ANC Round Up: Awkward Edition

DC Triathlon by arjubx.

Last night the ANC met for its final 2010 session, and one theme dominated the meeting: awkward. As in “awwwk-waard”. On multiple occasions last night, GM winced at the social discomfort on display. But that’s what made it such a great meeting!

Special Events

Early on in the meeting, the commission turned to the question of special events. There has been a growing perception among the commissioners that the number of special events in Georgetown that require street closings has been on the rise. To combat that, the ANC is working to develop certain guiding principles as to whether to approve an event or not. The two main principles are whether the event is mainly charitable in nature and what benefits it has to Georgetown. GM probed a little on the second prong, since it sounded to him a little like extortion, but really what that principle entails is more of a qualitative look at how cooperative the group has been and how much they have done to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.

So with that in mind, the commission turned to two proposed events that are asking to shut down some Georgetown streets: the DC Triathlon on June 19th and the Nation’s Triathlon on September 11th. Both of these events are being planned by Charles Brodsky. While the commission focused somewhat on the proposed impact the races would have on the community (the DC Triathlon would only shut down the Whitehurst; the Nation’s Triathlon would shut down the Whitehurst, M St. west of Key Bridge, and Canal Rd.) the discussion soon narrowed in on whether the races are charitable or not. Brodsky was quick to point out that the Nation’s Triathlon has raised $9 million to help fight Leukemia. The commissioners, however, pointed out that his company is still for-profit and they questioned whether the charitable donations even come out of the fees or are simply raised additionally by the competitors. Brodksy stated that some charitable donations do come out of the race fees.

It was already somewhat heated at this point, but it got worse. The commission wanted to know roughly what percentage of the race revenues go to charity. Brodksy said he didn’t know, and that he couldn’t even guess. The commission found this hard to believe. Eventually they asked that he come back and tell them next month what that percentage is. He basically refused to do so. To this Tom Birch asserted that without more information, the commission had no way to know whether this whole thing is a sham. Brodsky didn’t take very well to that comment. The ANC told Brodsky that they’d be happy to work with him to minimize the impact the races have on the community but that he was going to have to work with them or they’d oppose the race. At one point Brodsky said he’d just as well take their rejection. In a word, it was awkward.

But it got worse.

See the thing is that Brodsky is on the ABC board. And he stuck around to hear the ABC matters. Later at the conclusion of those discussions, the commission recognized Brodsky’s role and actually seemed to try to smooth some of his feathers by thanking him for his service. While Brodsky thanked them for their words, the air was still pretty icy.

The only thing GM will add is that in all this talk of special events, there seems to be a dramatic conflation of cars and people. Cars are blocked in, not people. Yes some people are utterly dependent on cars to get around, but not most people. That’s not to say that these events can’t have a negative impact on residents, but let’s not forget that we live in a city and the best way around is our own two feet.

Capital Bikeshare

GM has been waging a behind the scenes effort with some other residents to try to get some more bikeshare stations in Georgetown. One intermediate goal is to get the ANC to pass a resolution supporting specific locations. While the ANC is not quite prepared to do that, last night the commission breached the issue with the community. GM is pleased to say that he didn’t even get a chance to speak in favor of adding more stations since there were too many other people doing just the same. Not one negative voice was raised. While it seems that the ANC doesn’t want to get behind a Rose Park location yet, it will likely formally endorse several locations including the Jackson School and Volta Park. It may also support stations at the library and in front of Hyde-Addison.

Again, it should be noted that DDOT is under no obligation to actually agree with the ANC. But in terms of directing their attention towards locations, it’s a big help.

Lapis

As reported here for months, the family behind Cafe Bonaparte is planning on opening two new restaurants in Georgetown. The first is called Lapis and will go into the space that is currently occupied by ANC-regular architect George Gordon. Things were going swimmingly for this restaurant. In fact the ANC already drafted up a voluntary agreement. But then the immediate neighbor, a company called BrooksBowerAsia, attempted to protest the license and complained that the notice wasn’t put up for the necessary time. Apparently they brought this complaint to the ABC board, which rejected it. The ANC was not inclined to disagree with the ABC board.

What eventually came out was that the company didn’t want any restaurant there. The owner of the company, Karen Brooks, complained that she picked that location specifically because it was quiet. She stated that with a restaurant she would fear for the safety of the young women who work there and speculated that they would all quit. You could almost hear the commissioners eyes roll to that suggestion. While the commissioners were willing to work with Brooks to tweak the agreement to her liking, they would not go along with her insistence that no restaurant move in. What hurt her case most of all is that Cafe Bonaparte has a fantastic reputation. Georgetown is lucky that the family behind it is opening two more locations in Georgetown. Had this been a fly-by-night bar owner, the ANC might have been more amenable, but since that wasn’t the case, they approved the voluntary agreement.

