ANC Notes, Dec. 2022: Hotel Construction on M St., Transformer Statues, New Commissioners
By December 5, 2022 One Comment 1436•
For their final meeting for the year, ANC 2E met virtually on Tuesday evening, Nov. 29 with Chair Rick Murphy (2E03) in a thankful, gracious mood chairing his final ANC meeting over his 6-year career on the commission. Along with Murphy, Commissioners Lisa Palmer (2E05) and Jenny Mitchell (2E02) were also commended heartily by formal ANC resolution for their time serving on the neighborhood commission.
MPD Lt. John Merzig was pleased to report positive news on crime trends in the Second District. “I believe across-the-board all of our crime statistics are down,” he reported. Only 1 burglary was reported in the last month, while 6 had been recorded 2 months before. “Most thefts are around the Wisconsin and M Street corridor,” Merzig said. For the holidays, special MPD units will be detailed to areas of higher crime.
Commissioner Palmer presented a constituent message of praise for recent MPD responses to loud motorbike activities on Water Street. “We should not forget the wonderful support we get from our policing community,” who behaved in a “very professional manner,” Palmer read aloud. Commissioner Lohse asked Lt. Merzig about how to help prevent holiday thefts. Merzig described the “balancing act” between a tightened security presence and “making it too much of a hassle” to go shopping for the holidays.
Office of Mayor Bowser
Mayor Bowser’s office sent a representative to inform Georgetown residents that leaf collection season runs from Nov. 7 through Jan. 28, 2023. Residents are encouraged to rake their leaves “to their treeboxes” by each Sunday before leaf pickup. City leaf collection info can be found at DPW.DC.gov.
D.C. Council Chair Mendelson’s Office
Chairman Mendelson has been focusing on chronic absenteeism and attendance problems in D.C. public schools. He’s also advancing a bill to help stabilize school budgets. Residents interested in attending one of his “Meetup with Mendo” town halls are encouraged to visit his Facebook page at “Chairmanmendelson.” To reach his Constituent Services Team, phone Declan Falls at: (202) 724-8158.
Office of Ward 2 Council Member Brooke Pinto
Appearing at the meeting, Council member Pinto expressed warm thanks to departing commissioners, Murphy, Palmer and Mitchell. Pinto’s recent legislative priorities on the D.C. Council include sponsorship of the BEST Act making it easier for businesses to launch and operate, the PERIOD Act providing free period products in all District government buildings, the Recovery Act to “reinvigorate our downtown spaces” by incentivizing businesses to move downtown and converting vacant downtown spaces into residential and commercial uses, and the Literacy Task Force to help promote DCPS teacher training in literacy education. Pinto added, “we’ve also been trying to be as creative as possible for office hours,” setting up meetings “in different neighborhoods” as well.
Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG)
“I think Georgetown is one of the greatest places to live,” said CAG’s new executive director Brittany Sawyer – formerly of Washington Fine Proper ties– as she introduced herself for the first time to the commission. “Now I’m grateful to be serving in a non-profit role,” she added. Sawyer enthusiastically reported on CAG’s Oct. 27 Public Health Community Meeting, their first in-person public event since the pandemic began. Panelists at the forum included representatives of the Georgetown BID, Georgetown University and the Department of Public Works. CAG is looking forward to hosting more public meetings in the spring and fall.
Dog Tag Bakery
Commissioner Palmer introduced founder and CEO of Dog Tag Bakery Meghan Ogilvie who discussed the vision of the successful Grace Street non-profit with the mission to serve “as a teaching ground to empower veterans, military spouses, and caregivers to find renewed purpose and community after serving our nation.” Ogilvie and her team “were really trailblazers when they were planning Grace Street,” Palmer said. Ogilvie described challenges Dog Tag Bakery has faced, including delivery truck maneuvering, parking and traffic restrictions, employee safety and difficulty finding employees. “The challenge of hiring is real,” she said, as she explained why the bakery needs to close earlier in the day. Given its success on Grace Street, the non-profit will soon be opening a new outlet in Chicago. “We love your business,” Chair Rick Murphy said, “and good luck in Chicago.”
