What the FLUM is up with the Howard East Campus?

A routine ANC meeting became the center of attention in the Brookland neighborhood last week as neighbors discussed how pending changes to the Comprehensive Plan would impact development plans on the Howard East Campus. The specific discussion was focused on a proposed change to the site in DC’s Future Land Use Map (FLUM). Unfortunately, some misunderstandings about what the new map would and wouldn’t do have led to widespread confusion in the community.


Maps from DC Office of Planning showing the proposed FLUM change from Institutional to mixed-use Institutional/Moderate Density

The amendment in question would change the site’s designation from just Institutional to a mixed-use of Institutional and Residential-Moderate Density. It was first proposed in the fall of 2019, and has been part of the broader citywide conversation about the Comprehensive Plan over the last couple of years, which has included thousands of public comments, a formal round of ANC feedback and a marathon public hearing last spring. It is expected to receive final markup and vote from the DC Council next month.

But some Brookland-area neighbors only recently became aware of the proposal, and have begun mobilizing against the FLUM amendment in recent weeks. Organized under the name of Howard East Neighbors, they circulated a petition to that effect and attended ANC 5B’s March meeting hoping to influence a vote on a similar resolution. (The resolution was tabled at that meeting, but will be addressed in an upcoming special meeting on Thursday, April 1st).

The Howard East Neighbors are ostensibly concerned that the map changes constitute a “re-zoning approval” that would automatically allow by-right development and “prevent public input, along with the appropriate environmental, traffic, and community impact studies.” 

Unfortunately, these claims are not accurate and have led to widespread community confusion.

What is the Howard East Campus and what is planned for it?

The former home of the Howard Divinity School, Howard East Campus is a 23-acre site in the Brookland neighborhood. Like many institutional landowners in Ward 5, Howard has found itself somewhat land-rich but cash-poor in recent years and sees development of a portion of the East Campus as a way to maximize the value of the land to support its mission. A study it commissioned in 2016 suggested the university would like to pursue a mix of academic uses, housing and open space as part of a redevelopment.

No formal plans have been filed, though some early concept proposals of how the site could be segmented have circulated as part of the community engagement process.

Rough initial concepts from an early Howard presentation.

What is the FLUM? How is it different from the Zoning Map?

The single most important thing to understand is that the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) and the zoning map are two distinct documents. You can read a much more in-depth explanation here, but the short version is that the FLUM gives general guidance to what kind of uses the city is expecting for wider areas in coming years (about a 20-year future look), while the zoning map legally enables (or, in some ways, restricts) what can happen right now on each and every lot.

Guidelines for the FLUM Map from the DC Office of Planning.

A change to the FLUM makes no automatic change to the related properties’ zones. In the case of Howard East, the proposed FLUM change would adjust the land-use designation of the campus from Institutional to an Institutional-Moderate Density mix, but the zone would remain R-1-B (a low-density zone intended for 2-3 story detached houses on large lots).

Howard would still need to formally apply to change the zoning designation of the site, a process that involves public discussion and community engagement in front of the Zoning Commission. Importantly, any zoning change on the Howard East site will need to follow that process, whether or not the FLUM change is approved.

So what’s the point of the FLUM amendment then?

While the FLUM doesn’t strictly determine the zoning designation of a given property, it can still significantly restrict what is allowed to be built. The relationship between the FLUM and zoning maps has been a key element of recent lawsuits over projects in the city, but the short version for Howard East is that it’s currently somewhat ambiguous whether the existing “Institutional” land use designation would be consistent or inconsistent with the moderate density development the University seems inclined to propose for at least part of the site.

In past cases, that kind of ambiguity between the FLUM and zoning maps has led to contentious lawsuits that create long delays in resolving the future of a site and have generally led to property owners declining to pursue development options that involve them negotiating with the community at all.

The FLUM amendments are a part of a broader series of edits meant, in part, to help remove that ambiguity so zoning changes and development projects can be adjudicated in a timely way in the city’s intended, regular planning process rather than through the federally-appointed DC Courts.

So how DO you change a zone?

