Hine Litigant Files Complaint Against Mayor and DMPED on Transparency Issue

Hine Litigant Files Complaint Against Mayor and DMPED on Transparency Issue

by Larry Janezich

On Friday, September 12, Eastern Market Community Association (EMMCA) filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint with the DC Superior Court against Mayor Gray and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development (DMPED).  The complaint was filed on EMMCA’s behalf by attorney Oliver Hall.  Hall also represented litigants (EMMCA was one)   opposed to the Zoning Commission’s approval of the Hine development as well as litigants opposed to aspects of the West End Library development.

The complaint alleges that DMPED violated the FOIA’s mandatory disclosure requirement because it has failed since November 1, 2001, to disclose records (specifically Land Development Agreements) which it is required to make public as a matter of law.  In addition, the complaint alleges that DMPED unlawfully denied, delayed and obstructed specific requests for the LDAs on the West End Library and the Hine Development.

EMMCA was injured, the complaint says, because DMPED’s failure to follow the law made EMMCA unable to introduce evidence before the Zoning Commission concerning the benefits and amenities portion of the Hine development PUD process.

A ruling in favor of EMMCA would not appear to have any effect on the on-going Hine litigation.  It could, however, require DMPED to follow the letter of the law regarding contract transparency.  Though EMMCA is claiming injury, the complaint asks the court to order DMPED to post all public LDAs (contracts) after November 1, 2001, on its website; and to declare that DMPED’s failure to disclose LDAs and a general index of public records on its website are contrary to law.

EMMCA has been at odds with ANC6b for many months over the issue of the Hine development, but they do agree on the issue of DMPED’s lack of transparency.  Last February, in testimony before the DC Committee on Economic Development, ANC6B Chair Brian Flahaven joined appellants of the Hine project in agreeing that DMPED failed to respond properly to a FOIA request filed by Capitol Hill residents seeking details about the deal that DMPED struck with Hine developers Stanton/Eastbanc.  Flahaven said that DMPED “mishandled the Freedom of Information Act request submitted by community members and needlessly delayed and limited access to information…”  (See post on Brian Flahavan as well as then-Deputy Mayor Hoskins here:  http://bit.ly/1aVCuwD.)

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The Week Ahead…And New Questions About the Hine Re-Appeal

A new perspective of the 49 unit condo building planned by Madison Investments for 11th and I Streets, SE, showing changes made to the exterior design to incorporate additional features to make the structure more compatible with the Capitol Hill Historic District.  Courtesy of Jeff Goins, of PGN Architects.

A new perspective of the 49 unit condo building planned by Madison Investments for 11th and I Streets, SE, showing changes made to the exterior design to incorporate additional features to make the structure more compatible with the Capitol Hill Historic District. Courtesy of Jeff Goins, of PGN Architects.

The Week Ahead…And New Questions About the Hine Re-Appeal

Also New Perspective of 49 Condo Unit at 11th and I Streets, SE

by Larry Janezich

Thursday’s EMMCA meeting with ANC6B Commissioners Pate and Frishberg on the future of Eastern Market Metro Park comes at an interesting time, since both commissioners have raised questions regarding EMMCA’s decision to remain as a party to the re-appeal of the recent appeals court decision in favor of the developer on the Hine Development.  The court found that there was not sufficient reason to overturn the zoning commission approval of the development.  The Hine Coalition is re-appealing to the full nine member court (en banc).

CHC looked into the matter and find that neither EMMCA members nor the current EMMCA leadership was consulted on the decision to re-appeal.  Carl Reeverts, one of the EMMCA co-chairs and a candidate for a seat on ANC6B, writes: “the Hine Coalition did not consult with the current EMMCA co-chairs because the petition for rehearing was a customary part of the ongoing appeal process.”

In apparent recognition of this failure to consult membership or current leadership, EMMCA recently sent the following to its membership : “As we told you in the Sept. 3 EMMCA MATTERS, when the Hine Coalition asked for a rehearing en banc of the DC Court of Appeals Aug. 14, 2014, ruling, EMMCA continued participating in the 2013 appeal as an intervenor.  The petition for rehearing is customarily part of the appeal process.  Because we value the opinions of EMMCA members and want EMMCA to continue to be inclusive, we’d like to know if any EMMCA members have any input, comments or concerns about EMMCA’s continued participation in the appeal.”

Ed. Note:  According to the attorney for the litigants in the appeal of the zoning commission decision on Hine, the litigants filed a petition for rehearing after the initial decision of the appeals court.  The attorney states that this is not a new proceeding, but a normal part of the same appeal process that EMMCA joined in the spring of 2013.  Further, petitions for rehearing are expressly authorized by D.C. Court of Appeals Rules 35 and 40, and parties regularly file them when a court decision contains errors.  Finally, according to the attorney, this is not a new proceeding which was initiated without EMMCA’s consent – the litigants filed a petition for rehearing in the same appeal that EMMCA had already authorized.

