ANC 6C Discusses H Street Safety Concerns

ANC 6C Report

83

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C met Wednesday Oct. 12 via WebEx. Commissioners Christine Healey (6C01), Karen Wirt, Chair (6C02), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Joel Kelty (6C05) and Drew Courtney (6C06) attended the meeting.

Public safety concerns surrounding the H Street NE corridor were discussed at length by ANC 6C commissioners and community members in the October meeting. Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and the DC Council expressing concern about public safety and requesting action on the crime spillover on H Street NE. Commissioner Joel Kelty (6C05) and community member Joe McCann, who resides about two blocks north of H Street NE, lead the discussion.

“It just seems like things are spiraling in a bad way,” McCann said of the recent uptick in crime. “If there are this many incidents on my block, which I can’t say is very different from others, we have a problem,” McCann said.

Kelty echoed McCann’s concerns about neighborhood safety and said the crime spillover has made the area “no longer a pleasant place to participate in public life.”

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood since 2000 and I think this year has probably been the worst year for deterioration of quality of life,” Kelty said. He also underscored the “over concentration of establishments that are gifting cannabis” along H Street. These storefronts, often called Initiative 71 (I-71) compliant businesses, give cannabis in exchange for the purchase of a small item such as a sticker or piece of digital art.

“The DC government has determined that this activity is illegal and yet hasn’t really taken adequate measures to address it,” Kelty said of the I-71 businesses. “We don’t have just one or two weed shops, we have at least 15… and it’s bringing in people from Maryland and Virginia and other places.”

Another community member spoke about the rise in violence near his family’s home and said one of the most difficult results of the crime spillover was the impact on his son.

“I got him a cell phone literally like a week ago and it is disheartening to me and really, I feel terrible, because one of the first uses of his phone was to call 911 to report a shooting [outside] his window,” the community member said. “It was across the street from our property. “

Commissioner Jay Adelstein (6C03) emphasized that the District’s uptick in crime is “a problem bigger than H Street” but agreed with other commissioners that a focus on making H Street safer, within their ANC, would be beneficial.

In talk of possible amelioration to the problem, Commissioner Mark Eckenwiler (6C04) spoke about the camera rebate program that allows DC residents and business owners to be reimbursed up to $500 for the purchase and installation of security cameras on their property.

Kelty said he was an “early adopter” of the camera rebate program and said he thinks he’s gotten 18 arrests using information from his cameras, but said he believes that the total number of prosecutions remains at zero.

McCann echoed Kelty’s concerns about police follow up after reports of concerns such as gunshots.

“I just don’t know if there’s any sort of appetite to even investigate and that’s what really concerns me,” McCann said.

The commission voted unanimously to:

  • Adopt the ANC’s Alcohol Beverage Licensing (ABL) Committee recommendation to protest a new class C tavern applications for Sweet Sweet Kitchen (500 H St. NE) and Vision Lounge (707 H St. NE) and to appoint Graham Grossman to negotiate settlement agreements with the businesses.
  • Adopt the ABL committee recommendation to take no action on the licensing renewals for Wundergarten (131 M NE), The Little Grand (808 Seventh St. NE), Laos In Town (250 K St. NE), Scissors and Scotch (331 N St. NE), UNO Chicago Grill (50 Massachusetts Ave. NE) and Columbus Club in Union Station (50 Massachusetts Ave. NE).
  • Send a letter of support to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), at the recommendation of the ANC Transportation and Public Space (TPS) Committee, in support of an Open Streets along Eighth St NE from Florida Ave to M St SE from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on a Saturday. A date has not been finalized for the open streets event at this time.
  • Send a letter of support to DC Council in support of a proposed reduction of residential parking permit (RPP) zones but to strongly recommend against the use of ANC single member districts (SMD) as the new boundaries, suggesting that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) conduct a study about how to best implement a reduction of these zones.
  • Adopt the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development (PZE) committee recommendation to oppose a Historic Preservation Application (HPA) application for a rear and attic addition to 616 Lexington Pl. NE due to a lack of information on the scope of the project.
  • Adopt the PZE committee recommendation to oppose a special exception application to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) for removal of a cornice “after the fact” at 401 K St NE. The cornice has already been removed, but commissioners argued this is a protected architectural element, and opposed the application due to the “extremely modern design” overall. The commissioners also voted unanimously that Commissioner Eckenwiler be authorized to testify on behalf of the ANC in the hearing on December 7.
  • Adopt the Environment, Parks and Events (EPE) committee recommendation to send a letter regarding Reservation 315 and plans for a park at Fifth and I Streets NE. The letter would support the transition of the park’s ownership from the National Park Service (NPS) into the portfolio of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) in the District.

Other Matters:

  • Commissioner Eckenwiler provided an update on a historic preservation application that initially planned to convert a one-story dry cleaner into a three-story residential building. Plans have now changed; the applicant now wants to raze the current structure in order to construct an entirely new building at (601 Massachusetts Ave NE). However, the ANC has not seen any documents relative to the new plans. Eckenwiler reported that the applicant indicated to the committee that they would seek postponement, which does not appear to have happened yet. “If the applicant does not timely seek such an adjournment, and ANC requests to postpone this, we go on record as opposing this because the applicant did not come to us to present,” Eckenwiler said. This proposal was unanimously approved by the commission.
  • Commissioner Drew Courtney (6C06) provided an update on NoMa parks projects and future plans. The $50 million granted to the parks, as well as additional funds donated, has been spent and they are wrapping up their work. The NoMa business improvement district (BID) will handle ongoing maintenance at the parks, and DPR will be taking care of structural maintenance going forward.

ANC 6C will meet next on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. via WebEx. You can register to attend the meeting and read more about the commission here.

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