ANC6B’s Garrison Urges Capitol Hill Restoration Board to Recruit ANC Candidates

ANC6B01 Commissioner Dave Garrison (file photo)

ANC6B01 Commissioner Dave Garrison (file photo)

ANC6B’s Garrison Urges Capitol Hill Restoration Board to Recruit ANC Candidates

Says Four of the Five Historic District Commissioners Will Not Seek Re-Election

by Larry Janezich

ANC6B01 Commissioner Dave Garrison told the Capitol Hill Restoration Society Board of Directors Tuesday night that he is one of four of the five members of the current ANC6B who represent areas that fall within Capitol Hill Historic District who will not seek re-election this fall.

He said his appearance before the Board was the result of his concern about the future of the Capitol Hill Historic District.  According to Garrison, “The quality of the historic preservation review work of ANC6B has declined,” and the retirement of four commissioners comprising 80% of the Historic District’s representation on the ANC “presents a unique opportunity to alter the situation going forward.”

Garrison cited two cases where decisions of ANC6B did not support maintaining the Historic District:  the pop-up across from The Maples which would have been clearly visible from the sidewalk (the ANC supported the new structure on the basis that it would allow a growing family to stay in the residence and permit their children to continue attending Brent school); and when the ANC took no position on the construction of a front yard storage shed at 700 North Carolina Avenue, after a motion to support the structure failed on a 5 – 5 tie vote.

Garrison said that he thought the decline in support on the ANC for the enforcing the principles of the Historic District were because of the election to the Commission of newer residents with less experience on the Hill.  He told the CHRS Board that there was an opportunity to recruit new people to run for the four soon-to-be vacated ANC seats within the Historic District – “people with knowledge of the Historic District and commitment to its principles.”  Elections for ANC Commissioners will take place this fall.

He urged the Board members to “run the idea up their individual flagpoles” since it would “not be appropriate for the Board to take action.”  Garrison urged Board members to “consider what can be done to identify people interested in these matters and encourage them to put themselves forward.”  He cautioned that the job was difficult and thankless and required a large commitment of time, saying, “It’s not for everyone.”  He continued, “Because of the size of the turnover, I’m bringing the matter before you this evening.  I would be glad to discuss it individually with any of you.”

Chuck Burger, who serves on the CHRS Board, Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, and CHAMPS, said he agreed with Garrison regarding the changes which reflected the influx of new Hill residents.  Burger said that this was “fair warning” and that “we should be vigilant and proactive about getting candidates in.”  The Board went on to discuss ways to strengthen the relationship between the CHRS Board and the three ANCs who have single member districts in the Historic District:  ANC6A, ANC6B, and ANC6C.

There is a history of cross-pollinating relationships between the CHRS and the ANCs.  Recently the spouses of ANC commissioners have served on the CHRS Board:  Nancy Metzger (Norm Metzger, ANC6B) and Shauna Holmes (David Holmes, ANC6A).  Currently, Elizabeth Nelson, spouse of Nick Alberti, Chair of ANC6A serves on the CHRS Board.

The CHRS Board has launched a “Beyond the Boundaries” project which has as its ultimate goal expanding the Capitol Hill Historic District.  Several years ago, a protracted negotiation with Louis Dreyfuss Property Group over the PUD application for the company’s development between 2nd and 3rd Streets on H Street, NE, ended with a settlement under which CHRS was granted a total of $250,000 – $83,000 of which was to support historic preservation efforts outside of the historic district.  That money was devoted to the “Beyond the Boundaries Project.”  In 2010, current ANC6B Chair Brian Flahaven was elected on a platform of opposition to the creation of the Barney Circle Historic District in Hill East.


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14 responses to “ANC6B’s Garrison Urges Capitol Hill Restoration Board to Recruit ANC Candidates

  1. Eric

    I actually believe the opposite to be a better solution. I don’t understand how it makes for good government for the ANC and the CHRS to collude on matters regarding historic preservation. The ANC does not get to unilaterally approve or disapprove matters like the pop up and shed mentioned in this post. Rather the HPO does. The HPO (and the HPRB) are supposed to give “great weight” to the ANC’s votes/advice, but they also take into consideration the advice from the CHRS. The HPO/HPRB needs to weigh both if they’re not in agreement. I think a little separation between the ANC and the CHRS is healthy and will promote better representation for those residents who live inside a historic district.

    Also, Brian Flahaven was not elected “on a platform of opposition to the creation of the Barney Circle Historic District.” That issue might have been what propelled him to run for the ANC spot, but it was his work ethic, community involvement, and advocacy for our neighborhood that won him that election. Anyone who’s follows Hill East’s various issues (B/G club, Res 13, redistricting, etc) knows that Brian works tirelessly for our neighborhood.

  2. kandc

    Now would be a good time to eliminate the ANC completely and get our Council person to do their job instead of hiding behind the ANC all the time.

    We need to have the Council member work for the community and be part of the community, to take the lead in effectively controling and managing development, both econonic and social.

