Category Archives: Politics
On July 11 Atomic Billiards went before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for operating after hours at its establishment in Cleveland Park. This is a familiar place for the bar who sat before the board in February 2011 on the same charge. In that case, an Offer in Compromise was reached wherein Atomic Billiards would pay a $1,000 fine and have its license suspended for two days. The suspension was stayed for one year pending no further violations.
This bringing us to our July 11, 2012 hearing for the same violation, operating after hours. In this case, an Offer in Compromised was again reached and agreed to by the board. This time, Atomic Billiards parent company will pay a $2,000 fine and have its license suspended for three days. As last time, the suspension will be stayed for one year assuming no other violations. However, the two day suspension from the 2011 violation was triggered and Atomic Billiards license will be suspended on September 3 and September 4 (Labor Day and the Tuesday after).
3427 Connecticut Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20008
No matter how you look at it, zoning and historical preservation are touchy issues in Cleveland Park. From firehouse doors to solar panels, each month brings us a new discussion about these issues. This month is no different, as a group of neighbors is voicing concern with us about their neighbors’ request for a “special exception” to the zoning rules at 3011 Ordway St NW.
The request came from property owners seeking to build a non-conforming addition in the back of the property. To do so, they needed to request a special exception to the lot occupancy ratio. Current zoning regulations limit lot occupancy to 40 percent. The new addition to the home would increase the occupancy to 43.5 percent based on the initial filing. Neighbors initially supported the seemingly standard request. The request sailed through the ANC3C meeting (8-0). As the resolution noted, “the proposed addition is
small in scale and does not intrude upon the character, scale and pattern of houses along the street frontage” and “the adjacent neighbors have no objection to the proposed addition, although the ANC has received an objection from a resident on 30th Street whose property is not adjacent to the applicant’s property.”
With just about everyone on the same page, the request plodded towards its hearing date with the BZA. In the interim, the homeowners make various changes to the plans originally submitted. The changes concerned some of the neighbors, including those who originally supported the exception. Three neighbors, one directly adjacent, attempted to submit evidence demonstrating the adverse effect of the proposed addition on them. At issue, among a series of factual errors in the plan is “likelihood of visual intrusion of the proposed addition upon the character and scale and pattern of neighboring homes.” In addition, “Likelihood of impairment of use and enjoyment of neighbors to the north of 3011 Ordway St., NW due to the provisions of the required rear yard and the 15 footwide public alley” (which is actually a 9.5 footwide alley). Despite being presented with evidence that the plans were significantly different, the BZA relied on the ANC and Office of Planning reports, (both of which were written prior to the final plans being submitted by the homeowners) and granted the special exception. ANC Commissioner Leila Afzal told us that she was unaware that changes had been made to the plan that the ANC initially supported.
Now, equally perturbed by the seeming “bait and switch” as the impact of the new plans on their homes, a Petition for Reconsideration has been filed. All of the 30th St. neighbors between Porter St and the alley have voiced concerns over the project. Hopefully, this case will be resolved in a way that satisfies all parties. Despite being slow to raise objections (mostly due to the changing plans), at least two neighbors have expressed to us frustration that no one cares or is listening to their concerns. Similar cases have not ended well for neighbors. In 2010, even with a belatedly retracted recommendation from ANC2F, the BZA denied (and the courts upheld) reconsideration for the Quincy Park Condominium Unit Owners’ Association who were fighting expansion of the Morrison-Clark Hotel.
Setting aside the merits of either side, the most damaging result of this case could be a hardening of attitudes toward zoning that will get in the way of rational improvements to structures in the neighborhood. At the very least, it seems as if improved transparency and communication would be important improvements in the zoning process.
Yesterday, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh sent out a press release describing a new bill before the DC Council. The Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2012 would radically change campaign finance laws in the District of Columbia. Thankfully, Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells immediately backed the plan. We wholeheartedly support this bill and encourage our neighbors and fellow DC residents to do the same.
Some of the highlights of this bill include:
- A prohibition on “contributions from all corporate entities, including partnerships, LLCs, and non-profits”.
