Tag Archives: Hine

Deputy Mayor’s Office (DMPED) Stonewalls Access to Public Documents on Hine

Deputy Mayor’s Office (DMPED) Stonewalls Access to Public Documents on Hine

Hine Issue Before CM Bowser’s Economic Development Roundtable Next Week

by Larry Janezich

One complaint common to both District residents and ANC6b is the lack of responsiveness by DC government agencies to their queries and concerns.  The attitude of dismissiveness spans the Office of Planning, to the Historic Preservation Review Board, to the Zoning Commission, to the Department of Transportation.

The failure of the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to respond to repeated requests for the final documents concerning the transfer of the Hine site from the city to Stanton-Eastbanc is the latest example of the trend.  According to Oliver Hall, the attorney representing Capitol Hill residents who are appealing the Zoning Commission’s approval of the Hine project, Ayesha Abbasi, DMPED Freedom of Information (FOIA) officer, failed to produce documents requested under a FOIA request to the office of DMPED.

According to Hall, these documents are public contracts dealing with the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by public bodies, and DMPED is required to make such documents publicly available.  Hall said that with very few exceptions, DMPED appears to have withheld public records he had requested and further had failed to provide any written explanation for the reasons, as required by law.

Hall said that an initial review of the documents DMPED produced suggests that DMPED omitted many public records without any indication or explanation whatsoever. He cited, for example, several DMPED email communications responsive to his request which expressly refer to attached documents, which Abassi did not attach.

Hall claims that Abbasi has ignored three follow up requests from him asking whether DMPED intends to produce any additional documentation.

The issue is timely, since next Tuesday, CM Muriel Bowser, will chair an Economic Development Roundtable on Major Economic Development Projects to discuss developments throughout the city, including the Hine Project.  The purpose of this public oversight roundtable is to hear from the Deputy Mayor about the status of these projects and to identify next steps. Two days later, the DC Court of Appeals holds a hearing on the Hine Coalition’s appeal of the Zoning Commission’s ruling.

Capitol Hill Corner contacted Corey Lee, DMPED Project Manager for Hine, to ask about the availability of Hine documents.   We were referred to DMPED Chief of Staff, Rich Nichols, who referred us to Director of Communications, Chanda Washington.  After Capitol Hill Corner outlined the claim that DMPED was not being responsive to requests for the closing documents on the Hine project, Ms. Washington responded as follows:

“I cannot speak to the specifics of the request. That is the responsibility of the FOIA officer who must speak directly with the requester.

The policy of the District of Columbia is to share documents with the public detailing government operations. There are however, under the Freedom of Information Act, certain categories of documents that may be exempted. Those exemptions are not intended to hide from the public but to ensure that there is a free exchange of ideas with the full intention of the final document being produced to the public when requested.”

In a follow-up discussion, Ms. Washington said she was unable to speak to the timeline for the project or milestones the city expects the developer to meet since the project is currently in litigation. With respect to the LDDA – one of the documents sought by Hall – she said it was her understanding that it had been made public and was available on line.  Asked for clarification, Washington in a later conversation said that “there was a LDDA in 2010, which was amended in 2011.  There are documents associated with the July 13, 2013 closing which are made public with the Recorder of Deeds after closing.”  Asked if this meant that DMPED had no responsibility to make documents available, Washington called back to say that “Generally, within 30 days after closing [July 12, 2013, in this case] documents are filed with the Recorder of Deeds and anyone can access them on line.”  She went on to say that documents are also available from DMPED, but stipulated that DMPED usually deals with requests for information through Freedom of Information requests.

After visiting the website of the recorder of Deeds, and registering, a search was conducted using search prompts “East Banc Inc”, “Stanton Development Cor” –  the formatting having been determined by the website’s available list of grantees and grantors – and by lot and square number (Lot 801, Square 901).  Of the verified data (processed deeds), and processing queue (unprocessed deeds from July 15, 2013, until September 19, 2013) no records on Hine appeared as the result of any of these searches.  If these documents are indeed public, then they are not being made publicly available.

The approaching hearing date for the appeal of the Zoning Commission’s ruling has initiated some activity.  After filing an appeal of the Zoning Commission’s approval of the Hine project with the DC Court of appeals, (as reported on Capitol Hill Corner  http://bit.ly/1doatJi) Stanton-Eastbanc (SEB) filed a reply, to which the Hine Coalition responded.  Copies of these documents can be found by clicking on the link in the Library at the top of the CHC homepage.

According to a press release from the Hine Coalition, the group is asking the court to send the PUD back to the Zoning Commission “because the agency improperly decided the case on an incomplete record, because the agency failed to address the PUD’s excessive height – it will be more than twice as tall as any development currently permitted at the historic site – and because SEB failed to disclose the extent to which taxpayers are subsidizing the PUD, by paying for many of the ‘public benefits’ it claims the project will provide.”

“There is a complete lack of transparency in this PUD,” said Attorney Oliver Hall.  “SEB has not disclosed the Land Disposition and Development Agreement or the affordable housing covenant, which state the terms by which SEB will acquire the valuable Hine Junior High School property from District taxpayers.”

