Monthly Archives: December 2010

Restoration Board at Odds with Tommy Wells on Height of Union Station North Development

Restoration Board at Odds with Tommy Wells on Height of Union Station North Development

by Larry Janezich

The Capitol Hill Restoration Society Board of Directors will oppose the proposed height of the planned 14 acre Union Station North development in air space just north of Union Station.  The proposal is to construct a 148 foot structure measured from the H Street Overpass – instead of from the railroad track level (or 1st or 2nd Street) as provided by current regulation.  Councilmember Tommy Wells pushed an amendment through City Council to strike the requirement for measuring from track level in order to permit measuring from the H Street Overpass.  This opened the door for a subsequent Zoning Commission decision that the measurement could be from the 30 foot higher Overpass.  The Council-passed amendment will have to be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and Congress.  The NCPC will consider the Council-passed amendment on January 6.  CHRS will urge NCPC not to approve the proposed change.  The Zoning Commission will hear the Union Station North case later the same day.

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Will Restoration Board Endorse Riverfront BID on Lower-8th Street Building Height?

Will Restoration Board Endorse Riverfront BID on Lower-8th Street Building Height?   Rare Closed Session Held to Consider

by Larry Janezich

At its December 21 meeting the Capitol Hill Restoration Society Board of Directors went into a rare closed session (with only Board members, staff, and the newsletter editor present) to discuss Capitol Riverfront BID’s request to endorse their process (to date) pushing greater building height and massing proposals for the lower 8th Street developments.  It was the first closed session of the Board in recent memory.

Just prior to the closed meeting, Michael Stevens, Executive Director of the Capital Riverfront BID – introduced to the Board by President Elizabeth Purcell as “a great friend of CHRS – he has sold (Restoration Society) house tour tickets for the last two years.” – answered questions from Board Members regarding plans for developments surrounding the Blue Castle at 8th and M Streets, SE.  The Capitol Riverfront BID organized a planning process for 8th Street, SE, below the Freeway.  That process is called “The Lower 8th Street Visioning”.

Stevens said that Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregonning – who has often crossed swords with CHRS – had advised him to seek input from community organizations in “a transparent process.”  To that end an Advisory Board representing interested parties was formed and meetings involving the community and stakeholders were held.  In the ensuing dialogue the height and massing of buildings in the proposed development became issues.

The Lower 8th Street Vision Process hired ubiquitous architect Amy Weinstein to construct views featuring 45, 65, and 85 foot high buildings in the available parcels.

Stevens said that the subsequent dialogue revealed the possibility “that an increase in height and density could be a good thing”.  Minutes of the February 23, 2010 community meeting state there was consensus that “people would likely be ok with 65 feet” and that “65 feet was very reasonable.”

Developers can build to 45 feet as a matter of right.  Smith said to the Board that the concerns were that 85 foot buildings “would be overwhelming – and we found that they were not overwhelming”.  The views can be seen in the online final report – see link below.

It is noteworthy, that the Office of Planning has sometimes favored the interests of developers over those of the Restoration Board.  Recent examples include a Heritage Foundation construction project on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and the proposed height of the planned Union Station North development.  This blog will post on the latter in the next few days.

In seeking the Board’s endorsement of the process to date, Stevens said, “we are asking you to say that you participated in the process, that you recognize the process has been good, and that the final report would serve as a framework for future decision making.”

Stevens noted that he had “met last Tuesday with the ANC and had gotten their endorsement.”

Restoration Board concerns center on the four squares bounded by Virginia Avenue and M Street, lying between 7th Streets and 9th Streets, SE.  Questions were raised by Board members about what the Navy Yard thought of the maximum height proposals of buildings overlooking the Navy Yard, given security issues.

Stevens pointed to a 93 foot structure in the square to the west of the Blue Castle that the Navy Yard had signed off on, and noted that the Navy would need space for some 3,500 additional personnel assigned to the Navy Yard.  Inquiries made to ascertain their needs had been unanswered, however.  He also noted that  25% occupancy by DOD personnel would trigger security setback provisions that would present problems concerning first floor retail in a development overlooking the Navy Yard.

The Board went into closed session that lasted some 10 -15 minutes.  No word of what happened there has been forthcoming.  President Purcell did not respond to an email asking whether votes had taken place and if so, the subject and results of the vote, as well as whether the minutes would reflect what took place in the meeting.

