The War on Rats – Part III: CM Allen’s Legislative Assault on Rodent Syndicates

Council Member Charles Allen at ANC6B’s March meeting.

The War on Rats – Part III:  CM Allen’s Legislative Assault on Rodent Syndicates

by Larry Janezich

Last March, Capitol Hill ANC6B residents rallied at CM Charles Allen’s annual spring visit to ANC6B to tell him that rats are taking over the city and they wanted him to do something about it. Following through on his pledge to “take a crack at it”, Allen has introduced legislation to put “more tools in the toolbox” in the city’s war on rats.  The Department of Health has reported huge numbers of rat dens throughout the District, particularly near restaurant clusters, where trash and food waste attract rats.

The Making Rodent Syndicates Flee Restaurants, Interior Settings, Basements, and Yards Amendment Act of 2017 seeks to address the District’s exploding rat population.  The legislation has several elements and would require food establishments to develop a rodent mitigation plan and gives DOH additional funding and enforcement authority, through changes to the law.  The bill would:

  • require food service businesses to provide a rodent prevention plan when applying for a basic business license with a “Public Health: Food Establishment Retail” endorsement. It would require existing businesses to consider, where applicable and when feasible, enclosing trash storage, proper disposal of used cooking grease, sealing openings to rodents, and an ongoing pest abatement plan. The Department of Health would review and approve the plan.
  • require new food establishments or businesses converting to food service to create enclosed trash storage and installation of grease traps when feasible.
  • require a rodent plan that extends through the life of a razing project.
  • reinstate a fund created in 2001 but which sunset after one year. The Fund would collect fines and judgments for health code violations related to rodent mitigation; the Department of Health would use the Fund to expand prevention and monitoring efforts.

ANC6B has been aggressive in using liquor license applications and renewals and zoning regulations to pressure Capitol Hill food service establishments to adopt best operating rodent control and trash management practices.  At last night’s ANC6B Alcohol Beverage Control Committee meeting, chaired by Commissioner Chander Jayaraman, the committee voted to recommend that the full ANC send a letter to other ANC’s which have restaurant clusters, urging support of the legislation.  Allen’s bill does not go as far as current ANC6B goals which includes not “enclosed” trash storage but “indoor” trash storage.  Allen says, however, “I’m looking forward to working with neighbors and small businesses on this – and open to ways to strengthen the bill as it moves forward.”  Jayaraman said last night that the ANC would “opine on this in June.”

In a statement, Allen said, “This bill codifies best practices that many food establishments are already using. The District must proactively address the public health concerns that rat populations bring, and this bill is the start to that effort.”

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