Mayor Bowser Launches “Rat-Riddance” Initiative on Capitol Hill
by Larry Janezich
Mayor Bowser chose an alley on Barracks Row to announce the launch of a new multi-agency city initiative against rats. Bowser said the city was going to “double down” on efforts to address the rat problem by providing free wire mesh to residents to restrict burrowing, using dry ice in rat burrows to humanely euthanize rodents, and revise city codes to require rat proof commercial dumpsters throughout the city. In addition, the city will strengthen both education and enforcement programs and coordinated efforts with the National Park Service to control rodents on park land.
The 400 and 500 blocks of Barracks Row have been the special focus of a group of dedicated neighbor activists who are working with ANC6B to require “best operating practices” for the restaurants on those blocks in an effort to reduce the impact of odor, noise, trash, and rats on the nearby residences.
Following the press conference, Bowser and city officials – including Department of Energy and Environment head Tommy Wells, and Department of Health chief Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt – toured the alley in the 500 block of 8th Street, SE. (Neighbors said that the alley had been cleaned up earlier this morning by restaurants tipped off to the Mayor’s presence later in the day.) The Mayor then checked out the indoor trash storage areas at Eat Bar and &pizza where neighbors had fought hard to make best operating practices a condition of ANC6B support for liquor licenses.
Liquor licenses can be an effective tool to require restaurants to address ways in which their operations have a negative impact on the community. However, this approach only seems to work when there is an organized group of neighbors who are willing to press the local ANCs to require restaurants to clean up their collective act. Restaurants which do not serve alcohol are more problematic since there are fewer opportunities to bring leverage against them.
ANC6B Chair Kirsten Oldenburg told Bowser that city regulations on trash control don’t work in areas where restaurants are highly concentrated, and said that a more systematic approach such as regulations requiring restaurants to meet best operating practices was needed.
After inspecting the indoor trash storage room in the basement of Eat Bar, Bowser engaged a number of the nearby neighbors active on these issues. Bowser listed the ideas she said were her take-away from that exchange: greater involvement by the Capitol Hill BID, taking trash management more seriously, standardize trash containers, require daily pickup of trash and organize businesses to coordinate pickups, require indoor trash storage, and review of best operating practices. She said the Department of Health would take the lead here and coordinate with the Capitol Hill BID and report back to the ANC, adding, “I’m sorry we’re dealing with this but we’re going to get on top of it.”
The 400 and 500 blocks of Barracks Row are home to 28 venues which serve food: Starbucks, the future &pizza, Popeye’s, Chipotle, Eat Bar, Pizza Boli, Capitol Hill Tandoor Grill, DC-3, 7-11, the Chesapeake Room, Ted’s Bulletin, Medium Rare, Matchbox, Ambar, Phase 1, Cava Mezze, and Lavagna, Dunkin’ Donuts, The Sweet Lobby, Café 8, Subway, Banana Café, Pacifico Cantina, Belga, Senart’s, Nooshi, and Garrison.