The Petalpalooza Blues

ANC 6D Report - April 2019

215
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) briefs ANC 6D on her legislative agenda. Photo: Andrew Lightman

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 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.

Representatives of The Wharf provided a quarterly briefing. Ground was broken on Phase II of the project on March 30. Construction of the marine bulkhead is proceeding along with demolition, pile driving and excavation. The sidewalk and a lane on the south side of Maine Avenue SW between Sixth and Seventh streets have been closed for the duration of construction. Construction fencing has been erected.

Shifting the cruise-line buses to the northern side of Maine Avenue, Commissioner Fast pointed out, has created sidewalk congestion in front of Arena Stage. She also expressed concern about the safety of tourists crossing the street there. The cruise lines are placing security and guides along the pedestrian access to aid patrons, stated Dianne Grooms, The Wharf’s director of security.

Grooms characterized Petalpalooza as a success. No one was injured. There were no crimes. The Wharf hired 22 police officers to patrol the premises and assist at intersections, she reported. All Wharf garages were full by noon. The management used social media and messaging to discourage visitors taking cars. After the soccer game at 3:30 p.m., there was a substantial surge of visitors, she reported. Another wave began at 7:30 in anticipation of the fireworks.

Litsky and Fast chastised The Wharf for its event planning, citing the impact on emergency access to Southwest. Traffic, they pointed out, was at a standstill on Maine Avenue and throughout Southwest for several hours in the afternoon. They asked that The Wharf take the lead in pressuring the city to ticket and tow cars illegally parked under the bridges by the Fish Market.

Allen Briefs Commission
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) briefed the commission on his current budgetary and legislative agenda. Allen chairs the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. His committee has held four of eight planned budget hearings, he reported. The Randall School Project has advanced with the aid of final public funding by the DC Council, he stated.

Framing a question about congestion, Litsky characterized Petalpalooza as the “perfect storm.” “Unfortunately, during this storm, the ship sank,” he wryly observed. “We are going to have an incident where we can’t get emergency vehicles into Southwest.”

Allen called the traffic situation at Petalpalooza “a disaster,” promising to fight for better management of event congestion. “What we are doing is not working,” he stated.

Allen noted that responsibility for both the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Department of Public Works (DPW) had been assigned to a newly created Deputy Mayor of Operations and Infrastructure, under the stewardship of Lucinda Babers, known for her work transforming the DC Department of Motor Vehicles. Allen expressed confidence in Babers’ appointment.

Hamilton added a complaint about stadium traffic and bridge construction generating dust and pollution at Buzzard Point. She bemoaned the lack of interagency coordination on the part of District government. Allen promised to convene a meeting of all stakeholders. He reiterated his belief that the Circulator buses should run down South Capitol rather than through Southwest neighborhoods as planned. “Coordination is not necessarily there, in my opinion,” he stated. The impacts of Wharf events, he pointed out, are not addressed adequately in the transportation planning for the stadiums. “We might have to create our own transportation plan,” Allen stated. “What we are doing is not working.”

Dale asked Allen to support more funds to repair Amidon-Bowen Elementary School’s cafeteria and playground. Allen said he would secure the funds.

Fast asked whether the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) and District government have identified the initial parcel to allow a build-first redevelopment plan for Greenleaf Gardens. “I do not know where the first site will be,” Allen demurred. However, the current fire-truck repair depot was a good candidate, he stated. Its relocation has been funded in this year’s budget. An enlargement of the current fire station is also planned. Housing could be placed above the new facility, Allen suggested.

Daniels pointed out that the Capper redevelopment remains incomplete after 18 years, with nearly 200 replacement units outstanding. “This is why I insist on build first at Greenleaf,” Allen replied. “I will jam and bum up any other plan for Greenleaf,” he pledged. “I will push DCHA to provide these units.”

Asked by Collins about the dismal state of repairs at Greenleaf Gardens, Allen promised to put local dollars into a repair fund. Public housing needs more local accountability and control, he added. “It needs to function like a District agency.”

Norton Briefs Commission
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) briefed the commission on her work. She outlined her legislative initiatives, including: a tax bill to provide economic empowerment zones and private activity bonds; a measure to permit the District to purchase the RFK Stadium site and the removal of restrictive riders such as restrictions on marijuana regulation. She is working to move six federal agencies to Ward 8. She also took credit for The Wharf development.

