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Knee-jerk liquor license opposition undercuts credibility

If a sidewalk cafe is open late at night but nobody is around to object, does it make a sound? And should the local ANC just fight the plan anyway on the assumption that someone must mind?


Image from Google Street View.

Lydia DePillis reports a particularly contentious liquor license debate from last week's Dupont Circle ANC meeting. P.J. Clarke's wants to open a sidewalk cafe at 16th and K, a corner that's very devoid of street-level activity despite heavy foot and car traffic along two major streets just blocks from the White House.

In most of the neighborhood, alcohol-serving establishments are subject to "voluntary agreements" (VAs) contracts negotiated between neighbors and/or the ANC and the establishments themselves. On 17th Street, for example, where there are many residents across the street from restaurants, the VAs require closing the outdoor areas at 11 pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

Commissioner Victor Wexler, whose district includes the area, and Commissioners Jack Jacobson and Will Stephens supported letting Clarke's get its liquor license without restrictions. However, Commissioners Ramon Estrada, Phil Carney, Bhavna Patel and Bob Meehan successfully pushed for a motion protesting the application until a VA can be negotiated. Mike Feldstein abstained and Mike Silverstein recused himself as he is a member of the ABC Board, which reviews VAs and liquor license applications.

VAs are a useful tool for neighborhoods to balance the needs of residents to sleep against the value of having thriving bars and restaurants for residents to patronize. I generally support the use of VAs. However, in this case, the ANC chose to push for a VA out of what seemed more like knee-jerk opposition than reasoned needs.

In particular, there are no residents on this corner and very few anywhere nearby. According to DePillis, Carney (whose district I live in) argued that the hotel patrons across the street need quiet too, but Will Stephens, whose district encompasses the commercial area on 18th Street between S and U, suggested that the hotel patrons might also want a place to eat and drink late at night after a late flight or a long day of meetings.

In fact, one adjacent hotel told Wexler that they actually have soundproof windows because of the existing volume of emergency vehicles on both 16th and K. No hotel asked the ANC to oppose the liquor license application.

The Dupont Current's Katie Pearce wrote recently (enormous PDF) about a shift on the ABC Board under new Chairman Charles Brodsky. Previously, the Board would acecpt and enforce virtually any VA. Now, it seems to be taking a skeptical view of all VAs.

Perhaps some VAs were too restrictive in the past. In some cases, small groups of residents pushed for strict restrictions and restaurant owners felt blackmailed into accepting them. However, many other VAs are entirely appropriate, as the law's one-size-fits-all rules allowing establishments to stay open until 3 am on weekends may be right for some areas but not for others.

When an ANC takes a knee-jerk position against a liquor license with no adjacent residents and no opposition from the adjacent hotels, it potentially weakens the case for VAs more broadly. The Dupont ANC would have more credibility with the ABC Board if it pushed for reasonable restrictions but restrained itself in other cases.

Even the Dupont Circle Conservancy, the neighborhood's historic preservation organization, supported the cafe, which will take up some of the green space along 16th. Some have argued that this green space is "historic," though the official description of the 16th Street Historic District doesn't list the green space as a contributing element. (Disclosure: I am a member of the Conservancy but did not vote on the resolution concerning this property as I had missed the initial presentation by the applicant.)

The Conservancy split the difference to some extent, supporting the cafe as long as it left a substantial green buffer and emphasizing that it didn't want this to set a precedent for every other establishment adjacent to 16th to get a cafe. (Personally, I wouldn't mind if other cafes appeared as well.)

As I wrote in the past, the Conservancy has generally eschewed the "allow no change" view of preservation and instead diligently differentiated between what is estimably historic as opposed to just long-standing. Of course, there's always plenty of room for debate about where to draw that line.

The more neighborhood organizations try to truly balance the issues at hand instead of being absolutist for or against anything, the more effective they are. Just look at the ARTS Overlay committee of ANC 2F, which spent months researching the zoning issues along 14th and U Streets and produced an excellent report which has gained substantial acceptance from the Office of Planning and Zoning Commission.

That's a model other groups should emulate. Instead, Dupont's ANC took a small step backward for VAs everywhere and neighborhood group credibility with their fierce defense of nobody at all.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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knee-jerk nimbys or Knimbys for short. OPPOSE OPPOSE OPPOSE!

by Anon on Jul 19, 2010 1:27 pm • linkreport

"Knee-Jerk NIMBYs" would be a great band name, and "Defense of Nobody at All" has the makings of a stellar debut album title.