Monday, September 15

Coalition for Better Planning press conference at 11:15am on the steps of the Wilson Building regarding a letter  to DC Elected officials and candidates for city-wide offices calling for reform of DC’s planning and development agencies.

Monday, September 15

ANC 6A Transportation & Public Space Committee meets at 7:00pm at Maury Elementary School (note location change – 1250 Constitution Avenue, NE)

Among items on the agenda:

Update from DDOT concerning H Street streetcar project.

Review of proposed DDOT regulations concerning operation of streetcars

Application for sidewalk café for Ben’s Chili Bowl café at 1001 H Street NE

Monday, September 15

ANC 6A Community Outreach Committee meets at 7:00pm at Maury Elementary (1250 Constitution Aveune, NE)  Room assignment will be posted in lobby.

Tuesday, September 16

Department of General Services Surplus Hearing on Eastern Branch Eastern Branch Boys and Girls Club, located at 261 17th Street, SE.   6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). Though titled a “hearing,” this meeting will be a much more informal discussion of the state of the building and the Request For Proposals process.

Tuesday, September 16

ANC6A Alcohol Beverage Licensing Committee meets at 7:00pm at Sherwood Recreation Center (10th and G Streets, NE).

Among items on the agenda:

Update on status of Settlement Agreement termination requests by H Street Country Club, Rock n’ Roll Hotel, and Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar.

Class B Retail license renewal for China House at 1601 Benning Road, NE.

Class B Retail license renewal for J & K Market at 234 15th Street, NE.

Class B Retail license renewal for M & T Grocer’s Beer and Wine at 201 15th Street, NE.

Wednesday, September 17

ANC6B Outreach & Constituent Services Task Force meets at 7:00pm in Hill Center.

Among items on the agenda:

Update on vacant and blighted property list

Update on WiFi at Potomac Gardens

Wednesday, September 17

Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) meets at 7:00pm in the North Hall, Eastern Market.

Thursday, September 18

Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA) meets at 7:00pm in Southeast Library.  The meeting will feature a discussion about the priorities, schedule and implementation of the proposed Eastern Market Metro Park. ANC Commissioners Ivan Frishberg and Brian Pate will share up-to-date information about the status of the plan and next steps. Barbara Riehle and Senda Benaissa, EMMCA’s members on the planning committee, plan to discuss their comments on the plan priorities and budget use developed after the last task force meeting.

Thursday, September 18

The Historic Preservation Review Board will meet at 9:00 a.m. at 441 4th Street NW in Room 220 South.

Among items on the agenda:

12:45 – 1:30 – demolition permit for the “shotgun house” at 1229 E Street, SE.

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Ninth Street Dumpster Nightmare – City Fines Bystander

City Workers Clean Up Overflowing Dumpster behind Marine Barracks on 9th Street, SE

City Workers Clean Up Overflowing Dumpster behind Marine Barracks on 9th Street, SE

Ninth Street Dumpster Nightmare – City Fines Bystander

by Larry Janezich

Ninth street residents who became the victim of both a negligent contractor and the contracting homeowner as well as the lack of response by the city when they sought help in resolving a trash issue have been issued a citation for not addressing the problem themselves.

Last March, a contractor engaged in a renovation project on the 700 block of 9th Street, SE, placed a dumpster (by order of an Emergency No Parking permit, valid through the first week of August) mostly in front of a property at 736 9th Street adjacent to the job site.  The address has been the residence for the past 43 years of David and Adrienne Umansky.

As the renovation progressed, the dumpster was emptied once and replaced.  Before being hauled off again, however, the contractor went bankrupt, and despite being covered by a tarp, the dumpster gradually attracted a mountain of trash and garbage from nearby residents and passersby.

According to the Umanskys, the owner of the property being renovated tried but was unable to find the company who owned the dumpster “since the contractor was bankrupt. “  The Umanskys and their neighbors, they say, called 311 to report the problem numerous times in June and July with no response to their concerns.

Finally, last week the city moved to address the problem.  ANC Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg was instrumental in finally getting the city to take notice.  Oldenburg told CHC, “When neighbors reported the overflowing dumpster to me, I called the [DDOT] Deputy Associate Director who directed inspectors to check out the matter.  Over the course of a week, citations were issued to both the dumpster firm and the contractor who had hired the dumpster.  The firm tried to remove the dumpster several times but could not because of a car parked in front of it.  On Tuesday, September 9, [DDOT] Inspector McCreary got DPW to tow away the parked car and the dumpster was removed.  At [Tuesday night’s ANC6B] meeting I thanked DDOT’s Public Space Regulations Administration and, especially their Inspector McCreary who doggedly managed to resolve a very messy and complicated situation.”

Grateful for finally having the problem resolved, the Umanskys were less happy when they received a citation last Thursday levying a $75 fine for “Failure to maintain abutting public space.”  The ticket was accompanied by a photo of trash which had been placed next to the dumpster.  The Umanskys have reached out to DDOT to appeal the ticket and left messages, but as yet have received no response.

