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Volume 4, Issue 7, April 1999
1642 Thirty-fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20007-2334
(202) 337-6505, phone; (202) 337-6504, fax
Where do they fit into the economic development puzzle?
Housing or more industry downtown?
Before neighborhoods, housing?
March madness. . .
Delegates testify for DCRA funding
Great weight and the ANCs
Officers and Board
Presidents Message: Barbara Zartman
Sidewalk Cafe Task Force: Good work, poor outcome
New residency requirements proposed for candidates
Key contact numbers for DCRA agencies, new location
Keeping some of the profits
Tuesday, April 27
Federation Assembly Meeting
Business Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Residential Neighborhoods: Where do they fit into the economic development puzzle?
With the District's budget in balance, great attention is being focused on what must be done to keep the local economy growing, so that resources will be available to support a reformed government and an improved quality of life for District residents.
The Federation has sought a greater role for neighborhoods in the debate about economic development in the District. Too often, discussion is limited to commercial activity, or even more narrowly, land developers and the professions that support them.
Missing from such a narrow focus is the understanding that District residents provide the largest share of revenues to fund local government.
Personal income taxes arid personal property taxes, to say nothing of the residents' share of sales taxes and utility taxes, are a greater source of revenues than is produced by commercial activity.
When policies are set or plans designed for the economic future of the District, we believe the policies that affect residents for good or ill need the strongest possible consideration.
This is not to say, by any means, that residential communities are opposed to policies that promote commercial development. Far from it.
Many Federation member organizations have sought enhanced business operations in their communities, from sit-down restaurants to grocery stores to family-related service businesses.
Moreover, most citizens enthusiastically welcome new entities that will contribute tax revenues to local government, happy to share the burden with new enterprises in the District
However, not every commercial expansion represents a net gain for the District's economy.
Other examples readily come to mind for those organizations whose communities need business expansion and those who have had a surfeit.
The Federation is working to assure that this period of economic expansion will finally see the interest in strong communities provide residents with a seat at the table and a strong voice in advocacy.
Beth Solomon and the Shaw Coalition have continued their efforts to preserve housing in the Mt. Vernon East residential area, where housing is 'planned zoned, and ardently desired." The Department of Housing and ( Community Development had apparently independently decided to locate a tour-bus marshaling yard at 5th and K Streets NW, killing any chance for housing on this site.
Working with the Committee of 100 on the Federal City and with the local ANC the Shaw Coalition met with Deputy Chief of Staff Sandy McCall, who along with Deputy Mayor Doug Patton agreed to delay the bus marshaling yard proposal until the full impact could be considered, including alternative sites that are zoned for this kind of industrial use. Stay tuned.
The institutions that create housing in the District as represented by the D.C. Building Industry Association and the Apartment and Office Building Association have held on-going meetings to consider what is necessary to produce or rehabilitate housing in the city.
The Housing Committee of BIA convened a forum to consider housing policy for Washington, which produced consensus on the following items.
The forum, which was sponsored by Fannie Mae, included among its panelists: Dr. Stephen Fuller, public policy professor at George Mason University; Margery Turner, director of the Metropolitan Housing center at The Urban Institute; James Banks, chair of the Anacostia/Congress Heights Partnership; and Anthony Downs, senior fellow in economic studies at The Brookings Institution.
This shift would include such developments as the provision of tax incentives for investment in order to ease the transfer of government-owned abandoned properties to groups that can rehabilitate them, plus the streamlining of the construction inspection process.
The leaders of the housing forum concluded that this useful "laundry list" of ideas needing to be incorporated into a housing policy for Washington, but that actually creating that coherent policy will be a formidable task. Nonetheless, it was felt that the goal was so worthwhile that the Building Industry Association declared its intent to continue working with other organizations and government officials toward such a policy.
This article was abstracted from one that appeared in D. C. Agenda's Update, and it is used with permission.
The Federation welcomes reaction from its members to the proposed policies.
