APRIL 4, 2011
The following is a recap of activities in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 5C generally, and our Single Member District (SMD) ANC5C01 in particular, since March 7, 2011:
ANC 5C MARCH MEETING
The last meeting of the ANC took place on Tuesday, March 15, 2011, at the Summit at St. Martins. All eleven commissioners of ANC5C were present (the seat for ANC5C08 remains vacant since the resignation last month of J. Jioni Palmer and awaits the results of an upcoming special election).
First on the agenda, after certification of the quorum, was Chairman Ronnie Edwards (ANC5C11)= introduction of Dr. Janis Orlowski of the Washington Hospital Center who spoke about measures to improve overall health among area residents. Dr. Orlowski advocated holding health lectures in the community and recruiting a cadre of neighbors from each block who would receive training at the hospital on how to check blood pressure and blood sugar levels, how to monitor heart health and provide nutritional support, and how to identify the early signs of stroke. The training, she added, could be customized for the needs of each particular neighborhood citing, for example, that a neighborhood with high instances of lung disease might receive respiratory training.
Next on the agenda was the report of Aaron Rhones of the District=s Department of Transportation (DDOT). Mr. Rhones stated that because P Street N.W., in the 100 and 200 blocks, is classified as a Acollector street@, it is not eligible for speed bumps. He provided me with two photographs on which were drawn markings representing rumble strips and asked that I take back to the community the proposal that we accept rumble strips as an alternative to speed bumps. He promised to send me the regulations regarding the classification of P Street and the report of the study and decision made years ago to classify P Street as a collector street, indicating further that sometimes DDOT requests a downgrade but that downgrading often causes a loss of federal funding for street maintenance. [As a point of information, I have learned that streets in Washington are classified, in order or increasing traffic significance as 1) local, 2) collector, 3) minor arterial, 4) major arterial, 5) freeway or expressway and 6) interstate. Only local streets, according to DDOT, are eligible for speed bump installation. More on this later.] On other outstanding concerns, Mr. Rhones stated that DDOT will increase the wattage on the lights illuminating the Acut@ between the 100 block of P Street and the alley between P and Bates Streets. The DDOT representative also addressed concerns regarding the safety of the pedestrian crossing at the Park Place apartments on Franklin Street, N.E., as well as the adjacent Franklin Commons development. He said that DDOT engineers are considering redesigns of the traffic patterns in those areas.
Commissioner William Shelton (ANC5B01) who chairs neighboring Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B reported on the Walmart project planned for his ANC at the intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, N.E. stating that ANC5B is supportive of the project but wants to make sure that workers are paid fairly and that the design of the site is workable for the community. He emphasized that D.C. residents are tired of having to drive to the suburbs to shop at Walmart and that Walmart officials have held several meetings with the community and plans more meetings in the future.
After routine financial reports from ANC5C Financial Secretary John Salati and ANC5C Treasurer Gigi Ransom, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. gave his monthly report to the ANC. CM Thomas indicated that he had recently spent an hour and a half in a community healing session around the Big Bear Restaurant issue. He said he had introduced a bill regarding a plan to work with churches around parking issues. In response to a citizen=s inquiry about whether the arrival of Walmart to the New York Avenue corridor would create unacceptable congestion, the Councilmember stated that D.C. Ableeds@ one billion dollars a year in retail sales to the surrounding jurisdictions, $45-49 Million of which goes to nearby Walmart stores. Walmart, he added, will have to comply with D.C. wage laws. Further, he stated, Walmart is just one of four grocery chains coming to the District, adding that we expect to bring 2,500 to 3,000 new jobs to the South Dakota Avenue, N.E. corridor alone by the year 2013.
Commissioner Gigi Ranson (ANC5C12) nominated Commissioner Sylvia Pinkney (ANC5C02) for the position of Corresponding Secretary to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Commissioner J. Jioni Palmer in February. That nomination was seconded by Commissioner Mary Farmer-Allen (ANC5C06) and after unanimous election, CM Thomas administered the oath of office to new Corresponding Secretary Pinkney.
Commissioner Charita Brent (ANC5C10) introduced Mike Henehan to provide an update on the Planned Unit Development (PUD) at Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street, N.E. He said that the proposal is consistent with the applicable Small Area Plan and that the developer is working with the utility companies to move overhead lines underground. He further assured that realignment of the Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street intersection should increase pedestrian as well as driver safety. Commissioner Brent moved that the ANC modify its original motion in support of the PUD to include assurances that the concerns of the Dominican House at that location would be addressed by the developer. I seconded that motion and the motion passed unanimously.
Commissioner Tim Clark (ANC5C05) reported that he would be holding a citizen information meeting on the North Capitol Main Street project in his single member district on Saturday, March 19th, from noon until 2 pm at 1818 3rd Street, N.E.
