Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) provided an update to ANC 6C, covering subjects of public and traffic safety and education. He said a focus of the Committee of Public Safety and the Judiciary, of which he is chair, is developing a comprehensive approach to improving citywide public safety, particularly curbing gun violence. He said that while overall violent crime has been decreasing, there has been an increase in homicides, adding that 160 people lost their lives last year to homicide.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “It’s every single person in this room.”
He said he is working with Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Newsham, adding that he did not believe that the city could arrest its way out of problems. Allen emphasized investments in violence prevention, such as the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, which works to intervene with individuals at risk of becoming perpetrators or victims of violent crime.
Allen noted that on the evening of Feb. 12th he had attended the third and final confirmation hearing for DC Public Schools Acting Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, saying that he heard a lot he liked but had not come out fully in support as he had yet to hear specifics on matters pertinent to the needs of Ward 6 schools, including:
- how to expand Pre-K seats, especially in schools with significant waiting lists;
- how to ensure that middle schools are places that families have confidence in;
- ways to address issues of equity, especially in terms of fundraising and test scores.
“I think he did a very good job in the hearing yesterday, but I’m just going to keep pushing him, because I want to hear what I think you all deserve, which is to make sure we have a plan and specifics around that,” Allen said.
In response to a question from the commission about the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) Felon in Possession initiative, under which the USAO and federal law enforcement partners will charge and prosecute cases in U.S. District Court for previously convicted felons illegally possessing guns, Allen said there is no scenario where he would say it was okay to prosecute local crimes under federal law rather than altering District laws to address concerns. But he said that while he disagreed with the move, it was the USAO’s decision to make, since most prosecution of local crimes are done by the USAO which has no accountability to District Council.
Allen said that District law had more flexibility to help individuals rehabilitate and avoid recidivism, pointing to the ‘red flag’ law passed the prior year which allows courts to remove firearms from individuals believed to be a danger to themselves or others. Allen said the law contains a mechanism to create immunity against prosecuting such individuals for possession of illegal firearms, making friends and family more likely to contact authorities.
Responding to concerns regarding Vision Zero, the District traffic safety initiative, Allen said that while positive steps have been taken by Mayor Bowser, efforts have not gone far enough, adding that he thought the city prioritized convenience for vehicles over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. He said that in addition to ‘alley-palooza’, the District-wide initiative to repair or renovate alleys in all eight wards, there should be a ‘crosswalk-a-palooza’ to repaint crosswalks that have either faded or been repaved by DC utilities but not repainted. He said he wants to introduce legislation that mandates repainting of crosswalk striping within 24 hours after the completion of construction under penalty of a fine that could get into the thousands of dollars. Allen said that he thinks the presumption should be that neighborhood residential intersections should be four-way stops barring justification by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).
K Street Road Diet
The commission voted to support a recommendation from the Transportation and Public Space (TPS) Committee to send a letter to DDOT expressing support for the quick implementation of the K Street Corridor Safety Assessment and asking for priority modifications to the design. These included asking that:
- bike lanes, especially against the curb, be protected by more than just flex posts
- the two-way cycle tracks below the underpass be redesigned so cyclists are not required to switch sides of the road
- DDOT look at creative solutions for mid-block loading to address concerns for those losing parking.
Noting that more than three dozen people had died on District roads last year, and that 4000 new residents were coming to NOMA developments in the next few years, the commission unanimously supported the motion.
Retrospective Permit for Driveway and Parking
The commission heard an application for a permit to retroactively seek a permit for an existing driveway at 668 E St. NE, as well as to install paving stones. The applicant said that the driveway had been part of the property when he purchased the property ten years prior, and ‘no parking’ signs are located on either side of the driveway. The previous owner said the driveway has been present since the 1980s and neighbors lodged no objections. However, the city cannot locate any existing permit and asked the applicant to seek ANC support for the drive way curb cut. The TPS Committee noted that an application for a new curb cut and parking would be generally opposed but thought the longevity might warrant an exception. Commissioners argued that the space was no longer a driveway, as modifications to the yard had transformed it into private parking on public space privileging the homeowner rather than leaving the curb space accessible for public parking. The application was opposed by a vote of 4 to 2.
The Commission voted to support:
- An application from DC Water for an extension to work hours for a water main replacement at Eighth and East Capitol Streets NE, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the caveat that a single detour be created along major roadways;
- A revised Historic Preservation Application (HPA) for concept approval of a second-story garage addition at 224 C St. NE;
- A Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) application for special exceptions to construct a third story addition at 918 Seventh St. NE. It was felt the protected rooftop element slated for removal would not make an impact on the overall streetscape;
- A BZA Application for special exception to permit live performances at the VBR Brewing Corporation (Red Bear), with the caveat that the application be reviewed in five years, in the interest of future residents of nearby planned developments;
- A letter to DDOT requesting that the agency study Second Street NE corridor from Massachusetts Avenue to M Street NE in light of two recent collisions between vehicles and cyclists.
Present: All six members of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C were present at the Feb 13th meeting: Christine Healey (Secretary, 6C01), Karen Wirt (Chair, 6C02), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (Vice-Chair, 6C04), Joel Kelty (6C05, Treasurer) and Robb Dooling (6C06).
ANC 6C meets at 7:00 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month (except August) in the ground floor conference room at the Heritage Foundation (214 Massachusetts Ave. NE). The next meeting of ANC 6C will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 13. Learn more at anc6c.org.