The first full meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B since the August break made up for lost time by running to more than four hours. Many community members stayed throughout in order to hear discussion on the report regarding Eastern Market and the status of Seventh Street SE, which took place near the end of the evening.
The quorum: Chander Jayaraman (6B08, chair), James Loots (6B03, parliamentarian), Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Nick Burger (6B06, treasurer), Denise Krepp (6B10), Diane Hoskins (6B02, vice chair), Steve Hagedorn (6B05), Aimee Grace (6B07), Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04), and Daniel Ridge (6B09, secretary).
Presentation by Events DC
Events DC appeared to provide an update on the redevelopment plans for the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Stadium campus. The plans have remained largely unchanged since the last meeting for stakeholders in July. Several commissioners expressed concern about the access road on the site of recreational fields. They asked that the road not separate the fields from the Anacostia River and not provide a route through the neighborhood. Erik Moses, a senior vice president with Events DC, assured the ANC that these concerns were compatible with the goals of the sports authority for the site.
Alcohol and Beverage Committee
The owners of SkillZone (709 Eighth St. SE), the children’s education and play area, applied for a liquor license with the intention of serving wine and beer at birthday parties, family happy hours, and adult social events for registered members only. The Alcohol and Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) rejected their application for a license as a private club, instead suggesting a tavern license. According to ANC Chair Jayaraman, a tavern license is more expensive, permits the sale of alcohol without the sale of food, and can be transferred with the address, increasing the potential of a tavern renting the space in future.
Jayaraman proposed that the ANC endorse a letter to ABRA expressing concern with the issuance of a tavern license and requesting that a representative be permitted to address ABRA at a regular board meeting, where they will present the ANC’s position that a club license would be more appropriate. In a separate motion the commissioners asked that ABRA defer the decision for 30 days to permit the ANC to discuss the issue at the next monthly meeting. If the delay is not granted by Sept. 18, the ANC will protest the license with the cooperation of the applicant. Both motions carried unanimously.
Planning and Zoning Committee
The commission heard a Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) application from the owner of the 12-unit apartment complex at 220 Second St. SE. The owner wishes to convert the basement, currently the site of a laundry, storage, and trash room, to a 13th unit. Laundry has been added to each unit, so the laundry room is no longer necessary. The abutting neighbor to the south objected to the removal of the indoor trash storage room, arguing that exterior trash would attract rats, already a problem in the area. The commission voted to endorse the application if it included an order requiring exclusively interior trash storage.
An historic preservation application (HPA) for two houses at 418 and 420 Seventh St. SE was heard a second time. The applicant desires to merge the two buildings and their lots to create six condo units including a third-floor addition and carriage house. The applicant reduced the size and height of the carriage house and removed a proposed rooftop patio in response to concerns voiced by neighbors.
Neighbors argued that the addition was still visible from public space and that adding a carriage house on the lot, located on a block with no alley, would disrupt the green space, removing the special barrier between residences and restaurants that they felt was helping with their rat problem. Residents and commissioners also expressed concern about safety and emergency access to the carriage house. The commission voted, 7-3, to oppose the application, while expressing in the accompanying letter to the Historic Preservation Office that their opposition was related solely to the carriage house structure.
Ebenezer Church appeared in regard to an HPA application relative to its plans for a 10-unit, five-townhouse development on the 400 block of D Street SE. The church and the developers seek a curb cut to facilitate access to interior parking on the development site. The design for the parking element has not been precisely defined but could include an elevator to below-grade parking spaces.
Residents objected to the curb cut, arguing that it would take away two to three street parking spaces and that they had no guarantee they would have access to the interior spaces. A few took exception to the appearance of the buildings, and many had questions about trash disposal for the units. Many argued that communication between the church and the neighborhood about the project had been insufficient.
The commission voted, 7-3, to support the project but not the curb cut.
The HPA application for a third-story deck with retractable roof and rear addition for Ambar Restaurant (523 Eighth St. SE) was heard without the applicant or representatives present. Chair Jayaraman argued that while the applicant was planning to add approximately 88 additional seats to the restaurant, which according to the chair’s calculations would lead to another $1.5 million in profits, the applicant was unwilling to provide interior access between the roof and the trash room. In view of this, and in consideration of the relationship between trash storage and rats, the commissioners voted, 6-3, to oppose the application with one abstention.
As the clock ticked past 11 p.m., ANC 6B voted unanimously to endorse a letter to the Department of General Services (DGS) asking the agency to take no action in regard to the current use and operations of the Eastern Market Special Event Area, including the 200 and 300 blocks of Seventh Street SE where the weekend flea markets are currently operated. The letter further asked DGS to work with stakeholders to make those decisions and to publicly vet decisions through the ANC before they are implemented. The letter asked that the area remain open to activities that may include vending and that DGS monitor the situation as new businesses move into the Hine development.
Fresh food merchants appeared at the meeting to offer comment, many stating that they found the recent assessment of market rent for the South Hall commissioned by DGS to be unfair, and to state that the continued closure of Seventh Street SE would further endanger their businesses. Some expressed frustration that their speaking time was limited at the end of the long meeting.
Carole Wright, operator of the Saturday flea markets, provided printed copies of an email she had received from Eastern Market Manager Barry Margeson in which he wrote that input from the community (including Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, the ANC, and Eastern Market Main Street) would inform the decision-making process.
Commissioner Krepp presented a motion to endorse a letter to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) asking the agency to conduct traffic safety studies on 10 different areas on the Hill. There was some discussion about language and the amount of resources DDOT would be willing to commit. The letter was modified to include a provision stating that resources would not be taken from similar studies underway in the community, and the resolution passed, 9-1-0.
The next meeting of ANC 6B is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Meetings take place the second Tuesday of the month at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.