Commissioner Hugh Youngblood (ANC5C03) introduced the proprietor of Capitol Food Mart who asked for support for this ABRA petition for a been and wine license. Lisa Vaughan, a resident of our SMD, spoke in opposition to the request and produced a petition in support of that opposition. Several persons signed that petition, some of whom also spoke in opposition to the request for the ABRA license. It was then noted that ANC5C had not filed a protest to the license request and that the deadline to file such a protest was upon us. At the suggestion of Vice Chairman Silas Grant (ANC5C09), Commissioner Youngblood moved that the ANC request an extension of time to file a protest. The motion was passed unanimously and Commissioner Youngblood agreed to get the request filed that night.
Commissioner Grant then reported that WMATA has decided to remove certain bus stops from the Edgewood community. Those bus stops, he indicated, are located in SMD 5C08, where there is no sitting commissioner. He volunteered to act on behalf of that SMD until a new commissioner is elected and proposed sending a letter to WMATA opposing the removal of the bus stops on the grounds that the hilly terrain in that area would create a hardship for senior and disabled citizens if they had to walk extra distances to the remaining bus stops.
In a final action item, Commissioner Clark moved to grant a two year extension to the developer of the Washington Gateway project to produce new drawings changing the hotel units in the original plan to apartments. After seconding by Commissioner Grant, the motion was passed granting an extension until June 29, 2013.
JOINT SINGLE MEMBER DISTRICT MEETING
On Thursday, March 10th, I joined by Commissioner Sylvia Pinkney to host a joint Single Member District meeting of ANC 5C01 and 5C02. The meeting, held at the Community Academy Public Charter School (CAPCS), focused on the disposition of surplus public school buildings in our area and the development plans coming out of the Mayor=s Office of Planning. The majority of citizens in attendance were from our SMD (5C01). Margie Yeager, Special Assistant to the Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), reported that Shaed Elementary School is closing because of falling enrollment (only 165 students in grades Pre-K through 8). Shaed=s population will combine with that of Emery Elementary (also an under-enrolled Pre-K through Grade 8 school with an enrollment of 260) and will occupy the Langley School building. The Langley building will be modernized and students will be grouped Pre-K and Kindergarten on the first floor, grades 1 through 5 on the second floor, and grades 6 through 8 on the third floor. Emery Principal Moore will be the principal of the new school. When questioned about the propriety of combining such a wide range of ages in one school, Ms. Yeager stated that Atheir research indicates that there are some positives to the Pre-K through Grade 8 configuration.@
Ahnna Smith, representing the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, told us that there is a specific process for dealing with closed public school buildings. That process, she indicated, is as follows:
- 1. A school building is surplused by the Chancellor and taken out of service by DCPS. Once surplused, we go to step 2.
- The building is made available for use by another D.C. government agency because the government has to pay to rent private buildings if no D.C. owned building is available. Sometimes, however, it is not cost effective to convert old school buildings for use by other D.C. agencies. In those cases, we move to step
- By law, we are required to give first right of refusal for access to a school building not being used by the D.C. government to charter schools. Sometimes we get 4 or 5 charter schools responding to a single Request For Offer (RFO). Sometimes we get none. If we get an offer, but the proposed school is not needed in the community, we don=t grant a lease to that school. We have already awarded some leases prematurely without holding public hearings and we have to go back now and hold those hearings before the City Council will approve those leases. That=s what happened with the Cook School. If no charter school comes forward or no school comes forward with a proposal that is accepted by our office (and ratified by the City Council) we move to step 4.
- The building is made available for economic development with the cooperation of the Department of Real Estate Services.
Ms. Smith concluded by stating that children from outside of D.C. can attend D.C. public and public charter schools so long as they pay tuition.
Dan Emerine of the Office of Planning-Development Review Division addressed the group next. He said that his office reviews development projects from individual homes to large Planned Unit Development (PUD) projects. He also said that his office is in the process of revising the zoning codes. The current framework was adopted in 1958 and has been amended many times since. Mr. Emerine added that his division has held 150 public meetings over the last three years. They look at things like Apop ups@, additions on top of buildings, to insure that they don=t exceed height limits. In maintaining the character of neighborhoods, he suggested that new rules could be promulgated that require add ons to be of the same construction materials as the original structures on which they are built or that set new height limits at the prevailing heights of buildings in the neighborhood. He added that since such changes will affect people=s property rights, public hearings will have to be conducted before they become effective. Other public meetings are anticipated with regard to improving the process of community involvement in changing zoning regulations which deal with PUDs. Mr. Emerine directed us to http://www.dczoningudate.org to find out when public meetings will take place.
Finally, Deborah Crain-Kemp, the Office of Planning=s Neighborhood Planner assigned to Ward 5 informed us that funds have been transferred for the development of a Small Area Plan for our neighborhood. The next step, she said, is for her office to write a scope of work and to do so, she will be seeking input from our community.
