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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 12, Issue 6, September 2006
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

President's Message, George Clark
Comprehensive Plan Update
Let's Get It Right the First Time
The Limits of University Growth: Why Everyone in Washington Should Care, Elizabeth Elliott
Lack of Stadium Construction Oversight, George Clark
Public Safety Achilles' Heel, Carroll Green
Emergency Medical Services by Committee: This Time, Will It Work?
D.C. Parking Revisited, Al Wheeler
Enforce the GWU Campus Plan
Officers and Board
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


Tuesday, September 26
6:30 p.m.

Dr. Patrick Canavan
Director, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Other Business

1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(At M Street)


With the primary upon us, I hope that everyone who can will be voting on September 12. This election season has brought more debates, forums, and television advertising than I can remember ever in local elections. And as a reminder, the election for Federation officers and board members will be held at our September assembly meeting on Tuesday, September 26, at 6:30 p.m. at Sumner School.

The Federation is joining as an amicus to uphold Judge Hamiltonís decision striking down the DC property tax assessment system in the case brought by longtime activist Peter Craig. Peter, who was honored at our May awards banquet, is an exceptional example of commitment to civic affairs. We thank John Goodman of Woodley Park for writing the amicus brief on behalf of the Federation.

You will also notice a few changes in this monthís newsletter. We have called on the resources of the entire Executive Board to try to temporarily fill the shoes of Guy Gwynne and return the newsletter to its regular publication schedule. While Guy recuperates, a team led by Elizabeth Elliott, Anne Renshaw, and Carroll Green has taken on the task of the newsletter with exceptional vigor. You can help by submitting articles on subjects that we should all know about.

The Federation will continue to participate in the Zoning Commission battle between the Foggy Bottom Association and George Washington University, which is described at greater length in this newsletter. I mention it here only to indicate that the Federation will join individual associations in dealing with subjects of citywide interest and implication. Certainly the avowed intention of GW and the Office of Planning to do away with campus plans, which provide protections for our neighborhoods, is such a subject.

I hope to see you on September 26.

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Comprehensive plan update

The Federation and the Committee of 100 on the Federal City cosponsored a series of meetings this summer to discuss the Comprehensive Plan for the City that has now been submitted to the Council as a Mayorís Draft on July 14, 2006. Hearings are scheduled to begin on the Comp Plan on September 26, 2006. In August the Federation and the Committee hand delivered personal letters to each Councilmember, and met with many of them, asking that any vote by the Council on the Comp Plan be postponed until the new Council and mayor take office in January 2007. Although an overwhelming majority of the Council has committed to this course, the support of your Association or ANC will help to firm up that position.

There are many reasons to postpone consideration, starting with the failure to gather reliable data for population subsets, transit-oriented development, and existing development trends. Protective policies for our neighborhoods have been dropped including those in the Ward plans. The Ward plans themselves have been replaced by so-called Area Elements, which overlap Ward boundaries.

One of the principal failures is that the plan lacks specificity, clarity, and certainty. The language in the Mayorís Draft is neither proscriptive nor directive for many policies and goals -- it doesnít really say what is supposed to happen. There are also many conflicts among the policies and goals and no indication of how they would be resolved or which policies would govern. There is no firm statement that the Land Use element will govern in the event of conflict, as is done in the current Comp Plan.

Implementation of the plan is less solely and entirely in the discretion of the executive branch. The vague and permissive standards used throughout the plan mean that the Office of Planning has unfettered ability to interpret the vague language as it sees fit. The Federation has supported the proposal of the Committee of 100 for a Planning Commission that would be accountable for the implementation and stewardship of the plan and offer a vehicle to citizens for meeting policies and goals.

But perhaps the biggest failure is that the Mayorís Draft is missing several of the basic elements of a plan. There are no corridor plans, no guidelines for particular areas, and no indication of the need to retain land for future City uses, no linkage infrastructure needs, and no guidance about how much land is to be allocated among uses such as residential, commercial, mixed-use, public facilities, and institutions.

If you havenít done so already, think about having your Association and your ANC support delay in consideration of the Comp Plan.

