson Street becoming a major commuter route (due to the work on 16th) as it has direct east-west routes. He said that the block has a lot of young families, and there are "Maryland motorists" driving fast down Emerson. He’s asking the ANC and DDOT to look for measures to calm traffic. 

Audrey Kwanze also spoke about Emerson Street safety measures. She said there was a ”perfect storm" coming as the work in Rock Creed Park as well as the upcoming the 16th Street bus lane will send extra traffic through the neighborhood. Residents need measures implemented now, she said. 

Jacob Mason from the All Walks DC advocacy group got up to speak on pedestrian safety concerns, saying his group believes that extra driving lanes contribute to a lack of safety.

Michael Herndon, a resident who said he used to work for DDOT, said that DDOT changes their plans and needs to talk to the community and the churches, etc. He said Randolph St has become a racetrack.

Rodney Foxworth from DDOT

Then DDOT representatives Emily Daffney and Rodney Foxworth, community engagement supervisor, got up to answer questions from the ANC. (DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo was listed as attending on the agenda, but did not appear.) It’s important to note two things here: 

  • The questions that DDOT answered came from the ANC commissioners, not from residents. You weren’t offered the opportunity to submit questions.
  •  Emily Daffney doesn’t respond to email when faced with tough questions by local bloggers about Upshur Street and Powell Elementary safety issues. 

“We focus on relationships with civic groups and ANC commissions,” Mr. Foxworth said at the meeting. “My goal is to facilitate anything that DDOT is not doing, based on your requests.” He repeatedly encouraged residents to use 311 so DDOT can track issues and then referred to questions from a large stack of paper in his hand.

He said street repair for 13th street is planned for FY 18 & 19. Wants commissioners to submit request to 311.

Emily Daffney, DDOT

Ms. Daffney said that the 1300 block of Jefferson would not be getting speed bumps because they did not get enough signatures on their traffic calming petition. (Petitions allow DDOT to document resident concerns but requires 75% of the residents on the block to consent, she said.) Commissioner Taalib-Din Uqdah asked if a traffic-calming petition is the same as requesting speed bumps? Ms. Daffney said it was not, but that speed bump petitions are no longer given out, DDOT only looks at the larger traffic calming petitions, which allows them to gather speed and traffic data collection. If motorists are found to be traveling at high speed, then they'll put in speed bumps. Commissioner Uqdah said he was concerned that DDOT hasn't come up with other mechanisms other than speed bumps in order to calm traffic, and he was unaware that they required a separate petition for traffic calming petition. Ms. Daffney said that there are other tools, but speed humps are proven. 

Mr. Foxworth, referring to his questions, said that the 5500 block of 14th St. doesn't meet DC ADA standards; commissioners can submit 311 request to fix that.

Steve Strauss from DDOT then got up to say that they were interested in a 14th St bus stop for a non-stop 59 route, but said availability of funds is a problem with WMATA. 

Ms. Daffney said that to ensure the safety of entering and existing an alley, DDOT will remove parking space either side of an entrance to provide safe access. She said they provide the ANC a Notice of Intent for alley changes (this doesn’t go directly to impacted residents).

DDOT is also looking at “mitigation measures in the alley behind” Powell Elementary, and are working with DGS to improve sight distance and safety. Not fully determined what next steps are. 

They have commissioned a study for 16th Street Heights to study speeding & circulation issues in the neighborhood. 

Commissioner Joe Martin said that, regarding people’s concerns about the increase of traffic on Emerson Street, Google Maps directs drivers to take Emerson Street. Ms. Daffney said they have no way of asking Google to modify those driving recommendations.

Mr. Foxworth said that Upshur Street and 4th and Rock Church Road will see repairs in 2019 to fix the roads. He again said the ANC should put a request in for 311. (This stretch has been a wreck for years).

Regarding 700 Randolph Street, he said while it needs street repair, a temporary repair request should be submitted. Additionally, for 2700 10th Street NW, he said DGS is responsible for that stretch, but he will reach out to see about curbs, etc. 

Commissioner Joe Martin

Commissioner Martin said it shouldn’t take a year and a half to get 311 tickets resolved, and they shouldn't be closed without work being done. Mr. Strauss replied, “Well, do you look at the reasons for the ticket being closed?” (There's never a reason, this fellow clearly doesn't use the 311 system.)

Mr. Foxworth said that speed bumps were denied on 500-600 block of Randolph St, and said that if a portion of a street requires repair, residents or the ANC can submit a request for a temporary patch.

Any other questions can be emailed to Mr. Foxworth

Michael Milliner

Michael Milliner from Building Partnerships LLC, spoke about their upcoming work on recertification of 4000 Kansas Avenue NW (Kansas & Shepherd Street). Mr. Milliner said this was the All Souls housing, and would be converted to high-quality affordable housing (50% AMI). Work should begin start next month.

Commissioner John-Paul Hayworth proposed a letter of support for low-income housing tax credit for a development project at 4040 8th Street NW. The Department of Housing and Community Development is working with Mi Casa to acquire the building and renovate it for affordable housing. Tenants can purchase the building in 15 years for a fraction of the cost. Passed.

Commissioner Timothy Jones proposed a resolution to honor the tradition of rent and selling parties in DC (haven't seen it). Approved. Commissioner Jones requested ANC funds to pay for a permit and port-a-johns for a Fish Fry Event to be held Aug 27th at the triangular park at Randolph, NH & 8th.

Then came the fun of Commissioner Jones’ resolution in opposition to Rock Creek East Livability Study. Commissioner Jones believes DDOT’s proposal will reduce traffic lanes on New Hampshire Avenue two to one and add a bike lane (this is not what's in DDOT proposal).

Commissioners Hayworth and Teutsch both requested that the vote be delayed until the ANC can understand what DDOT's proposed plans are. Commissioner Uqdah disagreed, and said the vote in opposition only deals with bike lanes at one specific area, not the full livability study. Commissioner Jones said that his constituents are against it, saying he held a meeting with 20-25 people. Commissioner Teutsch wants to consider all ANC constituents concerns, and asked for reasoning from Jones for the early vote, as the livability study and the bike lane affects more than a group of 20-25 people. Lots of grumbling, Uqdah claimed Teutsch was being disrespectful. The ANC passed the resolution 4-3. (Read more about this odd decision, "ANC 4C prematurely votes against the DDOT Livability Study.")
After that, Commissioner Teutsch presented a letter of support for Bancroft Elementary School's use of Upshur Park for a public event scheduled for August 20th. Approved.

They also passed a letter of support for the removal of metal tree grates from the 3900 block of 14th St NW, as well a motion to continue their admin's contract for another month.

Dolly Turner from CM Todd's office

Dolly Turner from Brandon Todd’s office then spoke to say the Councilmember’s office was doing a block-by-block walk to look at issues in the neighborhoods (looking at issues impacting sidewalks, trees, trash, etc.). Staff were identifying potential problems and inputting them into 311. She said that they are also planning a 14th Street walk, and that 14th Street received a $25K grant for a Main Street designation from Spring Road to Colorado Avenue.

Centro Nia received letter of support for a staff appreciation event at Upshur Park for Aug 19th.

That’s it. Thanks for reading or skipping to the end!