Last Thursday night, the neighboring ANC6A north of East Capitol, sent a letter to DDOT asking them for information regarding the process for issuing emergency no-parking permits and opportunities for the ANC to weigh in on longer-term permits.  No such action has yet been considered by ANC6b.

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Kraze Burgers Out of Barracks Row

Kraze Burgers Will Not Be Returning to Barracks Row - ANC Asks Landlord What Will Replace It?

Kraze Burgers Will Not Be Returning to Barracks Row – ANC Asks Landlord What Will Replace It?

Kraze Burgers Out of Barracks Row

Landlord Under Pressure from ANC/Neighbors

by Larry Janezich

Kraze Burgers’ landlord, Streetsense (no connection to the newspaper of similar name), told Capitol Hill Corner that the enterprise has regained control of the space at 431 8th Street, SE, formerly occupied by Kraze Burgers.

The move came after protracted litigation resulting from Kraze Burgers’ inability to pay their rent.  The restaurant – wracked by internal disputes (see here:  http://bit.ly/1h8zbTV ) – has been closed since March of this year.  Streetsense owns the building where Kraze Burgers operated and Chipotle still does.

On Wednesday, September 3, three ANC Commissioners – Brian Pate, Ivan Frishberg, and Phil Peisch – carried their concerns about the Kraze Burgers site and the 400 block of Barracks Row to a meeting with Streetsense President, Guy Silverman.  The 400 block is frequently characterized as “in trouble” owing to a multiplicity of problems, many of which concern corporate owned fast food outlets.  The commissioners, convinced that “casual fast food dining” on the block has not worked out, were worried about what was in store for the space.

According to Pate, the commissioners discussed the possibility of Streetsense putting something other than a restaurant in the location.  The space commands a premium rent of $80 a square foot – one of the highest in the city (for comparison purposes, the average rent at Union Station is $75 a square foot).

Frishberg subsequently told CHC, “It would be great to get retail but anybody who thinks we will get retail at current rent levels is smoking crack.  Small retail can’t afford the $80 a square foot – they can’t pay half that rent.  For a lot of the retail people who can pay that much, the space is too small.  My impression was that Silverman received the ANC’s concerns honestly.  I said things that were exceedingly direct…There are problems with that location and they are not all Streetsense’s fault.  Not every Chipotle has a security officer to keep order.”

Last Saturday, a delegation of three nearby neighbors met with Silverman and Streetsense co-founder Marc Ratner  to emphasize the concerns of the 7th Street neighbors who back up to the restaurants on the 400 block of 8th.  Those concerns involve fried meat cooking odors, noise, trash, and vermin.  After the meeting, participants said it appeared that Streetsense recognized their concerns, and while not dismissing those concerns outright in the meeting, they nevertheless preferred to not deal with them.  Neighbors reported that Streetsense is not willing to take less rent for the space, saying they were told that $80 a square foot is what Streetsense investors expect.

The neighbors represented by the delegation are the very same neighbors that pressured &Pizza into a Best Standards operating agreement last week – an agreement which is likely to become standard for Barracks Row and other commercial areas in ANC6B.  (See the preceding CHC post.)

Last May, these neighbors circulated a flyer and petition that was signed by some 95 residents opposing any additional fast food outlet on 8th Street and urging the ANC to require all existing and new restaurants to meet Best Operating standards.  Many petitioners urged a moratorium on liquor licenses as well.

Neighbors said it was largely their experience with Streetsense, Kraze Burgers and Chipotle that led them to collect signatures against & Pizza and Chipotle after & Pizza and Chipotle were unwilling to consider indoor trash storage and odor mitigation.

Frishberg says that it’s not clear that Kraze Burgers should have been allowed to open on Barracks Row without a fast food exception.  Now it appears, in light of conditions on the block, any restaurant coming into the space will be under increased scrutiny as to whether it meets the Office of Planning’s broadening definition of who needs a fast food exception.  Any restaurant requiring the exception – and thus, ANC approval – undoubtedly will become subject to the new operating standards as a condition of that exception.  Should a non-fast food restaurant come into thee space as a matter of right, the ANC’s leverage will come from any application for a liquor license, which Kraze Burger did not have but which any non-fast food restaurant would most likely need.  Kraze Burgers did not have an operating agreement with the ANC, but did have operating conditions written into its lease with Streetsense.  These conditions, however, did not prove to be adequate to protect the neighbors from odors, trash, noise, and vermin.

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City Clears “&Pizza” on Barracks Row – Grants Fast Food Exception

405 8th Street, SE, formerly XOXO Cleaners Slated to become &Pizza

405 8th Street, SE, formerly XOXO Cleaners, Slated to become &Pizza

City Clears “&Pizza” on Barracks Row – Grants Fast Food Exception

New Operating Rules Likely to Become a Local Standard

by Larry Janezich

On Tuesday, DC’s Board of Zoning Adjustment voted 4 – 1 to approve a special exception to allow &Pizza to sell fast food on Barracks Row under “Best Practices” operating procedures which are likely to set a new standard for restaurants and bars in ANC6b’s commercial corridors.

