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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 4, Issue 9, June 1999
1642 Thirty-fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20007-2334
(202) 337-6505, phone; (202) 337-6504, fax

Mayor Williams to address June Federation Meeting
Nominations for Federation officers and board
Creeping into a neighborhood near you? Apartments — legal and otherwise
Can they do that? Maybe Not. The rules are the rules are the rules
Federation Banquet Honorees
Officers and Board
President’s Message
Better jury experience = better justice?
Send in the grades

Tuesday, June 22
Federation Assembly Meeting
Program at 7:00 p.m. — Sharp!

The Honorable Anthony Williams
Mayor of the District of Columbia

Mayor Williams will recap his first six months in office, and share his plans for strengthening neighborhoods across the District. Bring questions — and suggestions for making your part of Washington better than it has ever been.

Your guests are always welcome.

Business meeting to follow at 8:30

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

Mayor Williams to address June Federation meeting

"As a government, we must do a better job of inviting and encouraging the participation of our neighborhood, business, and civic leaders in our decision making process."

These were Mayor Anthony Williams' words in creating a Neighborhood Advisory Council to assist in understanding and responding to important issues facing the District.

These sentiments have long been advocated by the Federation in its efforts to assure that the residential communities — the strong neighborhoods and those that are under immense pressure — have a seat at the table when decisions are made that impact their lives.

This wild be an opportunity to hear the Mayor's plans for strengthening neighborhoods, and for the future of the District.

We can learn about the functioning of the Neighborhood Advisory Council, how it will interface with the Advisory Neighborhood Commission system, and how it may be able to help link organizations in different parts of the city around issues they have in common.

Take advantage of bringing your organization's concerns to the Mayor's attention and to bring back to your community his plans for the future.]

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Nominations for Federation officers and board

This year's nominating committee is chaired by Gary Smithwick of Chancery Court (342-0078); Harold Gray (9665037) of the Oldest Inhabitants serves with him. At our September meeting, the Committee will suggest nominations, which are then open to floor nominations. Nominees must be duly designated delegates from the member organizations.

Officers are elected sequentially by office: President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The non-officer members of the Executive Board are elected on a common ballot, with the ten highest vote recipients being elected. If two persons who are delegates from the same organization both accept nomination, the highest vote-getter will be elected (regardless of the relative standing of the other delegate from that same organization against other persons on the slate) since each organization may have only one member on the Executive Board.

Bylaws requirements: Each paid member organization is entitled to a maximum of three votes from its designated delegates; designated alternates may cast votes if one or more of the designated delegates is unable to attend. Please have your association president confirm the names of your designated delegates and alternates, using the contact information on page 8.

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Creeping into a neighborhood near you? Apartments — legal and otherwise

At the request of the Cleveland Park Citizen Association, the Federation will join in requests of the corporation counsel to clarify what is, and is not, permissible for apartments contained in single-family houses and single family zones (e.g. zones R- I to R-3) throughout the District.

The proliferation of apartments (variously called in-law suites, au pair suites, rental apartments, maid's quarters, convenience units) raise questions about building code, fire, and safety issues.

These units are commonly are added where transient renter populations rapidly increase, providing new sources of income for absentee owners — and for hard-pressed homeowners.

However, insurance companies can raise objections when nearby homeowners' coverage is issued in the belief that only single-family homes exist in the area.

The Burleith community has for years fought illegal basement apartments, and had the tragic motivation of the death of a Georgetown University medical student who died in a house fire because there was no viable means of access from his (illegal) basement apartment

The Federation is asked to support a request for legal interpretation by the Office of Corporation Counsel about the way in which such apartments are regulated:

What defines a permitted accessory apartment? Does the standard vary with detached or party-wall homes? What are the penalties for creation of a unit that is not legal? Is a building permit required for the installation of such an apartment? Is a Certificate of Occupancy required?

Is there a limit on the number of persons who can live in such a unit?

Based on the Burleith experience, we might also ask: Are there special insurance requirements for such apartments? Does DPW provide "free" recycling and garbage service for these additional units? Are there precedents set by allowing such units that could jeopardize the zoning status of the surrounding neighborhoods?

With the answers to these questions and others that Federation members may suggest, a clearer understanding of District law and regulation may help neighborhoods protect the character of the communities to which they are so deeply committed.