Also, hooray for more sidewalk cafes downtown.

by Nate on Jul 19, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

@David In particular, there are no residents on this corner and very few anywhere nearby.

There are literally hundreds of residents within shouting distance of this space. And yes, I am including the hotels which count as residential per special exemption. PJ Clarke's doesn't even have a 'matter of right' to operate in that zone which is defined as residential.

DC has a process in place for changing the use of areas. It starts with the Comprehensive Plan and then extends to the actually zoning and zoning regulations. If we want to see this area change from residential to commercial, fine ... but let't do it in a correct manner and not in by 'way of exception' which is what is occuring in the case of PJ Clarkes. It's only fair use the established process and thereby give everyone a voice in the rezoning process.

http://dcoz.dc.gov/info/districts.shtm

SP-2 Permits matter-of-right medium/high density development including all kinds of residential uses, and limited offices for non-profit organizations, trade associations and professionals if approved as a special exception by the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Maximum lot occupancy of 80% for residential use except a hotel, 20% for public recreation and community centers and 40% with special exception approved from the BZA. Maximum FAR is 6.0 for residential and 3.5 for other permitted uses, and a maximum height of ninety (90) feet. Rear yard reqquirements are not less than twelve (12) feet, one-family detached dwellings follow R-1 side yard requirements and one-family semi-detached dwellings follow R-2 side yard dwellings.

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 1:52 pm • linkreport

I don't completely understand how the voluntary agreements work. Does a VA avert a usual ABRA permitting process? If not, can a restaurant just go ahead and do what they want at the risk of pissing off the neighbors?

Also, you mentioned that VAs are agreements with ANCs and/or neighbors. What if a bunch of close-by businesses and/or residents signed a VA with the establishment, bypassing the ANC?

by Tim on Jul 19, 2010 2:11 pm • linkreport

On the other hand, there is a legal process for an exception, which the property owner is pursuing. Changing the zoning for an area is a cumbersome process, particularly since the city is in the midst of a zoning re-write. What is wrong with going this legal route, particularly since the other property owners in the area seem to have no objection?

by William on Jul 19, 2010 2:12 pm • linkreport

Maybe the VA will not be so onerous. Wait and see the outcome before you pass judgment on it. One thing to realize, once these agreements, use permits, whatever a jurisdiction wants to call it go into affect, it is usually very hard to amend them. It's wise to make sure they study the conditions and get it right the first time.

Now, you claim this site is not in the 16th Street Historic District, but the Examiner article says it's "in an historic district". Which is it, or are they two different districts? If the Examiner is correct and the use is subject to DDOT and Historic Preservation review, have they issued reports? If not, that would be another reason to wait and hash out a VA when you know what all the conditions from the stakeholders are.

by Lou on Jul 19, 2010 2:15 pm • linkreport

Lou: It is in the 16th Street historic district. The district's description does not include green space as a contributing element. I've adjusted the wording to make sure it's clear.

Tim: Here's my understanding which may be slightly imperfect: When the license application is pending, anyone can "protest" it, including the ANC. Then they can try to work out a VA, or the applicant can refuse to. There's then a hearing at the ABC Board, which decides whether to grant or reject the license, and can incorporate any VAs into the license. So agreeing to a VA means that the group in question would be a supporter instead of an opponent at the hearing, but the ABC Board could grant it over the objections of any protestants if they see fit.

by David Alpert on Jul 19, 2010 2:20 pm • linkreport

@Lou Now, you claim this site is not in the 16th Street Historic District, but the Examiner article says it's "in an historic district".

I think what David is saying is the the 'green space' is not a 'defining characteristic' of that particular historic district as laid out in the application that was submitted to extend the 16th Street Historic District down to the White House. And from what I understand that is correct.

Now, trying to say this isn't a residential area is absolutely incorrect. I mean, who could argue that the neighborhood bordering the premier residence in the entire country --- the White House --- isn't residential in character.

I'm sorry to say I wasn't able to make the Conservancy's last meeting (of which I am an officer.) When I read the resolution though, I instantly knew that David had indeed made it to the meeting ... ;)

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 2:22 pm • linkreport

Lance: You're wrong about the resolution, because I had no part in writing it. As I said, I missed the initial presentation and therefore didn't participate. I believe my only involvement was to ask a question about the intent of a phrase, which was then changed because it could be interpreted in way other than how its author meant it.

