Summer Update

 

I hope everyone is enjoying a happy and healthy summer. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5E takes a two month break in July and August so I’m taking this opportunity to catch you up on recent developments, a few exciting upcoming events, and some personal news.

 

Recent developments 

Rhode Island Avenue “Pop-up” Bus Lane

As you no doubt are aware, Brookland and Rhode Islane Avenue metro stations have been shut down since July 21 and will continue to be closed until September 3. Thanks to the ANC5E Comprehensive Transportation Resolution we passed in January, and the advocacy efforts of many of you receiving this email, WMATA and DDOT agreed to try out a temporary bus lane on Rhode Island Avenue. While getting traditionally risk-averse government agencies to try something new is a major accomplishment, as we’ve seen in the first week, there remains much to be done in terms of communication and enforcement of the bus lane.

Hopefully the pop-up bus lane is just the first step in a series of improvements that we’ll make to transportation in DC together. I sincerely appreciate the time and energy many of you put into this and hopefully the model of ANC Resolution on subject + public advocacy campaign= change can be replicated moving forward.

In this case, we had an ANC resolution in hand calling for pop-up bus lanes when WMATA announced the Metro closure on February 14. That night, I began emailing WMATA GM Paul Wiedefeld, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian, and WMATA Board Chair and DC Councilmember Jack Evans with the idea that we should try out the bus lane along RI Ave for this closure.

That night, I set up a letter writing campaign on ActionNetwork, and 65 of you sent letters to these three leaders. No doubt, being spammed by the same request can be irritating, but I’m also sure this kept the issue in their minds.

The next day, February 15, we teamed up with GGWash for an editorial and petition campaign, which 44 people signed. On April 3, I delivered these signatures to the recipients. WMATA indicated they were not opposed to the idea, but that implementation would require DDOT support. Over the course of April and May, I followed up extensively with Director Marootian, who took the lead in embracing the idea of “tactical urbanism” and trying something out to mitigate the impact of the shutdown on residents in our neighborhoods. On June 20, WMATA’s press release confirmed the bus lane would be part of the shutdown plans.

We’re hosting a happy hour at Dew Drop Inn next Wednesday, August 1 to talk about this process, our success, and the bus map (ahem) forward. Transit Center will be there with some cameras as well as they’re working on a documentary on the bus lane process.
 
 
RSVP to Happy Hour
 

Transportation

8th St NE Sidewalk

A smaller, but no less significant, petition campaign led to success in getting DDOT to complete the sidewalk on 8th St NE between Monroe and Lawrence. The fact that there is a very limited amount of sidewalk along 8th from Monroe to Franklin, where there are businesses, schools, and a bar, has always surprised me. Adding a sidewalk along this full length is recommended in the 2016 DDOT Brookland-Edgewood Liveability Study. As the Monroe Street Bridge project is currently going on, we chose to focus on the north end of the block. 86 people signed our petition and this item was included in our January ANC5E Resolution. After a community meeting, DDOT agreed to install the sidewalk March 6. My mom came and visited to check out the new sidewalk (during a cold snap that seems a long time ago).

Hamlin Street Bridge

Following the same model of recommended by DDOT + ANC Resolution + advocacy campaign, another item from the Transportation Resolution that we have been advocating for is the Hamlin Street Pedestrian/Cyclist Bridge. Along with collecting 346 signatures on our petition to include funding for the project in this year’s budget, we teamed up with GGWash to write an editorial and do a joint petition campaign.

While the projected cost of the bridge ($5 million based on the comparable Rhode Island Ave pedestrian bridge) is high, we thought $20,000 for a feasibility study in this year’s budget would be a down payment on getting this project done in the future. Unfortunately, there are always competing priorities, and our project was not selected for including in the FY19 budget. I’m open to suggestions for how to continue this campaign either through private donations for a study or in the FY20 budget.

 

Housing

Housing Resolution

Another resolution that ANC5E passed this year was the Comprehensive Plan and Affordable Housing Resolution. My belief is the current system that allows a few individuals to stand in the way of neighborhood-approved developments is fundamentally undemocratic. We need to find alternative resolution methods that don’t include years-long battles waged by a few people in the DC Court of Appeals that overturn the will of the people.

ANC5E certainly doesn’t have all the answers and my personal views don’t match some of the views of the other commissioners. I thought the compromise we reached on this resolution was a good case study in listening respectfully to the experiences of others while still forcefully advocating for our beliefs. 

In the end, the resolution attempts to compromise between concerns about allowing existing residents to stay in place and creating room to grow. We call for mediation in lieu of litigation. I don’t think this is a silver bullet but keeps the process moving. Likewise, we argue that the comprehensive plan should guide but not dictate land-use decisions, which should included the broadest set of voices possible. 

We also highlight the need to allow older residents to “age-in-place”. We need to encourage public programs, PUDs, and by-right development to create spaces for this to happen. Along with being the right thing to do, these residents are a vital resource to the city.

Finally, on affordable housing, our stance is “Yes and Yes”:

Yes: we need more supply to keep up with the rising demand for housing.
Yes: we need more subsidies to maintain the diversity that makes our city great.

St. Paul’s Development Approved by Board of Zoning Adjustment

On July 19, the Board of Zoning Adjustment unanimously approved the development of 60 townhouses at the former St. Paul’s College site at 3015 4th St NE. While I know some neighbors are disappointed in the loss of open space in the neighborhood, I think this development is a good example of how we can implement the ideals set out in the ANC5E Housing Resolution. 

By building on an empty site, no one is displaced from the community and new supply will be created. I’m proud that as part of the negotiations, we got a 50% increase in the affordable component of the project, from 6 homes to 9 homes, and a better diversity of income levels - 3 of the homes will be at each of the 50%, 60%, and 80% of Median Family Income. We also got commitments on buffers to minimize the impact on the existing surrounding community. Finally, the remanning green space in the development -  a natural playscape, a smaller open field, and a pocket park - will be open to the entire community.

 

Upcoming events

Opportunity Zone Designation for Edgewood

In March, we learned about a new designation for tax-advantaged investment in economically distressed areas. I asked Mayor Bowser to include the two census tracts eligible in Edgewood. In addition, thanks to the leadership of Councilmember McDuffie, 8th St businesses are now eligible for Great Street grants. Hopefully these actions will have a long-term impact on the neighborhood as it continues to grow.

Grant for Dance Place Community Day 9/8

In April, ANC5E voted to support a grant for a community day in Edgewood, hosted by Dance Place. Check out their website for more info, but they’ll be free classes for kids and a community cleanup starting at 9:30.  RSVP for the cleanup here.

Personal News

Talk about burying the lede - if you’ve gotten this far, bravo. February 14 was a significant day in the Garnett house, and not just because I stayed up all night writing the bus lane petition. It’s also the day that my wife and I found out we are expecting twins.

The Garnett twins arrive sometime towards the end of this fiscal year so I’ll be stepping down from the ANC at the end of this term. If you know anyone who is interested in running for ANC, let me know as I’d be happy to help out. In the near-term, we’ve got lots to do: hopefully sharing more news about a grocery store on Monroe, cutting the ribbon on the bike lane coming to 4th St NE, and perhaps more development along 8th.

Thanks for reading and for giving me the opportunity to serve.

 


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