Asked by a resident about gentrification, the congresswoman stated, “The cities and states are not equipped to keep rents down.” Unfortunately, the federal government has walked away from its responsibility to provide what local municipalities cannot, she said. Collins observed that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) appears to be disposing of its public housing assets. He asked what could be done to ameliorate the deplorable state of repairs at Greenleaf Gardens. Another resident complained that, despite owning several homes in the District, she was being priced out by taxes and the high cost of living. “If you own a home in the District, you are already rich,” the congresswoman wryly retorted.

The congresswoman stated that her legislation for the sale of RFK Stadium to the District does not include provisions involving the Washington football team. “The District must own the land to make use of it. This is still a longshot,” she said.

Public Safety
Jonathan Dorrough and Lieutenant Nikki Lavenhouse of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) briefed the commission on public safety matters. They stated that crime was down significantly in both the Capitol Riverfront and Southwest. Two shootings occurred in neighborhoods near the Greenleaf Recreation Center. Investigations are ongoing; there is some video. Hamilton asked for increased deployment in that area. “You have more officers there than in any other part of the city outside of Chinatown,” stated Dorrough.

Litsky questioned the officers about the traffic meltdown at The Wharf during the recent Petalpalooza event, which impeded emergency vehicular access to Southwest. Dorrough stated that he did “not see a solution.” Forgie complained about police inaction regarding for-hire vehicles (FHV) blocking lanes while picking up passengers. “Why are illegally parked cars under the highway next to the Fish Market not being towed?” asked Litsky. MPD does not tow cars, stated Dorrough. MPD only has two tow trucks. The Department of Public Works (DPW), which does tow, was backed up, he stated. “This is a public emergency,” responded Litsky. “These cars need to be ticketed and towed. We had a perfect storm at Petalpalooza. The Wharf needs to step up.”

Changes at The Yards
The developers of The Yards came before the commission seeking support for several design changes. First were changes to the design of Tingey Square SE, at the entrance to the DC Water property, to increase pedestrian safety by making the intersection look more roadlike. Second was the relocation of the Trapeze School from Parcel E to Parcel G to make way for development. Last, they went over the design of the office building slated for the block between New Jersey Avenue and the future One and a Half Street SE. Commissioners found the terraced, 280,000-square-foot structure quite handsome. Daniels asked developers to prioritize neighborhood-serving retail when commercially leasing. Commissioners voted unanimously to support the changes and authorized Daniels to testify.

Other Matters
Hamilton has received a special award from the chief of the MPD recognizing her work on issues of public safety.

Commissioners approved, with Dale abstaining:

  • an amendment to the DT license with Homeward Suites, 50 M St. SE, to increase the number of summer garden seats on the rooftop from 35 to 170;
  • an amendment to the CR license with Salt Line, 79 Potomac Ave. SE, to add 34 seats in the summer garden as well increase the permitted number of patrons indoors to 130 and outdoors to 229;
  • support a new CA license for Punch Bowl, 1250 Half St. SE.

The commissioners voted unanimously to:

  • approve the April agenda and March minutes;
  • approve a new tavern license with an entertainment endorsement for the Residence Inn Capitol at 333 E Street SW;
  • send a letter to DDOT and DPW requesting the protection of bike lanes on L’Enfant Plaza from illegally parked buses;
  • send a letter to the Fine Arts Commission in support of the public sculpture installation at the DC Forensic Lab at 401 E St. SW;
  • send a letter to DDOT supporting the creation of FHV dropoff zones on Third Street SW next to Waterfront Towers;
  • send a letter to DDOT’s Public Space Committee in support of the Cambria Hotel’s public space application;
  • support a public space application at 41 L St. SE;
  • send a letter to DDOT requesting a traffic study at Fourth and M streets SE;
  • send a letter to the Department of General Services asking for expedited repairs to Amidon-Bowen Elementary School’s cafeteria, playground and gym;
  • abolish the position of director of special projects;
  • authorize the treasurer to purchase a public address system.

 

ANC 6D’s next meeting will be held on May 13 at 7 p.m. at 1100 Fourth St. SW. Visit www.anc6d.org/ for more information.