This meeting looked liked a pretty tame agenda at the outset, but had some interesting moments with community concerns around requiring notice to ANCs about public space use permits, an argument about a grant for a block party, a long back and forth about a small deck and a few other items. You can read them all, below. Grab a drink, it's a long one (and truly a joy to read).
After the necessaries were completed and out of the way (roll call, approve the agenda, minutes, etc.), Commissioner Crowley provided the Treasurer’s report for August: $1,500 in expenditures, $12,754 in checking and $16,721 in savings.
Khalil Thompson and Jasmin Benab from the mayor’s office came in and gave a quick rundown of some of the mayor’s recent communications, include the mayor's 6 month progress report and safer, stronger DC program.
MPD - no officers attended.
Community Comment period then started, and at first I thought “Hey, this meeting could end up being a quick one; no one got up for community comment!” And then just as Chair Galloway was about to gavel and move on to the next agenda item, a line formed of people to talk.
The main topic of discussion was the proposal by ANC 4C01 Commissioner Taalib-Din Uqdah that ANCs be provided advanced notice of farmers markets and other events that require the closing of streets and the issuance of public space permits 30 days prior to the event. (You can view a PDF of the proposal.)
Doreen Thompson got up to discuss the proposal and spoke about Petapalooza held on Emerson Street (with apologies to Ms. Thompson, I’m not sure if she was supporting the proposal or against it. Being the “blogger in the corner” often doesn’t afford me the opportunity to ask follow up questions. #bloggerproblems).
Next up to speak was Audrey Nwanze, one of the volunteers at the 14th & Kennedy Street Farmers Market (which has seen some resident concern about the closure of Colorado Avenue to host the now very popular Saturday farmers market and rumor has it, was likely the spark for this proposal). She asked that the ANC give thought to public space use, and is against this proposal. She was concerned that some of the provisions of the proposal could block volunteers from using public space, and could give ANC Commissioners too much "weight" against supporting farmers markets and other public events.
Ms. Nwanze added that the proposal set the bar too high and requested the ANC table the proposal until community members can express concerns or support. Additionally, she requested the ANC consider adding a resolution to the proposal that states the commissioner who has a concern about public space permits must conduct an SMD meeting to allow constituents to weigh in on the permit before taking the issue to an ANC vote.
On the same topic, Emily Cohen got up to speak against the proposal (Ms. Cohen is also one of the volunteers of the 14th & Kennedy Street Farmers Market). Ms Cohen asked the ANC to table the proposal so that the community could review and weigh in on it.
Maria Barry, who will soon be the new commissioner for 4C02 (after former Commissioner Joe Maloney resigned), got up to request that the ANC table the proposal and to also add the requirement for a SMD meeting to the proposal. Ms. Barry mentioned that she supports the 14th & Kennedy Street Farmers Market, saying “It's an amazing community experience.”
Then resident Patricia Luke got up to offer her support for naming Commissioner Elisa Irwin (4C03) to represent the ANC at the September 15th Zoning Board hearing about 1521 Varnum. “This is one of the worst things imaginable to happen to the street and the fabric of our way of life,” said Ms. Luke, talking about the proposed construction of a 7-unit condo building.
A gentleman, Mr. Johnson, (who said he’s a Ward 7 resident) got up to talk briefly about Kids Smiles, a non-profit dental clinic in Ward 7 that provides dental care to children 18 and under in under-served communities. The non-profit’s goal is to “eradicate tooth decay.” Mr. Johnson said that the clinic is opening a new office at Georgia and Rittenhouse in Brightwood and is hoping to come back before the ANC to get the commission’s support in the future. I don’t have more details, but you can check out their website to learn more, and I believe they’ll be back at a future ANC meeting.
A woman from the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority got up to talk about the 2015 Norma E. Boyd 5K Race for Education on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 8:00 am at Rock Creek Park. The 5K supports scholarships for DC high school graduates. (You can read more about it on their press release.)
Janice Williams, a past commissioner from 4C10, said she wants neighbors to remain concerned about pop-ups. She mentioned that the 400 block of Randolph currently has 5 pop-ups that neighbors are concerned about. She asked for the minutes from the June ANC meeting. There was some discussion about how the minutes were not available at the meeting, and that they’re still not on the ANC 4C website. (In fact, the ANC 4C website is a bit of a mess. There aren’t any meeting minutes from 2015 posted at all.)
Danielle Hunter from the DC Department of Parks and Recreation got up to briefly say that DPR has fall programs available at local recreation centers. (Check DPR’s website for more info.)
