Monthly Archives: October 2015

Hine Coalition Files Freedom of Information Act Request for ANC6B Documents

Photo of on-going construction on the Hine redevelopment project.

Photo of on-going construction on the Hine redevelopment project.

Hine Coalition Files Freedom of Information Act Request for ANC6B Documents

Large Loophole in Act Will Protect Many Documents

by Larry Janezich

Members of the Hine Coalition – a group of Capitol Hill residents who sought to have the Zoning Commission’s approval of the Hine Project overturned – have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request, seeking emails and documents related to ANC6B’s consideration of the Hine Project.

Between 2011 and 2013 ANC6B was actively considering and/or voting on matters related to the Hine project.  Since then, while there has been no Hine business before the ANC, the Hine Coalition unsuccessfully appealed the Zoning Commission’s decision through the courts.

ANC6B held a “Special Call” meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the FOIA.  Present at the meeting in an advisory capacity was Gottlieb Simon, Executive Director of DC’s Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

Prior to the meeting, Simon told CHC that FOIAs are being filed for ANC documents across the city with increasing frequency.  Typically, he said, a FOIA does not result in benefit for the requestors.  This could be because of a very large loophole in the Freedom of Information Act called the “deliberative process exemption.”  The provision essentially allows government agencies to withhold from disclosure anything that would have a chilling effect on deliberations among members or staff of an agency (including the ANC), or between two government agencies.  The exemption would not appear to apply to emails or documents between the ANC (or individual commissioners) and the developer (Stanton-Eastbanc) or other individuals.  The language of the DC FOIA exemption is identical to that in federal law and reads as follows:

(4) Inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters, including memorandums or letters generated or received by the staff or members of the Council, which would not be available by law to a party other than a public body in litigation with the public body.  A complete list of exemptions can be found here:

When the special call meeting convened on Wednesday night, ANC6B Chair Kirsten Oldenburg – who has been one of the strongest supporters of the Hine redevelopment – characterized the request as “a very broad request for emails and documents from January 2011 to the present … to my mind, a bit vague.”  Several of those named in the request have left the commission, having not sought re-election.

Simon said he had contacted the requesters and asked them to narrow their request, but to date had received no response.  He added that he thought his additional comments would better be conveyed in executive session.  The ANCs can go into executive session – which means excluding outsiders – only to discuss personnel and legal matters.

With that, Oldenburg declared that the meeting was in executive session and everyone except the commissioners and Simon left the room.

Chair Oldenburg subsequently told CHC, “While the ANC took no formal action at the meeting, there was a definite consensus among the Commissioners present that we fully accept our responsibilities to fulfill our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.”

A copy of the FOIA request follows:

To: Kirsten Oldenburg, ANC6B Chair

October 19, 2015

Cc: Hine Coalition

Subject: FOIA Request – ANC6B

Dear Chair Oldenberg:

This Freedom of Information Act request for information is made pursuant to the District

of Columbia Freedom of Information Act, DC Official Code §§ 2-531 et seq., on behalf

of the Hine Coalition. We request a waiver of any fees associated with this request,

because the information requested is primarily for the benefit of the general public. See

D.C. Code § 2-532(b). In addition, we request that materials produced in response to this

request be in electronic format such as a PDF file or another Miscrosoft Windows

compatible file, where such files exist, and otherwise in hard copy. We also request prior

notice to production if any costs will be charged to us.

We request the following records:

  1. All emails from January 2011 to the present time sent or received from

ANC6B, but not limited to Kirsten Oldenburg, Brian Pate, Ivan

Frishberg, , Kennan Jarboe, Norm Metzger and all ANC

commissioners in office at the time period, related to the terms “Hine Junior High

School,” “Hine School Development,” “Hine PUD,” “DMPED,” “Deputy Mayor for

Planning and Economic Development,” “Stanton-EastBanc, LLC,” “SEB,” “EastBanc,”

“EB,” HPRB, or “Historic Preservation Review Board” in the subject or body of the

mail. This includes all emails from January 2011 to the present time sent or received

from ANC6B to or from Hine School Development, Hine PUD, DMPED, Deputy Mayor

for Planning and Economic Development, Steve Hagedorn, Stanton-EastBanc, LLC,

SEB, EastBanc, EB, Historic Preservation Board, HPRB, the Office of Councilmember

Tommy Wells, or the Executive Office of the Mayor. We are requesting all emails,

whether they were sent on ANC or non-ANC accounts.

  1. All documents, whether electronic or non-electronic, that mention the Hine

Junior High School, Hine School Development, Hine PUD, Stanton-EastBanc, LLC,

SEB, EastBanc, EB, HPRB, DMPED, or the Executive Office of the Mayor.