There are two main ways to change the allowable uses and density of a site:

1.      A Zoning Map Amendment – A landowner can petition the Zoning Commission to change their property’s zone, thus allowing different uses or sizes of buildings as a matter of right. These amendments are filed and noticed like any other ZC case and ANC+public testimony is heard at the hearing. The Commission will consider the application against the city’s goals as listed in the comprehensive plan and weigh benefits against community impacts/concerns.

2.      A Planned Unit Development (PUD) – allows a landowner to apply for some bonus height and density on a property (generally up to 20%-30% denser than their current zone allows, but only up to the density allowed by the FLUM) in exchange for a package of benefits for the community. Those benefits can include things like affordable housing, streetscape redesign, and financial contributions to community organizations among others. Like a map amendment, the proposal is also reviewed by the Zoning Commission, which similarly weighs the tradeoffs.

Both methods can be also combined. This is very common, as PUDs that apply for a map amendment as a part of the process measure the density bonus against the approved new zone, rather than the old.

So why the opposition?

The opposition to the FLUM changes in Brookland are informed by, and seem to be tied to, larger opposition to the Comprehensive Plan in the city. These opponents have framed the pending FLUM amendments as the difference between community-involved development processes on these sites and by-right processes that cut neighbors out. 

Without the FLUM changes, they say, property owners will have to use the PUD process, which legally guarantees a role for community groups to negotiate. If the new FLUM is approved, however, they claim property owners will then be free to pursue map amendments instead, which a sympathetic Zoning Commission will quickly approve while ignoring community concerns, thus allowing subsequent development in the new zone to be done by-right. 

The choice is false in general, but particularly so for the Howard East site for a number of reasons:

  1. Howard can already apply for a map amendment under the current FLUM.
    The FLUM change will help clarify the potential ambiguity of the Howard East site’s current Institutional land-use designation, but it may not actually be necessary; stopping the FLUM change is not particular insurance against a map amendment. 

    In the nearby Chancellors Row case, the Zoning Commission found that “the Institutional land use category envisions multiple-unit housing as well as low and moderate density housing such as row houses,” (ZC 07-27). Also nearby, a lawsuit over development on the similarly Institutionally-designated St. Joseph’s Seminary property was recently resolved with the court approving of the ZC’s justification for moderate density on that site.

    Moreover, if the Howard site is significantly different from these two, and a map amendment for a moderate density zone wouldn’t work under the current FLUM designation for some reason, it’s hard to see how a PUD would work given that it has essentially the same relationship to the FLUM.

  1. It’s not even clear Howard would prefer a map amendment
    We don’t actually have any particular evidence to suggest which option might be more preferable to the university. Generally, PUDs are designed to be more attractive because they offer additional bonus density (and thus value) in exchange for those formally negotiated community benefits. And recent changes extending the District’s Inclusionary Zoning program to map amendments will certainly change the financial calculation that previously may have made that path more appealing. So Howard may very well still be interested in a PUD even under a revised FLUM.
  2. Community engagement will be part of either process
    The PUD provides a more formal template for engagement, but communities have successfully used map amendments to achieve similar goals, even beyond the standard opportunity for ANC and public testimony at a map amendment hearing. The recent example of the redeveloped Hebrew Home is a great example. ANC-led involvement in that case secured benefits including a renovated park, community space, and streetscape renovations.

    Even if the claim is that the formal path of the PUD is a much stronger version of community engagement, framing a map amendment as a by-right option with no input at all is disingenuous.

Instead it seems like the real worry is that the kinds of public input these neighbors anticipate giving won’t be persuasive to the Zoning Commission. That’s a fair concern to have, but it is far different from alleging the community won’t even have a chance to be heard.

Of course, if the Zoning Commission itself is the ultimate problem for opponents in the end, it’s unclear why a PUD would make much difference, given that it would be reviewed by the exact same board. If the fear is that the ZC will overrule some members of the community in favor of Howard’s interests, there’s no reason that couldn’t happen just the same if they review it as a PUD.

So what are we really talking about?

Added together, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the clamor about PUDs vs. map amendments is something of a red herring. Process complaints are usually just stand-ins for arguments about outcomes, and this seems to be no exception.

