Historic Preservation Review Board Chief Pledges Greater Transparency

by Borderstan.com June 5, 2013 at 8:00 am 0

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.


Gretchen Pfaehler at the Anderson House Ballroom. (David McAuley)

“We need to listen to the community,” said Gretchen Pfaehler, chair of DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) last Monday, June 3. Pfaehler addressed the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) at its regular monthly meeting. The meeting was in the Anderson House Ballroom of the Society of the Cincinnati, 2118 Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Public Comment on Historic Preservation

The HPRB and its associated agency, the Historic Preservation Office (HPO), will, through June 24, accept public comment on a major revision to its outline of goals, policies and challenges for historic preservation.

Pfaehler said that some of the major themes that are emerging from public comments are that the agencies must have a “more forceful and convincing message” and also must be “open to new possibilities.”

“It’s been a little too much time since we really heard what you [the community] have to say,” Pfaehler said.

Pfaehler also said she was disturbed by other comments she had heard. Some members of the public told her that, once the public hears about HPRB activity, “the deal is already done,” and it is too late for public input.

“We are working with staff to be far more transparent,” Pfaehler said.

In April 2013, the HPRB and the HPO were the subjects of a sharply critical resolution passed by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B/Dupont. The resolution took the agencies to task for ineffective enforcement, lack of coordination with ANCs, unfair reporting and a cumbersome appeal process.

Opposition to Food Truck Regulations

After Pfaehler’s remarks, the DCCA moved on to other business. Communications Committee Chair Susan Volman told the committee that 162 members of the DCCA had been sent an email survey on food truck regulations. Fifty-one people responded to the “unscientific” survey, Volman reported, of whom 71% opposed food truck regulations. Some respondents who opposed the regulations said that the new regulations were an unnecessary blanket on an economic sector that was just emerging.

DCCA Joins Support for Accelerated Garrison Renovation

The DCCA joined ANC 2B and 2F/Logan Circle, as well as many other community groups, in urging more money sooner for the renovation of Garrison Elementary School (1200 S Street). The group passed a resolution asking that the renovation be financed in its entirety in DC’s 2014 budget, rather than piecemeal starting in 2014 and then extending into 2015 and later years, possibly as late as 2022. Supporters of Garrison have been actively lobbying to get the original three-phase plan for Garrison’s renovation collapsed into a single project. Garrison has not had a renovation since 1964.

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