I am amazed you are arguing that an area is residential because the White House is nearby. Calling an area residential is not just about whether at least one person lives there. It's about whether businesses there need to be restrained in their impacts because we believe that residents deserve some protection from those impacts.

The White House is not impacted by what goes on at 16th and K. It's a fortress, I'm sure it has soundproofing, there's a park in between, and if anything the White Houses impacts the area (through motorcades), as opposed to being impacted by it.

by David Alpert on Jul 19, 2010 2:27 pm • linkreport

A knee-jerk reaction from an ANC?

Dog bites man.

by ah on Jul 19, 2010 2:30 pm • linkreport

I will fight to liberalize the liquor law conservative powers that be, or die trying. Why do we have these blue laws and red-state restrictions on liquor-related businesses? Historically, it was churches that seemed to want them, and now it's the tiny minority of vocal anti-fun NIMBYs that want to keep DC as suburban as possible.

If you live or visit major commercial corridors (16th and K for crying out loud!).. expect typical city life. The fact that this is even an issue is sad, and it wouldn't be if the vast majority of the city that doesn't participate in local politics actually knew some of the insanity that went on behind the scenes.

by SG on Jul 19, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

@David, The zoning there is residential without question. It is SP-2. (See above for details). We can argue whether we want it to remain so, or whether we'd like to see the 16th Street HD lined with cafes, but the appropriate forum for that is via the Comprehensive Plan and then via the Zoning Regs that flow from those plans. Personally, I might welcome such a change. But I don't think it's fair to do it outside of the ordained process. There are many homeowners there (in addition to the hotel) whose neighborhood will be drastically changed if sidewalk cafes go up and down the length of the street. And it's fair to say that the 'peace order and quiet' of these residences will be very much changed. As an example, compare the difference in the residences lining 18th Street in Adams Morgan and those lining 16th Street. Yes, we can commercialize this area as many seem to be saying they want, but let's not ignore the consequences to come out of such a rezoning ... And let's use the established process to let all stakeholders participate in making this decision. Let's not make the change by 'forced' incremental 'exceptions.' As was mentioned at the ANC meeting, and as I've heard expressed elsewhere, once one exception is made, it will be very hard to deny further exceptions for other applicants with a straight face. It's not only improper, but possibly illegal, for any agency of the government (including the HPRB and the ANC) to say 'we'll allow this for you only' ... The Conservancy isn't a government agency so it is not held to that standard. But, that said, it's wording to that effect can't be incorporated into any agency's rulings ... and is thus worthless ... It should just have been left out of the resolution ...

Incidentally, I DID make the ANC meeting, and I definitely would not describe the discussion on this matter as having been a 'contentious liquor license debate'. I was actually amazed at how smoothly it went ... Though a bit troubled that the constituents in the crowd weren't solicited for their input. It kind of makes a mockery of the home rule charter's intent for the ANC meeting to be 'a town meeting' at the local level ... when the only people you hear discussing a matter is the commissioners.

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

SP-2 is not residential. It's a "special purpose" district designed to allow a variety of uses. Residential is allowed in an SP-2 district, but that doesn't make it a residential zone; residential is allowed in commercial zones as well.

by David Alpert on Jul 19, 2010 2:43 pm • linkreport

@SG ... Do you live within earshot of this proposed patio? Are you going to be affected if there's noise outside your window up till 2 am (or later)? It's easy to dismiss concerns when they aren't yours.

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 2:47 pm • linkreport

@David,

Below is the extact wording from the Zoning Commission's website. Note that it say "all kinds of residential uses" ... with the other uses requiring a 'special exception' (And bar/restaurant isn't even one of those other uses spelt out as being possible the special exception):

SP-2 Permits matter-of-right medium/high density development including all kinds of residential uses, and limited offices for non-profit organizations, trade associations and professionals if approved as a special exception by the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Maximum lot occupancy of 80% for residential use except a hotel, 20% for public recreation and community centers and 40% with special exception approved from the BZA. Maximum FAR is 6.0 for residential and 3.5 for other permitted uses, and a maximum height of ninety (90) feet. Rear yard reqquirements are not less than twelve (12) feet, one-family detached dwellings follow R-1 side yard requirements and one-family semi-detached dwellings follow R-2 side yard dwellings.