The Board accepted all of the restrictions listed by ANC6b as conditions of its support for the exception, including incorporation of the operating agreement negotiated by neighbors with &Pizza owner Steve Salis in the Board order.

ANC6b had recommended approval of the fast food exception and a one-story rear addition to the building (formerly XOXO Cleaners at 405 8th Street, SE) on a narrow 6-4 vote, after approving a requirement that the applicant seek renewal of the exception after seven (instead of the requested ten) years and conditional upon BZA formalizing the list of “Best Practice” operating procedures.  Those procedures include a detailed trash control protocol providing for (among other things) trash and recycling storage inside the building itself, elimination and/or cleansing of kitchen exhaust odors and particulates, and a state of the art sound mitigation of rooftop mechanicals.

&Pizza owner, Steve Salis, pushed hard for a ten year fast food exception, claiming that it was “challenging” to convince financial institutions to lend money without a ten year exception and that he needed the time to minimize his risk. Salis also made a case that the “Best Practices” operating procedures will require expensive equipment and increase the cost of his investment.  The BZA was not convinced by those arguments, noting that his agreement with the neighbors should give him confidence that the exception would be renewed after seven years.  The board also cited some of its recent decisions that limited the exception for five and even three years.

ANC6B Commissioner Ivan Frishberg, who represented the ANC at the hearing, described the 400 block of 8th Street as one of the most “expensive blocks on Barracks Row, and one of the trashiest.”  He told the Board that almost 100 nearby neighbors had petitioned the ANC, opposing any additional fast food outlet on 8th Street and to require all existing and new restaurants be required to meet best operating standards.  Many petitioners, he said, urged a moratorium on liquor licenses as well.  Frishberg cited the “extraordinary level of engagement between neighbors and the applicant” and commended them and fellow Commissioner Phil Peisch for reaching the agreement.

On the other hand, Frishberg criticized the city for falling down on enforcement of health and sanitation regulations, effectively delegating this work to nearby residents.  With respect to the seven vs. ten year limit on the exception, Frishberg noted that the building’s landlord (Maurice Kreindler, who had sought a 20 year exception) is a “major owner” of Barracks Row real estate, and “another party” who has a long term interest in seeing the business succeed.  As such, he said that the landlord is “a part of the equation whose participation has not been adequately explored.”  (Kreindler can put a restaurant (not fast-food) in the location by right, but that tenant would undoubtedly be subject to the same operating conditions and might not be able to command as much rent as a fast food outlet.)

One of the nearby neighbors involved in negotiating the agreement, Linda Elliott, was on hand to tell the Board that the neighbors now support the fast food exception with the conditions Salis had agreed to, saying, “The conditions satisfy our public health and quality of life concerns.”

Asked for comment after the meeting, Frishberg said:  “The ANC took a very pragmatic but demanding approach in an effort to address some of the problems on this block.   The BZA respected that and clearly saw the need for accountability over the operations here through its approval of the shorter term on the special exception.  This block is in trouble and the bar is now set very high as we all figure out what can be done to clean things up there.”

Salis did not respond to a request for comment.

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Economic Gentrification of the Atlas District – Perspective: Joe Englert, H Street Restaurateur​/Developer

Joe Englert

Joe Englert, H Street Restaurateur and Developer

Economic Gentrification of the Atlas District – Perspective:  Joe Englert, H Street Restaurateur​/Developer

by Larry Janezich

From Wikipedia:

“Joe Englert is a Washington DC area restaurateur.[1] He became known in the early 1990s for creating quirky themed bars, restaurants and entertainment venues on U Street[2]

In 2006, he began a venture to revitalize the Atlas District along H Street NE and turn it into a nightlife destination.[3] Englert purchased eight properties along on H Street to coincide with the city’s plan to renovate and reopen the long defunct Atlas Theater.”

CHC interviewed Englert after he suggested that CHC consider an article on how anti-business some ANCs had become.  CHC thought the best venue for this view would be an interview with ​Englert himself.

During that interview, Englert revealed that he is a writer as well as a restaurateur.  He’s currently writing an article for publication about a realist painter who lives near H Street, NE, who Englert characterizes as a “chronicler of the struggle between urban decay and renewal.”

It’s clear after talking to Englert that he sees himself in that same vein.​

He says, “I was much more idealistic when I started H Street.  I saw restaurants and bars as a way to get people back on the streets.  I thought the end result would be more amenities – a swimming pool, art studios, public meeting places.”

Englert ​told Washingtonian magazine in May of 2012 that his vision for H Street was a lot of businesses –“the bike store, the rollerblade store, the mom and pop clothes emporium, the small deli…not just restaurants, but bakers, chocolate shops, museums, flower shops.”  Asked last week what happened, he replied, “Somewhere, you run out of steam and money and are surrounded by fewer like-minded people.  You can’t beat the market.”

In the magazine article, defending his aggressive move to bring renewal to the H Street strip, (some said at the expense of long time H Street retailers) Englert said, “What have others been doing except for joining alphabet groups and simply talking, not doing?”