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Letís get it right the first time

A letter to City Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp from George Clark, the Federation of Citizens Associations, and Don Alexander Hawkins, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, dated August 18, 2006

Re: Delay on Council Action on District Elements of the comprehensive plan

The Committee of 100 on the Federal City and the Federation of Citizens Associations have worked over the past year to affect the draft of the District Elements of the Comprehensive Plan, through memberships on the task Force and organizational comments.

While we believe progress has been made on several fronts, the Mayorís Draft that was submitted to the Council in July still presents serious problems for the residents of the District. The fundamental flaw is that it is not a Plan. It is full of wishes, provides few directives, and leaves virtually unlimited latitude anything the executive branch or zoning commission desires. There is no statutorily created entity, such as a Planning Commission, to ride herd unnecessary capital budgeting, or to assist with implementation.

For this reason, the asking commit to a delay in council consideration of the draft until communities have a chance to fully assess the impacts of the far-reaching proposals on their homes and businesses. At least 7 ANCs in 3 different Wards have already passed resolutions in support of a delay, even though most ANCís received the draft plan only after they had adjourned for the summer. Others will take up this matter in September when they resume their normal schedules.

As you know, our organizations have worked for many decades in the interests of the citizens of the District. Several of our members will be calling your office in the coming days for appointments to share with you the reasons for concerns and the necessity of addressing fundamental flaws in the plan, a few of which are described in the attachment.

It has been suggested that the outgoing Mayor deserves to see enactment of this plan, a major initiative of his administration. However, this plan will affect every District community and the city as a whole for decades to come, and we believe those will be obligated to enforce its provisions and live with the consequences should be the ones shape its final form.

We look forward to working with you on this most important initiative.

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The limits of university growth:
Why everyone in Washington should care
Elizabeth Elliott, Foggy Bottom-West End

On September 14, the Zoning Commission has scheduled two proceedings, the first one a rulemaking (ZC Case No. 06-19, Text Amendment, Section 210.3) that has citywide implications and the other a related adjudication/ contested case (ZC Case Nos. 06-11 & 6-12, Campus Plan and PUD) for George Washington University. The Office of Planning, which has been facilitating GWU under the rubric of "build up, not out," has requested the rulemaking because GWU has reached its current development density (FAR) limits and cannot add further density without altering the regulations.

OP should be challenged for its total failure to protect residential neighborhoods and the Zoning Commission should hear why the Zoning Regulations should not be changed to let universities get even denser. Foggy Bottom has become the canary in the coal mine for other communities hosting growth-addicted institutions like GWU whose unfettered expansion has resulted in the destruction of our tax base.

The text amendment rulemaking is a citywide issue that will affect all residential neighborhoods hosting universities and other institutions should the Commission approve this requested increase in FAR. Citizenís groups throughout the District should be alarmed and should appear at the hearing, as well as write to the Commission, to express their views about this harmful, precedent-setting proposal (which will no doubt be leveraged to justify other institutional growth and development in our neighborhoods). OP is attempting to undermine the whole reason the Special Exception-Campus Plan regulations were put in place: to protect the host residential neighborhoods from inappropriate over-development.

Address your correspondence to:

Carol J. Mitten
D.C. Zoning Commission
441 Fourth Street, N.W.
Suite 210
Washington, DC 20001

Re: Opposition to Text Amendment Ė Z.C. Case No. 06-19/Request for Increase in FAR for Colleges and Universities in the R-5-D and R-5-E Zone Districts

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Lack of stadium construction oversight
George Clark

In April the Federation petitioned Chairman Cropp to appoint true citizen representatives to a body to oversee the planning and construction of the new baseball park. There was such a representative body for the new convention center, which met regularly and provided valuable neighborhood input for that project.

We have heard nothing back in response to our request, despite having followed up on it. No board or oversight body has been appointed by the Mayor or the Council. Instead, the Mayor and the Council have supported dramatic changes to the Stadium that contradict the very purposes why the present site was chosen.

The Southeast site was chosen in part because it would provide wonderful views of the Capitol building, and give the ballpark a unique identity that would instantly identify its location in our nationís capital. We were told that this was one reason to spend the $611 million in taxpayer funds that have now been committed for the Park.