The Hine Coalition raised funds from the community to pay for a three-quarter page ad in the current issue of City Paper summarizing the financial issues which they maintain shows why the Hine Project is a bad deal for the city.

The Committee on Economic Development Roundtable on Major Economic Development Projects will meet next Tuesday, September 24, 2013, at 11:00am in Room 500 in the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.


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Capitol Hill Residents Appeal to Wells on Hine Project – Court of Appeals Sets Hearing Date

Hine Sign

Capitol Hill Residents Appeal to Wells on Hine Project

Court of Appeals Sets Hearing Date

by Larry Janezich

A group of Capitol Hill residents who are appealing the decision of the Zoning Commission on the Hine project has written to Councilmember Wells to urge him to support their efforts for reconsideration of the PUD order by the Commission.  A copy of the letter to Wells is below.

Oral argument before the DC Court of Appeals on the resident’s appeal has been scheduled for September 26th at 9:30am in Courtroom 1 of the DC Court of Appeals, 430 E Street, NW.

August 9, 2013


Councilmember Tommy Wells

Council of the District of Columbia

1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 402

Washington, DC 20004

Dear Councilmember Wells:

We are a group of Ward 6 residents who write in response to your recently stated support for the Planned Unit Development (“PUD”) that the developer Stanton-EastBanc, LLC proposes to build on public property where the former Hine Junior High School is located.  We have serious concerns about several aspects of this deal, not least of which is the lack of transparency regarding its basic terms.  Many people have no idea, for example, that the District will convey ownership or control of this valuable public property to Stanton-EastBanc at a sharply discounted price, or that District taxpayers will pay for many of the “public benefits” Stanton-EastBanc claims its PUD will provide.  The PUD also appears to violate key provisions of the District’s zoning regulations and Comprehensive Plan, which are intended to ensure that new developments are compatible with existing neighborhoods, and that the District remains affordable to all residents – not just the wealthy.

Because the PUD will be located in the heart of the Capitol Hill Historic District, we are particularly concerned about its excessive size and height, and the negative impact it will have on the historic character of our community.  The PUD will top out at seven stories and 94.5 feet – more than twice the height of the historic rowhouses and other buildings surrounding it – and will tower over everything in the vicinity.  Remarkably, however, the Zoning Commission approved Stanton-EastBanc’s PUD without even addressing this extreme disparity in height, despite the Comprehensive Plan’s express requirement that developments in historic districts “shall be consistent with the height and density of contributing buildings in the district.” 10 DCMR § 1011.11. We are therefore raising our concerns in an appeal to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The Court has not yet decided whether the PUD complies with District of Columbia law, but the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (“DMPED”) is nevertheless pressing ahead in its deal with Stanton-EastBanc.  In July, DMPED reportedly transferred the Hine School property to Stanton-EastBanc by means of a hastily-executed lease and sale agreement that was not subject to public review.  As your constituents, hundreds of whom wrote letters or signed petitions in opposition to this ill-conceived PUD, we therefore ask that you reconsider your support for it, based on the following:

(The facts included herein may be verified by reference to materials in the public record of Proposed Resolution 18-963, the “Hine Junior High School Disposition Approval Resolution of 2010,” which are available online through the Council’s Legislative Information Management System.)

1. The 2010 tax-assessed value of the Hine School property was $44,672,920, but DMPED agreed to sell the “North Parcel” to Stanton-EastBanc for only $800,000, and granted the “South Parcel” to Stanton-EastBanc under a 99-year lease for only $21 million – a sharp discount even before the Zoning Commission upzoned the property to allow Stanton-EastBanc’s PUD to be more than twice the height and density currently allowed;

2. District taxpayers – not Stanton-EastBanc – will pay for demolition of the Hine School, including asbestos abatement and other environmental remediation, and for construction of the 700 block of C Street, even though Stanton-EastBanc will own this formerly public street;

3. Because the PUD has been exempted from the Inclusionary Zoning regulations, District taxpayers also will pay for the affordable housing units in the PUD, which Stanton-EastBanc otherwise would be required by law to provide, see 11 DCMR § 2600 et seq.;

4. The affordable housing units, most of which are intended for District seniors, will expire after 40 years, in violation of the requirement that they be set aside “for so long as the project exists,” 11 DCMR § 2602.7(b), and the Comprehensive Plan policy of increasing the amount of affordable housing for “current and future residents,” 11 DCMR § 2600.1 (emphasis added);

5. The affordable housing units will be significantly smaller than the market rate units, and will be segregated in the North Building, without access to the “luxury” amenities in the South Building, in violation of the Inclusionary Zoning regulations’ purpose of “ensuring the benefits of economic integration for the residents of the District,” 11 DCMR §2600.3(e), as well as Comprehensive Plan policies intended to promote an “inclusive city,” 10 DCMR §§ 100, 500.3, 500.14.

