Notes from ANC 4C's long April meeting

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4C met on Wednesday, April 13th. A very full agenda, the meeting included a brief presentation by DC Attorney General Karl Racine. I think the stress of having a very full agenda caused the commission to speed through the agenda items, and the meeting actually ended a bit early.  A win for your neighborhood note-taker, but it was a rushed meeting.

Note: I won’t be able to attend the next ANC 4C meeting on May 11th. If you want to take the notes for me, I’ll publish you on Petworth News and laud you with much praise and buy you a drink at the Petworth News Shindig on May 7th!

The meeting started with the usual opening items, but it seemed Commissioner Taalib-Din Uqdah was unhappy about something and wanted to make that clear to the rest of the commission. He made symbolic “No” votes on every routine motion, such as approving the minutes, approving the Treasurer’s report and the meeting agenda and approving a commissioner to represent the ANC at Zoning meetings. He made a motion to not approve the minutes because he hadn't a chance to review them prior to the meeting. The ANC might be a volunteer position, and it is hard work, but a little more professionalism and maturity would go a long way to making it less like a “tall kindergarten.” <shrug>

Treasurer Michael Halpern and Commissioner Maria Barry

Commissioner Michael Halpern began his Treasurer’s Report, but was stopped when Uqdah made a motion to postpone the treasurer's report because he didn't receive it until that morning. No 2nd on the motion, and Halpern said he had distributed to the commissioners prior to the meeting. Uqdah said that the audience didn’t have a copy as it wasn’t on the back table (true), to which Halpern responded by holding up a bundle of paper and saying he was about to drop it off in the back. <shrug>

In any case, ANC 4C continues to roll in the dough, saving their money in the bank for your benefit. They have $16,425 in savings, $13,563 in checking (see the monthly report). Luckily they did agree to approve a few grants at this meeting. #finally

The final disbursement of funds for the quarter from DC is on hold, as the ANC’s quarterly report needed to be first approved by the commission. Halpern made a motion to approve quarterly activity (previously submitted by former Treasurer Kathleen Crowley but apparently it "got lost in the shuffle”).  Approved (well, Uqdah voted against it). <shrug>

Dolly Turner

Dolly Turner from Councilmember Brandon Todd’s office got up to speak briefly about the RFP meeting on the Hebrew Home (1125 Spring Road) where about 125 people showed up. She complimented Chair Vann-Di Galloway for effectively representing the concerns of residents. "Your commissioner here left quite the hero," Turner said. 

She mentioned that the Security Camera program has been expanded to PSAs 404, 406 & 407. Read more on this topic: “How to take advantage of the Security Camera Rebate Program” (April 7, 2016).

Ms. Turner mentioned that Ward 4 has the second highest number of seniors in DC, and that they don't feel like they're technology savvy, and don't feel connected. "Out of the flow of communication,” is how she described it. She said CM Todd was starting a tech training for seniors on April 28th at Ft Stevens, in conjunction with the recreation and senior centers, as well as local faith-based services to reach the greatest number of seniors as possible. Phones, tablets and apps will be discussed, as well as internet safety.

DC Attorney General Karl Racine arrived and was given five minutes to address the audience. “We have a very full agenda,” Chair Galloway said, apologetically.

AG Racine said that last year's budget for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) was $59 million and includes 273 lawyers and 300 non-attorney staff. He said the OAG was responsible for advising the Mayor, 38 DC agencies and the Council, defending the city in court and bringing affirmative cases on behalf of DC. However, he said the budget was made for an appointed AG, but now that there’s an elected AG with a mandate from the voters with new responsibilities such as focusing on the public interest, the budget needs to be expanded. 

“I don't mean to complain, but we're not budgeted to do that affirmative stuff in the public interest,” he said. He is seeking a $7 million increase to “fulfill the mission that the votes required.” 

Racine said that in return, the OAG was able to return $113 million to DC’s general fund in FY2015. "We're a big bang for the buck, but also in defense of the city and assets, able to diminish the amount of money people are seeking through suits. Every dollar you invest in the AG office is a good investment,” Racine said.

DC Attorney General Karl Racine

Juvenile justice reform and trying to invest in communities and the kids who are in real need of services and make the communities stronger is one of his main focuses. He said they have been trying to divert young offenders who ordinarily would go into the criminal justice system away from prosecution. “Youthful offenders, 50% or more, will come back as more hardened criminals.” He said out of 400 cases, 294 truants were diverted from judicial process. “Not a slap on the wrist, it means very intensive services to get at what is going on and what is lacking in their lives that make them susceptible to making bad decisions,” Racine explained.