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 2:50 pm • linkreport

@Lance

Exceptions, even one-time exceptions, are made all the time. It's called allowing people to make exemptions on a case-by-case basis... In fact, I'd argue that the exemption rules were put in place for exactly this purpose. Applying the "slippery slope" argument to claim that we'll be opening the door to outdoor cafes further up 16th Street is just bizarre.

by Adam L on Jul 19, 2010 2:52 pm • linkreport

@Lance; I really doubt there is a real resident (as opposed to hotel guest) within 3 blocks on that intersection. If I remember, the previous tenant (olives) also had an outdoor patio and I don't think anyone would be disturbed.

Do ANCs serve any usual function besides as a chokepoint?

Some sort of edict on emergency vehicles would be helpful. I live and work near firehouses and if I hear one more siren I may go postal. Do you really need a full on alarm for every time a cat runs up the tree.

And fwiw, when there was a real fire (with smoke) it took the fire department 40 minutes to show up. Luckily is was mostly electric sparking that didn't go anywhere.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2010 3:02 pm • linkreport

Lance -- DC is a city. There is noise in a city.

by aaa on Jul 19, 2010 3:04 pm • linkreport

I don't live within earshot and that's besides the point from my perspective. They could be proposing the patio next to my bedroom window and I wouldn't be opposed. (The one exception would be if I lived in a completely residentially zoned cul-du-sac) If you live along a major commercial corridor, you should live with the implications- not just those when you move there, but the future implications of a living a growing city. Conservative forces can only hinder change for so long. And wouldn't be able to hold long as long as they do if "the silent majority" stepped up and participated in local politics. Most on my block don't know what and ANC is, much less who their rep is. It's an unfortunate failure of grassroots democracy, which is no one fault, but let's just say that ANCs dont attract the "live and let live" types....

by SG on Jul 19, 2010 3:08 pm • linkreport

@SG - why is it in your world view the resident who has moved in must accept any and all future implications yet potential businesses face no limitations?

The residents who oppose bars often go too far in listing demands - but the expectation that restaurants and bars limit outdoor patio/roof deck hours in mixed-use areas to 11pm is not unreasonable.

by Jason on Jul 19, 2010 3:20 pm • linkreport

At a recent Sunday, I was walking through Dupont Circle looking for a bar with a nice screen to watch a some soccer game (snif). It occurred to me that despite Dupont being known as a bar district, there are actually really very few bars. There is a mix of retail, food, hotels and a few bars.

The reason I was walking around? I was a bit late and all available bars were full, some having long lines.

Regardless of the technicalities of the law and certain acronyms, I'd say the area can use another bar.

by Jasper on Jul 19, 2010 3:27 pm • linkreport

I appreciate the clarification on the green space / historic district item. Whether green space should be considered part of 16th Street's historic nature is another argument all together though.

You should go watch the video of Arlington's last Board meeting when they considered additional outdoor cafe seating in Clarendon. The minutiae that comes up in these issue will make your head spin. But in the bigger picture, does DC have guidance for this area the way Arlington develops sector plans?

by Lou on Jul 19, 2010 3:29 pm • linkreport

@SG, A 'living growing city' recognizes that not all streets can be commerically oriented if it wants to keep residents as part of the mix. It needs to keep some streets exclusively residential ... even if that residential mix includes some hotels ... and the White House.

Within a short jount from lower 16th Street you have K St, L St, Dupont Cir, Conn. Ave., 19th Street, 14th Street, 17th St, 18th St, P St, and U Street (did I forget any)... all of which are filled with bars, cafes, and restaurants. If someone can't find a bar, restaurant, cafe among the hundreds of choices on any of these streets ... or find the walk to them 'too far' ... I might suggest the problem lies more with them then with any real lack of availability. We can't be all bars, and restaurants, and cafes ... Unless we want a return to the pre-'Living City' days where places like 18th Street served as the 'entertainment districts' for the suburbs in Va. or MD. No one is proposing 'no cafes, bars, or restaurants'. It's just a matter of preserving some of the residential areas of 'downtown' so that we can truly be a 'living and growing city' ... and not just someone's entertainment district!

