Responding to Residents, Ward 6 Councilmember Allen Pledges to “Take A Crack” at Rat Problem
Capitol Hill Restaurant Neighbors Push For City-Wide Indoor Trash Storage for Food Services Venues
By Larry Janezich
CM Charles Allen made his annual spring visit to ANC6B Tuesday night, addressing numerous issues which have his attention in commission’s district. But it was the issue of rats raised by two groups of residents – one from the 3rd and Pennsylvania neighborhood and another from the Barracks Row neighborhood – that dominated the conversation during the question and answer period. Allen said that the “strong voices had shown him this was a serious issue” and he would enlist the ANC, Barracks Row Main Street, and the Capitol Hill Bid to supplement city’s efforts at rodent control.
Sylvia Csiffary spoke for the first group citing efforts to work through regular channels to address a problem with rat-attracting restaurants in the 300 block of PA Avenue had been only partially successful. Although the neighbors and ANC6B had been successful before the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration which ruled that there is a relationship between trash management and the serving of alcohol (thus validating the use of liquor license renewals to impose trash and rodent management practices on a restaurant) it had been labor intensive, had come at a great price – both financially and at the additional cost of peace of mind – and had taken 18 months.
Csiffary blamed the lack of coordination and fragmented approach among the agencies responsible for rodent control. “The rats are picking us apart by institutional fragmentation,” she said, “we need a fresh, systemic approach.” She also noted that that the wheels seemed to have fallen off the Mayor’s “Rat Riddance” program.
Linda Elliot spoke for the Barracks Row neighbors, citing the success ANC6B and the neighbors have had in persuading restaurants on Barracks Row to adopt best operating practices including indoor trash storage, by using liquor license renewals as leverage. She pointed to & Pizza, Eat Bar, and Tandoor Grill as businesses which have demonstrated their willingness to partner with the community in adopting indoor trash storage. Elliot lauded those restaurants which have gone the extra mile, saying their efforts have “benefited both the businesses and the community at a little bit of additional cost.”
Linda Young, also from the Barracks Row group, said she had spent “thousands of dollars dealing with the issue of rats” in her home, but had not been able to eliminate them from her yard. She pointed to the need to regulate all food serving outlets, citing the problems caused by the Barracks Row 7-11, which is difficult to pressure, because they have no liquor license. Young asked Allen, “What can we do – what can the city do?”
Allen replied, “I don’t have all the answers”, and noted his own recent confrontation with a rat in his alley. He said that regulations are not enforced or tied together – “we don’t have a single city actor that pulls all these things together”. He praised Gerard Brown of DC Rodent Control, but said his office was stretched too thin on this. Still, Allen said, “You have shown me this is a high priority. Let me take a crack at it.” He said he would come back to the ANC and determine the next step.
Elliott got in a final plug for indoor trash storage, saying that regulations requiring indoor trash storage for anyone selling food would be a “big step toward showing that something can be done.”
ANC6B’s Community Outreach and Constituent Services Task Force, co-chaired by Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk and Diane Hoskins, will hold a community meeting on the rodent issue on Tuesday, March 21, at Hill Center. Gerard Brown of DC Rodent Control will be a featured speaker.