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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 7, Issue 2, October 2000
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

DC Council Gradually Tilting Toward Neighborhood-Friendly Majority
Mayor Williams Seeks Nominations to the Board of Education
Under Age Drinking Law Brought Up to Date
New DC License Plates with Slogan to be Fact of Life
Officers and Board
President’s Message
Campus Plans: Universities Ask for the Moon
The Proposed 756-Foot Mega Tower in Tenleytown
Reopening Pennsylvania Avenue: Another Giant Step Forward
Office of Zoning Now Online
Federation Board of Directors Activities
Noise: Enjoyable or Pollution?
Supreme Court Rules Against District Voting Representation in Congress
Registration as Witness Required for November 16 Hearing
Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

7:00 P.M.

Speaker - Councilman David Catania
Also - Tim Cooper
, Citizens Coalition Opposing Outsized TV Tower
Other Business

The Charles Summer School
1201 Seventeenth Street, N. W. (at M)


October speaker David Catania is very much in the headline category of taxpayer and neighborhood-friendly councilmember. Elected in late 1997 in a special election, he handily won reelection in 1998. He is widely regarded as a non-nonsense policy maker who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not afraid to take on the status quo. Hues chairman of the Local and Regis Affairs Committee which has oversight responsibility for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and regional transportation authorities. He sits as a member on the Human Services, Government Operations, and Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committees of the city council.

Councilman Catania is well known for being accessible to citizens and for laying the facts on the line, whether they concern the city government, the city-federal relationship or more local affairs. He has one of the best and most responsive staffs at the council.
A first: In the course of talks with Federation delegates from communities impacted by large institutions concerning problems and ramifications of the latter at the zoning agencies, Mr. Catania made the very original offer to furnish space in his office for a Federation representative. That person would have the specific task of keeping up with zoning/ campus plan matters within the council office framework, presumably for mutual benefit. To date, we have not detailed a person to the Catania office, due to the constant press of business related to the Zoning Commission and the Office of Planning's activities on the overhaul of an important part of the zoning regulations. Nevertheless, an offer of integrated-Federation participation in a city council office is appreciated and will be acted upon down the line. Regarding the evolving ideological direction of the Council, Mr. Catania is squarely in the column of active taxpayer-neighborhood supporters. Some hope is being expressed that he will take the lead in helping and orienting de facto councilman-elect Adrian Fenty when he (likely) assumes office in January 2001. Other council members widely regarded as most neighborhood friendly are: Phil Mendelson, Sharon Ambrose, Cathy Paterson, Jim Graham, Jack Evans, and Carol Schwartz.

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Mayor Williams Seeks Nominations To the Board of Education

In June 2000, D.C. voters passed a referendum creating a new school board structure consisting of five elected and four appointed members. In November, citizens will elect a president and four special district members to the board.

The mayor is searching for quality candidates to serve as appointed members of the board. Legislation states that "Members appointed by the mayor shall be District residents. The persons appointed by the mayor shall have competencies in education, finance, or business management." Potential candidates should have a strong commitment to public education and have a willingness to work cooperatively with other team members.

Nominations (including self nominations) should be forwarded to the Office of Policy and Evaluation, for the attention of Michele Seligman, 441 4th Street, Suite 920S, Washington, DC 20001 or faxed to 727-3765 or e-mailed to Questions can be answered at 727-6979.

Some delegates may wish to consider volunteering for this unpaid but important work within the city government. If the D.C. school system ever needed good heads and hearts at the helm, that time is now. And who better to serve in these school board positions than committed civic leaders, especially those with education backgrounds or interests?

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Under Age Drinking Law Brought Up to Date

In August-September, the city government, due to Congressional review, updated the city's expiring Alcoholic Beverage Control Act to provide the following:

"(1) No person shall falsely represent his or her age, or possess or present as proof of age an identification document which is in any way fraudulent, for the purpose of procuring or consuming an alcoholic beverage in the District."

"(2) No person shall present a fraudulent identification document for the purpose of entering a class C or licensed ABC establishment in the District."

"(3) A section requiring presentation of a valid "government" ID, with name, date of birth, signature and photograph.

"(d) (1) As an alternative sanction to the misdemeanor penalties provided in subsection (b-1) of this section, a person who violates subsection (b) (1) or (b) (2) of this section shall be subject to the following civil penalties:

(A) Upon the first violation, a penalty of $300;

(B) Upon the second violation, a penalty of $600; and

(C) Upon the third and subsequent violations, a penalty of $1,000 and suspension of his or her driving privileges in the District for one year."

(C) Upon the third and subsequent violations, a penalty of $1,000 and suspension of his or her driving privileges in the District for one year."

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New DC License Plates with Slogan to be Fact of Life

In September the mayor issued an order to the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles to:

  • Issue a new standard license plate that will bear the words "Taxation Without Representation:"
  • Provide District residents with the opportunity to exchange, at cost, their current license plates for the newly issued one; and
  • Offer individuals the option to receive and display license plates without the phrase "Taxation Without Representation". These persons will be issued "license plates of the size, color, design and material prescribed by the Director."

