ANC 6D Supports Shakespeare Theatre Development

ANC 6D Report - March 2019

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D met on March 11. Commissioners Gail Fast (6D01), Anna Forgie (6D02), Ronald Collins (6D03), Andy Litsky (6D04), Anthony Dale (6D05), Rhonda N. Hamilton (6D06) and Edward Daniels (6D07) were on the dais. Chair Fast presided.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company and Erkiletian Development pitched their reformulated development at 501 I St. SW in advance of their March 28 hearing before the DC Zoning Commission and DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) Public Space Committee. They are filing a Planned Unit Development that would up-zone the parcel, currently zoned R3, to MU through a map amendment.

The current plan is for a 175,000 square foot development with 13,000 square feet of costume facilities, practice and office space for the Shakespeare Theatre and 92,000 square feet of residential condominiums that include 23 two-bedrooms. It will be built around an interior open courtyard that will open on the east to the adjoining Amidon-Bowen School soccer field and schoolyard.

Seventeen of the residential units would be affordable under Inclusionary Zoning rules. Seven of the units will have ground floor entrances on Sixth Street SW. The development will have a green roof with an outdoor terrace and mechanicals including 850 square feet of photovoltaics. There will be one floor of below-grade parking with 38 spaces. It will be 48 feet in height or four stories. The south façade will house a public costume display, the office entrance and etched decorative panels.

The Shakespeare Theatre has agreed to have no public performances on the site. Under its community benefits agreement, it will provide discounted tickets for Southwest residents for every performance, programming for the Waterfront Village, educational benefits for Amidon-Bowen Elementary and Jefferson Academy. Traveling performances will be staged at both schools. The developer will also honor all the commitments promised in an earlier agreement with the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA). The rooftop terrace will have strict limited hours. Residents of the development will not be eligible for Residential Parking Permits. The developer will also submit a construction management plan for approval by the commission.

Pointing out that the current development was a significant improvement over the seven-story behemoth originally proposed, Chair Fast asked that the developer consider reducing the number of IZ units by one to allow the provision of one affordable three bedroom apartment. She stated that a qualification of 80 percent of Average Median Income was too high for the affordable units. She was joined in her critique by Commissioners Forgie and Hamilton. Lastly, Fast criticized the parking plan, which would remove Residential Parking Permit spaces in front of the office entrance, as “not helpful.”

Commissioner Dale opposed the entire project. He argued that it would add to neighborhood traffic congestion, lacked sufficient affordable family housing and provided the neighborhood with no cultural amenity. He strongly urged the commission to withhold its approval in favor of a townhouse development.

Commissioner Forgie also criticized the aesthetics of the project as inconsistent with the neighborhood. The developer countered that the glass southern façade with its public costume display was appropriate fitting in with the idea of an I Street Arts Walk. Secondly, the design on Sixth Street SW fit in with the townhomes across the street.

Commissioner Hamilton also expressed concern about the construction’s impact on the neighboring school. What about soil tests, dust mitigation and construction traffic, she queried? The developer promised mitigation in conjunction with DDOT.

The commission then heard testimony from United Neighbors of Southwest (UNS), the organization of nearby residents, and the Amidon-Bowen Parent-Teachers Organization (ABPTO). Both groups at the time of the meeting were in negotiations with the developer for community agreements. While not happy about the up-zoning, UNS stated that they were close to an agreement with only some differences over the Sixth Street streetscape outstanding. They asked the commission to make its support of the project contingent on a signed agreement.

The ABPTO, on the other hand, was completely opposed to the project calling into question the developer’s good faith. In particular, the group lodged objections to the projects shadowing the school recreational areas and the added traffic congestion posing a danger to students. “Voting ‘No!’ on this is a ‘Yes!’ vote for our children and our community,” stated one parent. The ABPTO had three objectives: (1) an agreement with the developer; (2) a setback from the school playground; and (3) a commitment to coordinate construction traffic with other developments.

Chair Fast urged the commission to approve the project contingent on signed agreements with ABPTO and UNS and the provision of a traffic management plan. Commissioners Dale and Forgie both strongly argued for postponing the commission’s vote. The developer pledged to have both agreements signed and provide a plan before the zoning hearing. The commission voted to support the project with Dale in opposition and Forgie abstaining. Then it voted unanimously to authorize Chair Fast to testify at the zoning proceeding.

Stadiums’ Traffic Plan
DDOT briefed the commission on their 2019 Traffic Operations and Parking Plan (TOPP) for the Nats and DC United Stadiums. Although subject to change, there are no overlapping regular games scheduled at the two stadiums, representatives stated. However, on June 26 the Congressional Baseball Game is scheduled along with a DC United game.