The Hine Coalition is submitting this FOIA request in the interest of government

transparency. If this request requires any clarification, please do not hesitate to

contact me.


Marcella M. Hilt

For the Members of the Hine Coalition


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Analysts Tell Hill East Any New Stadium Would Come at Expense of City Needs

ANC6B's Hill East Task Force chaired for last night's meeting by Commissioner Brian Flahaven, heard from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute

ANC6B’s Hill East Task Force chaired for last night’s meeting by Commissioner Brian Flahaven, heard from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DFPI)

Ed Lazere, Executive Director and Wes Rivers, Policy Analyst, DFPI

Ed Lazere, Executive Director and Wes Rivers, Policy Analyst, DFPI

Analysts Tell Hill East Any New Stadium Would Come at Expense of City Needs

NPS’ Peter May Cites Legal/Financial Hurdles

by Larry Janezich

Representatives of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DFPI) told ANC6B’s Hill East Task Force a new stadium at RFK would come at the expense of the city’s schools, transportation, affordable housing and health care.   The group is a private advocacy organization that conducts research and public education on budget and tax issues in the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on issues that affect low and moderate income residents.  Executive Director Ed Lazere and Policy Analyst Wes Rivers responded to an invitation to address Hill East residents.

Rivers told the Task Force that the oft-touted associated economic benefits supposedly accruing from building a stadium in the city are not borne out by “study after study” which shows that there is “zero impact on jobs and income for the cities that invest in stadiums.”

Lazere stressed the opportunity costs which come with any city subsidization of a new stadium, saying, “If the goal is economic development, don’t spend money on a stadium.  Every dollar put into a stadium is a dollar that could go somewhere else. “

So, why do cities build stadiums?

Rivers said that stadiums are built because people buy into the argument that stadiums create economic development, because politicians like to “snag” sports teams and have big buildings to point to as a tangible accomplishment, and because team owners are adept at playing off one locale against another (if not for the actual siting, then for cutting a deal most favorable to the owner).

During Q&A, former ANC Commissioner Francis Campbell wondered whether a renewed lease could somehow be used to leverage development of Reservation 13 (here after referred to as Hill East Waterfront).  Lazere replied that big stadium deals are with big corporations in the business of making money, and it is hard to negotiate much.  Lazere then turned to NPS official Peter May who was in the audience and asked if he would like to comment.

May, who said that he was there to hear the presentation rather than answer questions, none the less explained the NPS lease of the RFK site, saying that Congress directed the Secretary of the Interior to enter into a 30 50 year lease with DC for the site in 1988.  May, as Associate Regional Director for Lands, Planning and Design for the National Capital Region, is responsible for administering the lease.  The lease allows use of the land for a stadium, parking, recreation, and related uses.  He said any change in the use of the land would require an Environmental Impact Statement.  “The real rub,” he said, “is that the lease only runs until 2038 – not long enough to allow financing, either by the city or a private entity.**  Proceeding with a plan for a new stadium is not practical without renewal of the lease…that would require an act of Congress.”

May noted that when the Mayor requested the Secretary of the Interior to support legislation extending the lease, his boss – Robert A. Vogel, regional director of the Park Service – told Bowser on behalf of the Secretary that “NPS will not take a position in support of such an extension at this time.”  It has been widely reported that the Park Service – which also oversees treaty relationships with the nation’s Native American tribes – will not consider a lease renewal while the Washington football team bears its current name.

That knowledge prompted ANC6B Commissioner Brian Flahaven to express his concern that team owner Dan Snyder would concede to a name change which would clear the way for the lease being renewed.  (The Washington Post has reported that renewing the lease is unlikely to be an administration priority in the remaining months of the Obama administration.)

The DFPI team told the Hill East residents that if a stadium becomes inevitable, the community should organize to insist on a community benefits package (similar to what developers provide to communities in exchange for zoning changes) and this involvement should begin and be maintained throughout the process before a deal is on the table when it’s harder to bring up opportunity costs.  The city has not been aggressive in wringing concessions from team owners, leaving it to residents to bring community pressure for benefits.  Rivers said that the past two stadium deals have not resulted in any economic benefit package for the community.

Snyder is anxious to move out of the problematic FedEx Field when his lease expires in 2026, and both Maryland and Virginia are trying to woo Snyder for siting the team in those states.

**Ed. Note.  Presumably, financiers would want to see guaranteed occupancy in a new stadium for the length of time sufficient to repay the loan.  As was apparent in the recent case of the proposed development of the Boys and Girls Club in Hill East, the 25 year lease the Department of General Services offered to developers effectively precluded private financing and pre-determined that the project would have to depend on LIHTC – Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing.


