ANC6A Wades Right into the Parking Swamp
by Larry Janezich
Last Thursday night at its first meeting of 2019 at Miner School, ANC6A waded right into the parking swamp when it took up a contentious issue involving the proposed conversion of the former Capitol Hill Community Health Clinic at 201 8th Street, NE, (corner of Constitution and 8th NE) to five residential units . Seems nearby residents object to the by-right conversion of the building and the addition of four more residential units on the site, largely on the basis of the impact on neighborhood parking.
The ANC’s Economic and Zoning Committee had recommended the Commission support the developer’s historic preservation application, conditioned on the developer agreeing to include Residential Parking Permit (RPP) restrictions in the sales documents for all units, i.e., condo purchasers would have to agree not to apply for RPPs. The developer balked at the contingency, claiming the restrictions were not legally enforceable in court, that HPRB has no purview on parking, and that the developer was providing parking by right in accordance with zoning regulations.
Commissioner Mike Soderman objected strongly to supporting the development without the parking restriction, touting the opposition to the project of nearby neighbor “Senator Nelson,” –
presumably former Senator Bill Nelson (Fla.). former Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Soderman said Nelson could not make that night’s meeting but did send a letter. (CHC sought to obtain the letter to see exactly what the objections were, but despite assurances from Soderman and a nod from ANC6A Chair Phil Toomajian, the letter was not forthcoming. 6A’s lack of transparency is puzzling.)* See Ed. Note below.
The commission then plunged into a parliamentary quagmire, first agreeing to Soderman’s motion to NOT send a letter of recommendation by a vote of 5 – 2. When the developer complained he had never seen an ANC vote not to send a letter, some commissioners sought to revisit the issue but the Commission was uncertain how to revive a measure what had been tabled (killed). Finally, following a muddled interpretation of Robert’s Rules of Order, the commission resurrected the letter in the form of a motion to send a letter of support without the parking restriction language. That motion failed 3 – 4.
Apparently, leaves ANC6A with hands tied, not able to send any letter – one of support, a letter in opposition, or even a letter stating it has no opinion. This amounts to a forfeiture of the opportunity to weigh in on the Historic Preservation application at all.
Other ANCs have tried to leverage their “great weight” authority using unconventional means. ANC6B has used liquor license renewals to pressure bars and restaurants to adopt best operating practices, and, like ANC6A Thursday night, has tried to use the parking issue (technically a matter for the DDOT or the Zoning Board) to influence the outcome historic preservation cases overseen by the HPRB.
What this means is that with no recommendation from the ANC on the historical preservation application, the Historical Preservation Review Board is likely to approve the application as is. In the end, the developer will likely get the greenlight to proceed with the project and the ANC will have demonstrated they did their best to respond to neighbors’ concerns. Everybody’s happy. Except the neighbors.
In other business, the ANC elected its officers for the coming term: Chair, Amber Gove; Vice Chair, Phil Toomajian; Vice Chair, Amber Gove; Secretary, Mike Soderman; Treasurer, Brian Alcorn.
Update: Ed. Note. CHC obtained the letter from another source. The letter, on Nelson’s retired Senate letterhead, and signed by three other neighbors, reads in part:
“We want it to be clearly understood that we support the redevelopment and revitalizing of older buildings particularly projects that add to the appearance of the neighborhood, increase safety and add to property values…..
But to be supportive the process must involve the inclusion of neighbors before being rushed through the required various levels of review and approval. To date only a handful of individual neighbors have been made aware of the clinic project and/or contacted and shown the project plans. We were contacted first by ANC6A Commissioner Mike Soderman who directed us to Bobby Akines of Ditto. The outreach has essentially been initiated by the neighbors and not by Ditto. As a result, the balance of the neighborhood is being ignored.
In addition, it appears that all redevelopment details, including the relocation of the main entrance, have been finalized without any neighborhood input. It also appears to be on a ‘fast track” for final approval without additional opportunities for more neighborhood consultations.
We are asking to delay taking any action on this project until we and other neighbors have had the opportunity to discuss this major renovation project and to attend a Meeting and present our thoughts and concerns to you.
We fear that without a careful review of the plan for the relocation of the main entrance to face the west side of 806 Constitution and the resulting new increased foot traffic, the proposed use of the space between the building and the adjacent building at 806 Constitution as “commons” area, and other critical aspects of the plan more challenges will arise which will leave the neighborhood with no recourse.”