Shepherd ES Boundary Change, Ward 4 Traffic Study on Deck at February ANC 4A Meeting

The February ANC 4A meeting took place on an unseasonably warm Tuesday evening at the Metropolitan Police Department Fourth District Headquarters. Chairperson Gale Black kept the procedures moving at a lively pace.  Overall, I believe there were five stories that deserve the reader’s attention.

New EMS Procedures

DC Fire Chief Gregory Dean made a return visit to the community to try to explain the city’s new Emergency Medical Services procedure, called Right Care, Right Now.  Last year, EMS tried to implement a telephone-based nurse triage system to reduce the number of patients who were unnecessarily transported to local emergency rooms.  Unfortunately, the nurses did not feel comfortable making that evaluation over the phone, so the department is back with Phase 2 of the pilot.

The new plan still has the goal of improving patient’s health outcomes and reducing the number of ambulance trips. The major change for Phase 2 is that EMS will dispatch first-responders to eligible 911 callers.  Upon arrival, the first-responders will assess patients and make the decision on whether to call the nurse triage line.  After an interview with a nurse, a decision will be made about appropriate care, which may include self-care, a trip to an emergency room or visit to one of several local clinics. The closet clinic to our area is the GWU MFA Associates at 8484 Georgia Ave in Silver Spring.  DC Medicaid enrollees will be provided transportation to and from the clinics.

Intellectually, I understand goal of the program, but it still seems complicated to me.  The bottom line is that you should call 911 only for a serious medical emergency to you or someone else that you believe is life threatening.  For minor illnesses or injuries, you should call your primary physician or visit an urgent care center.

To learn more about the program, please visit the EMS web site.

Chemical Smell near Walter Reed

Our local community message boards have been brewing with concern over a strong chemical smell that has been detected in the area of the Walter Reed development.  Posters have reported that the smell has become nauseating and headache-inducing. Fire trucks have been dispatched to the area and, despite reports to the contrary, no potential source of the smell has been found on the Walter Reed campus yet.  Neighbors should continue to report their observations until the source of this problem can be found.

UPDATE: The development team posted the following message while I was writing this blog post:

Dear Community,

We’d like to provide an update on our efforts around the fumes that the local community has experienced the last few evenings, and offer a few points of clarification.

After our team was notified Monday evening regarding concerns of odors around and south of the Aspen Street border of the Parks at Walter Reed site, we immediately engaged a variety of parties, including the site management and development team, the fire department, a representative from the Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE), and HP Environmental, Inc. (HPE), to inspect the site for potential sources for the odors.

HPE has been involved in the assessment of environmental conditions prior to, and during the ongoing redevelopment of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In response to the recent odor complaints from neighbors HPE reviewed our files related to the environmental conditions along the southern property boundary that adjoins Aspen Street in an effort to identify possible sources. Further, the development team, supported by HPE, is currently inspecting and assessing all equipment to determine, and correct, the source of the odors, if the source is onsite.

Given that odors have been detected in the overnight to early morning hours it appears likely that the source would have to be operational at that time. It appears that only one piece of equipment, a temporary boiler that is used to heat the DCI school, operates on a 24/7 basis. The temporary boiler is fueled by #2 heating oil, which is very similar to diesel fuel in composition, and sits on a stationary tractor trailer bed to the east of DCI’s building. It is possible that the combination of petroleum-fired equipment working inefficiently coupled with the recent Code Orange air quality conditions could have led to the odors. We are currently assessing any other possible sources and working to be certain that all petroleum-fired equipment is operating as designed.

Our environmental engineering team will be onsite TONIGHT OVERNIGHT in order to be present at the time that the strongest odors have been reported. They will be investigating the boiler but will also cover the entire site in order to be sure we have investigated all possibilities.

Additionally, while the development team’s current focus is the onsite assessment, given the distance from the site that the odors were observed, the source of the odor may be offsite. By way of example, recently it was determined that activities originating from a construction site on the southern side of Georgia Avenue and Aspen Street were generating odors (off the Walter Reed site), and we have heard reports of a plume down at Van Buren. We are in touch with Councilmember Todd’s office about these reports and know that they are working hard to investigate whether there is a source elsewhere in the local neighborhood.

