From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B officially joined the ranks of the opposition to the proposed U Street liquor license moratorium last night, April 4. The vote was 10-0. Commissioners Juan Lopez, 1B-07, and E. Gail Anderson Holness, 1B-11, were absent and did not vote. ANC 1B includes the U Street area.
ANC 1B is now the third ANC to vote against the moratorium. It joins ANC 6E, which voted in February, and ANC 2F, which unanimously condemned the moratorium in a strongly worded resolution the previous evening, April 3. The remaining ANC within the borders of the proposed moratorium, ANC 2B, plans to vote at its May 8 monthly meeting.
ANC 1B Commissioner Jeremy Leffler, 1B-02, placed the resolution to oppose the moratorium in front of the full ANC. Leffler is the chair of ANC 1B’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Committee. He told the commission that the text of the resolution was very similar to ANC 2F’s resolution of the previous evening.
The vote came about two-thirds of the way through a marathon four-hour meeting. It was attended by more than 60 members of the public, most of whom were especially interested in the outcome of the moratorium vote.
Attempts to Delay Vote
The resolution weathered two attempts to delay the vote. This first was by Joan Sterling, President of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), during her presentation in support of the petition.
“I’m surprised we’re taking a vote today — there’s still time,” Sterling said.
The second attempt to delay the vote was by Commissioner Ricardo Reinoso, 1B-05. During the commission debate on the resolution, Reinoso proposed a motion to table the vote until the next ANC1B meeting in May. The motion died when there was no second from the commission.
Norman Questions SDCA’s Approach
After Sterling presented to the committee, Chair Tony Norman, 1B-10, questioned Sterling about the SDCA’s approach.
“Before you filed this, why didn’t you approach the commissioners?” Norman asked. “It would have been respectful to approach us before.”
Sterling said she was waiting for the petition to be accepted by the ABC Board.
“We don’t have to wait for acceptance from a board for neighbors to talk to each other,” Norman replied.
Local Opposition Cited
In a presentation about the March 20 townhall-style listening session on the moratorium, Commissioner Leffler noted that 135 people had signed in for the session. Of the listening-session speakers who identified themselves as 1B residents, he said 81 percent were opposed. In addition, Leffler said he had a petition signed by 87 1B residents against the moratorium. Finally, Leffler entered the online anti-moratorium petition from change.org into the record. This petition contained more than 1,200 signatures, Leffler said.
Presentation on Possible Zoning Law Changes
The vote on the moratorium was only a small part of ANC 1B’s marathon session. The evening started out with a presentation from the DC Office of Planning. This office is spearheading a major rewrite of DC zoning laws citywide. At the urging of ANC 1B Chair Norman, Deputy Director Joel Lawson’s presentation took only a fraction of the time that his boss, Director Harriet Tregoning, used to cover the same material at the previous evening’s ANC 2F meeting.
“This is the fastest I’ve ever given this presentation,” Lawson said.
Lawson noted two potential impacts of the zoning rewrite on the U Street area. The first was the creation of transit zones along the major thoroughfares of the district, including the Georgia Avenue, Florida Avenue, U Street and 14th Street corridors. New buildings in these zones would no longer be required to include parking spaces in their design and construction.
The second potential impact may be new rules facilitating the opening of corner stores in residential neighborhoods. Lawson mentioned the intersections of 13th and 11th Streets and Sherman Avenue with Harvard, Fairmont, Euclid and Clifton Streets as possible places that might benefit from this change in zoning rules.
Compass Rose Settlement Agreement Approved
Well into its third hour, ANC 1B heard presentations by aspiring liquor licensees in search of ANC endorsement. ANC 1B unanimously approved the settlement agreement for Compass Rose. This agreement was the subject of a lengthy discussion at the previous meeting of ANC1B’s ABC committee on April 2.
From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F voted against the proposed U Street liquor license moratorium in a strongly-worded resolution at its monthly meeting on Wednesday evening, April 3. The vote was 7-0. Commissioner Greg Melcher, ANC 2F-06, was absent and did not vote.
ANC 2F, which covers the Logan Circle area and runs west to 15th Street NW, became the second ANC to recommend that DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board reject the moratorium petition. It joined ANC 6E, which voted in February. ANC 1B will be the third ANC to vote on the moratorium this evening, April 4. The remaining ANC within the borders of the moratorium, ANC 2B, plans to vote on the moratorium at its May 8 monthly meeting.
