ANC 6A Report

Commissioners Go Easy on Historic Preservation

Historic preservation was a hot topic at the February ANC 6A meeting, where commissioners voted in favor of various changes to the neighborhood skyline and landscape, per the recommendations of the ANC committees. In a 7-0-1 vote, commissioners conditionally supported Insight Group’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) application for the Murry’s/H Street Self Storage site, based on the developer’s submission of a statement regarding building compliance with design guidelines. Commissioners said they supported Insight Group’s efforts to make the unit fit in with H Street’s historic look. Commissioner Nicholas Alberti said he was encouraged by the architects’ emphasis on the unit’s ground level, which will include small storefronts and sidewalk cafes to mimic what is traditionally seen on the corridor. This vast new project will take up almost the whole 600 block on the north side of H Street.

In a separate motion the commission voted unanimously to support the plans for 225 9th Street NE before the Historic Preservation Review Board. The property owners attended the meeting and requested to add a railing to the second floor balcony at the front of the structure, and a second story and rail deck addition (second and third floor) to the rear of their house. They assured commissioners that the addition would not increase their lot occupancy, which is already at 70 percent. 

The ANC also unanimously supported the conceptual plans for 1321 Constitution Ave. NE., which include adding two stories to the one-story building, with the third floor set back so it will not be visible from the street. Elizabeth Nelson, who lives nearby and has been disappointed that the ANC has not done more to protect the historic quality of the block, lamented, “I feel like the 1300 Block of Constitution has been destroyed, which is a shame because it’s the last block in the historic district.” 

FRESHFARM Market to Return with Extended Season

After a presentation by FRESHFARM Markets Co-founder Bernadine Prince, commissioners voted unanimously to support the seasonal Saturday-morning street closure of the 13th Street block between H Street and Wiley Street, so that the space may host the market for a second year. FRESHFARM Markets aims to support farmers in the Chesapeake Bay region by delivering locally farmed food through producer-only markets in Maryland, Virginia, and the District. Prince explained that because farmers voted for a longer season this year, the market will be open every Saturday from April 20 through Dec. 21. Market hours are 9 a.m. to noon.

Restaurant, Tavern and Nightclub Settlement Agreement Renewals

This year, all settlement agreements for ANC6A’s restaurants, taverns and nightclubs are up for renewal. In his Chair’s Report, Holmes urged commissioners to attend the following Saturday’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Briefing, cautioning that with at least 37 combined restaurants and taverns in the neighborhood, “It’s a big job we’ll be doing.” Holmes further explained that restaurant renewals would be up in March and taverns in September, and this will be the first year in which both can attempt to set aside the settlement agreements entirely.

Heeding the Chair’s warning, commissioners kept housecleaning in mind as they voted on Alcoholic Beverage Licensing (ABL) matters during the meeting. After weeks of back-and-forth emails with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) regarding inconsistent changes in ABC’s edits to various ANC settlement agreements, the commission reached an agreement with ABC and ABRA on what should be included in standard agreements. As a result, the commission voted 7-0-1 to amend its standard agreement to reflect these terms, and to approve the ABC’s recent changes to the agreements for Avery’s Bar and Lounge (1370 H Street, NE) and Maketto (1351 H Street, NE).

Holmes also motioned for the ANC to send a letter to ABRA requesting notification whenever a 6A licensee seeks: to change the class of its license; to add an entertainment endorsement, summer garden, or sidewalk café; to add to the number of patrons to be served; to change the hours of sale; or other changes that affect the peace, order, quiet or parking the immediately adjacent residencies. Holmes made the case that because some of 6As restaurants and taverns are as close as 30 feet from the backyards on Wiley Street NE and the side-yards of homes on the numbered streets, the ANC should have tight controls on hours and serving practices. The commission supported sending the letter in a 7-0-1 vote.

Continuing their firm positioning on ABL issues in light of upcoming renewals, commissioners voted not to support an exemption to the Ward 6 singles ban for Grand Liquors (409 15th St. NE) in a 7-0-1 vote. The ABL Committee report explained that the Grand Liquors’ owner sought an exemption to the singles ban for spirits, making the case that the business’s proximity to Ward 5, where there is no ban, hurts his business. The commission resolved that granting an exemption to Grand Liquors might prompt other nearby businesses to ask for exemption.  