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 3:43 pm • linkreport

There is a residential coop on the sw corner of 16th and L, an apartment building on the se corner of 16th and Mass and an apartment building at the corner of 15th and I. Those are the only residential buildings within a quarter mile of this patio, none are within a tenth of a mile.

by Alex on Jul 19, 2010 3:44 pm • linkreport

Oh and that includes the White House, .29 miles away

by Alex on Jul 19, 2010 3:47 pm • linkreport

ANCs have operated for years under the belief that any liquor-serving establishment MUST be protested in order to get a "voluntary agreement" out of the business.

Under Brodsky, the ABC Board is taking a much closer look at VAs and pointing out that VAs contain all sorts of requirements that the law doesn't allow. In essence, the ABC Board has finally caught on that many ANCs use VAs as nothing more than legal extortion out of an ABC licensed establishment.

And how have ANCs reacted? By being outraged that anyone would dare question their mandated VAs and by suggesting that Brodsky is a tool of the bars/restaurants.

Of course, our buddy Tommy "Tax 'N Spend" Wells has jumped on this bandwagon (as noted in the Current), by threatening Brodsky since he's daring to think for himself and actually apply the law, rather than merely rubber-stamping what the ANCs have dictated.

And, oddly enough, Commissioner Estrada was also opposed to the Arts overlay district's revisions to allow more bars/restaurants. See a pattern?

by Fritz on Jul 19, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

Lance, you keep saying this is a Residential street like it was in the middle of a rowhouse neighborhood or something.

I'd challenge you to find a group of people and stand them at the corner of 16th and K NW - then take them over to, say, 8th and K NE - and ask them which they think feels more 'residential.'

by hmmmm on Jul 19, 2010 3:54 pm • linkreport

I love it that the White House, which employs thousands of people on its campus and disgorges noisy motorcades at all hours of the day and night, is being trotted out as proof that this is some idyllic "residential" area. If you had any doubt that Lance is just engaged in yet more NIMBY concern trolling, that should set you straight.

by Phil on Jul 19, 2010 3:55 pm • linkreport

@Alex, And what do you consider The Presidential Co-op at 1026 16th St NW? (And that's just one place I happen to know about because an owner there contacted me to plead that he and his neighbors not have to go through the same excruciating process they had to go through some 5 years ago to save their neighborhood from a patio which Olives had proposed.)

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 3:59 pm • linkreport

"In essence, the ABC Board has finally caught on that many ANCs use VAs as nothing more than legal extortion out of an ABC licensed establishment."

My favorite examples of this are the VA's that require the establishment to make donations to "community organizations."

by Phil on Jul 19, 2010 4:01 pm • linkreport

The Presidential is what I was referring to when I said, "There is a residential coop on the sw corner of 16th and L".

(If you know an owner can you get him/her tell his Senator co-resident that parking his car illegally in a rush hour lane in not appreciated.)

by Alex on Jul 19, 2010 4:05 pm • linkreport

@Phil, My favorite examples of this are the VA's that require the establishment to make donations to "community organizations."

Are you serious? Can you point to such an abuse of the instrument?

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 4:06 pm • linkreport

I have zero sympathy for people who think a mid-range restaurant with a patio is something their neighborhood needs to be "saved" from. They should move to a cul-de-sac in the suburbs.

by Phil on Jul 19, 2010 4:07 pm • linkreport

Oh and I live downtown and know every residential building in the BID. There are only 3: the Presidential, 1500 Mass, and the Camden Grand Parc within a quarter mile of the patio.

by Alex on Jul 19, 2010 4:07 pm • linkreport

@Alex, (If you know an owner can you get him/her tell his Senator co-resident that parking his car illegally in a rush hour lane in not appreciated.)

If you manage to turn 16th Street into another 18th Street, I think that 'problem' will solve itself ;)

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 4:10 pm • linkreport

"The same excruciating process they had to go through some 5 years ago to SAVE THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD from a patio which Olives had proposed."

Oh, come on! Save their neighborhood?!?!?!? From a...patio? I didn't realize outdoor seating for an upscale restaurant (not a bar, not a nightclub...a very upscale restaurant) was such a menace to the community.

Ridiculous hyperbole doesn't help your cause.

by DowntownRes on Jul 19, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

@Alex, Hotels are residential too ... You're conveniently forgetting to list them. They're some of the most top-notch hotels in the District. Do you think there might not be a coorelation between their having located in that quiet patio-less street vs. on say ... 18th Street in Adams-Morgan? ...