Neighbors who oppose the FLUM change because it would explicitly (rather than just implicitly) make moderate-density an option on the site in the future should just say so! They don’t need a convoluted argument about paperwork to make their case.

Howard has indicated its goal in redeveloping the site is a mix of academic uses, open space and value-generating housing. Based on even the existing FLUM designation and precedent of similar cases, some version of that vision is highly likely to be built. Neighbors looking for a radically different plan of only a marginal amount of housing or a privately subsidized park are setting themselves up for disappointment — and a PUD won’t change that. 

If they were asking my advice, I’d suggest the most productive path forward is probably to organize around a valid goal (realistically they can probably choose between minimizing total units, maximizing affordable units, or maximizing open space), and then present themselves as good-faith negotiating partners. Neighborhood entities seeking “community control,” whether ANCs, civic associations, or any other local groups, should enter that process prepared to give, take, and discuss—or else they will end up empty-handed.

Fighting the FLUM change looks a lot more like a strategy to preserve legal leverage that can be weaponized later in the process. Again, recent precedent suggests that strategy too is unlikely to succeed, but if the goal is to cause Howard some financial pain before this is over (which they might try to recoup by maxing out more revenue-producing housing on the site), it could be effective.

Petition: No More Deaths — Fix Michigan Avenue

The recent death of Mr. Armando Martinez-Ramos at Michigan Avenue and 10th St NE is a tragic reminder of the gap between the District’s current streets and our Vision Zero goals.

The specifics of the crash are still being investigated, and when it concludes, the District Department of Transportation should move quickly to implement any and all street design improvements that would have helped prevent this tragedy.

But fixing one intersection on this dangerous street is not enough. If we are going to truly prevent the next death, we need a solution that addresses the entirety of Michigan Avenue, which is plagued by dangerous speeding, difficult crossings, and little infrastructure for vulnerable users.

DDOT themselves identified these very problems — and recommended improvements — in two separate studies in 2016, but frustratingly those plans have largely not been implemented.

We can’t keep watching neighbors killed and seriously injured while plans that could protect them sit collecting dust. We’re asking DDOT to respond to this tragedy by implementing real fixes to the whole of Michigan Avenue.

Sign the petition by adding your name here

Edgewood/Eckington/Stronghold Library Community Meeting Record

On Wednesday, February 24th, Ward 5 for All held a community meeting to discuss the proposed new library to fill the service gap for the Stronghold, Edgewood and Eckington neighborhoods in Ward 5. DC Public Library assistant director of communications and community engagement, Martha Saccocio was on hand to present and answer questions.

You can watch a partial* recording of the meeting and read the chat here:

*Unfortunately, due to user error, the first half of the meeting was not recorded. The recording picks up at the start of the Q&A and covers all of the community discussion.

The unrecorded portion was general background on the Library’s Next Libris report, and a short review of potential location ideas outlined in this presentation deck.

Letter Requesting North Capitol Redesign Concept Study in DC FY22 Budget

Mayor Muriel Bowser
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Councilmember Charles Allen
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20004
Councilmember Mary Cheh
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20004
Interim Director Everett Lott
District Department of Transportation
55 M Street, SE, Suite 400 Washington, DC 20003
Director Andrew Trueblood
Office of Planning
1100 4th Street, SW, Suite 650 East
Washington, DC 20024

February 18, 2021

Mayor Bowser, Councilmember McDuffie, Councilmember Allen, Councilmember Cheh, Interim Director Lott, and Director Trueblood:

We, the undersigned Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, community associations, churches, business and individuals, are writing to ask you to fund a concept study for the redesign of North Capitol Street between Massachusetts and Michigan Avenues in the FY 2022 budget. The current design of this corridor falls far short of its historic status and enormous potential and fails to meet the Mayor’s commitment to Vision Zero. North Capitol Street is unsafe, it divides adjacent communities, and it is hostile to the economic and cultural vitality of the mid-city. 