The “alphabet groups” appear to be a reference to the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) – the lowest level of political organization in the city, and the first hurdle for developers to surmount in pursuit of liquor licenses, and historic preservation and zoning ​applications​.

He says he’s been reading a lot about who designs cities.  What interests him is the question, “What is the city and what can we expect from it?”   He says he thinks they are being designed by “urban hipsters who ride bikes and want dog parks.”  Englet says it’s harder and harder to have a relationship with ANCs.  [Current] “ANC Commissioners are less willing to give-and-take and negotiate.  They have a rock-hard concept of what the city should be like…the make-up used to be more varied.…now you don’t see the breadth and experience and open mindedness.”

Englert understands that his activities on H Street as an agent of change are responsible for the negative reaction to increased nightlife activity of nearby neighbors.  His response: “People move in steps away from long established commercial corridors and expect the commercial outlets to bend to their will.  I would do everything to make neighbors feel welcome – sound proof glass – 24 hour access on cell phone.  People want peace – not to fight with the neighbors. The ANC paints with a broad brush.”

​CHC has reported on how some establishments have violated the trust of the neighborhood and the ANC (like Lounge XII – see CHC posting here:  http://bit.ly/1p04lfs).  Englert says he thinks that “everything should be case by case.”

He also understands that his success in making H Street a food and drink destination (a playground for adults, some have said) has made it difficult for non-food business to survive.  Owners of H Street buildings – as has happened with landlords on Barracks Row – ask rents beyond the reach of small retail.  Englert asks, “Can retail really exist in 2014 when banks and lenders know that the highest and best use of a place is alcohol?”  He cites figures that suggest that in order to support retail on H Street it would require a population of 30,000 within a one mile radius, and asks, “Without density, how can Capitol Hill change?”  Asked how Old Town Alexandria sustains retail without Metro and density, he has “three theories – tourism, long established rents, and difficulty of entry for alcohol licenses in Virginia.”

He told CHC, “I think the only way retail can work now is if it is collaborative and coop in nature – a big foot print, low cost per square foot.  Team up with a bar or coffee shop and have lots of spaces, modeled on an antique market coop.”

The changes Englert helped bring to H Street have advanced gentrification in the Atlas District, and in some ways, he is not happy about that.  Englert says, there are no group houses anymore – they’ve migrated.  That indicates to him that a tipping point has been reached.  He asks, “How rich are the people moving to Capitol Hill?  At some point, will (lack of) schools kill gentrification?  How many families can own a $2 million house and still shell out $60,000 a year to send a kid to a private school – or have the will or the nanny to do a 20 mile round trip to insure their kid gets a ‘rightful education’?  Does that mean gentrification will stall out without finding a way for people other than the rich to survive here?  The question is, will Capitol Hill become a mini London or mini San Francisco where a plumber or electrician can’t survive within 50 miles?”

Still, he reasons, DC is very big – people are being pushed out from the center but out there, affordable housing is still available.  “It’s a big place man – but it doesn’t make it any more palatable that there’s not a place for everybody.”

For Englert, H Street has become less interesting as the result of the prospect of Whole Foods opening an outlet here, but, he says, the nearby “industrial nature of the community going toward Florida Avenue, the railroad tracks near the old Uline Arena, Union Market and the warehouse district lend an interesting panorama.”  Has he looked at Bladensburg Road or Anacostia?  He says, “That’s a lot of years away.”

For Englert, “Capitol Hill is the most interesting place in the city.”  Cleveland Park (where he lives) he calls “monolithic,” referencing the “tyranny of the two lawyer family and hyper achievers.  People don’t mix – there’s less diversity.”  When it’s pointed out that Capitol Hill is becoming less racially diverse because of gentrification, Englert says he sees “more socio- economic diversity here than anywhere else.”

“I see it as bar owner – it’s intergenerational.  Sure, you have 28 year olds at happy hour, but during the day and on weekends, you are more likely to meet someone unlike you in a bar on Capitol Hill.  He has opened several places on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and says, “Pennsylvania Avenue is America’s Avenue – people walk past the Capitol and stop into one of my places for a coke and a side of fries.  That’s the way you meet people.”

Following is an updated list of some of the bars currently owned by Englert: Argonaut, Vendetta (formerly the Palace of Wonders and The Red and Black), Rock and Roll Hotel, Granville Moore’s, H Street Country Club, The Big Hunt, DC 9, Trusty’s and Capitol Lounge.  Englert also owns the building housing Lucky Bar.  Some of the venues he formerly was involved in include: The Pour House, Pug, Sticky Rice, Enology Wine Bar, and State of the Union.

(Ed. Note:  During the interview for this piece, several themes emerged which struck this reporter as reminiscent of ideas expressed in a recent CHC article on the residential gentrification of Hill East.  (See here: http://bit.ly/1vfnhyZ)  The previous article and this one both contain references to similar ideas.  These include, the unintended consequences of bringing change to a community, the surprise that changing a place makes it less interesting to those responsible for the change, and the inevitability of “the market.”  Finally, though this article makes no reference as did the first article to Andre Duany’s three waves of gentrifiers – the risk oblivious, the risk aware, and the risk adverse, the current piece is replete with those unstated references.)