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 4:14 pm • linkreport

Lance, slippery slope arguments about turning 16th and K into Adams Morgan will only make it that much harder for you to get out of the hole you've dug for yourself.

by hmmmm on Jul 19, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

There isn't even any space that could be turned into bars like 18th street. That is such a ridiculous thing to say.

The 800 block, the first one north of the White House has a church a hotel, and office buildings. The 900 block is the same, except for this one space. The 1000 block has no retail space at all, the 1100 block has no retail either-- I suppose you could call Quill at the Jefferson a "bar", but the "residents" there didn't oppose that either. North of the 1100 block you are past Mass Ave and north of downtown.

The half mile stretch of road would have PJ Clarkes, Off the Record at the Hay Adams, Adour at the St Regis, and Quill at the Jefferson.

4 (high end) establishments doth Adams Morgan make?

by Alex on Jul 19, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

Lance - those kinds of provisions are relatively common and a serious part of the problem here.

by William on Jul 19, 2010 4:17 pm • linkreport

"quiet patio-less street"

That portion of 16th st? Are you deaf? My GF lives on that street and I can't stay over because road noise is so bad. And that is the quieter, north of the circle part.

And I seriously doubt anyone could say the patio at Olives destroyed the neighborhood. There isn't a neighborhood there to destroy.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2010 4:18 pm • linkreport

I think the hotels near 16th and K are near 16th and K so they can be close to the White House, and that the character of 16th Street has very little to do with it.

Lest anyone forget, there is a strip club half a block from 16th / K. If that hasn't scared off the Hay Adams, I doubt very seriously a high-end restaurant would do the trick.

by BeyondDC on Jul 19, 2010 4:22 pm • linkreport

@Alex, The point is this exception opens the door to more exceptions ... i.e., incremental re-zoning to the point where you reach a tipping point, and the developers can say 'see it already looks and feels commercial .. let's just rezone it to reflect what it is.' Remember the 3rd Church of Christ Scientist issue? What't to prevent another a patio on that site when/if it gets redeveloped? True, it's not a 'sure thing'. And that's the problem with re-zoning by way of 'exceptions' vs. by following the process. You end up creating an 'unsure' environment where anyone willing to risk their money on upscale hotels or expensive co-ops will be detered from doing so because of the lack of certainty.

by Lance on Jul 19, 2010 4:24 pm • linkreport

That stretch of 16th (and north) can really use some more vitality and cafes. Right now it's pretty desolate, compared to what it could and should be.

I would actually love if GGW did a feature on 16th St, particularly north of U Street/Meridian Hill. There are lots of institutional uses, which is fine, but they fence off their areas with huge, imposing black fences. While this may have been necessary because in the day, I think they should be encouraged to "tear down that wall" and lend themselves to *some* interactions with the street. After all, do the embassies and churches on Mass. Ave all have these unsightly and forboding fences?

by SG on Jul 19, 2010 4:29 pm • linkreport

Residence - any address at which you dwell more than temporarily. I'm pretty sure that would exclude any hotel guests, that plus the fact that the hotels in the area aren't protesting this make you seem silly.

Are you even familiar with the area? At all?! There is nothing residential about it. It is in the middle of a dead office building district. We *should* only hope that when spaces are redeveloped they have store fronts and patios.

By saying this will turn a "residential area" into "18th Street" I think you are just a spambot typing in DC zoning argument cliches.

by Alex on Jul 19, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

Yeah, hotel guests are not residents. I can't see people who are visiting Washington deciding not to stay at a hotel at 16th & K because of the noise from a restaurant patio.

by Lauren on Jul 19, 2010 5:11 pm • linkreport

@Lance:

"@SG ... Do you live within earshot of this proposed patio? Are you going to be affected if there's noise outside your window up till 2 am (or later)? It's easy to dismiss concerns when they aren't yours."

None of the owners (if there are any) remotely affected raised any concerns. It's also apparently easy to latch on to fictitious concerns . . .

