Update on the Thursday Night’s Zoning Commission Hearing on Hine

Update on the Thursday Night’s Zoning Commission Hearing on Hine

by Larry Janezich

The Zoning Commission hearing on Thursday night lasted almost five hours.  This first of at least two hearings was devoted to procedural issues and presentations by Stanton-Eastbanc (SEB), the Office of Planning, and the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee presentation.

The Commission granted party status to Diverse Market Management (manager of the Sunday flea market), the Hine School North Neighbors, Eyes on Hine, and Eastern Market Metro Community Association, all in opposition.  The neighbors representing the 300 block of 9th Street were denied party status in opposition.  CHAMPS was granted party status in support.

Party status allows those granted it more time to make their case and gives them the right to cross examine other parties.

The hearing was attended by Chair Hood and Commissioners Cohen, May and Turnbull.  Commissioner Schlater was absent.

Items of particular interest which came out during the hearing include:

  • According to Eastbanc’s Joe Sternlieb, once the project is completed it will provide 700 new jobs and $7 million in annual sales and income taxes.  In addition, SEB has a drawing showing the placement of 70 10X10 tents on 7th Street between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, if that portion of 7th is closed and used for the weekend flea markets.
  • Nicole White of Symmetra Design, SEB’s Transportation consultant, will submit additional transportation study information to the Commission and the developer on Monday.  Of particular concern will be a plan worked out with DDOT for unloading 55 foot trucks at the development and justification for the developer’s plan for parking appropriate to support project.
  • Buwa Binitie, SEB’s affordable housing consultant, located 34 affordable housing units in the North Building, 4 in the Plaza Building, and 8 in the 8th Street Residential Building, for a total of 46.  Half will be restricted to seniors.

Questions asked of the developer by Commissioners revealed their special concerns.

The genesis of many of the questions from Commissioner May appeared to be letters from the community.  In particular, he was concerned about how the current project compared to the original design approved by the city council when the bid was awarded to SEB.  Weinstein said that she would submit additional information to the Commission.  May also questioned Sternlieb about the privatization of C Street, and Sternlieb appeared to be ambivalent about whether a 99 year lease of C Street was SEB’s preference, but stated that the plan was to make use of C Street and the Plaza a seamless experience and alluded to creative use of the space in ways involving art and culture.  May was also interest in how the project compares to other large buildings up and down Pennsylvania Avenue and asked Weinstein to provide additional information to help the commission assess the project’s height and mass.   May also asked Weinstein for an acoustic study because he was concerned about noise on 8th Street.  May favored the extensive use of the green roof, calling in “unusual.”

Commissioner Turnbull raised concerns about the alley elevation of the North Building, saying this side of the building needed additional work to make it fit into the neighborhood.  He also asked for a more extensive shadow study.  Questioning Sternlieb about parking for residents of the North Building, he determined the new information that parking for these affordable housing units will be below the project’s South building.

Chair Hood questioned White about the still-being-worked-out 55 foot truck unloading issue, and questioned Sternlieb about the weekend flea market.  However, he seemed most interested in SEB’s compliance with the First Source Agreement, providing that 50% of employees on the project be C residents.

Commissioner Cohen expressed her support for the number of affordable housing units and asked questions about location of the weekend flea market during construction and a green roof for the North Building.  Regarding the latter, Weinstein noted that the upper floors of the North Building would be a wooden frame construction and as an architect she was unprepared to try to put a green roof on a wooden structure.

Thursday night’s hearing closed with testimony from Donna Scheeder, Chair of Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee.   She expressed disappointment with the Office of Planning report and the DDOT transportation report.  She urged the recommendation in the latter for a reduction in parking be rejected.  Scheeder presented a case for the forthcoming new governing structure for Eastern Market – the “Trust” to assume control of the management of the two weekend flea markets as well as the arts and crafts vendors who operate on Eastern Market Square on the weekends.  ANC Commissioners Ivan Frishberg and Brian Pate bolstered that argument with a series of cross examination questions which amounted to a colloquy supporting the ability of the Trust and an expanded Special Use District – both provided for in legislation working its way through City Council – to handle and accommodate the combined markets.