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The Week Ahead…..And ANC6B Moves Office to Eastern Market

Eastern Market Farmer's Line, 1:00pm, Sunday.

Eastern Market Farmer’s Line, 1:00pm, Sunday.

Capitol Hill Corner: The Week Ahead…..And ANC6B Moves Office to Eastern Market

by Larry Janezich

ANC6b Office Departs Hill Center for Eastern Market

Facing a budget crunch and looking to reduce expenses, ANC6b has informally notified Hill Center that it will vacate their Hill Center third floor office space on October 15 and set up shop in Eastern Market.  City regulations provide that ANC’s may occupy office and meeting space in any public building in the ANC district if space is available.  It had not occurred to anyone until recently that space might be available in Eastern Market.  The ANC will continue to rent space for its full Commission monthly meetings at Hill Center, and Hill Center has thrown in use of the conference room on the third floor for ANC committee meetings as part of the deal.  The full ANC6b is expected to ratify the move at its monthly meeting on September 9.  The Hill Center charges the ANC $800 a month rent for office space – space in Eastern Market will be free.

The week Ahead….

Tuesday, September 9

ANC6b meets on at 7:00pm in Hill Center. 

Among items on the agenda:

Exception to single sales alcohol restrictions for DCanter 545 8th Street, SE.

Letter to Alcohol Beverage Control Board regarding The Ugly Mug’s plan to install a retractable roof over their rooftop patio. 

Unenclosed sidewalk café for District Doughnut Café.

Two story rear addition for proposed restaurant at 317 7th Street, SE.

New construction for Madison Investment’s 49 condo building at 900 11th Street, SE.

Informational presentation regarding renovation of apartment building at 816 Potomac Avenue SE.       

Letter to of opposition to District Department of Transportation (DDOT) regarding re-opening of Southeast Freeway.

Thursday, September 11

ANC6a meets at 7:00pm in Miner School, 601 15th Street, NE.

Among items on the agenda:

Alcohol license (restaurant) renewal for Kitty’s Saloon at 1208 H Street, NE.

Alcohol license (restaurant) renewal for Ocopa (formerly Chicken Tortilla) at 1324 H Street, NE.

Enforcement of drainage, cleanliness and traffic standards in alleys including 1200 block of Wiley Street, 1200 block of Linden Place, and alley at 800 block of H Street, NE..

Letter to DCRA relating the status of 1000 C Street, NE, as a possible vacant or blighted property.

Thursday, September 11

ANC6c meets at 7:00pm in Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE.

Among items on the agenda:

DC Streetcar – safety, outreach, testing, updates, role in H Street festival.

M Street cycle track – from M Street to Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Sidewalk proposal – JBG plan for new sidewalk unit block of N Street NE.

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Editorial: The Hine Project: Part 2 – What We Lost and What We Gained

The Hine Development - Looking north from above Pennsylvania Avenue

The Hine Development – Looking north from above Pennsylvania Avenue – Eastern Market is in the upper left hand corner.

Editorial:  The Hine Project: Part 2 – What We Lost and What We Gained

DC as A Developer’s City

by Larry Janezich

On August 14, the DC Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Zoning Commission on the Hine Development, ruling against the petition of the Hine Coalition urging reconsideration of the Zoning order which would permit construction on the site.

On August 28, the group played their last legal card and petitioned for a rehearing before the full nine-member Court.  The group’s attorney, Oliver Hall, advised in a note to the Coalition, that petitions for rehearing are rarely granted and there is no way to know how long that might take.

Here, in summary, is what the residents of the city and the Capitol Hill community lost or will likely lose as the result of the Hine deal between the city and Stanton East Banc (SEB):

  • A junior high school, closed with little or no input solicited from the families Hine was serving at the time or those it might serve in the future, and one that, had it remained open, could have been a key node in the much-needed public middle school revival effort taking place on Capitol Hill, a revival which increases property values, invests in the future of our city, and improves the neighborhood’s quality of life.
  • A reasonably-sized Hine development project compatible with size and scale of the neighborhood and the Capitol Hill Historic District.
  • Much of the weekend flea markets as we know them. Sunday’s flea market manager, Mike Berman, estimates perhaps only one third of his market will fit on the space to be provided on 7th Street during the 27 month construction period.  Given that his market in its current size would not fit on the completed site, Berman says he is actively talking to other venues that can accommodate more of his vendors and considering a permanent relocation to those sites. Significantly, the number one priority of the community in all of the meetings on the Hine project has been preservation of the flea market.
  • Any significant open, recreational, individual, community or green space on the site.
  • Trust in our city’s political process and its bureaucratic and civic institutions.
  • A balanced mixed use project. In February, 20ll, citing a limp economy, SEB announced a re-orientation of the project away from being primarily office space to being primarily high-end residential.  The developer increased the allotment of square footage for residences by 114,021 square feet and upped the number of units by only 8.  This reallocation meant a substantial increase in the average square footage and the price of the residential units, away from affordable and middle class housing and towards luxury, high-end apartments and condos.

