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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 4, Issue 3, November 1998
1642 Thirty-fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20007-2334
(202) 337-6505, phone; (202) 337-6504, fax

Bars, Cars, and Sidewalk Cafes: How they affect your neighborhood — and how you can affect them
CBRFs and the Zoning Commission: The decision and the consequences
Advisory Neighborhood Commissions: Federation Council testimony reflects forum's concerns
What's a Comprehensive Plan and why should residents care about it?
Dues are due
Officers and Board
President's Message — Barbara Zartman
The Economic Summit's Recommendations: What do they mean for the District's residents?
Preservation of the best of our past: A summit conference leads to action plan for D.C.'s treasures
Holiday Luncheon
Federation meeting dates for balance of year

Tuesday, November 24
Federation Assembly Meeting

Business Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Program at 7:30

Patrick Allen - ABC issues
Don Crockett - parking
Mike Fasano - sidewalk cafes

Three Federation members with real expertise in issues that affect communities day in and day out will lead a workshop on how to work with District regulations.

The Charles Sumner School
1201 Seventeenth Street NW (at M)

Bars, Cars, and Sidewalk Cafes: How they affect your neighborhood — and how you can affect them

Every week, District neighborhoods have to deal with a host of District regulations affecting where they can park their cars and when, who can sell liquor and when, who can use the public sidewalks as extensions of business establishments and when.

The District, according to D. C. laws and code, governs all these activities with regulations and enforcement, but many communities complain of great difficulty in gaining control of these areas of neighborhood life.

Several Federation member associations have wrestled with these issues over a period of years, and the November Assembly meeting will offer a chance for their delegates to share their expertise so that other groups can benefit from their experiences.

Among the kinds of questions these panelists from three different associations can answer are:

On Parking: What rights do you as a resident have to park near your home? Who can take those rights away? Who do you call when parking enforcement fails? Are there restrictions on non- residents' use of curbside parking in residential areas? What will the new handicapped-parking rules mean?

On Public Space: Can anyone use the public sidewalks for their own purposes? Do you pay rent? What safety standards affect sidewalk businesses? Do you need permits? Can you build permanent structures on sidewalks? Are there design standards?

On ABC Issues: What's a liquor license moratorium? Who can get one? How long does it take? What about liquor sales to under-age kids? What about bars that seem to violate other rules? How can you protest a liquor license? A renewal of one?

And in all these areas: Where can you turn for help?

Understanding the existing rules is crucial so that associations can use them to protect community stability and promote healthy growth

All neighborhoods face the task of balancing residents' concerns with healthy economic development that both meets residents' needs and adds to the District's bottom line.

But it is also true that with the historic lack of enforcement of most rules and regulations in the District, residents' complaints are the most likely means for bringing properties into compliance.

Citizens' organizations and the ANCs they include can be a strong voice for better compliance with existing codes.

They can also form the basis for petitions to the new Mayor or to the Council for changes in the standards for cars, bars, and sidewalk cafes — and the many other commercial operations that can either enrich life for District residents or add to its burdens.

There is also the opportunity to affect the budgets that will be set early next year, and to affect the Comprehensive Plan that governs the residential-commercial interface.

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CBRFs and the Zoning Commission: The decision and the consequences

The Federation has worked over the past six months to advocate for a policy on community-based residential facilities (CBRFs) that would accommodate the needs of disabled persons while protecting residential neighborhoods to the greatest possible extent.

In early November, the Zoning Commission made a decision that has the potential to be very destabilizing to residential communities.

The Commission, on a 3-to-2 vote, adopted the provisions recommended by the Department of Justice that would greatly increase the ease with which group homes for persons covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act can be located in residential neighborhoods.

CBRFs may now be located in any R- 4 or higher residential zone as a matter of right, without any "spacing' requirements that would prevent concentrations of such facilities in "social service enclaves," to use the words of the American Planning Association.

Moreover, the Commission chose to grant the DCRA Commissioner sole authority to waive any zoning or other regulation administratively, and grant "reasonable accommodation" to any ADA-qualified petitioner seeking this assistance in any residential zone, including R-1 .

The Commission rejected the requests of many ANCs that this accommodation be done through the special-exception process, which allows for community input.

That decision must be approved by Corporation Counsel for legal sufficiency, and by the National Capital Planning Commission (which approves all zoning rules).

The Federation will be assessing how to mitigate the impact of this decision - or whether there is potential for amending it in the Comprehensive Plan, through Council action to clarify legislative intent, through Congressional action, and through court challenges.

