807 Maine Avenue Earns Conditional Blessing

ANC 6D Report

102
A diagram illustrating the change in massing for 807 Maine Ave. SW. Diagram courtesy Mill Creek

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D (ANC 6D) met on Nov. 10 and Nov. 14 via Zoom. Commissioners Jared Weiss (6D02, secretary), Ronald Collins (6D03, treasurer) Andy Litsky (6D04), Fredrica (Rikki) Kramer (6D05, vice chair), Rhonda Hamilton (6D06), Edward Daniels (6D07, chair) were in attendance for both. Commissioner Dr. Marjorie Lightman (6DO1) was absent on Nov. 14.

807 Maine Avenue
The 807 Planned Unit Development (PUD) was the subject of a special meeting on Nov. 10. After earlier consideration, The Zoning Commission had returned the matter to the commission.

Led by Kryus L. Freeman, the Mill Creek development team presented a revised design in response to input from the commissioners. The project’s retail component was completely eliminated to minimize delivery traffic. The massing of the building facing the neighborhood to the north and east was significantly curtailed.

Mill Creek’s revised design features expanded landscaping on Maine Avenue SW and a pocket park on the property’s northeast corner. However, reducing the mass reduced the number of building units, Kryus stated. To qualify for a PUD, Mill Creek proffered the following community benefits:

  • a $75,000 art installation on Maine Ave. SW;
  • nine three-bedroom units, three of which are affordable;
  • 30 affordable units;
  • all electric appliances, rooftop solar and electric vehicular charging stations;
  • exempting its residents from the city’s Resident Parking Permits (RPP) system;
  • a pickup/drop-off zone (PUDO) within the property lines on Seventh Street SW;
  • a donation of $150,000 to Jefferson Academy;
  • a donation of $100,000 to DC Habitat for Humanity;
  • specialized marketing to seniors and teachers at nearby public schools;
  • 7,000 square feet of landscaped space available to the public.

Commissioners countered by making their own motion of support for the project contingent on a further set of demands:

  • an increase in the affordable component to a total of approximately 21 percent of the project divided equally between 60 and 80 Area Median Income for the life of the project;
  • pairing back the building’s Floor to Area Ratio (FAR) to bring it in line with those sanctioned under the Southwest Small Area Plan (SWSAP);
  • redirecting the donation to Habitat for Humanity to Amidon Elementary School and Richard Wright Public Charter School;
  • reserving the art project for women or minority artists selected by local residents.

Once the motion was on the table, Secretary Weiss asked the developer whether they could agree to the commission’s demands. Mill Creek would try to adjust to the commissions affordable housing configuration, Freeman countered. He saw no issue with reassigning the Habitat money. However, any donations to schools must legally be tied to something specific, he stated. Freeman also agreed to requirements for the public art.

Commissioner Collins asked that the limitations on RPP be included in all leases. Freeman concurred.

Litsky expressed a concern that there be no administrative overhead charged to the arts funding. Freeman agreed, stating they have identified a local artist.

Chair Daniels requested Mill Creek to put information about the project’s affordable units visibly on their website.

Commissioner Lightman expressed her disappointment with her colleagues’ entire approach. She lamented her colleagues’ unwillingness to experiment with more innovative methods of creating affordable housing outside the framework of Inclusionary Zoning.

Commissioner Kramer expressed her concern about endorsing any project at variance with the constraints of the SWSAP. Doing so, she said, might put other existing, adjacent affordable properties in commercial play. Despite this, she expressed her appreciation for time and effort Mill Creek had spent engaging with the commission.

Town Square Towers Board Chair Gail Fast commended Mill Creek’s willingness to engage with the commission. She repressed reservations about the project’s compliance with the SWSAP. Fast requested the commission include language about a construction management plan negotiated with adjoining properties in its motion’s list of conditions. Freeman objected to the project’s endorsement being predicated on such a plan, although he did not object to presenting one to neighboring residences and Jefferson Academy for feedback.

Another resident asked Mill Creek to incorporate dog waste stations in its proposal.

The commissioners voted overwhelming to endorse the project contingent on their demands being met. Only Commissioner Lightman voted against the motion.