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Officers and Board

Patrick H. Allen, Esq.
Citizens Association of Georgetown

Gracie V. Baten
Shepherd Park Citizens Association

John C. Batham
West End Citizens Association

Rhoma Battle
Penn Branch Civic Association

Allen E. Beach
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Larry Chatman
16th Street Heights Citizens Association

Buck Clarke
Cardozo-Shaw Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kay A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Lois Forster
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

Guy Gwynne
Burleith Citizens Association

Miles Steele, III
Hillcrest Civic Association

Alice F, Stewart
Palisades Citizens Association

A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
Oldest Inhabitants Society

Dr. Marc Weiss
Southwest Neighborhood Assembly

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President's Message — Guy Gwynne

The Federation's Consortium of Impacted Communities is actively preparing for follow-up testimony at the Zoning Commission and other related work, in connection with the ongoing city overhaul of the zoning regulations for campus plans. The Federation coordinated Consortium associations effective presentations on July 27, and is organizing association collaboration for a November 16 hearing at the Zoning Commission restricted to whether campus plan processing responsibility should be transferred from the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) to the Zoning Commission.

The bottom line is yes, because the BZA is essentially intended to deal with smaller, single-track review projects and jobs and the Zoning Commission is better able to deal effectively with large Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) and similar vast, mufti-year university campus plans. More hearings and consultations will be scheduled that require community participation, and we will be there.

The Federation s second major area being addressed in the coming years) is land use in residential areas and the DCRA's deficient regulation of this. This will be a more ramified problem than even the heretofore dysfunctional campus plan oversight and permit process. In the case of the latter, a revivified professional Office of Planning has resumed its proper role in definition and professional input in a problem area and will probably reach positive solutions. In the case of the DCRA, however, tasked with inspection, enforcement, some zoning concerns and de facto rules interpretation, collaboration on problem solving will be a more difficult and protracted matter.

We will need: (1) the mayor's support (as in the case of the campus plan set of problems), (2) collaboration with the Office of Planning, (3) a clear delineation of the problem and solutions from a community perspective, and (4) a clear plan to emphasize for achieving needed community relief. There is no good substitute for mayoral support, particularly as we interface with the new director of the DCRA.

On another matter, we have the first preliminary, likely pledge of $1,000 for the Federation's developing Legal Aid Foundation. The plan is to have an initial modest $10,000 as seed capital for Foundation activities.

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Campus Plans: Universities Ask for the Moon

Reportedly sensing that the decades-long party at the Board of Zoning Adjustment may be over, three universities have submitted what can only be called last-ditch, exaggeratedly ambitious and impacting ten-year campus plans to the agency. The plan submissions follow protracted unsuccessful negotiations between host communities and universities, both without and with Office of Planning urged independent conciliation officers. The feeling is that the rush to filing is due to the imminent overhaul of the zoning regulations that govern processing of institutional and campus plans, and that the coordinator of the universities wants to get X number of Y2K campus plans in under the wire.

As matters stand now, current projections are for the George Washington and Georgetown 10-year campus plan submissions to be processed under the old, toothless and ineptly applied zoning regulations for campus plans. Reportedly, starting with American University, new campus plan submissions will be processed under upcoming new regulations.

This is unfair and not right. The current volunteer appointive BZA contains two community oriented board members and two traditional members, among others. Prospective BZA performances having to do with the GWU and GU 10-year campus plan projections are unpredictable at best, if current indications mean anything. The bottom line is that the dozen already badly impacted communities that adjoin the two universities can slip further into destabilization and taxpayer flight, if the large enrollment increases and other expansion being requested should slip through an unreflecting BZA (or Zoning Commission) under present rules.

The George Washington campus plan case atmospherics and dangers are aptly parodied by Professor Sol Shalit in the October 19 Washington Post. But there are informed readers' tears behind the wry laughter provoked. The Federation is struggling to help keep the campus plan regulations overhaul project on track. But a great deal of praying is going on, hoping that the ongoing combined efforts of the professional Office of Planning and of the volunteer nonprofessional zoning agencies will not allow major anomalies to slip through the process.

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The Proposed 756-Foot Mega Tower In Tenleytown

We will have a representative of citizen opponents of the erection of a major, oversized telecommunications tower at the October assembly. In response to Ward 3 taxbase neighborhoods, the city government advised the American Tower Systems Co. that construction activities must halt. The firm is threatening to sue the city for "hundreds of millions of dollars" for revoking its permits. Citizens are reportedly alleging irregularities up and down the line, and are decrying the erection of an exaggerated structure in the Wisconsin Avenue-Brandywine Street area. Irregularities by both the city and the developer will likely be asserted, with a possible countersuit by the city (as in the case of the Georgetown University Commercial power plant case several years ago) as matters progress.

It will be interesting to hear directly about citizen concerns, with a view to perhaps scheduling a future presentation by both sides of the controversy.

