Tempers Fly Over Encampments

Elizabeth O’Gorek

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B held its February meeting at the Hill Center on Tuesday, Feb. 11, with a quorum of eight commissioners. On the dais: Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Gerald Sroufe (6B02, secretary), Brian Ready (6B03, chair), Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04), Steve Holtzman (6B05), Corey Holman (6B06, treasurer), Kelly Waud (6B07, parliamentarian), Chander Jayaraman (6B08, vice chair), Kasie Clark (6B09) and Denise Krepp (6B10).

Tempers Flare in Discussion of I-695 Encampments
Samolyk questioned whether District agencies are providing enough incentive to get homeless people off the street. She asked rhetorically whether homeless individuals could even be considered District residents. “If you look at DC Law, they are not considered DC residents,” she said. “So please don’t call them residents. Please don’t call them my most vulnerable neighbors, either.”

The remarks occurred during the commission’s discussion about a cluster of encampments abutting the I-695 overpass located near Garfield Park, prompted by a flurry of constituent emails. In particular, one complaint reported a man defecating on the sidewalk in front of a child. The city had cleared the encampment earlier in the day.

At Samolyk’s invitation, representatives of the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services (DMHHS) were in attendance. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) also appeared.

DMHHS representatives outlined the protocol for clearing encampments, noting that the city was required to give two weeks’ notice and would not clear encampments during inclement weather.

A resident at the meeting said that she wanted protection for the children who played in the nearby playground.

Allen said he was uncomfortable with the way homelessness was being discussed. He said trying to legislate a minimum distance for encampments from schools or playgrounds would likely result in a lawsuit, which would actually make it harder for DMHHS to do its job. He emphasized that no criminal behavior had been seen by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in the encampments, and asked residents to specify the risk they posed to children and to be careful about how they described it relative to people living on the street.

Allen encouraged those wanting to help people get off the street to testify at the upcoming Budget Oversight Hearings before the DC Council to advocate for increased funding for housing and for homelessness services. 

Commissioner Clark to Step Down in March
Clark announced that March would be her last full ANC meeting as representative for her single-member district. After years of living on the Hill, she was saddened to be stepping down in order to relocate with her husband, who is in the military.

Clark, who was unchallenged in the November 2018 race, said she was honored to have been the 6B09 commissioner and to have served with ANC 6B. She has enjoyed getting to know and representing her neighbors through the ANC. “I’ve met amazing people during this time,” Clark said. “I absolutely commend the commissioners and community leaders that have come before me and those who will continue after. Their leadership in advocating and communicating for the community has been inspiring.”

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Clark said she would be pleased to speak with anyone considering a run for the position. For the next month, you can reach her via email at 6B09@anc.dc.gov.

Comments on Comprehensive Plan
The commissioners discussed comments on the District’s comprehensive plan, focusing on a few areas that had been suggested by a working group.

There was significant debate about the Southeast Boulevard, in part because the plan gives no indications of a proposed bus garage in the area, and some commissioners wanted to comment directly on the issue while others said those comments would be too specific and would detract from overall effectiveness of remarks. The commissioners voted to support more general comments, 5-2-3.

In September 2019, ANC 6B notified relevant parties that they would be filing an application to rezone the triangular land parcel at 12th Street, Water Street and M Street SE from industrial use to Medium Density Residential. Since then the site owners have also indicated they intend to file a new planned unit development (PUD) for the site. The amendments to the plan propose a change in future land use designation for the parcel from Medium Density Residential to High Density Residential. Holman noted that proposed changes to inclusionary zoning, which could increase affordable housing requirements at the site, might not be applicable if rezoning takes place now. Recognizing the opportunity to include a lot of housing with minimal impact, the commissioners unanimously supported a recommendation that parks should be included in the site, and that increased environmental remediation take place prior to development.

The ANC reiterated comments, by a vote of 9-1, originally submitted in 2017 about the proposed 15th Street Commercial Corridor. The previous comprehensive plan amendments proposed 15th Street north become a commercial area. The ANC suggested a balance to keep residential density, but to allow pockets of commercial development where it exists, such as across from Payne Elementary School and at 15th Street, where it meets Independence and North Carolina avenues, in part to prevent large scale development.

They also requested changes to public transportation in the area of Eastern Market Metro Plaza (EMMP) to make the area ADA compliant, facilitated by a relocation of the Eighth Street SE bus stops to the plaza.

Other Business
The commissioners voted to:

  • Support a letter to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) requesting installation of traffic signals at the intersection of 16th Street with Independence Avenue SE, citing accidents. They also asked DDOT to consider a 15-mph limit on 16th Street, and that left turns be prohibited onto East Capitol from 16th Street during rush hour.
  • Support a letter to the Transportation Planning Board in regard to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program to ask them to eliminate plans to widen the D-4 exit from I-695 at 11th Street SE, as well as to accelerate funding for the Barney Circle and Southeast Boulevard project. The letter argues that the proposed widening of the exit will encroach on the new Virginia Avenue Park, and could increase danger to pedestrians by encouraging speeding. It also asks for two new traffic studies, one for the entire area with the aim of improving pedestrian safety, and another to ensure a widening would work with plans for the Southeast Boulevard as well as to address concerns with pedestrian safety.
  • Support a letter to the Public Space Committee in regard to the construction application for Phase I of EMMP. The letter asks that the maintenance plan be seen and agreed to before the committee approves the permits. Commissioners asked that the lighting plan for the area be reviewed and improved, saying that MPD has said the lighting is insufficient for area security. The ANC also attached a Jan. 14 letter providing comments in regard to the EMMP transportation study.
  • Support a Historic Preservation Application (HPA) application for a rear three-story addition at 710 E St. SE. The commissioners heard the application in late 2018, when ANC 6B had supported the application. The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) had requested changes, including the removal of a penthouse and modification to the entrance. The easement on an alley on the property, a concern for neighbors, will remain in effect.
  • Support a request from Tortuga Caribbean Bar & Grille (514 Eighth St. SE) for substantial change to add an entertainment endorsement inside the premises on the condition that cover will not be charged and closing be at midnight.
  • Support an application from Finn McCool’s (713 Eighth St. SE) for a substantial change to its liquor license, from Class C Restaurant to Retailer Class C Tavern. The application was made because, under a restaurant license, 45percent of total sales must be food. However, the restaurant has been unable to meet the threshold and had previously been fined. The ABC Committee agreed to support a tavern license if the restaurant would maintain a full-service kitchen and agree to a 35percent food-sales threshold. The rest of the current SA would remain in place.
  • Re-elect the chairs for all committees and working groups, except the Barracks Row Working Group, where Chander Jayaraman took the position over from Brian Ready; and to appoint 22 resident members to committees.

The next meeting of ANC 6B will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10, at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital (921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE).

ANC 6B has been working to update its website. You can visit the new site, learn about commissioners and committees and subscribe to the newsletter by visiting www.anc6b.org or connecting via email at 6b@anc.dc.gov, and @ANC6B on Twitter.

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