Developers, rats and grants: Notes from ANC 4C's September meeting

ANC 4C Chair Bennett Hilley speaks at the September meeting.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4C held it's regularly scheduled monthly meeting on September 12th at the Petworth Library. If you couldn't make it... here's some notes.

Treasurer’s Report, the ending balance in August was $2,861.22 in checking (the ANC is waiting for it's quarterly allotment of funds from the city).

The new liaisons from the Mayor's Office ("MOCRs": Mayor's Office of Community Relations) introduced themselves (Kelly Hunter, Keshawn Harris), talked about Hurricane Florence missing us. Kelly Hunter will be the liaison for ANC 4C, Keshawn Harris will support ANC 4D. (Reminder that Jasmin Benab moved on from being the Ward 4 MOCR last month.)

Kelly Hunter and Keshawn Harris from the Mayor’s office.

Commissioner Karen Cooper asked the MOCRs about a plan for rat abatement in Petworth. Commissioner Timothy Jones asked if the increase in rats in the neighborhood could be caused from the Metro vibrations? “We can take a look at that,” said Ms. Hunter. (Good luck with that, WMATA just shrugged it off after an inconclusive test of 10 homes.)

Josh Fleitman from Councilmember Todd’s office spoke about precautions for the hurricane listed on Todd's website. Fleitman said the DC Council is going back to session and that it's slated to be a busy session. Todd is focused on bills he’s introduced for lower tax rate on rideshare, creating an office of nightlife and culture (basically a liaison with the community, something that's been done in New York with great success), as well as an overhaul of the braille education system.

Josh Fleitman, the Director of Communications from Councilmember Todd’s office.

Commissioner Cooper raised the issue of rats to Fleitman, wanting a plan for Petworth to deal with the rodents (most complaints in the city?). Needs to be addressed, goes in hand-in-hand with litter issues along Georgia Avenue.

Resident asked if developers are being asked to deal with rat abatement, and to have the Council force developers to contribute to abatement costs.

Julian Hipkins III from Roosevelt High School

Julian Hipkins III from Roosevelt High School

During the Community Comment period, Julian Hipkins from Roosevelt High School said students went to see the play Hamilton (1200 students) -- big event that everyone loved. Spanish exchange students arrive soon, French students in October, and another group in November — still need host families!

The Uneeda convenience store at 4418 Georgia Avenue wants to sell beer and wine, as they've been getting customers asking (they have to walk to Decatur or Yes Market, and want something closer to their homes). Uneeda currently offers food and groceries. They really want to sell single containers of beer.

Jordan Haferbier, the exec director of Uptown Main Street, spoke about "Parking Day" at 14th & Colorado, where they turn parking spots into play areas, art spots. Also reminded people about the Taste of Uptown (a walking dining tour on September 26th).

A woman spoke about the DC History Conference on November 1-4 at UDC. Free for students, tickets for community.

A resident spoke about wanting the ANC to support the return of MPD's vice squads (for local enforcement), as crime issues are problematic. Wants people to call 911 with a street address to keep records of calls, to curb drug activity.

Commissioner Cooper spoke about the Rock Creek Conservancy, for the renovation of Carter Barron. $9 mil set aside for the amphitheater. Should have music again by 2020.

Mr Smith from Roosevelt High School

Mr. Smith, the Roosevelt High School facilities Director of Strategy and Logistics came up to speak, quite passionately, that he had a serious matter to bring to the ANC attention -- dog poop in their softball field off of Iowa Avenue. He said students use the field regularly, but apparently residents have been using the field as a dog park. He said he's had to remind people that it isn’t a dog park, and kids are getting poop on their shoes. Mr Smith said it’s illegal to bring dogs. "There’s a dog park down the street," he said. "Keep off our field," he said, "but take part in other events at our school." Commissioner Cooper said, “We do pay tax dollars.”

EL Haynes had this issue some years ago with the field off of Webster and 7th Street. Eventually, they closed the field to residents. For what it's worth, the dog park above Upshur park is pretty terrible, as the hard surface material rips up the feet of some dogs. That said, Roosevelt students certainly deserve to not have to worry about dog feces on school property.

Wonder if there's a way the residents and the school can create a Friends group to maintain the softball field and give dog owners a place to run their pets?

Zoning Issues…

Developer and architect speaking about 716 Upshur redevelopment.

The request for a special exception application for 716 Upshur was a large discussion for the evening, as many residents came to the meeting to push back against the developer's request to convert a single family into three units (a variance is not needed because the lot is big enough) and want to build 18 feet back instead of 10 foot (hence needing a waiver).

This is the new normal in Petworth: 100+ year old single family homes becoming multi-unit condos and selling for over $500K-$600K each. The top floor units at the new condos at 8th and Upshur were listed at ~$900K. Each.