In the coming decade, the North Capitol Street corridor will be crucial to the city’s growth and sustained affordability. The adjacent neighborhoods of NoMa, Bloomingdale, Stronghold, Eckington, and Mount Vernon Triangle are thriving, and thanks to your leadership, private and public development will add thousands of market rate and affordable housing units as well as new retail to Northwest One, the McMillan Reservation, and other locations along the North Capitol corridor. We believe that the District should begin planning now for a North Capitol Street that will provide a safe way for these new residents to get to and from their homes as well as create an accessible, appealing commercial corridor to attract visitors to the existing and coming small businesses.

A concept study is needed to gather input from those most affected by this dangerous and divisive corridor and assess the feasibility of major improvements to the streetscape. Among the questions this study should answer are: 

  • How should the District redesign North Capitol Street to discourage speeding and other forms of dangerous and aggressive driving behavior?
  • How should the District improve the safety, comfort, and accessibility of east-west connections across North Capitol Street for pedestrians and people on bicycles?
  • How can current bus lines and supporting infrastructure be modified to improve the speed, frequency, and on-time bus service for residents and visitors?
  • Should the District add transit priority lanes to the corridor to improve bus service?
  • Should the design of the streetscape better prioritize the needs of local businesses and the safety of those who patronize them? 
  • Should the District fill in underpasses that encourage speeding and cut off adjacent communities? 
  • How can the city leverage private investment to address infrastructure deficiencies in a fiscally responsible manner? 

We understand that this year’s budget will prioritize the city’s recovery from the pandemic, associated economic consequences, and the critical needs of residents who have been hit hardest. Nonetheless, we believe that a relatively small investment in planning for the future of this corridor will pay massive dividends in the coming years as our city recovers. We simply cannot wait to begin the process of better connecting our communities by improving the safety and vitality of North Capitol Street. 

Response to this letter may be directed to ANC Commissioner Alex Lopez (SMD 6E02) at 6E02@anc.dc.gov.

Sincerely, 

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C
NoMa Business Improvement District
North Capitol Main Street
NoMa/H Street Civic Association
Eckington Civic Association
LeDroit Park Civic Association
Sibley Plaza Townhouses Residents’ Association
Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA)
Ward 5 for All
Pub and the People
Republic Cantina
Jeffery A Shapiro, Owner, K&B Sodas
Karim & Associates Financial Services
7DrumCity

A wishlist for where the DC Public Library should build its Ward 5 expansion

new report from the DC Public Library charts a course for future expansion of the library system, including a proposed new facility in the Edgewood/Eckington/Stronghold area. Here’s an early look at some potential locations for such a library, and how that might impact surrounding areas.

New decade, new vision

In the last decade, the DC Public Library system engaged in a half-billion dollar capital campaign to expand and modernize its facilities, a campaign that is being capped off by the reopening of the flagship Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library this year. Now, library system officials are looking ahead to the next decade for how they can build upon their success.

The new report, Next Libris, outlines priorities for continued renewal and refreshing of existing facilities, as well as priority areas for building additional libraries. Those locations were identified by evaluating both where residents face a geographical gap in service, as well as where existing libraries are too small to service the community. They were then divided into three tiers based on whether they address both an operational issue and service gap (Tier 1) or just one of those criteria (Tiers 2 and 3 respectively). The recommendation is to proceed with expansion sequentially, building the Tier 1 facilities in 1-3 years, Tier 2 in 4-6 and Tier 3 in 7-10.

Next Libris report by DC Public Library.

As a crucial bonus, the report shares DCPL’s preference that, where possible, these new libraries be built as part of mixed-use developments which would include housing — including affordable housing — and potentially commercial space as well. This would replicate the successful model of the West End Library opened in 2017 as part of a multi-use building. Combining housing with libraries represents a real win-win, helping the city address two major needs with each project while giving the new facilities dedicated customer bases who are likely to be high-frequency users.

One of the Tier 1 gaps identified is the combined Ward 5 neighborhoods of Edgewood, Eckington and Stronghold. A significant distance from existing libraries, DCPL data confirms that there are a disproportionate number of residents in these communities who do not currently use the system at all. And many of those that do visit the crowded Shaw library, so officials see an additional benefit of relieving some of the pressure on that high-traffic location.

A map from the Next Libris report shows existing library locations and service gaps. Next Libris report by DC Public Library.

