The November meeting of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4D was a good evening, with all commissioners in attendance. ANC 4D has $12,572.80 in the bank — a big deal for 4D that shows their frugality with extraneous expenses has paid off. They've drastically reduced the amount of rent they pay and have decreased other office expenses. Now it’s time to give out some grants!
Chair Lisa Colbert started off the meeting with an announcement about the upcoming ANC 4D holiday party & charity drive taking place December 13th from 4-8pm at Sandovan Restaurant (4809 Georgia Ave NW). They plan on giving out awards to active community members and doing a "White Elephant" gift exchange game (so bring a gift valued at $6), and recommend “red and gold attire.” Commissioner Colbert wants requested money to cover the cost of supplies for the party (the cake is donated). $1,450 was approved.
Chair Colbert also mentioned that the ANC is planning a health fair sometime in the summer of 2016. They’re looking for community input on types of screenings to offer (eye care, hearing, etc.). Contact Chair Colbert with ideas.
Tantalizing the geek in me, Christopher Alexander, the president of the NW Saturday Academy on STEM for Ward 4 Youth, presented about their school’s robotics, math and computer science program called “FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®).” This sounds awesome. It’s an elementary school program for grades 3rd - 5th that pulls together teams of 4-5 kids to use science, math, engineering and teamwork to build robots to run along a track, pick up items, navigate an area, and so on. The program focuses on “core values, like teamwork, community and environment.” Sounds pretty cool. They use an MIT program called Scratch in the Saturday classes. They have open enrollment now for the Spring program. While they’re meeting at Shepherd Elementary at the moment, they’re looking for a new location for next year (maybe West Elementary). Tuition is $200 for the semester, and Mr. Alexander said financial aid available. More info and registration on their website.
Another amazing kids program was presented by David Ross, a 3-D and Character Design Mentor for the Hirshhorn ARTLAB+ after-school arts programs for teens. This is a free weekday program from 3-7pm for 13-19 year olds that teaches digital and traditional art. “It’s a radically inclusive space,” according to Mr. Ross. Every day there are mentors available to work with kids on projects and to teach different activities. From 3-5pm they offer an open studio where teens come in for the social aspect, play video games and check out art materials. Then from 5-7pm they offer artist studio workshops, with different programs each day (such as 3D programming, game design, photography, etc.). Students can work on their own individual projects and can get certifications for different skills (like photography or programming). “It prepares them for real-world experiences,” Mr. Ross said. The ARTLAB+ program takes place under the sculpture garden at 700 Jefferson St, by L'Enfant and Smithsonian metros.
Bethany Bezak from DC Water’s DC Clean Rivers project got up to introduce herself and to ask for resident feedback for the project’s Rock Creek proposals. DC Water set up a display area in the back to discuss with residents.
Alexandra Zeitz-Moskin, Communications and Outreach from the Mayor's Office, spoke about the Serve DC Snow Team, a volunteer snow-removal program (serve.dc.gov) to help seniors and the disabled with clearing walkways of snow. If you can volunteer, they'll pair you with those in need within walking distance of where you live. They offer flexible volunteering opportunities (do it once or as many times as you can). With the largest senior population, Ward 4 has the highest number of requests. Snow removal enforcement excepts seniors and disabled, but residents and businesses are required to clear their public walkways no later than 8 hours of daylight after an active snowfall.
Martha Cutts, head of Washington Latin, came to ask ANC 4D for a letter of support for a zoning exception the school needs to complete construction on their new gym. Because of the lot shape, the building’s roof is too narrow to accommodate the zoning rules required placement of the HVAC system. They’re asking for a zoning adjustment for the setback of HVAC. The ANC approved.
Commissioner Renée Bowser brought forward her resolution on homelessness in DC. Bowser asked for ANC 4D to pass her resolution that focuses on sanitation safety and dignity for homeless people in DC. Bowler is concerned the DC Council is weakening the Homeless Services Reform Act.
Commissioner Sheon said he wants to add to the resolution that the ANC wants a new commission created with representatives DCRA, the Mayor's office and Tax & Revenue to explore and expedite the use of persistently vacant houses (5+ years) for use as emergency shelters. He said there are 3,000 vacant houses across the city. Bowser asked Sheon if the city should buy and renovate, or use as temporary shelters. Sheon suggested they be purchased and turned over to Manna or other non-profits to use as 6-month type shelters.