We believe the foregoing facts demonstrate that this oversized PUD will not only cause permanent damage to the unique character of the Capitol Hill Historic District, but also that it represents a gross waste of taxpayer assets.  The District is transferring ownership or control of the Hine School property to Stanton-EastBanc for a fraction of its fair market value, and District taxpayers are further subsidizing the PUD by paying for “public benefits” that Stanton-EastBanc is required by law to provide. Councilmember Wells, we have always supported redevelopment of this property in a reasonable manner that will enhance the Eastern Market neighborhood, rather than destroying the qualities that make it a beloved attraction throughout the District, and for visitors nationwide.  Will you not investigate the foregoing facts, and join us in our effort?   If you still support Stanton-EastBanc’s PUD, however, please respond to this letter by explaining why you believe this seven-story, 94.5-foot PUD is appropriate in an historic district currently zoned for building less than half that height, and why the taxpayer subsidies identified herein are justified. In view of your mayoral candidacy, the voting public deserves to know where you stand on such matters.

We recognize that your position as a Councilmember is a demanding one, but due to the urgency of this matter, we respectfully ask that you respond to this letter within two weeks, by August 23, 2013. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Petitioners, Howell, et al. v. D.C. Zoning

Comm’n., No. 11-AA-366-378


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ANC6B Supports One Year Extension For Transfer Of Hine Site to Stanton/Eastbanc

Oliver Hall, attorney representing neighbors in the appeal of the Zoning Commission ruling on the Hine Development

Oliver Hall, attorney representing neighbors in the appeal of the Zoning Commission ruling on the Hine Development

Commissioners Garrison and Oldenburg scoffed at Hall's assertions

Attorney Anthony Lanier represents Stanton/ Eastbanc

               Anthony Lanier represented Stanton/

ANC6B Supports One Year Extension For Transfer Of Hine Site to Stanton/Eastbanc

City Council Will Likely Follow Suit Today

by Larry Janezich

Last night, ANC6B voted to support emergency legislation to provide a one year extension for transfer of the Hine site to Stanton/Eastbanc (SEB).  The current deadline for the transfer is Saturday, July 13, 2013.

ANC 6B’s letter to Councilmembers states that two issues make this delay necessary:  first, a discrepancy between the plat used for the development plans and the plat held by the Surveyor for the District which results in one foot of the main building’s south façade encroaching on public space; second, an appeal to the DC Court of Appeals of the Zoning Commission ruling filed by neighbors, which the developer and the ANC contend has delayed financing for the project.

The letter states that while the city and developers are pursuing alternate route to the settlement that will allow the development process to continue, the project cannot fully move forward until the court appeal is resolved.  The court has set a hearing for mid-September, but it could be several months after that before it issues a ruling.

The Commission voted 8 – 0 for the letter of support.  The City Council will meet in legislative session today to consider a long series of bills, and the Hine legislation to provide the extension is on the agenda.

Prior to taking action, the ANC invited the parties in the issue of the appeal – the attorney for the neighbors, the attorney for Stanton/Eastbanc, and the Deputy Mayor’s project manager for the development to outline the issues from their perspectives.

Attorney Oliver Hall, representing 13 petitioners as litigants and the neighborhood organization EMMCA as an “intervener,” began by stating that the petitioners do not oppose the redevelopment of the Hine site but support a development compatible with the scale and character of the existing neighborhood.  He made a case that the Zoning Commission had failed to perform oversight, specifically failing to consider whether the benefits and amenities credited to the developer – including affordable housing and reopening of C Street – should be recast since much of the funding will come from taxpayers;  failing to consider whether these above public amenities offset the impact of the development on the neighborhood; failing to make any finding of fact justifying the change in zoning; and failing to comply with the spirit and intent of inclusionary zoning regulations regarding the affordable housing component.

Some commissioners treated Hall dismissively, a fact not lost on one of the litigants who later raised the issue when the Chair asked for comment from the community. That neighbor castigated Acting Chair Ivan Frishberg for reacting with mock incredulity to one of Hall’s assertions regarding the cost to taxpayers of reopening and privatizing C Street.  Frishberg had followed that demonstration with an apology.  Less contrite, however, were Commissioners Oldenburg and Garrison who openly scoffed at Hall’s presentation.  Oldenburg challenged Hall, noting the commission has been reviewing this for the past five years and “that all these issues have been brought up and discussed.”  “Who are you?” she demanded of Hall.

Anthony Lanier, head of Eastbanc followed Hall, supporting the extension because of the plat issue and the litigation. Asked about the financial impact of the delay, he cited the potential increased cost of funds and opportunity costs on investments so far, the concern that lenders can change their opinion of a project when there is uncertainty about the time frame of the project, and the loss of jobs and tax revenue that ensue from any delay.  He professed confidence that the plat issue could be resolved in 3 – 4 months and a new settlement procedure could be reached in no more than 30 days.

Cory Lee, the Deputy Mayor’s project manager for Hine, said that a one year extension was necessary to protect both the developer and the city, assuring the ANC that protections built into the contract provide for reversion of the site to DMPED in case of failure of the developer to meet contractual obligations.

Questioned by Commissioner Garrison as to whether DMPED was pressing hard enough to push the project, Lee replied that circumstances were much different now and that earlier there was a “lot of benefit to transfer the land to the developer.”  He noted that things outside the developer’s control have slowed project and said that “given the circumstances the last thing Mayor wants to have happen to be in the position of explaining why the administration transferred an asset.” While somewhat opaque, Lee seemed to be suggesting that DMPED would only transfer Hine once the office attained greater peace of mind regarding the future viability of the project.

