ANC Supports Harsher Penalties for Historic District Violations

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B met via Zoom on Nov. 14. Frank Avery (6B01, treasurer); Jerry Sroufe (6B02); David Sobelsohn (6B03, secretary); Frank D’Andrea (6B04); Kasie Durkit (6B05); Chander Jayaraman (6B06, vice chair); Vince Mareino (6B07); Edward Ryder (6B08, Chair); and Matt LaFortune (6B09) were present.

The commission wrote a letter in support of a bill proposed by Ward 6 Commissioner Charles Allen (D) that increases protections for historic homes from unauthorized destruction or demolition and also raises fines for violations. Two homes have been destroyed in ANC 6B in the past four years by contractors who exceeded the limitations of permits issued by the Department of Building (DOB), both located on A Street SE.

The bill is based on an examination of past cases that appeared to indicate the existing penalty system did not function as a deterrent. Fines rarely exceeded $3,000 and did not discriminate between small-scale damages and full demolition.

It addresses this issue by scaling fines to severity, raising the ceiling to $100,000 per violation from $4,716. The legislation was introduced to DC Council on Nov. 15 and was referred to the Committee of the Whole.

The ANC letter supports Allen’s bill but also requests a hearing to help the public understand the process by which fines are assigned and collected. It also asks that the Office of Planning (OP), responsible for DOB,  provide annual data on types of violations and the penalties assigned to each.

Safety Around Watkins Elementary
The commission supported a letter requesting that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) analyze traffic safety around Watkins Elementary School (420 12th St. SE). It also asks the school to reverse recent policy changes around pick up and drop-off and requests Department of Public Works (DPW) staff to be at the school to proactively prevent violations until these concerns are addressed, arguing “if the current situation continues “someone is going to get hit by a car.”

Watkins has a large out-of-boundary student population, meaning that many students arrive by car. Commissioners say that recent changes in pickup and drop-off have increased double parking and idling, in particular the decision by Watkins Principal Scott Berkowitz to move parent pick up from the DDOT-designated zone on 12th Street SE to an area nearer to the field on E and 13th Street SE. The commission said these changes induce parents to double-park on E Street SE, creating unsafe roadway conditions.

A version of the letter was addressed to Watkins Principal Scott Berkowitz, DC Public Schools (DCPS), State Board of Education (SBOE) Representative Brandon Best, Councilmember Allen and DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D)

Protest of Harris Teeter Licenses
The commission supported a letter to relevant ANC Commissions and the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Authority (ABCA) voicing opposition to renewal of any existing liquor licenses for all District Harris Teeter stores, three of which are located in the District (401 M St. SE, 1201 First St. NE and 1631Kalorama Rd. NW).

Residents of the adjacent Jenkins Row condominium say Harris Teeter has refused to relinquish the lease on the space at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave SE since the grocery store at the site closed in January 2022. They told the ANC that neighbors deal with issues from rodents and pests to encampments in the retail parking garage.

The letter argues that Harris Teeter’s refusal to allow another tenant to take the space has violated two ABCA standards and notes that residents of Jenkins Row condominiums have tried many avenues to get the space put to use to no avail.

In Other Business
The ANC voted to:

  • Support a substantial change to the existing liquor license for Café 8 (424 Eighth St. SE), allowing for an entertainment endorsement to permit a DJ and to allow for later hours of service, up to 1:30 a.m. weeknights and 2:30 a.m. weekends. To address concerns with noise, ANC 6B conducted a sound test and the applicants have taken mitigating measures.
  • A resolution to DDOT asking that they address concerns with parked dockless scooters and bikes impeding access to sidewalks and crosswalks and to consider violations before extending permits for shared fleet devices beyond the current timeframe.
  • Support the renewal of a Retailer’s Class “B” Grocery Liquor license for Trader Joe’s (750 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) as well as a letter expressing concern about security on the escalators and asking the company to install cameras that monitor the entry level and escalators. Representation for Trader Joe’s said the company supported the idea in principal but wanted to ensure the grand floor vestibule fell within their lease lines.
  • Support a historic preservation application (HPA) to construct a new, three-story rear addition, and penthouse with roof deck, to an existing, detached, three-story apartment at 630 G Street SE. The applicant has changed materials and windows after feedback from the historic preservation office (HPO).
  • Support the hiring of an ANC administrative assistant.

ANC 6B next meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14. See the agenda and information on how to join at anc6b.org