We would like to reiterate our thanks to neighbors for alerting the team as soon as you noticed the odors. The development team will continue to diligently assess and inspect the equipment as noted above, and will provide an update as soon as the assessment has concluded.

The Parks at Walter Reed Master Development Team

East Rock Creek Livability Study Meeting

Sheryl Newman from Councilmember Todd’s Office and Ms. Chancee` Lundy from DDOT informed the audience about the long-awaited East Rock Creek Area Livability Study. The first of three meetings will take place on February 6th at 6:00 pm at the Shepherd Park Library.

Rock Creek East Livability Study Chart

The process indicates that the initial meeting will be your best chance to share your ideas and concerns about what the city should do to improve our local transportation network. Subsequent meetings will review and select projects for further study based on information gathered tonight.

Rock Creek East Livability Study Map
Rock Creek East Livability Study Map

Here is the boundary area of the study.  If you’ve ever had a complaint about the Cedar and Blair Road intersection, cut-through traffic speeding down your residential street or missing crosswalks near your child’s school, tonight is your opportunity to make your voice heard.  Be there!  You can learn more about the study at

Piney Branch Safeway Renovation on Tap

Outside the Piney Branch Road Safeway

They tried to bribe us with food.

I should have known something was up when I walked into the community room and saw several platters of fresh veggies and chicken wings on the back table. A team of middle management professionals from the Safeway Corporation and a local store manager were on hand to explain some of the poor conditions that customers have faced over the past few years and display their proposed solution.

Some of the things that residents have complained about at this grocery store include a dark and unsafe parking lot, broken freezers, poor quality produce and those interminable check-out lines.

The team did not make excuses for the conditions and were all too happy to share architectural drawings of their proposed solutions which will give the store a nice face-lift and add seven to ten years to its useful life.

The changes include all new freezers and refrigerators, eight new self-checkout aisles and deep shelves which can stock up to 10,000 addition items.  The beer and wine aisle will also see a significant upgrade that will allow the store to carry a wider selection of alcoholic beverages.

The exterior of the store will also see work done; new paint, LED lighting in the parking lot and improved landscaping should make the store more inviting.  If everything goes to plan, the upgrade should be completed by the end of the summer.

By the way, the bribe worked. The audience was effusive in its praise of the store’s staff.  We all hope that the improvements will allow this Safeway to continue to be a strong partner in our neighborhoods.

Shepherd Elementary Boundary Change?

Finally, just when we thought the DC Public Schools’ boundaries were settled for a few years, the issue of Shepherd Elementary School’s place in the Alice Deal Middle School / Wilson High school feeder pattern resurfaced this week. In a recent listserv posting, ANC 4A02 Commissioner Stacey Lincoln raised the possibility of change for Shepherd ES to the New North Middle School (Near Coolidge High School).

We all know that nothing activates a neighborhood like the threat of a school boundary change.  The last comprehensive review of the school boundaries spurred heated, jam-packed meetings city-wide.  Although the next school boundary review process isn’t scheduled for several years, some parents in Ward 3 are already advocating for changes to relieve overcrowding at Wilson and Deal.  Cmr. Lincoln’s message was enough to draw several Shepherd parents to last night’s meeting to stake out defensive positions against any change in the feeder pattern.

Ward 4 State Board of Education representative Frazier O’Leary will hold a meeting on February 19th at the Shepherd Park Library to discuss this issue further.

Commissioner Steve Whatley (ANC 4A03) recalled a history of when more of our local Ward 4 schools, including Coolidge High School and Roosevelt High School, were considered high quality. He did so to make an obvious point:  Every kid in the city cannot go to Deal or Wilson.  He then asked Mr. O’Leary, “What can the State Board of Education do to build all of the schools in Ward 4 to the point that every parent would be proud to send their kids to any of the schools?”

That question hung in the air for a moment.  One thing is certain, however: This conversation will over grow louder over the next few years.

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