I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!
I do not get sworn in until January 2, but a lot has happened between Election Day and today and wanted to share some neighborhood updates.
First: The Scottish Rite Apartments was covered by the Washington Post this afternoon. While it leans on the group protesting the development, it provides a lot of detail and context. At the end of this email I have a lot of information and links if you are more interested in the project.
The book exchange on Q and 16th (and recent history of vandalism) was featured prominently in the Sunday Washington Post with quotes from neighbors.
Earlier this month, Mr. Yogato on 17th between P and Q changed ownership for $1, and the backstory is a fascinating read in the Washingtonian.
There are new rules proposed for dockless bikes and scooters, which includes capping the amount of scooters and bikes and their speeds. The Washington Post Editorial Board penned a rebuttal urging a better way to regulate scooters in D.C. As well, the Dupont Circle ANC Transportation and Public Infrastructure (TPI) Committee has a draft resolution asking for corral parking for these mobility options so sidewalk space can be freed up, and it questions the speed restrictions that may cause some riders to use the sidewalk instead of the street. This resolution will be considered by the ANC at a future meeting.
The Dupont Circle ANC’s Policy and Procedures Manual, which includes guidelines for outdoor café and restaurant use of public space is on the agenda for the December 12 ANC meeting. After being on the agenda previously, as well as getting input from a lengthy survey followed by a community meeting, the Commission’s recommendation is to not make any substantive change to the public space guidelines. Much of the proposed changes to the manual cleans the document up and brings it current to today’s laws. You can read more and see the changes here.
You can skip to the end unless you want to go on a deep dive on the Scottish Rite Apartments!
The Scottish Rite Apartments: if you’re not familiar with the project, 173316thstreet.com is the place to start. It is a matter-of-right development as the The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry own the land and the developer, Perseus-TDC, is not seeking any zoning variances. This means, essentially, they have the right to build it. As they’re working within existing zoning, advocates for more housing and those opposed to new housing both do not have much of a say. This said, the project is within both the 16th Street Historic District and the Greater 14th Street Historic District, so they are required to work with the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) and the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), which does give the community some review process. More on that later.
The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry has also been working on receiving a tax abatement on the project, which was scathingly reported on by the Washington City Paper. Almost everyone I have met, regardless of where they stand on the development itself, are strongly against the tax abatement or at least lean that way. In short, the logic seems that if someone is making money off of the land, they should pay tax on it, unless there is some type of significant benefit they are providing the neighborhood. The D.C. Chief Financial Officer in October 2017 laid out why they do not need the tax abatement (8 page PDF), and in December 2017 the Dupont Circle ANC passed a resolution opposing it (2 page PDF). I have been working with other ANC Commissioners and contacts at the Wilson Building to ensure that this tax abatement bill will die. I also expect that without a tax abatement the project will continue.
On November 29, Perseus-TDC will be before the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). The scope of the HPRB revolves around the project’s compatibility in the historic districts it resides, and one of their guides quickly illustrates the types of things they are concerned about (13 page PDF). The developer has prepared a large, detailed packet outlining the design of the building and the work done to date (90 page PDF), and they have received a Staff Report and Recommendation from the HPRB (6 page PDF). At November’s Dupont Circle ANC meeting, with input from many neighbors, the Commission passed a resolution for the HPRB to suggest the developer “rethink” and “redesign” certain portions. It also asked that changes go back through the HPRB again which would allow the ANC to weigh in another time (3 page PDF). Contrary to what some have said, November’s vote was not a resolution to “support” the project or not.
All four documents in the above paragraph good for understanding the purview of the HPRB, what the specific recommendations are, and the types of things the community can and has provided input on.
As this is a matter-of-right project, one that undoubtedly will be built, I have been focused on mitigating potential negative impacts. One of my main concerns is the additional car and truck traffic. As Commissioner-elect, I’ve already developed working relationships with most of the current and incoming Commissioners, and I have a solid dialog with Perseus-TDC. All have been very receptive and responsive to concerns I’ve brought forward. I expect that after the HPRB meeting, and after the holidays, we will see some positive changes to the proposed building.
Please let me know if you have any questions, ideas, or news to share. Looking forward to a running start on January 2. Keep in touch!
Commissioner-elect ANC 2B04
P.S. You can sign up for official ANC emails by visiting here and going down and to the right to “Sign Up for ANC 2B Emails.”