One clue as to possible Board sentiments comes from Society Historic Preservation Committee Chair Nancy Metzger’s suggestions for amendments to the final report (which has already been published online).  Meztger recommended several changes to the report including language “that at least implies that something lower than 45’ might also be considered – Historic Preservation review is involved in this as well and, depending on circumstances, 45’ might just be too much.”

It is unclear whether it was necessary for the Board to vote on the amendments to the report or whether it did so, or whether to Board took a position with respect to the request from Stevens.  The Board may be waiting for its own newsletter to comment on the matter.  The final report can be viewed here:

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Information Hub Presented to Restoration Board as Economic Development Piece – Implications for Redesign of Metro Plaza

Information Hub Presented to Restoration Board as Economic Development Piece -Implications for Redesign of Metro Plaza

by Larry Janezich

At Tuesday’s Capitol Hill Restoration Society Board meeting, Chuck Berger, speaking as a member of the ad-hoc “Sign Tigers” group developing the Hub concept, presented the final four choices for the Metro Plaza Information Hub.  It seems likely that only two will be seriously considered, both proposals from Catholic University School of Architecture.  Referring to one as “The Arch” and the other as “The Glass Cube” Berger explained that the choices had been narrowed from a field of some 20 designs based on criteria including design, functionality, and a $125,000 – $150,000 budget.  An additional criterion appears to be easy dismantling and relocate-ability.  “People have big plans for the Plaza.  Not much is likely to happen for the next five – or the next five, six, seven, or eight years, but in the interim the Hub will satisfy immediate and on-going needs”.  The “big plans” mentioned is apparently a reference to the controversial proposed redesign of the Plaza being pushed by Barracks Row Main Street (BRMS).  The time frame will coincide with the completion of the Hine School redevelopment project.

Berger stressed that the project is more than an information hub – that it is an economic development piece.  “If the area is to grow, it will have to develop an (entertainment) atmosphere” – a concept at odds with the vision of some of the nearby Barracks Row residential neighbors who are pushing for a ban on additional liquor licenses for 8th Street.

Funding for the project will come from the Performance Parking Fund – parking fees garnered as the result of additional metered parking associated with the impact of Nationals Stadium.  Berger noted that the city will own the structure but “we have to figure out how to get an operating budget for this.  We will be looking for heavy contributions.”

Berger’s mission is to solicit input from the community groups and government entities which have been part of the information hub process – CHAMPS, EMMCA, BRMS, Capitol Hill BID, DDOT, and the Office of Tommy Wells.  He elicited comments from the Board, and asked them to visit the website to express additional comments.

He suggested further discussion at next month’s Board meeting and while not necessarily asking for a vote on one of the designs, he hoped to get some sense of the Board’s preference that he could take to the DDOT Advisory Board.  In addition to Berger, other members of the Advisory Board include out-going ANC Chair Dave Garrison; BRMS Outreach Manager, Sharon Bosworth; and “representatives from SW and far SE”.  The Advisory Board will make a recommendation to DDOT and DDOT will decide what to do.

The public can also comment on the designs, and EMMCA members are urged to do so.  To view designs and comment go to:

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Stanton-Eastbanc Asks DC Council for an Extra Year on Hine

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Divided ANC6b Votes for De Facto Barracks Row Moratorium

Divided ANC6b Votes for De Facto Barracks Row Moratorium

by Larry Janezich

Last night, a divided ANC voted to protest a new liquor license application for Xavier Cervera’s proposed 8th Street Latin tapas restaurant, Pacificos.  Cervera, who proposes a $1.5 million renovation of Capital Video’s, offered to scale back hours of operation and occupancy, to address noise concerns with barriers and sound proofing, and to lead a Barrack’s Row effort to promote patron parking in the lot under the freeway.

The Commission voted 5-4-1 to protest the license on the basis of peace, order, quiet, parking and over concentration.

Commissioners voting to protest:  Dave Garrison, Carol Green. Ken Jarboe, Kirsten Oldenburg, Mary Wright

Commissioners voting not to protest:  Francis Campbell, Neil Glick, Will Hall, Mike Patterson

Commissioners abstaining:  Norm Metzger

At least two commissioners – Garrison and Metzger – signaled they might be willing to live with over concentration if ways could be found to deal with peace, order, quiet and parking issues.

To that end, outgoing ANC Chair Garrison said the commission was looking for “a third way” to deal with licenses, not just to protest or support.  He said he was anxious to see what the Retail Mix Task Force recommended, alluding to the Task Force’s consideration of “guidelines” for the new ABC establishments which could be written into voluntary agreements governing their operation.  The Task Force is scheduled to issue an interim report prior to the ANC’s February 2011 meeting (see previous post)..