The Commission declined — for now — to adopt any of the provisions advocated by the Campaign for New Communities, an umbrella organization composed largely of area providers of institutional services.

Those provisions, as we have previously written, would have replace whole sections of the zoning code with new definitions, new standards, and in our belief, affected very harmfully the residential integrity of District neighborhoods.

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Advisory Neighborhood Commissions: Federation Council testimony reflects forum's concerns

Legislation is before Council to buttress controls on ANCs, required in order to satisfy Congressional requirements before Council could "reprogram" monies for ANC use. Federation testimony is recapped here.

We understand the need to demonstrate to the Congress the seriousness with which we address any inappropriate behavior by ANC commissioners.

Like others, we would question, however, whether prohibiting any spending at all once a commission has failed to meet the designated deadlines for quarterly filings is the best remedy. Core expenses are required in some cases to hold a meeting at which reports can be approved; other expenses may be IRS obligations. Prohibiting instead any non-core expenses, as well as any grants, would seem a more workable stricture.

Second, we would hope there can be distinctions between "big" and "little" discrepancies in reviewing financial reports. The Auditor assists us all by highlighting the difference between mathematical errors and intentional fraud; between historic misdeeds and current transgressions.

Last as to the legislation, we would encourage a provision that would allow a commissioner to vote to “pass” a quarterly report on to the auditor with comment but not "approve" the report. This would allow a commissioner who has serious reservations about expenditures to square his/her conscience with the need to submit reports.

The Federation looks forward to the opportunity to support ANCs through development of alternative training materials, including training video- tapes, and through "linkages" between stronger ANCs and weaker ones, supported by active citizens organizations.

We encourage Council to make available centralized funding for a universal web site for ANCs (and community organizations) that would have the current DCMR and APA, Zoning Commission and BZA schedules and notices, ABC hearing schedules and rulings, Council agendas and legislative proposals. The "library" of corporation counsel opinions could be posted here for everyone's use in an efficient manner. This would be wonderfully supportive for everyone. Though some ANCs do not have their own computer access, libraries and public schools can support those ANCs' activities.

A coordinating office for ANC activities can support this kind of information resource, but the amount of staff needed would be minimized if universal materials were readily available.

At our forum there was surprisingly broad support for limiting or capping the amount of grantmaking by ANCs; especially with the limited amount of money available, putting a dollar cap on grants (or, for a time, eliminating them altogether) was not seen as seriously problematic.

As to carryovers, however, there was sharp caution. Many ANCs have been prudent in setting aside monies they know will be needed for future critical causes (an ANC that knows it will face approval of a campus plan was a pointed example). The inability of an ANC to purchase professional services essential to rebut developers' proposals with current allocations, it was argued, would make it impossible to represent community concerns if carryovers were disavowed.

An unanticipated but worthy issue was raised by an ANC on which a person with disabilities serves. The funding that is necessary for reasonable accommodation for someone who meets the criteria of the Americans with Disabilities Act should come from a centralized source, not from an individual ANC's allocation.

This would seem to eliminate any penalizing, of the ANC involved, and it would be the best way to remove any impediments to handicapped persons serving their communities on ANCs.

And last, the Corporation Counsel voiced surprise at the degree to which it was reported that administrative agencies were NOT giving “great weight” to the views of ANCs.

We encourage the Committee to probe the potential for improving the effectiveness of ANCs before administrative agencies, as the Federation surely will.

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What's a Comprehensive Plan and why should residents care about it?

Actually, the most important single document for planning in the District of Columbia is the Comprehensive Plan, called for and given stature by the Home Rule Act.

Because this planning process was included in the core legislation establishing the federal "constitution" for the District, it carries great weight in judicial and legislative processes.

The Act requires the Mayor to establish procedures for citizen participation in the planning process and for appropriate "meaningful consultation" with any state or government or planning agency affected by any aspect of a comprehensive plan.

The plan is to include land use elements, urban renewal and redevelopment elements, a multiyear program of municipal public works and physical, social, economic, transportation, and population elements [exclusive of Federal properties].

The Home Rule Act lays out the process for enactment of the Plan, including approval by City Council and by the National Capital Planning Commission.

We are currently near the end of the quadrennial cycle of amendments to the Comprehensive Plan. Council plans to adopt the amendments that have been developed over the past two years by December 15.

The Federation has asked Council to defer adopting any policy changes in the Comprehensive Plan until the new Mayor and new Council can have input on them.

Moreover, the plethora of changes that have been recommended or adopted through parallel processes (the regulatory reform proposals of the Control Board, the economic development plans of DCHD) need to be incorporated into any land-use policies for the District.