Federation members are forgiven if they feel they have spent the month of March in a parallel universe. You didn't get the newsletter that was written, printed, and mailed The Postal Service apparently decided, for the first time, that the format was "outsized" and required additional postage. But rather than contact us, they baled up the 200 copies and s l o w I y sent them back. Making them totally useless for our meeting, or for the budget hearings. We are seeking at least repayment of our costs.
Nonetheless, the March program scheduled for the Sumner School had its speaker, Councilmember Carol Schwartz, and a goodly number of delegates ready to proceed. The normally very efficient Sumner School had transposed us to Wednesday night, and the entire building was otherwise fully occupied when we arrived. Carol Schwartz graciously agreed to come and speak at a future meeting, and the arriving delegates were greeted curbside with smiles and apologies.
At the City Council budget hearings on April 7, Federation delegates and officers provided strong voices, and very effective testimony, in support of greater resources for enforcement of DCRA regulations.
Organized by Vice President Guy Gwynne, more than a dozen speakers offered thoughtful analyses of ways in which better enforcement could provide far greater quality of life for District residents and enhanced property values to benefit the city's economic future.
Lois Forster of Cleveland Park spoke of her research into illegal apartments being listed on sales documents and the willingness of the private insurance market to work with District government toward legal, safe, insured property use.
Recommendations included detailed analyses of staffing and funding required to implement current enforcement provisions, which need to be funded for the coming year.
Thanks to Glover Park, to Southwest Neighbors, to Burleith, to Foxhall, to Hillcrest, to Michigan Park, among others, who provided first-rate testimony.
One of the great frustrations for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions has been the way in which "great weight" has NOT been given to their testimony at public hearings. At last fall's Federation Assembly, Corporation Counsel John Ferren expressed his amazement that agencies so regularly dismissed the concerns raised by ANCs. It troubled him particularly since he had written the original court opinion outlining how agencies should respond to ANC concerns.
In one of' his last contributions as Corporation Counsel, fudge Ferren has offered a summary memorandum for District government, outlining how agencies are to handle input from ANCs:
When presented with formal decisions of ANCs, made al properly called meetings and in response to publicly noticed decision making hearings of official District bodies, the views of ANCs must be discussed in the written rationale for the government decision taken, including explicit reference to each ANC issue and concern, as well as specific findings and conclusions with respect to each.
Chairman David Catania of the Local and Regional Affairs Committee has indicated his desire to sponsor legislation that will bring the standard of regard to ANC positions to a still higher level, one that will require government agencies to offer a preponderance or evidence as to why it could not do what the ANC requests.
Kudos to both Judge Ferren and Chairman Catania.
Patrick Allen, Citizens Association of Georgetown, 337-8760
Presidents Message: Barbara Zartman
The Federation is continuing its focus on the work of City Council, especially its oversight of D.C. agencies on which residential communities are so dependent.
In February we saw a very impressive performance by Sharon Ambrose, Chair of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The wide-ranging discussion showed areas of her concern, and she clearly understood our message of enforcement as a budget priority. In fact, she indicated her intent to make sure that the enforcement function did not "starve" in the budget process.
Best efforts to continue this dialogue with Public Works Chair Carol Schwartz will have to wait another day, but this month we continue with the talented committee clerk supporting Chairman Charlene Drew Jarvis in Economic Development.
Various items in this newsletter focus on ways in which citizens and government and business interests need to balance their sometimes competing interests. Our future in the District is a shared one; it needs to be approached with understanding and respect.
With regard to the annual banquet, we had hoped to be able to include the speaker's name in this newsletter (in fact, you will receive this later than I wish because of our effort to include that information).
At the banquet, it is the Federation's practice to recognize institutions and individuals that have made particular impact on the quality of life for residents of the District. We are now finalizing the awardees, but it you have a very special nominee in mind, please contact one of the Board members with a description of your candidate and the "case" for special recognition. You can also fax items to me at 337-6504, or e-mail them to email@example.com
I look forward to honoring wonderful District citizens and groups.
