Last night the ANC met for its July session, the last call for the summer. With a “vanilla” agenda, as one commissioner called it, the night held few surprises.
West Heating Plant
GM has covered this multiple times before, but if you’re just catching up, here’s a primer: Way back in the 40s, the federal government took land at the confluence of the C & O Canal and Rock Creek from the National Park Service and built a large heating plant on the property. The plant was used to provide building heat to the federal government’s properties on the west side of downtown (primarily the State department). It burned coal for a heat source.
The plant was converted to natural gas at some point and then about ten years ago it was shut down for good. Since then it has sat unused. GSA is finally in the process of selling the property.
The neighbors of the property are nervous about this. They want the south half of the property returned to its previous use as park land. (And some would like the plant itself torn down, but they acknowledge that that is an unlikely outcome). To do so they initially suggested that GSA could either give the property back to NPS or sell the property with restrictions on the use of the south half of the property. GSA doesn’t want to do that. They just want to sell it as soon as possible for the highest price, and that was even before Congressional Republicans started making political hay over the ten years the property sat unused.
So the neighbor’s attention shifted to the city. The property is currently unzoned. If the Office of Planning zones the south half of the property as parkland, then that’s how it would get used. Fait accompli.
They key is that the zoning would have to be in place before the auction. If it’s not, then some very deep pockets will be emptying large portions of those pockets to purchase the property. Once they have the property, they will spend even more to make sure they receive the most lenient zoning category.
So to prevent this from coming to pass, the Friends of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, CAG (disclosure: GM is CAG’s secretary), and now the ANC have formally asked OP to act fast to zone the property in a way to restore and preserve the public’s access to this historic site.
Also considered last night was Paul Bakery’s request to add a sidewalk cafe. On its face, the request appears likely to succeed. The restaurant is popular and mostly problem-free. The sidewalk isn’t particularly wide at this spot, but it’s wide enough for the small number of tables the bakery is requesting.
But here’s the problem: After applying for a public space permit, Paul simply put out some tables and started to use the sidewalk. And even after being notified that it needed to wait to actually get the permit approved, they kept using the sidewalk. Complicating matters further is that they have a liquor license, and adding a sidewalk cafe is a substantial change that requires ABRA appeal.
Oh, and nobody showed up from Paul last night.
But Paul’s ANC commissioner, Bill Starrels, was insistent that the commission vote to approve the sidewalk cafe permit. This was despite obvious hesitation from his fellow commissioners, and even more obvious objections from some of the audience. The source of this agitation is that the operator of Paul is Capitol Restaurant Concepts, which owns and/or operates several other restaurants in Georgetown including Third Edition. Third Edition has a long history of underage drinking violations, and some, including GM, think CRC too often gets a pass from the ANC.
And leniency for CRC was definitely on display last night. Tom Birch suggested that Paul should resolve its ABRA issue before seeking a public space permit, but Starrels was not having it, suggesting that the only issue before the ANC was the public space permit. Later he suggested that it wasn’t the ANC’s job to police the restaurants, which is exactly what the ANC does often.
Ultimately, Paul will get a sidewalk cafe and it will be a nice addition to the neighborhood. But with so many restaurants in Georgetown, CRC should be called to account when they flout the law so blatantly.
- The Lombardi Cancer Center at GU hospital is adding something called “proton therapy”. Interestingly, in DC apparently when hospitals add significant pieces of equipment like this, they have to show that the need is there, so that we don’t end up with, say, five proton therapy centers each getting used only 20% of capacity.
- That tree that fell down at 35th and Prospect was apparently the tallest street tree in Georgetown.
- The post office project is still moving ahead, albeit slowly.