The 2019 TOPP takes into account events at The Wharf and other major festivals both in Southwest and the Capitol Riverfront, as well as the construction around The Douglass Bridge. It structures the deployment of Traffic Control Officers (TCOs). For the first time, TCOs will be deployed on L Street near Van Ness Elementary to protect students from game traffic during afternoon games. The number of TCOs has also been significantly increased. They are deployed at all intersections on M Street from Fourth Street SW to 11th Street SE.

The Circulator route between Southwest and Capitol Hill will be altered on DC United Game days. Two buses will run in a loop: south on First Street SW, east on Potomac Avenue SE/SW; north on First Street SE and the west on M Street SE/SW. The loop will be active two hours pre-game and until 3 hours after kick-off.

Road closures for Nats games are similar to 2018 with the addition of Half Street between Q and Potomac Streets SW. Drop-offs of dockless bikes and scouters will be discouraged except in immediate areas around the stadiums. Specific parking areas are allocated nearby the stadiums. Pickup and drop-offs for Hire Vehicles (FHVs) will be confined by geofencing away from the stadiums and residential neighborhoods.

Commissioners raised a number of concerns. Chair Fast objected that the TOPP did not sufficiently include Southwest and in particular events at The Wharf, Museum of the Bible and the Spy Museum. The TCO deployment should be expanded as far as The Wharf, she said. DDOT representatives assured her that Wharf construction would cease two hours before and two hours after any day game.

Chair Fast also took the Department of Public Work’s (DPW) parking enforcement to task. “It is critical we have DPW doing real time enforcement,” she stated. Calling a violation into 311 is the only method of getting real time enforcement. The response to online reports can be delayed up to two and half hours.

Commissioner Forgie, complaining of game day traffic in residential neighborhoods, said she was concerned that the TOPP would push FHVs into residential neighborhoods impeding residents accessing their own homes. She also asked DDOT to limit the timing of game day parking rate increases, which are now full day. The Department of For Hire Vehicles (DFHV) will be deploying special enforcement during games, a DFHV representative stated.

Commissioner Dale raised concerns about FHVs on P Street SE. Commissioner Hamilton objected to the Circulator running next to the Greenleaf Recreation Center and asked for TCOs to be stationed to protect its patrons.

Public Safety Report
Captain John Dorrough and Lieutenant Nikki Lavenhouse briefed the commission on public safety. Violent crime is significantly down from the last several years, Dorrough stated.

However, theft, particularly from automobiles, is up. Police have allocated additional recourses to fighting property crime. Visitor Parking Passes, in particular, seem to be a target as well as construction vehicles. Thieves are also breaking into underground parking garages.

Commissioners raised a set of concerns. Commissioner Forgie complained of dim nighttime lighting on Vann Street SE next to the construction site; as well as impediments to residential access to parking garages. Commissioner Hamilton asked for increased enforcement against cement trucks driving on residential streets near the Greenleaf Recreation Center, a longstanding concern.

Other Matters
The commission approved an amendment to the cooperative agreement with Spirit Cruises to incorporate an additional boat. Commissioner Dale was concerned about the additional traffic in the Washington Channel creating boat wakes. The commission approved the agreement with Dale abstaining.

The commission unanimously to:

  • approve February minutes;
  • support the Race for Hope 5K on May 5, National Race to End Women’s’ Cancer on Nov. 3, and the Army 10 Miler on Oct. 13;
  • write a letter to the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) asking the agency to deny a dumpster permit on Fourth Street SW;
  • write a letter to Public Service Commission asking that they require PEPCO to monitor electronic magnetic field levels as part of their Capitol Grid Project;
  • support the tavern license and cooperative agreement for the Holiday Inn Capitol, 550 C St. SW, that includes two summer gardens, a sidewalk cafe and entertainment endorsement;
  • protest the license application of the Punch Bowl, 1250 Half St. SE, on the base of “peace, order and quiet” due to the absense of public space plan;
  • support a tavern license and cooperative with an entertainment endorsement allowing dancing and cover charges for Pop Social, 470 L’Enfant Plaza SW;
  • support a public space application by the Cambria Hotel, 45 Q St. SW, for the design of the adjoining sidewalks on South Capitol and Q St. SW including the provision of a public bench.

ANC 6D’s next meeting will be held on April 8 at 7 p.m. at 1100 Fourth St. SW. Visit www.anc6d.org for more information.