ANC Bemoans Heritage Trees Destruction

ANC 6D Report

284

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D (ANC 6D) met on March 14 over Zoom. Commissioners Dr. Marjorie Lightman (6D01), Jared Weiss (6D02, secretary), Andy Litsky (6D04), Fredrica (Rikki) Kramer (6D05, vice chair), and Edward Daniels (6D07, chair) were in attendance. Ronald Collins (6D03, treasurer) and Rhonda Hamilton (6D06) were absent.

DC Department Of General Services (DGS) Outreach Coordinator Wayne Gore, DC Dept. of Transportation (DDOT) Community Engagement Manager Kelly Jeong-Olson, DDOT Urban Forester and Urban Forestry Administration Arborist Jack Chapman briefed the commission on the status of the trees on I Street SW and the northern end of Lansburgh Park, a 5,500 square foot section of which has been leased to the developers of the Bethel Church for $1 per year.

Commissioners objected to DGS decision to lease a section of a public park to a private developer. “We want to know from the onset that a developer wants to use land in a public park,” stated Daniels. The commission had not been consulted in the matter. “This makes a mockery of the role of the ANC,” said Vice Chair Kramer. DGS is not required to consult the ANC in advance of such a lease, Gore replied. The amount under the lease is less than two percent of the entire park, he pointed out, and therefore had no adverse impact on the public.

“They (the developer) didn’t need to (consult with the ANC). They wanted the lease and you gave it away for a $1. It seems like you took away our land and gave it away to a developer,” Secretary Weiss. “Possibly a dollar a year is not much of a public benefit,” he added.

There are many ways that developer could have enhanced the park after using it for three years,” stated Commissioner Lightman. “It was a lousy deal,” chimed in Commissioner Litsky, who was appalled that agency had forced Weiss to FOIA the agency’s agreement with the developer. “Anytime a developer goes into any space for any purpose, it is a public matter,” pointed out Kramer. More public benefits should have accrued, Kramer added.

Having castigated DGS for the lease, commissioners turned their attention to the trees that had been removed both from the I Street’s curbside and from the area leased within the park. Commissioner Weiss had been noticed on the tree removal permit, stated DDOT’s Jeong-Olson. Urban Forestry had analyzed the site, stated Arborist Chapman. The agency concluded that the redevelopment would adversely impact both the trees on the curbside and those within the leased space by severing their expansive roots systems. This would make them unstable and dangerous. Removal and replacement were the best alternative, Chapman stated.

Greenleaf Build First
Commissioner Kramer reported on her and Treasurer Collins’s testimony regarding plans to redevelop the Greenleaf public housing complex at the recent DC Housing Authority Board of Directors (The DCHA Board) meeting. The Board amended their resolution in support of redevelopment to include a commitment to the principles of ‘Build First,’ Kramer reported. The two commissioners remain dissatisfied about the level of specificity for the onsite relocation of existing Greenleaf residents in existing redevelopment plans. DCHA may be deliberately emptying out the Greenleaf Senior Building in preparation, Commissioners speculated.

DHA has, however, committed to reviving The Greenleaf Advisory Group, Kramer reported. She also told her colleagues that Bozzuto had been replaced on the development team by Paramount Development. Commissioner unanimously voted to send a letter to DCHA requesting details about Build First plans, the Greenleaf vacancies and plans for subsidies and amenities for the future Greenleaf development.

Support for Riverfront BID Renewal
Representatives from Capitol Riverfront BID provided the commission with a quarterly update. In addition, they requested a general letter of support for the renewal of their charter by the DC Dept. of Small and Local Business Development. No increase is planned for the BID tax; thus a resolution by Council is not necessary for the renewal. There will be hearings in June. The mayor must certify the renewal by July. The organization’s new five-year plan would commence on Oct. 1, 2022.

The Capitol Riverfront is evolving into a mature neighborhood with only 30 percent of the area remaining to be developed, stated BID Executive Director Michael Stevens, AICP. His organization’s goals for the next five years are to maintain a clean, high-quality public realm, foster a sense of community, implement a 10-year vision for the three parts under the BID’s care, add to the neighborhood’s civic and cultural infrastructure, enhance accessibility of parks and the river, and extend clean team operations to the highway underpasses developing a master plan for their civic enhancement. The BID will also focus efforts on getting DDOT to engage with the community regarding its plan for South Capitol Street, particularly the new traffic oval at the base of the renovated Frederick Douglass Bridge. A full range of programing is returning this summer to Canal and Yards Parks, Stevens stated.