A resident from the 700 block of Varnum (sorry, I don’t think she gave her name), got up to ask why it’s taking a year to trim a tree on her street. She claimed she parks beneath this tree (which apparently needs trimming) as she has a handicapped spot beneath it. She said signs have gone up for no parking, but the city missed those dates to do the work. She’s tried to reach out to the city and Councilmember Todd’s office but hasn’t received assistance. She’s concerned about storms causing limbs to fall and damage her car.
Dolly Turner, from CM Todd’s office was in attendance and got up to say she would talk to the resident about the issue. She then introduced herself and said that she is the new ANC 4C representative from Todd’s office. She mentioned that her family has lived in Petworth for a long time. She went on to discuss some of the things the councilmember is involved with, including his concern about public safety issues, the public safety meetings he’s held, the Block Captain program (contact Todd's office to sign up) and legislation that he is going to introduce in the Fall for an elder law clinic through UDC. Ms. Turner can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-724-8052.
The meeting then moved onto its next agenda item, the WMATA 14th Street Bus Changes. Several people from WMATA were in attendance, including Anne Chisholm from WMATA’s DC government relations office, Fred Sims and Douglas Stallworth. They discussed changes to the 54 route (currently goes down 14th from Takoma to L’Enfant).
They’re proposing to shorten the route and have it stop at McPherson Square. They then plan to reinvest the savings for more frequent weekday service north of Colorado Avenue. (Route 52 would serve L’Enfant Plaza.)
According to WMATA, there is low ridership south of McPherson Square, while there’s high ridership between Takoma Station and McPherson Square. They said that these changes create a better balance between capacity and demand. WMATA is planning a public hearing on September 17th about the improvements and crowding issues.
Commissioner Teutsch asked why the 59 line isn’t one of the additions. Mr. Stallworth said the changes being proposed are a “cost neutral" approach and that there is not any available budget for other changes at the moment. More information can be found at wmata.com/betterbus.
Then DC Water gave a presentation on the Clean Rivers / Potomac Watershed Green Infrastructure work occurring in the area, presented by Seth Charde, the Green Infrastructure Assistant Manager.
Basically, the project is a federally mandated program to manage storm water and run off using new tunnels and porous walkway / park materials / cisterns / green roofs for better drainage. Right now, DC uses a single sewer pipe system to carry sewage and storm water runoff. During overflow caused by heavy rain, the mixed sewage goes into DC waterways (purposefully — 100 year old design). According to Mr. Charde, overflows in the past accounted for 2.5 billion gallons of sewage going into the Anacostia, Potomac and Rock Creek, making them not fishable, swimmable, etc.
The DOJ, EPA and DC Water announced back in May that the project would include green infrastructure plans. Green infrastructure include architectural, structural and plantings that are designed to reduce storm water runoff. It includes things like green roofs, permeable pavements, rain gardens, bioretention, and so on.
By including green infrastructure in the plans, DC Water was able to reduce the length of the Potomac tunnel being drilled, removes a pumping station from being constructed, improves water retention across the system and increases jobs (51% of jobs for this project are local hires). The new system of tunnels and green infrastructure will reduce overflow by 96%.
Commissioner Irwin asked if this was the same group that does water barrels. Mr. Charde said that’s the River Smart program. Commissioner Uqdah asked if jobs were available for DC residents in the effort. Mr. Charde said that jobs for DC residents are part of the agreement with DC, which requires that 51% district hires for implementing green infrastructure.
Commissioner Teutsch asked about newly constructed parking lots that don’t seem permeable, “One of the things we've seen is DGS (Department of General Services) has led large scale development like parking lots with tons of asphalt. I know Powell’s new lot has a permeable surface” to deal with stormwater, he said. (I think Teutsch is referring to the large asphalt parking lot recently put in at Roosevelt high school). Mr. Charde said that DC Water has had early conversations with DGS about looking at DC properties and implementing GI efforts, but nothing has come of those conversations as yet.
Then Commissioner Uqdah introduced US Shadow Representative Franklin Garcia to talk about his work advocating for DC statehood. Mr. Garcia mentioned that he had lived in Petworth at one time, on Illinois Avenue off of Grant Circle.
He gave a bit of background on his role. He’s an elected “shadow” Congressional representative, one of three elected officials, that advocate for DC statehood. He said he goes to Congress three times a week and lobbies representatives to cosponsor a bill by DC (non-voting) representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (HR317). He’s hoping to get more than 120 cosponsors who will help push the movement forward and get legislation passed in the House.
Commissioner John-Paul Hayworth (4C07) presented a proposed Community Agreement for the new Thai-themed restaurant coming to 845 Upshur Street (which is now called Alfie’s).