So far no specific locations are being proposed, but as a very excited Edgewood resident, here are some potential locations I think the city should look into. This list is hardly predictive; I have no particular insight into the likelihood of any of these locations at all; rather, it’s an initial overview of some places that might come into the conversation.

First, here are the factors I considered when evaluating these options:

  • Size: As the library has made clear, bigger is better. Communal public space is increasingly hard to find. Combined with the increasing breadth of services and resources the library provides — and the unique needs of different age groups — a larger footprint can provide disproportionately large value.
  • Capacity for housing: The library’s vision to combine housing with these locations is truly a game-changing move to help us make another dent in our housing and affordable housing needs. These two things go together so well it’s a wonder it took us this long to prioritize it. Capacity here means both the aforementioned footprint and the existing zoning. Some zoning can be amended, but it’s easier if that step is unnecessary.
  • Public or privately owned land: With the right long-term lease, the library could be a great addition to any number of private developments coming to the area, though it does reduce some of the impact of adding net-new housing (on top of what’s already planned), particularly because housing developments on District-owned land are subject to higher affordability minimums.
  • Accessibility: Maximizing usage of the library starts with making sure it’s convenient and safe to get to — particularly for families, who are a key customer demographic. These neighborhoods face a number of transportation barriers already, from deadly arterial streets to the impassable train tracks to a lack of protected bike lanes. Finding a site that is best located to help residents from across the entire service gap visit is a priority.

Here are a few potential locations that check a number of those boxes:

The Lemuel Penn Center

1709 3rd Street NE, 52,231 sq ft

Currently serving as the temporary site of DCPL’s Operations Center while they search for a long-term home, the Penn Center is sufficiently large that a new building on the site could potentially offer room for Operations, a neighborhood library, and housing (though they would presumably need to find a new temporary home during construction).

Sited directly on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, proximate to the NoMa Metro stop and the P6 MetroBus route, and adjacent to the new Tanner Park and thousands of residents in the mid-rise buildings of East Eckington, the location would benefit from significant network effects. Though currently zoned for production and technical employment use (PDR-2), the proposed amendments to the Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map (FLUM) pending before the Council would allow for residential use as well.

At the Southern end of the service gap area, this location would be most convenient for Eckington residents, though the trail adjacency makes it fairly accessible for Edgewood neighbors as well.

Fifth Street Terminal

2115 5th Street NE, 63,102 sq ft

Only slightly up-trail from the Penn Center, the Fifth Street Terminal lot is a city-owned property currently serving as a parking lot for the District’s Special Education bus fleet. Accessibility wise, the location is about a ten minute walk along the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the Rhode Island-Brentwood Metro station. Also the same as the Penn Center, the zoning is currently PDR-2 with a proposed amendment to add in residential.

Engine 12 Fire Station

2225 5th Street NE, 30,574 sq ft (including parking lot)

One block north of the bus lot, the Engine 12 Fire Station is interesting not just on its own, but as part of a comprehensive re-development in the works. Last year, developer Jair Lynch (in coordination with the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church which owns a number of the relevant properties) submitted a zoning map amendment for the group of lots abutting the fire station on the south side of Rhode Island Ave NE between 5th St NE and the railroad tracks. The Office of Planning followed suit this month with their own map amendment for the station itself. The library’s early inclusion in the project (whether on the Engine 12 site itself or elsewhere in the development as a long-term tenant) could serve as something of a flagship component the rest of the plan could be built around.

This location would represent one of the more central options, again along the trail, roughly equidistant from Eckington and Edgewood, but with the added benefit of direct adjacency to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station and the G8 and P6 MetroBus routes.

Bryant Street/Rhode Island Center Development

630 Rhode Island Ave NE

Bryant Street development by MRP Realty used with permission.

Directly across the street from the fire station, the first phase of the Bryant Street development is already underway replacing the shopping center that once housed Big Lots and Forman Mills. Six more phases remain, however, with tens of thousands of square feet of retail to be leased out. With no public land involved, the Library would likely look to sign a very long-term lease guaranteeing their use of the space for the lifetime of the building.