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The Week Ahead….And Residents Organize to Address Crime on Capitol Hill

Citizens for a Safe Capitol Hill met this afternoon at Bayou Bakery.  Organizer Sarah Stumbergs is on the left in striped shirt.

Citizens for a Safe Capitol Hill met this afternoon at Bayou Bakery. 

The Week Ahead… And Residents Organize to Address Crime on Capitol Hill

by Larry Janezich

More than fifty Capitol Hill residents met Sunday afternoon at Bayou Bakery to discuss what they could do independent of government to address crime in the neighborhood.  The organizing effort came after a weeklong thread of discussion of crime on the newhilleast listserv and growing alarm by residents at a string of robberies and shootings.  Related to these concerns, MPD believes that earlier this week they apprehended a group responsible for many of the robberies.

The organization – called “Citizens for a Safe Capitol Hill – was the brainchild of Hill resident Sarah Stumbergs, who said that 200 people had responded to a solicitation to assess the interest in signing on to the initiative.

At the initial meeting, which was attended by Ward 6 representative from the Mayor’s office Seth Shapiro as well as ANC Commissioners Chander Jayaraman and Daniel Chao, residents discussed the various problems, brainstormed ideas for action, and were asked to commit to teams organized to take specific actions.   One of the group’s top priorities is to facilitate communication among members of the group and target venues where the group can voice its concerns.  One attendee spoke of the importance of making sure the group was representative of the neighborhood and stressed the effectiveness of a diversity of perspective.  Following is the link for signing up with Citizens for a Safe Capitol Hill:

The Week Ahead….

Monday, October 26

ANC 6A Community Outreach Committee meets at 7:00pm, Maury Elementary School, Multi-Purpose Room, 1250 Constitution Avenue, NE (Enter from 13th Street).

Among items on the agenda:

ANC 6A Grant Application and Instructions – Review for Community and Organizations

Grant Outreach

Tuesday, October 27

  1. ANC 6B’s Executive Committee meets at 6:30pm at Hill Center to set the agenda for the November meeting of ANC6B.
  2. Community Meeting on Public Safety, hosted by CM Charles Allen at 7:00pm, Friendship/Chamberlain Public Charter School, 1345 Potomac Avenue, SE. Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Kevin Donahue and Chief of Police Cathy Lanier will attend.

Wednesday, October 28

  1. ANC6B Hill East Task Force meets at 7:00pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave SE). The task force will discuss the future of the RFK Stadium site and hear a presentation from Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.
  2. ANC6B will hold a Special Call Meeting at c. 8:30pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington, immediately following the Hill East Task Force Meeting above to discuss the commission’s response to the Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Hine Coalition .

The agenda includes:

Overview of the Hine Coalition Freedom of Information Act Request

Discussion of ANC 6B Response Plan

Funding for Technical Assistance

Friday, October 30

The Corner Store at 900 South Carolina will host the opening of an exhibit by French artist Beatrice de Chevron Villette from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.

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50 Plus Capitol Hill Residents Meet With CM Charles Allen on Crime

Councilmember Charles Allen at this morning's monthly community office hour at Curbside Cafe

Councilmember Charles Allen at this morning’s monthly community office hour at Curbside Cafe

Police Officer at Eastern market Metro last night at c. 9:30pm.  Chief Lanier has authorized additional resources for Capitol Hill.

Police Officer at Eastern market Metro last night at c. 9:30pm. Chief Lanier has authorized additional resources for Capitol Hill.

50 Plus Capitol Hill Residents Meet With CM Charles Allen On Crime

Chief Lanier Sends More Resources To 1st District After Touring Capitol Hill Yesterday

by Larry Janezich

This morning, Charles Allen met for more than two hours with 50 plus Hill East residents who came to Curbside Café at 15th and C Streets, SE, to express concern about the continuing violent crime – mostly robberies, many of them with a gun – on Capitol Hill.  Allen asked 1st District Commander Jeff Brown and 1 District MPD Lt. Eddie Fowler to attend and Brown gave an update on MPD’s efforts to address crime.

(Shortly after the meeting, about 10:20am, MPD responded to a shooting at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.  The victim sustained a gunshot wound to the leg and was transported to the hospital in a private vehicle.  Police say that the shooting may have been the result of a traffic altercation between the victim and the suspect at the Sunoco Gas Station.)