The hearing will resume next Thursday at 6:30pm, when Nicole White of Symmetra will continue her presentation with new information and the benefit of consultation with DDOT to resolve remaining transportation and parking issues.


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3 responses to “Update on the Thursday Night’s Zoning Commission Hearing on Hine

  1. Kim Nead

    I attended this marathon session. I strongly encourage people to attend the meeting next Thursday. It is not too late to prepare written remarks and/or sign up to speak as a “witness.” I think the commissioners are truly interested in the community’s views. Don’t waste this chance to voice your concerns!

  2. Bobbi Krengel

    Me too, and I agree, Kim.
    But the commission has no idea which side people are on in a packed room, and the last thing they want to sit through is a long parade of witnesses. Better to be heard by writing a letter to the Zoning Commission.

    The staff is woefully behind on posting the letters to the online file, but they are being received and read by the commissioners, and can still be powerfully effective.
    I sent mine last Monday, when the posted exhibits were up to #170 (where they still are now), and when it still hadn’t appeared by Wednesday, I emailed to confirm receipt and was told it had been marked as exhibit # 214, so there are at least 44 exhibits not yet posted. And I know for a fact that several letters were sent after mine, so we may soon be achieving a total equal to the +/- 113 from SEB shills.
    IF they are in PDF format they may be emailed to zcsubmissions@dc.gov. Or faxed to 727-6072.

    You can read the file at:
    Create an account with an email address and a password. Use the “search by case” function and enter the case number: 11-24. Then you can save it to your “favorites” and find it again in your “dashboard”.

    The bait-and-switch is resonating with the ZC. I have already sent my letter, but somebody should send the specs on the metastasis of the total square footage of the victor since being chosen:

    – Developer’s Best and Final Offer (March 2009): 401,648
    – LDDA Term Sheet: 405,793
    – Submission to HPRB February 2011: 427,530
    – PUD Submission (November 2011): 464,278

    The ZC is not bound by any of these agreements, including the RFP, LDDA, or MOA, and one of the commissioners even stated “We are not bound by the MOA”, but the background information is going to play a role in their evaluation of all the facts.
    All the reports are simply evidence used to predict impacts related to the consequences of choosing a particular designation.
    Don’t forget that the ZC’s only job is to pick the zoning designation, and the case has been presented as if there were only one option–the highest one that the developer wants– C2B– with OP rubberstamping, rather than being objective.
    The sage Peter May even questioned OP, asking whether there were other options, to which Jennifer Steingasser reluctantly coughed up a lower one and a still higher one, hoping nobody would notice that she still skipped over several lower options.
    Even though there is currently only one on the table–the one in the application–the ZC can pick any designation it wants, by motion and vote, to deny the application and pick another designation.
    This is what they did in 2005/2006 when we went before them for a zoning change on square 895, splitting the difference between what the neighborhood wanted and what OP proposed and choosing a compromise designation (which is why we built wiggle room into our requested designation of R4).
    Their guidance is supposed to be the Comprehensive Plan, so letters should refer to that. And the fact that whole neighborhood is R4 and C2A or CHC/C2A, and that the difference between C2B with PUD @ 90′ and a C2A with PUD @ 65′ is critical. It makes no sense to grant an inappropriately high zoning designation and then try to negotiate for voluntary lower limits as sort of an anti-PUD, the exact reverse of what the PUD process does.
    For more information, read the report by the professional, OBJECTIVE Urban Planner, George Oberlander, exhibit # 139 in the ZC file.
    Bobbi Krengel

  3. MJ

    Can this not just move forward already? There are some real honest-to-god problems in this city and this is not one of them. I think a via media has been successfully hashed out and this thing is ready to happen…finally.