Instead the plan is now to give away land to developers to build parking lots and condos that will tower over the ballpark and block any view of the Capitol building. Fans will not know whether they are in Peoria or Washington, DC. Citizen oversight might not have prevented this travesty, but at least attention would have been called to it rather than have the deal negotiated in the back rooms of the Wilson Building.

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Public safetyís Achillesí heels
Carroll Green, Manor Park

In thirty years as a District of Columbia homeowner, never have I witnessed such poor level of public safety performance as currently exhibited by both the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS). Testimony last March before the Council Committee on the Judiciary indicated that complaints continue to abound before neighborhood meetings regarding the lack of timely responses to citizensí calls for police assistance and the acute lack of professional emergency medical and ambulance service. Both departments are under-performing, by any standard, to our collective peril, and they are very poorly managed.

The police are conspicuous by their absence in our neighborhoods and in their handling traffic enforcement duties, especially during rush hours. MPD is also exceptionally lax in timely responses to citizensí complaints.

During the past several years, most of our elected officials have called for "more" police officers instead of demanding accountability and questioning how and where police are being deployed.

  • Why are the police not out in force during rush hours performing traffic enforcement to prevent gridlock?
  • Why are police officers performing escort duty for representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, when the federal government is outsourcing such work to the private sector?
  • Why is MPD competing with private firms to perform such work?

While at National Airport recently, I witnessed a MPD police escort of no fewer than ten motorcycles officers and two cruisers accompanying a single bus, all at the expense and safety of DC residents. Of the myriad of uniform police organizations in our nationís capital, MPD appears to be the least physically fit. What has happened to physical fitness standards for this paramilitary department?

A somewhat similar situation exists within our combined fire and emergency medical services department. There is no meaningful accountability or demands for answers from our elected officials for this fifteen-year failed experiment that requires firefighters to be trained as qualified emergency medical technicians.

As presently organized, this poorly managed department is a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of all DC residents and visitors to our city. How many more lives must be sacrificed before this appalling and unworkable situation is rectified? Unfortunately, it appears that mediocrity, non-accountability and poor performance has become the norm in these critical public safety areas of our municipal government. Under the incoming administration, we, the citizens of the District of Columbia, must demand a separate emergency medical service, effective management, accountability and an acceptable level of performance from these departments.

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Emergency Medical Services by committee:
This time, will it work?

After several highly-publicized missteps by the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (DCFEMS) in early 2006 resulting in an investigation (and condemnation) by DCís Inspector General, Councilmember Phil Mendelson, Chair of the City Councilís Judiciary Committee, recently convened an EMS Commission. Its singular mandate: Improve the cityís beleaguered emergency medical services operation. For more than 20 years, several similar efforts (consultant reports, studies, etc.) have occurred. However, DC FEMS has never fully implemented their recommendations. This time, will emergency medical services by committee work?

Councilmember Mendelson selected eight individuals (two physicians, three DC FEMS employees, one university representative, a Memphis Fire/EMS officer and a representative of Childrenís Hospital) to sit on this EMS Commission. The Citizens Federation, while arguably the best prepared to represent the EMS consumer, was only assigned the role of "official observer" by the councilmember and not allowed to ask questions.

Two Federation officers, George Clark and Anne Renshaw, are regular attendees, keeping close watch on the proceedings. Four Commission meetings have taken place with discussions centered much more on system-wide emergency medical issues (hospital ER wait times and closures) than how DC EMS should be organized ("third service," independent department within DC Fire & EMS, a private service, etc.) to better serve the public.

Many important issues need to be addressed and questions asked. What will it take to bring the best emergency pre-hospital medical practitioner to your doorstep when you need it? Do you want a big fire engine or an ambulance to respond to your medical emergency? Do you want a firefighter, who has also been trained in emergency pre-hospital care or a dedicated, full-time emergency medical practitioner? Given DC FEMSí publicized problems including, but not limited to, a profound culture clash between the two professional groups, what will give you renewed confidence in the skills and training of the paramedics and EMTs who respond to your 911 medical emergencies?