    We need real, long-term planning for the community rather than serving the parochial interests of activist citizens who mostly just provide bureaucratic hoops to jump through, rather than real planning

  3. Valerie

    This is rather funny, as I am not at all clear to what extent CHRS or even the HPO actually preserve historic elements of our neighborhood (or of the city, in the case of HPO).

    For one, without any civic caring for what is behind facades, developers and owners are free to gut houses and buildings no matter their condition or state of history as long as facades are maintained. This ensures a Disneyland-like adherence to a look, rather than to actual preservation of actual historic elements.

    For another, CHRS and HPO have actively worked against what all living cities need: change. There are any number of buildings in our neighborhood that *should* be demolished–and yes, I am talking about Frager’s, among others. Without opposition from HPO and CHRS, those buildings could be replaced with iconic and useful new structures that could last well into the next century and provide a new way of living in *this* century.

    Instead, we have a gut and rebuild model for preservation that lasts about 30 years max. and does nothing to really advance a living city with vibrant design nor historic preservation.

    • Walter

      I agree with Valerie. The CHRS spends too much energy harassing homeowners and fighting to preserve dinosaurs.

  4. Hill Feller

    There is no question that the CHRS’ militant absolutism on all matters preservation is ridiculous but let’s get clear on where the real power lies: the Historic Preservation Review Board.

    Although the HRPB is supposed to give the ANC’s recommendations “great weight” case law has rendered that requirement meaningless. And, the CHRS may appear powerful because they agree with the HPRB so often and the HPO staff treats them as an extension of their office (they REQUIRE you to meet with the CHRS which is an OUTRAGE), but the HRPB is free to ignore them. Ultimately, the decision on what is allowed in the Historic District is the HPRB’s.

    I don’t have a solution for solving the HPRB problem. But, I don’t think that a CHRS-ANC alliance is going to move the only needle that matters very much.

    Yes, the CHRS is made up of tedious busybodies but they are

  5. Hill Feller

    Incidentally, who else is retiring besides Garrison?

  6. anon

    it’s sad seeing non-resident investors take beautiful homes in Shaw and Bloomingdale and add absurd additions (pop ups) which wreck the scale of entire blocks. I’m not militant about preservation, but I do appreciate that there are some common rules understood by all when purchasing a home in the historic district and someone cares enough to enforce those rules. I don’t care if a family feels compelled to move because they can’t pop up — that’s just a week argument when they knowingly purchased in the historic district.

  7. Meg Maguire

    We are truly fortunate that CHRS is so strong and vibrant! I have lived on the Hill since 1977 and joined CHRS precisely because it is such a great steward of this beautiful community that we have inherited. Our shared stewardship requires us to leave this place better than we found it. Sometimes the interest of the whole must trump the desires of the individual to do as they please. For anyone not acquainted with the many constructive and far sighted activities of CHRS, you may wish to visit their web site

    • Eric

      The issue though is “the interest of the whole” varies depending on your perspective. There are plenty of people who would argue that urban density and modern buildings are in the best interest of the whole. That philosophy is at odds with the CHRS.

      I don’t have an issue with historic preservation in general, but many of those at the CHRS believe nearly every square inch of this city should be deemed historic. Their beyond the boundaries campaign is a thinly veiled attempt to set up turnkey historic district applications. The Capitol Hill HD is fairly large. I fail to see why it should increase. Stack the ANC with CHRS people and the likelihood of rubber stamping historic district applications becomes ever increasingly more realistic.

      • anon

        I think HD expansion is up to the communities impacted so I’m agnostic on that, but as far as enforcing the existing requirements of the CH Historic District, this role is increasingly vital as DC experiences rapid change. CH is already a relatively dense urban neighborhood, and the urbanist argument for greater density could just as easily focus on neighborhoods with detached SFH stock rather than the Hill’s balanced human scale.

        I wouldn’t call CHRS anti- “modern” as much as pro- scale. There’s very little HPRB or CHRS can do to impact the inside of anyone’s home, or even much of the exterior for that matter. They focus largely on guidance. Zoning restriction on adding onto or expanding a house and window replacement are most noticeable. Beyond that the historic designation has little impact on existing home owners.

    • Hill Feller

      I’m with Eric on this one. The CHRS advocates for the interests of those who have a very specific vision of what the “benefit of the whole” is. How about we put historic preservation decisions in the hands of the locally-elected ANC and let THEM decide what is to the benefit of the whole?

      Generally speaking, having one group attempt to discern and then act upon what is to the benefit of the whole is a tricky business. Somehow the actions of that elite group lose touch with the wishes and desires of the community over time.

      It reminds me a bit of CS Lewis:

      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better,’ is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.” (in “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment”)

  8. Wendy Blair

    The Capitol Hill Restoration Society, after requesting relatively minor changes, whole-heartedly supported the Hine School development — the largest, densest, tallest development project on Capitol Hill since the building of House office buildings in the 1950s. Mr. Garrison himself never wavered in his support of this same gargantuan development project inside a supposedly protected historic district — a project which sold and leased taxpayer-built public land for pennies (subsidized pennies) on the dollar. So — neither CHRS nor Mr. Garrison protected an historic neighborhood — a fragile neighborhood that already had too-high rents, few small businesses and throngs of foot traffic. They voted for more development.