He said that they work with the DC Department of Human Services to give each juvenile an assessment, called CAFAS score. Racine said that a score of 80 shows a high level of stress and instability in a child. He said most DC juveniles being tested are receiving an average score of 89 (lower is better). He said this scoring process helps them understand services such as drug services, social services, mental health services and after school programs. 

“When kids complete the program, the average score drops 39 points, and the juvenile is in a much better state. Of 400 in last 12 months, 92% have not been re-arrested, showing a positive long-term impact,” Racine said. Wards 7 and 8 make up 60% of the 400 juvenile delinquents brought into the program, and Ward 5 adds another 10%. All show a high level of instability and poverty. Racine said we must focus and provide those services to those kids and those areas. “You better believe we'll get more and more random violence that seems senseless. But while it looks senseless, we know the problems and know what the kids aren't getting. We have to focus on the services for our kids who really need it, or the situation will only get worse,” he said.

No time for questions! Thanks for coming, AG!

Several people lined up during the Community Comment period (2 minutes per speaker):

Carol Herwig, who is with the Friends of Petworth Library and Federation of Friends said they’re making a push to get the DC Council to increase funding for libraries, which are stretched thin. She testified at the Committee on Libraries in front of CMs Grasso and Allen, making a pitch to increase the budget. Right now DC libraries get only 0.7% of the DC budget; the Friends want to increase the allocation to 1% of DC budget. She also mentioned that the agenda was too much for two hours. “Maybe find another place” to meet, she suggested. 

Cecelia Waldeck, secretary of the 16th St Neighborhood Association (Upshur & Decatur, 14th and 16th) said that neighbors are anxious about pop-up conversions and gave a letter to the ANC about their concerns. Her Association wants timely notice for zoning issues. She said that rowhomes are designed to be the same, a “modern day townhouse community,” but there are no deed restrictions that prevent what neighbors can do to change the appearance of the property. She wants the ANC to develop guidelines that will direct the ANC to support or withhold support for conversion projects. ( I guess like an HOA?) She said the ANC needs standard guidelines for consistency.

A representative from the AKA sorority on 14th street. Brought scholarship applications for DC high school students pursuing further studies. She said the requirements were very similar to what students are doing on other applications. Deadline was the 20th (so if you were hoping to apply and just found out now… sorry. Come to the ANC meeting if timeliness if your thing).

Steve Feingold got up to talk about the park benches that used to be in Sherman Circle but were moved due to drug issues decades ago. He is looking to get the benches returned to Sherman Circle, as the park is heavily used by residents as a gathering place. He said he has contacted the National Park Service (NPS) who is responsible for the property, but understand they have no budget. Is hoping the city or ANC contribute.  For the record, Sherman Circle sits within ANC 4D not 4C, and is the Single Member District of Bill Quirk. Email him if you’d like to get him involved.

Hannah came up to talk about supporting universal paid family leave and wants the ANC to support it, as the program offers paid time off for taking care of family, parents, spouses, etc. 

Susie B got up to talk about the alcohol license renewal for El Don restaurant, saying “they have serious problem with loud thumping music.” She said they have spoken to them in the past, but things have gotten worse. Wants voluntary agreement to control their noise. 

Joe Vaughn (former ANC 4C commissioner) thanked the ANC for their work and mentioned a neighborhood cleanup that took place on the 16th. 

Former ANC Commissioner Joseph Vaughn

Commissioner Uqdah announced a presentation (on April 14th) at the library on how early developers helped create housing segregation issues in Ward 4. (It was a great presentation of a long research study being conducted across the city. Interestingly, during the presentation, Commissioner Uqdah castigated the history researchers for not being able to properly understand the issue because they weren’t African-American. This opinion was vocally disagreed with a number of residents of all skin tones, along with a PhD working on a similar study.) 

Commissioners Taalib-Din Uqdah and John-Paul Hayworth

Uqdah mentioned the “Rock Creek East Livability Study” meeting on April 28th. He also mentioned a Council bill introduced by CMs Gross & Orange that he thinks will affect us, calling for the breakup of DCRA into two separate agencies, one for regulatory, one for licensing. To this commissions credit, he said, former Rickey Williams and Uqdah introduced resolution to protect residents when contractors put up bonds.

Commissioner Zach Teutsch said that El Don has been removed from the evening’s agenda because the restaurant agreed to discuss resident concerns. The owner seems inclined to address them in a substantive way, he said. 

Commissioner Timothy Jones mentioned that the last day to register to vote for the June 15th election primary is May 14th. 