Over 75 percent of FEMSí emergency calls per year are medically related. The Firefighting Division has now taken over the 350-person EMS Division. EMS runs are, more and more, being handled by firefighter/EMTs despite, in many cases, their lack of desire to perform in this capacity. In summary, DC has evolved into a "Fire-based EMS" in order to utilize the fire divisionís personnel and help justify their expansion quest, requiring the demise of professional EMS careers.

The present EMS Commission will soon release its first policy paper ó "Enhanced Medical Supervision of DC EMS" ó which argues for "physician-driven change in EMS provider care and oversight." In other words, the report will urge that the EMS Medical Director, and not the Fire Chief, manage the operation.

Shortly after the last EMS Commission meeting on 8/10/06, Fire Chief Adrian Thompson announced the abrupt "departure" of one of the commission members, Dr. Amit Wadhwa, DCís Medical Director. The Citizens Federation had testified before the Judiciary Committee that Dr. Wadhwa and the other two FEMS employees on the EMS Commission should be witnesses; that it was a conflict of interest for three uniformed DCFEMS representatives to sit in judgment of their department and recommend organizational structure and policy changes.

George Clark and Anne Renshaw can attest to the EMS Commissionís many difficulties in streamlining its own process and articulating its mandate. Hopefully, the next Mayor will be able to utilize this Commissionís final report, as well as the previous reports, to guide a much needed DC EMS reorganization, which will be in the publicís best interest, during his/her first thirty days.

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D.C. Parking Revisited
Al Wheeler

Washington is a large, old, and well-trafficked city, and an extreme dearth of parking spaces has vexed its auto-driving citizens for many years. From a parking space standpoint, all Washington areas are not uniform. Dense areas such as Georgetown, with its many historic houses and apartments, have few residential garages or off street parking spaces. The absence of Metro is an unfortunate deprivation for Georgetown. Additional street parking is essential for Georgetownís continued well being. Impacted area residents have to ride around the block for fifteen or twenty minutes looking for a space, then racing another for any open parking space, frequently in a no-parking area.

There are several approaches to mollifying the severe parking condition. Intimately involved are supply and demand for spaces. Supplying additional spaces is a far more direct, expeditious and effective means to remedy the problem rather than attempting to reduce the demand by limiting parking and inducing merchants to leave. Not only does the government suffer because of diminished taxes but limiting the demand deprives the merchants and the residents of long time convenient shopping, jams our highways with its concomitants- hazardous travel and additional environmental negatives. Moreover, property owners would have their property values significantly reduced as desirability recedes. Benefiting residents by harming them is not a popular concept. Such action is a poor, insensitive and painful means to mitigate the parking imprecation.

Avast there. Such a panorama did not quiet the opponents. They persisted without good reason as to why such flaws should not be decisive to their opposition. The parking decision adopting in substance the Kiwanis Initiative was made by the D.C. Council not on theoretical postulates but on factual analysis and logic and is certain to promptly increase the supply of parking rather than to attempt to control by attrition the amorphous and imprecise demand concept.

The Georgetown Kiwanis Residential Parking Initiative ó joined by the Federation of Citizenís Association and the Assembly of ANCs ó offers the public a far better solution. The proposal allows residents to simply park in the unused access space in front of their own driveways in the street. The street parking spaces used by residents with driveways would then be available to the public. In Georgetown there are about 350 houses with driveways that could be additional spaces available to the public, if all qualified for the driveway sticker. Driveway stickers, similar to the zone parking stickers, would identify the car, the address and the resident entitled to use the parking space and be affixed to the windshields of residentsí cars. At the request of the resident, violators will have their illegal parked car in this space towed to a D.C. impound lot and ticketed for towing, parking in the impoundment lot and violation of the city ordinance.

A parking proposal similar to the Kiwanis Initiative has been adopted by a number of other cities including, Cape May, New Jersey; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; Long Beach, California; Burlington, Vermont; and available for cities in the whole state of California. The desirability of such a plan was recognized when the D.C. Council unanimously enacted the substance of the Kiwanis Residential Parking Initiative, which was promptly signed by the Mayor on July 21, 2006. It is now filed in Congress awaiting the expiration of their 30-day review period.

