ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSION 3E
TENLEYTOWN AMERICAN UNIVERSITY PARK
c/o Lisner Home 5425 Western Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20015
Minutes of ANC 3E August 29, 2013 Meeting
The meeting convened at 7:37pm. Commissioners Bender, Frumin, Quinn, Serebin, and Tinker were present.
Announcements / Open Forum – opportunity for members of the community to raise issues of concern or importance to the 3E neighborhood
A resident who lives directly behind Le Chat Noir at 4907 Wisconsin Avenue, NW gave commissioners an update regarding his previous complaints about noise from the restaurants’ service trucks, trucks trespassing onto residential property, and garbage from the restaurant blowing into the neighborhood. He first brought the issue to the attention of the commission in April 2013. The ANC 3E filed a protest with ABRA and subsequently engaged in mediation with the restaurant’s owner to resolve the dispute, arriving at a negotiated settlement, which was approved by the commission in June 2013 and, in turn, the commission supported the renewal of Le Chat Noir’s liquor license.
The resident said that shortly after he submitted a notice of protest, DCRA inspected his property. They issued him a citation, for loose and missing parts of his chimney and unpainted wood, subject to criminal prosecution and large fines if he did not remedy the violations. He wrote a letter to DCRA’s chief governing inspector to obtain more information. DCRA would not respond to his inquiry. A chimney inspector subsequently found no missing parts, only loose bricks. He filed a FOIA request and received the inspector’s report. No complaints were cited in the report. He notified the office of the Inspector General for what he believes could be retaliatory action in response to his complaints against neighboring businesses. He said he has been given a 60-day extension to fix the chimney.
The commissioners asked a DCRA representative who was present at the meeting to review his complaint.
An attendee raised her concern that PEPCO is considering building a new substation behind Rodman’s on vacant property on the 4300 block of Garrison Street, NW She claimed that many homeowners would be adversely impacted, and it would be preferable to locate the substation behind a new development or retail on Wisconsin Avenue, NW.
A commissioner responded to her concerns and said that he has asked Pepco to present any prospective plans for alternative sites to the commission and the public before purchasing new land; he noted, however, that PEPCO has tended to keep its cards close to its vest.
An attendee expressed his view that PEPCO is spending large sums of money to underground telephone wires using public funds.
Commissioners announced the appointment of new commissioner Kathryn Tinker and welcomed her to the ANC 3E.
Discussion with representatives from firefighters’ and paramedics’ unions, as well as with Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services, concerning status of emergency medical services in DC and possible reforms
Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services; Dabney Hudson from DC Firefighters Association Local 36; and Kenneth Lyons, president of AFGE Local 3721 — which represents non-firefighter paramedics — in turn addressed the commission and attendees about concerns and proposed reforms regarding the status of emergency medical services in the District.
Commissioner Bender explained that four blue ribbon panels have made recommendations to improve emergency medical services in the District. The last panel was convened as part of a lawsuit settlement after David Rosenbaum, a resident of (ANC 3E) northwest DC, was viciously attacked and died two days later in the hospital after receiving what was determined to be substandard care from emergency medical personnel. His. A series of reforms were recommended, some of which have been implemented.
Chief Ellerbe of DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services spoke about plans, recently announced at a press conference, to improve emergency medical response, including purchasing 30 new ambulances by the end of the calendar year and a new policy to hire single role paramedics. He talked about the aging fleet of ambulances and the difficulty of purchasing new equipment, both budgetary and bureaucratic; and contract negotiations to shorten 24-hour work shifts for emergency medical responders. He noted that the Council voted down his proposed redeployment plan, which will be re-submitted after rebuilding infrastructure. The law has required the hiring of firefighter-paramedics, he said, who are less numerous than paramedics who do not desire to also serve as firefighters; arbitration with labor is underway to try to resolve the issue. It’s been difficult to make changes but he is committed to making significant improvements, he said.
Chief Ellerbe noted later that a big problem in DC, as well as in the US, is that many people routinely use emergency services as their primary medical care and mode of transportation to hospitals. EMS cannot refuse service to anyone in DC, he said.
