Some moments of Wednesday night's ANC meeting were amusing, and others were even gratifying.
Commissioner Reed actually had to use his gavel to restore order. That was almost fun to watch. Apparently, Be Bar has been causing some neighborhood noise issues between 2 and 3 a.m. on Sunday nights/Monday mornings — serious issues like yelling, car horns honking, and people dancing on cars. A Shaw couple were present at the meeting to make their complaint publicly. According to a resident, she has called and left a voice mail at the bar as well as sent a letter to owner Michael Watson and she feels that the response has been an overly personal attack from Mr. Watson and and no reduction in noise. There's no way of knowing the exact history of the back-and-forth between the two, but the dispute did lead to both written and verbal accusations of hearsay and gossip mongering against this one couple. Um, isn't a complaint letter not a legal document? The repetition of those statements in the meeting pushed the resident's buttons enough for her to offer a sworn affidavit of her accusations. Commissioner Reed weighed in to snap at Watson that his liquor license is a privilege bestowed by the community. I've never actually seen yelling at an ANC meeting before. It brought a little energy into an otherwise dry occasion.
The ANC is amending the voluntary agreement with Be Bar. Be Bar will now have increased security staff to enforce order both inside and outside, a phone line for complaints with live answering during business hours, and verbal and signage reminders to patrons to respect neighborhood residents. There will not, however, be a reduction in hours.
Watson came off as smug and unprofessional. He showed up in a leather jacket, jeans, and knit hat to represent himself to the commissioners and the public. He then totally stoked the fires by fighting with the residents making the complaints. Once order had been restored to the meeting he offered a saccharin smirking plea for the public to contact him directly with complaints so that he can do everything he can to be a good neighbor. He was like a teenager contesting his first speeding ticket in court.
The church parking discussion was a non event. MPD Lt. Marcos Santiago explained that the decision to enforce parking round the clock every day of the week was made in response to complaints by both residents and churchgoers on a recent Tuesday evening. Residents were upset about being blocked by double parkers and various unsafe parking practices (in alleys, in front of fire hydrants, and in the middle of crosswalks). Churchgoers were bothered by residents' failure to observe parallel parking vs. back-in diagonal parking rules on Vermont Avenue. So now, to be fair, we're all going to be under the watchful eye of MPD.
Rev. Cornelius Wheeler of Vermont Avenue Baptist Church spoke in support of enforcement with regards to safety issues. He said that he was happy to have the burden of reminding parishioners not to block in residents lifted. Metropolitan Baptist had sent a representative/s the the meeting, but no one was available in the meeting room to speak during the public comment period.
Resident comments were limited to Arron Adams, a Logan Station resident, stating that church congregants often block the exit to the parking garage, and that he's taken to writing down license plates and reporting them to the Mayor's Call Center. If I had paid $40k for my parking space — the retail rate at Logan Station — I'd be really peeved too.
After a brief history of the parking conflict from Commissioner Reed, the meeting moved on without a bit of conflict. Commisioner Bernardo recommended that ANC 2F send a letter of commendation to MPD Chief Lanier and Third District Commander McCoy to thank them for their actions regaring Logan Circle parking.
Less politically charged meeting news included the following:
Crime and Public Safety
- From January 6th to February 5th of this year, the crime rate in our PSA was 19 percent lower than for the same period last year.
- Police caught a homeless man who groped a female pedestrian. It seems he has a history of such offenses, and MPD expects that he will be incarcerated.
- There was an unrelated unspecified sexual offense behind Shaw Junior High School.
- Deondre Kelly (sp?) of 916 N Street was found guilty on a distribution of cocaine charge. He was sentenced today, and police testified in hopes of getting the longest sentence possible for this neighborhood resident who was known as a repeat weapons offender.
- There has been a spate of thefts from vehicles parked between 13th and 14th Streets near the Jefferson and Highland Terrace buildings. Police are aware of the problem, but are unable to enforce effectively as fingerprints are rarely found and successful prosecution requires that someone witness the window smashing, catch the perpetrators, and be able to definitively identify them. In response to the problem police and/or residents may stake out the area soon.
- We were reminded of the third public meeting regarding the 14th Street streetscape project.
- Residents spoke to the need for a traffic signal at 11th and O Streets in order to protect pedestrian safety. Chris Ziemann, the Ward 2 planner for DDOT acknowledged this need, but let us know that the signal will most likely not be installed until the time of the restructuring and repaving of 11th Street.
- The Q Street mess on the 1200 and 1300 blocks is about three weeks from completion.
- Mike Bernardo spoke to the need for repairs to alleys and sidewalks in his SMD now that Washington Gas has completed its utility work to restore service to that area.
Other than the Be Bar issue, ABRA matters are pretty quiet. The ANC is working with Izalco and Vegas Lounge to hammer out voluntary agreements. The only concerns with these establishments relate to "peace, order, and quiet" issues.
ANC 2F will request by letter to the Department of Parks and Recreation that the wading pool and bathrooms at Garrison Elementary School be removed so as to eliminate potential safety problems. We will also request a meeting with the Director, Clark Grant, to discuss the matter.
We were reminded of the new 311 and 911 systems. If you need an MPD officer to respond to a situation, always dial 911. The Mayor's Call center line can still be reached by dialing 727-1000, but can now also be reached at 311. For more information on what matters the call center handles, see this post. There will also be a voice mail system in place on the 311 line in the event that you don't get through to an operator immediately.
Our ANC is aggressively pursuing the issue of vacant buildings. If you're not familiar with the tax code, vacant buildings are taxed at five times the rate of occupied structures so as to encourage sale or improvement of the properties. The ANC will be writing a letter to DC CFO Natwar Gandhi and DCRA to inform them of the need to enforce the tax penalties. In a recent survey of the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood, two thirds of 100 vacant properties were not being taxed at the higher rate. If you're particularly interested by this problem, Ed Six has started a blog at dcvacantproperties.blogspot.com.
As happens every spring, there will be a number of street closures for charity walks and runs. Most will be around Pennsylvania Avenue in close proximity to the Mall. If you're concerned about times and dates, check the ANC 2F website in about a month for the February meeting minutes.
Cary Silverman, candidate for Ward 2 Councilmember seat was at the meeting campaigning for himself. He made some superfluous comments in support of the 311/911 change and taxing vacant buildings at a higher rate. I'm cynical and sometimes too critical, but it really seemed like he was there just to talk if the opportunity arose and to flash his campaign button.