Category Archives: ANC

ANC Preview: Race Season Heating Up

Runner

The ANC will meet for its June session next Monday at 6:30 at Visitation.

For regular followers of the ANC, you’ll be all too familiar with the great Race Closures War of 2010. That was when the ANC started forcefully pushing back against the increase in street closures due to races, etc. While a marker may have been placed, it does seem like there’s been no actual decrease in the proliferations of races through Georgetown lately. And next monday, we get to hear about two more: theĀ American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure and theĀ Four Seasons Sprint Four the Cure 5K.

But races aren’t the only thing on the agenda. One thing that jumps out at GM is an item stating “Bike and pedestrian safety on K and Water Streets”. GM is not sure what that indicates, but some commissioners take any and all opportunities to complain about bicyclists’ behaviors down on K St. Keep in mind, it’s not bicyclists that are killing people every few years in Georgetown, yet some commissioners elevate the bike threat above all reason. Continue reading

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ANC Preview: All On-Board With Metro Edition

There is a long held myth in DC that the reason there’s no Metro stop in Georgetown is that rich Georgetowners objected and kept it out (the myth normally implies, or just states, that the motivation for fighting the Metro was racist.) This is not true. It really can’t be said enough times: the reason there’s no Metro stop in Georgetown has nothing to do with any protests from Georgetowners. Period.

Yet the myth persists, probably because it both confirms and is perpetuated by common stereotypes about Georgetowners.

Jump to today. Metro is currently pulling together ambitious plans for what the system will look like by the middle of this century. Among the menu of options the long term planners are considering is a brand new Metro line through the heart of downtown, with one or even two stops in Georgetown.

In a flip of the supposed history of Georgetown (and again: false history), civic organizations are lining up pleading with Metro to bring a Metro stop to Georgetown as soon as possible. Continue reading

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ANC Round Up: Big Projects Edition

IMG_2760[1]

 

Monday night, the ANC met for its November session. As GM mentioned yesterday, it was a sad meeting due to Charlie Eason’s announced resignation and move from Georgetown, but it was pretty eventful beyond this. GM needed a rest for a night just to build up the energy to tackle it. So here goes:

Georgetown Northeast Triangle Residence Hall

Georgetown University came before the commission to get zoning approval to build a new dorm on the triangular open space near the Reiss Science building. The discussion was notable less for the substance of the request, but more for how much everybody went out of their way to praise each other for getting along. The ANC (particularly the student representatives), GU, the president of the student body, and Georgetown Visitation (the immediate neighbor to the project) all made it clear that the cooperation born from the settled ten year plan was bearing fruit.

The dorm itself will hold 225 beds. GU also request zoning approval to convert the old Jesuit Residence building back to residential use. This will add an additional 160 beds. Combined, this gets GU substantially down the road to satisfying the requirement of the campus plan to create 450 new beds on campus.

New Hyde-Addison Gym

The architects hired by the District General Services to design a new gym for Hyde-Addison presented their plans. Due to the challenges in working with a tight space in an historic neighborhood, the architects made the bold decision to sink the gym below the playground (where the beautiful Curtis school once stood).

As a result, the gym, a new library, and new art spaces would be two stories below the ground. The top of this addition, however, would not be flush with the ground. It would start relatively flush with the ground at P St., and stretch out straight going south as the land falls away, until at the south end it will be 12 feet above P St. The addition would have connections to both the Hyde school and the Addison school, finally making them one continuous building.

The neighbors to the immediate west came to complain, however. Mostly it came down to noise from the children and the potential visual impact. They got the ANC to at least ask the architects to consider if the whole addition couldn’t be moved somewhat to the east. The architects basically said no, but that they’d take a look. Chairman Lewis suggested at one point that if the project couldn’t be made to have less of an impact, maybe it’s too large of a project. GM hopes tweaks can be made to address some of the neighbor’s concerns, but frankly the interests of hundreds of children who attend Hyde without any gym and with an insufficient library outweigh the interests of one or two neighbors who bought houses right next to a public school.

The objections by the ANC do not appear fatal. Whether the Old Georgetown Board agrees is another matter. Time is of the essence for this project in order for it to be complete in time for the 2014-15 school year.

West Heating Plant

This was the big one. Richard Levy brought a team of architects, engineers, and lawyers to present his plans to tear down most of the West Heating Plant and build condos. The bulk of the presentation was taken up by the architect, David Adjaye, presenting his vision for the reconstructed building, and testimony from the structural engineer explaining why tearing down most of the building was necessary.