Brown told the crowd that Chief Lanier had summoned him yesterday and said, “Here’s the keys – you’re driving.  I want to know what’s going on on Capitol Hill.”  Brown said that he and the Chief drove Capitol Hill for three hours, touring hotspots – H Street, Hill East, and Barracks Row.  Brown told the Chief that his force was stretched too thin.  At the end of the tour, the Chief authorized overtime for officers of the 1st District, said she would shift some additional resources to Capitol Hill and suggested that bike officers be encouraged to use the overtime to increase their presence on the streets.

Brown also told the crowd that a string of robberies such as Capitol Hill has experienced recently is usually caused by one or two groups of individuals, and that work from the MPD Intelligence Unit had paid off yesterday when 1st District officers pursued a group of five robbery suspects into the 6th District where they were arrested.   He also said that one of the two suspects involved in the mid-day armed robbery at 9th and East Capitol had been arrested in the 6th District.  According to Brown, 90% of the violent crime in the 1st District is being committed by individuals from outside the community.

Brown noted that though the force has an authorized level of 4200 officers, the current level is 3800 – down 400 officers.  There are 170 cadets in the academy, but it will be a year before they are on the streets.  Recruitment is problematic:  only 1 out of every 300 applicants is selected to join the force and many officers who join the force are recruited away by other police forces offering better pay and/or benefits.  In addition, he said, the force is facing the crisis of a “retirement bubble” with many officials and officers becoming eligible for retirement simultaneously.

Prior to Brown’s arrival at the meeting, Allen told attendees that MPD was failing to communicate to the community the measures they were taking to address crime.  He said, “You say your adding overtime, new officers, and new bike units, but I’m not seeing it and I’m not feeling it.”  He urged MPD to experience the community in a different way by getting officers out of the cruisers and into the neighborhoods.  He said he was also working on a package of legislative initiatives with CM McDuffie, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on the Judiciary.  Some of the elements under consideration include incentives for home crime cameras, more funding for recreation centers, more funding for street lighting, a stricter pre-trail hold policy, and reforming the 911 Call Center.

Hill East activist Jim Meyers told Brown that he was “horrified” at the demise of the PSAs, saying that when police had failed to show up for a recent PSA 108 meeting, the attendees engaged in a discussion of how to collectively address crime issues on their own, and it was “one of the best PSA’s” he’d attended in years.  He asked Brown, “Is community policing dead?”

Brown said that community policing is not dead and stressed the importance of revitalizing the PSAs and involving the ANCs.  He said that the PSAs which should be one of the main ways the MPD gets information out to the community.

Allen announced that he will host a Community Safety Meeting with Chief Lanier next Tuesday, October 27, from 7:00pm until 8:30pm, at Friendship Chamberlain Charter School, 1345 Potomac Avenue, across from Harris Teeter.

The 6th District lies across the Anacostia River.  Councilmember Charles Allens Ward Six contains all of the 1st MPD District and parts of MPD Districts 3 and 5.

The 6th District lies across the Anacostia River. Councilmember Charles Allens Ward Six contains all of the 1st MPD District and parts of MPD Districts 3 and 5.

Detail of MPD's 6th District

Detail of MPD’s 6th District


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Business Community Meets Again on Safety Issues Near Eastern Market Metro

Councilmember Charles Allen and MPD First District Mark Beach at this morning's meeting on safety issues near 8th and PA Avenue, SE

Councilmember Charles Allen and MPD First District Mark Beach at this morning’s meeting on safety issues near 8th and PA Avenue, SE

Business Community Meets Again on Safety Issues Near Eastern Market Metro

by Larry Janezich

This morning, representatives of more than a dozen community stakeholders, ranging from businesses, to MPD, to ANC6B, to Community Connenctions, to the Capitol BID met at Hill’s Kitchen near 8th and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, to discuss safety issues.  Hill’s Kitchen owner Leah Daniels has been the prime mover in organizing a response to the quality of life crimes which have come to define the 8th and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, commercial intersection.  The problems Daniels cited included vagrancy, trash, drug activity, public urination and public sex acts.

The issues were first aired at a similar meeting with CM Charles Allen on September 21 ( and Allen reconvened the group to report on steps which have been taken to address the problems.  Two of the factors that Allen cited which are perceived as contributing to creating a negative environment on the corner are the clients of mental health provider Community Connections and students from both Cesar Chavez Charter School and Eastern High School.

With respect to the students, Allen credited Cesar Chavez administrators for instituting school staff participation in the after school safe passage program, whereby staff maintain a presence on the street between the school and Eastern Market Plaza to monitor student behavior after school.  Allen also commended the follow through by Eastern High School principle Rachel Skerritt in identifying students involved in a flash mob robbery of the Barracks Row 7-11 (, intervening with each of the students, and requiring those involved to visit the store with their parents to apologize to the manager.

