Notes from the ANC 2E, 4A Mtgs from the Week of 3/4/19

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ANC 2E – Georgetown

At the March 4 meeting:

* The Metropolitan Police Department reported there has been an 89% increase in thefts from autos in the second police district over the same period last year. Over 15 of the thieves have been arrested, one twice. Out of town visitors are very often the victims. Residents were reminded to ask their guests to not have any items inside a car visible from the outside.  

     Home and business owners may get “a very effective camera” to help deter and identify burglars. The city has a rebate program for which purchasers may apply. 

     Doug Klein, an Assistant U.S. Attorney said he will give a report at the commission’s April meeting emphasizing warrants. 

* City Council member Jack Evans reported he had met with the Department of Transportation about “small cell” 5th generation internet antennas. The number of antennas on poles has been scaled back substantially from original plans. The first area to be installed will be downtown. Three out of four antennas in the District will be installed in Ward 2. Rooftops, he added, are far better locations for the antennas than poles.

     Hyde Addison, he said, is going to be a first rate elementary school with a gymnasium and a cafeteria. Ward 2, Evans added, is the only ward without its own public high school.

   The public schools as a whole have some serious problems, Evans added. Of 100 children entering 9th grade, “only a half will graduate from high school” and only 15 from college.

    Evans reported his home was a victim of a gas leak. He was critical of the way gas leak problems are being communicated. “The lack of communications is unsettling at best.”  He added there are a lot of pinhole leaks and that “There’s nothing like personal experience.”

     The 31st Street Bridge over the C&O Canal, he reported, is being closed for renewal. It is the last one in Georgetown that needs material work.

     “The question is why are our streets so bad? … Many of the streets are a wreck.” Evans said the District government has got to get them fixed. He asked residents to let his office know of specific problems.

     Another big problem facing the District is the homeless, he said. “We are not making a dent on that issue.”

    Evans said he was particularly worried by the fact there are 40 retail vacancies in Georgetown. “What can we do to bring business back,” he asked. Much of it has moved to 14th Street and the Waterfront. “It’s going to be hard to be where we were. ,,, The rents are too high and the assessed value of the properties is too high … How can I keep the taxes so at least they don’t go up.”

     “The city as a whole could not be doing better,” he said in contrast. The District government “lost $47 million in sales taxes in the (federal government) shutdown and it didn’t phase us.” 

     Evans, who chairs the METRO board, pointed out that “We have stopped the free fall” of the system’s finances. However, it does close at 11:30 p.m. and “We should be able to stay open later. … (Restaurant employees) have no way to get home. … We have a long way to go.”

* Amr Kotb, a representative of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office reported there have been serious trash collection problems. He asked residents to inform him if they have any problems. He added that contractors are starting work well before they should, and again asked residents to let him know if they observe it. His e-mail address is amr.kotb@dc.gov

     The DC Public Library is working on a new masterplan and will be holding community meetings. 

     As long as the cold weather lasts, Kotb pointed out there will be some individuals suffering from hypothermia. If residents see someone who might be, they should call 202-399-7093.

* Georgetown Main Street is planning a 6:30 p.m. meeting on March 18. A representative of Hyde Addison Elementary School said the contractor is on track for its work at the school to be substantially completed by July 11.

* Commissioner Gwendolyn Lohse reported that she did a walk on January 1 with a Washington Gas representative citing where there were leaks and where there are areas under repair.   

     Washington Gas representative John O’Brien said the District’s problem is similar to other cities with older systems. Over time, all of the pipes throughout the city will be replaced. He asked residents to call 1-844-WashGAS if they think they smell gas. 

     One problem is that 40 years ago, the company used rubber washers to couple pipes. Both the weather and dry gas have affected the rubber. 

     “Our service technician is aware of the severity of the leaks,” O’Brien said.

    The most severe leaks will be solved as soon as they are discovered, he said. Grade 2 leaks might take a week or two to solve.

     He agreed that the company “must get better at communications.” A problem is that addresses “must remain confidential.” When there is emergency work, the company will place door knockers on neighbors’ houses. Washington Gas is looking at some technology that people could opt into to be informed.