Neighborhood Environment Issue Get Spotlight

During the meeting’s Community Comments segment, PEPCO’s Senior Public Affairs Manager Kirsten Bowden invited attendees to a community meeting on Saturday March 2, at 10 a.m. at River Terrace Elementary School (420 34th St. NE), where representatives from DDOE and PEPCO will answer questions about the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study Project Work Plan, Sampling and Analysis Plan, and Health and Safety Plan. The investigation is looking into whether previous historic operations at the Benning Road power plant have contributed to the contamination of the Anacostia River, which PEPCO is charged with causing.

In addition, Holmes motioned to send a letter to the DOE, stating that the ANC opposes the use of coal at the Capitol Power Plant, which had already converted from burning coal to natural gas and has recently requested to burn coal again. Holmes explained that 6A is in the outflow of the towers, and in his proposed letter he asked the DOE to set particulate standards that protect the neighborhood from exposure to coal dust, sulfur particles and sulfur dioxide — “to set them so rigorously that the plant can’t burn coal is what, in effect, this is,” he said. Holmes explained that because Congress members from coal states would likely not support a ban on burning coal, the request had a better chance of surviving congressional scrutiny if proposed as a plea for tight standards. The commission supported sending the letter in a unanimous vote.   

Construction in Lincoln Park to Last 90 Days

Dr. Joy Kinard, Central District Manager of National Capital Parks – East, discussed construction that has since begun at Lincoln Park on Feb. 25. The eastern side of the park, which makes up three of the park’s seven total acres, will be fenced off until May 27 as deteriorated interior walkways and the center panel of grass are rehabilitated. New shock-absorbing base mountings will also be installed underneath the playgrounds, and trashcans, fencing and drinking fountains will be replaced.

Access to the western end will be available during construction, and pedestrian sidewalks and roadways will not be affected. To Commissioner Alberti’s inquiry about whether construction would resolve some of the drainage issues in the playground area, Dr. Kinard said that turf regeneration may help, but that drainage issues would likely be addressed in a separate project at a later date.

2013 Commissioners Get Settled In

Many commissioners gave robust single member district reports and shared what they will be working on as they continue to settle into their 2013 posts. Highlights include: Commissioner Sondra Phillips-Gilbert (6A07) delivered a message on behalf of the Kingman Park Civic Association, strongly opposing the use of the historic Spingarn Senior High School grounds as a potential location of the DC Streetcar maintenance garage and electrical generation storage facility. Commissioner Andrew Hysell (6A06) reported that DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson changed his position from opposing Chief Lanier’s request to use $1.6 million to hire 50 new police, to approving $2 million in support of the effort.  He thanked community members for their follow-through on this issue. Commissioner J. Omar Mahmud (6A01) said he is focusing on traffic-calming projects for Florida Avenue and K Street, and on engaging with businesses on the 1200 block of H Street, which share an alley with Wiley Street residents, on issues of cleanliness and trash. Commissioner Gloria Nauden (6A02) reported nuisance complaints about Twelve Restaurant and Lounge (1123 H Street, NE) and Smith Commons (1245 H Street, NE), which she asked residents to send directly to ABRA. And closing the reports, Commissioner Jay Williams (6A05) said he was working with a resident who is interested in engaging the District Department of Recreation to help “spruce up” the small, triangular parks where Tennessee Avenue crosses 14th Street NE.    

In other motions…

  • After a brief presentation by architect Will Teass, the ANC unanimously supported a special exception for 721 10th Street NE, allowing the owners to add a garage at the rear of the property, which will the increase the total lot occupancy to 70 percent.
  • The commission unanimously approved the public space modification proposed by Cusbah (1128 H Street NE) to allow for a canopy above its public space patio, which will keep the patio open during the winter. By law, the canopy must be a temporary structure that can come down within a day.
  • The commission approved the motion to send a letter of support for the Capitol Hill Classic Race to the District’s Homeland Security Committee, in a unanimous vote. The race, scheduled for May 19, will employ rolling street closures, beginning in ANC6A at 8:45 a.m. and lasting until about 10 a.m. on race day.
  • The following new committee members were approved: Cay Bradley, Alcoholic Beverage Licensing; Lara Levinson, Transportation and Public Space; and Laura Gentile, Chair, Economic Development and Zoning.