Notes from ANC 4D September meeting

While the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for 4D met a week ago during their special meeting, there were still agenda items to take care of for September. At this meeting they discussed the new senior apartments coming to Kennedy Street, the new Zoning Comprehensive Plan for downtown, CareFirst Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Castello's restaurant and a few other items. Commissioner Quirk was the only commissioner not present.

ANC 4D has $10,244.13 cash onhand (end of August numbers). 

Manna Inc presented again about their new development coming to 608 Kennedy Street, the “Horton Senior Village” (affordable housing for seniors). They were at ANC 4D because they need city funding for the project, so were asking for a letter of support from the ANC for the Department of Housing & Community Development. Manna has helped build 1,200 affordable housing units across the district. 

Sarah Scruggs from Manna and Harry Guff, representing the owner of 608 Kennedy St NW

Harry Guff, the real estate broker representing Randolph Horton, the owner of the building, got up to talk about the building. He said Mr. Horton didn't want to sell to a developer and wanted something that would benefit the community. It’s also the first new building constructed on Kennedy St since 1950 (from the ground up), according to Mr. Guff. The building will feature open views into and out of the building. 

Sarah Scruggs, from Manna, said there is a strong need for senior affordable housing (aging in place). The building will offer 42 one-bedroom units with some parking available. Income will be limited to resides making below 50% area income (~$37K/22K). Seven of the units are ADA-compliant (17.5%). Manna works with YouthBuild, bringing in youth to learn construction trade. The ANC approved the letter of support.

Khalil Thompson

Then Khalil Thompson and Jasmin Benab, the Ward 4 liaisons from the mayor’s office, gave an overview of the mayor’s latest news, including providing copies of the mayor’s 60 day plan, and flyers on kids ride free, DC youth involved in DC government, the pledge to end homelessness, and the safer, strong dc program. Mr. Thompson mentioned that “core teams” have been walking through the Ward looking to solve problems. DC government is looking for feedback on its performance, so residents can go to grade.dc.gov and leave feedback.

Commissioner Nancy Roth talked about vacant properties being a problem in 4D, as they could be homes for families who need them. She said the city isn't doing enough about those vacant problems. Mr. Thompson said the mayor was aware, and had recently even quoted Commissioner Sheon's recent email on the topic at the ANC / Mayor meeting last week. 

Commissioner Rene Bowser talked about a vacant property at 5406 Kansas Ave, saying she hadn’t been able to get a solution after contacting DCRA several times. Mr. Thompson said he will take it back to the mayor. 

Commissioner Rene Bowser

Commissioner Bowser introduced Andrea Rosen from Ward 4 Thrives to discuss a resolution on Comprehensive Zoning Plan and the Zoning Regulations Review (ZRR). Ms. Rosen read from notes about the long backstory to the issue about the ZRR. In a nutshell, the Office of Planning is looking to update the Zoning regulations for downtown DC. The changes will allow a lot more residential buildings and construction downtown, increasing resident density, with little buffer between the downtown and existing residential areas.

Andrea Rosen, from Ward 4 Thrives

The proposed changes would allow an additional 40 feet to the height of buildings, no parking requirements, eliminates the Planned Unit Development process, and does not requires Inclusionary Zoning (affordable housing, basically). Any comments submitted prior to May are no longer being considered by the Office of Planning, so Ms. Rosen was at the meeting to support an ANC resolution that asks for three months more of community input and Spanish translations. More about this on an informational PDF created by Ms. Rosen, and on the DC Zoning site. The ANC passed the resolution.

Then Commissioner Bowser introduced Sam Jordon, executive director of Health Care Now. Mr. Jordon was at the meeting to talk about CareFirst/Blue Cross-Blue Shield, and the obligations of CareFirst to distribute excess surplus for community initiatives (Something they’re apparently not doing). “I’m here to report a crime, but not your usual crimes,” Mr. Jordon said.  “CareFirst/Blue Cross-Blue Shield is actively, aggressively, defying DC law that pertains to healthcare insurers. 

