Although there were party decorations hanging in the Fourth District HQ community room, the commissioners showed up for their October 2018 ANC 4A meeting ready to work. The agenda was jammed packed and the meeting lasted more than three hours. Here is a summary of the top five issues that were presented.
5) Complaints Regarding Georgia Avenue Restaurant Betty GoJo
Betty’s GoJo, nominally a restaurant located at 7616 Georgia Ave NW, has been engaged in behavior more like the bad-neighbor clubs of the days of past. In addition to racking up a long list of Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration violations, the club’s owners have engaged in some bad-faith trickery to reduce their exposure to ABRA regulations, including “changing ownership” frequently, which resets the clock on several Alcoholic Beverage Control enforcement actions.
What is worse is that the restaurant has attracted a clientele that insists on “continuing the party” long past closing hours, going so far as to set up a picnic table in back of the Georgia Avenue business where drinking, smoking and other activities continue long into the night. At last month’s ANC meeting, we heard from area business owners whose customers were being harassed by this rowdy element.
The good news is that the club’s Alcohol license is up for renewal in March 2019. The commission adopted a resolution to strongly urge ABRA to enforce its regulations and ensure that Betty’s GoJo is compliant with the Settlement Agreement it signed with the Shepherd Park Citizens Association. The owners will have a lot of explaining to do when they have to come before the ANC to ask for support of the renewal of their license.
4) Not A Great News Day from Councilmember Todd’s Office
Councilmember Todd’s Chief of Staff Sheryl Newman came to give an update on very recent City Council action. She very calmly enumerated two Council votes that had taken place that day
- The Council had its first reading of a bill to repeal citizens’ Initiative 77, whose goal was to end the two-tier minimum-wage system that allows restaurants and others to pay tipped workers a few dollars an hour, with the theory that tips make up the difference.
- The Council also passed a bill to severely restrict the availability of short-term rental service AirBnB in the city. Under the new regime, homeowners will be banned from renting out a second home and they will only be able to rent their primary homes for 90 days when they are not in the property. This will make DC one of the most heavily regulated short-term rental markets in the country.
She did not volunteer that Councilmember Todd voted for both bills until she was asked directly.
I will save my soapbox speech for another day. These are both highly disappointing outcomes. It’s clear that the business interest lobbyists have run roughshod through the Wilson building while the residents were on summer vacation.
3) Crown Castle – Construction of new 5G Network
Carly Didden, the government relations manager for telecom company Crown Castle came to give a presentation on a proposed 5G network. The company is proposing to build a network of “small cell” antennas throughout the city to increase wireless capacity. These small cells are about four feet tall and are attached to the top of existing telephone poles. This company then leases its network capacity to the four wireless companies (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile), which allows us as consumers to access data and services faster.
Ms. Didden noted that today less than 50% of all homes have landline phone service. Demand for mobile data is growing exponentially. Video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime consume enormous amounts of data and people are using those services on their mobile devices.
Another factor is that our emergency communications systems are now almost totally wireless. When asked about the difficulty most Shepherd Park and Colonial Village residents have with unintended connections to Montgomery County Emergency Services when we call 911, the representative stated that this new technology should alleviate that problem greatly because the antennas will be closer to our homes. She also said that we should have no fears about added radiation because these antennas operate at a lower power than most of our devices themselves.
2) Walter Reed Development Update from Hines |Urban Atlantic | Triden
It started off so well. Mark Simpson, a development associate with Urban-Atlantic, proudly shared some impressive economic data. He stated that the project is currently exceeding its inclusion goals by contracting a whopping 77% of construction work to date to Certified Business Enterprises (locally owned businesses). In addition, he said that 54% of new hires for the project have been District residents.
This seemed like a cause for celebration to me, but it didn’t take long for the story to turn a bit sour. A few probing questions from Commission Karrye Braxton and a neighbor who runs a contracting business revealed that the way those numbers are being reported to us is not technically correct. The commission has repeatedly asked for the same report that the master developer submits to the city’s economic development agencies. It has yet to receive a report in a format that presents CBE participation as a share of contracted agreements and not just work completed to date. The worry is that, because the current reports don’t align with the actual contracts, the ANC would learn about shortfalls in CBE engagement too late to do anything about it. The commissioners expressed frustration with the lack of clarity on this very important matter.
In other news, the recently enabled Enhanced Dust Mitigation Plan for the demolition of the colossal Building 2 hospital is in full effect. The air monitors and Dust Boss units are in place and working. The DC Department of the Environment and Energy (DOEE) has received access to all test results to date. In addition, they now have ongoing access. To the knowledge of the development representatives, the air quality has been reported within range, so far.
1) Children’s National Medical Center at Walter Reed Presentation
Most of the attention for the Walter Reed redevelopment site is focused on the District-owned parcel of land which will bring shopping and housing options to the community. There are two other major tenants whose plans are slowly progressing. We received an update on Children’s Hospital’s project at this months’ meeting.
Ms. Irene Thompson shared that update and provided information on environmental remediation and a brief construction update.
One notable feature of this project is that Children’s will only be occupying existing buildings and using them for their original and intended purposes. The three buildings will operate as a clinical care facility, and auditorium and a research and innovation center. The only exterior change is that the entrance to the Research Center will be swapped from the west side of the building to the east side.
Environmental remediation began in April of 2018 and is expected to be complete by next March. The hazardous material is mostly asbestos (typical of buildings of that age) and panel caulk that contains PCBs. All work is being done inside the buildings. Material is double sealed, double wrapped and placed in fiber drums before being taken offsite to a certified waste facility.
Overall construction should be complete by July 2020.
As you can see, your Advisory Neighborhood Commission tackles a wide variety of issues that directly impacts your quality of life as an uptown DC resident. It is important to have capable public servants in these positions of leadership. Please keep this thought in mind as you venture to the voting booth next month.