Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B - Special Meeting

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 - Adopted September 27, 2007


Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B held a Special Meeting on Wednesday, September 26, 2007 at Emery Recreation Center, 5701 Georgia Avenue, NW, Chair Blondine Hughes (also ANC 4B05) presiding.  The meeting began at about 7:20 p.m.


Also present were Commissioners Sara Green (ANC 4B01), Faith Wheeler (ANC 4B02), Fred Grant (ANC 4B03), Gloria Palmer (ANC 4B06), Judi Jones (ANC 4B07), Yvonne Jefferson (ANC 4B08) and Douglass Sloan (ANC 4B09).  A quorum was present for all votes.



1. The Commission, in a unanimous 8-0-0 roll-call vote, adopted Commissioner Green's detailed resolution recommending that the Office of Planning make ten changes in its Draft Upper Georgia Avenue Master Plan.


The adopted resolution included a friendly amendment proposed by Commissioner Wheeler. That amendment called on the Office of Planning to "plan for providing public transportation for residents, employees and shoppers to and from the Takoma Metro Station to encourage them to use public transportation and relieve some traffic congestion from our streets."


Voting "Yes" to the amended resolution were Commissioners Green, Wheeler, Grant, Hughes, Palmer, Jones, Jefferson and Sloan.



Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B thanks the Office of Planning for its considerable efforts to meet with residents to discuss the draft Upper Georgia Avenue Master Plan.  ANC 4B supports some elements of the Plan, particularly those that provide additional streetscape and safety improvements and those that seek to improve retail opportunities.


We urge that the Office of Planning make the following changes:


1.  Address redevelopment and revitalization along on the west side of Georgia Avenue with the same level of detail as on the east side. The west side has many dilapidated and underutilized sites that should be targeted.


2.  Detail specific programs to assist existing businesses and encourage small and minority business start-ups in the corridor. Retaining existing businesses and helping small and minority businesses establish and succeed in the redeveloped areas should be a key Plan goal.


3.  Provide more affordable housing and more programs that help existing tenants purchase and improve multi-family and single-family homes. These should be key elements of the Master Plan.  The new Inclusionary Zoning regulations provide a small number of affordable or workforce housing units. The Master Plan should also detail how many existing residents might be displaced by redevelopment and address how those displaced will be served.


ANC 4B - Minutes - 9-26-07 - Page 2/4


4.  Provide more detail and a very specific plan, with time-frames, for bringing quality retail and major retail anchors to the corridor, including the Gateway Opportunity Area, particularly the 7400 block of Georgia Avenue, from Geranium Street to Hemlock Street. The terms "quality retail" and "anchor businesses" need to be defined in the Plan. Specific restrictions on alcohol-oriented businesses are needed. Simply adding increased density and height will not necessarily lead to better retail. 


5. Better address pedestrian access throughout the corridor; it is poor and often dangerous.  Access to Shepherd Park Library is one example. These pedestrian issues should be addressed immediately in the implementation plan for very short-term action, even before redevelopment.  We support the Plan's acknowledgement that pedestrian safety and access should be key elements in redevelopment design.


6.  Strengthen the language that promises to protect the residents of the residential, single-family homes adjacent to C2A and C3A-zoned sites (including the community near Geranium and Hemlock Streets) from inappropriate development. 


        Currently, the C2A zone allows a maximum height of 65 feet for Planned Unit Developments and 50-feet as a matter of right. This is too high for buildings that are as close as 20 feet from single-family homes.


        The Plan's suggested "stepped down" mixed use building designs may help protect the character of some adjacent single-family home neighborhoods, but the very shallow commercial lots on many sites along the corridor, including those at Geranium and Hemlock Streets, prevent the effective use of this technique.  An Overlay Zone and/or other changes in the zoning regulations are needed to ensure that redeveloped building heights are appropriate and the character and viability of the surrounding single-family neighborhoods are protected.


7. Provide concept plans for the redevelopment of the Walter Reed site and detail its impact on the surrounding residential neighborhoods on the east and the west sides of Georgia Avenue.


8.  Restrict the number of surface parking spaces to be permitted and detail how many and/or the percentage of surface, structured, underground, and shared parking spaces to be built along the corridor, including the sites at Geranium, Hemlock and Eastern Avenue. Specific solutions and recommendations for providing parking need to be included in the Plan before it is adopted.  The concept design on page 34 for Geranium and Hemlock Streets, which has a high percentage of surface parking, is not supported by the community.


9.  Detail possible sites for the new Engine 22 Fire Station and the possible new MPD station and provide concept plans for relocating the stations at these sites.


10.  Plan for providing public transportation for residents, employees and shoppers to and from the Takoma Metro Station to encourage them to use public transportation and relieve some traffic congestion from our streets.