The Mayor is free, under the Home Rule Act, to submit "Comp Plan" amendments at any time during the quadrennial cycle, so the delay we recommend will penalize no one.

Our position has been endorsed by the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, by the Mayor-elect, and by individual Council members, including those newly elected.

We encourage Federation members to communicate to their Ward Councilman and to the At-Large members to support this postponement.

Critical to understanding the impact of the comprehensive plan is that the zoning regulations must be consistent with the Plan. Policy changes in innocuous-sounding Comp Plan amendments can lead to very concrete change in zoning in your backyard.

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Dues are due

Federation associations are encouraged to have their treasurers forward $60 dues checks to Federation Treasurer Gracie Baten at 7624 13th Street NW (20012). Please also make sure that any changes to your delegate lists are included. Also make sure that the Federation receives your newsletter or knows about your web site (use 1642 Thirty-fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007-2334).

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Officers and Board

Patrick Allen, Citizens Association of Georgetown, 337-8760
Gracie Baten, Shepherd Park Citizens Association, 882-6162
John Batham, West End Citizens Association, 628-3527
Allen Beach, Chevy Chase Citizens Association, 362-2239
Larry Chatman, 16th Street Heights, 291-7381
Dino Joseph Drudi, Michigan Park Citizens Association, 526-0891
Kay Eckles, Residential Action Coalition, 265-5961
Guy Gwynne, Burleith Citizens Association, 338-5164
M. R. Peggy Snyder, Chancery Court, 338-1972
Miles Steele III, Hillcrest Community Citizens Association, 582-7832
Kathy Sternberg, Kalorama Citizens Association, 328-4806
Alice Stewart, Palisades Citizens Association, 364-1505
Marc Weiss, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, 535-1970
Al Wheeler, Oldest Inhabitants of DC, 337-00340
Barbara Zartman, Cloisters in Georgetown, 337-6505

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President’s Message — Barbara Zartman

As this newsletter goes to the printer, the District is experiencing a real bloom of hope about the future of local government. The election of a new Mayor - one with real talents - one who is NOT Marion Barry - is tapping into the very considerable resource of talent that District residents possess.

There is eagerness about helping make this new government work. Eagerness to sign on for particular duties that can contribute to its success.

As one who has been part of such transitions — and who has witnessed the incredible management task that transitions represent — I urge our friends to be patient, to expect less that perfectly choreographed changes at every turn, to refrain from criticizing things that may not be exactly what we want, but that meet an overall goal that we can support

As a Federation, we have struggled to keep up with the massive number of changes that the last months have presented: budget debates with the Hill, regulatory reform proposals (with very short timelines) from the Control Board, threats to the ANC system. massive zoning changes through community-based residential facility proposals, the economic summit development process, the comprehensive plan amendment process — and an energetic election season!

So too will the new administration need to manage the consequences of all these changes, the replacement of leadership staff, the establishment of key policy decisions, the equipping of transition offices — and the input of the thousands of District residents who truly care, who clearly want to make a difference. (And maybe just a few folks whose motives are less lofty.)

As channels of communication become clear, we will pin our member associations and the civic action community to provide the new administration with the clearest information we can offer. I hope we can consistently be more ready to offer constructive proposals before criticism, though criticism constructively offered is an important part of what we do.

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The Economic Summit’s Recommendations: What do they mean for the District's residents?

Under the direction of the Control Board, the Department of Housing and Community Development recently unveiled an economic development plan for the District of Columbia.

Called "The Economic Resurgence of Washington, DC," the report recaps a number of positive changes in the area's socioeconomic health and focuses on the need to bring more of this progress to the city that is at the heart of the regional economy.

It proposes to achieve this through forty specific action recommendations, recapped here. Implementation of these actions is to be energized through six "1ndustry Networks" where job growth is most likely to occur:

  • Business/Professional/Financial/Association Services
  • Hospitality/Entertainment/Tourism/Specialty Retail
  • Universities/Educational/Research Institutions
  • Biomedical Research/Health Services
  • Media/Publications
  • Information Technology/Telecommunications.

Participation in these ongoing networks is open to everyone who wants to contribute, and contact information is available through DHCD at 535-1970, where you can also request a copy of the 55-page report. [The report is also available on-line.]

Contact information was also printed in the September Federation News.

