Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B unanimously voted to oppose a Department of General Services (DGS) application to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Public Space Committee (PSC) for permits to begin construction on the Eastern Market Metro Plaza (EMMP) Park project, citing a lack of opportunity for public input.
In a letter to DDOT, the Commission asked the PSC to defer the hearing to allow the ANC time to consider the transportation study.
“We would appreciate it if the District agencies overseeing this project would stop putting up barriers, thereby reducing the Commission’s ability to carry out its responsibilities under DC Code,” they wrote. The application was scheduled to be heard Oct. 24.
The vote took place after an hour-and-a-half long presentation by DGS Design Team Lead Cassidy Mullen and Brent Showalter, a representative of civil engineering firm A. Morton Thomas (AMT). The pair described the results of a March traffic study conducted by AMT in the EMMP area.
The DGS team said that the study supports a proposal to reverse the traffic direction on the 600 and 700 blocks of D Street SE, arguing that data shows this will increase pedestrian safety around the park and for those crossing EMMP north to south. The team proposes the closure of slip lanes in front of Dunkin Donuts and Trader Joe’s, thereby reducing the number and length of crosswalks, and a redesign of the intersections of D Street with South Carolina to angle lanes to facilitate the safe flow of traffic.
Residents at the meeting said it was not clear to them how the proposed changes would increase pedestrian and park safety. They voiced a number of concerns, including the role of metro buses in the study and change in traffic patterns and traffic build-up as a result of the closure of the slip lanes, as well as the potential for collision when the streets are reversed.
Attendees also objected to the lack of community consultation about changes to the traffic pattern, saying that they had expected there to be a meeting about the traffic study in advance of applications for permits and construction.
Critics of the plan asked if the study had considered the effect of the weekend closure of Seventh Street SE for the flea market on the projected use of that intersection, especially since that intersection was flagged as a route for traffic to cross Pennsylvania Avenue northbound.
Showalter said that the data used in the analysis was collected on location in real time this past March. The residents said that while the data for the intersection might have been accurate in March, that period was an exception. In March 2019, the 200 block of Seventh Street SE was open to traffic on Saturdays but closed on Sundays due to a contract dispute between DGS and the private flea market manager that was resolved April 6. The 200 and 300 blocks of Seventh Street SE are now closed to traffic both days of the weekend.
Commissioner Steve Holtzman (6B05) said the commission did not want to delay the project, but wanted to be sure that community input was considered, as required by the process. “You’re getting these questions which are very detailed and full of local knowledge, with people having had a day and a half to look at this,” said Holtzman.
A community meeting was expected to be scheduled by DGS for early November, during which transportation matters will be a focus of discussion. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Learn more about the project and project team by visiting dgs.dc.gov/page/eastern-market-metro-park-project. See the traffic study at slideshare.net/RamaChilamkurthy/emmp-community-presentationsanc-oct-15-presentation-final-rev1
Funds Allocated for District Soul Food Protest
The commission voted to authorize Chair Chander Jayaraman (6B08) to enter into an agreement for legal counsel services with James Loots Law up to a maximum expenditure of $5,000. Counsel will assist in a protest of the liquor license application from District Soul Food (500 Eighth St. SE), which has been the subject of discussion between the applicant, the ANC and neighbors for six months.
Various issues raised by neighbors include trash and the smell of cigars from the upstairs cigar lounge. Most prominent of neighbor concerns is noise, said Jayaraman, both from the live band within the establishment and departing patrons. Jayaraman said that the owners had been in the process of installing new windows expected to help with noise and odor concerns. However, during inspection the Fire Marshal informed owners that the windows would not pass, and different models needed to be selected, delaying resolution.
Jayaraman said that legal counsel is being retained so that the full interests of the community are objectively and consistently represented throughout the process.
The ANC voted to support: • A design concept in support of an Historic Preservation Application (HPA) for a new front basement entrance at 528 First St. SE. Noting that the drawings were prepared by the homeowner, rather than a professional, commissioners said they would note elements that would make the design even better and would send representatives to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) meeting where the application would be heard.
• A letter to the Zoning Commission (ZC) asking to clarify minor text amendments to clarify requests for special exceptions in the case of non-conforming structures, arguing that commingling relief standards for alley and street lots is confusing, and that the ZC web page needs to be updated.
• A letter to the ZC asking for changes to the Zoning Commission Order in regard to the Planned Unit Development (PUD) at Watkins Alley (1309-1323 E St. SE) to clarify that, as part of the agreement, the developer will remove the outward-facing spikes from the fencing around Potomac Gardens Housing Complex, rather than replace the fence as is; to allocate an agreed upon $1,000 community charity donation to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation; and to change the status from a condominium to a homeowner’s association.
• A resolution by a vote of 5-0-2 stating their opposition to the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019, a bill introduced before DC Council that would remove some penalties for engaging in sex work in the interest of health and safety. Jayaraman said that the government should be helping youth find a way out of the sex work. The commission agreed that the bill goes too far and will put people at risk for sex trafficking.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B held the October meeting of the full commission at the Hill Center Tuesday, October 15th with a quorum of seven commissioners. On the dais: Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Gerald Sroufe (6B02, Secretary), Brian Ready (6B03, Parliamentarian), Steve Holtzman (6B05), Corey Holman (6B06, Treasurer), Chander Jayaraman (6B08, Chair) and Kasie Clark (6B09, Vice Chair). Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04), Kelly Waud (6B07) and Denise Krepp (6B10) were absent.
The next meeting of ANC 6B will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 12 at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE). Visit anc6b.org for more info, email [email protected] or find @ANC6B on Twitter.
This report was originally published in the November 2 print issue of the Hill Rag.