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Can they do that? Maybe not: The are the rules are the rules

So often, our members tell of how someone — some shop, some homeowner — does something that seems to change the character of a street — or they express their frustration about the inability to clean up sloppy or ugly storefronts near residential areas. Help may exist in regulations that too few organizations are aware of.

The Georgetown Residents Alliance is producing guidebooks for enforcing regulations on the use of public space, the construction of signage, and the operation of amusement activities that may impact on neighborhood quality of life.

With thanks to them, and an with understanding that the recap of regulations is being reviewed by city agencies for any changes produced through the regulatory reforms adopted last year, here are highlights that may help you control troublesome activities.


People cannot just erect signs wherever they wish. Some things are mandated:

Permits: A permit is needed anytime a sign larger than 1 square foot is made part of a building, painted, repainted, placed, replaced, made to flash, or maintained. Any lighted sign also requires a separate electrical installation permit.

Display of permits: All signs must contain the permit number and date of issuance in letters at least 1 inch tall.

Some signs are categorically prohibited:

Prohibited is the tacking, painting, pasting, or otherwise affixing signs or posters of miscellaneous character that are visible from a street or public way on the walls of buildings, sheds, fences or other structures.

In residential areas, nameplates or name-and-occupation signs larger than 1 square foot.

Some signs are allowed with limitations:

Size: The aggregate area of all signs advertising any one business or premises can't exceed 25 square feet. This includes any lettering on show windows.

Illumination: Only freestanding, backlighted signs with opaque letters, illuminated by steady light, having no exposed sources of sign illumination.

Awnings: Signs may appear only on the valance of awnings, and letters may not exceed 12 inches in height.

Projecting signs: None may exceed 42 inches from the building line.

Copy: Must be limited to the address or name of establishment, or both, and the type of business conducted.

Real estate signs: Maximum of 6 square feet.

Vacated Businesses: Maximum of 6 square feet with the new address for no more than 60 days.

Show cards: In show windows, a maximum of two, no larger than 14 x 22 inches, for no more than 30 days.

Parking: Signs a maximum of 6 square feet in area indicating the location of parking facilities for patrons.

Temporary decorations: With a permit, decorations on fronts of buildings (with included greetings, symbols, etc.) for no more than 40 days.

Street decorations: Requiring a special permit, must have no reference to commercial business or products, and must be substantially related to an event or seasonal festivity of a civic or religious nature, not occurring more than once a year.

Nonprofit organizations: Each school, college, hotel, philanthropic institution, nonprofit agency, church, etc., shall be limited to a maximum total area of 40 square feet.

Church bulletins: Maximum size of 20 square feet in area for each church; may be placed in public parking upon recommendation of the Public Space Committee.

Clearance for passage: No sign may be placed with less than 8 feet of clearance above a public walkway or 14 feet above a public roadway.


Public benefit: Use of public space is a privilege, not a right, and must be balanced with public safety and the need to maintain pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Some things are mandated:

Permits: A permit is needed anytime someone seeks to use public space for any purposes; rental fees may or may not need to be paid Permits must be conspicuously displayed on any structure or stand in public space, showing the full name of the owner.

Clearances: A clear unobstructed passageway not less than 10 feet wide* must be maintained at all times entirely across the frontage of the property, parallel to the line of the street. It must be marked with painted white lines not less than 4 inches wide or other markings.

Some things are categorically prohibited:

Sound control: No amplification of production by mechanical means of any music in public space; no music after 12 midnight (or earlier if specified on the permit); no more than three musicians playing stringed instruments or one musician playing the accordion; no music that disturbs the peace or quiet of the neighborhood or the comfort or repose of any inhabitant of the neighborhood.

Transferability: Public space permits may not be transferred among owners.

Excavations: Without a permit, no one may make an excavation in public space, nor remove from or deposit any earth or other material.

Fences and trees: Without a permit, no one shall erect a fence or wall or plant a tree in any public street, avenue, or other public space.

Gates and fences: May not swing out onto any sidewalk, avenue, street, or road.

Some uses are allowed with limitations:

Sidewalk cafes: Permits can only be issued to space adjacent to restaurant use (or if a variance is granted). Abutting property owners must approve the application; the ANC must be afforded the opportunity to comment; the property must be placarded at each street frontage.

There must be maintained a 10-foot clear walkspace, as measured from the farthest projection of the cafe to the curb line or nearest obstruction, whichever is nearest to the cafe (trees, streetlights, sign poles, fire hydrants, etc. are obstructions); at corners, this shall include a 10-foot clear radial space to the corner. No cafe may be within 15 feet of a bus stop, bus shelter, or Metrorail entrance.

No food may be consumed on public space unless table service is provided by a waiter or waitress or unless an attendant is assigned to the area for maintenance purposes during all times the area is occupied by patrons.

All water pitchers, coffee pots, utensils, condiments, containers shall be protected from contamination; presetting of tables shall not be permitted unless the silverware is protected from contamination; outdoor seating shall be counted in satisfying restroom requirements; no structure or enclosure to accommodate the storage of garbage shall be erected, maintained, or placed adjacent to a sidewalk cafe. The height of a railing, fence or planted (including vegetation) shall not be higher than 36 inches.

Enclosed sidewalk cafes: Cafes may be enclosed only during the period from October 15 to May 15; they may not project more than 20 feet from the building line nor occupy more than 60% of available surface space. All structural material must be easily demountable and capable of being removed within 24 hours, without damage to the sidewalk or public space. A separate building permit is required for enclosed sidewalk cafes.

When the combined occupancies of the enclosed sidewalk cafe and adjacent restaurant exceed 75 persons, two exits shall be provided from the enclosed cafe, one of which shall open directly from the sidewalk, alley, or public space abutting the enclosed cafe and one of which may open into the abutting restaurant.

Hours of vending: With permit, commodities may be sold on public space from April through September from 4:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and from October through March from 5:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; on Saturdays until 11:30 p.m. and never on Sundays.

Storage on public streets: Goods and merchandise cannot be left on public space for longer than two hours, during which time there must be maintained a 10-foot-wide passageway on business streets (6 feet for residence streets).

Other public space limitations:

Construction: With a permit, persons engaged in alteration, demolition, or repair of any building may occupy the public space with building materials and appliances; however, building materials must be stored on private property until needed at the site.

Limits to construction use: The maximum area to be occupied shall not extend beyond 7 feet from the curb (or half the distance from curb to any rail in the road, whichever is greater). At corners, material may not be stacked higher than 4 feet. A clear 6-foot passageway must be maintained at all times for pedestrians.

Warning lights: When a roadway or sidewalk is used to store materials, a red light shall be placed and lighted at night to warn the public of the obstruction of the roadway and sidewalk, distinctly showing the clear passageway around the obstruction.


This term means more than circuses and carnivals; it can include performances, singing, playing of musical instruments, dancing, preaching, exhorting or lecturing. The provisions do not apply to lawn parties on private premises where no admission fee is charged and where music is produced only by stringed instruments.

The owner or operator or manager in charge of any of the permitted activities has to obtain a license from DCRA or a permit from the Chief of Police for those activates that do not require a permit.

Duration: No amusement ... or dancing shall be conducted for a total of more than ten days at a single location (the days do not have to be consecutive). If preaching, exhorting, or lecturing, the duration should not exceed 30 days.

Location: None of these activities shall be conducted within 500 feet of a college, university, or public/private/parochial school during the hours that any class is in session.

Timing: None of these activities shall be conducted after 11:3() p.m., nor on Sundays (except between the hours of 1 to 11 pm); preaching and lecturing may also be conducted between 9 and 11 am on Sundays.

Consent: No later than ten days before the activity is to commence, the owner/operator has to provide DCRA with petitions or lists showing the written consent of 90% of the resident housekeepers and business occupants within a 500-foot perimeter of the site of the activities (as shown in a Surveyor's plat).

Enforcement: These lists are subject to investigation by the Police Department; a single improper signature invalidates the petition.