Jelleff Recreation Center
Commissioner Kishan Putta (2E01) reported that the Jelleff Community Friends group had a good meeting with the Department of Public Works and the Department of General Services to discuss progress on the $28.8 million renovations to the Jelleff Recreation Center at 3265 S Street NW, built in 1955 and not modernized in 67 years. At the Nov. 7 meeting at Hardy Middle School, 25 neighborhood leaders and stakeholders took part in a community input session on design planning for the center. The Jelleff Community Friends group can be contacted at Jelleffcommunity@gmail.com or at “JelleffCommunityFriends” on Instagram.
MacArthur High School
Representing a “big change for parents and students in the community,” the new MacArthur High School at 4530 MacArthur Blvd., will draw – based on students’ choices – some 250 9th- and 10th-grade students from Hardy Middle School and Jackson-Reed High School starting in August, 2023. Commissioner Putta reported that a search process for a new principal is underway and hiring for the position should be announced by the end of this year. Meanwhile working groups have been meeting to discuss school transportation questions and other concerns. “It’s all going to get fleshed out very quickly,” Putta said.
New Commissioners Introduced
Chair Rick Murphy announced that write-in votes were certified and he was pleased to welcome new commissioners to ANC 2E starting in January, including Mimsy Lindner (2E05), Topher Mathews (2E07), Paul Maysak (2E03), and Georgetown University student, Joseph Massaua (2E04). A resolution to schedule the first ANC meeting of 2023 on Monday, Jan. 9 was passed.
Adjacent to 1213 30th St. NW, homeowners and nearby residents have expressed concerns about the deteriorating “structural beam integrity” of a wall adjoining the residence and a bank’s parking lot. Due to a “quagmire of code,” the wall appears to have been abandoned by a disinterested owner, according to Commissioner Gwendolyn Lohse (2E06). While the city’s new Department of Buildings (DOB) has taken “basic bureaucratic actions” on the matter, they’ve shown “no signs of urgency,” Chair Murphy said. Commissioner Lohse offered a resolution to urge DOB to “proactively pursue a structurally sound solution” to address “risk to life and property” posed by the wall. The resolution passed unanimously.
Commendations for Commissioners
“We are sad to see all of you go, but your commitment, experience and good humor has been fantastic,” Commissioner Lohse said, as she proposed a resolution commending outgoing commissioners Chair Rick Murphy, Vice Chair Lisa Palmer, and Jenny Mitchell (2E02). “We will miss your expertise, humor and unwavering thoughtfulness,” Lohse said. Recalling his 6 years on ANC 2E, Murphy joked: “It has been a joy, almost every day – and I won’t mention the days when it wasn’t!” Commissioner Palmer described the satisfactions of getting to know the community. “When you walk around the neighborhood do people recognize you?” a friend asked Palmer. “That’s one of the best parts about all of this,” Palmer told the ANC. “It’s been such a pleasure.” Commissioner Mitchell agreed with the sentiment: “I have such admiration for everyone who’s served in these positions,” she said.
Alcoholic Beverage Control Board
A new French bakery, Maman, is scheduled to open in mid-January at 1353 Wisconsin Ave. NW and is applying to ABRA for a stipulated “Class C” license to serve alcohol. Representatives assured the commission that drinks such as wine will be served at lunch or in catering services and that Maman will not be a “night time-type establishment.” Upon reassurances about noise, trash and other concerns, Chair Murphy said “We’re happy you’re coming to the neighborhood.” However, a settlement agreement will need to be drawn up to ensure “peace, order and quiet” in the community.
A settlement agreement will also be drawn up with L’Avant Garde at 2915 M Street NW in response to their request to renew their “Class C” license with ABRA. Commissioner Lohse appeared confident an agreement could be reached swiftly.
Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID)
BID Transportation Director Greg Billing discussed the BID’s permit extension application to the city to extend approval of sidewalk expansions and streateries in Georgetown for 1 year to the end of 2023 as the BID conducts a major transportation study investigating safety, mobility, “circulation and access” along the Wisconsin Avenue and M Street corridors. Commissioner Lohse urged support for the BID’s transportation study. “It’s an exciting time to be able to re-envision our transportation [systems],” she said. However, the commission unanimously passed a resolution proposed by Lohse that acknowledged some favorable public views about streateries but highlighted problems with sidewalk extensions, including “traffic flow and safety issues” as well as aesthetic problems out of keeping with Georgetown’s historical character.
3000 M Street NW
Representatives of Thor Equities and Winstanley Architects & Planners provided a Powerpoint briefing on their OGB-approved zoning application for a planned unit development at the site of the former Latham Hotel at 3000 M St. NW. Among the design features: 97 hotel rooms, 9600 feet of retail along M Street, a restaurant with expansive windows overlooking the Mule Yard providing “a nice urban design for the project,” valet services to an off-site contracted garage, and Uber and Lyft pick-up and drop-off zones. The developers will also be offering a “public benefits package” of $600,000 to the DC Affordable Housing Trust Fund, $400,000 for C&O Towpath improvements between 31st and 34th Streets NW, and a guarantee that at least 51% of the 150-200 hotel jobs expected on the project go to District residents.
The commissioners made clear, however, that the project has been exhausting. “This project is probably the most frustrating and certainly one of the most important for our neighborhood – having just the girdered remains of the Latham Hotel sitting at that corner for – has it been 5 years, or more? – We need to finish the final details here and get the project underway,” Chair Murphy emphasized. Commissioner Lohse concurred, “It’s been a real eyesore for our community for so many years…. We do value this space a lot and we do want to move on it.”
A motion offered by Commissioner Palmer to approve the project’s current design as approved by OGB passed unanimously on the stipulation that the “public benefits package” be handled by appropriate D.C. agencies or non-profits. The planners expect to “break ground” on the project in the fall of 2023.
Transformer Statues on Prospect Street
Immediately after condemning the blighted construction site on M Street where the former Latham Hotel used to stand, the commission turned its attention to a public space application from a homeowner to continue displaying the controversial “Transformer statues” at 3614 Prospect Street NW. The petitioner did not show up for the meeting or send a representative, however. Commissioner Palmer said the owner is planning to put the “feet” of the statues onto what look like “stands.” In asking for public comments, Murphy said “we’re all very familiar with the Transformers,” so he encouraged only brief comments.
Katherine Emerson, Co-Chair of the Prospect Street Citizens Association took the opportunity to denounce the display of the sculptures on legal, aesthetic and safety grounds. Two years ago, “we came home to find these larger-than-life – some would like to call them ‘street art,’ others would like to call them other things – illegally installed on public space,” she said emphatically. After the homeowner was “forced to get a permit” for the displays, the residents assumed it would only be temporary. But after the initial permit expired “approximately 18 months ago,” she said, “these rusting installations remain in public space on our street.” She condemned the homeowner for abusing the permitting process by which all residents of the neighborhood must abide. Because no “engineering study” was conducted when mounting the sculptures, she said the association has “significant safety concerns” about the sculptures, especially since “children climb” on the structures. The statues also clog traffic in the area, she added. “Our garages are blocked by cars, tour buses and every other random [person] who comes here to take selfies in front of these structures. “If I wanted to live in Disney World, I’d move there,” she concluded.
Commissioner Palmer proposed a resolution condemning the “procedural deficiency” of the homeowners public space application which passed unanimously.
Chairman Murphy’s Departing Words
With a sense of gratitude and relief, Chair Murphy closed the meeting on a cheery note. “This is the 65th or 66th [ANC2E] meeting I’ve attended over the last 6 years and it’s the shortest one,” he said. “It’s swan song time… And, it’s so appropriate to end with [the agenda item of] the Transformers.” “That is so Georgetown,” quipped Commissioner Putta.