MPD First District Captain Mark Beach addressed the group telling them of his strong commitment to bring improved community policing to the First District, ensuring his officers get out from behind the wheels of their cruisers to interact with businesses and residents.  He said his officers “are being tasked with becoming part of the community and they’re doing so,” and that he engages in a dialogue with his officers to determine what extent they are participating in the community, asking for specific details on who they have interacted with.

Beach said that police work is being hampered by a “mental health crisis” which is exacerbated by those self-medicating with synthetic drugs.  The resulting unconsciousness is a huge problem for MPD and DCFD, he said; MPD gets “25 or 30” calls a day asking for a first responder, sapping police resources.  Nonetheless, he urged residents to overcome the feeling of reluctance to call 911 when there is not a life or death emergency and to call for quality of life crime issues.

Some business owners complained that when they called 911, police response was slow and  police were nonchalant when they did arrive.  One said, “I’m calling but MPD is not doing anything.”  Beach said in such cases, he could be called directly, and gave the group his cell phone number.  He also claimed that part of the problem on response time is the troubled Office of Unified Communications (OUC) – the    call center – which he pointed out is not part of the MPD.  CM Allen agreed and said that the call center was the subject of recent Council hearings undertaken in an effort to better understand the unit and to make in more efficient.

Community Connections’ (CC) Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Dave Freeman said CC has conducted a survey of the area around 8th and Pennsylvania, and identified 12 CC clients who frequent the intersection and who need additional intervention.  He described the steps that CC is taking to provide additional help to these individuals and to get them off of the streets.  He stressed that the assistance of ANC6B and CM Allen’s office could be helpful.

The group also heard from representatives of CVS and of Starbucks –  the latter cited the bus stop in front of the coffee shop as being the major contributing factor to loitering.  The redesign of Metro Plaza – if and when it becomes a reality – would relocate the bus stop across D Street to Metro Plaza.  Allen urged both stores to call 911 rather than relying on staff or irregular attention from corporate security offices.

Although invited, there was no representative from the Barracks Row 7-11, and concerns were raised that the problems experienced by that outlet in terms of being a magnet for a negative environment would be duplicated when the 7-11 on Pennsylvania Avenue opens in a few days.  Allen said he was meeting with representatives of both outlets in the next two weeks and would work with them to address these issues.

Asked for her reaction to the meeting today, Daniels said, “Anytime business can get together to solve problems, it’s a win.  I appreciate Charles Allen’s involvement and his work to make the community a cleaner and better place.”

Allen attributed the “vast majority of negative things to a handful of people.”  He urged the group to stay in touch with his office and the ANC and said the group would meet again if necessary.


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The Week Ahead….

View of H Tracks and Union Station Parking Lot Looking South. October 14, 2015

View of Tracks and Union Station Parking Lot Looking South,. October 14, 2015, c. 7:20 pm

The Week Ahead….

Monday, October 19

  1. ANC6D meets at 7:00pm, 1100 4th Street, SW, DCRA 2nd Floor Meeting Room.

Agenda not available at press time.

  1. ANC 6A Transportation and Public Space Committee Meeting, 7:00pm, Capitol Hill Towers, 900 G Street, NE.

Among items on the Agenda:

Public space request related to Rappaport Co. redevelopment of H Street Connection.

Request for support of traffic calming assessment for 1200 and 1300 blocks of Constitution Avenue, NE.

Tuesday, October 20

  1. ANC 6A Alcoholic Beverage Licensing Committee meets at 7:00pm, Sherwood Recreation Center, 10th and G Streets, NE.

Among items on the agenda:

Discussion of request by The Pursuit at 1421 H Street, NE, for a change from a Restaurant to a Tavern license.

Discussion of request by Ocopa at 1324 H Street, NE, for an Entertainment Endorsement.

  1. Eastern Market Community Potluck Dinner 7:00pm, North Hall.
  2. CHRS Board of Directors meets at Capitol Hill Townhomes, 750 6th Street, SE.

Wednesday, October 21

  1. ANC6A Economic Development Committee meets at 7:00pm, Sherwood Recreation Center, Corner of 10th and G Streets, NE.

Among items on the agenda:

1140 Florida Avenue, NE.  Developer will make a brief presentation to provide information and answer questions regarding project in ANC5D.

134 11th Street, NE.   Applicant seeks a special exception not meeting the lot occupancy requirements to construct a garage with a rooftop deck in the R-4 District.

1313 to 1323 Linden Court, NE.  Applicant seeks variances to allow the construction of five one-family dwellings and a neighborhood-servicing retail establishment in the C-2-A District.