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Reopening Pennsylvania Avenue: Another Giant Step Forward

On September 25 the Federal City Council unveiled a major study, "America's Main Street: The Case for Reopening Pennsylvania Avenue." The study, prepared by the Rand Corporation and others, cost a reported $100,000 and is a survey and assessment of the five-year-old closure of the avenue. Delegates will recall that the Federal City Council is a private organization comprising 206 business, university, law firm and other executives, and is a significant voice (usually behind the scenes) in District affairs. The report comes as a welcome surprise, as reopening the avenue has been a major project of the Federation for some time. Credit where credit is due, the first call for reopening came from the Association of Oldest Inhabitants.

Former Senator Bob Dole, president of the council, notes that "The closed section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House not only symbolizes giving in to our fear or terrorism, but it has resulted in literally cutting in half the downtown of the nations capital. The proposal we are releasing today is measured and reasonable. It mitigates the risk to the president, his family and the White House staff while recognizing that fundamental American values, such as openness and accessibility, must not be sacrificed for the sake of security." Readers of the report will find it as Senator Dole states, and in well-researched and convincing detail. It was developed by a task force of prominent transportation, architectural, and security consultants.

The proposal calls for changing the physical configuration of Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets, N. W. by narrowing the roadway to four traffic lanes (from six), and altering the east-west alignment by curving a portion of the Avenue outward away from the White House, affording another 50 feet of stand-off distance from the executive complex. Trucks, buses, and other large vehicles would be barred from avenue use, this enforced by new pedestrian bridges with 7.5 foot clearances and manned security kiosks, inter alia.

A limited number of copies of the Rand report are on the documents table, on a first-come first-served basis.

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Office of Zoning Now Online

As the reform city government gradually computerizes the city agencies, the Office of Zoning, which could do no less, announced that it is Now On Line. The OZ is basically the staffing backup for both the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Zoning Commission. The OZ message is:

"Just go to," and "Give us feedback and/or ideas. Contact us at"

Note: For all the critiques, good and bad, of the zoning agencies, the zoning staff is unfailingly helpful to customers and interested parties, and is very helpful in securing copies of zoning affairs documents.

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Federation Board of Directors Activities

At its October 12 meeting the Board:

  • Discussed the possibility of future collaboration on an appropriate project with the Federation of Civic Associations
  • Noted the need to send dues notices
  • Voted to endorse and support the "Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) for D.C. Residents with Disabilities Act of 2000"
  • Discussed the start-up of the Federation's campaign to address land use problems in residential neighborhoods.

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Noise: Enjoyable or Pollution?

Washington has for the better part of a year had noise control act provisions that allow police to make assessments on the spot and cite out-of-compliance noise generators. The standard methodology is: first police visit in response to complaints - a warning, second visit - a more serious warning, unless matters are already out of hand, and third visit - a $300 citation ticket and possible arrests. This modus operandi has gone far toward improving quality of life in noise impacted neighborhoods.

Instructively, now a new law has gone into effect in Maryland changing playing a car stereo too loudly from a civil to a criminal charge. The new penalty will be treated as a criminal misdemeanor traffic violation, and will allow violators to pay a fine without a court appearance, if desired. Too loud is defined as noise that can be heard from 50 feet away.

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Supreme Court Rules Against District Voting Representation In Congress

For those delegates who may have been out of town or otherwise distracted, the Supreme Court has just ruled that District residents have no constitutional right to a voting representative in Congress. The ruling ended a two-year legal struggle by united community leaders, including a Federation endorsement.

Mayor Williams, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Norton and all thirteen members of the city council have declared they will continue the fight for genuine voting representation in the national legislature. They said they will back a vote in Congress or, alternatively, a suspension of District residents' obligation to pay federal taxes, estimated at $2 billion annually.

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Registration As Witness Required For November 16 Hearing

All delegates and other parties who plan to testify at the November 16 Zoning Commission hearing are requested to call to register immediately. That important hearing will be concerned solely with the appropriateness of shifting processing of campus plan matters from the Board of Zoning Adjustment to the Zoning Commission. The Zoning Commission contact is Ms. Sara Benjamin at 727-5372. We need to make a strong community statement at this key hearing. Witnesses need not be only from communities directly impacted by universities or other large institutions or corporations.

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Dues Time for Membership Year 2000-2001

All constituent associations are reminded that dues for the current membership year are due. Membership dues of $60 should be sent to Federation Treasurer Dr. Marc Weiss at 426 O Street, S.W.; Washington, D.C. 20024


At a recent Consortium meeting: "The biggest problem for civic meeting attendance is supper."

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Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

The Sumner School has reserved the following dates for the Federations Assembly meetings. Each will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the School and Museum, which is at 1201 Seventeenth Street, at the corner of M Street, N.W.

Tuesday, October 24
Tuesday, November 28
Tuesday, December 12 (Quarterly Luncheon)
Tuesday, January 23
Tuesday, February 27
Tuesday, March 13 (Quarterly Luncheon)
Tuesday, April 24
Tuesday, May 22 (Annual Awards Banquet)
Tuesday, June 26

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