Action Recommendations:

  1. Reduce taxes to encourage business use of new technology.
  2. Create a hospitality industry plan for the entire city.
  3. Involve universities in supporting economic development.
  4. Streamline health care industry regulations.
  5. Launch a media campaign to improve the city s image.
  6. Establish a technology council to attract and expand firms.
  7. Expand the marketing center to retain and attract firms.
  8. Implement reforms in Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
  9. Provide targeted incentives to grow firms and expand jobs.
  10. Assist local firms in obtaining federal and private contracts.
  11. Increase capital availability for community based businesses.
  12. Promote metropolitan cooperation for mutual economic benefit.
  13. Strengthen economic partnership with the Federal government.
  14. Establish the Workforce Investment Board as a clearinghouse.
  15. Expand the role of the University of the District of Columbia.
  16. Support public "school-to-career" programs and charter schools.
  17. Connect Washington DC residents to metropolitan jobs.
  18. Promote homeownership with employers, churches, and schools.
  19. Increase downtown housing and mixed-use retail, services, and arts.
  20. Support and develop neighborhood arts, culture, and tourism.
  21. Demolish and redevelop blighted properties.
  22. Enhance community safety by impounding cars used in crime.
  23. Attract retail investment downtown in the F Street corridor.
  24. Use relocation of employment services to enhance development.
  25. Create parking facilities for tour buses.
  26. Develop NoMa. [North of Massachusetts Avenue] as a technology, media, housing, and arts district.
  27. Focus business activity near neighborhood Metro stations.
  28. Create business improvement districts for neighborhoods.
  29. Build a Metro station at New York Avenue to spur development
  30. Have federal incentives cover every neighborhood in the city.
  31. Use Navy Yard expansion to generate local business and jobs.
  32. Rebuild east of the river with major stores and homeownership.
  33. Invest in Georgia Avenue to grow jobs and improve communities.
  34. Use the empowerment zone to increase community investment.
  35. Increase support for community development organizations.
  36. Clean up and redevelop hazardous ' brownfield sites.
  37. Provide administrative management and leadership.
  38. Implement the citywide economic development corporation.
  39. Improve budget coordination and regulatory streamlining.
  40. Establish ongoing monitoring to implement the 40 key actions.

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Preservation of the best of our past: A summit conference leads to action plan for for D.C.’s treasures

The D. C. Preservation League has just released an action plan for strengthening preservation enforcement in the District of Columbia as part of a coalition of neighborhood and area-wide organizations.

The District supports 37 historic districts, containing 22,439 buildings, and some 557 individually designated landmarks.

Some of these properties are nationally recognize-d places that enrich this nation's capital. Many, many others, however, are living parts of our communities, treasure- d for the reminders they daily present of these who have shape-d our neighborhoods.

The District mandates the protection of these places through strong local legislation enacted in 1978, which built upon Federal preservation legislation, and which has been supported by strong language in the District's Comprehensive Plan. As with so many other areas of District government, enforcement has been the Achilles heel in achieving this goal.

The action plan grew out of a popular conference held by the same coalition last June, which identified a number of on-going problems for historic preservation in the District:

  • a lack of understanding at the highest levels of elected and appointed government of the value of historic preservation,
  • a lack of budget and staff resources for enforcement, insufficient training of building inspectors about the value of preservation,
  • the phenomenon of "demolition by neglect."
“New York City has the toughest [preservation] enforcement law [in the United States]. Part of its strength come from the predictable, even-handed, fair, and timely manner in which] it is administered.
Jennifer Raab, Chairman The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission June 4, 1998 at the Coalition's conference.

The plan outlines short-, medium-, and long-term actions for the Council, the Mayor, and the community to reverse these patterns.

These include legislation to prohibit demolition by neglect, cross-training for enforcement and inspection personnel, an enhanced penalty system for violators enhances property management standards for all owners.

Many of the operational improvements recommended for historic preservation are the same as the improvements called for in the regulatory reform proposals adopted over the past year by the Council and by the Control Board for all parts of local government:

  • expanded use of automation, software, and other computer tools,
  • reinvesting some of the revenue generated by fees and fines in the department or agency responsible for their imposition, and
  • cross-training of staff so agency personnel understand the activities of other departments or agencies.

The Federation has been asked to become part of this Coalition for Greater Preservation Enforcement. The proposal will be considered at the November Assembly meeting.

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Holiday Luncheon

The Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia requests the pleasure of your company
Friday, December 11, at twelve o'clock

Guy Gwynne
Diplomatic and Consular Officers (Rtd.) Club
1801 F Street, N. W.
$15 per person

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Federation meeting dates for balance of year:

January 26
February 23
March 23
April banquet
May 26
June 22

All at The Sumner School. All at 7:00 p.m.

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