- Stating “a District contractor cannot donate to a campaign during the application for, or performance of, a contract if the contribution is to a candidate who may vote on or have approval of the contract award…”
- Prohibiting “fundraisers – those who have raised funds in excess of $10,000 – from receiving a government contract, lease, or appointment within two years of fundraising…”
- Stating a “District contractor cannot donate to a campaign during the application for, or performance of, a contract if the contribution is to a candidate who may vote on or have approval of the contract award…”
Corruption is rife in DC politics and we consider these no-brainer solutions to the current campaign finance law. It is unclear whether or not such a bill would be upheld in the courts. Recently, the Supreme Court blocked a Montana Supreme Court decision that upheld a century-long ban on corporate contributions.
Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh recently put forward a bill to fine residents and businesses for not shoveling. Cheh’s proposal would have levied fines of $25 on residents and $125 on businesses for failing to clear sidewalks within eight daylight hours. The current law, on the books since 1922, states that a fine only needs to be paid if the city comes and cleans your sidewalk for you.
The council voted 8-4 to table Cheh’s bill (Cheh, Catania, Wells, and Kwame Brown in opposition).
What do you think?
Congratulations to Ruthanne Miller of Cleveland Park who is the new chairperson of the powerful Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a part of Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). Miller has previously served the community as ANC 3C commissioner and on the Board of Zoning Administration (BZA). The Control Board is a seven member committee that “meets once per week to adjudicate, administer, and enforce the provisions of ABC laws.” Depending on your position, the Control Board frequently plays hero and/or villain when it comes to alcohol regulation in the city. Miller replaces Charles Brodsky who stepped down a month after allegations of impropriety were leveled against him by a former board member.
As chair, Miller will preside over many hearings directly related to our neighborhood and local businesses. In terms of her stance on community development, she tends to be pretty business-friendly. Recently, Miller has been a public advocate for reviving the storefront culture along Connecticut Ave. To her credit (in our mind), she has spoken out against the restaurant quota in Cleveland Park quipping, “Restaurants can’t open in Cleveland Park, and instead you’re getting tanning salons” in 2010. Of course as chair of the Control Board, she will walk a very fine line between protecting neighborhood residents and allowing for a vibrant business climate.
Miller’s appointment seems to come much less contentiously than her last mayoral appointment. In 2003, Miller was appointed by Anthony Williams to replace Anne Renshaw on the BZA causing an uproar among some residents. The furor surrounded Miller’s convenient political connections and the “fast track” her appointment garnered, not necessarily antipathy toward Miller herself. In addition, many believed the ouster of Renshaw was a direct consequence of her penchant to take on developers over zoning issues in the District. Former councilman at the time, Adrian Fenty was quoted as saying, “I am very upset that the mayor has not brought Mrs. Renshaw back, because she has done a very good job.”
Seems strange, but proposed regulations could make it more likely that food carts begin appearing in new places around DC. Currently, there is a freeze on food cart expansion because the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) cannot grant new licenses until pending regulations are approved. As currently written these regulations would open up location-based permits, including some zones along Connecticut Avenue. DCRA calls this area “Rock Creek West” with the most prime location being Zone C-2-A which extends from Macomb to Porter along Connecticut and another around Connecticut and Ordway. The license fee will be $587 per year, or less than $50 per month.
Thinking of starting a food cart or fearing ugly hot dog stands? You should know that part of the new regulations are stipulations on cart aesthetics. Existing food carts will have one year to comply with new regulations. You may think that most vendors will flock to the downtown area, but Ward 2 will only have 350 total licenses, 340 of which are already taken, so it seems likely that the expansion could occur outside of the traditional vending area. DCRA is hopeful that new regulations will encourage innovation and originality in this market, making it a better fit for our neighborhood.
HT: All We Can Eat blog
One of the best parts about living in Cleveland Park is easy access to mass transportation. Even back when the neighborhood was first developed, access to the Tenleytown car line was one of its main selling points.
Even with the red line steps away and numerous busses crossing our environs, we still make frequent use of taxis. Complaining about DC cabs is an age-old tradition born in the days of DC’s infamous “zone” payment system. I tend to think DC residents are so quick to bemoan the system because its one of the most consistent gripes visitors make. DC tends to be a pretty easy city to sell to our out of town friends, but nearly every one mocks the taxi system. Perhaps this is what makes us all so ornery on this issue.
In any event, with a pending fare increase and drama surround the Uber service, DC Council Member Mary Cheh has asked citizens to share their input on the taxi system. I highly recommend that you share your thoughts in this taxi service survey.