ANC 6C Report - March 2016

A dispute over how the advisory neighborhood commission (ANC) litigates issues of public versus private property turned into a shouting match between ANC 6C04 Commissioner Mark Eckenwiler and a member of the community during the March meeting. Eckenwiler repeatedly called for “point of order,” but the man refused to give up his argument over the commission’s opposition of a request to close a public alley on A Street NE between Seventh and Eighth streets. Eckenwiler told the man to bring the issue to the commissioners, but not during the monthly meeting. Neighbors of the alleyway also opposed closing it to the public because it serves as a safe play space for their children and families.

The quorum: Karen Wirt (6C02 chair), Tony Goodman (6C06), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Scott Price (6C03), Daniel Schiffman (6C01), and Christopher Miller (6C05).

Uproar Over DCRA Limiting Access to Pending Applications

Commissioner Eckenwiler expressed his months-long anger over the lack of transparency offered by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). The department recently removed the section of its website showing pending applications and information on other applications. DCRA claimed that the information was unreliable, but Eckenwiler said that doesn’t mean they need to shut down the access. “A lack of transparency favors those who don’t want transparency,” he said.

Commissioner Price agreed and argued that while Mayor Muriel Bowser had campaigned for her current position on a platform of transparency, the practice does not always transfer to decisions in her administration. Commissioner Goodman concurred. “You remove so many errors by adding that transparency that their claim that this was done to improve transparency and accuracy is wrong,” he said.   

The ANC unanimously agreed to send a letter opposing the move to DCRA Director Melinda Bolling, Mayor Bowser, and DCRA Chairman Vincent Orange.

Bistro Italiano Summer Garden Application

Commissioners opposed the request from the restaurant at 320 D St. NE to open a 20-seat outdoor summer garden and questioned the establishment’s original liquor license dating back to 1987. Bistro Italiano is located in an R-4 residential zone but received permission to operate nearly three decades ago. Eckenwiler noted that this additional request would further the space’s use in a non-conforming manner (not residential). Neighbors of the restaurant said that since the establishment stays open until 10 p.m., the outdoor garden would add noise and disturb their young families. “One of the reasons we came to the Hill is there are lots of families like ours with small children,” one neighbor argued. “They’re in bed early.”

Eckenwiler added that upon review of the application he noticed that the original Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) certificate allowed the venue to stay open past 10 p.m. and that the ANC was not consulted. The commissioners agreed to appeal the certificate of occupancy and argue it was issued unlawfully.

DOJ Parking Garage on M Street NE

Plans for a new Department of Justice (DOJ) parking garage and building at 170 M St. NE frustrated the ANC because the development shows little to no retail. Goodman argued that wide curb cuts for District vehicles deactivated the space for retail and street parking, and he suggested DDOT put in bicycle racks and benches to reactivate the area. That area already shows a dearth of economy-boosting retail, he added. The developer of the project said that he would like to add retail to the plans, but DOJ refused. The commissioners agreed to send a letter to DC Councilmembers asking them to encourage DOJ to reconsider.

Deficient Renovation Plans Worry the PZE Committee

Sloppy architectural plans to renovate a house at 734 Third St. NE caused the ANC to question what is considered to be an appropriate application. Despite the owner’s claims that they will include a recommendation from the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development (PZE) committer to alter plans and reflect accurate architectural drawings, Eckenwiler cautioned against supporting a project with former fraudulent projections. A PZE committee member in attendance added that approving the application could set a bad precedent. However, the ANC voted 5-to-1 in support of approval with the added changes.

Other Actions

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen will host a Budget Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. on April 21 at 645 H St. NE. Neighbors are encouraged to join the conversation.

Commissioners put out a call for project ideas for the ANC’s grants committee, co-chaired by Victoria Lord and Leslie Barbour.

The ANC opposed an application to install a new basement entrance at 631 Lexington Place NE.

Commissioner Goodman briefed the ANC on a Rails-to-Trails concept path running from NoMa through Ivy City to the National Arboretum. Commissioners approved sending a letter to Mayor Bowser in support of the concept trail, estimated at $10 million for land acquisition and construction.

The ANC supported writing a letter asking the District Department of Transportation to erect drop-off-zone signs on Fifth Street NE near Stuart-Hobson Middle School. Commissioners added that they write about teachers violating the parking permit signs and parking in resident parking. Eckenwiler suggested the ANC move the teachers’ passes from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. until the school follows through with agreed upon discipline to revoke passes when permit zones are violated.

ANC 6C regularly meets on the second Wednesday of the month at the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. The next meeting is on April 13 at 7 p.m.