Hotel/Airbnb Disrupter Sonder Expands Operation off Lower Barracks Row
by Larry Janezich
Posted May 5, 2021
Murillo/Malnati Development Group is changing the use of what was to be a 49 unit apartment building overlooking Virginia Avenue Park at 818 Potomac Avenue, SE, to what will functionally be self-service hotel. In its new incarnation, the building will be managed by the billion dollar disruptive hospitality startup Sonder, and the 49 units will join 32 short term rental units in an adjacent building at 816 Potomac Avenue also owned by Murillo/Malnati and already being operated by Sonder.
The change comes as a matter of right, but the developer has to come back to the city via ANC6B because they need a special exception for not having required loading. Although scheduled for next week’s meeting, 6B’s consideration was postponed until June, when the Zoning Adjustment Application will come before the BZA.
Sonder is a short term hospitality company that operates like a combination Airbnb and hotel. The company offers apartments like an Airbnb but in buildings they own or lease which are licensed as hotels. The rentals operate on a self-sufficiency model, but the company claims they offer the best of both of the hospitality worlds they target. Units have ready-to-cook-in kitchens and washers and dryers. So far, Sonder has apartments in 26 cities here and abroad. Sonder also operates The Avenue Flats in Del Ray, Alexandria and The Grace in Old Town, Alexandria.
As to the name: “sonder” is a Portuguese word meaning – among other things, “to probe”. But it probably comes from John Koenig’s forthcoming The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (Simon & Schuster, November 16, 2021), i.e., “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dictionary_of_Obscure_Sorrows
District Soul Food on Barracks Row Falls Victim to Pandemic
by Larry Janezich
Posted May 3, 2021
District Soul Food is closed. David Roundtree, the restaurant’s chief operation officer, told Capitol Hill Corner this morning, “We’re moving”, adding that details on the move would be forthcoming.
The restaurant opened in February of 2019 bringing “soul food with a French connection” – to Barracks Row. At the time, Roundtree said they were trying to set themselves apart by offering a full service restaurant with live music and a cigar lounge all in one.
The restaurant has struggled during the pandemic and the health and safety restrictions imposed by mayoral order.
The restaurant joins a host of other Capitol Hill restaurants which closed because of the COVID virus, including, Montmartre, 7th Hill Pizza, Aqua al 2, Capitol Lounge, Emilie’s, Wisdom, Finn McCool’s, Tortilla Coast, and Hank’s Oyster Bar.
The “Happiness” Art Show at Frame of Mine Store on Capitol Hill opened Saturday and will run through June 19. The Gallery is located at 545 8th Street, SE. The show is sponsored by the Capitol Hill Art League (CHAL).
Participating artists were asked to explore their art interpretations of “happiness” using any media, including photography. CHAL invites you to visit the gallery when shopping at Frame of Mine as well as viewing it online at the store website at: www.frameofmine.dc – the art may be purchased through the store.
The following artists are featured in the show: Anne Albright, Ken Bachman, Sally Canzoneri, Karen Cohen, Martin DeAlteriis, Elizabeth Eby, Tara Hamilton, Louise Holland, Steve Kunin, Victoria Lakes, Bennett Lowenthal, McCain McMurray, Heidi Nielson, Ann Pickett, Martha Pope, Nan Raphael, Carolyn Rondthaler, Judy Searles, Alexia Stefanovich, Rifat Taher, Karen Van Allen, Elin Whitney–Smith and Karen Zens,
Scissors & Scotch, 331 N Street, NE. Request for ANC6C Support for new liquor license. (From the website: “The Scissors & Scotch experience offers a complimentary cocktail, coffee, or cold one with every haircut, plus a full-service bar and lounge, because we know you’ll be ready for round two.”}
Capitol Fine Wine and Spirits, 415 H St.reet, NE. Renewal of Class A retailer’s license.
Kogod Liquors, 441 New Jersey Avenue, NW. Renewal of Class A retailer’s license and request to terminate the Settlement Agreement.