Dabney Hudson from DC Firefighters Association Local 36 spoke about frustrations with aging and out-of-service emergency vehicles and equipment; too few ambulances; the large numbers of vacancies as firefighter-paramedics leave for jobs in other jurisdictions as units are downgraded or staff are forced to add 12 hour overtime to their 24 hour shifts because of vacancies, and the need to hire and fill these positions. In May 2013 there were 164 vacancies, he said. The population of the city is exploding but services are being reduced, and the city is doing too little too late, he said. The city needs an aggressive recruiting and hiring plan; they need proper staffing and the equipment to do their job, and dual role emergency medical responders provide the best service for the city, he said.
Kenneth Lyons, president of AFGE Local 3721, said that until the recent press conference there had only been a single option of employment — firefighter-paramedics — for emergency medical personnel, and he welcomed the department’s renewed receptivity to hiring single-role paramedics. Dual role training for firefighter-paramedics is a waste on money, he said; the city needs to be able to hire single role paramedics to man the units. The district has a paramedic shortage, but unless applicants want also to be firefighters they are turned away, he said. Units have been downgraded, many are out of service, and as a result when residents call 911 they are not sure what they will get. “Flexibility in hiring gives you flexibility in responses,” he said. The City Council has routinely underfunded Emergency Medical Services and should allocate funds in the DC Capital Budget to purchase units, he said. He noted that the fire department is the only city department in the district that has to go to the City Council to ask to hire personnel.
Commissioners’ questions included if the City Council had approved sufficient funds to hire needed paramedics and equipment, and whether bonuses that were promised to new hires were in fact given.
An attendee asked about the differences between DC and Baltimore ambulances. Mr. Hudson said that DC’s historic firehouses are narrower and that DC ambulances require additional air conditioners because of the hot, muggy weather.
The commissioners thanked Chief Ellerbe, Mr. Hudson and Mr. Lyons for their service.
Discussion with representatives of the Chevy Chase Pavilion and Civil about noise and odor issues from the Chevy Chase Pavilion
Commissioner Quinn introduced this topic, explaining that neighbors of Chevy Chase Pavilion, 5335 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, reported that the building’s ventilation system is consistently noisy and that cigar smoke is being vented from the Civil Cigar Bar into the surrounding residential neighborhood. Chevy Chase Pavilion underwent a recent $30 million renovation and moved the new ventilation system onto a lower roof. Since then the noise from the ventilators has been bothering neighbors living on 43rd Street, NW. Commissioners have been working on the issue since it was first brought to their attention in May 2013. Commissioners have discovered that the ventilators were not properly shielded and in violation of zoning regulations. A sound shield was later erected.
Several representatives of Chevy Chase Pavilion and Civil Cigar Bar were present at the meeting to discuss the issue. They included Vice President Joan L. Scott and Property Manager Kevin McLewee of Cassidy Turley Property Management, which represents Chevy Chase Pavilion; and Co-owners Matt Krimm and John Anderson, and General Manager Paul Spence of Civil Cigar Bar.
Also present were Karim Marshall and Manual Oliva from the District Department of the Environment.
Mr. Marshall said that DDOE carried out an inspection of Civil Cigar Bar at 7pm on a Friday but found no unacceptable odors. He explained that DDOE only enforces for odor and not for smoke; DCRA enforces for smoke. He said that Civil has an advanced air infiltration system of 18 separate charcoal filters and when operating properly there should be no detectable odors. He said that DDOE cannot inspect during late evening / early morning hours, which is the time neighbors have complained of smelling smoke. In response to a commissioner’s questions he said that DDOE has no device to monitor odors. Instead, DDOE relies on the “trained nose” of the inspector to determine whether odors exist and create an unacceptable burden.
Mr. Krimm said that Civil installed a sophisticated system of giant charcoal filters that remove all particulate matter from the air, but does not remove 100% of the smell. They have had some issues getting the system calibrated properly but it has been improved. They are working with building owners and mechanical contractors and may have some other options.
An attendee who lives near Chevy Chase Pavilion, a former pathologist, complained of toxic smoke emanating from Civil, and said that second-hand smoke is a proven carcinogen. He said the noise from the fan fluctuates during the day and can at times sound like a helicopter. He questioned why a smoking establishment with very late hours is allowed to operate near homes.
