Text of Neighbors’ Formal Protest to Hill Center’s Liquor License Application
TO: Alcohol Beverage Control Board
FROM: Near Neighbors of Hill Center Protest Group
RE: Protest of issuance of the following new license as described on the placard
DATE: July 1, 2011
ABRA License # 086926
Old Naval Hospital Foundation
t/a The Hill Center
921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
C – Multipurpose
We, the undersigned residents of the neighborhood surrounding the Hill Center at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E, protest the issuance of a Class “C’ alcohol beverage license with entertainment endorsement, and the operation of events in the gardens with 500 person occupancy. The issuance of such a license with its listed hours of operation (7a.m. to 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.) for dancing, occasional DJ and live music for special events, will impact adversely on the peace, order and quiet of the neighborhood. Moreover, it will have a significant adverse impact on residential parking needs, vehicular and pedestrian safety, and real property values.
DC CODE 25-404 –INAPPROPRIATE SITE OF BUILDING AND GROUNDS
The openness of the Hill Center building and grounds is inappropriate for large, late parties with amplified music and dancing. This use will harm peace, order, and quiet; and real property values.
The applicant’s request for occupancy of 500 people with alcohol service from 7 am to as late as 3 a.m., with amplified entertainment outdoors, is not compatible with this 90% residential neighborhood, which in much of the surrounding area is fairly quiet.
To the north the unbuffered, 8-lane-wide Pennsylvania Avenue corridor allows sound from the Hill Center to travel to the Butterfield House condos 1020 Pa Ave, 400 block of 10th, 300 block of 9th, and 800 block of D.
Directly to the south (E Street, South Side) are the front windows of row houses that are so close (approximately 60′), an average boisterous conversation on the back stairs of the Hill Center can be heard inside these homes.
DC CODE 25-404 LOCATION IMPACTS QUIET RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD
The surrounding blocks are over 85% Residential. Petitions signed by large numbers of homeowners and renters living in the neighboring 25 residential blocks between 8th and 12th and C and G, SE reveal the widespread concern of neighbors, many of whom currently enjoy peace, quiet, safety and reliable parking.
The nighttime activity in the area around the Hill Center is completely different to the east than it is directly south and west. The northeast and southeast are currently calm and quiet with good parking. Also, to the east side, only 4 blocks are commercial and that type of commercial is small stores and offices that close at 7 pm. – no bars and no liquor stores. This area will suffer extreme adverse effects of parking, noise and public safety from late, loud Hill Center activities.
In marked contrast is the situation currently faced by residents living to the south and west of the Hill Center. They are already dramatically impacted by the number of bars and restaurants on 8th Street Barracks Row. They have ongoing multiple issues with noise and parking currently. With the addition of late night activities at the Hill Center, they will be surrounded on all sides which will cause adverse effects for them as well.
APPROPRIATENESS STANDARDS – DC Code 25-313
Residents in the neighborhood expect the following four categories of adverse effects to result from issuing this liquor license with its current stipulations:
1. REAL PROPERTY VALUES
Neighborhood homes are known for quiet sidewalks and back yards, with birds, squirrels, outdoor patio tables and chairs, and auxiliary rooms where people work in home-based businesses.
Noise, parking, and safety problems due to loud, late parties with large numbers of people will adversely affect selling prices and rents and could increase the time on the market, causing monetary loss. The reputation of the neighborhood would suffer as the word spreads about nighttime outdoor announcements and wedding bands. Many of us are nearing retirement or retired and rely on our homes retaining value or growing in value for potential sale in the future.
2. PEACE, ORDER AND QUIET
The requested alcohol service beginning at 7 am and extending to 2 am on weekdays and 3 am on week nights will result in disruption of the peace, order and quiet of the neighborhood and disrupted sleep for nearby residents. There are four issues:
A. Noise – Outdoor Amplification in the Summer Garden
With amplified music and dancing outdoors with up to 500 people, it is highly unlikely that amplified voices and music will not exceed the legal limits of 60 db at the fence line of the property, which is the sound level of a microwave oven.
The Summer Garden grounds are higher than surrounding sidewalks and roads, with no buffers of evergreens, hedges or abutting buildings to control or contain this sound. Because there is no other nightlife in the immediate vicinity, there is little ambient sound of traffic or hum of voices to mask sound from the Hill Center’s DJ’s, live bands or dancing.
B. Noise – Indoor Amplification with Bands, DJs and Dancing
The largest room available for events is in the middle of the back (south side) of the Hill Center along the 900 block of E Street, SE. The windows directly face neighbors’ bedroom windows.
Amplified sounds from behind the windows will be difficult to contain, especially live bands or DJs which tend to have thumping, rhythmic vibrations. Having entertainment continue past 10 pm on weekdays or past 11 pm on weekends would cause great hardship to the E Street neighbors, especially elderly and those with young children.
C. Noise – Loading of Equipment from and to Commercial Vehicles
With alcohol service closing times of 2 am or 3 am, the neighbors anticipate 2 subsequent hours of noise from trucks loading tables, chairs, heating and serving platters, alcohol, glasses, stages, structures and tent plus trash. Loading these trucks is very noisy (metal on metal – wood on wood) with loud clunking, banging and rolling as well as idling and beeping as they back up. These are inappropriate sounds after 11 on a weeknight or after midnight on a weekend.