Courtyard by Marriott Washington, 1325 2nd Street, NE. New retailer’s Class B liquor license. Washington DC
Cru Hemp Lounge, 816 H Street, NE. New retailer’s Class C restaurant liquor license.
Tuesday, May 4
ANC6C Environment, Parks and Events Committee will hold a virtual meeting at 7:00pm.
360 7th St SE: The Eastern Wine Bar. Historic Preservation Application. Concept: add metal pergola structure at sidewalk;
420 11th Street, SE. Historic Preservation Application. Rear addition and change in front façade from stucco to wood siding.
1525 K Street, SE. Zoning Adjustment Application. Special Exception to construct a rear, one-story addition with roof deck, to an existing, three-story, attached, principal dwelling unit.
POSTPONED –818 Potomac Ave SE. Zoning Adjustment Application. Modification of Significance to change the principal use of and add special exception relief for the approved project at 818 Potomac Avenue, SE.
232 10th Street, SE. Historic Preservation Application and Zoning Adjustment Application. Conception Review and Special Exception to construct a three-story with cellar and roof deck, rear addition, to an existing attached, two-story with cellar, principal dwelling unit. [Applicant has requested a delay in BZA Hearing Date to 6/9/2021]
313 9th Street, SE. Historic Preservation Application. Second story addition to existing two-bay garage. [Will be considered only at full meeting on May 11]
POSTPONED – 900 South Carolina Avenue, SE: Historic Preservation Application. Concept: remove awning and bays at front and add two new door openings; add two window wells at west elevation and larger basement areaway at rear; new window openings at rear second story; new openings and cladding at rear one-story addition; new openings at one-story garage. [Case will be considered in June. New HPRB hearing date 6/24/21 or 7/1/21]
POSTPONED – 13 7th St SE; Zoning Adjustment Application. Area Variance to construct a rear addition to an existing, attached, two-story with basement, principal dwelling unit. [Case will be considered in June; BZA Hearing rescheduled for 6/23/21]
Wednesday, May 5
ANC 6C Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee
220 H Street, NE, aka Senate Square. Zoning Adjustment for a modification of consequence to an approved 2005 PUD to allow the required affordable housing units to be rented rather than sold.
CANCELLED: ANC6B Transportation Committee *No Monthly Meeting for May* [The update on traffic signals regarding the Pennsylvania Avenue Streetlights Project will be heard at the Full ANC6B meeting on May 11.]
DC Public Library will hold a virtual Southeast Library Community Meeting at 6:30pm.
Caruso’s Grocery – Italian Restaurant at The Roost – Opens Next Week
by Larry Janezich
Caruso’s Grocery opens this week. The Roost’s Culinary Clubhouse at 14th and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, has one standalone restaurant – Caruso’s Grocery. It’s modeled on a classic southern Italian red sauce- red banquette-old school type eatery – like AV’s, for those who remember the iconic New York Avenue eatery favored by Members of Congress and neighborhood diners alike.
According to Chef Matt Adler, after a soft opening this weekend for friends and family, the restaurant will open for limited reservations on Wednesday, May 5th, and fully open a week later on May 12th.
The menu is not on their website yet, but it will feature traditional Italian – items including Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp Scampi, Penne alla Vodka, Mozzarella en Corozza, Sole Francaise, Garlic Bread with Four Cheese Sauce.
According to the website description, the beverage program will feature affordably priced Italian wines by the glass, carafe, and bottle, along with a short reserve list – and a selection of Italian-style pilsners and sours sourced from Italy. Vintage cocktails include an Espresso Martini, Limoncellotini, Mulberry St. Cosmo – all featuring house made liqueurs from Show of Hands, the Roost’s separate cocktail bar. Classic espresso rounds out the beverage menu.
