Notes from ANC 3B, 3F and 2A from the Week of 2/18


ANC 3B – Glover Park, Cathedral Heights

At the Feb. 14 meeting:

* New Second District Metropolitan Police Dept. Commander Duncan Bedlion, a George Washington University graduate who has worked throughout the city for the police department, said the area’s major problem is an increase in thefts from autos.

     In the commission’s area there have been 22 in the first half of February as opposed to just 7 last year. There have been 346 in the second district as a whole.

     Bedlion asked residents not to leave anything visible in their cars. An empty paper bag is of interest to the would be thieves as it might contain something or there might be something of value under it.

     Police, he said, have been actively making arrests. There have been 13 since Jan. 1.

    One problem, he said, is that if the stolen merchandise is valued at less than $1,000, it is only a misdemeanor with for which people do not often get jail time. Sometimes, he said, they are not even prosecuted. If the damage to a broken in car means the owner is out over $1,000 when combined with the value of the stolen merchandise, it is still just a misdemeanor. 

     Commission Chair Brian Turmail told Belion that Cathedral Avenue, particularly in the 1100 block, is a problem with so many cars going well over the speed limit that it is dangerous for pedestrians who have to cross the street there as the sidewalk is on one side for half the block and the other side for the other half. There is also a problem with lots of deer.

     Turmail added the lack of a shelter west of Rock Creek Park for homeless men is a problem, particularly with the risk of hypothermia in the colder winter days.

* Metropolitan Police Dept. Lt. Ralph Neal reported that between  Jan 15 and Feb. 13 there were no homicides in Police Service Area 2D, down from one between Dec. 18 and Jan. 14. There were no reported sexual abuse claims in either period, but there was one assault with a deadly weapon in the just past 30 days compared with 2 in the previous period and seven robberies in the past 30 days compared with none in the previous period.

* Alice Thompson of the D.C. Office of Aging said her organization is being rebranded the Department of Aging and Community Living. About 16% or 110,000 District residents, she said, are over age 60. 

     She described the “Safe at Home” program which provides free of charge handrails, grab bars, bathtub cuts, shower seats, furniture risers and chair lifts  to single people over 60 or those with disabilities with incomes of $65,650 or less and for couples with incomes of $75,000 or less. However, managers of rental apartments can deny the physical add-ons. Those interested can call 202-724-5626 for more information. The department also provides eligible residents with a private security camera at no cost. 

* Theo Brown described the Department of Transportation’s “Rock Creek Far West Livability Study” for the parts of the District bounded by Massachusetts Avenue, the District border with Maryland, the Potomac River, Whitehaven Street, Whitehaven Parkway and the portion of Glover Archbold Park southwest of Whitehaven Park.

     The study’s purpose is to identify opportunities for safer travel for residents and visitors in the area. There will be a public workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at the Palisades Neighborhood Library, 4901 V St., from 6:30-8:30 p.m. to get public input so it can make recommendations for transportation and public space infrastructure to improve safety.

* The commission unanimously approved a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser written by Commissioner Ann Mladinov. It called for a hypothermia center west of Rock Creek Park, more affordable housing in the area for low income residents, more psychiatric beds, more health, wellness and nutrition support in Ward 3 as it is too far for many residents to go to Chevy Chase where it is available, more K-12 educational funding including arts education, improving streets and sidewalks and more “Main Streets” programs which aid small businesses.

     When Commission Chair Brian Turmail was asked if the proposals were adopted if it would not draw more very poor people from Virginia without a residency requirement thereby increasing the District’s budget to support them, he responded, “If that’s the risk, we’ll take it.” 

* Commissioner Ann Mladinov warned residents to be wary of scam telephone calls from people claiming to represent PEPCO asking for bill payments. She also mentioned the Office of the Peoples Council will now look at water issues and that the Public Service Commission is monitoring gas leaks. Commission Chair Brian Turmail said the District has not had a good year in collecting Christmas trees, but that many have been collected.

  • On Jan. 31, the commission had a bank balance of $11,454.40. Most of its budget goes for grants, Commission Chair Brian Turmail explained. Its next meeting will be on March 14.  


ANC 3F – Van Ness, Cleveland Park, Wakefield, Forest Hills

At the Feb. 19 meeting:

* The commission recommended approval of a liquor license for Wine With Friends, having executed a settlement agreement.

* The commission unanimously petitioned for a traffic study of Albemarle Street.

* Commissioner Naomi Rutenberg said that quite a few residents were surprised when Urban Forestry planted trees in the middle of their yards. The residents were not aware they were planted in public space. She said the area homes where the trees were planted have neither sidewalks nor tree boxes. 

* Commission Chair David Dickinson said Surfside wants to locate a 24-hour taco stand on the corner of Van Ness Street and Wisconsin Avenue in a neighboring advisory neighborhood commission area, adding the application is very confusing. 

     He said the Deputy Mayor for Housing reported there are social service workers every day at 3726 Connecticut Ave. where there have been reported to be considerable problems. 