Commissioner Roth had a reservation that at last month's ANC meeting, Jay Melder (DC Dept of Human Resources chief of staff) mentioned that there is a benefit to have all services in one location rather than spread out. Khalil Thompson from the Mayor’s office got up to clarify the issue of wraparound services and a new location. Sheon said he wants to ensure as much opportunity for privacy for the residents of the shelters as possible. Bowser moved to support resolution in support of ending homelessness. Approved unanimously.
Commissioner Bowser then asked for a vote on a resolution on the Pepco-Exelon merger. She wanted the ANC to urge the Public Service Commission to extend the deadline for public review with a 60-day extension to February 18, 2016. Bowser doesn't believe there has been enough time for ANCs and other community organizations to review the new settlement agreement. Approved.
Tim Johnson got up to say that he wants a more thorough review of the new agreement ("the mayor cut a backroom deal"). He feels the settlement agreement is a pro-Exelon deal and doesn't provide much benefit to DC residents. “Virtually nothing in this deal that a public benefit to overturn the original PSC disproval of the agreement,” he said.
Commissioner Sheon gave an update on Clubhouse (also known as the Trinidad & Tobago Association). Sheon said that while the Clubhouse was shutdown (due to their many violations and the massive altercation that spilled out on Georgia Avenue several months ago) the club’s owners and OAG/ABRA reached an agreement to reopen without consulting the ANC or community. However, the Office of the Attorney General is moving forward for a show-cause hearing on January 27th for their violations. Sheon said the community could write to OAG and ABRA and share their thoughts on suspending the Clubhouse’s liquor license or to support it. But he added that there is not a public comment period at the January hearing.
Commissioner Sheon also provided a quick update about the Castello Lounge, who are looking to open a sidewalk cafe on Hamilton Street, off of Georgia Avenue. Residents have signed a petition against the late hours requested by the Lounge. Sheon has been trying to meet with the owners but they keep missing appointments. They didn't show up on time at mediation with residents yesterday (they apparently showed up around a half an hour late).
Dolly Turner from CM Brandon Todd’s office spoke briefly about vacant housing, saying Todd is aware of the issue as Mayor's budget calls for money set aside for abandoned properties, but Todd's office isn't involved but will do research and come back to ANC with info. Commissioner Bowser asked about status of 1125 Spring Street (former Hebrew Home for the Aged). Ms. Turner said she would have to get back to the ANC on it. She talked about how seniors in Ward 4 are a priority for Todd (he recently hosted a State of Seniors address with 350 attending a 4 hour event) that included 50 agencies, non-profits, etc. He’s sponsoring new legislation called the sidewalk safety amendment act that looks to require DDOT to inspect sidewalks in 72 hours when reported, and repair them in 7 days if deemed unsafe. She also mentioned there’s a Ward 4 Christmas Party / Coat Drive on Dec 19th.
Sam Fitz spoke about their new ANXO Cider Brewery coming to 711 Kennedy St NW. They signed a very long-term lease for the property, and are planning on opening up a Community bar and restaurant in February. There are two buildings on the property, and the one in the back will be used to produce wine. Commissioner Sheon asked about hiring local community members. Mr. Fitz said they plan on hiring for 30-35 jobs, of which five require a specific skill set (e.g., cider maker, general manager), and there will be approximately 25 jobs making cider, as well as restaurant positions. Brad Walker, the executive chef, currently co-owns Boundary Road at 414 H Street NE.
Commissioner Roth said they are planning to plant bulbs on Kennedy Street soon, and hopefully by spring we should see a pop of color on Kennedy Street.
Commissioner Sheon mentioned that the ANC is looking for help launching and maintaining a new website. “It’s a source of frustration to many, as the [current] site is the property of DC gov and not intuitive to use.” The ANC wants to give a young person or someone who has interest the opportunity the gain experience and add to their resume to create and maintain a site. Offering a $200 year stipend.
Jami Dunham, CEO of Paul Charter School talked about the school’s new gym, which offers a media center, gymnasium, locker rooms, art studio, and more. Ms. Dunham said the space is available to community use.
> Be sure to read the latest "Better Know a Commissioner!" interview with ANC 4D Treasurer Krystal Branton!
And don't forget the 4D Holiday Party, December 13th from 4-8pm at Sandovan Restaurant (4809 Georgia Ave NW).