Minutes - May 22, 2008

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B

Adopted on June 26, 2008



The meeting began at 6:48 p.m. at Emery Recreation Center, 5701 Georgia Avenue, NW, Chair Douglass Sloan (4B09), presiding.  Also present were Commissioners 4B01 Sara Green, 4B02 Faith Wheeler, 4B03 Frederick Grant, 4B04 Malik F.M. Johnson, 4B07 Judi Jones, and 4B08 Yvonne Jefferson.  A quorum was present for all votes.



1.  Following a motion by Commissioner Wheeler, the agenda was adopted in a unanimous show-of-hands vote, as amended.  The Commission agreed to add a request for support from Mr. Warren Brown for an upcoming event at Coolidge High School and a $500 fine levied to Royce's, a business located at 7445 Georgia Avenue, NW, to the agenda. The Royce's issue is to be heard by the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment.


The amended agenda also switched the order of the agenda so that the adopted grants will be heard before the discussion on the draft Upper Georgia Avenue Master Plan.


2.  In a unanimous show-of-hands vote on a motion made by Commissioner Grant, the minutes from the April 24, 2008 public meeting were adopted, with the following corrections:


   A. On page two, the bullet that begins, "There was an increase," is expanded to read, "There was an increase in street robberies in the fall, including the areas around the Takoma and Fort Totten Metro Stations, and in the areas around 6th and Aspen and 2nd and Walnut Streets, NW, particularly during the evening rush hours and late at night."


   B.  On page two, the bullet that begins "Commissioner Jones" is expanded to read, "Commissioner Jones showed Director Moneme copies of letters from 2003 to 2007, three sets of petitions and two ANC 4B Resolutions, requesting stop signs, speed bumps...."


3.   In a unanimous show-of-hands vote, the Commission agreed to Commissioner Green's motion to table a vote on adopting ANC 4B's Committee structure. Several Commissioners, including Commissioners Jones, Jefferson and Grant said they want more information in writing that details the Committee's responsibilities and limitations.                                                          (more)




Adopted Minutes - ANC 4B - May 22, 2008 - Page Two


4.  In a show-of-hands vote following a motion from Commissioner Green, the Commission unanimously agreed to grant the Jessie LaSalle Elementary School PTA $500 for cleaning supplies, trash bags, art supplies, a banner, signs and flyers for its June 7, 2008 Community Day, to be held at the school from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Two PTA representatives, Ronald Dortch and Bonnie Slade, answered questions.  Both said they would provide ANC 4B with written reports within 60 days of receiving the grants.


5.  Following a motion from Commissioner Wheeler, the Commission voted 6-0-1 in a show-of-hands vote to grant Kids' First Basketball, Inc., of 6306 Kansas Ave., NE,  $1,000 for trophies, decorations, and printing for its June 20, 2008 sports banquet. 


Representatives Sean McCutchen and Derek Faison answered questions about the six-year-old program.  Both said they would provide ANC 4B with written reports within 60 days of receiving the grants.


6.  In a unanimous show-of-hands vote, the Commission adopted a resolution proposed by Commissioner Green that included amendments proposed by Commissioner Jones on the draft Upper Georgia Avenue Master Plan.  The D.C. City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the Master Plan on June 10, 2008.




The Commissioners of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B thank the Office of Planning staff for their considerable efforts to meet with residents to discuss the draft Upper Georgia Avenue Master Plan and its recent revisions. 


As with previous drafts, we support some elements of the Plan, particularly those that provide additional streetscape and safety improvements and those that seek to improve retail opportunities and help existing businesses.


However, the final draft still has several major problems and includes proposals that we cannot support.


In addition, we are concerned and disappointed that several key conditions in our September 26, 2007 Resolution and recommendations on the earlier draft are not reflected in the final proposal. We reiterate that September 26 Resolution (attached).



Adopted Minutes - ANC 4B - May 22, 2008 - Page Three


We call attention to the following issues with respect to our September 26 Resolution:


Item No. 2 - More programs are needed to help existing businesses.  The loss of 15 existing businesses at 7705 Georgia Avenue is one example of the potential problem. Safeguards are needed to protect these businesses and others.


Item No. 3 - Additional affordable housing programs for Georgia Avenue need to be provided.


Item No. 6 - The proposal would permit new buildings of over 50 feet tall via the PUD process in many parts of ANC 4B01 and 4B02.  This is too high to preserve the quality of life for adjoining residents.


Item No. 8 - The proposal does not detail the number or percentage of surface, structured and underground parking spaces to be provided along the corridor. The draft language on page 47 that states that underground and structured parking are preferred is too vague.


Item No. 10 - The proposal does address the critical need to provide public transportation to and from the Takoma Metro Station. It does not detail the Takoma Metro Station's role in the redevelopment of the Walter Reed site and upper Georgia Avenue.  Currently, the Takoma Station, the closest to Walter Reed, serves many of its employees, patients and their families.


In addition, we call upon the Office of Planning, the Mayor, and the D.C. City Council to make the following changes to the plan:


1. The community strongly supports the C2A zoning which calls for a maximum of  50-feet for the 7400 Block of Georgia Avenue (East Side - Geranium to Hemlock) and would not support any increase in height for buildings there. Language concerning this recommendation should be expressed in unequivocal terms. The adopted plan should not support PUD proposals that provide for heights of greater than 50-feet.


The same limit of 50-feet should apply to the other sections of Georgia Avenue within ANC 4B01 and 4B02 that are adjacent to homes, including, but not limited to the area from Geranium to Van Buren.


