The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 4A) meeting for the Colonial Village, Shepherd Park, Brightwood, 16th Street Heights and Crestwood neighborhoods for the month of May took place on Tuesday evening at the MPD Fourth District HQ Community Room. The house was packed as community members and city government employees filled the room to hear from the evening’s special guest, Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Mayor Bowser’s speech was the first item on the agenda. She was in a cheerful mood as she recalled her time serving as an ANC commissioner for the Riggs Park neighborhood. Having spent many hours in that steamy MPD 4th District HQ Community Room, she joked that she was “having a flashback”.
After introducing several of the department heads who accompanied her that evening, she began to highlight several items from her FY 2020 Budget. The balanced budget proposal that the Mayor submitted to the City Council includes $15.5 billion in operating and capital expenses. That represents $8.6 billion in local funds.
The Mayor’s team has been making an assertive public push to advocate for her priorities in this budget. I will highlight a few of the items that she mentioned.
This budget proposes to increase the Housing Production Trust Fund, one of the main tools the city uses to preserve and create housing for low-income residents, to $130 million. The fund was at $50 million when she first took office.
Mayor Bowser is also proposing a new tool, called the Workforce Housing Fund. This program would be aimed at helping middle class workers like teachers, firefighters and police afford to purchase homes in the District at or below market rates. $20 million in city seed money would be required to launch the initiative.
The budget calls for increasing the number of officers in the police department to 4,000. The Mayor also touched on the issue of property crime and touted the city’s Private Security Camera Rebate program. $500 rebates are available.
The Mayor then turned to the issue of transportation. Improving transportation infrastructure needs to be an important focus of our growing city. Five items that she cited in this area are:
- Rebuilding many of the alleys in our neighborhoods
- Repairing all roadways that are “poorly rated” by 2024
- Reconfiguring the 16th Street traffic circle at the intersection of Colesville Road. All entrances to the circle will be controlled by traffic lights and improved crosswalks will be installed
- Staying focused on keeping Metro safe and reliable. The city has joined the regional commitment to ensure Metro has funds need to repair its system
- Creating K Street Transitway, which will improve east-west mobility for buses and cars.
Finally, Mayor Bowser spoke about several initiatives related to education and families in the District. This budget supports the following investments:
- Opening three new childcare sites inside of DC schools
- Reopening the refurbished Coolidge High School
- Opening Ida B. Wells, a new middle school for Ward 4 families
- Planning to move Benjamin Banneker Academic High School to the site of the former Shaw Middle School. This will allow Banneker, one of the best schools in the region, to expand and increase its enrollment.
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) May 10, 2019
After her speech, the Mayor held a brief question and answer period.
Overall, her visit was a productive exchange with the residents in attendance. Many of the ideas that she emphasized were well received by the audience. It will be interesting to observe how the outreach efforts by the Executive’s Office will affect City Council’s final deliberations on the budget.
Report from Councilmember Todd’s Office
Ms. Sheryl Newman, CM Todd’s chief of staff, was there to give the report from his office. She highlighted the status of items from the ongoing budget deliberations. Ms. Newman stated that Councilmember Todd would be championing the following Ward 4 specific items during the final budget debates:
- School renovation funding for West, Dorothy Height, Raymond, Whittier, Lafayette and Brightwood
- Improvements at recreation centers, including Hamilton and Emery Heights centers and the upcoming Shepherd Park Community Center.
- Funding for the upcoming Walter Reed pool is “safe and sound and moving forward”.
Other legislation that he is focused on include the Senior Dental Assistance program and pilot for a Hearing Aid Fund.
Finally, there will be funding for a Senior Strategic Plan, which will study issues related to aging in the city such as housing and transportation.
Report from State Board of Education Member Frazier O’Leary
Mr. O’Leary gave a very brief report, but he emphasized three important points:
First, the upcoming city budget appears to reduce total expenditures on our local schools. He’s asking that residents call and write the City Council to advocate that they restore that funding.
