Sunday, December 31, 2006

Marc Fisher 12-31-06

Where I live in upper Northwest, I hear plenty of complaints that transcend neighborhood boundaries: Why do so many police officers stay sealed up in their vehicles? How long will the shame of the city's ambulance service frighten residents and visitors alike? How can it be that our local high school, Wilson, is considered one of the city's best, yet graduated only 53 percent of its seniors last spring?

But I'm also looking to you to take care of some smaller things: The half-done road project near my house is virtually dormant. Preservation zealots have joined with NIMBY activists to prevent needed development along Wisconsin Avenue. And the branch library has been shut down for two years.

D.C. residents tend to believe that their own corner of town is neglected while others get all the attention. If you can get us to see that we're all pretty equally ill-served, that would be a great service, and a promising first leg of your marathon run.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A farewell from the office of Kathy Patterson

As we close the doors of our office today, Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson and her staff would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year. We would all like to say how much we have enjoyed working with so many of you. The mountains of paper that we have cleared out of our office in recent days reminds us of the many issues that have arisen over the years. We want to thank you all for the input you have given us, and for all of the good times we have had together. It has been such a pleasure to know so many of the residents of Ward 3.

Penny Pagano
Chief of Staff for Councilmember Kathy Patterson

Thursday, December 28, 2006

President Ford makes a final visit to Ward 3

Emergency No Parking signs will be posted tonight on certain streets surrounding the National Cathedral in preparation of funeral services for President Gerald Ford. The signs will restrict parking on January 2, 2006 from 6am until 3pm. Any vehicle parked in violation of the Emergency No Parking signs will be towed. Please alert your neighbors. Thanks.

Kelvin M. Cusick
Lieutenant, PSA 204

Friday, December 22, 2006

Council Committee Assignments

Council Chair elect Vince Gray has announced the Committee assignments for the upcoming term. Ward 3 Council Person elect Mary Cheh has received Public Services and Consumer Affairs.

The mission of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is to protect the health, safety, economic interests, and quality of life of residents, businesses, and visitors in the District of Columbia by issuing licenses and permits, conducting inspections, enforcing building, housing, and safety codes, regulating land use and development, and providing consumer education and advocacy services.

The other assignments are as follows:

Jim Graham (1) - The Committee on Public Works, which now includes the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, as well as the Metro budget. Graham has also been re-appointed to the Metro Board.
Carol Schwartz (at-large) - Committee on Government Operations.
David Catania (at-large) - Retains the Committee on Health.
Jack Evans (2) - Retains Committee on Finance and Revenue
Phil Mendelson (at-large) - Retains Judiciary Committee, which will oversee the confirmation of the new fire and police chiefs.
Marion Barry (8) - Committee on Housing.
Kwame Brown (at-large) - Committee on Economic Development.
Tommy Wells (6) will get the Committee on Human Services.
Harry Thomas Jr.(5) will get the Committee on Library, Parks and Recreation.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What is ANC 3G doing?

A recent posting to the Chevy Chase Listserv notes the minutes from the December 11th ANC 3G meeting noted an update on a traffic signal currently being installed at the intersection of Morrison Street and Connecticut Avenue:

Commissioner Buchholz, having reviewed all of the Commission’s files for the last several years on the subject, raised for discussion once again the issue of the new traffic light being planned for the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Morrison Street... Commissioner Buchholz stated that in his view, not only would this be a very confusing type of light for both motorists and pedestrians alike, but also that this type of light is not what the Commission had sought and requested for this intersection over three years ago. He supported the latter point with a statement from the record that detailed the Commission’s agreed-upon position concerning this traffic signal dating from 2003. He said, in part, that in a letter dated June 24, 2003, the Commission strongly recommended “that DDOT study the feasibility of installing traffic lights..” at this intersection (and Northampton Street as well) and that as the Commissioner who drafted that 2003 letter for the Commission, he clearly meant a normal three-light traffic signal where red means “stop” and green means “go”. He said the Commission intended that the light allow traffic to flow in an alternating pattern, with pedestrians being able to cross the street at intervals..

A subesequent note on the listserv took exception with this view.

Indeed, a further search of the archives revealed the actual resolution that was passed on this matter. After the recitals, the resolution clearly stipulates:

NOW THEREFORE, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3/4G hereby resolves to express its demand for the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Morrison Street at the earliest possible date, in compliance with the 2003 DDOT study report recommendation.

The Commission further requests that DDOT evaluate and report back to the ANC as early as possible regarding the various configurations and options regarding the stoplight that it is considering for this intersection, including but not limited to the following: blinking lights, a pedestrian-activated light, left turn restrictions in both directions on Connecticut Avenue, installation of speed humps or similar measures on Morrison Street and Livingston Street, curb extensions, and so forth. The DDOT report should describe the extent to which each potential configuration or option will first, help to ensure public safety and secondly, will minimize the impact to Morrison Street, including the volume of traffic on that street and neighboring streets.

I am not sure if there are issues with the Commissioners memories, or if Commissioner Buckholz's research skills are lacking, but it is clear that the ANC passed a resolution in 2005 and DDOT afforded the resolution with the "great weight" mandated under the DC Home Rule Charter, arriving at the solution which is being implemented. So the question lies, what is the ANC doing by entering this erroneous reading into the record?

Perhaps this is why many city agencies and residents simply ignore the ANC process, because the Commissioners continue to try to act in their own unstated self-interests and the Commissions as their own fifedoms?

Farewell to the temporary River Road Barrier...

...and hello to the new channelized barrier. A note from the Ad Hoc Committee for Safe Streets in ANC3E:

Well, after two years of a "temporary" installation, it appears that the barrier at Fessenden and River Road will be remain only in our collective memories on or about December 27th. As some of you may have already seen, the DC Department of Transportation has erected warning signs along River Road indicating that there will be a changed traffic pattern at the intersection in the next week or so.

Our understanding is that the barrier will be removed and pavement and curb markings with the new channelized turning lanes will be installed before the end of the year. Because of some electrical issues with Pepco, installation of the traffic signals will follow as weather allows. Traffic calming measures will also be installed along Fessenden, 44th and Ellicott Streets.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

City Council passes the Comp Plan

The DC City Council today passed the Comprehensive Plan. The document is the product of several years and throusands of hours of citizens input.

On the eve of the vote, Councilman Mendelson introduced amendments to address very specific aspects of the plan, for example, the zoning around the WMATA bus garage at friendship Heights. Such legislation is not comprehensive and goes against the spirit of the document.

Mendelson's amendments were withdrawn and the legislation passed unanimously.

On to the mayor!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A note from 2nd District MPD Commander Solberg

At the December 7, 2006, MPD Awards Ceremony, Tenleytown resident Melissa Haendler received a special recognition award from Chief Charles Ramsey for her hard work in helping 2D, and specifically PSA 203, throughout the past year. Melissa has been tireless in her efforts to assist us.

Also, Lt. Robert Aiello and the sergeants and officers of PSA 203, which covers Tenleytown, received an award from Chief Ramsey for being PSA of the Year in the Second District. Crime has been reduced this year in PSA 202 by 13% by Lt. Aiello's efforts and those of his officers and sergeants.

We salute all the residents and MPD members who have contributed to our crime fighting and community building efforts, which includes, to date, reductions in every crime category and an overall crime reduction in the Second District of 11% in 2006 compared to 2005.

