ANC 6C Focus on Public Safety

MPD First District Commander Ralph McLean at the Oct. 13 meeting of ANC 6C. Image: Webex

At the Oct. 13 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C, Commissioners Christine Healey (6C01, secretary), Karen Wirt (6C02, chair), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04, vice chair), Joel Kelty (6C05, treasurer) and Drew Courtney (6C06) were present.

Much of the meeting focused on issues of public safety. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) First District Commander Ralph McLean appeared to discuss crime in the area. A rise in carjackings prompted the invitation. McLean said that there had been nine carjackings in the area roughly covered by ANC 6C. A bicycle patrol unit of 40 officers, eight from First District, has been working in the area from Fourth to 14th streets, H Street to East Capitol. Personnel are deployed based on data related to violent crime, McLean said, and were on the scene of two recent homicides within a minute.

On Wednesday, Oct. 6, 26-year-old Aaron Wiggins was shot on the field at Watkins Elementary School after what police described as an argument during a football game. Two days later, 23-year-old Giovanni Lovelace was killed on the 1700 block of Independence Avenue SE; three other people were injured in the same shooting.

In regard to the latter, McLean said that police know the shooting targeted the person who was killed. “But we don’t know why yet, and we don’t have any clue if there’s any kind of feud or anything going on,” McLean said.

The commander said officers were near an arrest in the Oct. 6 murder on Watkins field. The suspect is believed to have been a member of one of the football teams, he said. Given that witnesses are not willing to talk, officers will review the team rosters and eliminate those on the list one by one. He hoped to close the Watkins case within the week.

Despite the high-profile homicides, McLean said that carjacking constitutes most of the violent crime in ANC 6C.

H Street Concerns

Kelty said crime had increased in the area around H and Sixth streets NE, and that multiple residents have told him they are ready to leave the District. Resident Rob Jennings said four to six prostitutes operated with two “security guards” and a lookout. “They are not afraid of the police,” Jennings said. When he confronted a woman having sex in his backyard, he was pepper sprayed, he said. Another resident confronted the group in her own front yard. The group threatened to kill her and her family. “I want to drive home how serious this is,” Jennings said. “This has ruined our lives for the last five months.”

McLean said work to get things under control was getting harder and harder. “I keep singing the same song. I have 20 less police officers now than when I got here three months ago. Twenty,” he said.

Later in the meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to support a letter to MPD Chief Robert Contee requesting additional MPD resources be allocated to ANC 6C to target prostitution and drug dealing. Kelty said that a group of about 44 residents on Seventh and Eighth streets north of H Street NE had met to discuss these concerns. The letter also asked for data on area prostitution and drug complaints and arrests. Courtney asked that the letter be broadened to include other approaches to crime besides law enforcement.

Update on Encampments

Jamal Weldon, program director in the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services (DMHHS), updated commissioners on the pilot project conducted in the L Street and M Street encampments.

Weldon said that the pilot engagement took place as of Oct. 4. Of the 45 residents identified on the “by-name” list, which included residents in the encampment as of Sept. 29, Weldon said that 24 were “leased up,” or living in housing; 11 were placed in hotels or temporary housing awaiting a match to their units. Another five are on site because they require special accommodation, Weldon said, because they have many possessions or pets. Weldon said DMHHS hoped to house them in two or three weeks. 5 residents moved away between the making of the list and engagement. 15 additional people came to the encampment after the creation of the by-name list, Weldon said, and so did not qualify for the pilot housing’s first program. Weldon said DMHHS needs to work on the best way to engage with them to determine which programs they qualify for.

After the encampment dispersed on Oct. 4, city workers placed concrete barriers on the M Street sidewalk. Weldon said his office was working on a strategy for how to clear all the underpass sidewalks and place barriers intended to “prevent backfill,” or deter anyone else from living there after the engagement is complete. A timeline for removal has not yet been determined, Weldon added, but DMHHS would communicate a definite timeframe once barriers had been installed on all four sidewalks.

Asked about the encampment clearing scheduled for Oct. 14 at Third and Massachusetts Ave. NE, Weldon said the closure is a National Park Service (NPS) endeavor. However, the DMHHS and Department of Human Services (DHS) and contracted providers have assisted NPS in engagement. Weldon said DMHHS and NPS have discussed how to assist the residents so as to avoid simply moving them place to place.

Consent Agenda

ANC 6C voted to support the following actions:

  • The plan for the K Street NE Cycletrack underpass, requesting a protected intersection at First Street and additional treatments in areas of concern.
  • Extension of the First Street Cycletrack north of M Street with additional safety recommendations.
  • A second-stage planned unit development (PUD) application for the Center Block of the Capitol Crossing development project to construct a mixed-use building in the block bounded by F, G, Second and Third streets NW, with the condition that there be no amplified music on the roof deck.

The commissioners voted to oppose a Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) application for work already completed at 521 Florida Ave. NE. The applicant received a permit in 2019 to construct a new building but instead did a partial demolition and removed the mansard roof, resulting in a stop-work order. According to the board, the removal of the mansard and alteration of the porch roof had a substantial adverse effect on the character of this unusual and distinctive block. “Retroactive applications should be treated as if they were made in advance, and the PZE [Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee] would not have supported such an application,” Chair Eckenwiler wrote.

Other Business

The commission also voted to:

  • Conditionally support an historic preservation application (HPA) for facade modifications at Hillsdale College at 233-235 Massachusetts Ave. NE. The original application concerned the units at 227 and 237-239 Massachusetts Ave. as well. After the Oct. 6 PZE meeting, the applicant notified Historic Preservation Office staff of its desire to proceed with only 233-235, suspending consideration of proposed penthouse additions.
  • Approve a letter supporting the Rock’n’ Roll Marathon on Nov. 13. Now a half-marathon and 5K run, the route will no longer encircle the residents of ANC 6C. Cars will still be towed along the race route, and there will be one amplified noise station at Fifth and K streets NE, but the event will conclude by 12:30 p.m.

ANC 6C generally meets on the second Wednesday of the month. The next meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. 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.