Hayworth read through the Agreement (pretty typical agreement about trash collection, rat abatement, noise, hours of operation, etc.) The ANC approved the Agreement. Hayworth then made a motion for the ANC to provide a letter of support to the restaurant to obtain a Great Streets grant to renovate the facade and back lot of the building. This was also approved.
Commissioner Rickey Williams (4C04) then presented a grant request for a Halloween block party for the 1400 block of Shepherd Street. “It’s a popular Halloween party, attended by neighborhood children,” he said.
Karen Rickman, a resident who spearheads the event, got up to discuss the grant request and the block party. She said this is the third year for the party, there’s costume contests for kids and adults, they buy pumpkins for all the neighbors who want them, get bales of hay and other decorations, games, candy, food and such. It’s been a very popular event and grows each year. The organizers have been funding the event themselves, and since the event is growing larger, they are looking for support from the ANC. Regarding the bales of hay, one of the party volunteers said that they donate the hay “to community gardens afterward, and another two block parties used our hay last year."
What should have been a no-brainer approval for a simple $500 grant request to support what sounds like a really nice community event turned into a 20-minute back and forth argument about why this event would be or would not be supported.
Commissioner Galloway (4C06) said he thinks their overall budget for the Halloween event is “going overboard with your party … I see candy on this budget, bales of hay… I hear a lot of want but not a lot of need.” Another of the organizers (I think her name is Jessie, correct me if I'm wrong) got up and replied, "Just to clarify, the total budget we gave you isn’t what we're asking the ANC to support. We understand the ANC guidelines,” she said. “This is the first year we've asked the ANC for support.” (Note: ANCs can’t pay for food and consumables, among some other funding restrictions.)
One of the reasons given by Chair Galloway against supporting the grant request was “Why should we support this… other block parties might not get the same support?” (Almost all public, community events are eligible to request a grant from an ANC.)
Commissioner Teutsch said that, given his experience, he “appreciated that the Halloween block party includes diverse groups, different races and ethnicities, and that's very special. I rarely see block parties that so successfully knit the community together."
Commissioner Williams said he has “lots of admiration for the residents on the block, they do this on their own. Since it's getting so large, with so many residents attending, it's becoming a big thing in terms of impact on neighborhood. We’ve supported other groups.”
In the end, the ANC approved the grant for the block party, with Commissioner Irwin abstaining.
(Bear in mind that ANC 4C has $29,475 in the bank and they’ve barely given out any grants this year. I recommend residents think of great ways to spend the ANC’s money on neighborhood-improving projects and events like clean ups and block parties that bring people together. That's one of the main reasons the DC government funds the ANCs.)
Then Commissioner Uqdah presented his Public Space Notice proposal that had so many community comments in the beginning of the meeting. (In a nutshell… the proposal calls on DC government / DDOT to notify ANCs 30 days before any permits for street closures or other occupation of public space permits are granted, and to allow ANCs to offer a “great weight” opinion on granting those permits. The proposal focuses on farmers markets as the primary event, and says that the proposal is not retroactive for existing farmers markets already in operation, unless there is a substantial change in their current operations, such as adding live music.)
Uqdah said he’d come back to the idea of tabling the proposal and the request for SMD meetings, but that he brought the proposal in front of the ANC in August and then tabled it because the proposal “wasn't complete.” (Note, I wasn’t able to attend the August meeting, so unfortunately, I don’t have notes.)
He then said that since the August meeting he has not heard from any residents on the proposal, and mentioned that he put a simple explanation about it on the agenda that was posted and also never received community comments. He said he’s concerned that forcing an SMD meeting is "a dangerous road for all of us.” He mentioned that Commissioner Irwin raised an issue about the farmer's market to him, he listened to her and added a clause at the end that the proposal that ensures the proposal isn’t retroactive. "Even the mayor's office wasn't aware that some of the public space uses did not require input from an ANC,” he said.
Commissioner Uqdah said that has been working on this for 2 months, and that people could have given input. He said he did send it out to others. “We made this transparent,“ he said. Commissioner Uqdah then made a motion to approve the proposal to require DDOT to provide 30 day notice about public events that block off public streets. Commissioner Irwin seconded. The proposal was approved, with Commissioners Irwin and Williams voting against the proposal. Lots of people left after the vote. (For what it’s worth, this was the first I had heard of the proposal, but again, I wasn't at the August meeting .)
Then Commissioner Uqdah made a motion to amend ANC 4C’s by-laws to require draft agendas to contain a brief explanation or overview of agenda items (with minor exceptions). The amendment also includes a provision requiring the ANC to provide meeting attendees with copies of the previous month’s meeting minutes, agenda and any proposed resolutions, proposals, BZA filings, letters of support, etc., to come at that meeting. The commission approved the proposal.