Thank you,

Andy Solberg
Commander, Second District

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tom Smith named Chair of Ward 3 Democrats

Long time Spring Valley activist Tom Smith was elected Chair of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee. A 22 year veteran and volunteer for the Ward 3 Dems, Tom has a 7 point plan to carry forward an agenda to help further the mission of the organization:

· Organize issue forums as part of the regular meetings, so we can routinely discuss and debate issues that are important to the Committee’s delegates and to all Democrats in our ward;

· Develop and mount an aggressive voter registration drive designed to reverse the steady decline and increase Democratic voter registration in Ward Three;

· Appoint a special voter education committee to immediately identify innovative strategies for the Committee to arrest and turn-around the alarming drop in registered Democratic voter turnout in Ward Three for our local elections;

· Initiate, sponsor, and convene special interactive political programs and events that can energize and engage even more residents of our ward in the political process and the Committee;

· Continue to co-sponsor programs with Democratic Committees of other wards, so we have a better understanding of the issues that concern Democrats in other parts of the city and demonstrate our commitment to foster cooperation among Democrats city-wide;

· Mount an ongoing aggressive communications initiative to expand interest and participation in the Committee, educate the community and our elected leaders about the work of the Committee, and showcase the Committee as a model of organized Democratic politics in our city; and

· Rebuild the treasury.

Tom is an active member of the community serving as a Board member of DC Babe Ruth, a youth baseball organization, the Spring Valley-Wesley Heights Citizens Association and other community groups. He is a long-time active supporter and volunteer for Food and Friends. Tom is active in the Washington Hebrew Congregation (WHC) serving as a lay leader and teaching 6th Grade Judaic Studies. Previously, he had served as a Board member for Camp Shon T'ai, a clinical child care facility, and the Center for the Study of Social Welfare and Community Development. He is also am the only non-veteran ever appointed to serve as a member of the Advisory Board for the Blinded Veterans Association, a congressionally chartered veterans group. He has also been active in the Washington Urban League; the Jewish Social Service Agency; and has worked as a volunteer on a range of causes, including Zero Population Growth, the American Foundation for Vision Awareness, and on homeless issues in Ward Three.

Professionally, he manages his own communications and marketing firm that specializes in national telecommunications policy issues and international health care.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The anticipated Giant meeting

A report from attendee Gabe Fineman, as posted to the Cleveland Park listserv:

Notes from the December 11, 2006 Meeting on Giant [Having trouble reading this because all mail on the List is in Plain
Text format? You can download a Word copy from]

So, is Giant going to expand their store at Newark Street? Yes, they will, but it will be part of a major redevelopment project. This meeting was sponsored by the ANC and the Cleveland Park Citizens Association but run by Giant. It was held in at the Washington Hebrew Congregation (Macomb and Massachusetts) and was a very amicable progress report. The room was very large and easily seated the 150 people who came. A very large crowd, considering that there was much less pre-publicity than last time. I had expected more publicity, including using the signup sheet from the previous meeting and the addresses of the people who left questions on the Giant site ( to send e-mail notices.

So, what is going to be built? Substantially what they told us in February. Giant (now Ahold's) owns the most of the block where it is located and the entire block to the north where the Pharmacy is located. Giant invested major bucks to buy the real estate years ago and now Ahold will develop it and get the profit out. In the process, we get a much larger supermarket. Everything will be knocked down and rebuilt (first the block to the south and then the block to the north). They will go from the current store of 28,000 sq ft (including the pharmacy) to a store of 65,000 sq ft (40,000 sq ft sales space), doubling the
size. This will make it larger than the store at Van Ness. The other retail space is dropping somewhat from 86,000 sq ft to 72,000 sq ft (Murphy's space being reduced). This is all being financed with 162,000 sq ft (about 144 units) of residential space. This is all accomplished by building down (a two story garage [400 cars] and another one story garage [88 cars] under the buildings) and building up the north building to five stories. The actual buildings will get much larger and cover the
old parking lots.

So, what did they tell us in February? At the only other public meeting by Giant (notes at www.cpposts,com) they told us:
1. The Giant Store will be expanded to be about the size of the current store plus Murphy's
2. The store will be moved back from Wisconsin Avenue to make room for some small retail shops on Wisconsin.
3. There will be a 400 car underground parking lot under the stores with a direct entrance to the Giant as well as an entrance to the street behind the Giant. The lower level of the garage will be available for public parking to serve the nearby restaurants.
4. The block north of the current store (including the bank that is leased by Giant) will be transformed into retail on the first floor and residential on the second and perhaps a third floor.
5. The property facing Idaho Avenue will become residential houses or condos.

So, what has changed since February?
1. There will be an additional garage under the north block restricted to its tenants.
2. Instead of 2 floors of residential, there will be 4 floors plus residential over some of the stores in the south block.
3. They intend to subsidize the current tenants in the north block (but not Starbucks or the bank) as long as they are in the south block that will have a (new) second floor above the retail. That is, a new building at a destination location would usually get much higher rents than in the current shabby building next to a 'moribund' Giant, but they will keep the current rents for the current tenants that can not afford market rates.
4. Details about the traffic patterns. The traffic study will not be ready for another three months.

So, what is the next step? They are a long way from approval for the project - they estimate another year. There are a myriad of regulations (zoning, overlays, height restrictions, density restrictions) to be overcome. They plan to do this with the Planned Unit Development method to be approved by the zoning board. Once they get approval, it will be another year to build the south block with the supermarket and a year after that to build the north block.

So, what was the reaction to all this? Overwhelming support for Giant to do what ever it wanted, just so it hurried up and rebuilt the supermarket. One person said she wanted a smaller, local store and the audience resoundingly told her no. A person who said he was the new ANC commissioner (taking office in January) said he knew of no one who wanted an additional 160 housing units in their neighborhood was greeted with many people saying they did not care. Giant responded that there are many large residential buildings within a block or two with more than 100 units and this was not such a major addition.

So, what will happen? My prediction is that there will be slow but steady progress and we will see construction in about two years. If Ahold were to sell of the north block and this were a regular developer, we would see a 200-300 unit building with no underground parking and no input from the community. Developments of this scale happen because so much money is involved. We are fortunate that Giant sees this as a long term proposition and not a property to be built and flipped. Because of that they seem willing to listen to the community and make changes to the traffic, the streetscape and even subsidize tenants.

More Information? They promised to post the slide shows on their web site ( this week. However, it took four months after the last meeting.

Disclaimer and Such. As always, these are the personal notes of Gabe Fineman and not the minutes of the ANC. They reflect my biases and viewpoints that I make no attempt to hide.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Yenching Palace closure appears to be near

An agenda item on the ANC 3C website for the December 18th, 2006 meeting features a discussion about a Walgreens proposal to alter the facade of the Yenching Palace coming to the Historic Preservation Review Board.

In a posting by ANC 3C Commissioner Bruce Beckner, the ANC is seeking opinions from residents on the Cleveland Park listserv:

I know there's been community interest in this project, so I'd like folks to have a chance to look at the drawings and come to our meeting on Monday to express their views. The plans appear to reflect an effort to preserve the exterior appearance of the building. The Walgreen's people say that the diamond-shaped windows are trademarked by another retail chain, which is why they have been modified from their current appearance. I personally have not made up my mind and will be interested in what people have to say.

City Paper review of Dino's bar

The City Paper's City Desk blog pays homage to Dino's of Cleveland Park:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wash Times: New Faces on the City Council

A nice article on the front page of Sunday's Washington Times covers the make up of the new Council including Ward 3's Mary Cheh:

The professor
Mary Cheh, a George Washington University law professor, never planned to run for political office. "It was, in a sense, evolutionary," said Mrs. Cheh, who will replace Kathy Patterson in Ward 3. "It's an idealistic kind of reason I was propelled to do this." Mrs. Cheh is familiar with the council through her behind-the- scenes work with its members. As special counsel to the Judiciary Committee in 2003, she worked with Mrs. Patterson to investigate and reform the Metropolitan Police Department's handling of protests and undercover investigations.

She helped council member David A. Catania, at-large independent, draft animal-welfare legislation and has worked extensively with civil rights and civil liberties groups. But it was the opportunity to bring change on a more direct level that drove Mrs. Cheh to run for a council seat. It also helped that her two daughters were grown and out of the house. "I thought, 'Wow, this would be a wonderful opportunity given that I love the city,' " she said. "I love the life here and the politics here, even as peculiar as they are."