Incoming ANC6b 02 commissioner Ivan Frishbery stated during Public Speakout that he thought creating a de facto moratorium outside the regular process was not a good idea and did not have wide support within the community.  He said he would bring suggestions to the ANC in January to initiate addressing neighbor’s issues.  He said that this was not to undercut the work of the Retail Mix Task Force, but an effort to allow the Commission to begin work as soon as possible on ways to deal with these concerns.

In other action, the ANC voted 7-3 to support Bavarian Beer Garden’s application for a tavern license at 8th and L Streets, contingent upon reaching a voluntary agreement on hours of operation and entertainment.

Commissioners voting to support:  Francis Campbell, Dave Garrison, Carol Green, Will Hill, Ken Jarboe, Kirsten Oldenburg, Mary Wright

Commissioners voting to protest:  Neil Glick, Norm Metzger, Mike Patterson


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ANC6b Retail Mix Group Narrows Focus for Balance of Its Term

ANC6b Retail Mix Group Narrows Focus for Balance of Its Term

by Larry Janezich

The Retail Mix Taskforce met Monday night to decide on what it can accomplish in the last six weeks of its current existence.  Despite its interim goal of achieving a balanced retail mix on Barrack’s Row, the Taskforce will narrow its focus to two concerns.

First, it will address parking, noise, and trash concerns of the Row’s immediate residential neighbors.  Resident members of the Taskforce will propose operating guidelines for bars and restaurants based on a list of resident complaints. The Taskforce will consider recommending these guidelines to the ANC for incorporation into voluntary operating agreements for outlets with liquor licenses.  This step may be in anticipation of the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) overturning ANC6b’s protest of three new liquor license applications on the 500 block of 8th Street, as well as recognition that these quality of life concerns will continue as issues whether the protests stand or not.

In addition, resident members of the Taskforce have been charged with organizing another information-gathering forum regarding the impact of imposing moratoria or business restrictive overlays on the area and how that relates to the retail mix.  This forum is likely to convene in January.  Possible participants include restaurateurs, retail merchants, and landlords.

Any substantive work regarding how to attract a better retail mix for all of the commercial corridors in ANC6b, including defining systemic problems, providing tax incentives, ANC solicitation, subsidy of retail operations, and involvement of Ward Six Councilmember Tommy Wells, appears to depend on reconstitution of the Taskforce once the new ANC6b is seated.

The Taskforce recognizes that attracting a better retail mix in light of high rents, low foot traffic, and considerable popular support for more nearby restaurant choices might prove difficult.  If that is the case, the ANC will be dealing with the problem of trying to manage the ensuing problems rather than managing the retail mix.

Another meeting of the Taskforce will be scheduled for late January.  The group will issue its Interim Report prior to the ANC’s February meeting.

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Important Community Meeting – Info Hub at Eastern Market Metro

CHAMPS Masthead

Capitol Hill Information Hub Project at the Eastern Market Metro Plaza
Hosted by Councilmember Tommy Wells 

Tuesday, December 14 | 6-7:30pm | North Hall at Eastern Market
7th and North Carolina Ave, SE


Capitol Hill residents are invited to view design concepts for a proposed Information Hub that may be stationed at Eastern Market Metro Plaza to provide a more efficient and serviceable center than the Capitol Hill BID’s pilot information table and tent now stationed there on weekends. 

On Tuesday, December 14, from 6:00 – 7:30 pm, at a community meeting hosted by Councilmember Tommy Wells, designers and representatives from several community organizations will be in the North Hall of Eastern Market to present five proposed design concepts.  Feedback and suggestions from the entire Capitol Hill community will be welcome–and encouraged.

For nearly a year and a half, Ambassadors from the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District (BID) have been stationed under a small tent near the top of the Eastern Market Metro escalators on the weekends from 10 am – 3 pm, providing information and maps to visiting tourists and local residents alike about the neighborhood shops, restaurants and other attractions.  In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the information table has served over 7000 Capitol Hill residents, employees and visitors. (The table was not set up from December through February.) 

Representatives from several neighborhood and business organizations (CHAMPS | Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce, Capitol Hill BID, ANC 6B, Barracks Row Main Street, and the Capitol Hill Restoration Society) have been working with the DDOT (District Department of Transportation) and Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, exploring this concept as a way to 

  • enhance the hospitality experience at Eastern Market Metro Plaza;
  • encourage increased patronage of neighborhood businesses; and
  • provide information about community events and organizations.

The Catholic University Architecture Department has provided designs for several of the concepts.

