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ANC 6C Questions NoMA Encampment Removal

At the Sept. 9th meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C, commissioners said they were pleased to hear access to housing for those living in the underpass at L and M Street NE would be accelerated by a pilot project that aimed to remove the NoMA encampments by Sept. 20. However, representatives also expressed concern with a prohibition on tents at the site after that date, the lack of public notice and the speed of program implementation.

Jessica Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff in the office of the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services (DMHHS), spoke at the meeting. She said the three pilot areas include the NoMA encampments, Allen Park where O Street meets New Jersey Avenue NW and the area of E Street near 21st and 22nd Streets NW.

Smith said that DMHHS focused on these three encampments because of the risk they pose to health and safety of both those living and traveling through the area. The NoMA encampment is one of the largest of the approximately 140 in the District, Smith said, and one of the more transient.

The pilot project, initiated Sept. 1, dedicates increased resources to the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) and other support workers such as Pathways to Housing DC. This allows daily visits to connect those living in pilot locations with social services including addiction and behavioral health services.

The pilot also accelerates access to Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), moving residents in over a matter of days rather than the typical application period of six to nine months. Smith said that a little more than 90 percent of those living in the pilot areas are eligible for the program. The goal is to move those eligible by Sept. 20. If an individual does not want to be housed, she said, outreach workers will help them relocate.

6C06 Commissioner Drew Courtney told Smith he was pleased with the effort to find supportive housing, but that he was concerned that the creation of a no-tent zone criminalizes homelessness. He said he worried that the program was not a real housing-first answer to the problem and wondered if there was a way to compromise on space use with residents of the underpass.

“I am concerned that we are somehow pairing it [accelerated access to PSH] with criminalizing homelessness in these encampments. It feels like a bit of a bait and switch,” he said.

Smith pushed back, arguing that the effort was based on the idea of housing first. “Housing first is literally saying that you first and foremost address people’s housing needs,” she said, emphasizing that the pilot doesn’t simply remove residents but finds them homes before attempting to address their other needs.

Efforts made over the years to find a way to facilitate passage through the encampments floundered, Smith said, because of the transient nature unique to the NoMA encampments. A group will buy in to this idea, she said, but then will move on and the agreement will have to be re-established.

Some commissioners expressed doubt about the transient nature of the encampment. They said they were also concerned with the lack of public notice, noting that Smith’s appearance was the first information they had received about the program.

However, Commissioner Joel Kelty (6C05) acknowledged that there were many criticisms of the effort but added that many of his constituents will be thrilled to hear about that some sort of action is being taken.

Speed Bump Installation Sixth Street
Commissioners voted to send a letter to District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Everett Lott to ask for clarification on procedure and communication in the process of installing speedbumps, particularly those related to the Safe Routes to Schools program, citing a lack of communication and procedure regarding speed bumps installed on Sixth Street.

Neighbors complained about sound of cars hitting the bumps, which Kelty said were installed without markings to alert drivers. DDOT later painted them and installed signs indicating “rumble strips.” Kelty said that according to DDOT design standards, the bumps are too close to one another and to a traffic signal, and that an engineering study may have found a better traffic calming solution.

Support for Swampadoodle II Plans
Commissioners voted to write a letter in support of a public space application as well as the plans for Swampadoodle II Park (Third and L Streets NE). They particularly endorsed installation of bump outs and crosswalks but asked DDOT to add traffic-calming elements to encourage safety, including removal of parking for sight lines, tabletop crossing, and a micro mobile corral as part of design.

Transportation and Public Space (TPS) Committee Chair Christy Kwan said that plans need improved focus on safety of pedestrians crossing L Street NE from Swampdoodle II. The plan is for leashed dogs only, with the clear idea that as there is a dog park right next door, this park is not for dogs. It is possible that dogs may be prohibited, Commissioner Courtney added.

Ground is expected to be broken in October or November, with completion in late April, just in time for planting.

In Other Business:
The commission supported the following:

  • A protest of the application for a Class ‘C’ hotel license and Class ‘B’ retail license from Washington DC NOMA Operations, Citizen M Hotel (1222 1st Street NE) in pursuit of a Settlement Agreement (SA).
  • A Board of Zoning Application (BZA) for special relief for lot occupancy and set back to build an accessory garage with roof deck at 617 A St. NE.
  • A modification to a Planned Unit Development (PUD) at 200 K St. NE, to allow animal sales, care and boarding in the building.
  • A PUD modification of consequence and a waiver for Georgetown University which is contemplating purchase of the building at 111 Massachusetts Ave NW. Changes would allow for university use, currently not listed in the PUD.
  • On a guarantee of no amplified sound inside or projected onto a rooftop terrace, a recommended conditional support for a BZA application for zoning relief to allow expansion of a penthouse at 300 New Jersey Ave NW – 51 Louisiana Ave NW, inside the Capital Security Sub area. Commissioner Mark Eckenwiler said the ANC could see no issues but will defer to Capitol Police, who will review plans for security issues.
  • A letter to DDOT asking for clarification on why the residential parking permit signs were updated on the 200 block of C Street NE, allowing for four rather than two hours without a permit. The letter states that ANC did not receive advance notice and asks for clarification about why hours are not consistent throughout the ANC.

The following ANC 6C commissioners were present at the July 10th meeting: Christine Healey (Secretary, 6C01), Karen Wirt (Chair, 6C02), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (Vice-Chair, 6C04), Joel Kelty (6C05), Treasurer and Drew Courtney (6C06).

ANC 6C generally meets on the second Wednesday of the month. The next meeting of ANC 6C is scheduled for a Thursday, 7 p.m. Oct. 13. Meetings will remain virtual through at least December, pending further evaluation of the public health situation. ANCs are required to meet in person as of February, 2022 when special legislation allowing for virtual meetings will expire.


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