Mrs. Cheh was born in New Jersey and moved to the District with her husband in 1977. She soon grew enamored with the nation's capital. In the general election, Mrs. Cheh faced opposition from Republican Theresa Conroy and Democrats who broke party lines because of her stance on development in Northwest neighborhoods. Mrs. Cheh supports updates to a citywide development plan passed by the council that calls for more housing near already dense Metro stops and major thoroughfares.

She also was criticized for her intent to continue to teach at George Washington during the spring semester. Mrs. Cheh said the campaign process was "often unpleasant," but that she won without negative campaigning. "My idea was that I'm not running against them; I'm running for this, and I'm going to put myself out there and people can pick me or not," she said. "I think that worked." Mrs. Cheh said the election was a referendum on issues familiar to her: education, fiscal responsibility and public safety. She called libraries, pools and community centers the "glue" of D.C. neighborhoods, and said they must be repaired and reopened. She said public safety and emergency services also must be improved. Like the other incoming council members, she said the public school system is a major concern. "If we don't deal with that, it's actually immoral," Mrs. Cheh said. "We have in effect handicapped [students] from having a productive life. That's unconscionable."

Mrs. Cheh is open to a mayoral takeover of the school system but is concerned that a power struggle could detract from the real goal: helping students. "Somebody's got to put their job on the line," she said. "If the mayor wants to take that on himself and say, 'This is my signature issue, this is what you should measure me on in four years,' I say, 'Hallelujah.' "

Mrs. Cheh said she has told Mr. Gray she would like to be chairman of the council's Committee on Government Operations. The position would allow her to help reform the city's contracting methods and create jobs in the District's inherent industries such as tourism, hospitality and health care. She also hopes to serve on committees dealing with judiciary matters, education and the environment, which are her areas of expertise and aspects of the city she would like to improve. "There are so many things that need attention," Mrs. Cheh said. "And I would like to have a chance to do that."

Another Vace review

The DC blog, DCist, provides yet another tasty review of Cleveland Park's Vace Pizza!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

CPCA hosts Grey and Cheh

Council Chair-Elect Vincent Grey and Councilmember-Elect Mary Cheh will speak about "What's Ahead for the DC Council?" Saturday morning at the Cleveland Park Library starting at 10:15 am. This meeting is co-sponsored by the Woodley Park Community Association, the Forest Hills Citizens Association as well as the Cleveland Park Citizens Association. There's a lot happening and this should be a lively meeting. See you there.

George Idelson
President, CPCA

Friday, December 08, 2006

WMATA forgets to plan ahed (sic)

A Washington Post article outlines errors made with the renovation of the Friendship Heights WMATA depot causing the possible elimination or relocation of the facility.

According to the article, planners failed to account for increased height requirements for buses using new, alternative energies such as natural gas, causing the depot to be a few to several inches too short to be used by at least 1/3 of the current fleet.

A resolution has not been studied.

An Essay on the Proposed Historic District

From Northwest Commentator Ed Cowan:

The meeting, at the Chevy Chase Community Center on December 5, ran for two hours and was intermittently raucous as citizens—some boiling over with strong feeling and impatience—shouted out questions in violation of the official protocol, namely to write questions on cards. Note that it was a meeting to give out information, not to make a decision.

What elicited a turnout of about 150 people and what provoked noisy contention was a proposal to create a Chevy Chase DC Historic District. The meeting was sponsored by Historic Chevy Case DC, a group of more than 250 residents who want to preserve what they regard as historically distinct architecture and land-use, particularly spacious front yards with houses set well back from the sidewalk.

An advocacy and educational group, they have been campaigning since 2003 to have the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board designate as a historic district an area, as provisionally outlined, lying on either side of Connecticut Avenue from Harrison Street northward to Western Avenue. It would run westward to 41st Street and east of the avenue for a block, more or less. Disclosure: I live within those boundaries.

For a map and an informative pamphlet, Internet users may go to Or one can get in touch with Jenny Chesky, president of Historic Chevy Case DC, at JennyChesky@... or (202) 363-9325. The postal address is PO Box 6292, Northwest Station, Washington, DC 20015-0292.

Two officials from DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board attended, David Maloney, acting historic preservation officer, with 21 years of service, and Stephen Callcott, senior preservation planner, 15 years. Both stayed until 9:35, when the meeting spontaneously dissolved, and beyond, answering questions patiently.

In the District now, there are 43 historic districts. The oldest is Georgetown, designated in 1950. Some others are Dupont Circle, Cleveland Park, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, Anacostia and Shaw.

To summarize what I heard at the meeting: there are on the one hand the advocates of historic preservation, whose paramount concern is keeping a neighborhood’s appearance and land-use essentially as it is, and on the other
hand property owners who are resistant to the requirement that in a historic district one must get approval for structural changes to the exterior of a house, especially for what is visible from the street. (A change of paint color would be exempt.)

A building designated as “participating” cannot be demolished without approval—and could not be replaced with one much larger, significantly different or so much closer to the sidewalk that it sticks out. (That’s my informal summary of the more detailed statement in the pamphlet.) Demolition of a non-participating building “could possibly be permitted,” according to a member of the group.

At the meeting, the advocates and the officials answered many questions about the process of getting approval. They emphasized that 90 percent of permits—i.e. applications that are approved-- are issued “over the counter.” The officials said repeatedly that they offer friendly advice to applicants on new materials and cheaper ways to do the job. They answered questions about what is likely or unlikely to win approval, and what changes would be exempt from the process. In this report, I will not go into those details.

Democratic Practice

What I want to focus on is the process by which a historic district is designated. And here I will editorialize.

The usual procedure is for the advocates to submit an application to the Historic Preservation Review Board. Taking account of architecture, design and other criteria, and community sentiment, the board eventually recommends approval or disapproval. If approval, the application goes to the mayor’s agent for signature. It is “a rare instance” when the board recommends disapproval, according to Historic Chevy Chase DC (pamphlet, page 9).

What, in my view, is lacking in this process is a formal expression of sentiment by the property owners in the proposed district. There is no requirement that they be polled—in a referendum at a polling place or in some other way. But note that such voting is not prohibited.

Several times, members of the audience asked why the advocates contemplated no referendum. Jenny Chesky did not answer that “why” question directly. She said that ANCs would hold meetings to discuss the proposal. When, after the meeting, I asked her pointedly why her group did not contemplate a referendum for Chevy Chase, she replied, “Who would vote?” I replied, anyone who can vote now. Chesky did not say what was wrong with that answer.

In a separate conversation, one of her colleagues asked me whether tenants should be allowed to vote. And what about property owners who live outside the district?

These are legitimate questions, and would need to be answered before a referendum. So would mechanical issues—how many polling places, absentee voting, demonstrating that one lives within or owns property within the proposed district, and so on.

In my view, these problems don’t add up to a compelling argument against a referendum. There is a larger, philosophical question in play.

Creation of a historic district would diminish the rights property owners have now to alter their property without government permission, possibly including the consent of the neighbors.

The advocates argue that there is a greater good to be achieved—preserving the architectural and aesthetic character of the neighborhood, avoiding the construction of out-of-scale houses or alterations, thereby protecting each property owner and each block from “mcmansions,” a vogue phrase that means too big.

It is an argument: individual rights versus common good, more government or less. Such a choice, between values in conflict, should be resolved by popular vote, as several people in the audience argued.

Democratic practice requires such a poll or referendum if individual property rights are to be curtailed—unless the curtailment is decided by elected representatives, such as the DC Council.

Otherwise, a group of highly motivated citizens—some of whom do not live within the blocks to be affected--can propose a district and have it approved by civil servants who are not subject to recall or re-election.

Here I must report that David Maloney, the preservation officer, assured the audience that “what we’re looking for is broad community support.” He added that for lack of it, an application from Brookland was discouraged, and was not filed. But disapproval is rare, according to the advocates’ pamphlet.

A referendum is not required. But it is not prohibited. It could and should be held.