This location would bring all the same benefits of the South Rhode Island one with the additional bonus of even more direct access to the Metro (the pedestrian bridge across the tracks empties out onto the site) and even more immediate adjacency to the cluster of public and affordable housing at the Edgewood Terrace site.

Other options

This is by no means a comprehensive list; there are a number of other planned or potential development projects in this area that might make good fits. By allocating funding to a new library in the budget, the city can offer some certainty about the project that may surface a number of interested partners.

Replace or supplement?

The choice of location is not just important in how a new library will best serve new communities, but also for how well it will continue to serve existing ones.

One crucial detail of the Next Libris report is that it recommends closing the small Northwest One Library in conjunction with opening the Edgewood/Eckington/Stronghold library (as well as re-opening the nearby MLK location and expecting decreased pressure on the similarly nearby Shaw library). That’s in line with a general plan the library has to upgrade these low-square-footage facilities (most of which were replacements for even smaller, limited-service kiosks) in order to meet the growing need for meeting and study rooms, program space, and access to technology and collections.

Next Libris report by DC Public Library.

Because these small locations predominantly serve low-income communities, replacing them is a key part of the Library’s commitment to equity in their system. That’s true of the Northwest One facility as well, which is located within the redeveloping mixed-income housing complex of the same name and is immediately adjacent to Sursum Corda (also currently being redeveloped into a mixed-income community).

But for the Eckington/Edgewood library to serve this community, its location needs to be sufficiently accessible to local residents. A transit and trail-adjacent location in Eckington may work, but one further north is unlikely to satisfy the needs currently met by Northwest One.

Not just straight-line proximity, accessibility is also measured by the comfort and safety of the path between the old and new locations. Unfortunately in this case, that’s particularly difficult as the borders between the Northwest One area and the expansion neighborhoods — New York Avenue, Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street — are some of the most treacherous streets in the city, acting as both physical and psychological barriers. Even a relatively close location may functionally see fewer visits from residents on the other side of these streets. That’s certainly what the Library’s data already suggests when it shows low utilization of the Northwest One location by residents in Eckington, Edgewood, and Stronghold.

Still, there are three factors in favor of the relocation. The first is the relatively close proximity of the Northwest One area to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which functions as something of a cheat code to cross Florida Ave and New York Ave. North Capitol would remain a problem — but improvements to pedestrian crossings and the construction of protected bike lanes on K street NE/NW could help.

The second is that North Capitol Street is relatively well-served by the 80 and P6 bus lines, both of which function as safe and relatively affordable ways to travel between Eckington and near-Northwest. (Transit lanes on North Capitol Street could make that access more efficient and reliable during rush hour.)

The third is that Northwest One is fairly close to both the Shaw and MLK library locations. With the re-opening of the latter in particular, residents who currently use Northwest One may be able to replace their service at those facilities instead. Library customer data may be able to help determine the percentage of customers for whom that’s true.

That said, there’s another option as well, which would be not to close the Northwest One location at all. The Library’s recommendation for replacement is undoubtedly related to budget considerations. With staff costs one of their greatest expenses, shifting that investment to a full-service library certainly provides better bang-for-the-buck. But if the Mayor and the DC Council felt like a new library would not sufficiently serve the previous community well enough, there’s no reason that they could not increase DCPL’s operational budget in a sufficient amount to cover the cost of both.

Ultimately, the budget process is the next step for this project either way. Right now all of these plans are entirely theoretical; elected officials will need to allocate the required capital and operational budget to make this plan a reality. As FY22 budget season approaches, now is the time to reach out to the Mayor and your council member if you are interested in seeing that happen.

New Library Envisioned for Eckington/Edgewood

A DC Public Library report released last week recommended building a new facility somewhere in the Eckington/Edgewood neighborhoods — an area they identify as a Tier 1 gap in the network.

Adding a library here would be a major boon for our communities. More than just books, the library’s resources, programming, and physical space provide substantial opportunities for students, families, seniors, job-seekers, and more.

Even better, the library’s report outlined two additional goals to maximize the impact of this project:

1) To include affordable housing at the site
2) To pick a location that emphasizes accessibility, particularly given the number of dangerous major roads in the area that act as barriers.