M Street Draft 30% Design South Capitol to First Streets SE. Courtesy Capitol Riverfront BID

After some discussion, commissioners tabled the matter of the letter to their next meeting. However, they gave the BID’s “M Street Mobility Project” their full attention.

As has been reported earlier, The BID is engaged in an The M Street Mobility Project, which is a study of how to improve transportation along the entire corridor. The BID plans to submit the study to DDOT in hopes it will provide the basis for future transportation planning related to M Street. The SE portion of the design is approximately 30 percent complete. The BID has contacted potential vendors for pricing and service levels. It hopes to submit the final plan at the DC Council’s hearings on its renewal in June of 2022.

M Street Draft 30% Design Cushing Place to Third Street SE. Courtesy Capitol Riverfront BID

Commissioners were split on the appropriateness of a quasi-government body usurping DDOT’s role is transportation planning, a traditional government function. Led by Commission Litsky, they questioned the effectiveness of the BID’s public engagement process in support of the study, which according to Commissioner Kramer did not adequately account for stadium traffic. “BIDs figure out how to get things done,” countered Commissioner Lightman in support of the BID’s transportation planning.

Petalpalooza

The Cherry Blossom Festival is resuming with its main event, Petalpalooza, scheduled for April 16, 1-9 p.m. at Yards and Diamond Teague Parks. Each will sport a stage, reported Cherry Blossom Festival representatives. The event will close with fireworks.

There will be extensive street closures surrounding the parks and Nationals Stadium. Water Street will be closed between Third and Four Streets SE. Dump trucks will provide street barricades. The festival is deploying traffic control officers at key intersections. Residents of the area will be given a hang tag to allow them access to their garages. Unarmed security officers are also being deployed. The only armed force will be the Metropolitan Police Department (MDP).

Commissioners expressed concerns about traffic originating in Southwest and Buzzard Point, noting a soccer game is planned for that date and the plethora of tourists visiting the Tidal Basin. There will be a lot of visitors transitioning across SW from the Tidal Basin to the Yards. Asked about the Circulator, event organizers stated it will be accommodated.

Other Matters
MPD First District Captain Jon Dorrough briefed the commission on public safety. There was a shooting at 101 G St. SW, he stated, as a result of a dispute. Bullets injured a bystander. Most recent crime, he stated, is petty theft and theft from vehicles. However, there have been more stolen autos, especially hop ins. Crime, he said, is generally returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Asked by commissioners about the challenges posed by juvenile offenders, “We have tracked these kids for years,” Dorrough stated. The courts cannot keep up with them due to the special arrangements under Home Rule for criminal justice. Moreover, MPD staffing is at historically low levels. Officers are working 12-hour shifts with no holidays due to the trucker protests. This impacts residential crime since civil disturbance units are drawn from patrol, he said.

Ivan Frishberg and Troy Prestwood briefed the commission process of the Ward 6 and Ward 8 Redistricting Taskforces. Frishberg and Prestwood stated that both Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White (D) are supportive of created a bi-ward ANC that would unite the sections of the Capitol Riverfront below M Street SE with that above it. Ward 8 taskforce members have considered adding some areas on the eastern side of the Anacostia to that commission as well. Taskforce reports and draft maps must be submitted to the DC Council by April 1.

The DC Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Chief of External Affairs Tommy Jones and DPR Landscape Architect David Wooden provided an update on renovations planned for the Greenleaf Recreation Center. DPR plans to resurface basket ball court, fencing and install upgrades to lighting, bathroom for ADA and security cameras. Th agency plans a new tech lounge. All work will take place between March 21 and May 31, they stated. The building will remain closed during renovations. DPR is moving all programming from King Greenleaf to Randall Recreation Center in the interim.

The commission unanimously to:

  • approve sending a letter to DDOT to install the 22 pedestrian safety measures recommended by the agency at Van Ness Elementary over a year ago in the next 60 days;
  • resolve to ask DDOT to immediately convene a stakeholder meeting to review the annual Transportation Traffic Operations and Parking Plan (TTOP), not updated since 2009;
  • approve sending a letter to DC Dept. of Regulatory and Consumer Affairs requesting the agency create an emergency hotline for complaints about after-hours illegal construction.
  • protest a request from Tap 99, 1250 Half St SE, to add an entertainment endorsement to their existing license on basis of peace, order and quiet;
  • hire Jane Park as its Administrative Director.

ANC 6D meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of every month. The next meeting is April 11, 2022 via Zoom. For more information and links to join ANC meetings, visit www.anc6d.org.

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