Photo by Thetejon.
Last night the ANC met for its February session. And like many sessions, a good deal of it was spent complaining about race-generated street closures. And despite the fact that the closures in question were down to a single block, the resistance was strong as ever. Of course, that’s not all they talked about:
Starting back a couple years ago, the ANC decided to start pushing back more against all the requests to close roads for races. The argument was that too many organizations were trying to use Georgetown for their races and it was creating too much of a burden on the neighborhood.
In order to start making distinctions between “good” races and “bad”, the ANC starte insisting that all races be predominantly charitable in purpose. This led to an epic showdown with the controversial Charles Brodsky (a Fenty crony) over several of his DC Triathlon events.
Since then-and perhaps in response to the ANC’s efforts–most organizers of events calling for street closures in Georgetown have presented their case about how charitable their cause is. Moreover, organizers (with help from the city, no doubt) have learned to minimize the amount of street closures necessary in Georgetown.
But last night there were three such requests on the agenda. And that sort of concentration is bound to raise their hackles. The first request came from the Nike half marathon scheduled for April. The thing is, though, that the race won’t even take place in Georgetown. But the organizers will be staging most of their activities either at the Washington Harbour or the Nike store. Thus they’d like to close Thomas Jefferson for the day of the race.
It didn’t take long for the ANC to cut to the chase: while the overall race meets the charitable element, this particular closure had nothing to do with the race. It seems solely designed to draw runners and spectators into the store. The organizers tried to spin the closure as charitable since the street would be (supposedly) turned into a street fair. The commissioners weren’t buying it.
In the end, though, the commissioners told the organizers to come back next month after some more rounds of discussion. Essentially, the ANC challenged them to make this particular closure more explicitly charitable.
A second road closure request then came up. It was from WABA and called for Rock Creek Parkway to be closed early one Sunday for BikeDC. This request met no objection.
But then the third request came up. This was from the Four Seasons. They too would like to close just one block (in this case 29th between K and M). And again the ANC questioned the need for the closure, since it wasn’t needed for the race itself but rather to facilitate crowds to move between K St. and the Four Seasons. After a similar discussion to the Nike request, the ANC deferred a decision pending further discussions.
The real problem, in GM’s opinion, is that the city takes such a rigid view of road closures. Either a road it open or it’s closed. There is no in between. They refuse to close just half a road, for instance. This way Nike could have a street festival take up half of Thomas Jefferson St. and similarly with the Four Seasons. A race could go down M St. while still allowing 2-3 lanes remaining open.
GM raised this point with the commission, and the commissioners were fairly dismissive stating that if the city deems it necessary for safety then they won’t question it. GM suspects, however, that with a little push-back and a reasonable request, the city could show more flexibility. And seriously, since when has Georgetown shied away from making aggressive demands of the city?
Shifting gears completely, the ANC also discussed the long simmering zoning rewrite now underway. Well, not the ANC as much as CAG’s Richard Hinds. Rich gave a lengthy introduction to some of the changes that could affect Georgetown (and the thing is, despite the length, it was still a rather concise description of the details; that’s how complicated the proposals are).
He highlighted a few of the more important issues. For instance, he spoke about how OP was pushing for accessory dwellings as a matter of right. In English, this means that you could convert a basement into an apartment (so long as you met certain conditions) without getting zoning approval. The compromise rules advocated by CAG would say that you could still have the apartment, but you’d have to get a special exception (which is a easier zoning approval to get).
The reasoning behind this proposal is that the most important condition for having an accessory dwelling is that the owner live in the house. Often the only people who know if an owner really truly lives in a house is the neighbors, not the city. So by requiring a BZA hearing, it would give neighbors an opportunity to point out that in fact the homeowner doesn’t meet this particular condition.
There are more issues, but GM will save it for tomorrow’s post when he previews Wednesday night’s CAG meeting on the zoning proposal.
A funny moment occurred during the meeting when Commissioner Tom Birch called a motion. Commissioner Peter Prindiville (who is also the secretary) noted that due to a couple of the commissioners stepping out into the vestibule, there was no quorum. Birch rolled his eyes quickly and commented that they had quorum so long as he didn’t actually ask about it.
GM skimmed the ANC law and didn’t see anything in there taking this Schrodinger’s Cat approach to quorum (it both “is present” and “isn’t present” so long as you don’t actually look). Is this some Robert’s Rules quirk?
Either way, the other commissioners were called back in and after a few seconds of thumb twidling, quorum was achieved and the resolution passed.