1114 F Street, NE.  Applicant seeks historic landmark designation for the Lexington Apartments building.

  1. Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee meets at 7:00pm, North Hall, Eastern Market.

Saturday, October 24

River Park Nursery School Yard Sale at Eastern Market: Oct. 24, 8 am-1pm, From the announcement:  “Come find great bargains and delicious home baked goods while supporting a Capitol Hill nursery school!  Eastern Market in the plaza near Rumsey pool on North Carolina Avenue Southeast.  Proceeds support River Park Nursery School, which has a 50-year tradition of providing quality instruction that encourages individual growth and development.”

Sunday, October 25

Rosedale “REVERSE BOOK SALE” 1:00pm – 4:00pm. From the announcement:  “Friends of the Rosedale Library Fall Anniversary Celebration.  Donate books in good condition to support FORL’s programs at the Rosedale Library.  We’re doing things in a different way – a Reverse Book Sale.  Drop off your gently used books and make a donation. We’ll use the books to raise funds for FORL programs and events at the Library.  *Reverse Book Sale *Bake Sale and Cider *Halloween Crafts for Kids *Film Screening at 2 p.m.  “Mama C: Urban Warrior” *DCPL and FORL info and give-aways.” Rosedale Library is at 1701 Gales St NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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Restaurants and Rats: The Latest Chapter Involves Famous Local Chef​

The alley to C Street behind  300 block of PA Avenue before re-paving this summer

The alley to C Street behind 300 block of PA Avenue before re-paving this summer

The Mendelsohn restaurant dumpsters on a good day

The Mendelsohn restaurant dumpsters on a good day

And on the morning of October 11, 2015

And on the morning of October 11, 2015

Grease in open buckets on top of biofuel dumpster behind Good Stuff Eatery, October 11, 2015

Grease in open buckets on top of biofuel dumpster behind Good Stuff Eatery, October 11, 2015

The scene recently behind Pret a Manger

The scene recently behind Pret a Manger

Road kill two weeks ago on 9th Street near Hill Center

Road kill two weeks ago on 9th Street near Hill Center

The rat in the previous picture alongside a section of the Washington Post, for scale.  CHC subsequently called the Mayor's Hotline 411 to have the carcass removed

The rat in the previous picture alongside a section of the Washington Post, for scale. CHC subsequently called the Mayor’s Hotline 411 to have the carcass removed

Restaurants and Rats: The Latest Chapter Involves Famous Local Chef​

by Larry Janezich

Capitol Hill residents have heard about rats.  But residents who live near restaurants know them.  As retail outlets give way to the higher rents available from restaurants,​ the rat problem has grown – let us say by leaps and bounds.  The widely publicized rat wars on Barracks Row spurred ANC6B to set a goal of best operating practices for Barracks Row restaurants – a standard that encompasses indoor trash and grease storage and noise and odor abatement.  Now those issues are being prioritized for restaurants on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue – particularly those between 2nd and 4th Streets, S.E.

The C Street neighbors behind Pennsylvania Avenue restaurants –  a mix of longtime residents and newer ones, some with children – say that the trash disposal practices of these restaurants are attracting rodents to a degree greater than anything in their recent experience.  Residents have been complaining to the restaurants and to the ANC but have little leverage in a city which is disposed to put the welfare of its commercial base over the welfare of its citizens.  The renewal of liquor licenses every two years and requests for exceptions to the ban on fast food outlets are two of the few points where pressure can be applied on behalf of residents.

​The restaurants near the intersection of 3rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue is a case in point.  Four commercial spaces which used to be a barber shop, a drug store, a bank, and a dry cleaners have all been converted to eateries.  Rat problems have grown accordingly.

CHC has interviewed or had email exchanges with some half dozen nearby residents of the Pennsylvania Avenue restaurants in question.  All say that their quality of life has suffered as the result of problems brought to the neighborhood by restaurants including trash and grease management and noise and odor issues.

Residents on the 300 block of C Street, SE, are particularly at odds with the three restaurants owned by celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn – The Eatery, We the Pizza, and Bearnaise.  The complaints include bad trash and grease management practices, illegal parking in public alley, illegal construction of a roof deck and a fence, noise and odors.

Nearby residents appealed to then​-ANC6B01 ​Commissioner​ Dave Garrison​​ in 2013​,​ who tried to mediate an agreement between the restaurateur and neighbors.  When Bearnaise appeared before the ANC in 2013 to support the application for a liquor license, a restaurant representative told the ANC that the restaurant had made arrangements for twice a day trash pick-up at 8am and 6pm, and had ordered heavy metal covers for trash bins (see ANC6B minutes for that month).