Caruso’s chef, Matt Adler, spent most of his career focused on regional Italian cuisine. Adler has worked with top chefs including Alain Ducasse and Michael White. An opportunity to serve as opening chef to Osteria Morini in the Capitol Riverfront in 2013 brought him to DC. Osteria Morini received two and a half stars from both the Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine. Caruso’s was inspired by Adler’s father’s upstate New York restaurant called Scoozi. Adler partnered with Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) on the development of The Roost and Caruso’s Grocery in 2019. Besides the Culinary Clubhouse at The Roost, Michael Babin’s NRG also owns Iron Gate, Hazel, Bluejacket, and Churchkey, The Partisan and several outlets in Virginia, including the Evening Star Cafe, Buzz Bakeshop, Columbia Firehouse, Vermilion, and Rustico.
Community activist Barbara Riehle died on April 18 at George Washington University Hospital after a long illness.
She spent her career working for Senator John Chafee and his successor, Senator Lincoln Chafee. After retiring she became active in community and local politics. In 2008, she founded the Eastern Market Metro Community Association to oppose an early concept for the redesign of Eastern Market Metro Plaza which would have diverted east-bound traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue around the north side of the proposed “Town Square” past her front door.
After those plans were shelved, EMMCA took on developers of the Hine Project to oppose the mass, density and design and the cozy political relationships which many suspected led to the selection of Stanton/EastBanc as the developer. EMMCA had advocated for a smaller development proposed by another developer, DSF/Street Sense/Menkiti.
As part of that effort, she and her husband, Thom, recruited a slate of ANC6B candidates to challenge what they saw as an entrenched Commission which in its support for Stanton/Eastbanc was out of touch with some in its constituency. That effort resulted in the election of several reform candidates and new leadership for the ANC.
EMMCA subsequently fought for several years for a better design for the project and to reduce the height of the building. They also pushed to require developers to provide an education component, prohibit retail on 8th Street, minimize parking, and eliminate the segregation of affordable housing.
Barbara Riehle was also active in education and local school issues through MOTH – Mothers on the Hill and the Capitol Hill Montessori School.
She was a native of Providence, RI, and came to Washington in 1974 – marrying Thom Riehle in 1986. She was preceded in death by her husband Thom, and her son, Peter. She is survived by a daughter, Anna, and numerous siblings and relatives in Rhode Island.
According to the family, a memorial service in Washington will be held at a date and time to be announced. Donations in her memory may be made to Holy Comforter/St. Cyprian’s Community Action Group, Capitol Hill Village, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, or Capitol Hill Montessori. For more information and to leave condolences, here’s a link to the Providence Journal obit on the Legacy website: https://legcy.co/3t0SMxk
More COVID Restrictions Will Be Relaxed Starting Saturday, May 1
By Larry Janezich
Posted April 28, 2021
Mayor Bowser held a Situational Briefing today and announced the further relaxing of Phase Two Covid restrictions, starting on Saturday, May 1.
Among the changes are the following:
The number of people who can sit together at a table outdoors at a restaurant increases from 6 people to 10 people. The 25% of capacity on indoor restaurant dining remains unchanged.
Live music will be allowed outdoors for summer gardens, courtyard dining and sidewalk cafes controlled by the restaurants.
For outside customers, alcohol can be purchased without purchasing food.
Movie theaters can operate at up to 25% capacity per auditorium.
Indoor capacity limit for non-essential retail business is raised from 25% to 50% or 250 people, whichever is lower.
Indoor fitness classed can include up to 25 people.
Gyms and fitness centers can operate at 50% capacity but no more than 250 guests.
Places of worship may admit up to 40% of their capacity for the room or area where services will be held. This total limit includes worshippers, not including clergy and staff. Health and safety protocols, such as mandatory masking and social distancing, remain in place.
Multi-purpose facilities, concert venues, and theaters may open at 25% capacity, up to 500 people, but attendees must remain seated.
Weddings and special events are allowed indoors and outdoors at 25% capacity with a waiver for attendance greater than 250. Attendees must remain seated and socially distanced.
Conventions and regional business meetings are allowed indoors at 25% capacity with a waiver for attendance greater than 250. Attendees must remain seated and socially distanced.
Public and private pools may open with health and safety plans in place; hotel pools may only open to overnight guests.
Outdoor splash pads will be able to open at full capacity.