Here’s how the Hine Project changed between the developer’s March 1, 2009, Best and Final Offer selected by the Deputy Mayor as the winning bid, and the final Zoning Commission PUD application submitted by Stanton East Banc on November 23, 2011:

Best and Final Offer, 2009        PUD Application, 2011          Change

Total Square Feet            401,648                                   464,276                           +62,630

Retail s.f.                                 48,285                                     46,699                                -1588

Office s.f.                              213,197                                    163,392                            -49,809

Residential s.f.                   140,166                                    254,187                          +114,021

No. Residential Units             150                                          158                                     +8

Parking                                          391                                           260                                  -131

On December 23, 2012, the Office of DC Counsel issued an opinion that the changes did not constitute grounds for re-bid of the project saying that it was within the authority of the Deputy Mayor’s Office to approve them.

So here’s what we end up with:

  • A 90 foot high out-of-scale project, approved at every level of city government, in disregard of the city’s zoning and Historic District standards; in short, a Ballston/Clarendon type development, out of character with the neighborhood.
  • A large complex of mostly very expensive residential units – which will undoubtedly be marketed by Stanton partner Kitty Kaupp and her agent/broker associates at Coldwell Banker, many of whom were the residential “voices” filing individual notes in support of the project while failing to identify their own financial stake in it—and, when Capitol Hill Corner identified it for the city, the city did not care.
  • A likely change in the involvement of the local developer partner of the project – although Anthony Lanier of East Banc says he has never given up management/ownership of a development once completed, Stanton has suggested they might not be an actively involved continuing partner in the long term management of the property.
  • Segregated affordable housing in the North Building which is inferior in design and amenities to the South Building – a fact that casts an ugly pall over the complex, and the neighborhood.
  • A potential upgrade to market value (and hence loss) of the affordable housing units in the North Building after 40 years (the Appeals Court ruling raised questions about this).
  • Community benefits credited to Stanton East Banc but paid for out of the pockets of DC taxpayers, including the reopening of C Street, a 24 child day care center, office space for ANC6B, $75,000 for a nearby playground and $50,000 in improvements to the Metro Plaza.
  • Stanton East Banc control of the newly reopened C Street between 7th and 8th Streets which will be available for vehicle traffic on weekdays (when not used for Hine Development-sponsored street events that impose noise and crowds on the residents of the Hine project as well as existing residential and business neighbors – to its credit, ANC6B has negotiated a voice for itself and the nearby neighbors regarding how the street can be used).
  • A retail plan for the project, the components of which are unclear but Stanton has hinted athigh-end boutique retail.  Some retail – such as the Rodman’s wine and discount gourmet food outlet mentioned by Stanton as a potential tenant – would be in head-to-head competition with neighborhood institutions like Eastern Market or existing 7th Street businesses.  High prices per square foot for leasing retail space will only be affordable for chain outlets or restaurants, contributing to the homogeneity of the neighborhood.  Stanton, meanwhile, given its other ownership of real estate on 7th Street between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue will monopolize that available retail space, with obvious noncompetitive results.

From an initial developer selection process which invited public participation but was marred by conflict of interest, to the Historic Preservation Board decision rubber stamping the Amy Weinstein plan, to the ANC’s efforts to downsize the project during the Historic Preservation Review and Public Unit Development (PUD) process while being hamstrung both by insufficient information and lack of backing by CM Wells, to a casual – some would say cavalier – Zoning Commission hearing disadvantaged by insufficient information and characterized by indifference on the part of commissioners as well as a willingness to defer to other city agencies, Stanton/East Banc’s proposal for the Hine development has advanced from planning to the verge of construction.

This advance has come by virtue of giveaways and allowances made by the Deputy Mayor’s Office, ineffective regulation and oversight by the city’s agencies and community civic organizations, and a hands-off approach by City Councilmember Tommy Wells, who, over time, received considerable financial support from individuals and corporations affiliated with the Hine Development.

Moreover the Court of Appeals’ ruling in favor of the developer of the residents’ appeal of the Zoning Commission decision to approve the height and scale of the project, confirms a practice under which projects that enjoy political favor can move through the city’s approval process without a complete and transparent record, without serious examination and required scrutiny.

Given the record on the Hine project, an alternate and perhaps preferable approach would be to remove all trappings of public input from the development process – because that is what they are – and instead require the councilmember and the mayor to take ownership of the process from start to finish.

As it stands, the record on Hine has underscored the recent reporting of WAMU radio station, where it was listed as one of the examples:  Washington DC truly is a developer’s city. (See here: http://bit.ly/1oHHnzu)

It is noteworthy that in all of the commentary in support of the Hine Development no one is trumpeting a superb design.  The gist of the favorable commentary on Hine seems to be, it’s flawed, but at least it’s better than what is on the site now, and since it will provide density near Metro, that’s good enough.

