At the Oct. 13 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B, Commissioners Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Gerald Sroufe (6B02), Brian Ready (6B03), Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04), Steve Holtzman (6B05), Corey Holman (6B06), Edward Ryder (6B07), Alison Horn (6B09) and Denise Krepp (6B10) were present. Peter Wright (6B08) was absent.
Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), chair of the DC Council Subcommittee on Redistricting, presented at the meeting. Federal law requires reevaluation of electoral districts every 10 years, after the US Census, to ensure each vote has equal power. In DC, that means redrawing the boundaries of some or all of the eight wards.
Silverman said the committee is under time constraints to complete the project due to the upcoming June 2022 primary and the subsequent election of ANC commissioners. Redistricting will be a two-part process, with ward boundaries redrawn in December and ANCs redrawn in 2022.
The population of the District of Columbia in 2020 was 689,545, according to the Census. The DC Council must ensure each ward has a roughly equal population, about 86,193 residents. A deviation of 5%, or between 81,883 and 90,503 residents in each ward, is permitted. In response to an audience question, Silverman clarified that adding another ward would require revisions to the Home Rule Act.
Only three of the eight wards currently have populations outside those limits. Wards 7 and 8, with populations of 76,255 and 78,513 respectively, are slightly below the permitted range. On the other hand, Ward 6 has a population of 108,202. That means the ward lines must be redrawn to place at least 17,699 Ward 6 residents in another ward, without pushing any other ward’s population over 90,503.
The stakes in DC are different than other jurisdictions, Silverman said, where there is concern around gerrymandering for political parties. A big goal in DC is to ensure that the plan does not dilute the voting strength of minority citizens, meaning that black voters cannot have less voting power after the redistricting process is over. Some neighborhoods also have a great attachment to their current ward, she added.
Silverman said she wants this to be the most transparent, accessible redistricting process ever, which is why she is engaging in so much outreach. To encourage public participation, the committee has created a one-stop website with all the facts and links to the population data. A new online mapping tool (dcredistricting.esriemcs.com) allows residents to draw their own ward and ANC boundaries, using the new data, and submit them to the committee.
At a hearing for each ward, community members can give their views to the committee. The Ward 6 hearing is on Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 10 a.m. A final citywide hearing is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 5, at noon.
How lines will be redrawn is the subject of much discussion among councilmembers. Silverman acknowledged that there is likely to be “more crossing of the river for Wards 7 and 8.” Silverman said it is likely that the committee will release up to three potential maps for public comment before the Nov. 3 and 5 hearings, but she is discussing optimal approaches with colleagues.
Support for Deck at The Brig
The commissioners voted 8-2 to support an historic preservation application (HPA) design review for a deck addition at The Brig (1007 Eighth St. SE) with minor design caveats. Owner Mark Brody wishes to increase diner capacity by about 50 and provide coverage to extend the dining season for the beer garden.
The deck would be placed above current seating to create both another floor of dining as well as serve as a roof over current seating. Moisture will flow into a gutter connected to the stormwater system. The commissioners took issue with the positioning of the stairs, saying they added to impression of a rooftop deck, and asked architect Neil Cruikshank to consider relocating them away from the property line.
The commissioners also requested that the applicant paint, rather than stain, the deck and seek a screening element that could reflect neighborhood design and detract from the illusion that the deck is “floating.”
The application goes before the Historic Preservation Review Board in October, but Brody said he doubted the deck would be complete by summer 2022.
Debate Over Dogleg
Commissioners opposed a Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) application for a special exception that would allow for a two-story rear addition and dogleg infill at 1227 E St. SE. The plan is to add a 10-foot, 6-inch rear addition on a 14-foot-wide lot while filling in the dogleg, taking the lot to 59% lot occupancy. The proposed project extends more than 19 feet past the property to the west, necessitating the special exception request.
The neighbor to the west opposes the addition and presented about the impacts of the addition and dogleg infill, saying a large two-story brick wall along her rear yard unfairly infringes on her enjoyment. Fowler provided the committee with a sun study showing the impact of the proposed addition compared to a by-right addition that would infill the dogleg.
While Planning and Zoning Committee Chair Holman listed instances when he said the ANC had supported similar applications, even where adjoining neighbors were in opposition, other commissioners were unconvinced. Holman cautioned that opposition from the ANC could delay the project by up to 18 months, creating hardship for the homeowner. Motions to support and to take no position on the application failed. A motion to oppose the application passed 5-4.
Update on Gun Violence
Metropolitan Police Department Captain Tatjana Savoy updated commissioners on two homicides that took place in the previous week. A man was killed on the football field at Watkins Elementary School on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Savoy said officers believe the suspect and victim were playing football and got into an argument; as it progressed, the suspect pulled a gun and shot. A handgun was recovered on the scene, and Savoy said the Violent Crimes Branch is making strides toward an arrest.
A second homicide took place on Friday, Oct. 8, on the 1700 block of Independence Avenue SE. A handgun was recovered. Savoy said that shooting was especially frustrating for her because officers had focused on gun recovery in the area.
Residents asked for increased officer presence around 17th Street and Independence Avenue, proposing a camera on the site. Another resident pointed out that a camera already existed in the area, and Savoy noted that this clearly did not function as a deterrent. The captain said that officers do not break up groups of people on the street, as congregating is not illegal, and to try to take action would be a poor use of resources.
Serve Your City Executive Director Maurice Cook asked Savoy to speak to the role of de-escalation and violence prevention in preventing crime, noting he has never experienced the illusion of safety in the neighborhood during the decade he has lived here.
The commissioners voted to support a letter to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) favoring placement of a speed camera at the intersection of A and 17th streets SE.
Commissioners informed those assembled that Eastern Market Main Street (EMMS) Executive Director Charles McCaffrey has taken another position, and that his last official day with EMMS is Oct. 15.
A presentation from the District Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) on a collaboration between the agency and the Better Business Bureau for the DCRA Contractor Rating System was deferred to the November meeting.
The next meeting of ANC 6B is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 9. For information on meetings and how to join a virtual meeting via Webex, visit www.anc6b.org.
Learn about commissioners and committees and subscribe to the ANC 6B newsletter by visiting www.anc6b.org; connect via email at [email protected] or Twitter, @ANC6B.