All seven ANC commissioners: Gail Fast (6D01), Anna Forgie (6D02), Ronald Collins (6D03), Andy Litsky (6D04), Fredrica Kramer (6D05), Rhonda Hamilton (6D06) and Edward Daniels (6D07) were in attendance.
At the Oct. 13th meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D, commissioners discussed construction, homeless encampments and COVID-19 testing in Southwest DC.
The Jefferson Apartment Group and Fortis are proposing to construct a new residential building across from Nationals Park. The property would be located on South Capitol Street and N Street SW. The construction will be an approximately 310 unit apartment complex with 11 stories. A representative from the development team said project plans have evolved significantly though discussions with local officials, residents and ANC Commissioners over more than four years.
“The main consideration moving forward with this is preservation and compatibility with the townhomes that are actually part of the site,” the representative said. “There are six row homes integrated into the design itself…the goal was preservation and compatibility in a way that I think is really unique for a site on South Capitol street right across from the ballpark, and I think this project really effectively balances those things.”
Caroline VanAcker, an associate with project architect Beyer Blinder Belle, addressed what she called one of the main community concerns; the reflectivity of the glass. VanAcker said the glass will have an approximately 13 percent reflectance value, however said the glass used for the building has not been approved or purchased yet.
Commissioner Fast (6D01) expressed concerns about shadows and light for the townhouses surrounding the new development. VanAcker addressed these concerns with results of a shadow study completed on the proposed construction plan. VanAcker said that in the spring, summer and fall the townhouses would get “good sunlight” while in the winter time, she said, “(they) are looking at the worst-case scenario for shadows.” VanAcker said the main time period affected by shadows for these homeowners would be in the mornings during the winter months.
Commissioner Hamilton (6D06) raised questions about the funding and affordability of this property. Greg Van Wie, Senior Vice President at Jefferson Apartment Group, said that the project itself is not receiving an opportunity zone tax break, however, it is receiving funds from an investment that will pass through tax breaks because of the opportunity zone designation. Additionally, Van Wie said that the development will include 24 inclusionary zoning units set aside at 60 percent of AMI which qualifies voucher holders.
Commissioners Litsky (6D04), Forgie (6D02) and Kramer (6D05) thanked the team of owners and architects for addressing all of their questions and concerns as they refine their proposal, particularly with respect to the lighting. The Zoning Commission hearing for this project will take place on Oct. 26.
Commissioner Daniels (6D07) spoke about the current situation with homeless encampments on Virginia Avenue between 3rd and 4th St. SE. Daniels emphasized the importance of this issue due to the number of individuals who died last year on the streets, including an individual Daniels saw often and knew well.
“The city released an article stating that 117 of our neighbors passed away on the streets of DC during 2019,” Daniels said.
Fast and Daniels attended a meeting on Oct. 4 where they heard directly from 6D residents about their concerns pertaining to the encampments.
“This is obviously a very sensitive subject because we are talking about people that for whatever reason–mental health issues, drug issues–they are living on the street and they don’t have a roof over their head,” Daniels said. “The concerns from residents in the neighborhood are that the inhabitants of the encampments are now using their property for water use (such as) using their water hoses to fill buckets.”
Daniels said that there are also public health concerns related to public urination and human waste on sidewalks near the Capital Quarter Arena, but his main concern was the gray area with respect to enforcement from the city. Daniels emphasized how the lack of local government enforcement and the continued growth of the homeless population amid the pandemic presented significant challenges for the community.
Mikaela Ferrill, the Ward 6 liaison from the Mayor Bowser’s Office of Community Relations and Services (MOCRS), spoke to attendees about how the District’s response to encampments and the issue of homelessness has changed amid the pandemic.
“Agencies are still on the ground, making sure that our neighbors experiencing homelessness are staying safe and healthy throughout this pandemic,” Ferrill said. “Reach teams are giving out masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, water, trash bags, brooms and dustpans to make sure that (the homeless) are able to keep their areas clean.”
Ferrill also said that Health and Human Services (HHS) is increasing the frequency of which portable toilets are cleaned from three to five times per week and that the District is contracting with a biohazardous waste management company to address human waste on the sidewalks. Ferrill emphasized that their goal was to ensure the safety of residents and the homeless population to the best of their ability through these practices and efforts.
Commissioners agreed unanimously to send a letter to the city requesting a permanent COVID-19 testing site noting in their letter that Southwest it is the only quadrant in the District to not have a permanent testing site available for residents.
DC Attorney General Karl Racine attended the meeting and heard concerns from community members regarding recent violence, housing and the COVID-19 pandemic. Racine encouraged commissioners and attendees to reach out to the Attorney General’s office at 202-442-9828 with questions or concerns about their situation.
A proposal to swap Parcel Q and Parcel H, an empty space next to District Winery that is going to be developed, was also discussed by the ANC. The swap would add residential spaces and units in Parcel H, rather than commercial office space which would be reallocated to Parcel Q. Parcel H would include 20 percent affordable units at 50 percent AMI which would increase the number of affordable housing units in the area to over 100. The ANC passed a motion unanimously for a letter in support of this proposal.
The ANC also discussed the Parc Riverside II residential building’s loading dock which appears to be too low in height to accommodate delivery vehicles. Trucks are allegedly blocking the road and creating a safety issue for drivers and pedestrians and the ANC 6D voted unanimously to send to DCRA and developer Toll Brothers.
The ANC 6C will meet next on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. virtually via Webex. Find the link to the meeting, agendas and more information about the commission at www.anc6d.org
Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with Hill Rag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at [email protected]ag.com.