Recently, CHC has heard some residents say – some grudgingly – “it’s time to move on, let’s just get on with it.”  The residents who launched the appeals process have been labeled obstructionists, and blamed for delaying the project at the cost of some $4 million in lost revenue to the city.  It’s not at all clear that the delay is unwelcome by the developer.  FOIA documents show that financing was not in place when the project closed, which is usually the standard procedure and political intervention allowed the developer to close without it.

If the community has suffered from the delay in the project occasioned by the litigation and if the developers were truly inconvenienced by the delay, and if the city has lost $4 million, it would seem a small price to pay for sending a message to the city and the developers that there is a penalty for riding roughshod over the people who will be most affected by the development when their voices are dismissed or discounted.  Residents have a right to feel duped; the political process has failed them.

The Hine Development is a shabby return on our investment, more reflective of the city’s compromised politics than residents’ longstanding commitment to this great neighborhood.

(Ed. Note:  The Hine Project: Part 1 – How It Happened: DMPED, Stanton/Eastbanc, Local Politics, and Tommy Wells

can be found here – http://bit.ly/1rdjDVQ)

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MPD & DCFD Liberate Stolen Bike From Barracks Row Lockup

MPD Officer M.A. Lee Enlisted Fire Fighters from Barracks Row Fire and EMS Station to Liberate Stolen Bike for Owner

MPD Officer M.A. Lee Enlisted Fire Fighters from Barracks Row Fire and EMS Station to Liberate Stolen Bike for Owner

MPD & DCFD Liberate Stolen Bike From Barracks Row Lockup

By Larry Janezich

Wednesday morning just before 9:00am, Erica (who did not want her last name or photo used) was walking north in the 500 block of Barracks Row when she spotted her bike – stolen a few weeks ago from her Capitol Hill back yard – locked to a bike rack outside Chat’s Liquors. The $1,000 bike was double bar locked to the bike rack, but Erica’s old cable lock was still wrapped around the seat.  She checked to see that her key worked in the old lock before summoning MPD officer M.A. Lee, who in turn, enlisted the help of fire fighters from the nearby Fire and EMS Station.

A bolt cutter wielded by a fireman was successful in removing one of the bar locks, but Lee had to enlist the aid of other MPD officers with a saw to remove the second.

The owner was able to reclaim the bike after showing officers the police report of its theft.  There was no word on whether police had received a report of the retrieved bike being stolen from its Barracks Row bike rack.  It’s possible – perhaps likely – that the bike has changed hands more than once recently.

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Will Frager’s Return to Its Former Pennsylvania Avenue Location?

Preservation Law Appears to Require Keeping Frager's Facade

Preservation Law Appears to Require Keeping Frager’s Facade

Will Frager’s Return to Its Former Pennsylvania Avenue Location?

Preservation Law Complicates Effort to Rebuild

by Larry Janezich

It’s been 15 months since Frager’s was destroyed by fire.  Customers were hoping for a quick rebuild as Frager’s opened up temporary outlets in three separate Capitol Hill locations.  The leased space at 1323 E Street, SE, was subsequently purchased by Frager’s and owner John Weintraub is being closed – ​mouthed about future plans for the original Frager’s site on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Efforts to contact Weintraub for comment on this post were unsuccessful.

However, Capitol Hill Corner has learned that earlier this year, Weintraub was soliciting interest in the redevelopment of the site but it is unclear whether this was to sell the site outright,​ or as part of some partnership arrangement.  The site, just inside the Capitol Hill Historic District, is​ located on​ prime real estate, an easy walk to Eastern Market Metro, Barracks Row, and Eastern Market itself.  As of yet, no agreement appears to have been reached.

One of the possibilities discussed,​ according to a source familiar with the meetings ​,​ was increasing the height of the building and adding additional floors.  Theoretically, there is nothing in the zoning regulations  to prevent that, but it would require review by the Historic Preservation Review Board with an opportunity for community input.  The building could rise to 50 feet by right, and given the precedent set by the Hine development, potentially​ even​ higher. Butterfield House with 28 condos sitting diagonally across the corner from the Frager’s site at 11th and Pennsylvania Avenue ​is​ six stories.

Ed. Note:  Readers should not assume that a height equivalent to the Hine project is possible for this site.  (The height of the Hine project does make more likely additional height of developments on sites along Pennsylvania Avenue to the east.)  Restrictions on the visibility of new construction above the historic façade may limit the height of any building on the Frager’s site.  

A complicating factor in the rebuilding anything on the site is that historic preservation law appears to require preservation of the existing façade.  To that end, Frager’s owner has not yet applied for bracing and stabilization permits for the facades to begin the process of cleaning up the site, but it is unclear why.  Such a permit would likely be routinely approved by HPRB. According to one District architect, the case is similar to reconstruction of Eastern Market after its destruction by fire. “It is an expensive proposition which has always made me advise clients that an historic structure is a liability financially speaking….  An historic building is not an investment. It is rather an expense, meant for those who appreciate bringing a structure back to life as a source of pride and satisfaction regardless of the cost.  Good work requires generosity.”

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