Keeping with the theme, though, the discussion was awkwardly intense at times.

Georgetown Post Office

Over a year ago, Eastbanc first proposed buying the Georgetown Post Office and converting it into condos (while keeping the first floor post office functional). Since that time, Eastbanc has dramatically changed their plans. Once it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to build on the parking lot next door, they scrapped their plans for a series of rowhouses. Now they want to simply add an office building to the back of the historic building. Sorry for the quality but here’s generally what it would look like:

This is a view from the south. What they propose is to build an industrial looking building that is connected to the old building by a glass hyphen. Here’s a clearer shot showing what the addition would look like:

In short, Eastbanc is proposing to bring a little bit of Cady’s Alley magic to 31st st. Unfortunately, though, the building would not house retail, only office space, so the public will have limited interaction with the building.

Some issues remain. The plan calls for an underground parking lot for 18 cars. But the only access is a one lane driveway off of the already-clogged 31st st. Something’s got to give there. In GM’s opinion the best solution is to simply have little to no parking and establish performance parking so that employees would really only have one choice if they decide to drive to work: pay for a monthly space in the nearby pay garages.

While no neighbors have objected yet, the ANC was wary that at some point they might complain (Eastbanc insists they’ve been trying to reach the neighbor to the immediate north for over a year. Ed Solomon wisely noted that the neighbor probably won’t notice until the construction starts and then will be the loudest voice at the next ANC meeting wondering why he wasn’t notified).

In the hands of any other company, the ANC would be a lot more nervous, but this project looks to be consistent with the high standards that Eastbanc has maintained throughout the neighborhood. They approved the concept.

Rounding Up the Round Up

Sorry for the long round up, it was a busy night. Here are some final notes:

  • The Circulator will bring back the Wisconsin and R stop that it has dropped and added before.
  • The neighbors to Go Fresh (the new incarnation of Philly Pizza) are weighing their options with regards to the certificate of occupancy that was recently granted to the restaurant. Apparently the current oven is too large for a prepared food establishment, so they have reason to object, but they are currently deciding whether it is the right move.
  • While Serendipity 3 will eventually have a second floor space for group rentals, for now it will just be on the ground floor. The one exception is the bakery they want to build over the old kitchen. No word on when they’ll actually open.
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14 Comments

Filed under ANC

14 responses to “ANC Round Up: Awkward Edition

  1. Reader

    “…last night the commission breached the issue with the community.”

    broached the issue??

  2. GM

    Ugh. You’re right.

  3. Ken Archer

    Initially I was wary of the commission’s apparent windshield perspective on special events, but last night the commission raised several issues that I think are very legitimate. I agree with the commission that we should ask of all future events if they want ANC approval:

    (1) Are they non-profit, or for-profit with a non-profit subsidiary, and do they have open reporting of non-profit activities audited by any of several non-profit standards bodies? Our streets are a public asset, as one commissioner explained, and should not be closed down for private gain.

    (2) Do they begin as early as possible and on-time, so as to minimize the effects on businesses?

    (3) Do they make some qualitative contribution to the Georgetown community? Tie-ins with Georgetown charities or schools, for example. This isn’t extortion, it’s a community acting like a community.

  4. SG

    What about Malmaison? Any news on that?

  5. GM

    Ken: yeah I see that, although I’m not sure an event like a triathlon could benefit a Georgetown entity. Wouldn’t they need to benefit a group in every ANC it passes through? Otherwise we’re getting special treatment. It’s easier with something localized like Taste of Georgetown, which I believe does benefit Georgetown Ministries.

    SG: not really. They are still working out their voluntary agreement, but it looks good for them. One issue mentioned last night is the possibilty of them hiring a detail of cops to patrol outside the restaurant, which would keep noise down and increase safety (it’s a pretty remote part if Georgetown).

  6. Medusa

    While Serendipity 3 will eventually have a second floor space….No word on when they’ll actually open.
    GM, hasn’t it been a year or so since the lease was signed? Could they perhaps be looking to back out? Isn’t this an unusually long renovation? M.

  7. EastGeorgetowner

    Ugh – the Eastbanc design is another (Eastbanc-style) modern building out of step with the Georgetown aesthetic. The design should be opposed! If Apple had to tone it down, this is just as modernistic, if not more so.

  8. GM

    I don’t know, I think they did a great job incorporating modern style with historic buildings down in Cady’s Alley. But I trust the Old Georgetown Board to make the right call.

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