Wording of Resolution
ANC 2F Chair Matt Raymond (2F-07), wrote the resolution, among which were these three points:
- WHEREAS, Community sentiment is strongly opposed to the moratorium, as evidenced by comments at the above-referenced meetings, as well as contacts from individual constituents, and an online petition with 1,196 signatures as of April 3, 2013; and
- WHEREAS, ANC 2F welcomes the presence of liquor-licensed establishments, having endorsed the findings of the ARTS Overlay Review Committee, which stated that “restaurants and bars are an important ingredient in having a vibrant ARTS District: they contribute foot traffic to the arts and retail uses, and play an important role in achieving a vibrant and safe nighttime street environment”; and
- WHEREAS, The petition advances a number of dubious claims about issues such as crime rates and enforcement of existing zoning regulations under the Uptown ARTS Overlay;
Raymond observed at this ANC 2F meeting was the third in a row that had addressed the moratorium. Debate and comment on the moratorium, both between commissioners as well as between commissioners and the public, was brief and business-like before the vote.
The commission had plenty of other work to do. It voted unanimously to enter into a settlement agreement with the soon-to-open Black Whiskey on 14th Street NW, as well as unanimously supporting a renewal of the liquor license for Rice Restaurant, also on 14th Street.
Another unanimous vote was to continue the exemption for the Whole Foods Market on P Street to the Ward 2 ban on the sale of single containers of beer. The previous exemption for Whole Foods went into effect in May 2007. It was planned as a trial period, to run until October 31, 2007. However, after the trial period, no one remembered to renew the exemption. Any sales by Whole Foods of single beers since October 2007 have been, technically, illegal.
Discussion of Zoning Laws
A large portion of the meeting was given over to a presentation by Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning. This office is spearheading a major rewrite of DC zoning laws city-wide. The zoning code currently in place was adopted in 1958 and contains outdated references to penny arcades and telegraph offices. Since then, it has acquired a patchwork of confusing revisions and updates.
Tregoning addressed three areas of particular interest:
- Parking: Much of Borderstan will be designated a “transit area”. This is generally defined as a area with easy access to Metro (ten minutes’ walk) or a major bus route (five minutes’ walk), and includes the 14th Street and Massachusetts Avenue corridors. Car parking requirements for new apartment buildings and offices within this area would be eliminated entirely. Bike parking requirements will no longer be linked to the number of car parking spaces in a building.
- Accessory dwellings: Proposed city-wide changes will make it easier for many single-family homeowners who live in their house to convert part of their property into a single “granny flat” if they wish. However, Tregoning said this change will not effect the ANC 2F area greatly, since much of the area does not fall into zoning categories that will benefit from this change.
- Corner stores: Proposed city-wide changes will allow new corner stores to set up. Under the current zoning rules, new corner stores are not allowed – only existing corner stores may continue operating. New corner stores will be subject to many conditions, including size, working hours, alcohol sales, signage, and others. But, like the changes concerning accessory dwellings, the zone categories most prevalent in ANC 2F will not be effected by this change. Tregoning said only a small section of 13th Street qualifies under current rules. This section is occupied by multi-story apartment buildings, which would not be convertable under the proposed rules.
From Matty Rhoades. You can email him at matty[AT]borderstan.com.
Borderstan first learned earlier this spring that a new neighborhood organization was being formed, one whose mission was to change the course of the rapid pace of development along the 14th and U corridor — including a possible push for a liquor license moratorium. (For another view, see Online Petition Opposing Liquor License Moratorium Draws Support.) Moreover, changes are being considered to DC’s zoning laws as recently noted in the City Paper’s Housing Complex blog.
The new Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) held its first meeting May 21. The boundaries for membership in SDCA are from 12th to 15th Streets and from S to U Streets NW. Joan Sterling is president of the board of directors and some of the other names on the board are familiar to people who follow neighborhood politics and community organizations — Elwyn Ferris (partner of ANC 2B09 Commissioner Ramon Estrada) is secretary, and Doug Johnson and Craig Brownstein of U Street Dirt are on the board of directors.
The entire 14th and U corridor has been undergoing rapid change in the past decade, with numerous residential-retail complexes still under construction, from S Street past Florida Avenue NW; the strip of 14th below S Street saw the first wave of new construction on empty lots earlier in the decade. One such complex just getting underway is the Lous at 14th and U Streets NW (see Plans Unveiled for the Louis at 14th/U; Will Remake Famous Corner.) Another project, spanning 14th from S to Swann Streets is expected to be completed this fall. Demolition work will soon begin on the project at the southeast corner of 14th and Wallach NW. And there are more projects under construction or on the drawing board (13th and U NW, for example).
Not surprisingly, not everyone in the area views the changes — or the trajectory of the development — in quite the same way.
SDCA Organization’s Message Points
The membership application for SDCA is quite blunt in terms of the message points it drives home to potential members, with the following Q&A on the membership applicaton:
Q: Finding it increasingly difficult to park?
A: Local developers are being granted variances from the required parking regulations!
Q: Is late night noise and disturbance increasing?
A: New establishments are requesting operating hours till 4 and 5 AM!
Q: Are you concerned about the drastic increase in street crime?
A: Three stabbings of local restaurant patrons in the past year!
Q: Did you know that new development almost caused us the permanent loss of our Post Office.
A: A vocal group of citizens (our members, and our neighbors, just like you) fought it, and saved it!