HUGE fan of this proposal, and happy that the commission approved it. I’d go one further — all proposals, resolutions and other matters requiring a vote from the ANC should be provided a week PRIOR to the monthly meeting so residents have time to review and provide feedback to their Commissioners. #democracy
Grayson Dixon, a resident on Randolph Street, presented his request for a letter of support to DDOT to request speed bumps or other traffic calming measures on the 500-600 block due to traffic issues (e.g., trucks going to Safeway from Rock Creek Church). DDOT will determine location of bumps. (Apparently this has been a long-standing issue, going back to a letter of support from ANC 4C from April 2008!) The ANC voted to approve.
Commissioner Irwin made a motion to designate herself to represent the ANC at the Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing about the seven unit development for 1521 Varnum NW that has many Varnum St residents up in arms. The ANC approved. Commissioner Teutsch abstained (he wasn't in the room during the discussion). Details on the hearing are on on the BZA website.
Commissioner Uqdah made a motion to allow the ANC to set aside funds to pay for a Verizon repair bill. The ANCs phone/Internet line was inadvertently cut by a cleaning service in their office. Chair Galloway thinks that MPD or DGS should pay for the damage since the ANC office is in a government building at 801 Taylor Street. If DGS or MPD (as the “landlords”) don’t pay for the repair, this motion covers the cost. "This is a plan C, basically" said Commissioner Teutsch. Approved.
Commissioner Uqdah made a motion to for a letter of support to get a designated handicapped parking spot at 1213 Kennedy St NW. Approved.
Then the ANC approved a motion to reimburse Commissioner Rickey Williams for $234 for his SMD block party. No argument on this block party expenditure… (/snark)
A new item was added to the agenda by Commissioner Zach Teutsch for a request for a letter of support for a zoning variance for a small deck at 1357 Taylor Street. The variance is needed because the property is oddly shaped and along an alley, and the 10 foot deck would change the "lot occupancy."
Commissioner Irwin raised a concern that she wanted to table the vote, as she doesn’t have enough information and is concerned about pop-ups, zoning issues, and so on. Irwin talked about "lot occupancy" being an important term when it impacts agreeing to an extension, and was concerned impact on future property. Commissioner Teutsch said that this isn’t a pop-up or an extension on the house, and the variance for the deck wouldn’t enable future renovations (that would require more variances).
“The only reason they're coming in front of the ANC is the cockamamie alley and back yard,” Teutsch said. “The homeowners need a variance because of the angle of property line." Commissioner Joe Martin (4C09) gave an example that this isn't a popup or true lot occupancy concern by talking about his own issues with putting on a deck.
Commissioner Galloway asked the property owner, Liv Kent, “Why are we getting this now? We like to get things ahead of time.” He then asked if she had a hearing date with the Zoning Board. Ms. Kent said not yet, but they do have a BZA appeal number already. Galloway said “You don't even have a date to go before BZA… once you get one, come back to us so we can make an informed decision. I’m truly uncomfortable voting on this tonight.”
This discussion / argument went on a while (and got some eye rolls from a few DC gov officials in attendance. “That was a lot of discussion for only a 10 foot deck,” one said to me later).
Commissioner Teutsch apologized for not getting the deck plans to the ANC ahead of time since he was on vacation, and said it was not fair to hold the resident accountable. He added that he knows the area very well, and knows this is a non-controversial issue, minor in terms of construction. He said he will provide plans in the future. Then he moved to offer a letter of support for the variance. Irwin and Jones opposed, 2 abstains. It passed.
Commissioner Timothy Jones (4C08) announced an SMD meeting on Monday, September 14th at 7pm at 801 Shepherd Street to discuss the proposed redevelopment of 3701 Georgia Avenue (the old Sweet Mango Cafe building). The new owner of the building, Rooney Properties, will present. It should be interesting to hear what they plan to do with the Chuck Brown mural on the building (suggestion, have it repainted on the building). I won’t be able to attend, so if someone wants to take notes that would be very cool. Drinks on me afterward.
Then Commissioner Rickey Williams announced that this was going to be his last ANC meeting as he’s resigning. (I heard that he might be leaving, but didn't have confirmation until this.) He’s been an ANC commissioner since 2012. He said it has been a pleasure to serve, and was proud that he presented the pop-up issue to the ANC. “Speaking up as a resident makes a difference, we got the zoning board to vote against pop-ups,” he said. So if you live in SMD 4C04 and want to be an ANC commissioner (and then hey hey get to show up in some snarky Petworth News notes), this could be your chance.
Congrats… we both got through this meeting together. Me typing, you reading. What a pair we make!