Update on VCAP for Parcel B
A representative for developer Hoffman & Associates briefed the commission on the progress of the Voluntary Cleanup Action Plan (VCAP) for Parcel B, which is the land immediately adjacent to the DC United Stadium, which is subject to the terms of the stadium’s PUD.

A project involving the construction of two towers starts next year. Before construction can commence, Hoffman is required to abate the site, which was formerly a junkyard. The developer plans to submit a draft VCAP to the DC Dept. of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) by end of the month. DOEE will likely approve the application in January, and the final VCAP in April, the developer stated. Both actions trigger public comment periods. Hoffman expects the final VCAP to earn approval in July.

Commissioner Hamilton requested Hoffman provide commissioners with an onsite walk-through of their plan given the close proximity of residences and Eagle Academy Public Charter School. The developer agreed to her stipulation.

DDOT Presentation
DDOT Bicycle Specialist Will Handsfield presented the agency’s plans for Fourth and I Street bike lanes. Both are in preconstruction, he stated. The Notice of Intent (NOI) period for public comment has concluded. The agency moving to install hard Protected Bike Lanes (PBLs) as soon as possible on I Street SW.

In reaction to the commission’s criticism, DDOT has readjusted its priorities on both Fourth and I Streets SW to preserve curbside parking where possible, increase the number of loading zones and work to accommodate the needs of Amidon-Bowen and the numerous churches.

In particular, DDOT intends to eliminate redundant bus stops and WMATA parking next to the Waterfront Metro to aid these objectives. The agency has decided to postpone any changes on I Street SW adjacent to any of the churches and between Delaware Avenue and First Street SW. Alterations to Seventh Street between Maine and I Street SW await significant changes to the existing signals.

All parking on the north side of I Street in the 600 block will be eliminated, due to the townhouse residents possessing off-street alternatives. The existing Resident Permit Parking next to Amidon-Bowen Elementary School will be converted to a 15-minute, Pickup-Dropoff Zone (PUDO) during school hours. Parking will be added on Fourth and M Streets SW next to the Waterfront Metro.

Signal work will delay road changes, stated Handsfield. In addition, the agency is making sure any roadway changes take the planned redevelopment of Westminster Church into account, he added.

“We are not stalling these processes. We want to walk block by block to make sure we are taking into account local conditions,” Chair Daniels.

Commissioner Litsky pressed Handsfield for information on the redesign proposed for South Capitol Street, which they had expected would be part of his presentation. They stated their concern about the expiration of the 30-day comment period. Handsfield claimed ignorance of the project.

“This is the first time you are showing these things,” complained Commissioner Kramer, pointing out that no presentation was made before the comment period mandated by the NOI had expired. She asked for more clarity on the parking changes on I Street SW.

Commissioner Litsky thanked Will for his participation in a commission sponsored walk through on I Street SW the previous August. “People think that this ANC doesn’t’ want bike lanes to happen. That’s just wrong,” he added. DDOT is scheduled to return in December.

I-695 Freeway South Capitol Bridge Rehab
DDOT engineers presented the agency’s plans to restore the bridge over South Capitol Street. The goals are to upgrade the structure and increase general safety. Plans, they believe, will be completed by December 2023. The agency is now engaging stakeholders.

Originally constructed in 1958, the South Capitol bridge was last rehabbed in 1991. The agency plans no highway expansion, just a repair of the existing structure as well as its ramps, which while safe, show signs of deterioration. There is no date yet for construction. The budget is about $70 million. The agency conducts biannual inspections and maintenance to maintain safety.

Commissioner expressed concerns about the construction’s impact on adjacent residences.

For more information, visit www.seswbridges.ddot.dc.gov/#overview.

Portals BZA Application 1250 Maryland Ave
Lowe, a developer, has purchased the office building immediately to the east of the Salamander Hotel, formerly the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which they are converting into roughly 440 residences. They are filing an application with the Board of Zoning Adjustment to put a rooftop restaurant and to alter the existing roof to accommodate two penthouses for their mechanicals. They are also asking for a change in use from office to residential.

While the project has no Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) requirement, nevertheless Lowe has proffered 2,200 square feet of affordable housing. Two of the units will be family sized at 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI). If the restaurant does not pan out, the space will be repurposed as an amenities space.

