ANC 6B Report – November 2017

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Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) speaks at the Nov. 14th meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B.

The quorum: Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Diane Hoskins (6B02), Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04), Steve Hagedorn (6B05), Nick Burger (6B06, treasurer), Chander Jayaraman (6B08, Chair), Daniel Ridge (6B09, secretary) and Denise Krepp (6B10).

The November meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B was dominated by two matters: a presentation by Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) and the consideration of two proposals submitted in response to a District Request for Proposals (RFP) for the site of the Eastern Boys and Girls Club.

Presentation by Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large)
Councilmember Silverman said she has been concentrating her work on three areas: affordable housing, jobs and accountability for District spending of taxpayer dollars.

Silverman serves on the Mayor’s Housing Preservation Strike Force. She said that housing is a key issue in the District for low- and middle-income residents. She said the city needs to be able to accommodate a variety of needs.

The District, Silverman said, “needs to make sure that being a slumlord is not a viable business model in this city. Right now it is.” She has introduced legislation preventing the granting of business licenses to landlords with multiple violations.

The Councilmember said that earlier Tuesday she had attended a Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) hearing on vacant properties and illegal construction, which she said was an issue her office was very involved with. With regard to the hearing, she remarked, “I have to tell you, today was one of the most disheartening hearings I’ve ever been in.”

“The answers that we got from DCRA I just thought were downright… horrible.”

She said one Bloomingdale couple had called DCRA after a contractor doing work on a neighboring house caused structural damage to their home. Silverman said the couple reported that DCRA had not responded, which she deemed “simply unacceptable.”

“You have my guarantee that I’ll be working with Director [Melinda] Bolling and DCRA to improve that,” she said, noting that District taxpayers expect their government to protect them in such a situation and, in that case, they did not get it.

Silverman described how the woman from Bloomingdale, a young mother, was on the verge of tears as she testified about her house. She said during the hearing she told Director Bolling that she should have gone over to the couple, identified herself, apologized, acknowledged that something had gone wrong and offered to address it.

She said she felt that DCRA had gotten numb to complaints, and that the lack of compassion was shocking and unacceptable to her.

Commissioner Denise Krepp (6B10) asked the Councilmember when she would ask for DCRA Director Bolling’s resignation.

“I’m really close,” Silverman responded. “I gotta’ tell you, today was just… I told you I was disheartened. It was just shocking to me.”

On the topic of jobs, Silverman said that unemployment is a concern in some parts of the District, adding that she is Chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. She said that the District needed to take advantage of the investments it is making in major development projects to ensure that jobs go to District residents.

She said that employers have told her that District residents are often unprepared for such employment and that many lack ‘soft skills,’ such as punctuality and workplace conflict resolution.

Silverman added that part of the problem is that the District lacks a workforce development structure, including a vibrant community college system that works with employers. In that way, she said, DC is failing both potential employees and the employers. She added that she also serves on the Workforce Investment Council, members of which participated in the city’s Amazon bid. The council said the biggest concern that Amazon had was workforce development, expressing concern over limited access to good tech employees in the District.

The other two committees Silverman sits on are the Government Operations Committee and the Finance and Revenue Committee. Describing herself as the person who says no, Silverman said that she strives to hold District projects to budget, referencing the planned Washington Wizards practice facility for which the District has earmarked $65 million, and her ‘no’ vote for the Duke Ellington School for the Arts request for an additional $5 million to complete renovations that were already over-budget.

Boys and Girls Club Proposals
During the Tuesday ANC 6B meeting, the commission voted in favor of a motion put forward by the Planning and Zoning Committee to support a proposal for a senior co-housing development at the site of the former Boys and Girls Club (261 17th St. SE).

Representatives from two developers, Century Associates and Morningstar Community Developers, were on hand to present their proposals. The two developers had presented to the Hill East Task Force as well as the Planning and Zoning Committee of ANC 6B in the previous week.

The ANC motion supported the proposal from Century Associates, saying senior co-housing was more compatible with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan. The motion also requested that the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), which will determine the winning proposal, work with the developers for more clarity on how community space will work and be managed. It also asked that DMPED put additional emphasis on affordable housing in the RFP and land disposition process, including senior affordable housing under the Century Associates proposal.

The motion also suggested that if the Century Associates proposal is selected, DMPED should work with the developer to ensure the implementation of a robust plan that will engage existing low-income Capitol Hill residents and work with Capitol Hill Village to promote access to affordable units.

The motion came after presentations from both developers.

Century Associates founder Joel Kelty presented plans for 29 units in a dedicated senior housing condominium. 30% of the units would be affordable housing, offered at 50% and 80% Area Mean Income (AMI). Unit size ranges from one to three bedrooms. There would be about a dozen below-grade parking spaces accessed by a mechanical lift, and about 1850 square feet of community space, the end use of which would be determined by the community.

Century Associates has a relationship with Capitol Hill Village. Members of Capitol Hill Village and supporters of the senior co-housing concept for the site attended the meeting wearing buttons.

At the meeting, the developer presented detailed floor plans but was less specific about the precise costs of units because they varied by unit size. A two-bedroom affordable unit sells for $113,000 at 50% AMI, and a two-bedroom at 80% AMI for $213,000. Market price units average about $514,000.

When pressed by Commissioner Denise Krepp (6B10), Kelty said that his firm had focused on the provision of affordable housing. “The market rate units at the end of the day will be sold for whatever the market will bear, and we take all the risk on that,” he added, noting that it was extremely early in the process. He clarified that the average price, including the affordable units, was $545,000. Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk (6B01) said that the average for the market rate units would therefore be closer to $800,000.

Casey Klein of Morningstar Community Development presented his team’s plan. It calls for 31 housing units and 3000 square feet of community space, with about a dozen below-grade parking spaces. Klein said Morningstar is prepared to increase the affordable component of the development from 30% to 40% affordable housing.

Morningstar spoke to questions of unit pricing and size immediately, saying that the market units ranged in price from $382,625.07 up to a large three-bedroom for $741,762.26. The AMI units range from $110,997.41 for a smaller unit to a large two-bedroom priced at $248,342.77. Of the 31 units, eight are one bedroom units from 600 – 775 ft2, 12 are one bedrooms plus den, 818 – 915 ft2, nine are two-bedrooms 800 to 1150 ft2 and two three bedrooms of 1200 ft2.

In response to community feedback about the programming of community space, Klein said that Morningstar had reached out to non-profit partners. He said the team was prepared to fund the start-up costs for a community café up to $155,000. The café would occupy the smaller space rent-free in perpetuity and would, in concert with building management, take responsibility for programming the adjoining community meeting space.

In response to a question from Commissioner Samolyk, Klein said that his understanding of Fair Housing legislation was that while they were open to working with a community partner to ensure senior occupancy, a certain number of units could not legally be reserved for a demographic restricted by age within a development not designated as senior housing.

Community discussion asked about the preservation of the Wall of Fame within the building. Both developers said they intended to preserve the wall, featuring signatures and comments of famous visitors to the Boys and Girls Club and would do so in a publically accessible place if possible. Others voiced concern about the price of units, saying that many would not be able to afford to purchase the market units even after the sale of a townhouse, especially after paying taxes on capital gains.

Nonetheless, while the ANC acknowledged the efforts of both developers to respond to community input and concerns, the motion to support a proposal for Senior Housing was supported by the ANC by a vote of 6-0 with three abstentions. Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04) noted that she wished the motion had focused more on the aspects of the proposals that the ANC wished to endorse rather than the names of developers, an opinion that was seconded by Chair Chander Jayaraman (6B08).

The next meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 12th at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE).