Forward to the March/April 2001 Federation News — Back to Federation of Citizens Associations main page Back to January 2000 Federation News
Volume 7, Issue 5, February 2001
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax
|Upcoming Census-Driven Redistricting and Bringing
(D.C.) Government to the Communities
Federation Legal Aid Foundation Is Now a Fact
Interesting Boards and Commissions Vacancies
Upcoming Commission Roundtable on Antennas and Antenna Towers
Council Term Limits: Comment, by Dino J. Druidi
Officers and Board
OP Director Launches Neighborhood Planning Initiative Federation Assembly
The Would-Be Wisconsin Avenue Mega-Tower
District Deja Vu
Federation Officers Will Testify Before Congressional Committee on Reopening Pennsylvania Avenue
Those Double and Tripled Gas and Electric Bill: Upcoming Oversight Hearing
City Council Term Limits, Comment, by Patrick Allen
Campus Plans: PZA Gets on Responsible Track with GWU Decision
Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Impact Issue Heating Up
Increasingly Useful DC Government Website, by Robert Andrew
Board of Directors Activities
Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates
FEDERATION ASSEMBLY MEETING
UPCOMING CENSUS-DRIVEN REDISTRICTING AND BRINGING (D.C.) GOVERNMENT TO THE COMMUNITIES
The move is on. Redistricting into other wards and ANC areas is in the cards for some District neighborhoods based on the results of the last census. Each ward should have approximately 65,000 persons living in it, and boundaries are periodically adjusted to achieve this balance. Councilman Phil Mendelson has been tasked with oversight of the redistricting operation this time around, and will doubtless be asked by delegates what degree of latitude for decision he has in the matter.
Councilman Mendelson is easily one of our most popular and community oriented members of the city council. A former ANC commissioner in the Cleveland Park area, he was active in a broad range of civic work. One famous vignette: when developers had excavated a huge illegal basement cavity in preparation for starting construction of a building in his area, Mr. Mendelson in the most spectacular way not only prevented start-up of construction, but had the major hole refilled by the developer. Now, that's civic responsibility.
Also on Mr. Mendelson's work agenda is taking government to the communities. He simply takes staffers (for note taking and participation) and goes to Metro stops and other locales, in order to shake hands and sample opinions and hear neighborhood concerns. Unlike some other council members, Mr. Mendelson does not have merely a part-time job as people's representative.
On the job activities at city hall for the councilman include chairing the Subcommittee on Labor, Voting and Redistricting, and active membership on the subcommittees on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs; Education, Libraries and Recreation; Human Services; and Human Rights, Latino Affairs and Property Management. This councilman is a winner.
Also on the agenda will be Mr. Arthur Lohsen, who has no doubts about the directions in which the District should go: right down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, coming and going. The prominent architectural firm of Franck Lohsen McCrery has gone the Federal City Council's excellent "Reopen Pennsylvania Avenue" study one better, and has devised methods by which the reopened National Street can be rendered attractive as well as safe.
Mr. Lohsen comes with professional graphics and other explanatory material, for a ready understanding of the firm's plans and designs. If the assembly is sufficiently impressed with the Franck Lohsen McCrery schema and with the benefits it could add to the ongoing Pennsylvania Avenue matter, we will consider taking Mr. Lohsen with the Federation president and second vice president when we testify in mid-March on the Hill concerning reopening the capital's main street.
Federation Legal Aid Foundation Is Now A Fact
. . . And a factor in District of Columbia civic life. A working five-person board of directors is duly in place, with one to-be-filled vacancy, and the ten-person advisory board has a working group on board. Directors are:
Guy Gwynne (ex officio)
Advisory board directors/are:
Patrick Allen, Esq.
We do not contemplate this foundation being another ACLU or similar aggressive, litigious organization, Rather, it will be instrumental primarily in assisting associations with briefs and legal advice, usually in connection with actions before city boards and commissions. This stands to go a long way toward leveling the current playing field, where citizen groups are usually outclassed by developers and skilled law firms in litigation before city agencies and are often at a disadvantage before DC courts.
Directors and advisory board directors are from Georgetown, Burlieth, Foggy Bottom, Penn Branch, Spring Valley, American University Park and outside the city. Working together.
Interesting Boards and Commissions Vacancies
Want to be part of the action? Here's a good chance to apply to serve on some useful boards and commissions. Vacancies are currently listed or upcoming at:
Upcoming Commission Roundtable on Antennas and Antenna Towers
NOTICE: The DC Zoning Commission will hold a roundtable to discuss antennas, antenna towers and the structures on which they are installed on Monday, March 5 from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at 1 Judiciary Square, Room 220 (the Zoning hearing room). The discussion will encompass all issues related to these subjects, as they relate to the following:
Time limits are: 5 minutes for organizations, corporations or ANCs, 3 minutes for individuals. No ceding of time is allowed. Intending witnesses should register with Ms. Sara Benjamin at 727-5372. This is an issue that affects all associations.
Council Term Limits: Comment
|Patrick H. Allen, Esq.
Citizens Association of Georgetown
Gracie V. Baten
John C. Batham
Allen E. Beach
Dino J. Drudi
|Kay A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition
Miles Steele, III
Alice F, Stewart
A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
Dr. Marc Weiss
Looking ahead, we need to keep in mind that a number of landmark Federation events are in the offing. March's meeting will be the quarterly luncheon at the Diplomatic and Consular Officers Club. Delegates and guests should mark March 13 on calendars for the periodic jolly affair. BZA schedule allowing, Mr. Anthony Hood will join us at the luncheon, and share a few thoughts and experiences related to "How I Got a Million-dollar Grant for Civic Work in My Area". Interest in this may be intense.
The May 22 Annual Awards Banquet is not too far away. It is time to start thinking about forming tables for our associations at the gala affair at Ft. McNair Officers Club. The banquet committee is already planning for a big event. I hope just about all associations will take a table for eight, nine or ten (maximum) persons. This is when the Federation pulls out the stops and has some fun.
June will be election month. As usual, a number of delegates have expressed their interest in running for officer positions or Board membership, and all are welcome. Everyone should feel free to run for anything, either individually or on slates. Every association should have paid its dues of $60 before the election meeting. I urge everyone to "get right" with Treasurer Buck Clarke, who is doing a good job.
In a different vein, just in is word that Councilman Kevin Chavous will soon introduce legislation to extend the current moratorium governing antenna towers. Cleveland Park delegate Ann Loikow will explain and suggest a Federation resolution to support the Chavous initiative in principle at the Tuesday assembly.
Finally, we are doing our best to renew constructive contacts and relations with the federal government, so important in the lives of D.C. citizens. I am promised a quick reply to a renewed request for a meeting of Federation officers with pertinent White House personnel. Also, officers will be testifying at Rep. Connie Morella's D.C. Subcommittee hearing on reopening Pennsylvania Avenue. For relatively new delegates, the Federation formerly was dealing on the Hill with some frequency and was an expected presence at hearings and meetings. Thus the concept of renewal.
During all these months of specialized Federation activities we will have regular Board meetings: the March meeting at the Monticello Hotel in Georgetown and the April and June meetings at the home of First Vice President A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
D.C. Office of Planning Director Andrew Altman outlined OP's new community action plan before a 'participatory Federation audience in January. The interesting meeting ran 45 minutes overtime and spilled happily out onto the sidewalk afterward. Director Altman and chief assistant Ellen MacCarthy fielded all questions and observations with aplomb.
Key to the new initiative are Neighborhood Cluster Plans, designed to identify community needs and to reconnect citizens with the budget decision-making process. There are 39 "Neighborhood Clusters" for Washington's 120 "named neighborhoods.." for planning purposes. An introductory preparation will be broadly distributed, to explain the purpose of the plan, what it aims to accomplish and for whom.
Each neighborhood has issues that are of primary concern to its residents, such as location of industrial uses, preservation of natural beauty or historic character. The Neighborhood Cluster Plans will be one forum for neighborhoods to highlight these priorities and propose policy solutions, investments, or community actions to help accomplish their goals. Residents can even belong to more than one cluster, especially in border areas.