Neighbors say that the metal covers were installed but do not help when bins are filled to overflowing, and the promised twice a day trash pick-up is not happening and has never happened.  An unexpected downside of the metal covers is the late night crashing when they are closed by restaurant personnel.

This past summer, neighbors appealed to ANC6B01 Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk,​ who succeeded Garrison.  Samolyk appealed to the Mayor’s office, and one of the Mayor’s Ward 6 representatives – Seth Shapiro – visited the site and, in attempt to improve alley cleanliness, facilitated the repaving of the alley which happened on short notice and apparently without consultation with the neighbors.

Since then, according to nearby residents,

  • The dumpsters continue to leak debris and liquids especially when emptied into trucks on C Street
  • Frequently open and overflowing dumpsters remain in the alley and in a “corral” behind al illegally constructed fence in space leased from an adjacent bank
  • The pizza delivery autos of the restaurant park illegally on public space in the alley, blocking it to access by emergency vehicles and presenting a danger to pedestrians when the vehicles back out onto C Street
  • An illegal deck has been constructed atop Bearnaise with the intent of growing a roof top herb and vegetable garden which will further exacerbate the rat problem
  • Open buckets of used fryer grease are stored in the open behind The Eatery

Several nearby residents have paved their back yards with concrete to prevent rat burrows.  All of them complain about the abundance or rats – alive and dead – plaguing their lives and preventing the use of their yards.  One resident claims he was told by DPW that “restaurant quality grease” disposed of in a sewer line was responsible for sewage backup in his basement.  Another has taken a pet to the veterinarian twice to be treated for eating rat poison.

All restaurant liquor licenses will come up for renewal in March of 2016.  Perhaps because of this, the Mendelsohn restaurants have apparently become more receptive to addressing resident concerns.  This week, a representative of the restaurant group told CHC that they are “installing a refrigerated walk in trash room which is being custom made to have a wide enough door that accommodates wide trash bins.”  In addition, the representative said, “We currently spend over $165,000 a year in keeping our restaurants extremely clean for our customers. As a family business we are constantly working within our community to enhance our neighborhood.”

In February of this year, Mayor Bowser appointed Spike Mendelsohn to Chair the District’s newly created Food Policy Council.

According to the Mayor’s press release, “As Chair of the Food Policy Council, Spike Mendelsohn will spearhead efforts to promote the food economy and entrepreneurship, improve food access and equity in all 8 wards, and promote urban agriculture and production.”

Neighbors hope that in addition, Mendelsohn will set an example for other restaurants in the city by adopting best operating practices – as one of his competitors on Barracks Row (&Pizza) – has been willing to do.


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ANC6B Steamed at Dissing by DSG over Eastern Market Flea Market Licensing

ANC6B Steamed at Dissing by DGS over Eastern Market Flea Market Licensing

by Larry Janezich

ANC6B was expecting to hear Department of General Services (DGS) Associate Director Forest Hayes discuss the details of the new licenses issued to the Eastern Market Weekend Flea Markets Tuesday night.  (The city backed off an earlier announcement that they were taking over management of the weekend flea markets from the current private operators as reported by CHC here: Instead, Hayes dispatched Eastern Market Manager Barry Margeson to the meeting to tell the ANC simply that the licenses had been extended to July 31, 2017, and all other questions should be directed to the DGS press office.

This did not sit well with Commissioners.

Chair Kirsten Oldenburg expressed her concern and disappointment that details were not forthcoming on whether the agreement contained any provision beyond the July 2017 date, particularly after completion of the Hine contract, saying that she felt the Commission had been deprived of the opportunity to have a dialogue with the Associate Director on these matters.

Commissioner Denise Krepp, never one to mince words, told Margeson that Hayes’ method of dealing with the scheduled visit was “outrageous.  We invited Hayes; he said he can’t come and sent you to tell us to call his press person?”  Margeson replied, “Yes.”  Krepp said, “Excuse me, but it seems that the director is giving us a large bird.”

A less outspoken Commissioner Hoskins said that the failure of DGS to communicate or engage on such an important issue spoke to the need for the ANC to demand greater transparency on the licensing.

The Commission subsequently voted 10 – 0 to send a letter to the DGS Director Christopher E. Weaver, copying the Mayor, saying they “expected the director (Hayes) at our next meeting” to discuss the matter of licensing the flea markets.