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Hine Construction Traffic Plan Anticipates Up To 10,000 Dump Truck Trips

Hine Dump Truck Traffic Plan Anticipates 7,000 – 10,000 Dump Truck Trips

By Larry Janezich

As many as 10,000 dump truck trips carrying dirt and debris away from the Hine site will hit 7th Street, SE, between the middle of next November and the beginning of next April.  The period will constitute phase 2 (excavation phase) of the Hine Project.  That works out to one truckload  every three to five minutes exiting the site across the street from Peregrine, turning left on 7th Street, left on Pennsylvania Avenue, and right on 11th Street to access the SE/SW freeway near Ginko Gardens.  The trucks will operate only on weekdays and between the morning and evening rush hours, the exact timing to be determined by DDOT.  The route for trucks arriving on the site has not yet been determined.  Details were released by Hine Project Construction Manager Matt Harris to the ANC6B Transportation Committee on Wednesday night.

Harris presented the Committee with two plans for construction traffic, one with trucks entering the site at an entrance at Pennsylvania and D Streets and another with the entrance on 8th Street.  As Harris explained, this was in response to concerns of 8th Street neighbors who asked that they not bear the full brunt of having trucks on their street for the entire 18 weeks.  Upon questioning by Commissioner Brian Pate, Harris admitted that there was no reason why the entrance at Pennsylvania and D couldn’t be used for the entire excavation phase.  He did warn that he was uncertain how much DDOT would resist putting an entrance at that location.  Pate asked the Committee to approve a letter from ANC6B to DDOT expressing the strong preference for the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.  The Committee approved that motion and the letter will be considered by the full ANC6B at its meeting next Tuesday. 

Asbestos removal is expected to start next July to kick off the phase 1 (demolition phase) of the Hine project.  Phase 1 will continue through September.  Asbestos from the site will be bagged and placed in dumpsters on the south end of the Hine Playground which will be removed as necessary.  Harris said that it was the intent to try to keep the weekend flea market vendors on the Hine playground for as long as possible.  Details on phase 3 (vertical construction phase) have not yet been presented. 

ANC6B will meet at 7:00pm on Tuesday, May 14, in Hill Center.

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Wrapping up the Week…. Hine, Security Cameras, New Development, Parking, Etc.

Two new town houses are slated to replace this white brick building facing Stanton Park, at 513 C Street, NE

Two new town houses are slated to replace this white brick building facing Stanton Park, at 513 C Street, NE

Wrapping up the Week…. Hine, Security Cameras, New Development, Parking, Etc.

by Larry Janezich

Hine Project to Get Underway Mid-Summer

According to word from Stanton Development, neighbors of the Hine project are likely to see the beginning of demolition activity at the Hine site mid-summer as the building is boarded up for asbestos removal prior to demolition scheduled to begin in the fall.  Still to be hammered out with neighbors are the details of the construction management agreement.  Group representatives will meet with the ANC reps and Stanton soon to begin this process.   

Security Cameras for Eastern Market Metro Plaza and Nearby Streets?

ANC6B Commissioner Ivan Frishberg has asked Tommy Wells’ office and other city officials for information on costs of high tech security cameras in order to explore the feasibility of tapping into the Performance Parking Fund for this new crime fighting technology.  MPD Chief Lanier has embraced the use of cameras as a crime fighting tool, noting that while the new technology is very helpful it is expensive.  Software associated with the technology looks for certain movement such as the gathering of crowds and fast motion.

Regulations provide that a portion of the parking fees derived from the Performance Parking Pilot be funneled back to the community for non-automotive transportation projects.  Frishberg says he thinks the cameras would contribute to a walkable neighborhood.  The funding of such projects is limited to the area in which the parking restrictions are actually in force, which would include Eastern Market Metro Plaza, the area around Eastern Market, nearby Pennsylvania Avenue.  “The idea is exploratory at this stage,” Frishberg emphasized, “saying the ANC should see what the costs and options are.” 

New Development:  Two “Elegant” Townhouses to Face Stanton Park

Plans are in the works for development of two “elegant” town hours (read $1.5 million+) for the space now occupied by the building pictured above at 513 C Street, NE, on the south side of Stanton Park. 

Architect Carmel Greer of District Design brought the concept designs before the CHRS Historic Preservation Committee last Monday, which as usual, wanted to see some tweaking.  The concept drawings will go before HPRB in March. 