Neighborhood Steering Committees will guide the planning process in each cluster. Committees are representative of the broader community. This is an open committee structure - anyone can join as the plan develops. Committees' role is to advise and review neighborhood action plans, engage residents, assist with logistics and issue "prioritization."
Planning for vision and priority workshops will begin with local workshops to identify essential ingredients that make a neighborhood a healthy, viable area. These meetings are projected for late winter and early spring, with a view to coming up with a strategic plan for each cluster area. After these plans are presented to and digested by pertinent city agencies, a public meeting in each neighborhood cluster will be held in the fall.
Want to get involved in advance? Here are OP Neighborhood Planning Coordinators by Ward. Their telephone number is (202) 422-7600.
Ward 1, Vincent Vaides
Ward 2, Kasia Crzelkowski
Ward 3, Robert Collins
Ward 4, Rosalynn Frazier
Ward 5, (to be appointed)
Ward 6, Karina Ricks
Ward 7, Howard Ways, III
Ward 8, Venita Ray
Honcho, Assoc. Dir. Mark Plans
It is seemingly advisable to invite one's neighborhood OP coordinator for an escorted inspection trip at a mutually convenient time. Such hands-on familiarization will be helpful for the coordinators, and serve to define and articulate pertinent community problems by associations.
Context: The American Tower Company decided to build a 756-foot-high definition digital television antenna tower in Tenleytown, DC; managed to get a city building permit in spite of, inter alia, projected excessive size, lack of an environmental impact statement, and lack of notification to the to-be-impacted host communities. The communities mounted reasoned protests. The mayor agreed and had the building permit halted. The city council agreed. The developer is suing the city for $250 million in federal court. End Context.
The megatower issue has been best defined in a December 8, 2000 resolution passed by the city council. Principal points contained in the resolution are: (DC Act 13-470, Sec. 3 Sense of the Council,) (a) it is the sense of the Council that there exists an immediate need to halt the construction of the high definition digital television antenna tower at 4623 41st Street, NW, because it is inconsistent with the intent of subsections 201.6, 701.8 and 2510.1 of Title 1 1 of the (DC Zoning Regulations), and subsections 411.1 and 1403.13 (a) of the Comprehensive Plan.
(1) The tower is inconsistent with subsection 201.6 . . . . because the structure is an additional tower, and not an addition to an antenna to an existing tower. The tower under construction at 4623 41' Street, NW is substantially taller than the existing tower. The appearance of this tower is substantially altered.
(2) The tower is inconsistent with subsection 2510.1 . . . . because the tower under construction is not a roof-mounted antenna. The tower under construction is a ground-mounted antenna.
(3) The tower is inconsistent with subsection 2510.1 . . . . because the Mayor did not expressly exempt the tower under construction from the provisions of section 4(h) of An Act To Regulate the Height of Buildings in the District of Columbia.
(4) The tower is inconsistent with subsections 411.1 and 1403.13(e) (of sec. 2) of the Comprehensive Plan . . . . because to do nothing while waiting for conclusive evidence about human health effects is not a reasonable response to the potential risks associated with electromagnetic field generating facilities such as generators, power lines, and antennas.
(b) The Council requests that the Mayor perform an environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") review . . . before construction can take place. Since this tower is located in a heavily populated area, the EIS should include a measure of the levels of radio frequency radiation at varying distances from the tower . . ."
The latest development in the case is that a US District Court judge has reserved judgment on a District request that the company lawsuit be thrown out or, at most, heard in DC Superior Court. The city position is that the permit was issued under a flawed process.
Apart from the mis-siting of such an enormous industrial use, two issues in particular concern residential communities; the habitual lack in the District of complete EISs, and the possible harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation fields (EMF). District law requires that all projects that exceed $I million in cost have an EIS provided for them. This requirement is most often effectively ignored by the city, particularly by the BZA. Such an omission is potentially harmful to the health and welfare of city residents. The omissions must stop, and this tower case is a good point of departure for more explicit rules and increased enforcement.