WARD 5 COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT EXPO & SMALL BUSINESS EMPORIUM
Saturday, March 12th, Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. hosted the annual Ward 5 Community Development Expo & Small Business Emporium. Highlights of the day long event, held at the Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Gallaudet University included remarks by Mayor Gray and Victor Hoskins, nominee for the position of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, panels of experts on Retail Projects in the Ward 5 Pipeline and Transformational Transportation-Striving for a Walkable and Pedestrian Friendly Ward 5, and a showcase of small business located in the ward. CM Thomas reported that $5 Billion in economic development is planned for Ward 5, with three of the city=s major investment projects coming to this ward. Namely, those projects are the Rhode Island Avenue Station project (already under construction), the Dakota Crossing Project at Ft. Lincoln (which is expected to include the newest Costco store in the region) and the McMillan Reservoir project (located here in ANC5C).
Saturday, March 26th, we held the second meeting of the newly formed Advisory Cabinet of ANC 5C 01 at the home of Annetta Nicholas. As a follow up to our March 5th Public Safety/Quality of Life Walk-Through, we discussed three open items, namely (1) the 37 properties on the DCRA code violations list, (2) the tree stump in the unit block of P Street where trash and insects continue to accumulate and (3) the inadequate lighting of the egress from the 100 block of P Street to the alley behind that block.
As to DDOT=s response to the ANC request for speed bumps on P Street, it was decided that in light of the fact that DDOT=s speed bump policy seems to be randomly applied and the fact that speeding motor vehicles continue to pose a serious hazard to school children and other pedestrians along P Street, we should reject DDOT=s proposal that we settle for rumble strips. It was also decided that we should ask the Community Academy Public Charter School (CAPCS) to give us a letter of support for our request for the installation of speed bumps in the 100 and 200 blocks of P Street.
Regarding Emergency Preparedness, it was suggested that our block captains, and others who so desire, should take the free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training course offered at One Judiciary Square during the fourth weeks of March, April and May.
Other concerns discussed centered around police protection and ABRA licensing of retail establishments in the community. It was agreed that anyone who observes specific violations of any of the Voluntary Agreements currently in place should e-mail the details to me and I will compile them for possible action. It was also agreed that we should submit a written petition to the mayor opposing any proposed cuts to the budget of the Metropolitan Police Department.
NEW COMMUNITY LEADERS ORIENTATION W/ THE OFFICE OF PEOPLES COUNSEL
After leaving the Advisory Cabinet meeting on March 26th, BACA President Geovani Bonilla and I attended a New Community Leaders Orientation presented by the Office of Peoples Counsel. Policy Analyst Laurence Jones explained the process of pursuing consumer complaints against the regulated utilities PEPCO, Washington Gas and Verizon. As attendees, we were all provided with copies of the Consumer Bill of Rights.
Next, Assistant People=s Counsel Barbara Burton gave us an overview of the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) which is essentially a fund generated by surcharges collected from consumers by the regulated utilities under the mandate of the Clean and Affordable Energy Act. All consumers, Ms. Burton explained, private citizens, businesses, even government agencies, pay the surcharges which appear on utility bills under the designation Asustainable energy trust fund.@ Two interesting side notes: (1) The Budget Act allows the D.C. government to Araid@ designated funds such as the SEU for the purpose of balancing the budget. (2) If a consumer installs solar panels on a home that is connected to Pepco=s power grid, and those solar panels generate more power that the home consumes, that consumer will get a credit on his or her next bill.
The last presenter was Assistant People=s Counsel Laurence Daniels who talked about the new Smart Grid which is being employed by Pepco. The current electrical grid is 90 to 100 years old. The new Smart Grid will allow consumers to have more access to information about their power usage. It will also help to meet the increased need for electrical power, relieve stress on the system and reduce the frequency and duration of power outages. Almost half of the $90 Million estimated cost of deploying the new grid was provided by the federal government=s Department of Energy. Pepco will file a rate case to establish its need for a rate increase to cover the balance. According to Mr. Daniels, when it comes to reliability, Pepco has consistently ranked in the bottom tier of electrical power providers, in fact, often it ranks dead last. Pepco, operating under the old grid, has also failed to provide reliable data on transformer maintenance and feeder repairs. The Office of People=s Counsel has asked for an outside consultant to study whether the new system will be more reliable but the Public Service Commission (PSC) has denied that request, publishing its own Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the AReliability Standards@ established in Section 3603 of Title 15 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR). Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh is dissatisfied with the response of the PSC and has introduced legislation to establish enforceable performance standards. Written comments and letters in support of CM Cheh=s incentive will be accepted through April 11, 2011. Contact the Office of People=s Council at (202) 727-3071.
The next meeting of ANC5C is scheduled for 7 pm on Tuesday, April 19th, at the Bennett Career Institute, 700 Monroe St., N.E. As always, B.A.C.A. members are encouraged to attend.
That’s my report.
Bradley A. Thomas