Appearing were Commissioners Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Gerald Sroufe (6B02), Brian Ready (6B03), Steve Holtzman (6B05), Corey Holman (6B06), Edward Ryder (6B07), Peter Wright (6B08), Alison Horn (6B09) and Denise Krepp (6B10). Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04) was unable to attend.
US Attorney for the District of Columbia (USADC) Matthew Graves spoke at the Mar. 8 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B, answering questions about violent offenses and gun possession in particular.
Graves took office in November 2021. He said his vision is for his office to be a model of 21st century prosecution, meaning attorneys engage in evidence-based, District-informed prosecution practices that have crime suppression as their primary goal. That’s not monolithic, Graves said; differing crimes have different solutions, but the USADC is “laser-focused” on violent crime.
Calling the rise in violent crimes in recent years “unacceptable,” he said his office is doing everything possible to curve the trend back down. Between 200 and 300 community members are responsible for the most serious violent crimes, Graves said, and they are for the most part known to their communities. That makes relationships with the community key in addressing violent crime, but USADC also wants to build cases that hold that handful of individuals to account and take them out of the community so they can recover, Graves added.
Asked about frustration expressed by some District officers who say suspects are arrested but not prosecuted for crimes, in particular gun use, Graves placed the onus on the courts. He said that although prosecutors seek holds in the majority of cases, a recent examination found that USADC requested holds in 97 percent of gun-related charges but only three percent were granted by the courts. USADC and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) are usually aligned on whether charges can be pressed, Graves said, but up to fifty percent of holds requested in violent crimes are not granted.
Graves said that there are two issues at play in gun cases; first is when USADC decides not to charge someone, usually where there is a constitutional problem with the arrest or seizure of the firearm. Graves said that the law itself is evolving; much that was permissible during an arrest only three or four years ago has now been declared unconstitutional by the DC Court of Appeals. Officers practicing for decades must constantly adjust, and USADC conducts officer trainings to help them do so.
Second, he said, is insufficient evidence, usually when the person arrested is insufficiently linked to the gun, such as when officers find a gun under the floorboards in a car carrying multiple passengers.
Graves pointed out that DC Council is in the process of reevaluating the DC Code. One proposal is to eliminate carjacking as a standalone office. Carjackings currently come with a seven-year mandatory minimum; armed carjackings have a 15-year minimum sentence. The proposal is to treat these as robberies, a move USA-DC plans to oppose.
Changing Zoning for DoorDash Mart Site
Commissioners unanimously supported a motion to file a Notice of Intent with the Office of Zoning to rezone 1323 E St. SE from PDR to RA2. Corey Holman (6B06) said the property is designated moderate density residential in the future land use map and is in a neighborhood conservation area.
Holman said that the reason the property is currently zoned commercial is because when the zoning map was first created in 1958, the site currently occupied by Safeway (415 13th St. SE) was the location for the National Capital Brewery. As a result, the entire area was zoned commercial. In 1984, the ANC pushed to rezone a portion as residential.
After the devastating Frager’s Hardware Fire of 2013, Frager’s owner John Weintraub relocated hardware sales to 1323 E St. SE, first leasing and then purchasing the property in 2014. That same year, the rest of industrial land on the block was converted to residential for Watkins Alley and Lockwood and so now, the building is surrounded by residential uses. Frager’s was sold and returned to their original location in 2019, but Weintraub retained ownership of the E Street SE property.
Commercial use of the property is grandfathered in, Holman said, meaning Weintraub could lease it for retail use even if the land is re-zoned. The goal is to encourage residential redevelopment of the space. Neighbors are supportive of the appeal, he said, as when Frager’s left they had hoped for an interesting use of the site and were disappointed by DoorDash. “We’re just trying to set a vision for the block that matches the comprehensive plan,” said Holman. He added that he hoped Weintraub would be part of the discussion moving forward.
Update: On Mar. 21, ANC 6B announced that DoorDash Mart at 1323 E St. SE would be closing this fall. Holman said the ANC would continue to pursue the zoning amendment for the site.
In Other Business
Commissioners voted to:
- Withdraw an appeal of an Aug 12, 2021 decision by the Zoning Administrator to issue building permits for Ledo’s Pizza (415 Eighth St. SE). Commissioners had voted to appeal the permit at their September 2021 meeting, arguing that the permit was erroneously issued for a restaurant, while Ledo’s Pizza more closely conforms to fast-food use. Because the building is in an MU-25 zone, fast food use requires a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) and consideration before the ANC. The ANC had argued that efforts by residents on the block to ensure proper trash handling and rodent management would be undermined by Ledo’s non-compliance with the standards of the other businesses. Holman said Ledo’s was permitted to file an amended eating establishment questionnaire after the ANC had filed the appeal. If the establishment operates in a manner consistent with their stated eating assumptions, there are no grounds to appeal, Holman said.
- Support a Board of Zoning Application (BZA) for a special exception from rear setback requirements and lot occupancy limits to construct a second story rear addition to a two-story semi-detached home at 1500 D St. SE. The applicant wants to convert their second-floor rooftop deck into another bedroom. The applicant has letters of support from neighbors, but one objected on the grounds of the impact to light and space. The applicant argued that the sun study showed minimal impact.
- Approve two new committee members: Frank Avery (Transportation Committee, 6B01) and George Holman (Alcohol Beverage Committee, 6B04).
- Unanimously support a letter moved by Jennifer Samolyk (6B01) addressed to DC Council and the DC Attorney general expressing concern for the uptick in carjackings on Capitol Hill and noting that a majority of those arrested are juveniles. It requests that DC Council hold a roundtable on how to address the topic with the community and experts.
ANC 6B will hold the next meeting of the full commission virtually at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2022. Get up to date information on meetings at anc6b.org