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Federation Banquet Honorees

DC Watch / Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill

Harnessing the fledgling resource of the Internet for community betterment, Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff have created the widely admired "hub" for exchange of information among citizen activists. Citizens of all persuasions can access up-to- date information on all aspects of governmental operations (well, all that exists, anyway), and can link to organizations and associations, editorialists, news forums, and other informational resources. Their example has stimulated other websites for the rapid exchange of important assets, allowing more informed efforts in support of community. Barbara Zartman, presenter

Ellington School / Okpara Nosakhere (Principal) and Mike Malone (Artistic Director and cofounder)

The Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts is cited for its remarkable achievement in furthering appreciation of — and participation in — music, theater, dance, and the other artistic endeavors that enrich our lives. On the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of its namesake, Duke Ellington, the School continues its devotion to excellence, involving not just its students, families, faculty, and alumni in its activities, but reaching beyond to the community through the Ellington Fund to create original programs to enhance the always-tight public funding available for this exceptional program of study. Peter Pulsifer, presenter

The Levine School of Music / Anne Evans, Board chair

The Levine School of Music is recognized for its extensive and successful outreach program and for the variety of educational and musical programs it provides for the enrichment and pleasure of the citizens of the metropolitan area. It is cited as a tax-exempt organization that actively seeks ways to give back to the community, including extensive scholarship programs that make continuing music education to all parts of our community. Alice Stewart, presenter

Marshall Heights / Loretta Tate, founder

For more than twenty years, the handiwork of Loretta Tate has been paying dividends for the people of the northeast/southeast communities. Networking to build a strong organizational structure, the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization was incorporated and began taking on tasks large and small, from sidewalks and street repair to the lack of affordable housing and economic development. Charting their way through the qualification, application, and competition process, they have brought physical and financial resources to complement the human resources of strong communities. To founder Loretta Tate goes special recognition for her unique leadership role. Rhoma Battle/Laura Richards , presenters

David Catania's ANC rescue program

Chair of the Council's Local and Regional Affairs Committee is cited for his work in "rescuing" the Advisory Neighborhood Commission system. His work is widely admired for its thoroughness, its practicality, its nonjudgmentalism, and the way it has brought together commissioners from all across the city, equipping them with the training and resources necessary to begin a strengthened role in supporting all communities at a time of rapid change in local government. Guy Gwynne, presenter

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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 MessageBarbara Zartman

Over the summer, the Federation's Nominating Committee will be preparing a slate of nominees for Officer and Executive Board members. All positions are open, since all are elected to one-year terms. Moreover, I and the other Officers who have served for three years have reached the Constitutional limit on our continued service in those offices.

I encourage all Federation members — old and new — to think about their most talented members for service with the Federation. These challenging times call for us to seize each opportunity that is presented to us. These times of promise mean the effort carries a higher likelihood of fruitful results for our efforts.

To all who have served over the three years I have been privileged to be your President, I can only begin to express my gratitude for your talent, your creativity, your energy — and your patience. Though frustrations always come with the territory, your efforts have helped produce a Federation that is stronger, smarter, and more relevant than when we began. You should take pride in what has been accomplished.

Above are the persons and institutions that were honored at the Federation's Annual Banquet last month at Fort McNair. It was a fine evening of celebration of some of those who work to make the city the wonderful place we love to call home. Their awards were richly deserved.

I thank you. too, for all you have done, and for what you have given me the opportunity to do. It's an experience I could not have anticipated, and one I would not have missed for the world.

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Better jury experience = better justice?

The Federation has been asked to pin in co-sponsorship of the 1999 Juror Forum with the Council for Court Excellence.

Each year 70,000 District citizens serve on jury duty in the Federal and local courts; obviously, their work affects the lives of the persons on trial. But their service also impacts their own lives, the lives of those with whom they share stories about that experience, and the ability of each of us to receive justice before the law in the District.

The Forum is not one intended to tell potential jurors about service. Rather, it is an opportunity for those who have served on juries to tell members of the judiciary and court officials what was meaningful about jury duty and what was problematic.

Cosponsorship of the 1999 Forum brings no financial obligation to the Federation; our role would be to inform and be informed and to encourage participation in the 1999 Forum as it is planned.

More information can be obtained on-line at: or by phone (785-5917) or fax (7855922). Copies of the report of the summary Report published last year will be available at the June meeting.

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Send in the Grades

One of our members has suggested keeping a "book" on the construction companies that work, especially on large projects, throughout the District. Which firms obey the rules about early morning or late night construction work? Which insist on working on Sundays?

The objective is to keep track of the level of cooperation and community awareness of the major companies, so that when new projects are proposed that require approval from ANCs or community organizations, special stipulations can be included about specific performance requirements.

Anyone want to begin the process?

See you in September!

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