ANC 6B Unhoused Neighbors Housing Update

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Appearing were Commissioners Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Gerald Sroufe (6B02), Brian Ready (6B03), Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04), Steve Holtzman (6B05), Corey Holman (6B06), Edward Ryder (6B07), Peter Wright (6B08), Alison Horn (6B09). Not appearing: Denise Krepp (6B10).

Department of Health (DoH) representatives were scheduled to appear before the ANC to discuss the implications of a viral video showing rats in a Barracks Row Popeye’s restaurant. Chair Brian Ready (6B03) said that DoH representatives had confirmed attendance at the Nov. 9th meeting. Ready said it was an important conversation around the safety of dining in the District. The video, Ready said, indicated that the rat infestation was not spontaneous, but instead had developed over time.

Popeye’s was “grandfathered” in, and not subject to restrictions newly imposed by the ANC, notably a requirement for indoor trash storage. Acknowledging that the restaurant had health code infractions, the Chair expressed concern about the safety of other restaurants on the block, given the age and interconnected nature of the buildings.

Ready said he still wanted to ask DoH if the restaurant would be open if the video had not been published online and would invite representatives to the December meeting.

Housing Unhoused Neighbors

The Commission discussed, but ultimately deferred, a vote on a letter intended for Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage, asking him to expedite the placement of all unhoused neighbors into housing, not just those part of the pilot program. The letter cited concern with the treatment of individuals after a man was hit by heavy equipment during an encampment clearing on L Street NE. The letter recommended a postponement of clearings until all unhoused residents are connected with services and requested public meetings with encamped residents.

Community Connections Chief Impact Officer Ishan Heru spoke at the meeting. He pointed out that the pilot program targets only specific sites, none of which are located near Eastern Market. The decision of who gets housing first is not based on need, Heru said. “It’s based on who gets to amplify their voices loud enough,” Heru said, “and this is happening completely outside our homeless entry system.” People who are in the pilot program are getting housing much faster than those in the coordinated entry system: 45 days compared to upwards of three months. The two programs are administered and funded separately, Heru said, with the pilot funded from leftover funds from the CARES act.

As the pilot programs move people out, Heru said, people formerly living in those encampments who did not make the list for housing are moving to other locations. Commissioner Allison Horn (6B09) said this movement actually slows down the housing process for many, as there are different outreach organizations working at each site. Switching sites might mean that an individual needs to switch case managers, or even start the process over again.

“This is a very dangerous game of whack-a-mole,” Heru said. “You’re just going to move them from one place to the other.” The program should be expanded to all encampments, Heru said, or people will take refuge where they know there are resources.

Commissioners expressed support for a special meeting on the topic to discuss the matter in greater depth, to be held under the auspices of the ANC Livable Communities Task Force (LCTF).

Eastern Market Park Preacher

The commission voted to support a request to Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D), District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Everett Lott and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) First District Commander Ralph McLean to attend a meeting of the LCTF to discuss community concerns with noise at Eastern Market Metro Park (EMMP).

In raising the matter, Commissioner Steve Holtzman (6B05) noted an email exchange between Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) and residents about the high-volume amplification used by a late-evening public preacher situated regularly on the plaza near the metro station entrance. According to Holtzman, Allen said the legal opinion from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) was that this was protected speech, and so DCRA could not act on the matter regardless of the amplified volume.

While acknowledging that public meetings on such a topic are not generally productive, Holtzman said that after dealing with the issue for a long time, commissioners continue to receive emails on the matter, and it would be worthwhile to provide a forum where District representatives can explain the city’s position on the issue and residents can voice concerns.

Daytime School Zones Parking

The commission voted 7-1 to submit comments to DDOT on proposed rulemaking on daytime school parking zones. DDOT is working to implement DC Council legislation passed in 2018 which gives the option for an ANC to request a daytime school parking zone where staff could park around schools. The rules are expected to take effect in January or February 2022 and will affect 322 DC Public School (DCPS) and charter schools in DC, said Transportation Committee Chair Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04).

The commission requested that DDOT provide the rational for setting aside specific parking areas rather than issuing regular Residential Parking Permits (RPPs) to school staff, wanting to know more about specific signage for these areas. Once the rules are finalized, they asked the agency to provide guidance to ANCs and to schools, saying the rulemaking is vague on many aspects of the process.

Support for Third Rental Unit

The Commission voted 5-3 with one recusal to support a Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) application to convert a three-story building and a carriage house to a three-unit apartment at 316 Second St. SE. The applicant requires a special exception and a zoning use variance to permit more than two rental units on a single lot in the RF-3 zone. The prior owner had rented the carriage house but without the required Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).

The current owner would like to renovate the main house to include a basement unit for rent, and to also rent the carriage house. Counsel for an adjacent neighbor argued that the lot lacks the required square footage for three rental units and that there is insufficient egress from the rear for the carriage house.

Reminding the assembled that the commission could only vote on the issue at hand, the special exception and use variance for the additional rental C of O, commissioners supported the application. Many argued that they were legalizing a long-term use and said they appreciated the applicant going through legal channels. Peter Wright (6B08) recused himself, noting that he had previously worked with the applicant in a professional capacity.

ANC 6B hosted a special call meeting on redistricting Dec. 3. Read about that meeting here.

The next meeting of ANC 6B is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. For the most up-to-date information on meetings and how to join a virtual meeting via Webex, visit anc6b.org.

Learn about Commissioners and committees and subscribe to the ANC 6B newsletter by visiting anc6b.org or connect with the commission via email at 6b@anc.dc.gov or via @ANC6B on Twitter.