     Dickinson announced there will be a presentation by the Little School in Tilden Gardens at the March commission meeting. There have been reported problems with noise. There will also be a presentation in March about Hearst Park issues. 

     The commission seat for 3F07, he reported, is vacant and nobody has yet applied for it. Any area resident wanting to can apply for it by applying to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission office with a petition with 25 area residents’ signatures. 

     Appeals on an agreement to allow the property of the former Polish ambassador’s home at 3101 Albemarle St. to be divided into three stand alone houses, he said, have not been withdrawn.

* As of the February meeting, there have been no applications for commission grants. Any local group wanting a grant must apply before the March commission meeting. 

* The commission’s Streets & Sidewalks Committee said safety is a big area issue. It reported the District Department of Transportation is planning a study of the reversible lane on Connecticut Avenue between Chevy Chase and Dupont circles. The committee is not aware if the department has found a consultant to do the study, which it said is very important for the safety of the elderly, the disabled, and young families’ children.

* The Department of Transportation will host an open house on March 3 for advisory neighborhood commissioners. 

* The commission’s Parks & Trails Committee is planning to review a water study on Rock Creek tributaries.

* Thomas Redmond of the University of the District of Columbia said members of the City Council will hold a performance hearing on the University at 10:00 a.m. on Feb. 28 and a budget hearing on March 26 at 11:00 a.m. The University is requesting an additional $20 million for its annual budget and $67 million over six years for its capital budget. Redmond said the University has an aging physical structure with many of its structures built over 50 years ago. “The mayor,” he added, “has been relatively supportive.” The University website has a report on the planned use of funds. 

* Sal Selivaggio reported that IONA Senior Services is a wonderful resource which is focused on getting transportation resources for Wards 2 and 3. An example might be how to get a wheel chair to transport someone to a doctor’s office. 

* Phil Thomas reported that the DC Democrats will hold a meeting at Forest Hills House on Feb. 27 at 7:00 p.m. where District Attorney General Karl Racine will be the speaker. 

* Theresa Cameron of Van Ness Main Street reported that her organization has worked with the homeless to keep 4250 Connecticut Ave. clean in order to prevent rodent infestation. 

     She introduced her organization’s new president, Sarah Cumbie, and reported the group’s recycling day was the biggest in the District, and that they needed an extra truck to haul away what was brought in.

     On March 16 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. the organization will hold an Irish event at the Tesoro restaurant in the Day’s Inn Hotel at 4400 Connecticut Ave. at the corner of Yuma Street. The organization’s farmer’s market will open on May 5. 

     She sadly announced there has been an uptick in stealing from cars in the area between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m.   

A Metropolitan Police Department lieutenant reported that area burglaries and motor vehicle thefts both increased in the past month to 3 from just 1 last year at this time. Thefts from autos increased to 16 from 14, but other thefts declined from 24 to 12. There were two arrests for theft from auto suspects. Low punishment for such thieves, he said, is a major problem.

     Many people still leave their cars unlocked, he said. Theft from auto, he added, is very much a crime of opportunity, largely done by homeless individuals and gangs of young people.   

     A miscreant set curtains on fire at a local pizzaria and also near the Washington Monument. He is now in jail and is not expected to be released at least until at least March 4. 

     Segwick House generates many complaints about smoking, he said, but the crime rate in the building is very low. The average number of calls per month is 11, but there were only five crimes in the past year. 

* Cecili Lane of the Department of Energy & the Environment described how the Broad Branch culvert had flooded for years. Plans are afoot to increase the size of the pipe under the area and thereby direct water under ground and then to an open channel. Design work is about 65% complete. The project will last nine months.

* Ward 3 Board of Education member Ruth Wattenberg described serious student overcrowding of almost all the public elementary and middle schools feeding into Woodrow Wilson High School. 

     She said 12 of the 15 schools feeding into Wilson are at or over capacity. “Nobody has paid attention to it,” she added. “It is a huge problem.” She added that Ellington School of the Arts uses only half its space at any one time and could provide some space for other students. The Old Hardy School on Foxhall Road, which is leased to the private Lab School, could also be used for the public school system when its lease expires. She said a small middle school could be built on University of the District of Columbia land.

     “It is now a Ward 3 issue, but it will soon be an issue everywhere.” 

     Commission Chair David Dickinson said he is reluctant to endorse recommending that Old Hardy be turned back to the public school system when its lease is up, but is supportive of asking the Deputy Mayor what steps are being planned. 

     Wattenberg said a commission resolution at the March meeting would be helpful adding that more and more families with children are moving into the area’s apartment buildings.

* Attorney Sidon Yohannes described plans to put 10 tables for 2 diners each at a new unenclosed sidewalk cafe at I’m Eddie Cano at 5014 Connecticut Ave. It could legally be open from 7:00-12:00 p.m., but would normally only be in operation until 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The clear sidewalk would be at least eight feet wide. The commission unanimously endorsed the plans. The sidewalk cafe hopes to be open by this summer.