Delay in Extension of the Performance Parking Pilot Restrictions North of Pennsylvania Avenue

Extension of the Performance Parking Pilot parking restrictions north of Pennsylvania Avenue to East Capitol has been delayed by a bureaucratic snafu.  City attorneys have informed ANC 6B that city regulations will have to be amended before extension of the program owing to the unusual inclusion of different parking restrictions for Saturday and Sunday in some parts of the plan.  Faced with the decision of plunging ahead with a half measure of parking under the normal Performance Parking restrictions and going back to change signage after the regulation change, or wait out the regulation change before doing anything at all, the ANC Transportation Committee elected to wait for the city to change its rules.  Additional background can be found here: https://capitolhillcorner.org/2012/09/14/anc-votes-to-expand-performance-parking-and-to-protest-ambar-liquor-license/

Disgruntled ANC6B Unhappy with Dysfuntionality of DDOT

ANC6B Commissioners plan on testifying before the City Council at the March 4th DDOT Oversight hearing.  The consensus of the ANC’s Transportation Committee was that while DDOT deserves credit for some projects such as the 17th and 19th Streets Project, the 11th Street Bridge Project, and Capitol Bike Share, the list of grievances against DDOT is a long one.  Among the items the ANC is unhappy about are problems with DDOT’s administration of public space, unilateral decisions affecting traffic control infrastructure made without public notification and input, administration of the Performance Parking Fund,  lack of attention to the Barney Circle Project, lack of follow-through on ANC requests and a general lack of responsiveness to ANC concerns.   

ANC6B  Zoning Regulations Task Force

Zoning Regulation Task Force has had three meetings and continues, according to Chair Dave Garrision, to work through the process.  The Task Force hopes to have recommendations for the ANC’s Planning and Zoining Committee to consider by the Committee’s March 5 meeting.  Garrison noted that there will be two opportunities for ANC input:  first, when the recommendations of the ANC go to the Office of Planning, second, when the Office of Planning submits the final proposal to the Planning Commission later in the spring.   The Task Force has scheduled two meetings this month on Thursday, February 14, 2013, at 6:00 pn, and Thursday, February 28, 2013, at 6:30 pn.  Both meetings will be held in Hill Center.

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EMCAC and ANC6B Cross Swords Over Control of Flea Markets – Former Councilmember Sharon Ambrose Backs EMCAC

EMCAC and ANC6B Cross Swords Over Control of Flea Markets – Former Councilmember Sharon Ambrose Backs EMCAC

by Larry Janezich

Last night at the September ANC6B meeting, the lines were drawn in a dispute between Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) and ANC6B over control of vending on the 300 block of 7th Street.

The ongoing issue of adequate space to maintain the size of the flea market, as well as the control over that space, poses issues of real consequence.  Tens of thousands of dollars in annual vendor fees collected by the current market managers who enjoy cut-rate access to public space to host the weekend markets are on the line.  The weekend market managers have considerable community support from those who do not want to see the markets diminished and those who question the city taking over what has heretofore been a private enterprise.  Many of these supporters of the current weekend flea market are constituents of the two ANC6B Commissioners – Ivan Frishberg and Brian Pate – who have taken the lead in negotiating the community benefits and amenities package with the developer of the Hine project.  Perhaps also at play is a desire to assert the authority of ANC6B in a vacuum left by the lack of city leadership.

Last week, the ANC P&Z Committee defeated a resolution sponsored by Pate that would have requested that the 300 block of 7th be closed on weekends by mayoral order during the construction of the Hine project to accommodate the weekend markets which would be under the control of the two current market managers, with revenues accruing from the resulting contract going to Eastern Market.  Though this had the support of the market managers, the resolution was defeated on 3-5 vote.

Subsequently, EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder wrote to Deputy Mayor Hoskin’s office, DPMED, citing DC law and asserting EMCAC control over vending on the block, saying the law makes clear that retailing on any public space associated with Eastern Market – including 7th Street – “should not be permitted without written consent of the Department of General Services (DGS) and the review of EMCAC.”  The letter went on to state, “While I am sure that ANC6B will want to weigh in, according to the DC Code they are not the primary advisory body for this issue.”  And, “As you may be aware, EMCAC supports vending on this block of 7th street on the condition that it be under the jurisdiction of DGS management and the Eastern Market manager. We do not approve of allowing 2 private management companies to control the space, especially during the construction on the Hine site.”

Councilmember Tommy Wells has also gone on record that vending on 7th Street should be under the control of DGS.

At last night’s ANC meeting Pate introduced a new resolution staying neutral on who would manage the weekend market.  He said he would postpone consideration until the October ANC6B meeting to allow time for the “brick and mortar” merchants on the 300 block of 7th Street to formulate a collective position.

Former Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose rose from the audience to say that the ANC did not have a role in closing of the street.  “There is no request for a street closure – no zoning issues – there is simply nothing here on which you have a role to play.”  Donna Scheeder agreed, saying there is a process in DC code for considering closure of the 300 block and the process should be followed.  She noted that the reason ANC has a seat on EMCAC (occupied by Pate) is to help determine how taxpayer assets can best be managed to preserve Eastern Market, implying that Pate’s first duty was to Eastern Market.  She stated, “I would be remiss in my responsibilities as Chair if I say anything other than the DC Code sets out that EMCAC has primary jurisdiction over retail on the 300 block of 7th Street.”