Adopted ANC 4B - Minutes - 9-26-07 - Page 3/4


11.  Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B authorizes each Commissioner to represent his/her Single Member District at all hearings related to the Master Plan and to detail how the points noted in this resolution apply to that Single Member District.


The Commission heard a presentation from Ms. Malaika Abernathy, the Ward 4 Planner for the D.C. Office of Planning.  The Commission also heard questions and comments from several ANC 4B01 residents and received a written summary of resident comments on the draft master plan from a September 10, 2007 ANC 4B01 public meeting.


Ms. Trudy Jones, an ANC 4B01 resident, said she is concerned about the "lack of balance" in the draft.  Revitalization on the west side of Georgia Avenue is not detailed.  Commissioner Sloan agreed. Commissioner Jones said she believes residents are not looking for more development, but a fairer way of providing it.  Ms. Abernathy said that others have also noted this issue.


Commissioner Palmer said she questions the need for "opportunity" areas, as detailed in the plan.  Commissioner Wheeler, in a related comment, said that evaluating the reliability of data from D.C. government contractors is an on-going problem.  The data supporting development at the Takoma Metro station is another example, she said.


ANC 4B01 Resident Regina Page said she does not agree that the businesses on the east side of Georgia Avenue near the intersection with Kalmia, particularly the laundromat, are underutilized, as the draft notes.  ANC 4B01 Resident Vera Carley pointed to several sites on the west side of Georgia, including the Rainbow Restaurant, that need revitalization.


Ms. Abernathy said her office will evaluate whether the proposed "opportunity" areas are feasible.  She also said that there are no developers currently ready to redevelop the area within ANC 4B01, but the master plan's purpose is to guide developers and help make the "opportunity" sites more attractive to them.  No zoning changes are proposed, she added.


Commissioner Sloan said he is concerned about the possible displacement of existing businesses, including some owned by Ward 4 residents.  Ms. Abernathy said the office is working with existing businesses to see that this does not happen.


Commissioner Jefferson said she is concerned about transparency and involving the community in decisions that affect their neighborhoods.  Ms. Abernathy said the many meetings about the plan and the comment period for the draft document are designed to give the public significant input.


Ward 4 City Council Member Muriel Bowser said that the process has involved many residents and many public meetings and she will review public comments.  "The Office of Planning has no reason to send something to me that I will not approve," she said. 


She told Ms. Carley that it is important to direct resources to opportunity zones before developers make proposals and that businesses and residents should not be displaced.  The draft plan "is a good start," Council Member Bowser said.


Adopted ANC 4B - Minutes - 9-26-07 - Page 4/4


2.  In a unanimous 7-0-1 roll-call vote (one abstention), the Commission agreed to recommend that the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) approve a proposed addition to a home at 602 Butternut St., N.W.  Commissioners Green, Wheeler, Grant, Hughes, Palmer, Jefferson and Sloan voted "yes." Commissioner Jones abstained. This issue was not on the previously announced agenda, but the Commission, as per its by-laws, unanimously agreed to add it.


Commissioner Wheeler said that she learned of the proposal after her September 18, 2007 Single Member District Meeting and it is on the HPRB consent calendar for Thursday, September 27.  She said she has not heard any objections from neighbors about it.



The Commission heard a presentation from Ms. Aminyah Muhammad M'Backe, the president and founder of the MEI Futures Academy, PCS, a new charter school located in the former MedStar Nursing Home at 6000 New Hampshire Avenue, NE.  The school serves 27 students, all young mothers, and many of the students live at the school for all or part of the week.


Mr. Bill Jarvis, of the Javis Company, the site's developer, said that his company will begin to build its approved homes, townhomes, and condominiums on the site within the next year, but agreed to give the school a temporary 1-year lease with two possible six-month extensions because vandalism has been a problem at the site.


Commissioners Jones and Jefferson said they are concerned because they only learned of the school in early August. The community did not receive a timely notification, they said.


Ms. M'Backe apologized.  She said she talked to at least one neighbor two months ago. She said the school is building a new permanent home and went through a detailed approval process before locating at the nursing home site.  The school only had 45 days to prepare the building, she said.


Ms. M'Backe, in response to concerns from Commissioners Jones and Jefferson, said security issues are being addressed.  There are many security cameras, an alarm and sprinkler system, and some live-in staff.  She offered to give Commissioners a tour of the school.


Ward 4 City Council Member Muriel Bowser said she is not altogether pleased with the process for locating the school and informing the community.  D.C. law currently lets charter schools locate anywhere as a matter of right, she said. She has asked the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to notify her of any certificate of occupancy for a school, she said.


Commissioner Hughes said she believes that the school is a good use for the site.  The Commission informally agreed to consider a resolution on the school at its September 27, 2007 public meeting.  The meeting ended at about 9:10 p.m.


 --- Submitted By Sara Green, Secretary