Commissioners asked a series of questions, including if and how air quality can be tested; the procedures by which the noise decibel level is taken; and whether by law noise must be measured at the property line. (A commissioner noted, and others echoed, that if noise is to be measured at the property line that should not and could not mean at the property line at ground level but rather anywhere on the plane created by the property line upward; this is significant because if noise exceeded levels one story up and 10 feet outside of the property line – as was reportedly the case in one measurement, it would then, by definition, exceed levels at the property line.) Commissioners asked if it would be feasible to move the relevant equipment up higher, to the roof of the Pavilion, so the noise would not adversely affect neighbors.
An attendee said that he was surprised that Civil and Chevy Chase Pavilion managers were not reaching out to neighbors on these issue and that the commission can help make sure that objective tests are carried out at the right time.
An attendee said that Chevy Chase Pavilion employees are taking smoking breaks that are noisy and intrusive on an outside patio at 1 to 2am.
A commissioner asked Mr. McLewee to look into the matter. A commissioner also asked that delivery trucks not arrive before 6am.
A commissioner asked if the owners of Civil were willing to work with neighbors and what they could offer.
Mr. Krimm defended Civil’s technology and how they have handled the concerns of clients and neighbors. He said they had not known of neighbors’ continued complaints about smoke until tonight’s meeting. The DDOE inspector had not detected smoke, he said. He said they have hired an independent engineering consultant to review, evaluate and make recommendations to upgrade the system, a process that will begin immediately.
The commissioners will meet with the parties, including the engineer, before the next meeting to explore solutions.
Discussion of and possible vote on resolution regarding DDOT Notice of Intent to make one side of 43rd Street, NW, between Ellicott and Fessenden, available only to Ward 3 RPP-holders 24/7
Commissioner Bender introduced this resolution, explaining that residents living on the 4900 block of 43rd Street, NW (between Fessenden and Ellicott Streets), have difficulty finding parking spaces due to their proximity to the business district on Wisconsin Avenue, NW, specifically several restaurants. They filed a petition with DDOT seeking to change one side of the street to allow parking by Ward 3 RPP holders only during restricted hours. Currently two hour parking is allowed for non-Ward 3 RPP holders between 7am and 8:30pm, Monday through Friday, on both sides of the street. DDOT has notified the commission of their intent to allow only Ward 3 RPP holders to park on the west side of the street during the restricted hours (also called an enhanced RPP).
Bill Smith, who has lived at 43rd and Fessenden Streets for 56 years, spearheaded the petition drive, which won the support of all the residents on the block. He answered questions from the commissioners. He said that until 10pm at night residents of the street often cannot find a parking space.
Commissioners discussed the impact of such a change, including whether the stronger protections would shift traffic and parking pressures onto nearby streets; and whether the RPP system works and if it is a solution to this particular problem.
A commissioner said that he disagrees with the enhanced RPP idea as, in his opinion, it would effectively semi-privatize public space. Businesses would lose customers, he said. The volume of parked cars will not change as the resident-only parking will still apply to all cars registered in Ward 3, instead of restricting parking to residents only of that block. As such, the commissioner said it is anti-business and bad public policy.
Mr. Smith agreed that changing the restricted hours from 12noon to 9pm daily, instead of the existing RPP hours of 7am to 8:30pm, made more sense.
A commissioner suggested that the resolution should call for the enhanced RPP on a trial basis only, with different hours, and that DDOT should be urged to assess parking on several nearby side streets before any signage changes are made. The commission would ask DDOT to re-assess three to six months later and report the results to the ANC 3E with their recommendations.
The commissioners voted to pass the resolution, which supports the change on a trial basis only, as amended, on a vote of 3 to 2.
Discussion of and possible vote on resolution supporting BZA appeal regarding retaining wall at 4201 River Road, NW
Commissioner Frumin introduced this resolution, explaining that Terry Hopkins — the nearest neighbor to 4201 River Road, NW — has filed an appeal to the BZA over zoning rules limits for lot occupancy and height for the new house under construction at the site. The original low lot was shared by Ms. Hopkins, but was subsequently changed by the property owners (District Property), who added seven feet of fill to the lot, significantly raising the grade and effectively building the new house on a newly created hill, which looms over Ms. Hopkin’s home.
The BZA deemed the project in compliance with the 40 percent lot occupancy requirement, but Mr. Hopkins argues that the project substantially exceeds the 40 percent lot occupancy limit and as such would have required a variance. Specifically, the area covered by the elevated platform, including the area covered in fill and covered again for use as the driveway, should be counted towards lot occupancy. Ms. Hopkins also argues that the retaining wall holding up the fill and elevated platform are too close to the property line.