Commissioners Frishberg, Pate and Garrison disagreed that the ANC has no role.  Frishberg cited the lack of city leadership saying, “If we wait, something will happen and it will be beyond us.  We could have just restated our position on closing the block.  That would have left questions on table.  Where the money goes.  How construction would be coordinated.  We were proactive and chose to get out ahead.  The risk of not doing something is that something will happen some night – the Mayor’s pen….”  Pate added that, “As long as I’m involved, we will have a role in the closure of 7th Street.”  Garrison sharply disagreed with Ambrose, saying, “We’re on solid ground to take action if we choose to do so.”

The decision to postpone any ANC6B action until the October meeting comes at a time when EMCAC is scheduled to meet on September 26th at 7:00 p.m. in the North Hall; EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder suggested Tuesday night that it is likely EMCAC will take up this issue when it convenes.


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Zoning Commission Gives Preliminary Approval to Hine Project – Final Action Scheduled for October 15

Zoning Commission Gives Preliminary Approval to Hine Project – Final Action Scheduled for October 15

by Larry Janezich

Last night the Zoning Commission brushed aside community concerns about the height, density, and available flea market space of the proposed Hine development and voted 4 – 0 to move the project forward.  The Commission will take it up again on October 15 and issue its final order.

The Commission had only minor reservations about the project.  The future of the weekend flea market was not among them.  The commission was satisfied that the developer had made a reasonable accommodation for a flea market on C Streets and believes that the use of 7th Street for expanding that accommodation is not within their purview.

Commissioners were also not troubled by the proposed private ownership of C Street, which was characterized as a benefit to the community in the long run.  The issue of whether the zoning of the site should be reduced to C2-A was dismissed with the assurances that the greater density would also be beneficial to the city in the long run.  The commission felt the height had been dealt with sufficiently by the reductions on 7th Street and on Pennsylvania Avenue negotiated by ANC6B.  Regarding the complaint of some in the community that the public benefits and amenities were not comparable to those realized by the community in other projects, Chair Hood stated that the Commission needed to determine if an appropriate balance had been achieved, and speaking for himself, he said “I’m fine with it.”

Commissioner Turnbull summed up the opinion of several of the Commissioners, saying, “In the long run, the pluses outweigh the negatives.”

The minor issues which will require further attention of the developer and/or the Commission include:

  • Accommodation for 55 foot trucks in the loading dock of the South Building;
  • Re-examination of the parking and traffic impact after the building is 50% occupied to make sure that accommodations are sufficient;
  • Expanding the mitigation fund to include all houses in the 200 block of 8th Street;
  • Completion of construction employment agreements;
  • Moving North Building trash pickup to the 7th Street end of the east-west alley;
  • Revised calculation of floor area ratio;
  • Identification of items from the memorandum of agreement negotiated by ANC6B with the developer which will be included in the final Zoning Commission order.


Despite the considerable resources various neighborhood groups invested in the Zoning Commission process, no significant gains for the community came as a result.

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Zoning Commission Hearing on Hine to Continue Wednesday, July 11

Zoning Commission Hearing on Hine to Continue Wednesday, July 11

by Larry Janezich

Five hours of hearing time on Thursday night was not nearly enough.  The DC Zoning Commission continued the Hine hearing over until 6:30pm on Wednesday, July 11.  It could be a month after that before the commission issues a decision on developer Stanton-Eastbanc’s Zoning Application and a zoning order detailing required adjustments to the project or accommodations the Commission expects the developer to make regarding concerns raised by community groups.

Thursday night’s hearing started with testimony from developer Stanton-Eastbanc’s transportation consultant, DDOT, and ANC6B.  Commissioners Frishberg and Pate testified in support of the development, contingent on finalization of outstanding items in the memorandum of agreement as reported elsewhere on emmcablog.  Frishberg asserted the development would be a net benefit for the community and the city.  Questioned by Zoning Commissioner May about the reason four of the ten ANC6B Commissioners voted against endorsing the development, Frishberg said that there were two reasons:  objections to the over-all size and scale, and objections that the community was not getting enough benefits or amenities for the project.  At the conclusion of the Commission’s questions to the ANC, Zoning Commission Chair Hood announced that a third night of hearings would be necessary and started suggesting dates when the Commission could meet again.

For a few minutes, it appeared as though the hearing would be continued until October after key participants cited scheduling conflicts and raised objections to suggested dates.   Jacques DePuy, counsel to the developer, pointed out that an October date would put SEB in non-compliance with a schedule set by City Council statute.  That sent Zoning Chair Anthony Hood back to seek consensus for an earlier date.

The Commission agreed to resolve the issue by changing the order of witnesses, allowing the parties in opposition to go out of order and complete their testimony and attendant cross examination Thursday night.  This opened the way for a Commission meeting on July 11 to conclude the process of taking testimony.

The Commission went on to hear first from Bill Pate of Hine School North Neighbors (HSNN) who represented 8th Street neighbors’ concerns about the North Building.  He urged leaving it green space or keeping R-4 residential zoning for the parcel.  An expert witness for HSNN testified that that C2B zoning which permits the 94 foot height on the western portion of the project was inappropriate for the site and could be found nowhere else nearby.  He urged C2A zoning for the western half of the project and R-4 residential for the eastern half.  Another HSNN expert witness testified against the inadequacies of the SEB’s traffic consultant traffic study.