Mr. Montero and Anna deLion

The Commission then moved on to discuss Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Matters, starting with Taqueria Habanero (3710 14th Street NW). The well-regarded restaurant wants to create a sidewalk café. Commissioner Halpern introduced Anna deLion and Mr. Montero, owner and chef. The restaurants wants a sidewalk cafe to expand seating options like other nearby restaurants, and so customers can enjoy sitting outside (12 seats outside. 6 tables with shade) Halpern said he has received many positive notes from residents about the proposal. The resolution of support was approved. Here's the ABRA document.

Commissioner Teutsch said that El Sol (3911 14th Street NW) was up for its license renewal, but he recommended that the ANC take no action.

Next up was Commissioner John-Paul Hayworth discussing the request by the Twisted Horn restaurant (819 Upshur Street NW). Hayworth said that Twisted Horn has been in operation for a few months and wants to open back patio area. He said they had a successful community meeting a couple of weeks ago (discussed trash, noise, etc). The restaurant agreed the back patio will close at 10pm, and will shut the front windows on Upshur St at 9pm. The restaurant also agreed to work with other nearby residents to install lights and cameras in the rear alley. They agreed to a provision to not have music or speakers in the back patio, which will be in an updated settlement agreement. Hayworth said the restaurant has been a very good partner working with neighbors, especially since they’re close to some homes, and have been very attentive to issues. He made a motion to support the updated settlement agreement. Approved.

Commissioner Teutsch said that Miriam’s Café (3931 14th Street NW) was up for its license renewal, but he recommended that the ANC take no action.

They moved on to discuss some Board of Zoning Adjustment issues, starting with the development at 3700 14th Street NW. Commissioner Halpern said the new 4 story building would be at the location of the old Carolina Restaurant at 14th & Spring Rd, which has had a “long, storied history at that corner.” He said he met with the new owners and their representative to discuss community concerns.

Alex Garcia and Michael Watson

Alex Garcia, the representative of the developer, and Michael Watson, the building’s new owner, gave brief presentation about the new 4-story, 4-unit addition that would be built on top of the existing restaurant space. They are required to have 2 parking spaces but they can't get them to fit. 

Commissioner Uqdah said he wanted to apologize to the other commissioners and Commissioner Halpern for not having provided, in advance, his opposition to this BZA application. He said there have been issues with trash and snow removal, with neighbors having to call the city to deal with fences down and other challenges. “We think we've gotten to a point where we won't have those problems anymore, but as a commission we think we've come to an agreement that shows good faith from the contractor,” Halpern said.
The ANC voted to approve the request for relief for the two parking spaces. (Here's the resolution.)

Commissioner Hayworth discussed the upcoming development at 4424 Georgia Avenue NW. Owners are asking for variances for rear-yard and parking requirements to permit the construction for a mixed-use project. Hayworth said that the building has no access to the alley or Georgia Ave, and since DDOT is opposed to curb cuts the developer can't create parking. He said that they are required to have certain square footage for rear space, and developer has agreed to decrease the size of the building to open up space between the Allison street building and new building. Some residents still oppose, but Hayworth thinks the building offers long-term residency opportunity along Georgia Avenue. The ANC approved the parking variance request (with three no votes). 

Commissioner Uqdah complained they haven’t had time to discuss the request for variances. “The process is crazy. We're not getting anything accomplished of any substance. We have not taken the time to do our due diligence under the law. I am going to be sending the BZA my opposition. We got to start doing a better practice of this if we're going to do right by the community. I attended Commissioner Hayworth's meeting, it was a very cooperative spirit.” 

The ANC then voted to support the rear yard variance, with three no votes. They then approved a motion to appoint Hayworth as BZA representative for ANC (Uqdah voted against this, too). <shrug> 

Commissioner Hayworth then discussed a variance request for 824 Varnum Street NW. The owners want to convert a single family home into 3 story apartment homes, saying they would maintain the look of the house from the front, extending back 10 feet, with an additional 5 feet of stairwell into the back (and therefore removing the rear garage structure). Ah, pop-backs, the new pop-up. 

Commissioner Uqdah raised an objection, saying he believed their vote would be premature, based on the Office of Planning's report (which he said has a lot of discrepancies, some egregious — this wasn’t discussed in more detail, alas). The variance request was approved, 5-4. Hayworth was then voted as the ANC representative for the BZA meeting. Uqdah voted against that again.  <shrug> 

Then, finally, it was time for Grants, when the ANC gets to the business of spending money on the community.

JJ Velez

First up was the “Fresh Vistas Farmers Market Grant Application” for the 14th and Kennedy Streets Farmers Market, presented by Commissioner Uqdah. Uqdah said he supports the grant, and introduced JJ Velez, who represents CAUFS, to discuss their request for a $500 grant to cover marketing materials. Approved by the ANC.