    One communications problem is that road flaggers directing traffic are often unaware of the details of the actual work.   

* A representative of TeleWorld pointed out that “Small Cell” antennas to help modernize online communications can easily be placed on rooftops rather than on tall 30-foot high telephone type poles which destroy the beauty of the Georgetown community. There are also other vertical structures that could be used. Property owners are often paid by “Small Cell” firms to make their rooftops available. He urged property owners to list their rooftops in a marketplace.

* There will be a pre-construction information meeting on Thursday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 1041 Wisconsin AVe., to discuss the replacement of the 31st Street Bridge over the C&O Canal, which was built in 1867. There will be a temporary pedestrian bridge prior to construction

     31st Street will be closed to thru traffic at the Canal.

* The Maret School’s contract for exclusive use of the Jelleff Recreation Center Field expires on June 30. The private school made a significant investment in the field and has the right to ask the Department of Parks & Recreation for nine additional years, but the department does not have to agree.

     The commission, with a 5-0-1 vote, called for all groups that want to use the field to have a seat at the table. Jason O’Lando, a Hardy Middle School parent, pointed out that it does not have a regulation sized field, and has no lights, and therefore cannot host its “home games,” and that it is across the street from Jelleff. Frequently, parents must drive an hour away from Hardy to reach a field where it plays its “home games.” 

     The director of the Jelleff Boys & Girls Club said they also need to use the field which is only available to them now after 6:00 p.m. when their games create problems for the nearby Dumbarton Oaks community.

     Commissioner Lisa Palmer abstained as her children attend Maret.

* The commission unanimously called for approval of an Easter Egg Hunt at Volta Park on Sunday, April 7 and for a special event application for the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 27 under which the entire commission area will return to normal by 10:40 a.m. and there can be no amplified music prior to the first runner passing through, estimated to be at 7:57 a.m.

* The commission unanimously recommended an after hours construction permit for MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to run three water pumps below grade. Adjacent residents with closed windows will face no noise louder than they would face without the pumps running.

* The commission unanimously passed a resolution to support proposed guidelines for the fifth generation of small cell antennas that would protect the historic character of Georgetown at the Public Space Committee’s March 21 meeting. It called for the guidelines to be revisited by the Old Georgetown Board and the commission before any permits are issued. 

* The commission unanimously endorsed the Citizens Association of Georgetown’s concerns about proposed alterations to the rear facade, window, and door replacements on both the front and the rear of the residence at 1324 35th St. which will come before the Old Georgetown Board.

     It also unanimously endorsed the Citizens Association of Georgetown’s concerns about a one story rear addition at 3263 N St., which will also come before the Old Georgetown Board. The owner offered two options, and the commission favored the more traditional one. 

* The commission unanimously expressed concerns to the Old Georgetown Board about the proposed Chase Bank at 3217 P St. It said the fixtures should be more discreet than proposed and that there are too many of them for the very small site. It also expressed concern about the height of some light poles. 

     It also expressed concern that some neighbors had not received information about the plans. It joined the Citizens Association of Georgetown in asking that the surface area be permeable.   

ANC 4A – Crestwood/16th Street Heights

At the March 5 meeting:

* Commissioner Deborah Pope, a Brightwood commissioner, has resigned. She will be replaced as secretary by Commissioner Stephen Whatley, the former commission chair.

* The commission unanimously agreed to share with Commission 4B office space in Room 106, 7720 Alaska Ave., NW at the Northminster Presbyterian Church. Both commissions will pay $400 monthly for the space. No non-ANC business may be conducted in the property. 

* Metropolitan Police Capt. Franklin Porter reported there had been 3 assaults with a deadly weapon in the area, the same number as in 2018. Robberies during the period declined from 8 to 2 and property crimes from 3 to 2. Thefts from autos increased from 26 to 27 and other thefts declined from 19 to 17. Stolen autos increased from 2 to 3.

     There was an assault with a deadly weapon in a building in the 6600 block of Luzon Avenue in a domestic dispute. An individual walking in the 1200 block of Tuckerman Street was cut with a knife. An assailant in the Georgia Avenue Walmart store cut a person in the face with a razor and was arrested. There was a robbery in the 400 block of Shepherd Street. The victim was parking a car and was forced into the car’s trunk.