Sidewalk Cafe Task Force: Good work, poor outcome
For nearly a year, a DPW task force of citizens and bar/restaurant operators met until 1997 to consider how new regulations governing sidewalk cafes in public space could be better regulated.
The experience may be illustrative of what happens when push comes to shove, and a conflict of interests preclude compromise.
The citizen members agreed to support better administrative processes for granting cafe licenses and public space permits, but they asked that some ceiling be placed on the number of cafes that could locate on a single block, and that there be a limit on the hours of operation when a cafe was adjacent to a residential neighborhood
Public space, which "rents" for $2.50 a square foot for the entire mild weather season, is a great asset for commercial operations. In many cases, it expands the size of a restaurant operation to double its size or more.
The task force found that the majority of sidewalk cafes did not apply for permits, nor pay any rent at all. Few met the established requirements regarding clearance space, impeding public thoroughfares, and the like.
The majority simply placed chairs and tables on sidewalk areas and began operating.
This was one more instance of inadequate inspection and enforcement, even when city revenues would be generated by expanded operations.
The particular recommendations in the final Sidewalk Cafe Task Force report draft included the following provisions, which have subsequently been adopted by several Advisory Neighborhood Commissions:
Even a citizens' proposal to allow unlimited sidewalk cafe utilization in the downtown business area, 24 hours a day if desired, could not create a counterbalancing provision for limited operations in residential areas. The experiment in taught many lessons, if not success.
Legislation was introduced last month by Councilmember Phil Mendelson to change the residency requirement for candidates seeking ward seats on the Board of Education, requiring that candidates must have lived in the ward for a year before seeking office. This would make the standard equal to that required for ward seats on City Council.
The legislation, Bill 13-142, the Elections Amendment Act of 1999, has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations.
Some are seeking to amend the bill to require the same period of residency for ANC elections.
Key contact numbers for DCRA agencies, new location
New Numbers: DCRA is now in its new quarters at 941 North Capitol Street; new phone numbers for key bureaus are: 442-4600 for Housing Regulation and Inspection, 442-4455 for Building and Land Regulation, and 442-4445 for Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.
Neighborhood Stabilization Officers: DCRA has now assigned inspectors by geographic area, rather than sending all inspectors to any part of the District, as calls come in. The goal is to have inspectors become familiar with local communities and provide better follow-through on problem properties. Calling the Housing Inspection folks at 442-6000 to find out who is assigned to your community.
Carol Schwartz has again introduced legislation that would reward agencies that generate additional revenues.
Many District agencies with high impact on community stability can and do generate revenues in excess of their operating budgets.
Under Schwartz's Bill (13-40), the "Fee Collection Incentive Act" of 1999, an experimental period would be established during which the agencies could retain a percentage of any increase in generated revenues.
Testimony at a recent Council hearing elicited recommendations that the percentage to be retained be a substantial amount, as much as 15 or 20 percent, in order to justify special efforts the agency might undertake.
It was also recommended that the experimental period be longer than two years, in order to be able to see the impact of changed policies and procedures.
Last year the Council passed a similar bill, but it was rejected by the Control Board.
Since the additional revenues are the equivalent of "found money" for the District government, providing incentives for agency managers to see that fines are levied and fees paid properly.
As is noted in the discussion of sidewalk cafes, the District currently collects very little of the admittedly low "rents" for public space.
If agency personnel knew that "rental payments" would produce resources for better equipment, training, and systems, it might be that more would be collected.
Yes, adequate funding should be provided through the regular budgeting process, but this approach to motivating compliance could recoup monies the District is due anyway, and monies that do not have to come from the taxpaying public.
The Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia
requests the pleasure of your company at its 79th Annual Awards Banquet
on Monday, May 24, at 6:30 oclock at the Fort McNair Officers Club