Eyes on Hine representative Marcel LaFollette testified on behalf of the 8th Street neighbors directly across the street from the project, saying that the project should be “smaller and better” and that the current plan “disrespects the modest scale and character of the neighborhood.”  She expressed concern that the developer was not taking steps to protect the homes closest to the site during construction, and Commissioner Turnbull offered assurances that the commission could help with that.

A third group in opposition, Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA), was represented by Steve Holtzman, who cited the benefits associated with the original design, including a central plaza, ample space for the flea market, the Shakespeare Theater, and accommodation for a large non-profit, all of which had fallen away.  What was left, he said, is a development proposal that needs more work.  He asked the commission to call upon the developer to take the concerns of the neighbors seriously, and listed those concerns as height and design of the project, historic district compatibility, open space for the flea market, a buffer between commercial and residential, and respect for the historical role the site has had in providing meaningful services for children.

Another party status opponent, Michael Berman of Diversified Market, LLC, manager of the Sunday flea market, testified on the economic and social value of the flea market.  He was supported by a contingent of witnesses – which the commission heard, but refused to acknowledge as “expert” on a 3-1-1 vote.  Berman’s witnesses testified that the Sunday flea market brought $29 million in revenue annually to the District, $5-6 million spent at the flea market, $8 million spent at Eastern Market, and the balance spent in nearby businesses and other parts of the city.  Berman asserted that reducing the size of the flea market to the space provided on C Street would reduce Sunday revenues for entirety of the Eastern market, including the flea market by $6.7 million annually.  Under cross examination by ANC commissioners, he said he had not tried to estimate the impact of 7th Street becoming available for the flea market, as has been proposed under legislation providing for a new governing structure for Eastern market.

It was difficult to assess how much traction the parties in opposition made with the Commission.  The Eastern Market legislation and the proposed solution for accommodating the flea market has somewhat defused that issue.  Drawings provided by the developer to the Zoning Commission and the ANC showing the development plan the city awarded the bid to compared with the current proposal show, according to ANC Commissioner Frishberg, the current proposal to be “in the ball park” – undercutting critics’ “bait and switch” argument.  Frishberg also noted the lack of engagement of the previous ANC6B in negotiating the terms of the Land Dispostion and Development Agreement, which, he said,  limited what the current ANC could achieve.  Concessions by the developer to not put high impact commercial on the 8th and D Street corner, and hints of siting a child care facility at that location may have taken the buffer issue off the table.  New information from the developer’s traffic consultant and discussions with DDOT appear to have resolved the most serious issues raised by the DDOT Transportation Study.  No detailed critiques of the design were offered by any of the parties in opposition, and though CHRS will insist on changes to the design fronting Pennsylvania Avenue (though not the height of the project) when it testifies, without the strong support of the ANC, it is not clear how seriously the Zoning Commission will take objections on either height or design issues.

The hearing will be continued on Wednesday, July 11.  The Commission will hear from parties in support, groups and individuals in support, and groups and individuals in opposition.  The witness list has been closed, but there are more than 90 witnesses who have registered to testify, though the Commission will not allow repetitive testimony from multiple witnesses.  The hearing will close with the developer’s rebuttal.

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Update on the Thursday Night’s Zoning Commission Hearing on Hine

Update on the Thursday Night’s Zoning Commission Hearing on Hine

by Larry Janezich

The Zoning Commission hearing on Thursday night lasted almost five hours.  This first of at least two hearings was devoted to procedural issues and presentations by Stanton-Eastbanc (SEB), the Office of Planning, and the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee presentation.

The Commission granted party status to Diverse Market Management (manager of the Sunday flea market), the Hine School North Neighbors, Eyes on Hine, and Eastern Market Metro Community Association, all in opposition.  The neighbors representing the 300 block of 9th Street were denied party status in opposition.  CHAMPS was granted party status in support.

Party status allows those granted it more time to make their case and gives them the right to cross examine other parties.

The hearing was attended by Chair Hood and Commissioners Cohen, May and Turnbull.  Commissioner Schlater was absent.

Items of particular interest which came out during the hearing include:

  • According to Eastbanc’s Joe Sternlieb, once the project is completed it will provide 700 new jobs and $7 million in annual sales and income taxes.  In addition, SEB has a drawing showing the placement of 70 10X10 tents on 7th Street between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, if that portion of 7th is closed and used for the weekend flea markets.
  • Nicole White of Symmetra Design, SEB’s Transportation consultant, will submit additional transportation study information to the Commission and the developer on Monday.  Of particular concern will be a plan worked out with DDOT for unloading 55 foot trucks at the development and justification for the developer’s plan for parking appropriate to support project.
  • Buwa Binitie, SEB’s affordable housing consultant, located 34 affordable housing units in the North Building, 4 in the Plaza Building, and 8 in the 8th Street Residential Building, for a total of 46.  Half will be restricted to seniors.

Questions asked of the developer by Commissioners revealed their special concerns.