Meanwhile, in Chevy Chase or elsewhere, DC Voters interested in the historic district question can make themselves heard at ANC meetings, in private homes, and at gatherings of community or neighborhood organizations.

Edward Cowan

Preview of Cleveland Park Giant

A recent contribution to the Cleveland Park Listserv include a brief description of the Stop and Shop proposal for the Wisconsin Avenue Giant at Newark Street.

According to ANC 3C07 elect Richard Rothblum,

One of the significant changes in the Giant plan is an increase in residential units and in the number of commercial and residential levels. According to the web site, the plan last spring called for 11 townhouses on Idaho Avenue, and 34 residential units on two upper floors on the "North Parcel" now occupied by the Giant Pharmacy and Sullivan's Toy Store, among others.

The preview that Giant showed to Nancy MacWood, Sheila Hogan and me on November 13 had the North Parcel building increasing from three to five stories. The number of residential units increased from 34 residential units on two levels to 124 units on four levels - five stories in all, including the ground level commercial space. My impression was that there would be additional residential units and an additional level built on the South Parcel as well.

The reason given for the increase in residential and commercial density and height was that it would provide for a certain but undetermined amount of subsidized "workforce housing" to be included in the residential part. For my part, I am skeptical about this. Giant is asking to develop their land to a far greater degree than would be permitted as a matter of right. They are asking for permission to do this based on a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

It is my understanding that the purpose of a PUD is to allow a developer to exceed certain zoning restrictions in cases where it can be shown that the overall effect benefits the community more than holding the developer to what he would have been entitled to as a matter of right. Offhand, I don't see the benefit of increasing the residential density of our neighborhood.
Since I will be representing ANC 3C07 starting in January, I would be interested in hearing the views of other residents on this subject. I am sensitive to the feeling of many of us that we just want the arguing to stop and to get on with the project, and I will represent the views of the majority. I should point out, though, that it is Giant that is changing the plans at the eleventh hour, and that they are the ones that created the reprehensible situation of the abandoned shops on Wisconsin Avenue.
Richard Stone Rothblum.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Comprehensive Plan update

Today's City Council proceedings where the Comprehensive Plan is concerned:

Phil Mendelson moved to table the Comp Plan. That effort failed 7 against - 5 for with Marion Barry absent. Adrian Fenty, Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown, Phil Mendelson and Sharon Ambrose voted to table it.

The Council moved on to amendments, many of which were proposed and adopted.

Chair Linda Cropp moved to a vote and the Council unanimously voted to approve the Comp Plan through the first mark-up and approved sending it to a final vote, later in December.

For Ward 3, the plan features a concentration on more alternative transit (bike lanes, street cars, flex/zip cars) and a focus on development in small zones around the Tenleytown and Friendship Heights Metro stations.

Here is the Washington Post coverage:

... the council gave initial approval with a vote of 12 to 0 for a new Comprehensive Plan, a 20-year road map for the city that concentrates development around Metro stations, pushes for the construction of affordable housing and outlines how neighborhoods should look.

The plan had been controversial as smart-growth advocates pushed the council to approve the plan and the D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations, the Committee of 100 and other neighborhood groups pushed the council to delay voting on the plan until next year. But the 500-page plan was approved after several amendments were added.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ward 3 Dems to nominate Officers

The Ward Three Democratic Committee will meet to elect At-large Delegates and Officers on December 12th at 7:30PM at St. Columba's Church, 4201 42nd Street NW. Any registered Democrat residing in Ward 3 is eligible to be elected an At-large Delegate. You must be a Precinct Delegate (elected November 14th) or At-large Delegate to run for an Officer's position.

Voting Delegates will choose the Officers for the next two years. (Officers include Chair, 1st Vice-Chair, 2nd Vice-Chair, Treasurer, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary and Financial Secretary.)

For more information, contact Bob Brandon, Chair, at 202-966-5333 or at

Bob Brandon

Sunday, December 03, 2006

More on the Chevy Chase Historic District

In a recent posting, I mentioned the proposal to create a historic district in several portions of Chevy Chase, DC, one of the original streetcar neighborhoods in Ward 3.

There have been a few posts on the Chevy Chase Listserv regarding the creation of the district ranging from incredulaity of judging what is historic to dismay that the creation of the historic zone is a forgone conclusion without a neighborhood vote or apparent consensus. There are of course, many posts supporting the proposal, or otherwise encouraging residents to attend the event on December 5th.

One of the tacts I take in evaluating this proposal is taken from presentations which have become standard both in the historic preservation and smart growth communities which make some of the following observations:

-If we are to expect citizens to use their cars less, and use their feet more, then the physical environment within which they live, work, shop and play needs to have a pedestrian rather than vehicular orientation.

-The diversity of housing sites, qualities, styles and characteristics of historic neighborhoods stands in sharp contrast to the monolithic character of current subdivisions. The diversity of housing options means a diversity of human beings who can live in historic neighborhoods.

-historic preservation is the one form of economic development that is simultaneously community development.

-The diversity of housing sites, qualities, styles and characteristics of historic neighborhoods stands in sharp contrast to the monolithic character of current subdivisions.

-Historic Preservation IS Smart Growth...a Smart Growth approach that does not include historic preservation high on the agenda is not only missing a valuable strategy, but, like the historic buildings themselves, an irreplaceable one.

Indeed, a speech in 2002 by Ward 3 resident and National Trust for Historic Preservation Presdident Richard Moe noted:

Smart growth advocates density and diversity of use. Most older communities were designed and built with these factors in mind. Saving them is smart growth...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Loose Lips speculates on School Board Appointments

In a recent entry to the City Paper "City Desk" blog, Loose Lips speculates that Ward 3 resident and education expert Laura Slover could be in line for a DC School Board appointment:

One of the candidates Fenty did not endorse in 2004 is likely to end up on the board via the appointment route. Education expert Laura McGiffert Slover forgave Fenty for backing her opponent Reinoso and volunteered for his mayoral campaign. She also has been advising the mayor-elect on education issues during the transition.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mary Cheh to question Lanier

According to a Loose Lips report, there is an extensive paper trail for the actions and exploits of MPD Chief designee Cathy Lanier. One has direct implications from an investigation by Councilperson elect Mary Cheh:

Court proceedings and D.C. Council hearings led by Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson would eventually force out the truth and spur new legislation to prevent such incidents from ever happening again. In January 2005, the city paid out $425,000 to seven Pershing Park victims, part of a settlement that also required a letter of apology from Ramsey to the plaintiffs.

Ward 3 Councilmember-elect Mary Cheh plans to probe Lanier's involvement in the demonstrations when she comes before the council for confirmation. “I do want to return to that whole event,” says Cheh, who served as a special counsel when the Judiciary Commmittee investigated the mass arrests in Pershing Park. She has a few questions for Lanier: “Did anything about those processes strike you as unusual or inappropriate?” As for Lanier's boast that she tried the hogtie on herself, Cheh isn't overly impressed. “Did she put them on and sit on a mat for 12 or even 24 hours?” Cheh asks.

Suspicious Packages closes Ellington Bridge

All for a pillowcase.

I guess it is better to be safe than sorry!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chevy Chase Historic District

After roughly 15 years of study and evaluation, the Historic Chevy Chase (DC) is looking to join the ranks of Cleveland Park and Woodley Park as historic districts within the Ward.

A recent mailing circulated to affected homeowners outlines the benefits of the proposed historic district by "ensuring that the many qualities that make Chevy Chase, DC livable and unique will remain long after we're gone".

The proposed district is divided into 5 zones, roughly described as between Western Avenue to the North, Harrison Street to the south, Chevy Chase Parkway to the east and 41st Street to the West. These neighborhoods were platted between 1907 and 1918 and generally developed between 1907 and the 1930's. Much of the area was created by the Chevy Chase Land Company, which was also responsible for the street car to Chevy Chase Circle, as well as the Chevy Chase, MD development across Western Avenue. 2007 marks the centennial of the original platting of the neighborhood.