Regarding EMF, there is voluminous evidence in studies on both sides of the issue of the potential harmfulness of sustained electromagnetic radiation. "Prudent avoidance" was the prudent reason cited by the city a decade ago for refusing consent for construction of a large commercial electric power plant in a densely populated residential area. This too resulted in an exaggerated suit against the city and an adroit countersuit by the city until the developer folded its hand. The same concerns over health and welfare risks are valid today.
It is hard to hazard a guess on the final result of this tower case. Even so, the community was rightly concerned about the matter, and the mayor has acted correctly on the permit case.
One of the hoots of Washington civic life is the "Reminiscence Meetings" programs of the Oldest Inhabitants Society. The OIS, founded in 1867 and a member of the Federation for over 80 years, is made up of folks of all ages. Rotary Club-style monthly luncheon meetings feature a range of speakers and, on occasion, serious reminiscing about times of yore in DC. A sort of You-Are-There experience.
Members re-experience caring for the Harding White House dogs, being served (as boys) cake in the White House kitchen by Mrs. Harding (and being fired by the Coolidges), peeping in the White House door unhindered, and driving as teenagers on a toot around the semicircular White House driveway, equally unminded. Other reminiscors recall playing as children in the Capitol dome and around the (now) Executive Office Building. And now-upscale Georgetown's rendering plant, flour mill, lumber yards and funeral parlors get fond mention. A number of years ago the OIS was bequeathed, and later sold, a firehouse on Pennsylvania Avenue. The remembrances make for good fun at meetings.
Happily for all concerned, local Maryland Representative Connie Morella is now chair of the important House DC Subcommittee. Ms. Morelia is expected to schedule a strategic hearing in March on the reopening of Pennsylvania Avenue. Federation officers will, in keeping with the Federation resolution, testify in favor of opening the now blocked Nation's Main Street.
For purposes of delegates' information, in addition to the handout copies of the Federal City Council's excellent September 2000 proposed plan for reopening "the avenue" (distributed at the October meeting), we will have a presentation at the February assembly on proposed refinements to the FCC's plans by architectural planner Ronald Lohsen. Mr. Lohsen's firm's plan aims to make the reopened avenue an attractive as well as a secure thoroughfare.
Who will hear the pain? Well, Councilmember Sharon Ambrose for one, who has announced a public oversight hearing on (1) the increased energy cost associated with home heating, and (2) on the implementation of the deregulation of electricity in the District of Columbia. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, March 9, and will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Council Chamber at I Judiciary Square.
High heating bills have sparked numerous complaints. Additionally, and importantly, citizens have raised questions regarding how deregulation of electricity will work in the District. Given the California experience, this will be a good opportunity to hear and give testimony and receive information from witnesses explaining differences in the law in California and that in D.C., as well as how citizens "can benefit" under the new D.C. law.
Delegates who wish to testify may contact Ms. Jasmine Yates of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs at 727-8229 before COB March 6. Witnesses speaking for organizations have five minutes speaking time; individuals have three minutes.
Jack Evans has proposed a bill to repeal the term limits that were enacted into the D.C. Code by an initiative in 1994. An initiative in the District of Columbia merely enacts a law which has the same status as any law enacted by the DC Council. So a law enacted by initiative can be amended or repealed by the DC Council in the same way as any other law.
It has been suggested by Dino Drudi that Jack Evans claims that the DC Council must approve an initiative and then pass it along to Congress for approval. That is simply not the case. That is not the law and Jack has never suggested that it was. Where Mr. Drudi got this notion escapes me.
The fact is that Jack believes that term limits are a bad idea. The bill that he has introduced is intended to undo this idea. This is a very simple issue and I would move the Federation's members to concentrate on whether they believe that term limits are or are not a good idea and not to be distracted Mr. Drudi's red herring.
The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment in February finally rendered its decision on the George Washington University campus plan and, also finally, initiated responsible regulation of aggressive university expansion in the District. Basically, the Board (1) rejected the notion that open-ended unhoused enrollment expansion mainly for the tuition money is legitimate, (2) required that on-campus housing numbers be reasonable, (3) tied any enrollment increases to on-campus housing, (4) defined campus boundaries, and effectively (5) put an end to the ever-increasing aspect of GWU's campus sprawl and negative community impact.