The genesis of many of the questions from Commissioner May appeared to be letters from the community.  In particular, he was concerned about how the current project compared to the original design approved by the city council when the bid was awarded to SEB.  Weinstein said that she would submit additional information to the Commission.  May also questioned Sternlieb about the privatization of C Street, and Sternlieb appeared to be ambivalent about whether a 99 year lease of C Street was SEB’s preference, but stated that the plan was to make use of C Street and the Plaza a seamless experience and alluded to creative use of the space in ways involving art and culture.  May was also interest in how the project compares to other large buildings up and down Pennsylvania Avenue and asked Weinstein to provide additional information to help the commission assess the project’s height and mass.   May also asked Weinstein for an acoustic study because he was concerned about noise on 8th Street.  May favored the extensive use of the green roof, calling in “unusual.”

Commissioner Turnbull raised concerns about the alley elevation of the North Building, saying this side of the building needed additional work to make it fit into the neighborhood.  He also asked for a more extensive shadow study.  Questioning Sternlieb about parking for residents of the North Building, he determined the new information that parking for these affordable housing units will be below the project’s South building.

Chair Hood questioned White about the still-being-worked-out 55 foot truck unloading issue, and questioned Sternlieb about the weekend flea market.  However, he seemed most interested in SEB’s compliance with the First Source Agreement, providing that 50% of employees on the project be C residents.

Commissioner Cohen expressed her support for the number of affordable housing units and asked questions about location of the weekend flea market during construction and a green roof for the North Building.  Regarding the latter, Weinstein noted that the upper floors of the North Building would be a wooden frame construction and as an architect she was unprepared to try to put a green roof on a wooden structure.

Thursday night’s hearing closed with testimony from Donna Scheeder, Chair of Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee.   She expressed disappointment with the Office of Planning report and the DDOT transportation report.  She urged the recommendation in the latter for a reduction in parking be rejected.  Scheeder presented a case for the forthcoming new governing structure for Eastern Market – the “Trust” to assume control of the management of the two weekend flea markets as well as the arts and crafts vendors who operate on Eastern Market Square on the weekends.  ANC Commissioners Ivan Frishberg and Brian Pate bolstered that argument with a series of cross examination questions which amounted to a colloquy supporting the ability of the Trust and an expanded Special Use District – both provided for in legislation working its way through City Council – to handle and accommodate the combined markets.

The hearing will resume next Thursday at 6:30pm, when Nicole White of Symmetra will continue her presentation with new information and the benefit of consultation with DDOT to resolve remaining transportation and parking issues.


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Capitol Hill Restoration Society Endorses Hine Project, With Reservations

Capitol Hill Restoration Society Endorses Hine Project, With Reservations – Final Report Backs Away From Previous Criticism of Height and Mass

by Larry Janezich

CHRS has released testimony it will present to the Zoning Commission on Stanton-Eastbanc’s application to change the zoning on the Hine site.  The final report of the CHRS on the project states, “In the main, CHRS supports the application but still has concerns about some elements of the plans….”

The report then takes issue with the design of the 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue building, calling it “inappropriate and incompatible with the historic district.”  And, “CHRS strongly urges that this building’s design be revisited and made more compatible with historic Capitol Hill.

The report goes on to express reservations about the connecting structure between the two buildings fronting Pennsylvania Avenue, which it calls “completely incompatible with the historic character of Capitol Hill, and in particular, of Pennsylvania Avenue….”  Further, “CHRS insists that this structure be redesigned.”

While the report reiterates criticisms of the design of the 7th and Penn office building and the connecting structure which CHRS raised before HPRB in April, oddly, the report is silent on the size and massing of the project.  In testimony before HPRB last April, CHRS called the 7th  and Penn building “too big, too tall, and too massive” and asked “that the seventh floor be dropped and the sixth floor set back at least as far as the seventh is now.”  Subsequently, ANC6B negotiators were successful in reducing the height of this building by removing the mechanical penthouse and eliminating the top set-back floor – less than what CHRS called for in April.  The April testimony concluded with a request that HPRB revisit and reconsider its earlier decisions regarding the height and mass of the portion of the development between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

In another part of the report, CHRS states that they believe the preservation of the flea market has been adequately addressed by Councilmember Wells’ Eastern Market legislation working its way through City Council, stating flatly, “The Trust will close 7th Street to provide for the flea market.”

Finally, the report slams last week’s DDOT Transportation report which recommended a substantial reduction in the project’s underground parking, calling it flawed and a “great disappointment.”  The report goes on, “Unfortunately DDOT…has decided to wait until just a few days before this hearing to throw a hand grenade into the room.”  CHRS has long supported the substantial parking provided by the developer which was subsequently approved by the city council.  The report states, “It is astonishing that DMPED and the Ciy Council can approve the parking and then DDOT, at the eleventh hour, can veto it.”  It calls on the Zoning Commission to disregard the Transportation Report.

Gary Peterson, Chair of the CHRS Zoning Committee, will present the report to the Zoning Commission.

Tonight, the Zoning Commission holds the first of what is likely to be two hearings on the application of Stanton-Eastbanc for a change in zoning for the Hine site.  The meeting will be at 6:30pm at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, Washington, DC.  The hearing is open to the public and likely to be well-attended.  It will be webcast live at dcoz.dc.gov.  Click the second button from the bottom on the right column.


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