Photo by Ian Quantis.
Last night, the ANC met for its February session. All in all it was quite a snooze-fest. However, one item was of particular interest to the crowd: noise.
Don’t Bring the Noise
At the top of the meeting, MPD Lieutenant Hedgecock gave his ordinary monthly public safety session. He was quick to trumpet that there was not one mugging in Georgetown in all of January. Which is great, but he probably jinxed the perfect month by mentioning it. Either way, the meat of his presentation was on a new law that came into effect today. It reworks the city’s disturbing the peace laws to state that it is an arrestable offense to create a noise “likely to annoy or disturb” between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am. It is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or $500.
This obviously piqued the interest of the ANC and the crowd. They were quick to see it as a panacea to all the neighborhood’s noise problems. This is because it is enormously arbitrary. All the police officer needs to do is to determine that a noise is “likely to annoy or disturb.” He doesn’t even need to have a complaining witness.
GM sees a couple potential problems with this law. First of all, it requires a cop to actually arrest someone to enforce it. That’s a dramatic step that a lot of police officers might not want to take when simply dealing with some rowdy partiers. Second, while a police officer doesn’t need a complaining witness, he does need to witness the noise himself. So he needs to actually see the pack of noisy revelers walk by, you can’t phone it in.
Finally, it’s an awfully vague law. Disturbing the peace laws have frequently been used for undesirable or unjust ends. For instance, it was for disturbing the peace that Henry L. Gates was arrested in the wake of “breaking into” his own home. GM doesn’t necessarily think this law will result in such an outcome, but the arbitrariness of the law makes him a little queasy.
Maybe if GM could read the law he’d feel more comfortable, but he couldn’t find it when he looked. Update: Here it is.
The ANC considered a block of transportation matters. First it considered the possibility of adding a leading left arrow to the south Safeway exit. Right now the exit displays a red light while pedestrians cross Wisconsin. Since there is no crosswalk to the south of the exit, it is reasoned that a left turn ought to be allowed. Makes sense to GM, although the ANC also complained about the shortness of the cycle allowing pedestrians to cross the exit itself. Right now while the cars are sitting waiting to exit while pedestrians cross Wisconsin, no pedestrians are allowed to cross in front of the cars. Arguably, rather than allowing a leading left turn, it would be better to simply allow pedestrians to cross the exit while they also can cross Wisconsin. The ANC, however, didn’t see it this way and passed a resolution asking DDOT to consider the leading left turn and whether the pedestrian phase to cross the exit couldn’t be lengthened.
Second, the ANC considered whether the very bottom of Thomas Jefferson St. couldn’t be made two way. The idea is that there is a Colonial garage about halfway up the block from K St. When cars exit that garage they have no choice but to head up to M and contribute to the traffic problem. Having seen that block of TJ St. work as a two way street during the bridge construction, the ANC would like to make enough of the street two way to allow cars to leave the garage and head down to K St.
It seemed like a non-controversial motion until lower Georgetown resident Ray Kikulski stood to speak. He argued that while ANC commissioner, many moons ago, he was the one responsible for making those streets one way and that they are too narrow to allow two way traffic safely. After a few back and forths the ANC cut Ray off and passed the motion despite his protests. Like the above motion, it is mere a request to DDOT to consider it, it’s not a done deal.
Third the ANC considered the Rose Park path. This little path has had a surprisingly controversial history. For over ten years various stakeholders have negotiated its future. The Friends of Rose Park would like it kept the way it is, both in width and location. Moreover they would like to ban the use of bicycles on it. The National Park Service, which owns Rose Park, has repeatedly refused to bar bikes, and in fact views the path as a branch of the main bike paths through Rock Creek Park. NPS has periodically proposed widening the path to fit this vision, which the Friends of Rose Park, the ANC, and CAG objected to.
Last night, the ANC adopted yet another resolution opposing modification of the path. Unlike previous resolutions, this resolution pointedly referred to the path as a “pedestrian path”. GM asked Commissioner Birch (who was proposing the resolution) whether that meant that that ANC was taking the position that bikes should be prohibited from the path, and he said no. The ANC simply believes that the path should stay the same width and in the same location. The resolution passed, although it’s still unclear to GM what is even being proposed in the first place.
Finally, the ANC adopted a resolution commending DDOT for listening to the Commission of Fine Arts on the issue of tree boxes. DDOT believes the proper height is 18″, the CFA says 14″. DDOT deferred to the CFA. This is despite the fact that the experts at the District Urban Forestry Administration think 18″ is in the best interest of the trees. While the ANC was not interesting in arguing over the merits either way, Trees For Georgetown’s Betsy Emes was quick to argue that the ANC was backtracking since they endorsed the 18″. That didn’t sway them. The resolution in favor of interagency comity was passed.
Three bars were on the agenda last night: Third Edition, Smith Point, and George.
First, despite the fact that the owners of George along with a group of supporters were present, they were taken off the agenda at the last minute. Apparently they were on the agenda to discuss a potential new voluntary agreement, which hasn’t been, well, agreed to yet. They weren’t too pleased about the last minute (of rather, later than last minute) notice, but they didn’t make a fuss, which was nice of them.
Second up was Third Edition. They apparently hammered out a new voluntary agreement with the ANC. The primary focus was on the noise emanating from the tiki bar out back. What surprised GM was how the ANC didn’t take the opportunity to hold the bar accountable for its incredibly shabby reputation. Because, let’s face it, everyone knows they, along with Rhino Bar, are viewed as major underage drinking establishments. Manager Paul Cohn is expert at deflecting such criticism when it comes up during the meetings, but the ANC should have come more prepared. There should be much tighter restrictions in Third Edition’s voluntary agreement. How about this: the next time Third Edition gets caught selling to underage kids, they shut down for a month. That will get their attention pretty quick.
Frankly, GM thinks Capital Restaurant Concepts (who
ownoperate Third Edition) gets treated with kid gloves by the ANC. Compare the treatment they get with, say, how the ANC made it its mission to put Philly Pizza out of business. GM’s not saying that the ANC should try to put Third Edition out of business, but somewhere in between would be nice. Maybe the ANC is just too cozy with Paul Cohn and the rest of CRC to see it, but a new stance is necessary.
Finally, Smith Point was considered. The ANC currently has an action pending with the ABC board over Smith Point. While the board mulls over its decision, the ANC and Smith Point reached a plea agreement, so to speak. A new voluntary agreement was drawn up. The new agreement now says that Smith Point has to ensure that no noise can be heard from Smith Point by any resident or hotel guest. While another Emes, Ed Emes, stood and expressed disappointment in the ANC for not being harder on Smith Point and not seeing the ABC action through to its end, Ron Lewis argued that this voluntary agreement was so strong that they’re in a much better position going forward to keep the peace. We’ll see.
Here’s the rest of the story:
- The Eastbanc Post Office project is now back to residential. A medium office building was conditionally approved by the Old Georgetown Board late last year, but DC’s Office of Planning decided that it didn’t want a commercial use of that space. So now it will be a building very similar to the approved design, but it will be 9 condos instead.
- Ex-commission Aaron Golds was presented with a commendation for his service. Next month Bill Skelsey will receive the same.
- Looks like luggage purveyor Sterling and Burke is moving into the space recently occupied by Justine Mehlman.