An attendee noted that the infill is clay and not permeable, and in the event of a storm rainwater will flow down through the front yards of neighboring houses and damage trees.
The commissioners voted unanimously to pass the resolution in support of Ms. Hopkin’s BZA appeal.
Presentation from the Owner of the Dancing Crab about construction of enclosed space on public space and possible vote on proposal
Dancing Crab new owners Carlos Horcasitas and May-May Au-Huie made a presentation to the commission to respond to concerns about having enclosed the restaurant’s roofed front porch without the proper permit.
Mr. Horcasitas and Ms. Au-Huie told the commissioners that they unexpectedly purchased the aging restaurant, located at 4615 41St Street, NW, which was in danger of closing, in July 2013. They said they soon discovered the restaurant was in disrepair and needed major renovations. They discussed their plans to attract new customers and also retain the traditional crab house by hiring a new chef and expanding the menu. However, transferring ownership of the Dancing Crab’s liquor license has been difficult due to concerns about the restaurant’s history of allowing underage drinking (the restaurant had been fined and closed for a period in 2011 for repeat violations), they said. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved the transfer provided that the owners personally work full-time on the site. The restaurant also now closes at 10pm weekdays and serves only lunch on weekends.
Mr. Horcasitas and Ms. Au-Huie said they mistakenly enclosed the roofed front porch without a proper permit. The porch actually sits in public space but the restaurant only has permission for an unenclosed sidewalk café. The permitting issue will go before the city’s Public Space Committee.
The commissioners will vote on a proposal to resolve the matter at the September 19, 2013 meeting.
Discussion of and vote on DDOT proposal to create neighborhood bikeways on 41st and Jenifer Streets, NW
Commissioner Quinn introduced this resolution, explaining that bicycle infrastructure in Ward 3 has been lagging behind the rest of the district. DDOT has given notice of its intent to make Jenifer Street, NW, between Western and Nebraska Avenues, NW, and 41st Street, NW, between Western and Wisconsin Avenues, NW, into Neighborhood Bikeways. The Neighborhood Bikeways will consist of signage, sharrows and a few short stretches of bike lanes. DDOT has also proposed adding sharrows to the 4000 block of Chesapeake Street, NW, and both sharrows and bike lanes to the 4500 block of 40th Street, NW, and Fort Drive, NW. The DC Bicycle Master Facilities Plan and the Rock Creek West II Livability Study originally proposed the additional bikeways on 41st and Jenifer Streets. Commissioner Quinn gave a visual presentation of the proposed bikeways.
Commissioner Quinn has added a series of recommendations in the resolution to improve the DDOT proposal.
The commissioners voted unanimously to pass the resolution, with an amendment noting that the ultimate goal for the northwest DC area is a network of dedicated bike lanes.
Discussion of and possible vote on creation of task force to explore possibilities to catalyze formation of business district improvement organization
Commissioner Bender introduced the topic of whether a special committee comprised of commissioners and civilians should be convened in a task force to discuss strategies to foster business development in the northwest DC area.
The commissioners voted unanimously to endorse the concept of the task force.
Discussion of and vote on improvements to the 4100 and 4200 blocks of Livingston Streets, NW
Commissioner Quinn introduced this resolution, explaining that the 4100 and 4200 blocks of Livingston Street, NW (between 41st and Western Avenue, NW), are in disrepair and need improvements. The streets need repaving, the sidewalks need to be replaced, and the lack of cement curbs exposes tree roots to damage, he said. Commissioner Quinn presented a slide show that documented the poor appearance of these streets.
The resolution urges DDOT to immediately address these issues, including adding a pedestrian crosswalk and other traffic calming measures at the main entrance of Chevy Chase Park (aka Livingston Park).
In addition, the resolution asks that DDOT examine the available parking on both blocks, including whether the no-parking zones adjacent to the park’s main entrance on Livingston and the intersection of 42nd and Livingston Streets make sense given the high parking demand in the area, and whether some parking restrictions can be reversed to create additional on-street parking spaces.
The commissioners voted unanimously to pass the resolution.
- Approval of July 2013 meeting minutes
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the July 2013 minutes.
- Approval of expenditures
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve expenditures: $675.00 to Loren Stein for administrative services.
The commission adjourned at 12:13am.
Jonathan Bender, Chair