ANC Briefed on Plans for Westminster Presbyterian

A view of the proposed redevelopment of Westminster Presbyterian Church from I Street SW.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D met on June 8, 2020, over WebEx. Commissioners Gail Fast (6D01, Chair), Anna Forgie (6D02), Ronald Collins (6D03, treasurer), Andy Litsky (6D04, vice chair) and Fredrica (Rikki) Kramer (6D05), Rhonda N. Hamilton (6D06) and Edward Daniels (6D07, secretary) were in attendance.

The commission began its meeting with an 8 minute and 46 second pause in memory of George Floyd. Chair Fast then read a statement in support of the citywide Black Lives Matter protests.

Redevelopment Planned for Westminster Presbyterian
Ruth Hamilton, co-pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I St. SW, briefed the commission on the congregation’s plans to redevelop the church’s property. In essence, the plan calls for the construction of two towers on top of a base that would house the church, which would open on I Street SW.

To facilitate this, the parcel would be rezoned from R3 to MU2. The project includes an 18,513 square foot church, 102,236 square feet of senior housing and another 90,000 square feet of general residences. The District-owned property on Fourth Street SW that fronts the current church would remain untouched.

“You still have a lot of work to do,” stated Chair Fast. She urged Hamilton to conduct a shadow study on the development’s impact both on the Duck Pond and neighboring Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. She was also concerned about any loss of parking to provide pickup and drop-off access to the senior tower. Nevertheless, the commission voted to support a “set down hearing” for the project with the DC Zoning Commission.

The Mayor’s Budget
Jay Melder, assistant city administrator for Internal Services, gave a run down the impact of the Mayor’s proposed budget on Ward 6 in general and Southwest in particular. Melder touted the mayor’s $40 million commitment to cleaning up the Anacostia River and remediating both Poplar Point and Kenilworth Park. He also outlined a $40 million plan for targeted improvements in public housing as well as upgrades to public intersections. Lastly, Melder stated that funds were allocated to convert Jefferson Athletic Field to a turf surface.

Commissioner Forgie asked Melder for the specific traffic intersections to be improved. Melder stated he did not possess a map.

Treasurer Collins asked for the specific commitments to repairs at Greenleaf Gardens. Melder promised to get back to the commission with details. Collins also asked about the status of federal Headstart funding. Is Headstart funded in the mayor’s budget? Melder promised to get back with the details.

Vice Chair Litsky voiced concern about the provision of bike lanes. The focus, he stated, should be on protected lanes. Melder promised to follow up. Litsky also strongly urged the mayor to provide more funding for the marine fire unit. Melder said he shared the commissioner’s concerns with DC Fire and Emergency Services (DCFEMS).

Melder also promised to return with details about the $40 million remediation planned for Kenilworth Park and Poplar Point.

Commissioner Kramer reiterated Collins’s concerns about repairs at Greenleaf Gardens. She also asked about the number of pre-K slots planned for Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Melder could not provide details. Asked about the timing of the new Southwest Family Shelter, he stated that the project had been held up by COVID supply chain issues, but would open in July.

Commissioner Hamilton asked whether there were new funds in the budget to support low income families struggling with distance learning. In particular, would the city purchase laptops and iPads to close the digital divide? Melder stated that this had already been funded in the COVID emergency legislation. The city was buying Surface computers for low income students, he stated. Hamilton also urged Melder to talk to the mayor about adding additional funds for mental health services for public housing communities.

“We need a real plan to move families from deteriorating units into healthy housing,” Hamilton stated.

New Bike Lanes
Greg Matlesky, a bike program specialist from the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT), presented the agency’s plans for dedicated protected bike lanes on First Street and Potomac Avenue. The agency plans to install them from I to South Capitol Streets SE. Currently, the route is dangerous due to noncompliance with stop signs and loading in travel lanes.

DDOT recommends that the route be reconfigured with two southbound and one northbound lanes. Pedestrian space would be expanded and the curbside activated with public art, planters, tables and chairs.

At the moment, DDOT is still gathering public feedback before finalizing the design. Restriping would then follow in phases.

Commissioner Forgie expressed concern about having two traffic patterns on First Street, one north of M Street and other to the south. How does do the two lanes mitigate the threat of multi-vehicle crashes, she queried? Reducing the lanes eliminates cars screening crossing pedestrians, Matlesky replied.