City Moves to Walk-up No Appointment Vaccination Sites on May 1
by Larry Janezich
Posted April 26, 2021
Mayor Bowser held a Situational Briefing today and announced that beginning on Saturday, May 1, the District will transition to the use of 11 high-capacity, walk-up no appointment needed vaccination sites. These will be in addition to pharmacies, clinics, and health care providers that are also administering the vaccines citywide. These sites continue to operate their own scheduling systems.
The walk-up vaccination sites near Capitol Hill include:
Arena Stage, 1101 6th Street, SE
Rosedale Recreation Center, 1701 Gales Street, NE
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place, NW
The remaining sites, as well as Mayor Bowser’s PowerPoint presentation can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2QYrwlF
Last Monday, a memorial paying tribute to USCP Officer William “Billy” Evans remained across from the North Barricade to the US Capitol. Evans, an 18 year veteran of the force, was killed on April 2nd, by a car driven by a man who attempted to breach security.
The Week Ahead…ANC Highlights…Some Photos from the Past Week
by Larry Janezich
Monday, ANC6A – Assistant US Attorney Doug Klein at 6A’s Community Outreach Committee
The Week Ahead…
Monday, April 27
ANC6A Community Outreach Committee will hold a virtual meeting at 7:00pm.
Presentation: Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Douglas Klein, Community Prosecutor for 1D; AUSA Magdalena Acevedo, Community Prosecutor for 5D and Christopher Wade, Community Outreach Specialist for1D.
Presentation: Sasha Bruce Youth, Danny Rico, Director of Development & External Relations.
Presentation: The TraRon Center, Ryane B. Nickens, President.
Presentation: Minor Mutual Aid, Christopher Deutsch, Organizer. .
Presentation: Greater DC Diaper Bank, Corinne Cannon Executive Director
Presentation: Rosedale Library Friends, Emily Wagner and Meredith Holmgren, President and Vice President.
Presentation: Empower DC, Daniel del Pielago, Organizing Director.
Presentation: Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Amy Moore, Executive Director.
Presentation: HIPS, Baraq Stein.
Tuesday, April 28
ANC6A Alcoholic Beverage Licensing Committee holds a virtual meeting at 7:00pm.
Garfield and “Spielberg” Parks Slated for Upgrades/New Equipment
by Larry Janezich
The Department of Parks and Recreation hosted two virtual community meetings this week to solicit input on the planned upgrade of two Capitol Hill parks: Garfield Park at 3rd and New Jersey Avenue, SE, and “Spielberg” Park at 17th and Massachusetts Avenue, SE. The latter was informally named by the community after movie director Steven Spielberg donated playground equipment for the park after shooting part of the film Minority Report in the neighborhood.
The project timelines for both parks are the same, with the kick-off community meetings having occurred on Monday and Tuesday of this week. A survey to solicit additional community input will be distributed later this month. Another community meeting will be held this summer to introduce the contractor to the community.
Construction is estimated to start in the fall of 2021 and be complete in the summer of 2022.
Councilmember Charles Allen participated in the virtual meeting on Garfield Park on Tuesday night. Allen provided funding for both park improvements in the current FY budget. He said that DPR is working internally to find additional funding for Garfield. “The park is a draw for numerous neighbors from all over Capitol Hill. I go to Garfield Park.” He said there isn’t enough money in the current budget item to do everything and he will be looking at doing more. “I’m listening for what more needs to be done” Allen added, “and for the priorities”.
On Monday night, DPR landscape architect David Wooden told participants in the meeting on “Spielberg” Park that the budget for the project is $750,000. Features DPR is focusing on for this park include:
Landscaping/turf building/sprucing up
New furnishings for the site – benches and seating area
Replacement of existing playground equipment and adding a shade feature
The community voiced its interest in having part of the park devoted to a grownup needs and space for seniors.
Tuesday night, Wooden pegged the projected budget for Garfield Park at $900,000. The scope of improvements for Garfield Park includes:
New site furnishings
Playground equipment and replace surface of the playground
Tennis court surface improvements
A site erosion study
Wooden said that if we don’t get everything the community wants, those requests will carry over to when funds are available.