Developer Amit and architect Will were at last month’s August ANC meeting, and had been engaging neighbors, according to commissioners. The two said for their two requests in front of the ANC and Zoning board, they were going to try to put in four parking spots and will make a $10,000 donation to support affordable housing. (The parking spots would be front to back, and according to the developer, represents a "loss of green space in the backyard.")

ANC Commissioner Ulysses Campbell.

Commissioner Ulysses Campbell said that after reviewing the official record, "It looks like you performed community outreach, but letters of support are basically form letters, while letters of opposition are original. How firm is the support if people didn’t write letters?"

The architect said people in opposition are generally more verbose when they’re in opposition than when they’re in support. And he said providing form approval letters is standard.

7th Street neighbor Susan, who's property backs up toward 716 Upshur, said she is not in support of their exception requests. Some elements of the proposal she likes, the third story, but the side elevation and back extension she does not. “Sheer volume is very large, the building would block our view of the alley.” Parking is also a concern.

Joseph, a neighbor who lives on Upshur, said he was concerned that the building is to be a three unit condo. "The new condo at 8th and Upshur are two units each already, three units seem unnecessary." He also said that he believes parking is going to be an issue.

Another resident, Carla, said she supports two units, and is not in support of the 18 feet waiver. "If you keep a 10 foot pushback, then you get some green space back." She also said, “We’re a passionate bunch but a friendly bunch, so we look forward to talking with you.”

Commissioner Jonah Goodman said that there were two similar build-out issues in his SMD. “The 300 block of Varnum (reduced rear addition, 3 unit approved) and 400 block of Randolph (fully approved).”

"The ANC has lost every case in opposition to 3 unit conversions since zoning laws changed in 2016," Goodman said. He said he researched the zoning database, and found that in the 30 cases across the city since 2016, the BZA has given developers everything they want.

Commissioners Goodman and Jones argue about Zoning approvals in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Timothy Jones said a house on New Hampshire was rejected for redevelopment a few years ago, to which Commissioner Goodman castigated Jones for not working with neighbors. (Long story short, ANC Chair Bennett Hilley had to help the neighbors in Jones' SMD, as Jones didn't get involved in the protest. Commissioner Goodman and Chair Hilley both complained quite vociferously about the lack of support from Jones. (That said, after this ANC meeting, the Zoning board had its scheduled first meeting on the property, and neighbors reported that Commission Jones did a great job representing them in front of the Zoning board.)

The ANC voted to oppose the developer’s exceptions and waiver.

On the special exception application for 1128 Buchanan NW, the ANC voted to oppose the request as the neighbors are in opposition due to "adverse impact of top addition and rear addition, light and air to neighbors."

When you buy a building thinking it has 16 units, only to find out it has 17…

For the next zoning issue for 4526 13th Street NW, the building owners are asking for a waiver to have an existing apartment added to the Certificate of Occupancy. (They purchased the building in 2016 and discovered that the building has 17 units, but the CoO only lists 16. The building offers affordable housing. ANC voted to support.

Developers on 4222 8th Street NW presented their request to remove a rear mansard roof from the back of a house that's being redeveloped. Wants ANC support to remove rear mansard roof, leaving the front of the structure the same. Architect said they were careful to maintain the sight lines from the side and the front. Zoning board said either maintain the mansard roof (thereby affecting the third floor) or raze the entire structure. Developer thought that was rather extreme. The developers will bring a request for a vote to the October meeting.

For 1322 Randolph St NW, the developer didn’t show up. ANC said they'd vote to support only if the developer meets their request under the condition that they make a donation to the DC Housing Trust Fund to support affordable housing in the District. The ANC asked for our standard lead pipe abatement and permeable pavers on parking pads.

The owner of the new Petworth Cigar bar coming to 4203 Georgia Avenue NW has signed a settlement agreement with the ANC. The owner, Diane, has waiting 7 months for permits. Her grandmother owned the space previously.

The ANC then passed some bylaw amendments that changes agenda order. Pretty minor.

Finishing up the night, the ANC approved a letter of support for Tras La Perla, and event at Upshur park for Latino Heritage Month, DC SCORES.

Friends of the Soldiers Home got a grant for $1,000 for the Fall Fest, will likely spend $7K on event, $3k on tents, chairs, etc, which the grant will go to.

Uptown Main Street got a grant to help pay for a trainer to help local businesses with safe bars / safe alcohol distribution. Previous training in August was highly attended (senior friendly business training to make businesses more inclusive.

Lastly, the ANC agreed to review another bylaw update for the next meeting to set expectations on settlement agreements if SMD commissioner doesn’t act, the Chair can appoint someone else to assist the community.

*This article was updated with comments by Commissioner Goodman.