"@Alex, The point is this exception opens the door to more exceptions . . . "

Really? Your argument boils down to the Slippery Slope? The Domino Theory? The camel's nose under the tent? You do know that is a logical fallacy, right? If that's the best you can come up with, you should just give up.

by dcd on Jul 19, 2010 5:46 pm • linkreport

I would also point out that an existing sidewalk cafe at post pub, looks to only be 50 meters or so further away from the building at 16th and L then the proposed cafe. I walk on 16th often enough and can not hear any noise from this cafe above the ambient city sounds.

by nathaniel on Jul 19, 2010 8:21 pm • linkreport

1The area around 16th & K has a few more signs of life than it did a few years ago, but a place with outdoor seating woul liven it up further. The bar at the Capital Hilton might lose a few patrons, but the hotel will aprreciate having a more attractive environment around it for guests.

by Rich on Jul 19, 2010 9:11 pm • linkreport

@ David & all -- Please wait to pass judgment until we arrive at a final resolution of the issue between the ANC and the establishment. Our ongoing negotiations are amicable, and I expect we will reach a resaonable result soon, before the protest letter is even due.

Also, please recognize that whatever the final resolution here, nothing is set in stone, and the establishment always has the opportunity to request additional hours in the future.

-- Will Stephens, ANC 2B Chair

by Will Stephens on Jul 20, 2010 10:09 am • linkreport

@ David: One minor correction: It was actually Comm'r Jacobson (and not I) that said that hotel patrons might want a place like PJ Clarke's to go out and relax after meetings or travel. I followed up on his comment by noting that when I visited DC for job interviews in 2003, I stayed very close to 16th & K and would have felt quite a bit safer if there were establishments like this open late. -- Will

by Will Stephens on Jul 20, 2010 10:13 am • linkreport

I'm interested in overall reaction to the function of the ANCs: are they a good idea? Are they helpful in some situations? Should they be abolished? Reformed? I have my own view on this, but I am interested in what the thoughtful folks on this site have to say.

by urbanette on Jul 20, 2010 10:55 am • linkreport

There is definitely need for a reform of the ANC process. For a long list of reasons, the average DC resident has little to no connection to their ANC member. Most probably can't name them or pick their names off a list. Part of that is the fault of the people for not paying more attention, and part of that is the fault of the ANC system itself, which, at times resembles a private club where, unless you are "in" you don't get much information or even know when the meetings are.

Some possible ideas, off the top of my head?

-require meetings to be held at night or on weekends.
-require each ANC to have a functioning website with webcast of meetings (but who will pay for it?)-
-give the ANCs a small budget to mail out a quarterly newsletter with their names, info about meetings, etc (like the Members of Congress do)
-public posting of times of upcomming meetings (at Metro stations, key intersections, etc)

by urbaner on Jul 20, 2010 11:07 am • linkreport

I think ANCs are a good thing in general. Some are bad, but Dupont's is generally good; citizens just need to watchdog them and complain when they make bad choices, just as we have to with the Council. More sunlight will do the most to improve the process. Definitely some small things can be improved as urbaner suggested as well.

by David Alpert on Jul 20, 2010 11:11 am • linkreport

One of the things that the Mount Pleasant ANC has struggled with is the name 'Voluntary Agreements'. In practice under the former ABC Board Chair, these agreements were only voluntary for the neighborhood. If an operator didn't want to be party to an agreement, the ABC Board would simply delay their hearing to allow more time for 'negotiation'. It was a very rare case in which the operator and their lawyers could convince the board to issue a license even though there was a potential protest.

A more accurate description of these agreements would be 'protest settlements'. While any operator or group might sign an agreement outside of the ABRA protest process, typically ABRA encourages residents to 'protest' licenses, in order to have standing.

My final criticism of the ABRA process is that the protest hearings typically only see the extremes of either side. I've been in countless hearings where a Board Member will question the protester as if that person is representing the entire community. Often times, the sensibility of the vast majority is ignored.

by Phil Lepanto on Jul 20, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

@urbaner,

-require meetings to be held at night or on weekends.
-require each ANC to have a functioning website with webcast of meetings (but who will pay for it?)-
-give the ANCs a small budget to mail out a quarterly newsletter with their names, info about meetings, etc (like the Members of Congress do)
-public posting of times of upcomming meetings (at Metro stations, key intersections, etc)

The bulk of what you're suggesting is already occuring in one form or another. For example, by law an ANC's agenda must be posted in a minium of 2 spots in each SMD (single member district) a minimum of 7 days before a meeting. From what I've observed, that is occuring. Meetings occur at night. Etc. Most of the other stuff is already on their websites. (Though I guess not each ANC will have a website ... or at least one as extensive as Dupont's.)