No one is asserting that the Kiwanis proposal is a panacea for D.C.ís parking woes. However, for Georgetown, it will significantly reduce a frustrating everyday condition. To impacted areas including Georgetown and its vexed, nettled and star-crossed citizens, parking relief is now on the way. Thanks to the Federation of Citizenís Association, the Assembly of ANCs, and Georgetown Kiwanis for your substantial assistance in the enactment of parking relief in Bill 16-383.

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Enforce the GWU Campus Plan

In addition to George Washington University being at its development limits in our neighborhood, the Foggy Bottom Association has credible evidence (George Washington Universityís own required filings) that GWU has been out of compliance with its current Campus Plan headcount limits and, therefore, cannot proceed with its massive development agenda (approximately 3.2 million square feet of additional development) until it corrects its compliance issues. Starting in October of 2005, the FBA wrote to Mayor Williams asking him to consider our evidence and to enforce the hard fought and won Campus Plan. He has never responded.

The Foggy Bottom West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission joined with the FBA last November to hold the university accountable and, finally, in April, DCRA agreed to have the new Zoning Administrator, Bill Crews, arrange for an "independent" audit of GWUís enrollment-headcount numbers.

In a recent, subsequent FOIA request, the FBA obtained a series of materials that demonstrate the ZAís re-crafting of the auditís Scope of Work to suit GWUís needs with no comparable community input. Following is the most recent correspondence via e-mail from Michael Thomas, Foggy Bottom/West End ANC2A-02 Commissioner, to Crews questioning just how "independent" this audit is.

Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2006 15:49:27 -0400 (GMT-04:00)

Dear Bill, You are now very substantially overdue with your promised revised scope of work document for the audit of GWís compliance with the various conditions on its current campus plan. The earlier document was produced by a process which does not meet the sniff test ó you gave GWUís general counsel every opportunity to dictate it, and then falsely claimed that it had been given some sort of approval by the chair of our ANC, in the face of the resolutions we had passed and our ongoing efforts to help you define a fair and independent audit.

You have also not responded to, or even acknowledged receipt of, my FOIA requests. At this point, those requested files should have been produced, not only as a matter of compliance with the law, but also as a matter of trying to salvage some modicum of credibility for the process you oversee.

The GW report of Aug 28 (but as of Aug 25) of their compliance with Conditions 9(c) and 17 claims full time undergrads number only 8,204. GWUís own website claims that the university has admitted another 2,350 freshmen this fall, which makes Mr. Barberís report unlikely. Further, the university reported to the Princeton Review under that organizationís Common Data Set Initiative that their "enrollment" was 10,563 a year ago.

Under the reporting rules that number represents degree-seeking undergraduates. As you know, they report yet other numbers to DOE and Treasury. The funny numbers canít hide the truth ó there are far more students, faculty, and staff than the headcount limits set in the conditions of the current plan. You really need to get on with a transparent process of forcing GWU to disclose all of the people it educates and employs, and call the result what it is: a series of violations of their undertakings. We are about to enter the month of September, and your failure to get the job done compromises very seriously the ability of the Zoning Commission to afford basic fairness to any of the parties to the proceedings scheduled to begin on 14 September.

Michael Thomas
Commissioner ANC2A-02

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Patrick Allen, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

Allen E. Beach, Treasurer
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Francis M. Clarke, III
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

George Clark, Esq., President
Forest Hills Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kathryn A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Elizabeth Elliott
Foggy Bottom Association

Carroll Green. Past President
Manor Park Citizens Association

Guy Gwynne
Burleith Citizens Association

James H. Jones, Second Vice President
Crestwood Citizens Association

Ann Loikow, Esq.
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

Sally MacDonald, Secretary
Woodley Park Citizens Association

Ann Renshaw, First Vice President
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

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October 24, 2006
November 28, 2006
Holiday Luncheon, Dececember 19, 2006 (tentative)
January 23, 2007
February 27, 2007
March 27, 2007
April 24, 2007
Awards Banquet, May 17, 2007
June 26, 2007

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