These two additions would supercharge the benefits of this facility, and make this new library a triple win.

This report is just a vision to start; it’s now up to the Mayor and the Council to include funding for this expansion in the budget.

Sign our petition here to encourage them to fund this proposal and bring a new library to our community!

2020 Ward 5 ANC Endorsements

This year Ward 5 for All reached out to every ANC candidate running in our Ward (using the publicly-available emails they provided on their BOE paperwork) to ask a series of questions related to housing, transportation, local business and safety.

We are extremely grateful to the 20 candidates who took the time to complete the questionnaire. You can download their full responses here.

Based on those responses, as well as other available information about the candidates, we are excited to endorse the following candidates in contested races:

Note: There are still many candidates for whom there is little public information, this post reflects the endorsements we can make at this time, but will be updated as more information is available.

As a reminder, you can lookup your ANC Single-Member District by address here.

Contested Races

5A07
More information needed

5A08
We endorse Gordon-Andrew Fletcher

5B01
We endorse Steven Reaves Couper

5B05
More information needed

5C01
We endorse Michael Triebwasser

5C02
More information needed

5C05
More information needed.

5C06
More information needed.

5D03
We endorse Sean Barry

5D05
We endorse Sydelle Moore

5D06
We endorse Marina Budimir

5E01
More information needed

5E03
We endorse Michael Kaercher

5E04
More information needed

5E07
More information needed

5E09
We endorse Dianne Barnes

5E10
We endorse Sally Hobaugh

Bloomingdale’s traffic calming plan gets some new updates

This post was also published on Greater Greater Washington

Some additional traffic calming measures are in the works on First Street NW, including adding striping to the bump-outs and new higher-visibility LED stop signs. However, flex posts from all but one side side street have been removed.

When the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) installed traffic-calming curb extensions on First Street NW this February, it was the culmination of over six years of advocacy from Bloomingdale neighbors.

Marked by flex posts, the extensions (also called bump-outs) increase safety by visually cueing drivers to drive slower through the narrower area, requiring slower, more controlled turns, daylighting the intersection so all road users can more easily see each other, providing additional space for pedestrians to wait and reducing the distance they have to physically cross.

Flex posts at the 1st and R St NW intersection have also been integrated into the Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market’s socially distanced procedures.  Image by the author.

Unfortunately, their implementation was immediately met by some backlash from a local ANC commissioner concerned that the new posts made it harder for drivers to move quickly through the intersection (and were ugly to boot). Thankfully, however, the pilot program was allowed to move forward in order to evaluate its impact on neighborhood safety.

Last month, DDOT returned to the neighborhood to announce both some additions to the infrastructure, but also what appears to be a concession to the project’s critics.

Additions:

  • DDOT announced they would complete the originally planned striping which will delineate the bump-out area in paint in addition to the flex posts.
  • The agency also confirmed they were still working with the Bloomingdale Civic Association to install planters within the bulbouts for added protection and beautification.
  • In response to particular concerns about stop-sign compliance at the 1st and R Street NW, the agency is going to install solar-powered LED stop signs. (This intersection in particular suffers from poor stop sign visibility and has seen multiple related crashes.)

Subtractions:

  • DDOT also announced that they would remove the flex posts along all of the East-West side-streets aside from R Street (which will receive further study with the new stop signs first). Flex posts will remain along First Street.

Left: Northbound approach to 1st St and R St NW showing visible obstruction of stop sign. Photo by the author. Right: Example of solar powered LED stop sign DDOT plans to install at the intersection. Photo from DDOT.

DDOT’s statement said the decision was in response to community concerns that there were too-many flex posts, but they declined to respond to questions about whether those concerns were about the efficacy of those posts or simply aesthetic distaste.

The risk is that removing the flex posts could reduce compliance with the parking limitations that improve visibility at the intersections. While the flex posts provide a physical barrier, these side streets reduced only to striping may see a return of illegal parking that would require additional enforcement resources to rectify.

In the weeks since the announcement, DDOT has completed the removal of the side-street flex posts; the other changes appear to still be in progress.