The main thrust of the argument is that despite the building’s massive hulk, it’s a rather fragile building. It’s a steel skeleton with the brick skin that is not terribly well attached. The bricks have cracked significantly, which was led to water getting in causing massive rusting of the skeleton. The engineer was unequivocal: the building must come down.

There was push back, however. Most of it came from Chairman Ron Lewis, who questioned the engineers report. His strongest argument appears to be that the report was premised on the assumption that dramatic changes would be needed to the exterior–mainly the “punching” of new windows–and the conclusions were skewed by those assumptions. In other words, the building would be fine so long as they just left the skin mostly alone. The procedure hook that the develops need to extract themselves from is that the GSA imposed on them a covenant to preserve the building in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards.

Backing up Lewis were several groups, most notable the Trust for Historic Preservation. The unusual appearance of such a prominent group at such a local meeting reflects the group’s alarm at what they perceive to be a cop-out of the historic preservation easement. The DC Preservation League also had a representative speak against the tear down. Finally, CAG presented a statement on the project (full disclosure: GM is on the board of CAG and voted to approve the statement.) CAG’s statement expressed a general objection to the demolition of any historic building and insisted on strict adherence to the Interior Secretary’s standards. However, should the demolition be permitted, CAG expressed particular objection to the potential that at night the building would glow like a giant glass box.

The ANC ultimately voted to object to the demolition and requested an independent structural analysis. Needless to say, you’ll be hearing a lot about this as time goes on.

Georgetown Theater

Georgetown architect Robert Bell is under contract to purchase the historic Georgetown theater. Not only would he like to restore the facade to its pre-formstone appearance, and convert the building to a mix of retail, office, and residential use, he wants to build a house for himself at the back of it. And that is the one thing that may cause him the most trouble.

The property lot is actually quite unusual. It stretches from Wisconsin way back, well into the block and behind houses on Dumbarton and O St. Bell would like to stretch the building back to use more of this space. The neighbors, however, are afraid of what that will mean to them. One neighbor, another architect, presented his own drawings demonstrating how the extension would appear from the back yards of his and his neighbor’s properties. Bell disagreed with his analysis, but almost everyone (except Bell) seemed to think the primary problem is that the plans were sprung on everyone too late to enable an open dialog. The ANC requested that Bell pull the project from the Old Georgetown Board agenda, but he refused citing financial impossibilities.

As for the part of the plans for the existing building, nobody objected and most welcomed the rehabilitation. GM asked Bell if he would consider bringing back the original facade, but Bell laughed and said it would be a “fantasy” and not possible. He does plan to restore the stucco facade that was covered up by the ugly formstone. And he located the original manufacturer of the neon sign and plans to restore that as well.

Bell also explained his hope to convert the alleywa–that goes from O St. down behind the stores on Wisconsin to the back of the theater property–into a Cady’s Alley-like space (he suggested the name “Georgetown Mews”). This wouldn’t be part of the plans he’s presenting this week, and so it didn’t get any official vetting. Some of the neighbors expressed doubts about the viability or desirability of that part of his plans, but we’ll see if and when any official plans are put forward.

The final wrinkle in this project was the appearance of a gentleman holding a receipt from a property tax sale who claimed to own a portion of the property. This came as a surprise to Bell and to Angie Heon Nys, whose family is in the process of selling the property to Bell after owning it for over 50 years. GM has absolutely no idea what impact this last minute claim will have, but it seems likely that it will delay it.

So stay tuned…

 

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Farewell Charlie

Photo by Boss Tweed.

Last night the ANC met for its November session. The meeting was extremely long and as a result GM will have to defer till tomorrow to report on it. But he wanted to take the time to report specially on an emotional part of the meeting: Charlie Eason’s farewell address.

As Charlie explained, due to health difficulties he has been unable to attend as many meetings over the last several years. This coincided with his decision to sell his house and move to a home on the Chesapeake Bay. As a result, he resigned his ANC position, effective last week.

In a moving speech, Charlie–noticeably gaunt, yet still lively–recounted with laughs his days on the commission. He told of the reasons he first got engaged in local governance, namely his discovery of high levels of lead in his drinking water. This was coupled with his wife’s insistence that he smoke his cigars outside, which forced him to stroll the neighborhood and, inevitably, meet and discuss issues with his neighbors. One thing lead to another, and all of the sudden he was a commissioner.