Predictably, the university and its attorneys are weighing suing and appealing, but such actions traditionally have little chance of success and are out of step with the direction in which the reform city government is moving.
In January, the BZA after seemingly confused hearings botched the Georgetown University campus plan case badly. Briefly, in spite of existing regulations, it simply gave the college essentially everything it wanted, including a large student enrollment hike without adequate housing for the new numbers. The Federation and all GU-plan communities have requested the Zoning Commission (as the senior, defining agency) to undertake a sua sponte review of the BZA decision, with a view to reversing the worst parts of it and bringing that university too within the city's, and the mayor's, new policy direction. The Commission sharply responded that it will decide on review of its own.
Both the GWU and GU university plans were processed by the BZA under the old and controversial zoning regulations. Just presented and argued, the American University plan will be processed under the old regulations by the Zoning Commission. Thereafter, future campus plans will be heard by the Zoning Commission under new, professionally prepared regulations. Irregular and slapdash as this set of arrangements is, the Zoning Commission can still process all the recent and future campus plans (besides the GW one) in equitable and orderly fashion if it chooses. Let's hope it does so.
Although it is not formally a Federation issue to date, the issue of continuous human exposure to electromagnetic radiation from aboveground electric wires and cables, antenna towers, cell telephones and computers is receiving renewed attention in the District. Several irons are in the fire:
With regard to neighborhood electrical wiring, a number of Washington communities are being or have been "heavied up" by PEPCO for the next several decades. Heavying up entails much taller and more numerous utility poles, strung with more and heavier wires and cables in order to carry increasing quantities of wires. These often are strung within five paces of sleeping and crib rooms, and can be strung both in front of houses on city streets and alongside or behind the same houses in alleys.
When this issue broke out once before, in 1990 in connection with a proposed private commercial power plant on the campus of Georgetown University, the city's reason for denying a building permit after due consideration was "prudent avoidance." This will be advanced at the NCPC and other hearings by community representatives and, hopefully, by responsible city agencies as well. EMF and their possible cancer-inducing effects are an open issue. City and regional agencies need to approach the matter with major caution.
The District of Columbia is gradually providing a more uniform "look and feel" to all department web sites linked to their main page. There is now with a much simplified address of www.dc.gov. In addition, behind some sites are increasingly sophisticated tools for residents that help level the information access playing field.
A recent example is the DC Office of Zoning which has just completed Phase I of their completely new electronic zoning map that replaces the 1991 paper version. A later release will add the more complex PUD (Planned Unit Development), Campus Plans and TDR (Transfer Development Rights).
The new electronic map may be accessed two ways, First is on their website at www.dco/.dcgov.org where an index map comes up showing 18 "titles" that cover all of DC. Clicking an individual title will bring up a static map in a black and white PDF (portable document format) that a web browser can zoom in to, print or save. The second and more powerful way is to go into one of the new carrels in the OZ reading room. There you will find PCs equipped with specialized software that brings up the maps in color, with the ability to search for a property by street address or lot and square, displaying its zoning and overlay and print out a compact one-page report summarizing the zoning status. In addition, the onsite systems can generate mailings labels to all property owners within 200 feet.
Coming fairly soon the Office of Zoning will have accessible reports on individual properties through the Office of Tax and Revenue. Improvements are hoped for at DCRA which, like the Office of Zoning, has adopted the "HANSEN" system for electronic filing. The lack of an accurate, complete and unique address numbering schema for all types of properties in DC is one thing slowing completion of DCRA's new system.
The Office of Zoning has two computers dedicated for public use: one Macintosh and one PC.
Editors note: Two groups of Federation delegates took part in classes at Zoning February 8 and 15 on how to use the sophisticated new electronic map. Everyone reports benefit received and is looking forward to using the new tool. Kudos go the Zoning Commission, BZA and Office of Zoning for producing this map, as well as to Foxhall Association president Robert Andrew, whose consulting firm help conceive and set up the system.
The Sumner School has reserved the following dates for the Federation's 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, February 27
Tuesday, March 13 (Quarterly Luncheon)
Tuesday, April 24
Tuesday, May 22 (Annual Awards Banquet)
Tuesday, June 26
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