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Church Van Stolen in Hill East – District 1 MPD a No Show at PSA Meeting at the Church

Liberty Mutual Church at 527 Kentucky Avenue, SE (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Liberty Mutual Church at 527 Kentucky Avenue, SE (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Church Van Stolen in Hill East – District 1 MPD a No Show at PSA 108 at The Church

by Larry Janezich

Sometime during the night on Tuesday or early Wednesday morning, car thieves stole the clearly marked van belonging to Liberty Baptist Church.  The thieves cut the lock to the chain link enclosure, hotwired the van and drove it away.  The van was later recovered Wednesday afternoon abandoned on Virginia Avenue, SE, engine still running.  Reverend Anthony Owens described the incident to CHC, and asked that it be brought up at the PSA 108 scheduled for 7:00pm on Thursday night.

CHC would have done that had any MPD official showed up for PSA 108.  None did.  A dozen Hill East residents – many of them new faces brought to the meeting on a day when the subject of crime in Hill East lit up the newhilleast listserv.  In addition to the newcomers Hill East ANC6B commissioners Nick Burger and Chander Jayaraman were in attendance.  In the absence of MPD, those commissioners met with residents for about an hour discussing concerns about crime in Hill East.

The increase in attendance above the handful of residents that usually turn out for the PSA meetings was apparently driven by community reaction to three violent crimes which occurred Wednesday night in Hill East:

  • A stabbing at 16th and Independence
  • A robbery with force and violence in the 100 block of 14th Street, SE
  • A stabbing a Potomac Avenue Metro Station

A posting by a 15 year resident at 13th and C Streets reacting to the night of violent crime and expressing lack of faith in police and elected officials to address the “skyrocketing surge in crime’ set off a day-long crime discussion on the listserv which included notifications of Thursday’s PSA meeting.

District 1 MPD didn’t get the message.

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ANC6B Holds Up R&R Marathon Pending Better Management Plan

The tentative course through Capitol Hill for the 2016 Rock 'n Roll Marathon

The tentative course through Capitol Hill for the 2016 Rock ‘n Roll Marathon

ANC6B Holds Up Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Pending Better Management Plan

WMATA Suggests Full Service Could Return to Stadium Armory Metro In 3 Months

by Larry Janezich

Still stinging over what they perceived as a badly mishandled 2015 Rock ’n Roll marathon, ANC6B told the organizer and WMATA that they wanted a concrete plan to keep the March 2016 race from repeating the chaos of this year.  The concerns have been heightened by WMATA’s estimate that service at Stadium/Armory Metro stop which is closest to the marathon’s RFK stadium finish line will be reduced for the next six months while fire damage near the stop is repaired.

Many residents of the city – especially in the Capitol Hill residential districts which suffer the greatest impact of the race – question whether the benefits to the city justify the disruption of the lives of so many residents.  DC hosts two annual marathons – the Marine Marathon in the fall (much of which is in Virginia) and the R&R Marathon in the spring (all of which is in DC).

At the October meeting of the ANC Planning and Zoning Committee, commissioners told the organizers that they wanted to hear from WMATA before considering approval of the marathon.

A long list of complaints about the 2015 race included:

Stadium/Armory Metro Stop overwhelmed with people trying to board trains on a weekend schedule.

Out of Service escalator at Stadium/Armory Metro contributed to huge back up of people trying to get onto Metro.

Discouraged riders walked in the rain to Eastern Market Metro, only to encounter backups there.

No alternate transportation – buses – available to facilitate moving of people.

Not enough WMATA and organizer personnel on site to manage and direct crowds.

Inadequate signage.

Police offices ignorant of cross over points where moving across the race course would be permitted.

Street closures earlier than announced.

WMATA Assistant General Manager Lynn M. Bowersox told the ANC that managing a 20,000 member crowd was difficult, and that with other – usually larger events – organizers pay WMATA the cost of increasing service to accommodate crowds. She said that a new assessment by WMATA suggests that normal service could be restored to Stadium/Armory Metro stop in three months instead of six.  Finally she offered that the escalator currently down for maintenance at the stop would be back in business by the end of January.  According to Bowersox, WMATA is open to addressing specific areas of concern, but, she said, she was only hearing generalities about overwhelming numbers of people.

Commissioner James Loots told Bowersox, “I want to hear more than Metro is returning to normal – because last year, normal was not good enough.” He said he could not support the race without a written commitment about what the organizers and WMATA will do to prevent recurrence of 2015.

Commissioner Brian Flahaven said that WMATA and the organizers need to be more proactive and that “it is a small thing to ask that the race have no negative impact on the community.”

The Commission subsequently voted not to support the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon until and unless the organizers and WMATA respond to a forthcoming list of concerns and provide commitments regarding concrete actions which will be taken to address those concerns.  The vote was unanimous, 10 – 0.

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