Stop by the North Hall on the 14th, discuss the project, review the concept proposals, and provide your comments for this community project.

promote.  educate.  advocate.  connect.

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ANC6b ABC Committee Hamstrung by Previous Vote on Liquor Licenses

ANC ABC Committee Hamstrung by Previous Vote on Liquor Licenses

Sends Mixed Signals on New Liquor Licenses

by Larry Janezich

Posted Friday, December 10, 2010

At last night’s regularly scheduled ANC ABC Committee meeting, the Committee voted 5 – 0 with two abstentions to protest a new restaurant license for Pacificos, a proposed new restaurant at 514 8th Street (site of Capitol Hill Video).

Voting to Protest: Garrison, Green, Jarboe, Oldenburg, Wright

To Abstain: Glick, Metzger

Prior to the vote, several commissioners stated that they felt their hands were tied on the Pacificos application.  It appeared that this is a restaurant many of them would prefer to see on 8th Street, as opposed to the back-up lease for a Kawasaki Motorcycle dealership and repair shop that the building’s owner is holding in reserve.  Several commissioners stated that they couldn’t undermine ANC6b’s credibility by approving this application when they had rejected two liquor licenses last month for proposed restaurants slated to come in the Chateau Animaux building.  In addition, they noted a residents’ petition in opposition, signed by 53 people, as well as an announced intention to file a formal protest before ABRA (Alcohol Beverage Regulatory Administration).

It seems that certain commissioners attempted to assuage the disappointment of liquor license applicants; Dave Garrison, for instance, noted that he wasn’t sure the ABRA would support the recent ANC 6b position to protest new liquor license applications based on “over concentration.”  Commissioner Jarboe commented that the vote in opposition should be looked at as a “time out rather than forever and ever.”

Owner of several Barrack’s Row restaurants Xaviar Cervera presented the case for Pacificos.  He submitted a petition signed by 300 Capitol Hill residents in support of his application, as well as a strong letter of support from BRMA.  One of the more interesting components to his presentation, and the entire meeting, was his description of efforts that he and other Barracks Row restaurateurs were willing to consider to alleviate parking issues for the neighborhood, including possible free parking as well a discount for patrons using the currently under-utilized 60-space lot under the freeway.  Cervera’s response built on a proposal put forward by BRMA which includes creating a resident parking plan for the nearby neighborhood and 4 hour free parking to Ward 6 residents in the freeway lot.  Cervera offered to come back before the full ANC next week with compromises on hours of operation and seating.

The committee then voted to support the application for a new tavern license for the Bavarian Beer Garden at 720 L Street with a voluntary agreement, the details of which are still being worked out.  The vote was 6 – 1.

Voting to support, with conditions:  Metzger, Jarboe, Green, Wright, Garrison, Glick

To Protest:  Oldenburg

Co-owner Mark Brody presented the case for the Bavarian Beer Garden which he hopes will open next year.  The Commission felt that more activity on lower 8th Street would benefit the area, an assumption that was reinforced by the owner of the Ugly Mug opposite the Marine Barracks as well as Mr. Cervera.

At Thursday night’s ANC Special Call Meeting which preceded the ABC Committee meeting, the Commission voted 7-0 with one abstention to protest the application for a new tavern license for the 8th Street Bar & Grill.  Note that this is a tavern—not a restaurant—liquor license application, and that the proposed venue contemplates live music and late hours of operation.

Voting to protest: Commissioners Metzger, Jarboe, Green, Wright, Garrison, Glick, Oldenburg

To abstain:  Commissioner Patterson

Khaled Hoss present the case for 8th Street Bar and Grill.  The Commission expressed concern about discrepancies regarding occupancy between the drawings submitted and the application, and noted objections from neighbors and other nearby businesses, including plans for filing  formal protests by the owner of the Ugly Mug and the Barracks Row Merchant Association.


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Wells Joins Barry in Vote Against Gray Budget

By Larry Janezich

I watched some of the City Council debate last night on the DC Government channel (13), and I thought Councilmember Wells supplied thoughtful and heartfelt reasons why he cast a vote against the budget put together by Councilchair and Mayor-elect Vince Gray.  Wells and Barry both seemed to feel that the city’s most vulnerable were being asked to make the greatest sacrifice; others agreed, but suggested a more equitable distribution of the burden will happen in the next round of budget discussions in the coming months.

The Council clearly signaled that the city can expect both more cuts and higher taxes by the time those discussions conclude.  Yesterday’s exercise seemed to be a painful effort to demonstrate DC’s resolve to balance the books and avoid a Congress-imposed Control Board (something of a red herring, in my opinion).