Sam Jordon, from Health Care Now

He said that in 2001, CareFirst petitioned to convert from non-profit to for-profit status. The Maryland Insurance commissioner denied it, but it was approved by DC’s commissioner. Now CareFirst has a massive $964 million surplus (money from charges to individuals and small group plans). The Medical Insurance Empowerment Act of 2008 found CareFirst to have excessive reserves, 10 times the amount required for reserve business capital, (approximately $268 million in "excessive" surplus). DC law says if commissioner finds excessive reserves, insurer must distribute plan on how it will distribute those funds in the communities where it gained the money. CareFirst won't give a plan. He mentioned that some members of the DC Council were on CareFirst board: Linda Cropp chairman of board, Grosso used to work there, etc. He suggested residents get involved by going to dcappleseed.com (projects>CF reform > review of 2011 surplus) and DISP.dc.gov. Questions can be sent to Mr. Jordon.  

Commissioner Sheon discussed Castello Restaurant and the ANC’s protest of their liquor license. He invited the owner to multiple meetings and they didn't respond. The owner is insisting on hours of operation that exceed prior agreed-upon limits. Sheon is looking for people who live around the business to sign a ABRA protest (should be turned in to ABRA by now; Sheon had enough signatures) He made a motion to oppose the license, and to have Sheon represent the ANC at ABRA hearing. They approved the motion to oppose license and have Sheon represent.

Commissioner Sheon also talked about the upcoming ANC 4D Day (Saturday, 9/19, 12-5pm at the triangular park, 9th and Gallatin St NW). There will be free grilled food 12-2pm, games, moon bounce, arts and crafts, physical fitness, yoga, and even a dog nail clipping opportunity from 1-3pm.

Commissioner Sheon

Commissioner Sheon also gave an update on the vacant properties in the area, saying the issue continues to grow. He met with CM Silverman, Bonds and brought the issue up with the mayor. Proposed 10 point plan to require DCRA to amend how they enforce vacant building code.

Among the points:

  1. Currently DCRA has to prove twice yearly that a property is vacant. The plan would shift the responsibility to developers to prove the property is no longer vacant.
  2. Loopholes allowing developers to pull a building permit yet do no construction legally allow the developer to sit on the property without paying the vacant building tax of 10 percent.  The plan eliminates this loophole.
  3. Currently, developers can use different LLCs to own properties limiting their personal liability.  The plan would require for developers to include individual owner names that would be used for issuing fines and confirming vacant building tax is levied properly.
  4. Currently, neighbors who want to see if fines have been levied have to call DCRA. The plan would require DCRA to put enforcement actions online for all to view.
  5. As is the case now, when a home passes from a deceased relative down to a family member, and it's going through the court, the family should be protected from the enforcement laws.  I call this the "Aunt Millie" rule.  No one wants to penalize community home owners - it's the developers we're looking to impact.

Dolly Turner from CM Todd’s office spoke. Said the councilmember has been working closely with MPD on crime issues. Is promoting a new Block Captain program, which he felt “worked well in the past and can work well again.” Ms Turner said 80 people came out for Block Captain training recently, and encouraged people to support the Block Captain project. 

Commissioner Bowser asked Ms. Turner about the status of rodents at Raymond Rec Center and MacFarland Middle School? Ms. Turner said she will follow up.

Wendy Shenk-Evans

Commissioner Branton introduced Wendy Shenk-Evans, director of the Christian Family Montessori School, 210 Allison NW,  at the St Paul's Rock Creek Church Cemetery. The school is renewing the special exception that gives them the ability to operate on the cemetery property (they’re required to get an exception to be on the property). Commissioner Branton moved to approve a letter of support for the school to renew their exception. Approved.

The ANC then approved some minor funding requests.

Next ANC 4D meeting is October 10th. 

Drew Schneider

Local DC blogger in Petworth, Washington DC.



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