The 7 am start time for a breakfast with alcohol would mean that the trucks would unload equipment as early as 5 am, potentially violating the DC noise ordinance.
D. Noise – Patrons exiting and roaming our residential side streets to their cars.
Any event with large numbers of guests loudly and energetically celebrating with amplified music and dancing until late hours under the influence of free liquor will result in disturbance of the quiet neighborhood in the middle of the night. Their voices will be boisterous – calling out, laughing, beeping car alarms, flirting, possibly fighting, crying, peeing, and throwing up—all taking place under the windows of sleeping neighbors.
Families, including children, retirees and hardworking adults live across the streets to the north, south, and west—the streets where guests of the Hill Center will seek free parking and return to their cars late at night, many of them drunk.
3. PARKING – ADVERSE EFFECT ON RESIDENTIAL PARKING NEEDS
The neighborhood near the Hill Center is in the Capitol Hill Historic District. Few of the 1800s buildings have parking, and there are very few parking lots nearby – even of minimal size. Residents rely on the small amount of on-street parking that exists. Residents pay for use of this public space with our taxes. The Hill Center has not planned parking for the large numbers of guests listed on the application, except for a few handicapped parking spaces on the property. These are the major issues:
- Current Parking Congestion
To the southwest of the Hill Center, parking is very congested already due to the 8th Street Barracks Row restaurants and bars. Parking is already eliminated from the west side of 9th in the 700 block for weekly Marine events leaving residents with nowhere to park.
To the northeast, the ratio of cars to street parking spaces is comfortably full. Residents are currently able to safely and reliably park near our homes; however, there are no extra spaces left over once everyone is home.
- No Parking Lots
There are no nearby parking lots (within 3 blocks) of a size sufficient to accommodate a large, sudden influx of cars for an event. There is one small lot for an elementary school 2 blocks away, but it holds a limited number of cars and is already contracted for Friday evenings from mid-May to Labor Day for guests of the Marine event. These are the same months of high operation for the Hill Center garden and already traffic jams are common.
- Few Open Metered Spaces
On weekdays, the metered spaces in front of the Hill Center on Pennsylvania Avenue are already mostly full as used by the row house offices. On weekends, they are filled by visitors to Eastern Market, Barracks Row, Frager’s Hardware, CVS, and other commercial establishments. Additional spaces will be taken by teachers and students coming for classes.
- Residential Side Streets Used by Wider Ward 6 Visitors
The residential side streets of 9th, 10th, 11th G, E, D, South Carolina and C are legally open to any and all of the 75,000 residents of Ward 6 who have a Zone 6 residential parking sticker. The neighbors already suffer from the wide use of these spaces by people who live 10-20 blocks away who come to take Metro or visit Eastern Market businesses.
4. VEHICULAR AND PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
If the Hill Center becomes known as a rentable, late-night party establishment, it could become a magnet for one-time hosts who have no reason to care about safety of the neighborhood.
A. Vehicular Safety
The later the party lasts, the more alcohol is consumed, the greater the drunk driving risk.
The Hill Center plans to use its side entrance on 9th Street, SE for everyone – all handicapped visitors, caterers, non-profit employees, event goers, teachers, classroom students, and staff. This will create a vehicular traffic safety issue. Use of the side entrance will bring increased traffic around on E Street to turn right to let passengers out at the gate.
Because 9th Street is very narrow and cars approach from both directions, and are likely to let off passengers on both sides, blocking access for disabled patrons to use parking spots on the grounds. Across the street a gas station has two driveways and an alley that need to be accessible for customers and fuel truck deliveries. Congestion on both E and 9th streets will lead to bumper-to-bumper blocked roadways with predictable honking and possibly road rage.
B. Pedestrian (and Guest) Safety with Large, Late-night Crowds
Crowd Control on Neighborhood Side Streets
Extreme overcrowding of the neighborhood roadways and sidewalks would occur if 500 people came to one event and most of them left simultaneously in the early morning hours.
Summer Garden Small Size Creates Overcrowding Dangers
Overcrowding the grounds is a problem for pedestrian safety in case of an emergency exit needed for fire, fight, or other incident. People inside the required tent in the Summer Garden have no fence opening or gate on the eastern side of the property through which to exit in a hurry. There is potential for injuries during an emergency due to the tall ornamental iron fence with few openings. If hundreds of people spill into the streets, there is significant risk of injury from traffic.
Insufficient Room Inside the Building
The largest inside room has occupancy of slightly over 100 people. Even the entire 2nd floor can’t hold 500 people if severe weather forces people inside.
Minors’ Access to Alcohol
Overcrowding can also lead to underage drinking even if minors are not being served, because people leave drinks unattended, and managers simply cannot monitor a dense crowd.
The Hill Center’s nearest neighbors applaud the renovation of the Old Naval Hospital to become an educational and cultural non-profit. We want to help them raise needed funds without shouldering an unfair burden from seeing, hearing, feeling and cleaning up after its parties.
To reduce the adverse effects on the near neighbors, we request that the license for the Hill Center specify no amplification outdoors in the garden at all and we request that the license restrict the number of visitors and restrict event hours to end before Metro closes, so that Eastern Market Metro is a viable transportation option.
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