In addition to the announced meeting on December 5th, both ANC 3E and 3G will hold public discussion on the proposal before the submission is finalized.

Citizens will also be able to appear before the Historic Preservation Review Board before the nomination to comment on its merits.

This is a long time in coming, with a lot of hard work by dedicated Chevy Chase residents!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Shoemaker -- the last chapter?

On the Chevy Chase Community Listserv, the majority and minority letters to the BZA were posted. They are reported here in their entirety. The ANC also recieved official notice of the withdrawl of the submission by the Fund for American Studies.


RE: BZA Application No. 17542 Application of Elizabeth R. Shoemaker Homes, on behalf of The Fund for American Studies, for a SPECIAL EXCEPTION pursuant to 11 DCMR Section 3104 of the Zoning Regulations for a change of a nonconforming use under Subsection 203.1 or in the alternative, pursuant to 11 DCMR Section 3104.2 a VARIANCE from the use provisions to allow a dormitory under Section 201.1, in the R-1-A District at 2701 Military Road, NW (Square 2305, Lot 83).

Dear Mr. Griffis:

At the ANC 3/4 G’s regularly scheduled meeting of Monday November 13, 2006, which was publicized in the Northwest Current, and on the Chevy Chase Listserv (more than 1700 members), the Commissioners of the ANC 3/4G by vote of 5 for to 2 against (a quorum being four) to deny the request for SPECIAL EXCEPTION under Section 3104 and in the alternative denied the request for a VARIANCE under Section 3103.2.

During a meeting with the community, at which more than one hundred nearby neighbors attended, objections to the variance and special exception were raised which included, but were not limited to the following:

1. Ms. Anna Shoemaker clearly expressed her intent when she wrote in her will in 1927, that she wanted to build a home for unmarried, low income women over the age of 60 so they would have a place to live and to be cared for in their own community in their old age. It took decades for her dream to become a reality, but in 1951, The
Elizabeth Shoemaker Home opened on the corner of Military Road and 27th Street. The Home was named for Anna’s mother (Elizabeth). The Home has been an important neighbor in our community, representing an excellent option for our low-income female neighbors when they need to give up their homes and find another place in which to live. It is truly a community facility. For fifty-five years, it has served the community as a quiet neighbor waiting with open doors to welcome those in need. It is so quiet, that most people in the neighborhood had no idea of its

2. The Home’s property was originally zoned for single family dwellings. In 1949, the Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Adjustment approved changing the zoning map and use of the home as a residence for elderly woman despite neighborhood opposition. The property’s zoning status was subsequently changed to R-1-A.

3. R-l-A status permits matter-of-right development of single-family residential uses for detached dwellings with a minimum lot width of 75 feet, a minimum lot area of 7,500 square feet, a maximum lot occupancy of 40% for residential use and 60% for church and public school use, and a maximum height of three (3) stories/forty (40) feet. The R-1-A status mentions Embassies, Public Schools and Chanceries, and other
uses for no more than eight (8) persons. There is mention of dorms in R-1 zoning, but only when part of a campus plan of a college or university. This strongly suggests that dorms should be located on a college campus in R-1 areas, where they can be closely monitored by college authorities, and not located in isolated residential neighborhoods as proposed by the applicant.

4. Variance: Petitioner requests a Variance under Section 3103.2. Under that Section 3103.2, three conditions must exist in order to grant a variance:

First: The property must be unique because of its size, shape, topography, or other extraordinary or exceptional situation or condition inherent in the Property. There is nothing unique about the Home’s property. It is very similar to other homes for the aged in the area. It would present no problem for another home to take over the operation of this location as a convalescent/nursing home. Other convalescent homes have expressed interest in obtaining the Shoemaker Home to continue using the Home for that purpose. In the alternative, there is nothing unique about the property that would not lend itself to Single Family Dwellings being built at that location staying within the R-1-A zoning plan.

Second: The Applicant must demonstrate that it will encounter practical ifficulty if the Zoning Regulations are strictly applied. There would be no difficulty keeping the property as a Home for the Aged, or removing the Home and replacing it with Single Family Dwellings. Either alternative would be possible without a variance, and preferable to a dorm at this location. There are other interested parties who would be willing either to take over the Home as a center for senior citizens, or
develop it for single-family houses. There are no practical difficulties here.

Third: The Applicant must show that the requested variance will not result in substantial detriment to the public good or the zone plan. The Zone Plan calls for Single Family Dwellings. It does not call for dormitories. The homeowners who purchased their homes across the street and next door to the Elizabeth Shoemaker Home did so with the knowledge of the quiet neighbor the Home represented for 55 years. They did not purchase their homes with a dorm in mind.

5. Special Exception: Under Section 2003.1, the applicant requested a special exception to permit a change in a nonconforming use. First, under the Zoning Regulations, it is unclear if there is a nonconforming use, because the zoning regulations provide that a use lawfully in existence at the time of the adoption of the zoning regulations “that would hereafter require special exception approval from
the BZA shall not be deemed a nonconforming use.”

Secondly, in reviewing about 20 BZA decisions over 40 years, we discovered that the BZA has used Section 2003.1 to allow deminimus use changes such as grocery store use to grocery store plus delicatessen. There was not a single case that came close in magnitude to the proposed zoning swap proposed by the applicant.

In addition, Section 200.2 of the Zoning Regulations states that “. . . nonconformities may not be enlarged upon, expanded, or extended nor may they be used as a basis for adding other structures or uses prohibited elsewhere in the same district. Clearly converting a 27-bed nursing home to a 60-bed college dormitory is a substantial increase in use. In addition, the applicant will be adding classroom and lecture uses.

Finally, Section 2003.2, the purposed use must not adversely affect the present character or future development of the surrounding area, the proposed use must not create any deleterious external effects, such as, but not limited to, noise, traffic, parking and loading considerations, illumination, vibration, odor, and design and siting effect (2003.3). And when located in a residential district, the proposed use should be either a dwelling, flat, apartment house, or a neighborhood facility (2003.5).

The peace and quiet of this neighborhood will suffer detriment from the moving in and moving out on a semester basis of 54 to 60 young adults, the nightly coming and going of young adults at this location, and the additional seminars and parties the Fund will sponsor, as described in its application, during which alcohol will be served, especially during the summer when many of these events could be held outdoors.

Mass transportation ? already overcrowded and limited ? will be impacted by 54 to 60 students waiting to board a bus at the same time in the morning. These students will be competing for the limited space on public transportation with current homeowners in the area.

There is no college campus in the vicinity, and public transportation to local colleges is not at all direct. It will take more than an hour in each direction for students to reach Georgetown University from the Home and return each day. Arriving at internship locations not located near public transportation from this location also will be difficult, leading to students driving themselves in their own cars. Parking spaces are limited in this area, and students, their friends and families, lecturers and guests of Fund-sponsored parties will be using those spaces. Though
the Fund has stated that they will discourage students from bringing their cars to Washington, there is no way to enforce this assurance. Streets in this area of DC are not zoned, and there would be no way to enforce this prohibition. Neighbors would suffer the loss of their parking spaces to the students, lecturers, and attendees at the parties organized by the Fund.

Daily deliveries for the dorm will be made to the rear of the property, according to the Application (page 4), however the driveway at the rear is very steep and winding ? unsuitable for delivery trucks. All deliveries would be made to the front of the Home as they have been in the past, further disturbing the neighbors.

The Applicant states (page 5 - 6) that “The Applicant’s proposed use is similar in nature to the previous use as convalescent/nursing home. . ..” There is no way one can say that the residents within a convalescent/nursing home are in any way similar in nature to young adult college students. The populations of each group are unique and in no way similar.

This area is zoned for single family dwellings, and, other than homes for senior living, and day schools, there are no other facilities that would disturb the peace and quiet of this neighborhood. There are no college campuses in the area that would justify a college dorm.

