Here’s you April Northwest Georgetown ANC Update:
Volta Park Renovation
The hottest topic for our neck of the woods these days is surely the Volta Park renovation. This $700,000 project will bring many improvements to the park, although some of the elements are producing community disagreement. In all, the project aims to provide the following:
- Re-sodding the main grass field which is currently in a terrible shape
- Repairing the irrigation system
- Repairing and regrading the baseball diamond in order to eliminate its current dangerous condition
- Install a French drain along the first base line to address the extensive erosion along the park’s southern border
- Provide a new backstop and bleachers for the baseball diamond
- Install a new 4 foot fence across the northwest corner of the park
- Provide ADA access points for the park
- Install additional amenities, such as new trash cans, a water fountain, and other seating, budget permitting
While nearly everyone welcomes improvements to the park, I have received concerns about some of specific items listed above. Firstly, many residents object to the proposed 4 foot fence. This is where is would be located:
The fence would replace the temporary rope fence that is there now. The Department of Parks and Rec. (DPR) representatives characterized the new fence as an “outfield fence” for the baseball field. But they also acknowledged that the purpose of the fence was primarily to keep dogs off the newly repaired field. It would, in effect, informally recognize the northwest corner of the park as a dog park without the substantial investment that would be necessary to construct an actual official dog park. Of course, DPR reps are quick to point out that all dogs must remain on-leash at all times in the park. By proposing an informal dog park, though, DPR is acknowledging that the leash law is observed mostly in the breach at Volta.
This is obviously a delicate issue that produces strong passions. For every resident that has expressed a concern to me that this new fence would sever the pastural feeling of the park, I’ve also heard other residents who welcome the fence and complain about walking through dog poop or having their child’s tee-ball games interrupted by off-leash dogs. This range of views is very much present among my fellow commissioners. For that reason, the ANC has decided to remain neutral at this point on the issue of the fence.
There are also concerns about the new backstop and the proposed bleachers. These concerns relate both to aesthetics and concerns for the health of the bordering historic osage trees. In both cases I am hearing that lesser is better. At this point we have not seen any specific plans or renderings, so while we welcome hearing about the community’s concerns, the ANC is reserving its judgment until those plans emerge.
DPR has promised to submit their proposals for review by the Old Georgetown Board. The ANC will push to hold them to that promise. And when that review occurs, I do expect the ANC to weigh in on the design of the fence, backstop, bleachers, and any other physical element of the plan. For the fence, on top of obvious questions about aesthetics, another primary concern will be to include gates to enable the fence to open widely when not in use. For the backstop and bleachers, I expect that keeping the designs on the minimal side will be our aim. We also will strongly encourage Urban Forestry to consult closely on the project to protect the trees.
Of course the public is also invited to chime in both now and during the Old Georgetown Board process. Submit your comments to DPR’s Chris Dyer at email@example.com. Once the designs reach the Old Georgetown Board, the email contact there is Georgetown@cfa.gov.
Assuming the project does not encounter any significant obstacles, the work should commence in the fall. As the project would include a newly sodded field, it will require one full growing season with no use. This will mean the field will be closed for much of 2024. This will obviously be a disappointment to many (particularly dog owners) but it is a necessary step to ensure the long-term health of the new field.
Speaking of Volta Park, the Friends of Volta Park are holding a spring clean up Saturday April 8th at 8:30. Please come out at help spruce up the park!
In the wake of the pandemic, street parking throughout Georgetown has become increasingly difficult for residents to find. There simply seems to be more people driving to and parking on the street during the day, often well beyond the two hour limit. Calls to increase parking enforcement by the ANC have largely been ignored by the Department of Public Works (DPW). And more and more commuters without Zone 2 stickers appear to have picked up on this lack of enforcement and leave their cars parked all day.
I have been approached by residents on 35th St. to explore the option of designating some stretches of that street for resident-only parking. What that would mean is that on some sides of some blocks, you would need a Zone 2 sticker to park at all during the designated window of time (e.g. 8 AM to 8 PM). This would have the advantage both of discouraging commuters from using these blocks in the first place and enabling DPW enforcement officers to ticket the cars on a single pass (as opposed to needing two passes over two hours). Residents would still be able to print parking passes for their visitors to park on these blocks.
From my and the residents’ observations, 35th St. is hit particularly hard by commuters using it to park all day. It appears that the primary source of these commuters is the university (both the school and the hospital). And as a result, I think this stretch is a good candidate to experiment with resident-only parking. What that would specifically look like is unclear at this point. Only after consultation with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will we get a clearer picture of what is possible. (For what it’s worth, DDOT has instituted resident-only parking in locations throughout DC, including around Nationals park or in popular nightlife destinations like Adams Morgan or Dupont Circle).
There are arguments against this approach. For instance, some argue that it will just push the commuter parking on to other blocks, which may already be facing a crunch as bad as 35th St. Concerns such as these largely contribute to the collapse of a plan in 2018 that would have introduced resident-only parking to many blocks throughout the neighborhood. The business community in particular objected, as it perceived the plan as directly impacting their customers’ access. (For that reason, establishing resident-only parking on blocks closer to Wisconsin Ave., such as my own (33rd St.), which has also seen a spike in parking challenges, would likely face opposition from the business community).
I believe, however, that a smaller plan addressing fewer blocks relatively far from the commercial corridor is worth exploring. But no plan will proceed without larger community support and informed discussion. In the meantime, please let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org!
March ANC Meeting Summary
Here are some of the highlights from our March monthly public ANC meeting:
- My neighbor Elizabeth Jaffee shared her Kafkaesque journey trying to open her new Book Hill art gallery, Gallery Article 15. You would think that converting a commercial space from an active restaurant to a small art gallery would be easy. You would be wrong! Jaffee described her months-long bureaucratic nightmare seeking approval from no fewer than three different agencies. Thankfully she made it through and she can share her experience and wisdom with other business owners looking to open here.
- DDOT’s Ted VanHouten gave an update on the significant Georgetown Access and Circulation Study, which is about to formally kick off. This study will look at all aspects of the neighborhood’s transportation needs and ultimately produce short, medium and long term recommendations. The study will include multiple opportunities for public engagements, and I will make sure to let you know when and how to participate once they’re scheduled!
- The ANC voted to issue a resolution calling for the preservation of the historic Foundry Branch trolley trestle. This is the last trolley trestle remaining in the District and represents a significant remnant of the city’s transportation history. Moreover, once saved the bridge could be reused to connect the Georgetown and Foxhall neighborhoods with a convenient pedestrian link.
- As previewed in my March update, the ANC considered a novel proposal from a resident to construct a new alley building behind 34th St. The ANC issued a resolution supporting the general concept for the building but raised concerns relating to its size. In its own meeting, several days later, the Old Georgetown Board echoed those concerns and sent the applicants back to the drawing board to reduce the project’s size. Separately, in our May 1st ANC meeting, we will consider the zoning application for this property, which will determine whether the property can be used as a residence or not. Please reach out to me at email@example.com with any comments on that aspect of the application!
Our April meeting will be held Monday the 3rd at 6:30 pm. Access the meeting here. The agenda is located here.
And as always, if you have any issues or concerns about anything about the neighborhood, please reach out to me at that same address!
Finally, I wanted to share a Georgetown architectural field guide that I drafted up for the CAG walking tour last week. Keep in mind I’m hardly a trained architect, but hopefully it is helpful if you’ve ever wondered about the subject: