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ANC Supports Public Restroom Pilot But Questions Locations

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C met virtually via WebEx June 8. Commissioners Christine Healey (6C01), Karen Wirt (6C02, Chair), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Joel Kelty (6C05) and Drew Courtney (6C06) were all in attendance.

Commissioners discussed several issues around Union Station including a proposed public restroom pilot and the expansion project at the station.

Commissioners voted 5-1, to send a letter of support for a public restroom pilot program but opposition two proposed locations in their ANC, adding that they are open to other locations within the ANC.

Marcia Bernbaum, a member of DC Public Restrooms, a research organization dedicated to studying public restroom installation and promotion, spoke to commissioners about two pilot programs for the District that will install standalone restrooms in “high need” locations.

“Everyone deserves easy access to things like public restrooms; it’s a human right,” Bernbaum said. “We unfortunately have very few restrooms,” he added, “and businesses have been increasingly limiting restroom access.”

Bernbaum discussed creating a program to provide financial incentives xfor businesses to open their existing restrooms to the public: bikers, shoppers, tourists, families, children and those experiencing homelessness. She emphasized that the “community buy-in” is crucial to providing access for everyone.

“We’re passionate about this,” Bernbaum said of the project. “We want to do it right, we want to make sure the standard, so the ideal is the stand-alones are placed in places that meet the criteria.” Bernbaum said there are certain areas “that desperately need it over on the other side of the river.”

Commissioner Courtney (6C06) expressed support for the program and the increased need for public restrooms in the District, but acknowledged that Union Station may not be the best fit for a pilot program. “Frankly, I can think of better locations in our ANC that I feel like could really benefit,” he said.

Commissioner Kelty (6C05) expressed opposition to the program and advocated for a use of public facilities already in District metro stations that he says have been “intentionally made inaccessible”.

“My initial reaction to this was, rather than spend all this money building new toilets, why don’t we compel, encourage [or] pay metro to open up the toilets they have and staff them and address whatever concerns they have with making them available,” Kelty said. “You’ve already got all the utility connections there. It’s all built.”

Commissioner Healey echoed Courtney’s concerns about the placement of the pilot program and advocated that the ANC “express support for the idea of developing more public restrooms, but point out that these two locations in our ANC are not the best” for a pilot program.

Union Station Expansion Project
Commissioners unanimously supported sending a letter of appreciation to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for changes made to plans for Union Station expansion and reiterating a need to continue conversations about the project.

Commissioner Healey (6C01) provided the commission with an update on the Union Station expansion. Healey noted that the FRApublished an environmental impact statement related to the Union Station expansion approximately two years ago that ANC strongly opposed. The commission registered their opposition with the National Capitol Planning Commission. Healey reported that these plans have been revised significantly since and expressed “appreciation” for the changes that have already been made including plans to implement a “world-class bus station.”

Courtney expressed support for the revised plans, particularly regarding pick up and drop off locations, but emphasized the importance of continuing to have a conversation about additional changes to the project.

“I think, by and large, I support that and I think we’ve gone a long way,” Courtney said. “I did have some concerns about what they presented. I was a little bit worried about some of the mock ups and I understand that they’re just mock ups.”

Healey agreed with the need for future discussion and providing feedback. She proposed that she work on a draft letter and circulate it among the commissioners of the ANC. Adelstein questioned the need for a letter or testimony given that the commission has not yet seen what the USRC or others have proposed. Healey disagreed and said she believes the ANC “can make a statement to make it clear to NCPC that we think that there’s been progress.”

Courtney echoed Healey and said writing out the proposal may be beneficial. “It feels to me like some of these issues can be written around to make clear that you know, there may be some changes we have some concerns about, but in principle, we’ve made a lot of progress,” Courtney said.

The commission voted unanimously to:

  • Support a new Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) class C hotel license at the Washington Marriott Capitol Hill Hotel (1325 Second St. NE).
  • Support the ABRA renewal licenses of: the Phoenix Park Hotel (50 N Capitol St. NW), Café Berlin (332 Massachusetts Ave. NE), Junction Bistro Bar & Bakery (238 Massachusetts Ave. NE), Nando’s Peri-Peri (411 H St. NE), Carving Room NoMa (130 M St. NE), Courtyard by Marriott Washington DC (1325 Second Street NE), Fancy Radish (600 H St. NE), Hyatt Place Washington DC (33 New York Ave. NE) and Indigo-Indian Food on the Go (243 K St. NE).
  • Support a concept approval for a two-story rear addition that would replace the existing deck at 663 Maryland Ave.
  • Approve a special exemption from the lot occupancy requirements to construct two rear decks to an existing, semi-detached, three-story flat at 301 K St.
  • Support alterations to the entrance, facade and the addition of a large canopy overhang for a newly proposed Ted’s Bulletin location at 1005 First St.
  • Send a letter to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in support of plans to add micro mobility corrals for bike and scooter parking at Sixth and K Street NE and at Sixth and H Street NE.
  • Send a letter to DDOT asking that a solid barrier be installed to prevent trucks from unloading or loading in that two way cycle track.

Additional Items:

  • The ANC voted to oppose the public space application for Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza (301 Mass Ave), but to not send a letter and continue discussions with the owners in advance of the hearing. The motion passed 4-2 with Commissioners Healey and Adelstein abstaining. The proposal and settlement agreement were both discussed during the meeting related to their proposal to include outdoor seating, including an enclosed sidewalk Café on Third Street NE. Commissioner Healey proposed an additional discussion regarding the settlement agreement regarding the hours of operation of the cafe as well as the placement of trash.
  • The ANC unanimously supported a $2,750 grant for the Story of Our Schools Montessori Project that works with children to develop museum-quality exhibits about the history of neighborhoods and schools. The exhibits are installed permanently in the schools.
  • The commission voted unanimously to adopt the recommendation from Environment Parks and Events (EPE) committee to send a letter to DDOT in support of the light repairs taking place on L Street as well as the NoMa Parks Foundation desire to remove the jersey barriers and put up fencing so that they can complete repairs.
  • The commission unanimously adopted an EPE committee recommendation to send a letter of support regarding the K Street NE underpass repairs project. Commissioner Courtney said that, at this time, the underpass art has not yet been installed, but they are hoping for the first exhibit to be installed in September.
  • The commission voted unanimously to send a follow up letter to DDOT regarding the loss and inventory of call boxes. The EPE committee did a survey and reached out to DDOT with questions in November 2020. This follow up letter will “sternly remind them” of the old letter and ask for follow ups to commissioners.

ANC 6C will meet again on July 13 via WebEx. You can learn more about the commission and register to attend the meeting here. Note that ANCs do not generally meet in August.

Sarah Payne is a general assignment reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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