ANC6B Chair Chander Jayaraman Talks About Capitol Hill’s Major Issues
by Larry Janezich
Chander Jayaraman was elected Chair of ANC6B last Tuesday. He previously served as chair during 2016 and 2017. Capitol Hill Corner asked him to talk about ANC6B’s major issues.
Eastern Market Metro Plaza – He calls it a “game changer development – I don’t want 6B to be a rubber stamp. I see the ANC as the conduit for concerns and ideas of residents which will be addressed in the planning.” He says he will likely ask Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk’s Constituent Outreach Task Force to track the development and solicit input from the community, both on the Plaza and the South East Library. Commissioners Jerry Sroufe and Brian Ready in whose single member districts the respective projects reside would be the liaisons between the task force and the project’s advisory committees. He said he was gratified that DGS had opened up the Metro Advisory Committee meetings to the public but concerned it had set up one-on-one meetings with the constituent members which could circumvent the open meeting process.
Eastern Market – Jayaraman says Eastern market is the heart of the community because it’s “the spot where different races converge.” He wants to find ways to get Eastern Market on a better financial footing – especially regarding long term leases for the South Hall merchants – “they can’t continue operation on year to year leases. He says the DGS study on leases was way off, according to merchants, and a second study is coming up. Jayaraman has initiated the outreach to new DGS Director Keith Anderson for a briefing by EMCAC, and hopes to coordinate a tour of the market for Anderson, CM Robert Wright (chair of DGS oversight committee), ANC representatives and EMCAC members.
Weekend flea markets – He supports the continuation of the flea markets controlled by private operators on the 300 block of 7th Street and the newly reopened C Street between 7th and 8th Streets. He says they provide opportunities for small businesses who can’t afford high rents: “If we want more retail, we have to provide appropriate ways for businesses to reach customers.” He cited Indigo’s graduation from an Eastern Market food vendor to a restaurant on H Street. He says, “There should be a way for flea markets to coexist with the brick and mortar retail on 7th Street and the incoming retail in the Hine project. We may have to change the configuration.”
Parking – ANC6B has tried to make residents of multi-unit buildings ineligible for Residential Parking Permits through agreement with developers but whether that will be effective depends on support from DMV. Regulations require that developers of multi-unit buildings provide one parking space for every two units, and he thinks the city should incentivize use of those spaces by tenants – in-building parking is expensive and the practical alternative is street parking. He says that many families have a real need for more than one vehicle, but “I do think the city should revisit its residential parking policy when an individual or household has more than two vehicles.” And he believes that the city should strongly encourage those with garages and parking pads on their property to use those for their personal vehicles.
Restaurant Trash and Rats – Jayaraman (who also chairs the 6B Alcohol Beverage Committee) says that since all restaurant liquor license renewals are up for renewal this spring, there are opportunities to pressure restaurants – particularly on Barracks Row (he cites Ted’s Bulletin, Mediterranean Cafe and Las Placitas as examples) who are either frequent violators of trash restrictions or not in compliance with what they agreed to in settlement agreements imposing conditions on their licenses – “We’ve made great strides in requiring best operating practices – every new establishment puts trash inside. We want them to succeed but they have a community responsibility as well.”
The troubled 400 block of Eighth Street/Homelessness – Jayaraman says that the troubles on the block are not just a matter of homelessness – “The 400 block of 8th is an economic and social gathering point for people who have hung out there for a long time.” He says has not seen MPD presence on the block as much as he expected: “One thing we can do is leverage other community resources such as DOH and DOBH mobile units to try to connect the homeless with city services. In some circumstances, this won’t work. Some homeless refuse to go to shelters for fear of violence or disease. I would like to see Community Connections provide more assistance to keep the homeless off the street at night by keeping their lobby open and providing access to shelter, bathrooms and counseling. It’s a matter of willingness of the organization to bring that in.” He also discourages residents from providing handouts to panhandlers.
Drugs -He says that the problem is not just K2 – so-called synthetic marijuana – but a combination of powdered heroin and cocaine which has had a “huge impact which I see in my neighborhood. The use of heroin and cocaine do not manifest itself to the degree that the use of K-2 does, producing comatose users, but some characteristics are the same.” He sees a link between package theft and drug use, and says we need more action by MPD’s drug intervention task force.