The definition of a community facility includes those facilities that contribute to the benefit of the community. This dorm will bring no significant benefit to the community. Had this property been offered to the public for sale, it could have been sold for single family housing. This would be revenue producing land in the way of property taxes, income taxes, and revenue for our schools. It would be a short term disruption from building noises and truck and van traffic, but once the houses were
built, we would have limited disruption to the community and would remain
within the R-1-A zoning plan. This dorm and its students will not be adding to the community good. They will not be taxpayers or voters in our community. They will be enjoying the use of what our taxes offer, but they will be adding strain to the services offered the community e.g., trash collection, water use, energy use, police protection, public transportation, and others without contributing one cent to this pool of public services. It will not be a community facility.

Specific crime sometimes associated with Dorm life could be present in a neighborhood where it was not before. There are four-times the numbers of officers assigned to the Georgetown dorm area as there are in all other non-dorm areas. The Police Service Area (PSA 201) officers are limited in number. More officers would need to be hired to handle the additional student population concentrated in this single family dwelling zoned area.

6. Property value around The Shoemaker Home may be devalued. When we buy a home, we have certain expectations for the community in where we are purchasing our home. When those living across the street and next to The Shoemaker Home bought their homes, they knew what they were buying. They understood that there would be an occasional ambulance coming to the building, but other than that, they were not expecting any noise, and they have not experienced any noise from the home for the past 55 years. They knew about St. Johns and that school children would be present
during the morning and afternoon hours, and that there would be occasional football and other sport games, but that was the known and the expected. All noise and disturbance from that facility is over prior to bedtime. When they purchased their homes, they did not expect to beliving across from a dormitory. This use is neither permitted by the zoning plan, nor expected in the community and would change significantly the make-up of our neighborhood. Future purchasers of these properties
would have very different assumptions about the community in which they would be living. This could seriously decrease the value of these neighboring properties.

7. In their application, the Fund promises not to alter the exterior of the property:

The Applicant states (at page 4) that the “. . . proposed use will not require any alternations to the Property. Except for exterior upkeep of the building and landscaping, the building will maintain its current appearance.” In later documents, Applicant states under the heading Prohibition on Expansion of Building (flyer attached to this letter) that “[t]he existing building shall not be extended or expanded without further approval of the Board.” This statement merely commits that they will not expand the facility until such time as they decide to expand the
building. We have experience with this type of non-committal statement in our community. In recent years, Ingleside, the Methodist Home, Knollwood and Sunrise have all expanded their operations in our neighborhood.

8. Finally, according to Section 2003.5: “when located in a residential district, the proposed use should be either a dwelling, flat, apartment house, or neighborhood facility.” A dwelling is defined by the zoning regulations as a one-family dwelling. An apartment house is any building in which there are three or more apartments. An apartment is defined as one or more habitable rooms with kitchen and bathroom facilities under the control of the occupants of the room. A flat is a two-family house. A neighborhood facility is a small neighborhood store. The applicant
contends that a dormitory is not strictly a dwelling or apartment house. We agree. The applicant further contends that a dormitory is a cross between a dwelling and an apartment house. WE disagree. We don’t believe that you can average two buildings under the zoning regulations and come up with a third that is different in use and structure and claim that you have met conditions contained in Section 2003.5.

In summary, in its application, The Fund states that (page 5) “No substantial adverse impact or detriment to the public good will result if the variance to allow the requested lot occupancy is granted.” ANC 3/4G strongly disagrees with this statement for all of the reasons stated above. Such use would seriously change the residential nature of our community, and is not permitted under the R-1-A zoning plan. We believe there is overwhelming neighborhood sentiment to continue using the Home as a community based-residential facility for seniors. Doing so also would conform with the Draft DC Comprehensive Plan which emphasizes the substantial increase in the demand for senior housing anticipated for the years ahead.

For the above reasons, ANC 3/4G recommends denial of the application of The Shoemaker Home for either a special exception or variance.

ANC 3/4G appoints Commissioner Samantha Nolan to represent this ANC at any and all hearings relating to this application for special exception and/or variance.


Robert Gordon
ANC 3/4G


JERRY LEVINE (NOVEMBER 13, 2006) re: Sale of the Shoemaker Home (the “Home”) to the Fund for American Studies (the “Fund”) We support the sale of the Shoemaker Home to the Fund and the applications of the Fund to the BZA for a special exception or variance to permit student dormitory housing on the site for the following

1. The Home has the clear right to contract to sell the property to the Fund and the Fund is now the sole party having exclusive sale rights to the property. The Fund must operate the property in accordance with all zoning requirements but in order to conduct its student program, it is requesting a special exception or variance to continue the current multiple dwelling use. The contract between the Home and the Fund is the only contract before the ANC, so that alternative prospective or proposed
uses of the property for single family homes or any form of elderly services (or for that matter, any other alternative uses), are irrelevant to the pending proceedings.

2. The property already has a nonconforming use and under zoning regulations, that nonconforming use may be changed to another permitted use, such as the student housing one proposed here, so long as it does not adversely affect the present character or future development of the surrounding area. We are mindful and respectful of neighbors’ concerns, but we do not believe that the use of the site for student dormitory housing can automatically be assumed to adversely affect the surrounding area. Moreover, the building on the site will be used on an “as is”
basis without the need for reconstruction.

3. Under zoning regulations, the proposed use may not create any deleterious external effects such as noise, traffic, parking and loading considerations, illumination, vibration, odor or design and siting effects. In this case, we do not believe that there is any actual evidence (as opposed to speculation) that the proposed use will fail any of these regulatory standards.

4. The site and proposed use may either be considered a “dwelling”, “apartment” or “neighborhood facility” within the intent of the zoning regulations, and in any case, the site and use would qualify, in our view, for a variance as to this requirement, to the extent legally necessary.

5. There is ample basis for granting a variance in this case because the property is unique in the sense of having an exceptional or inherent condition. The existing 27 bed elderly facility, designed for multiple living units and common space meals, can be easily converted to a 54 student configuration utilizing the same existing “as is” structure without the need for substantial renovation. Without the requested
relief, if zoning regulations were strictly applied, the purchaser of the property would encounter the practical difficulty of not being able to operate the student housing dormitory that is essential to the Fund’s program.

6. The requested variance also would not, in our view, result in substantial detriment to the public good or the zone plan. Potential adverse effects on the area seem to us to be speculative and/or minimal. Very few homes are close to the site. Any use of the patio area will be at the rear of the site and deliveries will be made to back of the property. The students will be spending most of their time away from the property attending classes or internship positions and in any event,
while on the property, will be professionally supervised. The Fund has agreed to a set of strict conditions for the students and their residential use of the property, including a ban on most all cars, alcohol, loud parties, overnight guests and the like. Minimal impacts on public transportation and traffic are expected. A neighborhood liaison committee will be established to deal with any potential problem areas that might arise vis-à-vis the neighbors or neighborhood, and police and other remedies are available if needed.

7. It appears to us that to date the Fund has proceeded in good faith by adopting a set of clear and strict policies that will reasonably assure that the Fund and its students living on the property will be good neighbors to the community.

8. The students will bring vibrancy and diversity to the neighborhood. We do not think it fair to presume that the students will misbehave and fail to adhere to the conditions established by the Fund for their dormitory occupancy. We therefore see no significant reason to deny these students the opportunity to live in the terrific Chevy Chase neighborhood.

November 13, 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Rosenbaum family sues DC

The survivors of Chevy Chase resident David Rosenbaum have sued the District of Columbia and Howard University for $20 Million citing negligence as a contributing factor to the NY Times reporters untimely death.

According to the Associated Press, the family is taking this action "...a way that we can put some pressure on both the city and on Howard University Hospital to fix the things that are broken".

