The regularly scheduled meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C was held at the Heritage Foundation (214 Massachusetts Ave. NE) on Wednesday, March 14.
The quorum: Christine Healey (6C01, secretary), Karen Wirt (6C02, chair), Scott Price (6C03, treasurer), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Chris Miller (6C05, vice chair), Heather Edelman (6C06).
Presentation by Councilmember Allen
Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) made his springtime appearance before the ANC to report on the activities of the DC Council and his office.
Allen said he would host his annual Budget Town Hall meeting at 6:30 p.m., April 23, at Watkins Elementary School (420 12th St. SE). It will include a summary of the proposed budget and the priorities of the mayor and of the councilmembers, before opening up to the public for feedback.
Allen noted that he had been in discussion with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) about the safety of Ward 6 intersections and had submitted a three-page list of intersections for proposed conversion to all-way or four-way stops. Calling it an ongoing discussion, he thought the speed of cars was prioritized over the safety of pedestrians. He said he was encouraged by his conversations with DDOT Director Jeff Marootian, who together with Allen had walked some of the sites in question, although there was more work ahead.
Allen noted that a bill put forward by Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At large) to reorganize the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is before the Council. The proposal would divide the agency into two units to better focus on its core mission of inspecting property, issuing licenses and providing services to residents.
Allen remarked on the March 20 hearing on the District Comprehensive Plan (CP), which he described as a vision document laying out where the city wants to go in the future. His focus, he said, is on the way the CP discusses preservation and the creation of affordable housing. He wants to focus on units having two or more bedrooms for families earning less than $50,000 annually. He also wants to prioritize public transit and connectivity, as well as sustainability.
Fire Chief Gregory Dean
Fire Chief Gregory Dean appeared together with District Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) Medical Director Robert Holman to introduce the agency’s new “Right Care, Right Now” initiative, which launches on April 19 and will operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Holman said the District has the highest per capita 911 call volume in the nation. The initiative is designed to put patients on the appropriate path to health outcomes and to reduce the number of people sent to emergency rooms by providing a less-urgent tier of service.
Dispatchers will distribute services according to three levels. Emergency calls will be sent to advanced life-support resources. For basic life-support calls, or lower-level emergencies, EMS services will be sent to the scene, said Dean.
Holman said non-emergency calls currently account for about 24.1 percent of callers, and these will be directed to the Right Care, Right Now line. A nurse will ask questions, evaluate symptoms and determine the urgency of the call. Non-emergency callers such as those with bee stings will be provided a medical appointment at one of 16 federally qualified community health clinics scattered throughout the District. All Medicaid and Healthcare Alliance patients will receive transportation to and from appointments if necessary. Further information is available at www.fems.dc.gov.
Grants Committee Chair Victoria Lord announced that the ANC 6C Grants Seminar will take place on April 21 from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Anthology Building (625 H St. NE). The seminar is for anyone interested in establishing a foundation or a not-for-profit. Presentations will include information on grant applications, roundtables on the founding of a nonprofit and information on how to leverage grant funds. Organizations doing work in ANC 6C are encouraged to attend.
The ANC heard a public space application for Union Pub (201 Massachusetts Ave. NE) to convert the existing canopy-covered sidewalk cafe into an enclosed sidewalk cafe, with standard canvas and plastic roll-down sides in order to mitigate seasonal business fluctuations that affect staffing and menu pricing. The Transportation Committee said the main concern was that regulations for enclosed cafes state they should not exceed 20 feet or 60 percent of the area from the property line; the current unenclosed patio is not subject to the same regulations and extends 35 feet from the buildings, covering 100 percent of available space. They also expressed concern about noise from the outdoor television. The ANC voted unanimously to oppose the application on the basis of non-conformity with rules.
Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee
The ANC voted, 5-1, to support the Comprehensive Plan (CP) amendments with a few caveats. Commissioner Price opposed.
Caveats included that the District’s Office of Planning (OP) strengthen language about pedestrian and cyclist safety to affirm that the District government needs to take action to make these forms of transportation safer. The plan should consider comments on safety and terrorism that describe how much of public space located within the District is not under local control, limiting the District government’s ability to ensure resident safety.
Commissioner Eckenwiler said that there has been a great deal of frustration with the OP about the process followed during the revision of the Framework Element (FE) of the CP as well as with the revisions themselves. The OP undertook an updating of the document last year, including an extensive comments period during which many individuals, ANCs and other civic groups provided input.
At that time, those parties understood that a commitment was made that the revised document would be presented in its entirety to the public for review. Instead, there was no public comment period, and the Comprehensive Plan Framework Amendment (Bill 22-663) is now before the Council. Eckenwiler said that it was important to focus on the substance of the revisions.
He noted opposition by organizations including the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) and the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. Those organizations argue that the emphasis on the CP as suggestive rather than prescriptive places the authority of the Zoning Commission above that of the CP, weakening the central planning law and consequently court challenges to development.
Commissioner Price said he was concerned the revisions would mean the CP would no longer act as a check on the authority of the Zoning Commission and expressed concern about the implications for his single member district (SMD), saying he wanted clarity of boundaries between commercial and residential areas.
Parks and Events Committee
The commissioners unanimously supported a letter asking Council Chair Phil Mendelson to schedule a hearing for the Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act, advanced by an organization called Quiet, Clean DC through the Parks and Events Committee. The amendment calls for the prohibition of the sale and use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers in the District by January 2022. Concerns are with noise hazards, both for neighbors in areas where the devices are used and for the operators, as well as regarding the wind force generated by the machines, which can be up to 150 mph and kick up airborne contaminants, pesticides and feces, which are especially dangerous to small children and pets near ground level.
ANC 6C meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month (except August) in the ground-floor conference room at the Heritage Foundation (214 Massachusetts Ave. NE). The next meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 11. Learn more at www.anc6c.org.