DDOT Asked to Study Restricted Traffic on D Street

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B met via Zoom on Dec. 12. 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 ANC voted unanimously to send a letter expressing support for the Eighth Street SE Bus Project generally and in particular, “Alternative 3” for the 800 block of D Street SE. However, the ANC took no position on the proposals for the 700 block of D Street SE, and asked District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to include a study of the impact of restricting vehicular access on that block in their traffic studies related to the project.

The DDOT project aims to improve bus operations and safety on the street between East Capitol and M Streets SE. Design is expected to begin in January 2024 with 30 percent designs expected in March and final designs in June, with a goal of construction beginning in Fall 2024.

This letter focused on alternatives DDOT presented for the 700 and 800 blocks of D Street SE. The 700 block runs in front of small businesses on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue SE. The 800 block borders the playground on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue at Eighth Street SE. The concepts are intended to address safety issues and improve bus service, safety and access.

On the 800 block, Alternative 3 maintains westbound directionality on D Street SE and creates a pedestrian island in the intersection. That prevents left-hand turns, which DDOT considers dangerous at the site. LaFortune said that DDOT already plans to move forward with a traffic study for Alternative 3 on the 800 block and Alternative 2 on the 700 block. Alternative 2 would reverse the direction of traffic flow from east to westbound.

Jayaraman said in his opinion, reversing the direction of D Street and routing a bus around the plaza would be incompatible with the intentions for the metro park and its shared use with the Southeast Library. He said closing D Street to vehicles could make the block into a space that is programmed and would be a lot safer than reversing direction.

However, Chair Ryder said while he was also personally supportive of closing the block to vehicles, he would want to hear from the businesses on that block, pointing out that closing the street would remove access to D Street for loading and deliveries. Mareino agreed, and pointed out that one of these businesses, FedEx, operates on the model of delivery by vehicle. For these reasons, the ANC supported a study of ‘restricted’ vehicular access rather than full closure.

Supporting Diverse Businesses

The Commission voted 8-1-0 to support a statement supporting diverse businesses. Proposed by Secretary Sobelsohn, it was framed as a statement of principal for the ANC, affirming that the “ANC cherishes the diversity of businesses and will protect all our businesses from harassment or intimidation.”

In presenting the statement, Sobelsohn said that this spring, members of the Proud Boys threatened to close the restaurant Crazy Aunt Helen’s due to their opposition to drag shows, something that he said was successful in shutting down a show in the suburbs. Dozens of people wielding rainbow umbrellas came out to protect the restaurant and allow safe passage into the drag show.

Initially, the statement ended with the phrase, “…particularly those who patronize a competitor.” Vice Chair Jayaraman asked for clarity on the term “competitor.” Sobelsohn said he put that in ”because I am worried about the possibility that some of those folks might actually be trying to close competition for a place that they consider a hangout, and I want to make sure that we are in favor of free and fair competition between our businesses and oppose harassment or intimidation.”

Jayaraman said that no business on Barracks Row should be intimidated or harassed in any way but that he doesn’t want to put all competition in the same bucket. His motion to remove the terms “particularly those who patronize a competitor” passed 8-1-0, with Sobelsohn opposing.

Special Committee on Public Safety Now Permanent

The ANC voted 7-2-0 to make the Special Committee on Public Safety into a standing committee of the ANC. Under ANC by-laws, special committees cease to exist in February unless they are renewed by a vote of the full commission. Standing committees, such as the ANC Transportation Committee, exist until they are disbanded by vote.

The motion was put forward by Sobelsohn, who argued that to do so would demonstrate the ANC is taking issues of public safety seriously. He said we have a serious crime problem on the Hill and in the city and the committee represents a serious effort to address the problem. The Committee on Public Safety has met with three members of DC Council, one of whom thanked the committee for influencing legislation he introduced around problems with 911. Sobelsohn pointed out that the ANC, conversely, has only met with one councilmember during the current term.

The motion passed, with commissioners praising the work of the committee. Commissioner LaFortune did point out his reservation, that while the work of the committee was important, by law the District does not give “great weight” to ANC views on public safety as on issues of zoning or alcohol licensing.

ANC 6B next meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. See agenda, 2024 meeting calendar and information on how to join meetings at anc6b.org  

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