* Commissioner Andrea Molod urged the commission to endorse the District government paying its “fair share” of the $60 million cost of constructing DC Water’s tunnels which will prevent human waste from flowing into the Potomac River, particularly during storms.

     The current law calls for the owners of impermeable surfaces such as buildings and concrete driveways to pay the costs. Currently, Molod said, churches and cemeteries are paying enormous sums. The fee would apply to the city’s roads, all of which are impermeable. 

     Residents of condominiums pay only a fraction of what single family homeowners must pay as they have far less impermeable space per capita on the ground. 

     The cost “should be taken off the backs of single family homeowners and put on the entire tax base,” she said. The cost to city taxpayers as a whole would be between $30 and $40 million annually, she added. Such a move, she said, has the informal support of Council member Mary Cheh.


ANC 2A – West End, Foggy Bottom

At the Feb. 21 special meeting:

* The commission unanimously asked the public schools to increase teacher funding at School Without Walls Francis Stevens by $600,000 so it can add six additional teachers; the school system, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and the City Council asked to allocate $1 million “for an urgent expansion of capacity … prior to academic year 2019-2020 for three additional classrooms; to eliminate two small offices and repurpose the balcony space between them and the school’s small gym “to create two new 1,200 square foot classrooms and replace the computer lab with a rolling cat to provide a third. … prior to the 2019-2020 academic year thereby raising the overall capacity of the building by 75 students and to work in partnership with the school’s leadership, the local school advisory team, the home school association and the impacted ANC’s in a long range strategic planning process to define … any…further renovations needed for the 2021-2022 academic year” and for fiscal years 2022-2024.

     The school, according to the school system, now has a 474 enrollment from PreK through 8th grade. The building can currently reasonably hold 500. The number of students is expected to substantially increase beyond that number next school year and even more in the years to come. 

     The commission stated that the current enrollment surge, “particularly in the middle school, represents a clear and present threat to the academic integrity of the school.” It added that outreach by school officials and community groups to the school system got “no satisfactory response” prior to the commission’s meeting.

     It said in its resolution that the lack of a response was “consistent with a pattern of non-responsiveness called out for years by community groups as a real barrier to effective long range planning at the school.”

     The commission and some community members facilitated a pro bono evaluation of the building by a team of architects.

     Years ago, the school was facing the threat of being closed due to substantial under enrollment. 

     School activists have met with City Council Chair Phil Mendelson, the chair of the Council’s Education Committee David Grosso and Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, all of whom, they said, expressed support for their position.

     Risa Boija, the director of facilities for the system, told commissioners there would be three additional classrooms by August and that a design/build team will be hired.  

* The commission voted 6-1-1, with Detrick Campbell opposed and Nicole Goldin abstaining, to call for a new middle school on the site of the former Shaw Junior High School, which closed in 2008, rather than relocating Benjamin Banneker Academic High School there as planned by Mayor Muriel Bowser. 

     A Shaw Middle School would attract students from Wards 1, 2, 5, and 6, school activist Evelyn Boyd Simmons told he commission. It would feed into Cardoza High School. She said many students from these wards are currently students at Shaw Elementary School and would have the right to continue at a new Shaw Middle School so it would definitely have a sufficient number of students. 

     When Commission Chair William Smith asked if both a middle school and a high school could be located at the site, Commissioner Jeri Epstein, a long time school teacher, said that mixing the 11-14 year-old boys at a middle school next to 15-18 year-old high school boys “is not a good idea,” as putting the younger boys in with the older ones could harm the younger ones as they are at a very vulnerable age.

     Campbell said Banneker is a beacon for African-American students who do not always feel comfortable in a majority white school. He added that Mayor Bowser feels using the site for Banneker is best for the city. 

     Simmons answered that the local community supports Banneker, “but not at the expense of a neighborhood school site.”  

     A school official stated there are not immediate plans for the current Banneker site once the new Banneker is built. 

* The commission unanimously recommended approval of a revised Francis Field master plan, developed by and funded by the Friends of Francis Field, a non-profit organization which has improved the field with private funding. 

     The Friends planted 27 trees in May 2017 and placed grass on the field which reopened last spring. Gary Grifiath, who spoke for the group before the commission, pointed out that District government had left the field as a dirt one. “We think we’ve been good stewards,” he told commissioners. 

     The Friends agreed to fund various improvements, which largely comprise landscape plantings.

  • The commission unanimously recommended that the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration approve a license for a new Duke’s Grocery at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. It will have a seating capacity of 120 inside and a sidewalk cafe with 24 seats. There will be live entertainment indoors only. Indoors hours will be from 9:00 a.m.- 2:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and Fridays and Saturdays until 3:00 a.m. The sidewalk cafe will close at 11:00 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The commission also unanimously recommended approval of a stipulated license which would allow Duke’s to serve alcohol as soon as its opened, even if the regular license has not yet been formally approved.

Amina Ndiaye and Davis Kennedy contributed to this coverage.