An amendment offered to support higher taxes, supported by Wells and others, was defeated by a slim margin.  It may nevertheless provide a blueprint for steps the Council will take in the near future.

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No Easy Answers on 8th Street Moratorium

by Larry Janezich

About 50 people attended a meeting of the ANC’s Special Retail Mix Task Force on Monday evening to hear from four commissioners representing three neighborhoods with moratoria or restaurant caps.  It was clear from the presentations that moratoria affect each of these neighborhoods differently.  Glover Park clearly supports a moratorium.  DuPont Circle and Adams Morgan have reservations.  One of the Adams Morgan commissioners admitted to being perceived as having an unsympathetic predisposition to moratoria.

Fred Moosaly, Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Director, began the discussion by briefing on the moratorium issue.  Requests for a moratorium have to be made in writing – if not from the ANC then from a group of five citizens or an incorporated citizens’ group.  The Board wants to know the position of the ANC and is required to give “great weight” to that opinion.

Moratoria are issued in 600, 1200, or 1800 foot circles from a central location – often an ABC establishment.  There can be blocks exempted within the circle.  The request must state reasons – peace, order, noise, crime, littering, property values, parking, over concentration, etc.  The Board asks the opinion of the Council Member and the MPD and.  schedules a hearing.  It receives testimony from stakeholders and then makes a decision.  If approved, the moratorium goes to the City Council for approval.  If approved there, it goes into effect.  Moratoria are generally for five years, but the Board can make it three.  A moratorium is not in place forever.  Neighborhoods change and the issue can be revisited.  After two years, a moratorium may be tweaked by the ANC.  The entire process may take several months or longer.

Jack Jacobson, ANC Commissioner from DuPont Circle, noted that their moratorium had been divisive for the community, galvanizing hardliners on both sides.  Some people think vacant buildings are caused by the moratorium.  He thinks there are better ways to accomplish the goals the moratorium seeks.  It is impossible to say whether empty store fronts are caused by the moratorium or high rents.  Opponents of the moratorium say that 17th street is not welcoming to business.

Jackie Blumenthal, Commissioner from Glover Park, said a moratorium had worked well for them, limiting the influx of ABC establishments overflowing from Georgetown,  and that they had not had contentious problems.  The ANC will ask for a renewal.  The moratorium didn’t seem to have an effect on retail until businesses left.  But there is no way to prove whether empty buildings are due to the moratorium, high rent expectations of landlords, or poor choice of location by retailers.  Their ANC recruited a highly desirable business and were surprised when they ran up against landlords’ prohibitively high rent expectations.

Mindy Moretti and Bryan Weaver, Commissioners from Adams Morgan, urged proceeding carefully on a moratorium and urged emphasizing compliance with existing license restrictions and working with “good” operators to control problems..  They thought that there are tools available to shape the business mix without necessarily imposing a moratorium.  They said that the current 20 percent of businesses on Barracks Row serving alcohol “sounds ideal.”

Participants noted that Georgetown has just renewed their moratorium for five years and that H Street, NE, has decided not to pursue a moratorium.

The panel seemed to be in agreement that it is necessary to determine the real reason for seeking a moratorium and to figure out what it is you are trying to accomplish:  to stop growth, slow it, or change its direction.

If the reason for the moratorium is noise, peace, and order issues, some panelists suggested it might be better to impose a moratorium on nightclubs and taverns and work with the MPD.  In addition, ANCs can limit the time an establishment is open and limit the kinds of licenses which can be applied for.  They can impose a limited moratorium, stopping new establishments on one block and exempting other blocks.  ANC’s can establish guidelines on what they will accept from a bar or restaurant in terms of noise, hours, and outdoor seating.  The ANC can work with owners to encourage patron responsibility.

If the reason for a moratorium is to change the business mix to attract retail, panelists suggested it might be better to find a way to reduce rents.  One way to do this would be to work with Councilmembers to establish a business enterprise zone and get tax credits for new businesses and for landlords who support new business, instead of the tax deferments which is the city’s current conventional approach to the problem.  .

Chuck Berger, representing CHAMPS, emphasized that the issue was not a matter of licenses, but of usage and supported the idea of ANC guidelines for ABC establishments rather than a moratorium.

There was consensus that it is essential to involve the community, particularly with community meetings.

The Retail Task Force will meet again next Monday to decide what to do next.  It’s possible they will issue a preliminary report to the ANC in February.

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