     Commission Chair Gale Black told Porter there is a need for more police visibility in the area, particularly come summer when there will probably be more crime.   

* Commissioner Stephen Whatley said he would work with a resident in his area who complained about cracks in his building, probably from nearby construction explosions. 

     The Office of the Chief Technology Office announced upcoming events in the Shepherd Park Library to help offer technical support and teach youngsters about technology. 

     Jennifer McCahill introduced herself. She is an outreach specialist for the new Department of Nightlife and Culture.  

* Gabrielle Priest of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said she could be reached at 202-603-7182. She announced that non-emergency calls for things such as noise complaints to the police department could now be made by dialing 311.

* Sheryl Newman of Council member Brandon Todd’s office said the proposed increase in the homestead exemption for homeowners has produced some concerns as many homeowners might not need the money. The bill, she said, is not dead, but was returned to committee.

     There are now two dental facilities for low income seniors. 

     There will be a job fair in Brightwood for entry level individuals, and another for seniors interested in hospitality, on April 6 at 744 Kennedy St., NW.

     Walter Reed, Newman reported, will soon have 77 units available for homeless veterans.

     Safari on Georgia Avenue has been shut down for an indefinite period. The owner has not yet requested a hearing on the issue.

     There have been reports of strange smells in the Walter Reed area mostly at night. Commissioner Stephen Whatley smelled something strange once as did Commissioner Patience Singleton. 

* Ward 4 State Board of Education member Fraser O’Leary said the board’s next meeting will be on March 20 at 5:30 on the first floor of 441 4th Str.,NW.

* The commission’s new treasurer, Candace Nelson, said the quarterly report has not yet been filed as there were seven transactions with no documentation. She found nine errors in the proposed report. As a result, the District has not sent the commission its monthly allotment. The commission’s closing bank balance was $30,853.13.    

ANC 3D –  Foxhall, Palisades, Spring Valley

At the March 6 meeting:

* Commissioner Michael Sriqui apologized for his “tempestuous remarks” at the commission’s February meeting.

* Metropolitan Police Cmdr. Duncan Bedlion, who became 2nd District commander in January, reported in his area of the District, violent crime “is very low” with only two sex offenses since Jan. 1. There were no area robberies or assaults with a deadly weapon. District stolen autos since Jan. 1 declined to 3 from 7 in the same period last year. Thefts from autos skyrocketed 83% to 53 from 29 last year, although in the past 30 days, the trend has been downward. There have been 15 arrests, one for a repeat offender.

     To meet the problem, Bedlion said he has assigned several bicycle officers to quietly patrol areas where the thefts have been occurring. Cameras have been installed which officers can activate when they suspect something. Officers are also putting flyers on windshields when they find a car with visible items that could attract a thief. Currently, only 10% of the thieves be identified.

     Lt. Damen Haskis added that many of these thieves “are real pros.” So far in 2019, he added, there have been no robberies or assaults with a deadly weapon in the commission’s service area. 

     Of the district’s 21 stolen autos, 7 had keys in the car, Bedlion said.

     Off. Anthony McElwee told attendees that police will ticket pedestrians who walk across streets against red lights in the commission’s service area.

* Commissioner Alan Karnofsky reported that he has been trying to get the Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department to work together on traffic calming measures.

     Commission Chair Chuck Elkins reported the complaint about Billy’s Restaurant allegedly violating its settlement agreement has been dropped by the authorities after the commission reported the restaurant had not violated it.

     Commissioner J.P. Szymkowicz reported that the MedStar Georgetown Hospital construction is ongoing and that neighbors having noise or other problems should call the hospital.

* City Council member Mary Cheh, who chairs the Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee, reported Council members are holding oversight hearings on the city government’s various departments.

     Come March 20, Mayor Muriel Bowser will present her budget for the upcoming fiscal year to the Council. Its committees will consider it and will probably recommend to the entire Council that various items be moved around.

