ANC6B Appears Ready to Take on DoorDash Over Parking/Loading Dock Issues
by Larry Janezich
Posted June 4, 2021
Last Tuesday, ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full ANC appeal DCRA’s issuance of DoorDash’s building permit for renovation of the old Frager’s Hardware store at 1323 E Street, SE. DoorDash plans on using the location for a warehouse distribution center for last mile delivery of convenience items. The recommendation comes up before the full ANC at its meeting next Tuesday where passage is virtually certain.
DCRA’s appeal process is backed up owing to the pandemic and a hearing is not likely to occur until January. In the meantime, it’s unclear what happens to work on the project while an appeal is pending.
The Committee says the building permit is flawed – that it claims four private parking spaces and a loading dock when in reality the existence of those claims is based in part on the use of public space. In addition, the building permit does not address required screening, lighting, zoning use and trash issues.
Actually, Frager’s Hardware had operated at the location for years without its incursion into public space being challenged, but things are different now. When it opened the temporary Frager’s on E Street in 2015, the site was surrounded by commercial and non-residential property. Now the site is a commercial island in a sea of new high rise residential property. In 2015, neighbors and the city looked the other way in the aftermath of the devastating 2013 fire which destroyed the beloved store on Pennsylvania Avenue. Holman says, “It would be a shame if the neighbor’s leniency grandfathers in a greater nuisance.”
DoorDash Manager Josh Neergaard told the committee at last Tuesday night’s virtual meeting that he is committed to operating the parking and loading dock legally. He called the planned DoorMart a small convenience store with 10% pickup by purchaser and 90% delivered by foot, bike, or car within a 3 – 5 radius. He suggested there were ways to work around the problems perhaps by converting street parking into a commercial loading zone which would be used two or three times a day.
Holman said that the city could resolve the major issues by granting a special exception to accommodate the company’s needs, but DoorDash has not filed for a special exception. Holman stressed that any agreement with the ANC can’t be legally enforced – but a special exception granted by the city can. As is, he said, the site doesn’t comply with zoning restrictions and can’t be used without mitigation from the Zoning Commission.
Holman says the solution is going through the special exception process which would include mitigating the impact of the business on the neighborhood, and he hopes DCRA reexamines and revokes the permit on its face when it reviews it. The applicant can then revise the building permit application to address ANC concerns and resubmit. Holman allowed that no one good compromise will make everyone happy.
Former ANC6B Commissioner Nick Burger lives on the block and worries about DoorDash overburdening the site and then finding out it can’t handle it. He says that even with a valid permit there will be a use issue – what was formerly a retail outlet is now a warehouse. He and other nearby residents are concerned about the amount of traffic the business will attract to the street.