Sara Herra Kopetchny

Then Commissioner Martin introduced Sara Herra Kopetchny for a grant to support the Petworth Dance Project. Ms. Kopetchny said this was the second year for the Dance Project, a summer dance series that features local dance companies. They’re asking for a portion of permit fees be covered by $500 grant. Approved.

Lauren Anderson, Commissioners Uqdah and Hayworth

Commissioner Hayworth introduced a grant request by the Petworth Community Farmers Market (9th & Upshur). Lauren Anderson, who chairs the market’s volunteer board said the grant would help cover costs for licenses, permits and fees. Approved. (There's a fundraiser on the 25th.)

Time for “New Business” and a “Resolution of Support for 14th and Kennedy Farmers Market” by Commissioner Uqdah, who said that DDOT considered the earlier April start of the market to be a "major change,” since last year it started later in the year. DDOT said it needs ANC support for the new start date. ANC approved. 

Commissioner Jonah Goodman, Chair Vann-Di Galloway and Vice Chair Zach Teutsch

Then they had a discussion about how the ANC administers grants. Commissioner Jonah Goodman said he wants the ANC to adopt proposed new application changes. The changes bring updates to the guidelines and an increase of total possible grant to $1,000 (currently the maximum grant is $500). Commissioner Maria Barry wants to allow those who have already received a grant at the existing $500 level to be able to come back for another $500 if needed (currently, a recipient can not receive two grants in a year). The ANC decided to table the discussion to amend the grant guidelines to May’s meeting to allow the community to have time to submit input.
Since Commissioner Elisa Irwin wasn’t at the meeting, they postponed a proposed by-law change pertaining to ANC 4C website (they no longer have access to the current site).

Commissioner Halpern introduced  resolution to support the Hope Cooperative on Spring Road. The tenants of the building want to buy it with a 0% loan from the city to ensure affordable housing remains, but it is in a bad state of repair.  Approved. 

Commissioners Teutsch and Hayworth introduced a resolution to support Universal Paid Family Leave. The motion was approved; I haven’t seen the resolution.

Commissioners Hayworth and Joe Martin made a motion to approve letters of support  for the Celebrate Petworth Day and the Petworth Jazz Project. Commissioner Jones complained that the Petworth Jazz Project hasn't hired a local musician who he knows, and so doesn’t want to support them (he thinks they should be hiring Petworth musicians, which obviously would be nice, but on the flip side, if you look at the past roster, all the musicians that have played at the Jazz Project have been accomplished and professional musicians). ANC approved the letters, with both Uqdah and Jones voting against and Galloway and Halpern abstaining their support for the Jazz Project. <shrug>

They unanimously approved the letter of support for Celebrate Petworth Day.

Commissioner Jonah Goodman made a motion to support a DDOT Traffic Study Request for SMD 4C10 (a  traffic calming study for Rock Creek Church Rd & Upshur Street). Approved.

On the now getting very old business of finalizing their contract for their administrative staff / hiring of part-time employee, Commissioner Halpern said there is no resolution yet on the issue, “but I believe we have extended the contract through May.” He asked the ANC to take no action.

Commissioners Halpern and Teutsch then discussed an upcoming traffic calming study at 14th and Randolph Streets. Teutsch said it is a dangerous intersection, where recently a pedestrian was struck in the middle of the crosswalk, and that DDOT has been reluctant to study the issue. “Glad to report that there's been substantial engagement, and the severity of the collision helped convince DDOT that intervention is necessary.” They suggested perhaps a yellow flashing light when pedestrians want to cross. Teutsch said studies show that 80% of drivers are willing to stop with those kind of lights.  Commissioner Uqdah asked why DDOT wasn’t considering traffic lights instead. Teutsch said that DDOT considered 14th street “arterial for traffic,” and that it was too complicated to put a stop sign or lights. 

Commissioner Teutsch then discussed the recent inclusion of PSAs 404 and 407 in the Security Camera Rebate Program. He said that community engagement allowed these PSAs to enter the camera rebate program. More info on the Petworth News article.

Lastly, Jasmin Benab from the Mayor’s office spoke about city issues. She said that “Potholepalooza” started on April 1st to fill in potholes identified by residents. She asked people to report pothole to 311, and they would be repaired in 48 hours. She said that in the past 2-3 weeks there have been 700 requests, and they have filled 5,000 potholes. 

That’s it.

Big thanks to Sean Wieland for volunteering to take meeting minutes for the commission since their admin was out with a sprained ankle. 

Reminder that I won’t be able to attend the next ANC 4C meeting on May 11th. If you want to take the notes for me, I’ll publish you on Petworth News and laud you with praise and buy you a drink at the Petworth News Shindig on May 7th!

Drew Schneider

Local DC blogger in Petworth, Washington DC.

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