     Cheh stated that almost all Ward 3 schools are overcrowded and the situation is scheduled to get worse. The one school system property that might be available is the Old Hardy School, currently being leased by the LAB school, which has the right to apply for another 9 year lease.  Bowser wants to grant this, and has suggested it be done as an emergency measure so it would be exempt from a considerable number of hearings as well as from detailed City Council oversight.

         Cheh said she opposes the approach. “I don’t think it’s an emergency.” She added she is unsure of the exact school system use that could be made of the building, but that “It could be made into an early child learning center.”

     When asked by an attendee, she said an increase in the Homestead Exemption, which allows homeowners to reduce their real estate taxes, is dead, and that District homeowner real estate taxes are at a lower rate than in the surrounding counties and other major cities. She said she would be willing to give such an additional break to seniors.

     The city, she said, lost about $41 million in taxes due to the federal government’s shutdown. The revenue from the tax on internet sales will largely benefit large companies, due to a 7-6 Council vote. She was among the 6. She wanted to use the money to try to end homelessness.  

     Cheh pointed out the city’s pubic school system “has been troubled” with having six heads in the past 10 years who have not been “fully attuned to overcrowding.” Redrawing boundary lines has not solved the problems. 

     When asked about her having a part time job with George Washington University’s law school, she answered, “You get a full measure from me,” implying subsequently that she spent more time on DC government affairs than some Council members who do not have part time jobs.

     Cheh called Ft. Myers Construction Company “a problem for me, because it’s a monopoly,” adding that when smaller companies bid to repair roads, they often back off if they see Ft. Myers is also bidding. She added she got the budget for District roads up from $600,000 annually when she took over the committee to today when “it is well in the millions.”

     One way to address the problem with District roads, she suggested, would be to follow the example of what is done with Pennsylvania Avenue. It is repaved every four years to accommodate the Presidential inauguration. She added it would be very expensive to do it.

     When asked how Copenhagen, Denmark is able to have such a terrific road, bike lane, and pedestrian sidewalk pattern, she answered “It’s incredible.” Before addressing a system to keep the transportation network in fabulous shape, Cheh said the head of the Department of Transportation wants first to fix the District’s roads which are in truly bad shape. To address a long term solution, she said, “I would.have to force the issue with legislation.”

     Cheh said she loves speed and red light cameras. “The data shows red light running is really going down.” 

* The commission unanimously recommended approval of the Marine Corps Marathon which is scheduled for Sunday, October 27. It is the fourth largest  American marathon. This year a 50 kilometer race will be added which will start at 7:30 a.m. and go out from the Key Bridge to Arizona Avenue on Canal Road and back. Canal Road would be closed to regular traffic from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. when all the affected roads are expected to be opened.

     The commission requested that signage along the route be put up a week ahead of the race.

* The commission unanimously requested the Department of Transportation do a study on the feasibility of establishing a bike lane on Nebraska Avenue from Wisconsin Avenue to the Capitol Crescent Trail.

* By a vote of 6-1, with Commissioner J.P. Szymkowicz opposed, the commission endorsed considering the future of the Old Hardy School at 1550 Foxhall Rd., “in a transparent manner.” The school is now leased to the private Lab School, and Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed legislation to extend the lease on an emergency basis which, if passed, would mean there would be no serious consideration of alternative uses. Old Hardy is the only school property owned by the public school system in the area that could be used to meet some of the overcrowding problems Ward 3 area schools face, according to those wanting a serious discussion of the issue.

* The commission voted unanimously to ask the Department of Public Works to consider a fall-time third leaf pickup in areas where there are exceptionally heavy tree canopies where leaf piles block up to half the drivable and walkable road space. It noted that in the past, the neighborhoods with this problem did have a third pick-up. It noted that many of the affected streets are very narrow and without adjoining sidewalks, so pedestrians must walk in the street.

* After a long discussion, the commission voted 4-0 with 2 abstentions to ask the Zoning Commission to re-open the record of an applicant wanting to build a major project behind Wagshal’s where the SuperFresh store was. It stated it believes the points made by “Citizens for Responsible Development” were “misleading and disingenuous.”        

* The Commission approved its treasurer’s report. It holds $46,847.77 in the bank.