A fatal hit-and-run takes North Capitol death count to eight in two years

This post was also published on Greater Greater Washington

On Sunday, May 31st, a driver speeding down North Capitol Street struck another vehicle, then fled the scene on foot. Despite heroic rescue efforts from neighbors who helped suppress the resultant fire and pull the two victims from their car, neither ultimately survived.

One victim was Donald Malloy, 81, of Temple Hills, Maryland, while the other has not yet been identified. The driver was subsequently found, arrested, and charged with second-degree murder the following day.

These deaths continue a tragic trend; since September 2018 there have now been eight fatalities on the corridor.



A common thread has been that these fatal crashes have generally occurred at off-peak hours, when a lower volume of traffic on the wide streets invites excessive speeding.

Prior to the pandemic, that meant during late-night or early morning hours. But the current situation has extended those high-speed conditions to twenty-four hours a day, and made North Capitol Street a perpetual race track.

Plans to improve safety conditions along the corridor, particularly for pedestrians, are still outstanding. In March, a coalition including more than 20 ANCs, community organizations, and businesses sent a letter to the District Department of Transportation calling for renewed attention, but no updates have been announced yet.

A new rendering of the Dave Thomas Circle redesign suggests an important bike lane extension

This post was also published on Greater Greater Washington

Last year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) made important progress on the pending redesign of the dangerous intersection of Florida and New York avenues NE, colloquially known as “Dave Thomas Circle.”

After a series of updates since then, it appears that the agency’s most recent plan is even more aligned with advocates’ vision of a safe intersection for pedestrians and cyclists.

Image by DDOT.

In March 2019, the agency released a redesign plan dubbed Concept 6 that involves removing the Wendy’s fast food restaurant from the center of the intersection.

The design represented a major improvement on the status quo, but safety advocates highlighted some key opportunities to further improve pedestrian and cyclist safety.

DDOT was receptive to the feedback, and the next version of the design, dubbed Concept 6D, included a number of those recommendations — specifically, the closing of O Street, an additional crosswalk on the east side of 1st Street and New York Avenue, and straightening out the 1st Street bike lane.

There was one key recommendation that the updated design didn’t incorporate though. Rather than extend the Florida Avenue cycle track all the way through the intersection, the new plan left it unchanged, curving around the southern edge of the intersection to 1st Street.

Advocates continued to press for that change, and now it looks like they may have earned at least a partial victory. While the next formal street designs aren’t expected until later this year, a related presentation gave some clues. On May 18, the NoMa Parks Foundation (NPF), DDOT, and design firm SWA/Balsley hosted a webinar debuting potential designs for the 43,000 square feet of new park space that would be created as part of the redesign.

The park concepts are interesting in their own right, but the street maps they include also reveal new information. They seem to indicate that DDOT has already decided to edit the bike lane path in their next official design, showing Florida Avenue lanes extending across New York Avenue to 1st/Eckington Place.

While it’s not the full extension advocates asked for, this allows a direct connection to the Eckington neighborhood to the north and sets up a potential future extension in further planning of Florida Avenue NW.

Image by SWA/Balsey.

Perhaps more revealing though, is that the plans show a change in the design of that bike path. Instead of Concept 6D’s two-way cycle track on the south side of the street, these drawings show single-direction bike lanes running on each side of the street (many transportation experts recommend split lanes as they reduce complexity and conflict points for road users).

After the meeting, DDOT Bicycle Program Specialist Will Handsfield confirmed the design change on Twitter, saying that the lanes would be protected on each side.

The change, however, has implications bigger than just this intersection. This plan, of course, connects to the rest of Florida Avenue NE, which already has a two-way cycle track installed as part of the interim improvements added last year. The most recently released designs for the permanent changes maintain that structure.

Rendering of the latest design for Florida Avenue NE with a two-way cycle track. Image by DDOT.

But if DDOT is switching to split one-way lanes for the Florida-New York intersection, it will either require a tricky north-south crossing to connect to the two-way cycle track or, more likely, indicates that they may be applying this split-lane change across the whole corridor.

Such a change would represent a significant alteration at this point in the design process, but highlights the value of planning both of these projects at the same time, allowing for decisions that best serve the entire corridor.