Retail – Jayaraman says landlords in ANC6B’s commercial corridors – Barracks Row, Eastern Market, Pennsylvania Avenue – are asking too much money for rents: “I hope landlords realize they can’t get this kind of money forever. I don’t know that Capitol Hill is dying – there are lots of young families. But it’s not a cool, hip place to live anymore – as much as near The Wharf or H Street.” He said we have to be more supportive of businesses and would like to see Union Kitchen – a makerspace for commercial cooks – on Capitol Hill and a Compass Coffee, adding, “Change is inevitable – how we continue is to recognize that and adjust moving forward and increase our efforts to promote it.”
The Historic District – “I don’t believe the Historic District needs to go farther east –there may come a time when it’s appropriate, but were not there yet. In light of so much development in Hill East and with the potential development of RFK there could be segments that become Historic – but not necessarily a straight line extension.” He says we need a balance between historic homeowners and the drive to make housing more affordable. The challenge is to find a way to let owners expand their homes to accommodate growing families, while maintaining the character of what makes Capitol Hill unique. Leaning too far to one side in rejecting everything means we price ourselves out of being a vibrant community. He wants to increase development of alley dwellings and allow second story rear additions.
Hill East – “I’m concerned that outside the historic district that in some ways it’s like the Wild West. He said he lost a vote in his SMD when he tried to use parking regulations to prevent a four story popup in a row of two story houses – “It looks like a middle finger. Just because something is built by right doesn’t mean it’s right.”
RFK – He’s opposed to development of a new football stadium. He would like to see a mixed use area – athletic fields and a building with lots of activities for kids, adults and seniors. He says he could see an amphitheater or maybe a smaller stadium for the Captials or Wizards. “It would be great to get on a bike at Kingman Park and ride to Georgetown and have various experiences on the way – RFK – Navy Yard – ballpark – The Wharf. That’s what an international city is – we need to become a more dynamic international city. A big part of that means how the city is managed – I don’t think city does as well as we could and I think we can do better.”
Reservation 13 – He says he’s glad the first two buildings are going up and want to see other parcels developed and expects ANC6B to continue to have input, especially through the Hill East Task Force.
SE Boulevard – “It will get going again when Barney circle is complete, that will force the issue. SE Boulevard is needed to reestablish the community connection and the water. That will promote development all the way down to the water.” He said that at one time there had been talk of a land swap to redevelop Potomac Gardens – “maybe that’s what we do – build brand new public housing along Southeast Boulevard, move residents there, and raze and rebuild Potomac Gardens. I don’t know if that idea is going anywhere, but a lot of people recognize it is a valuable property with the potential of providing a lot of revenue to the city.”
“Great Weight” – CHC wound up the interview asking what can be done to encourage city agencies to give the ANC opinions the “great weight” to which it is entitled by city regulation?
Jayaraman said, “We have to define what the responsibilities of the agencies are by participating in city council oversight and budget hearings and providing input to councilmembers.” He said it is essential to actively push back against agencies who fail to take ANC opinion into account, citing a recent decision by DDOT to change parking signs on 7th Street outside of Eastern Market without notice or involvement of ANC6B, and ABRA procedures which allow them to strike down an entire liquor license settlement agreement if they disagree with one section of it.
Jayaraman was born in Bangalore, India and moved to Overland Park, Kansas, when he was four and grew up there. He studied engineering and then and received a degree in economics at the University of Kansas. After college, he worked on several Congressional political campaigns, then as a legislative aide for a member of Congress. He subsequently worked for a law firm, then as Program Manager of Columbia Heights YouthBuild, and as a research associate for Inclusion Incorporated / Inclusion Research Institute (IRI). After nearly 10 years at IRI, he started Strategic Educational Consulting, LLC [SEDC] – a private, minority-owned small business which provides expert consulting and training services on emergency preparedness and response to various types of disasters. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the JOBS Coalition, and has been a former Board president and alumni representative at The Hill Preschool. He is actively involved in Capitol Hill Little League Baseball and tutors middle and high school students in algebra.