The DC Commission of Fine Arts (DCCFA) has requested the replacement of the entire façade. The commission also denied Lowe an entire floor of density.

Lowe’s voluntary contribution to affordable housing was hailed by Commission Weiss.

“I don’t care whether you are required to have it or not,” stated Commissioner Litsky. “We are creating a wealthy ghetto in the northwest corner of the neighborhood. We are bringing more very wealthy people to the city. Does that solve our affordable housing problem?” he stated. “You put something on the table. It is helpful, but not helpful enough,” he added. Commission Kramer echoed his sentiments.

The DCCFA denied Lowe the density and height allowed them as a matter of right, eliminating a full floor, Lowe’s attorney David Avitabile retorted. Moreover, building new upper income housing reduces the housing scarcity at the root of high rents and converts an old office building to a residential site, Avitabile argued. The project received no tax credits, has no IZ requirement and was awarded no public subsidy, he further pointed out.

“We thought we were more than responsive. I am happy to walk you through the math” added Lowe Executive Vice President and Managing Director Mark Rivers.

The commission did not vote on the matter.

Public Safety
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Captain Kevin Harding briefed the commission on public safety matters. He was precluded by the Chair, who turned the conversation to the multiple recent Navy Yard shootings.

There was a targeted murder on Oct. 23, Harding stated and the case is under investigation. The armed assault at Buffalo Wild Wings has been closed with an arrest.

On Election Day, a carjacking in Prince George County resulted in a car chase that ended in Navy Yard. MPD apprehended three individuals and recovered four guns recovered, Harding stated.

Overall, Harding stated, there has been a slight uptick in carjackings. Many of these MPD believes are “pattern cases” involving the same perpetrators.

Southwest, Harding stated, has witnessed more gun shots than usual. There were two shootings involving two juvenile victims. MPD recovered a gun near Greenleaf Recreation Center. A man was also shot on the 1200 block of Half Street SW. “We have doubled down on our resources in SW,” the captain said.

Are the perpetrators being held, queried Chair Daniels? “We are successfully papering cases,” Harding responded. “All adults arrested with a fire arm are held. For juveniles some are held and some are not,” he clarified.

The cameras at Greenleaf Recreation Center were inoperable during the Election Day shooting, Harding stated. Are they still broken, queried Commissioner Litsky? Harding affirmed this was the case. Litsky asked that the cameras be checked.

“We heard that Greenleaf Rec is being used for a shelter again. We do need to house the homeless, but putting them in a Rec Center in the middle of endemic violence in an overstressed community is idiotic,” Litsky stated.

1100 South Capitol SE
Ruben Companies are developing 1100 South Capitol Street SE. The project is within the South Capitol Gateway Overlay, so the design of the project is subject to review by the Zoning Commission.

Commissioners were delighted with the larger sized apartments suitable for families. They remained skeptical of the loading plan that employs an alley off of L Street SW. Could mirrors be placed in the alley to increase pedestrian safety, they asked? They flatly objected to the alternative of loading on South Capitol as well as the placement of a PUDO there.

The developer acceded to the commission’s demands for clear disclosures on amenity fees and a pet waste station placed next to the rooftop dog park.

The developer stood firm on not providing any affordable units, which are not required by the parcel’s zoning.

Chief Executive Richard Ruben engaged in a long philosophical debate with the commissioners over affordable housing. The significant increases in construction costs are driving companies such as Ruben to focus their efforts on the high end, which provides the returns to cover the project costs. “It’s not true that if we build something expensive all the rents in the neighborhood rise to meet it,” Ruben stated.

In the end, Ruben pointed out that the objective was to discuss the project’s design merits, not whether it contributed to affordable housing. If the city wants discounted rents, use the tax money earned by projects such as 1100 South Capitol to subsidize rents directly, Ruben suggested.

The hearing on the project is scheduled for Dec. 17.

The commission voted unanimously to oppose the project, arguing it does not meet the objectives of the Comprehensive Plan.

Other Matters
The commission unanimously to:

  • Approved amended meeting agenda;
  • Approved the October and November Special meeting minutes;
  • Supported S.O.M.E. Turkey Trot.

ANC 6D meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of every month. Their next meeting is Dec. 12. For more information and links to join ANC meetings, visit www.anc6d.org.