The quorum at the October meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C: Commissioners Christine Healey (6C01), Karen Wirt (6C02, chair), Scott Price (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Chris Miller (6C05), Heather Edelman (6C06).
Mayor Bowser Presentation
Mayor Muriel Bowser made her annual visit to ANC 6C to provide a quick update on the activities of her office and the District. Also present were newly appointed District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Jeff Marootian, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Director Melinda Bolling, Department of General Services (DGS) Director Greer Johnson Gillis, Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Chris Shorter, Department of Behavioral Health Director Tanya Royster, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) First District Commander Morgan Kane.
Bowser outlined key elements of her work in office, noting the improvements to public schools and test score achievements by students. Acknowledging Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, she said violent crime has been steadily decreasing since her first year in office.
She described Alleypolooza, the yearly effort to fix eight alleys in all eight wards within eight weeks, and said that in the last budget she asked the DC Council for funding to conduct a similar effort with local roads. She said more than 30 percent of local roads get a poor rating.
Acknowledging the recent traffic death of Jewel Hall, who was stuck by a car on Oct. 7 while crossing H Street at 10th Street NE, Bowser said that her office treats traffic fatalities like violent crimes. She emphasized the efforts of Vision 0, the city’s effort to have zero traffic, pedestrian, and cycling fatalities by 2022.
Eckenwiler proposed that the ANC send a letter to DDOT and DPW flagging concerns about ongoing issues with annual visitor parking permits (VPPs). He said concern was originally expressed by the ANC four years ago, when people with ballpark-area VPPs used them to park around Union Station. The permits are only supposed to be valid in the same ANC as the residence to which they are issued, but DPW does not ticket or enforce violations of the policy.
After some discussion of possible fixes, Eckenwiler said that a solution had been devised: to affix stickers to parking signs indicating which ANC they were located in. But the idea had not been implemented. The ANC endorsed the letter unanimously.
Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee
The applicant at 643 F St. NE requires a zoning exception to construct a rear addition and rooftop deck because the addition will extend more than 10 feet past the rear wall of the adjoining house. A technical issue regarding the roof deck railing and aesthetics was referred to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), but is not a zoning issue. Noting that the neighboring home had a porch not included in measurement of rear depth, the ANC voted unanimously to support the application.
The ANC heard a Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) application for 226 Massachusetts Ave. NE, neighboring the Heritage Foundation building to the east, to seek variances for rear-yard, height, and off-street parking requirements in order to construct a three-story office building. The building would attach to the Heritage Foundation building and would be landlocked, having no alley. It would be 44 feet high, four feet over the maximum permitted, in order to allow the floor plates to align with those of 224 Massachusetts Ave.
The Planning, Zoning and Economic Development (PZE) Committee supported the application but was concerned with the intention to wall off public space between the building and the sidewalk. Eckenwiler proposed the ANC endorse the application but with a caveat that the plans should better engage with public space. The support with caveat was endorsed, 6-0.
Ace Cash Express (ACE) seeks a special exception to zoning regulations in the H Street overlay, which disallows financial services in more than 20 percent of ground-floor space. The company must relocate from 601 H St. NE, which will be renovated, to a much smaller site at 512 H St. NE. A representative for the applicant said that the company intended to make improvements to the facade, including an increase in window glass.
Miller said he did not think that the application was the best way to activate that space on H Street, as ACE either had lengthy lines outside or stood empty. He said he was sure the applicant would improve the building, but also sure another tenant would do that and provide a service more in line with goals for the community. Eckenwiler agreed, noting that once ACE had obtained permission to be at the new location, it could remain there, which he saw as contradictory to the goals for community activation in the area. He proposed a motion to oppose the application.
The representative noted that the service had been in the area for 27 years and was used by 31,000 clients. He said the application was a product of the size of the building more than the services offered. “It seems to be unfair to look at a business operating for 30 years and say, We don’t need you,” he said, “when people in the community clearly do.”
Edelman said she disagreed with the motion. Some people in the area clearly need the service, so it seemed “like a classist assessment to say check-cashing is not something we want,” especially given the popularity and longevity of the business’s services. Healey agreed, citing the number of users.
The motion to oppose the application deadlocked at 3-3.
The ANC heard the case of 10 Third St. NE for a second time, after it was presented at the September meeting. The applicant is requesting the conversion of a residential building to an apartment building after the fact to ratify the current use. The applicant requires an exception to the requirement for 900 square feet of yard per unit; the property is short by 800 square feet.
The applicant contended that the property has been used as rental since the 1940s and that the application would only codify that long-term use. A proposed rooftop deck had been removed from renovation plans to comply with neighborhood concerns. There were letters of support from neighbors for the application.
Eckenwiler opposed the application out of concern for the precedent it might set. Healey moved to support the application, which, after some debate about the length of time the property had functioned as rental apartments, was endorsed by the commission, 4-2.
Comment for the Record
An attendee spoke up to note that at the September meeting of ANC 6C it was recommended that residents concerned with a DDOT transportation plan for K Street NE that had the potential to remove many residential parking spaces should attend the October meeting of the Transportation and Public Space Committee (TPS). She said the minutes of the October meeting did not note that 20-30 residents appeared as recommended and that the issue had been on the agenda but was removed prior to the meeting, although the TPS “graciously allowed a discussion on the matter.” She also recommended outreach to inform the less technically savvy residents about future meetings.
ANC 6C will meet again on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at 214 Mass. Ave. NE.