He jokingly (sort of) pleaded with the Current reporter to ask Davis Kennedy to comp Charlie a free subscription at his new home. Seeing as he’s no longer an elected official, he reasoned, there’s no ethics problems! (GM assured him that he could still receive the Georgetown Metropolitan free of charge.)

Chairman Ron Lewis presented Charlie with a special act award, the highest acknowledgement an ANC can grant. Ron was visibly emotional and nearly broke down while reading the commendation.

As he contemplated his new bayside life, Charlie said his plans are to sit at the end of his pier, watch for crabs, and read some good books. After all Charlie’s years serving Georgetown, GM can say both as his former constituent and friend that those bayside sunrises are well earned.

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ANC Preview: West Heating Plant Edition

West Heating Plant

 

Next Tuesday at 6:30 pm the November ANC meeting will be held at its normal location at Georgetown Visitation. On a personal note, this will be a sad occasion since it will be the first ANC meeting without fellow blogger Shaun Courtney to share the pain with. Oh well, GM will beat on, boat against the current, born back ceaselessly into the mundane particulars of local governance.

West Heating Plant

The big item on the agenda is the West Heating Plant. There are actually two items, the design review of the new construction and the proposed sky bridge, and a second item for the raze permit to tear down most of the building.

As GM previewed last week, the Four Seasons/Levy Group is lobbying hard to present the need to tear down three of the four facades as unavoidable. There are some (both on the ANC and in other community groups) that object to that position and would like to push back on the need to tear down the structure. (Full disclosure: GM is on the board of CAG, which may or may not take a position on this question. For what it’s worth, he has not personally made a decision either way.) Continue reading

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ANC Round Up: Ginkgo Love/Hate Edition

Ginkgo Season Not So Bad This Year

Last night, ANC2E met for its September session. As is the normal case after the August layoff, there were a lot of interesting topics discussed.

A Ginkgo By Any Other Name Would Still Smell the Same (Awful, That Is)

Almost two years ago, GM moved from R St. across from Montrose Park to 33rd St. Leaving the immediate confines of Montrose Park was a bit of a bummer; but what was not a bummer at all was getting away from the dreadful hive of Ginkgoes that populate that part of Georgetown.

GM’s prior commissioner and Cambridge St. resident, Charlie Eason, took the time to inform the crowd that you can get away from the Ginkgoes without having to move! The city runs a program where a block of residents can petition the Urban Foresty Administration to cut down one female Ginkgo on the block (males don’t produce the smelly fruit). If over 60% of the homeowners (not renters, apparently) sign a petition to take down a tree, the city will consider the application. The ANC then has 60 days to weigh in.

Eason said you either hate Ginkgoes or you love them. Or as GM would say: you either hate them or you should see an ENT doc about your failing sense of smell. (Yes, yes: the fall foliage is fantastic. But male Ginkgoes are just as nice.)

Harbor Police =/= Ordinary MPD

Lieutenant Hedgecock was on hand to discuss crime and safety issues. He started his presentation by making it clear that that idiot down at the waterfront was part of a totally different department of the Metropolitan Police.

Joking aside, he turned to the problem of burglaries that has plagued Georgetown this summer. The spike has mostly involved garages, which are often left unlocked or just plain open during the day. Hedgecock stated that the primary items stolen have been bikes. So make sure to lock up your garage, even during the day!

Finally, in response to a question from Commissioner Starrels, Hedgecock reiterated that if you need to reach the police call 911. Get over the taboo. It does not need to be an emergency. There is no non-emergency number to call. If they can’t address your problem they’ll redirect you, they won’t yell at you. Continue reading

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ANC Preview: Last Call Edition

ANC Round Up: Back From the Beach Edition

 

Next week, the ANC will be meeting for its July session. It’s the last meeting of the commission until September. So if you’ve got something you want done, better do it next week!

As it stands, there are only a couple interesting items:

35th St.

After all the hubbub over the Glover Park changes, people began to wonder if it wouldn’t make sense to take that one block of 35th st. north of Whitehaven–which is currently one-way southward–and make it two way. That way, cars going north wouldn’t have to turn right on Whitehaven to get onto Wisconsin.

GM’s not sure what the benefit of doing this would be. You’d probably have to add a traffic light because otherwise it would be a really tough left turn to make from 35th. Then you’d have three consecutive traffic lights within 200 yards or so.

But maybe there’s some upside GM’s not seeing. Continue reading

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