Commissioner Daniels urged DDOT to reach out to the Brookfield, the developer of adjacent Parcel H to coordinate the management of parking lanes. He also called for a public meeting on the project. Matlesky agreed to both ideas.

“I think this is really helpful and useful for residents of our ANC,” stated Forgie.

Aaron Goldbeck, a DDOT transportation planner and micro-mobility specialist, then briefed the commission on plans for new protected bike lanes on Fourth Street between I and C Streets SW. The first phase of the project is slated to begin in August, he stated.

All the parking meters under the highway on Fourth Street would be removed. The spaces would be converted to Residential Parking with the residents-only side swapped from west to east to replace any spaces lost to the new Capitol Bikeshare Station planned for the intersection with G Street, SW. A new crosswalk is planned just north of intersection with School Street, SW. The dedicated right turn lane northbound at I and Fourth Streets SW will be removed.  Protected bike lanes would be installed along the entire route.

Vice Chair Litsky asked when DDOT planned to install protected bike lanes on Fourth Street between M and P Streets SW? Goldbeck promised to get back to him on the timeline.

Commissioner Hamilton expressed concern about the impact on children crossing the intersection headed to Amidon Bowen Elementary. Could the agency install a Barnes Dance intersection, she asked? A Barnes Dance Intersection (also known as a “pedestrian scramble”) allows pedestrians to cross diagonally while vehicles on all sides of the intersection are stopped at a red signal. The traffic crossing times would be increased, promised Goldbeck. He stated that a Barnes Dance intersection was out of the question, due to limited pedestrian traffic.

The commission voted to support DDOT’s plan provided the agency ensured safety for student pedestrians.

Other Matters
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Captain Jonathan Dorrough briefed the commission on public safety. Crime overall crime was quiescent, he stated. PSA 103 saw two violent incidents: a domestic dispute and a robbery. Both were closed with arrests. PSA 105 and 106 saw an explosion of stolen vehicles, mostly from delivery drivers who had left keys in the ignitions. There were also more burglaries. Shootings near the Greenleaf Recreation Center and on the 200 block of K Street SW had both been closed with arrests.

Assistant US Attorney Douglas Klein, the First District community prosecutor, briefed the commission on COVID scams. Criminals, he stated, were hawking fake vaccines and treatments. They were also soliciting donations to fraudulent charities. Referencing recent protests, he attributed the looting and destruction of property to the city’s “criminal elements,” who targeted drugstores and retailers. Two such individuals had been charged with burglary.

Eric M. Winkfield, public affairs manager at Pepco, provided an update on the utility’s Capitol Grid project. The utility has modified the working hours of its repair crews (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) during the school term. Noisy activities are limited to noon to 4 p.m. hours. Once the school year ends, the hours will return to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to allow the project in the commission to be completed before school resumes in late August. “We want to be good neighbors,” Winkfield stated. Commissioner Forgie asked for better coordination with the commission in future regarding after hours construction permits. Winkfield promised assistance.

Brookfield Properties presented its vision for the development of Yards Parcel H adjacent to Nationals Park between One & Half, First and N Streets SE. The project includes 500 apartments, 20 percent of which will be “affordable,” as well as 22,000 square feet of retail. Plans include a rooftop dog park and a semipublic courtyard. Commissioners expressed concern about any LED lighting and control of the courtyard. They also asked for a fully transparent process for the allocation of any affordable units. No vote was taken.

There were no reports from the chair or treasurer.

The commission voted to:

  • send a letter requesting the city provide free COVID testing at the fire station located at 501 Fourth St. SW;
  • request DC Dept. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to enforce mask wearing for workers on construction sites, who often congregate without them in surrounding areas;
  • send a letter to the mayor and the council requesting them to properly fund marine fire and rescue to ensure adequate water-based fire suppression services, in particular new fireboats;
  • approve a resolution in support of the national and local Black Lives Matter protests;
  • protest the extension of hours at Roy Boys, 1025 First St. SE, on the grounds of peace, order and quiet unless the establishment reached a community agreement with ABC committee representative for ANC 6D02 and authorized the chair to sign any such settlement;
  • authorize Chair Fast to testify before the Zoning Commission on a modification of consequence for 950 South Capitol St. SE.

ANC 6D’s next meeting will be held on July 13 at 7 p.m. at a place to be determined. Visit for more information.