2. Higher density development is appropriate for the City Line Auto site.  However, it should not exceed 65-feet under any circumstances, and development should "step down" to reduce the negative impact on the nearby apartment buildings.


Adoptedt Minutes - ANC 4B - May 22, 2008 - Page Four


The design of new buildings should reflect the historic character of nearby older brick apartment buildings on the east and the west sides of Georgia Avenue and the historic Blair Mansion Inn.  The existing Georgia Avenue architecture, particularly of its brick apartment buildings, provide the Avenue with a unique competitive advantage which will draw new shoppers and residents, if enhanced and protected.


3.  Retain the Georgia Avenue frontage at the Walter Reed Hospital site as open space, not for structures. 


We ask that our Master Plan honor basic "Main Street" principles, including that of retaining and strengthening existing businesses. If new businesses are located on the open space, that would take away business from existing retail on the blocks immediately north of the hospital grounds.  Also, open space will enhance the quality of life for those who live and work in the nearby homes and offices.  Existing open space is a precious community resource that cannot be replaced.


4. The city should use the existing Walter Reed fire station site for the city's new fire station.  More effort needs to be made to mitigate the negative impact of a new fire station on those who live near Aspen and Georgia Avenues, NW.


5.  Parking within ANC 4B01 and 4B02 should be underground only, with the city to financially mitigate the cost for a developer, if necessary.  Placing parking lots at the rear of shallow lots fronting Georgia Avenue will negatively impact adjoining homes.


6.  Specific language regarding programs for LSDBE's along Georgia Avenue to address rent, tax incentives and other assistance are needed.


7.  Specific plans regarding retail space on the west side of Georgia Avenue are needed.


8.  Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B authorizes each Commissioner to represent his/her Single Member District (SMD) at all hearings about the Upper Georgia Avenue Master Plan and to detail how the points noted in this Resolution and in the September 26, 2007 Resolution affect their SMD, as long as this testimony does not contradict the provisions of the Commission's resolutions.


The vote followed a 45-minute-long presentation and discussion about the Office of Planning's proposal.  Ward 4 Planner Malaika Abernathy outlined the proposal's major points and answered questions.


Nine residents and Commissioners opposed elements of the Master Plan, as it is now proposed.                                                                                 (more)

Adopted Minutes - ANC 4B - May 22, 2008 - Page Five


*  Commissioner Wheeler said one of the Main Street Program's key purposes is to preserve open space, and that the green space in front of Walter Reed on Georgia Avenue should be preserved. Also, developing this space with businesses and a parking garage, as proposed, would take away business from existing Georgia Avenue businesses.


*  Bob Dorsey, of District Office Systems, 7705 Georgia Avenue, said most of the existing businesses will not be able to afford the higher rents in the redeveloped buildings.  More has to be done to help them stay.


*  Baruti Jahi, a Shepherd Park resident, agreed, noting the proposed plan had no safeguards for existing businesses.  Two Georgia Avenue stores, Wireless Toyz and Postal Connections, recently went out of business due to high rents.


*  Commissioner Jones said she too is concerned about helping existing businesses.


*  Marlena Edwards, of Shepherd Park, opposed building a parking garage or a fire station on the Walter Reed site, as now proposed, because these sites are too close to homes.  She also asked for an arts center similar to THEARC in Ward 8.


*  Paul Montague, of 3rd Street, NW, said he does not believe Walter Reed will close.


*  Commissioner Johnson said he does not think the proposed new fire station will help the community and that other alternatives need to be investigated, including joint efforts with fire companies in Montgomery County.


*  Andre Carley, of 7405 9th Street, NW the Vice President of Concerned Neighbors. Inc., read his group's resolution on the proposal.  CNI calls for height limitations of  50-feet maximum for the 7400 Block of Georgia Avenue (East Side - Geranium to Hemlock) and greater density for the City Line Auto site. 


Parking along Georgia Avenue should be underground only, with the city to financially support mitigating the cost for a developer.  Also, the city should use the existing Walter Reed fire station site for the city's new fire station.


*  Vera Carley, of 7405 9th Street, NW, said she does not want to see surface parking lots built next to single-family homes.


Ward 4 City Council Member Muriel Bowser and Ms. Abernathy defended the proposed Master Plan and responded to some of the concerns.


Adopted Minutes - ANC 4B - May 22, 2008 - Page Six


Council Member Bowser said that, in her view, Wireless Toyz and Postal Connections closed not because their rents were too high but because they had too few customers.  Both Council Member Bowser and Ms. Abernathy said the proposal includes programs designed to help existing businesses.


Council Member Bowser also defended the use of the existing Walter Reed property for retail and parking, arguing that it would give the area a needed "critical mass" of stores. Some park and open space will be retained.  She also said that getting land at Walter Reed for the station is the City's first priority.


There were no other statements in support of the proposal.


7.  Following a motion made by Commissioner Green, the Commission, in a unanimous show-of-hands vote, agreed to ask the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment to delay holding a hearing on a $500 fine to be imposed on Royce's Video, 7445 Georgia Avenue, N.W. 


    Commissioner Green said she had just learned of the case and needed time to consult the community.  One of Royce's owners spoke to Commission briefly and said that the matter was about to be resolved and would probably not go to the BZA for a hearing.


Reports and Discussions

1.  Treasurer Grant said he is gathering documents for a request by the auditor. Bills for that month have been paid, he said.


Mr. Andrew Thomas asked for copies of the checks from July 2006 to September 2007.  Treasurer Grant agreed to meet Mr. Thomas at the office to provide these.


No one asked to discuss a community concern.


The meeting adjourned at about 9 p.m.


--- Submitted by Sara Green, Secretary