One thing to keep in mind is that ALL of the 'labor' is volunteered labor. Although elected, the commissioners are not paid a cent. They're your neighbors and friends putting in maybe 20 or more hours per weeks for your benefit with no renumeration (or even thanks at times) coming to them. Also, while each ANC gets a budget, it is based on the number of people living in that ANC area. It used to be roughly $1 per person. With a large ANC, that can mean something like $20,000 with which to operate, but with a small one (like the one I used to be involved with) that can mean as little as $2,500 a year. The larger ANCs can afford a secretary and some of the stuff you mention ... the smaller ones can't ...

Overall, the ANCs do a great job. And the only thing keeping them from doing a better job is that despite all the notices and the like, too few people take enough of an interest in their neighborhoods to help these volunteer ANC commissioners to get things done.

by Lance on Jul 20, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

Overall, the ANCs do a great job. And the only thing keeping them from doing a better job is that despite all the notices and the like, too few people take enough of an interest in their neighborhoods to help these volunteer ANC commissioners to get things done.
Most of what ANCs do just aren't needed that much. If anything, they do too much and have too many responsibilities. DC also suffers from an excess of overlapping "neighborhood associations" and the like. It's a case study in excess local control. I recognize the mindset behind them: as a reaction to decades of rule by congress, it seemed like a great idea to have local control on as local a level as possible, but the truth is that they just don't work that well.

In any case, to have a say in liquor license issuance, you have to issue a "protest." That's right-- you have to actively OPPOSE a liquor license to have any standing to discuss the terms in which it's issued, so opposing becomes the "default."

by JustMe on Jul 20, 2010 3:58 pm • linkreport

@JustMe Most of what ANCs do just aren't needed that much. If anything, they do too much and have too many responsibilities.

Actually, their 'responsibilities' are fairly limited ... as defined in the home rule charter. First and foremost, they 'advise' district agencies, boards, departments etc(and, if they want, federal entities) on matters that can affect their constituents. Secondly, they act as intermediaries between their constituents and the same agencies, boards, etc. They have absolutely no power to pass any legislation ... And a lot of the rest of the things they do, they do as volunteers in furtherance of 'making a better community' and not because they are in any way 'responsible' for these kinds of things. The people serving as ANC commissioners are the kind of people who would be performing all these selfless acts anyways, even if there wasn't an ANC.

by Lance on Jul 20, 2010 4:11 pm • linkreport

The people serving as ANC commissioners are the kind of people who would be performing all these selfless acts anyways, even if there wasn't an ANC.
Lance, that is just a bit too much, and something which no one here finds remotely credible. What are you, this ANCs' PR representative?

by JustMe on Jul 20, 2010 4:54 pm • linkreport

@JustMe, So how would YOU explain people volunteering their own time out of their busy schedules to undertake a thankless volunteer effort?

by Lance on Jul 20, 2010 5:58 pm • linkreport

I probably don't need to point out that it is patently ridiculous to argue that allowing a nice restaurant to open on a dead office block is going to turn the area into Adams Morgan. This opposition to healthy mixed-use areas is exactly why there are so many bars concentrated in Adams Morgan.

by Matthias on Jul 20, 2010 6:28 pm • linkreport

@ JustMe and Lance - actually in a way I think you are both right. The ANCs are given a broad scope to weigh in on anything of "neighborhood importance," which can mean legislation, appointments, etc., although most stick to ABC, Public Space, BZA etc. On the other hand, there is very little that ANCs can actually do about any of the problems their community faces, other than pass resolutions and stomp their feet, saying "listen to me, I'm a Commissioner!!"

by urbanette on Jul 20, 2010 9:32 pm • linkreport

the comments on ANCs are very interested. Personally, I think that the single member districts are currently too small (2000 people, not 2000 voters) and they need to be tripled at least. Over half the ANC positions had candidates run unopposed last election cycle, and over 10% had no candidate at all. I also think that the ANCs need to be given more specific responsibilities. Right now alot of what they can do is say no to things, which then attracts people who want to say no, rather than people who want to get things done.

by urbanette on Jul 20, 2010 9:35 pm • linkreport

A very easy solution.

I have a solution that will solve the problem for EVERYONE.
If you live in a city and want quiet like it's the countryside, move. Cities evolve, cities grow, and yet residents whine like children.

Want quiet all the time? Move to Centerville.

by Michael Rogers on Dec 2, 2010 10:06 am • linkreport

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