Indeed, missteps from MPD, EMS and the hospital apparently lead to an utter lack of treatment for Mr. Rosenbaum.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ward 3 Dems to receive new leadership

Dear Ward 3 Democrat-

I a’m writing to let you know that I will not be standing for reelection as Chair of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee. I want to send this note out now to give others who might be interested in the job enough time to decide and to mount a campaign for the December 12th elections.

When I ran two years ago, I had several goals: I wanted to re-invigorate the Committee with new people; I wanted to utilize our standing committees to participate in the work of the Ward Committee and I wanted to make our meetings more interesting and relevant for our members and the community.

While the 2004 committee election was drawn out due to challenges, I look back on the last two years as largely accomplishing those goals; although as with any organization more could be done.

The committee added new delegates during a mid-term caucus. We also attracted new people to attend our meetings, many of whom attended last week’s caucus. We adopted a By-laws change that expanded the number of delegates to run the committee in order to create more opportunities for people to get involved in the committee.

We re-invigorated our standing committees that had been largely inactive. The Issues/program committee developed positions on consumer protections from electricity deregulation, the comprehensive plan, the Iraq war and the Alito Supreme Court nomination. The By-laws Committee undertook a major rewrite of our By-laws. The Voter Registration Committee undertook a voter registration drive this year aimed at new residents to Ward 3 and others not registered.

During our meetings, we heard from the vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee, nationally recognized pollsters on the 2004 election, national experts in foreign policy on Iraq policy, local experts on the citys health care system, on the DC schools and the DC education compact and on the process around the Comprehensive Plan.

We also held successful Candidate Forums for Mayor, Council Chair and Council At-large, the Board of Education President and two for the Ward 3 Council candidates.

While I ha’ve enjoyed working with everyone on the Committee and my fellow Ward Chairs, I have found the time commitment that the position requires has had an impact on my other commitments including my professional work. With the Democrats taking over Congress, I have been asked to increase the important work of the Campaign for College Affordability that I started during the last Congress. I have also been active in Mayor-elect Fentys transition and, in particular, want to continue helping to develop Adrian Fentys health policies. I have also organized, the Fair Elections Legal Network, a new organization of election lawyers that will play an increasingly important role in protecting the right to vote for many traditionally under-participating constituencies that have been targeted by conservative initiatives aimed at suppressing the vote.

It was good to see so many new faces at last weeks caucus. I hope that means many more hands being willing to shoulder the work of the Committee. I also hope the new delegates see the benefit of working with existing members, including electing them as at-large members in order to create an inclusive committee that represents both new energy and experience.

As a delegate, I will continue to participate and look forward to working with the leadership that is chosen to move the Committee forward.

Thanks for the privilege to serve as Chair.


Bob Brandon
Ward Three Democratic Committee

Shoemaker House part three

Posted by ANC Commissioner Samantha Nolan:

I just received a copy of a letter from the attorneys for The Fund for American Studies addressed to the Office of Zoning, withdrawing the BZA Application No. 17542 for Special Exception and/or Variance at the Shoemaker Home.

We'll have to see if this means they are amending their submission, or reconsidering the purchase of the property.

To be continued....

Mayor Elect holds transition forums

Ideas to Action Fenty Transition Town Halls: Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty is hosting these town hall meetings to hear from residents about what needs to happen to ensure that DC is a world class city.

DECEMBER 5, 2006
Ward 3 Town Hall Meeting
4200 Connecticut Ave Bldg 47--Gym, 6:30-9pm,
Contact Jason Washington 202-478-9212

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tenant Forum today

Understanding Your Tenant Rights
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Maret School
3000 Cathedral Avenue, NW
10 am – 3 pm


Opening Remarks:

Johanna Shreve, Chief Tenant Advocate
Deborah Jane Lindeman, ANC 3C
Lisa Goldstein, Ward 3 Tenant Advisory Council

Morning Sessions:

Rent Control and What It Means to You.
Time: 10:30 a.m. -12:15 p.m.
Speaker: Keith Anderson, District of Columbia
Acting Rent Administrator

The Ins and Outs of Unit Inspections
Times: 10:30-11:15 a.m. –and-- 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Speaker: Larry Carr, Program Manager - DCRA, Neighborhood
Stabilization Program

Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (TOPA)
Time: 10:30-12:15 p.m.
Speaker: Lauren Pair, Program Manager - DCRA Sales and Conversion

Break 12:15-12:45 p.m.

Afternoon Sessions:

Tenant Petition
Time: 1- 1:45 p.m.
Speaker: Johanna Shreve, Office of the Tenant Advocate - Acting
Chief Tenant Advocate

Rent Control and What it Means to You.
Time: 1:00 -2:30 p.m.
Speaker: Keith Anderson, District of Columbia Rent Administrator

Legal Clinic
Time: All Day
Attorney Representatives:
-Elizabeth Figueroa, Blumenthal & Shanley 10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
-Ann Marie Hay, Executive Director 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
-D.C. Law Students in Court Program, Inc.

NOTE: All sessions will take place in classrooms that surround the
atrium area of the Academic Center on the Maret Campus.

Friday, November 17, 2006

ANC results

There were a host of write-in candidacies in Ward 3 for uncontested ANC seats. Results:

3C07 Richard Rothblum
3D02 Elisabeth (Lisa) Spector
3E02 Talia Primor
3F01 Susan Banta
3F03 Jane Solomon
3F05 Mital Gandhi
3F06 Cathy Wiss

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Shoemaker House part two

In a continuation of the saga of the Shoemaker House from a previous post, to no surprise, the ANC 3/4G passed a resolution against the proposal for The Fund for American Studies to gain a zoning exception for an intern residence in Chevy Chase.

What was a bit of a surprise is that while the vote was 5-2, the ANC is going to send two different letters to the BZA, one for the majority, and one for the minority opinion.

ANC 3G Commissioner and Vice-Chair Jerry Levine posted the following to the Chevy Chase Community Listserv which was co-signed by Chair Robert Gordon:

We support the sale of the Shoemaker Home to the Fund and the applications of the Fund to the BZA for a special exception or variance to permit student dormitory housing on the site for the following reasons:

1. The Home has the clear right to contract to sell the property to the Fund and the Fund is now the sole party having exclusive sale rights to the property. The Fund must operate the property in accordance with all zoning requirements but in order to conduct its student program, it is requesting a special exception or variance to continue the current multiple dwelling use. The contract between the Home and the Fund is the only contract before the ANC, so that alternative prospective or proposed uses of the property for single family homes or any form of elderly services (or for that matter, any other alternative uses), are irrelevant to the pending proceedings.

2. The property already has a nonconforming use and under zoning regulations, that nonconforming use may be changed to another permitted use, such as the student housing one proposed here, so long as it does not adversely affect the present character or future development of the surrounding area. We are mindful and respectful of neighbors' concerns, but we do not believe that the use of the site for student dormitory housing can automatically be assumed to adversely affect the surrounding area. Moreover, the building on the site will be used on an "as is" basis without the need for reconstruction.

3. Under zoning regulations, the proposed use may not create any deleterious external effects such as noise, traffic, parking and loading considerations, illumination, vibration, odor or design and siting effects. In this case, we do not believe that there is any actual evidence (as opposed to speculation) that the proposed use will fail any of these regulatory standards.

4. The site and proposed use may either be considered a "dwelling", "apartment" or "neighborhood facility" within the intent of the zoning regulations, and in any case, the site and use would qualify, in our view, for a variance as to this requirement, to the extent legally necessary.

5. There is ample basis for granting a variance in this case because the property is unique in the sense of having an exceptional or inherent condition. The existing 27 bed elderly facility, designed for multiple living units and common space meals, can be easily converted to a 54 student configuration utilizing the same existing "as is" structure without the need for substantial renovation. Without the requested relief, if zoning regulations were strictly applied, the purchaser of the property would encounter the practical difficulty of not being able to operate the student housing dormitory that is essential to the Fund's program.