Secondly, he noted that the newly renovated Coolidge High School and the brand-new Ida B. Wells Middle School will open in August. He stated that the buildings are beautiful. But then he said, “The community has to work on getting students going to the new schools.” Both Coolidge and Roosevelt are under enrolled. As we know, programming and amenities flow with the school enrollment.
Finally, Justin Ralston, the interim principal at Roosevelt High School has been appointed to the position permanently.
Liquor License Logjam
One of the most important responsibilities of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission is to monitor restaurants, taverns, clubs and alcohol retailers for their compliance with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) regulations. Holding a license to sell alcohol is a privilege for businesses, because non-compliance can severely affect quality of life for surrounding neighbors. Alcohol licenses are issued for a three-year period.
It was perplexing, then, to observe the presentation from ANC 4A02 Commissioner Stacey Lincoln (Shepherd Park) where the renewal of licenses for three establishments was discussed. One establishment in particular, Betty’s GoJo located at 7616 Georgia Avenue, has a very poor record of compliance, with violations ranging from failing to qualify as a restaurant to attracting a clientele that insists on “continuing the party” outdoors long past closing hours and harassing neighbors and area businesses. The Shepherd Park Citizens Association (SPCA) is on record for protesting the renewal of this license and this Commission discussed the problems with this establishment at length at its October 2018 meeting.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Lincoln requested to table his own resolution regarding this business. The problem is that the petition date is May 28th and the Commission will not meet again before that date. The Commission would effectively give up its right to speak on the renewal of the license of a bad actor whose behavior has caused inconvenience and harm to neighboring homes and businesses.
When asked why he was choosing not to act on this matter, Commissioner Lincoln stated that he sent an email to the community two weeks ago asking for complaints about the business and didn’t receive a response.
SPCA President Naima Jefferson responded, “The SPCA has sent multiple letters and CC’d the ANC over the past two years regarding complaints from the community (about Betty’s GoJo). So, regardless of whether it was received within the two-week timeframe that Commissioner Lincoln is alleging, the ANC has received our complaints that went to ABRA.”
Chairperson Gale Black (ANC 4A08, Crestwood) called for a vote on the tabling of the Betty’s GoJo resolution. The motion to table the action was voted down. She then created a motion for the Commission to oppose the renewal of the license for that restaurant. That motion was voted on and passed, and a letter indicating such will be sent to ABRA.
There were two additional restaurants under review Tuesday, but confusion and lack of background information made it impossible for the commissioners to make a clear decision. Those items were tabled until a future date.
Walter Reed Update
Members of the Walter Reed development team came to introduce initial designs for two new buildings for the site. Buildings “O” and “P” are two mixed-use structures with ground floor retail which will stand approximately 75-feet tall. For reference, that is about half the height of the recently demolished concrete hospital building. Located in the northern section of the site, these “C” shaped buildings will serve as components of the “town center” area. More details about these buildings will be shown at an upcoming Single Member District meeting (see below).
Presenters from Children’s Hospital shared the latest news about their portion of the campus. The project now has an official name: The Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus.
This project is scheduled to begin operations in 2020. This project mainly involves the reuse of existing buildings. They plan to place an array of solar panels on top of the existing parking structure. All building permits are expected to be ready by the end of this month.
It’s official. Thanks to #JNJ Innovation & @BARDA, DC is getting its own @JLABS! The brand new research hub will be located at the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus and we couldn’t be more excited. https://t.co/TFDViZnvEB #JLABSDC #ObviouslyDC #Innovate4kids
— Children’s National 🏥 (@childrenshealth) April 9, 2019
Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has signed an agreement to place a JLABS life sciences incubator at the site. According to a recent article, JLABS DC will “create space on that campus to co-locate startup pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer and health technology companies seeking to translate pediatric research into new treatments and technologies.”
They also mentioned that they expect to announce a partnership with an academic partner in the near future.
- There will be a Mosquito Control meeting for the Shepherd Park neighborhood on May 16th
- A Single Member District meeting to provide more detailed Walter Reed Updates will take place on May 22nd.