Q: Are you aware that new legislation could strip away the legal standing residents have in alcohol licensing?
A: The right to negotiate a reasonable Voluntary Agreement may be permanently eliminated!
Interview with SDCA President
Borderstan asked SDCA President Joan Sterling about the new organization, its priorities — and why its members felt the need to form the organization instead of working through three neighborhood organizations in or near the 14th and U corridor.
Borderstan: What is your organization’s top priority as of now?
Sterling: Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) views this neighborhood as a residential community, a historic treasure, an educational center, and a vital component of the District of Columbia’s retail and tourism economy. The association seeks to maintain a unique mix of missions for the community, while seeing that the views and interests of residents and homeowners are well represented in the neighborhood’s continuing evolution. DSCA’s mission is to preserve the historic character, quality of life, and aesthetic values of this area with a particular eye toward protecting the interests of the neighborhood’s residents and homeowners. We all welcome the new businesses and the exciting development. At the same time we also have some concerns about the impact of that growth on the quality of life in the neighborhood.
As a newly incorporated organization we are very busy with membership and organizing our committees in a way that will reflect the varied interests of the members. We have had a lot of feedback regarding things such as parking, new development, new retail, improved daytime activity in the neighborhood, and concerns related to the significant late night activity that borders the residential areas.
Borderstan: Are you actively pushing the DC Government for a liquor license moratorium in the 14th and U area?
Sterling: That is one of the options that the members have discussed as a possibility to get a little ‘breathing space’ while trying to find a way to improve the implementation of the ARTS Overlay and Comprehensive Plan for the neighborhood. We hope to work with both Councilmember Graham [D-Ward 1] and Councilmember Evans [D-Ward 2], along with the Office of Planning, BZA [Board of Zoning Adjustment], ABRA [Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration], DCRA, DDOT and the other agencies that all have a piece of the puzzle. We are interested in having a vibrant and safe community during both the daytime and the evening hours. (Editor’s note: The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) lists five moratorium actions in DC. The neighborhoods with liquor license moratoriums are Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Glover Park, Dupont West and Dupont East (17th Street NW).
Borderstan: How would you respond to Bryan Martin Firvida’s claim that liquor license moratoriums are ineffective?
Sterling: It’s an interesting position to take considering Mr. Firvida provides no data that supports that opinion – the petition language is long on hyperbole, but short on facts. Existing Moratoria have been renewed which would indicate that, in the areas that have them, the residents are happy with the results. Moratorium zones as defined by ABRA can only be in a radius of 600 feet, 1,200 feet or 1,800 feet. Implying that because online petition signatories are in a particular zip code means that they live in a moratorium zone is far from accurate. It does not correctly reflect the very small sizes of ABRA defined zones compared to the much larger areas covered by zip codes.
Signatures of approximately 600 DC residents is just not reflective of those residents that are directly impacted by the current over-concentration of licenses in this particular small area. We are very interested in all ideas that can actually be implemented to help alleviate the problems that residents are experiencing and are eagerly awaiting Mr. Firvida’s alternate suggestions. We are aware that Mr. Firvida has authored other online petitions such as D.C. Council and the D.C. Taxicab Commission: Make “Red” the standard color for Taxicabs in Washington, D.C.
(Editor’s note: Martin Firvida is a past president of the U Street Neighborhood Association (USNA), elected president four times, 2002 to 2004 and again in 2010. He also served as chair of USNA’s Business Development and ABC Committee and served on the USNA Board of Directors. Martin Firvida also spent four years as a Special Assistant in the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Office of the City Administrator working on neighborhood issues. )
Borderstan: Why did you decided to form a new organization instead of working through existing community associations, such as the U Street Neighborhood Association, the Logan Circle Community Association and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association?
Sterling: We felt that we needed a residents association to address the things that are of interest to our neighborhood. Because the area straddles two different ANCs and two Wards it made sense to start an organization that could represent the neighborhood in a more cohesive way. Both the Dupont Circle Citizens Association and the Logan Circle Community Association represent residents in different areas than SDCA. The residents in those areas are clearly ably represented by their associations and we hope to follow their examples.
The ARTS Overlay Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F will hold its second meeting on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 1440 Q Street NW. This is a public meeting and all are welcome.
The ARTS Overlay Review Committee is reviewing the provisions of the ARTS Overlay Zoning District, in particular the 25% provision related to eating and drinking establishments. The committee is interested in hearing from any person or organization who has views on these issues.
Future public meetings of the ARTS Overlay Review Committee will take place on Tuesday evenings in June and July. Following this period of public consultation and outreach, the ARTS Overlay Review Committee will report its recommendations to ANC2F and the DC Office of Planning by early September 2009.
Please email Joan Ferraris at to have your name added to the meeting schedule.
Note: Greater Greater Washington has posts on planning for commercial use in neighborhoods, including “arts overlays” and what they mean.