The well-attended meeting (50+) prompted lots of questions in the chat. DPR responses provided additional information:
There is no plan to do anything with the DDOT 395 underpass right now.
A dog park is not currently part of this project.
A proposed community fund raising effort is welcome.
Other questions showed that there is a lot of community interest in pickle ball courts, rehabilitation the basketball courts and skate park under the freeway, and about the homeless population in the park.
With respect to the latter, Wooden cited the difficulties that the has pandemic brought with respect to housing for the homeless, and said his agency was trying to work with the Department of Human Resources to help get the homeless to a better place.
Allen raised a concern directly with the DPR and DGS reps at the meeting about funds intended for new improvements being used to repair existing features of parks – not just these parks, but in a lot of parks. He pushed the agencies to commit to providing a budget for maintenance costs.
The agencies responded that they recognized the need for more and better maintenance and the need to be more proactive.
Mayor Bowser’s Situational Update – New RPP Fees – Parking Enforcement Resumes
by Larry Janezich
Mayor Bowser delivered a Situational Update today. Here’s a link to the Mayor’s PowerPoint presentation: https://bit.ly/32u49CY
Here’s a bullet point takeaway of the most important info:
30% DC residents are fully or partially vaccinated.
7% have been partly vaccinated.
Homebound residents can now call 1 – 855-363-0333 to register for an at-home COVIC-19 appointment. These appointments will begin on Monday, April 26.
Restarting Enforcement – June 1
All parking enforcement.
Towing of vehicles violating parking zones including appropriate fines.
Street sweeping and SWEEP enforcement.
Vehicles must display valid DC registration and inspection stickers.
DMV is scheduling expanded appointments for vehicle inspections beginning today.
The New Tiered Residential Parking Permit fee increases.
The new tiered Residential Parking Permit will involve an increase in fees and several tiers..
After June 1, fees for a RPP will increase to $50 for the first car associated with a household.
2nd car will be $75.
3rd car will be $100.
$150 for any other car over 3.
For those over 65, the fee will increase from $25 to $35 for the first vehicle.
Restarting enforcement – July 1
All DC driver license and ID Card holders must display a valid credential.
Renewal applications accepted for occupational and professional licenses.
DC medical cannabis program patient or caregiver registration cared must have a valid expiration date.
Booting of vehicles with two or more unsatisfied tickets that are 60 days old.
Expanded Library Operations start May 3
DC Public Library will add Saturday hours at its open locations.
The Deanwood and SE Libraries will begin providing limited in-person services.
Operating hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10:00am – 6:00pm.
The New SW Library will open May 6.
Free Test Yourself at Home COVID-19 Tests
Mayor Bowser announced the Test Yourself DC, offering at-home COVID-19 testing kits at locations around the District. The program offers the option to either take a COVID-19 test onsite at one of the 16 locations or to drop off their test sample at the closest DC Library drop box at no cost.
Approximately 8,000 Test Yourself DC kits will be available every week, and each site will be limited to 100-200 test kits per day. Individuals interested in participating can find a location at https://coronavirus.dc.gov/testyourself – for Ward 6, it’s Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library 1630 7th Street, NW.
Between April 19-30, testing kits locations will be open for pickups Monday to Friday between 10 am and 6 pm. Starting the week of May 3, the locations will be open for pickups Monday to Saturday between 10 am and 6 pm. Testing kits can be dropped off the locations no later than 8:00 pm seven days a week.
In the Q&A:
City Security vis a vis the Chauvin Trial
The Mayor said HLS and the Chief of Police are coordinating preparations to keep the city secure in the aftermath of the decision in the Derek Chauvin trial. She said there is a request pending for National Guard assistance with traffic, enhanced security at Metro stations, and a quick react force that could be deployed anywhere in the city. She said that Guard personnel will not be armed, reminding that arming the Guard can only be done at the direction of the President and that had not been part of the DC request.
Students Required to Return to In-person Class next Fall
Next fall, students will be required to return to in person classes. Any exceptions will be the subject of discussions with parents.