6. The requested variance also would not, in our view, result in substantial detriment to the public good or the zone plan. Potential adverse effects on the area seem to us to be speculative and/or minimal. Very few homes are close to the site. Any use of the patio area will be at the rear of the site and deliveries will be made to back of the property. The students will be spending most of their time away from the property attending classes or internship positions and in any event, while on the property, will be professionally supervised. The Fund has agreed to a set of strict conditions for the students and their residential use of the property, including a ban on most all cars, alcohol, loud parties, overnight guests and the like. Minimal impacts on public transportation and traffic are expected. A neighborhood liaison committee will be established to deal with any potential problem areas that might arise vis-a-vis the neighbors or neighborhood, and police and other remedies are available if needed.

7. It appears to us that to date the Fund has proceeded in good faith by adopting a set of clear and strict policies that will reasonably assure that the Fund and its students living on the property will be good neighbors to the community.

8. The students will bring vibrancy and diversity to the neighborhood. We do not think it fair to presume that the students will misbehave and fail to adhere to the conditions established by the Fund for their dormitory occupancy. We therefore see no significant reason to deny these students the opportunity to live in the terrific Chevy Chase neighborhood.

It will be interesting to see how the BZA takes this case - if they consider they potential actions of the future residents, or the legalistic explanations as presented by Levine and Gordon.

To be continued....

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ward 3 Democratic Caucus

The biennial Ward 3 Democratic Caucus was held at St. Columbas. In a turnout unprecendented for such an event, there were a few hotly contested delegate precincts, and for the first time in a while, most of the delegate positions are actually filled.

Results of the caucus should be available later this week.

NY Times provides blueprint

Recent stories in the New York Times have provided an insight into what could be.

A Sunday Real Estate section article discusses the effect of lowering requirements for parking in new development. Indeed, the practices being employed in New York seem to be an indicator of proposals in the yet-to-be-adopted DC Comp Plan. This was also featured by local commentator Richard Layman.

A second article discusses mixed-use development associated with public libraries. I am not sure what happened to the plan to do this with the Tenley DCPL Branch, but there is a similar project happening in Marshall Heights (Ward 7). What would it take to get our Tenley Library back? Layman covered this one too.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Loss of an icon: Farewell Austin Grill

Just a week after announcing the sale of the small, local Austin Grill chain to Thompson Hospitality of Herndon, VA, the vaunted original Austin Grill in Glover Park has closed.

I am glad that suburbanites (Gallery Place store notwithstanding) and others in various cities will be able to enjoy our own brand of Tex-Mex, but it is sad nonetheless to see AG close.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Republicans buoyed by Competitive Election

The Washington Times reports this morning the glory of competitive races in the November General election:

In Ward 3, where Republicans ran one of their strongest candidates, voter turnout appeared to be lower than in 2002, but the number of residents voting Republican appeared to increase.
Prep school teacher Theresa Conroy received 28 percent of the vote against Democrat candidate Mary M. Cheh, a law professor at George Washington University.
Mrs. Conroy's campaign was buoyed by Ward 3 Democrats who crossed party lines because of Mrs. Cheh's support for development plans in Northwest neighborhoods.
Mrs. Conroy raised more than $31,600 and received about 400 more votes than the 2002 Republican candidate, Eric Rojo.
"I thought it was very heartening that many Democrats crossed party lines to vote for me," said Mrs. Conroy, 54. "Many of the Democrats did say 'I've never voted for a Republican in my life.' "

So according to this article, there were about 400 "crossover democrats" if one uses the 2002 result as an indicator. This 400 votes would represent the tiny, vocal "anti-development" group that has caused an excess of lost opportunities for economic expansion in Ward 3. This is obviously not a scientific conclusion, but the numbers are the numbers.

In my opinion, the contested ANC write-in races will demonstrate a better barometer of this point of view.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Shoemaker House part one

This will probably be the first of several posts on the subject, as the story advances from its current state through resolution.

The Shoemaker Hone is a legacy elder care facility located on Military Road, next to St. John's, While this is a Ward 4 issue, there is discussion about the resolution of the disposal of the property and its impact on Military Road, Chevy Chase, DC and the decisions by ANC3/4G.

The organization decided to cease operations and sell the property. The apparent successful bidder is The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), an exchange program which brings undergraduates and graduate students to Washington for a semester. There may also be summer programs. Much of the exchange is with Georgetown University. Because of the current zoning, the matter will have to come before the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) in order to receive a "special exception" to legally operate as a residential college facility in a single family neighborhood.

There has been much discussion about this on the Chevy Chase Listserv with most of the nearby neighbors fearful of having a "college dorm" in their midst. One of the primary issues is the lack of direct transportation to GU for the students.

ANC 3/4 G Chair Robert Gordon, and Vice Chair Jerry Levine have tacitly expressed support for the Fund during the October 23rd meeting, drawing ire from residents who packed the Chevy Chase Center for the monthly Commission meeting.

The ANC will take this up again on November 13th.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Washington Post on the Tenley firehouse

By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 9, 2006; DZ01

The quaint old firehouse was still, a century after it was first built, just big enough to serve what was once the rural outpost of Tenleytown.

But fire department officials stoked the flames of ardent neighborhood preservationists in 2002 with plans to raze the 1901 Italianate revival-style structure on Wisconsin Avenue to make room for the larger equipment needed to fight the fires that came with larger houses and more people.

The battle that ensued ultimately redefined the historic preservation process in the District and cleared the way for a $13 million project to renovate several aging firehouses. Last Saturday, the fire department unveiled the first of the projects to be completed, a new state-of-the-art Tenleytown station, which houses Engine 20.

"The fact is, when you call 911 because you have chest pains, you don't want to hear it took us several minutes longer to get to you because we had to drive slowly through the old, historic doors," said Alan Etter, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman.

Yet, Etter said, the clash made fire officials more sensitive to the value of preserving the uniqueness of the department's history. The new Tenleytown firehouse, for example, was built around the three walls and roof of the old firehouse. The $5.5 million renovation project even preserved the old brass poles that are a hallmark of old firehouses, though firefighters no longer use them.

The other four firehouses slated for renovations also will retain some of their old character.

"We're very sensitive about the desires of the community," Etter said. "We listen to what people have to say. We're all about tradition, and we want to preserve these old buildings as well."

Both sides seem satisfied that they have worked out a viable solution for the future, a feat hardly imaginable when the values of historic preservation first clashed with the realities of contemporary firefighting over the old Tenleytown station four years ago. Scores of preservationists protested when the fire department announced plans to raze the historic structure, which had been designed by the architect of the vice president's mansion.

The critics had the backing of the D.C. Preservation League, which had recently placed all of Washington's pre-World War II firehouses on its most-endangered list.

"They are significant not only for their architectural merits and diversity but also for their socioeconomic impacts on their neighborhoods, as the firehouses spurred subsequent residential and commercial development," the preservation league wrote in its 1999 report on the city's most endangered places.

After several hours of testimony in a heated community meeting in 2002, the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to designate Engine Company 20 a historic landmark in the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. It was untouchable by bulldozers and wreckers.

This was one of the few instances, the fire department and many residents argued, that public safety could be endangered in the name of preservation.

The firehouse had ventilation designed to handle the odor of horses that pulled water tanks not the diesel engines that now fume in the parking bays. The bay doors were adequate for the horse but left only one inch on either side of today's massive rescue and pumper trucks. The firefighter's living quarters were an afterthought.

The Tenleytown project was a harbinger for other problems to come, as the fire department began reevaluating the worsening condition of several other firehouses. As neighbors and the fire department clashed in a series of heated meetings, the preservation board stepped in.

"The Tenleytown firehouse was the building that did bring up that issue of tension between public safety and historic preservation," said David Maloney, D.C.'s deputy state historic preservation officer.

After several months of debate, an architectural solution was drafted that saved three walls and the roof of the old firehouse. That set the precedent that now allows historic preservation laws to make an exception for firehouses across the District.

"In the case of firehouses, we realized that we should loosen the provisions of the [preservation] law," Maloney said. "The legislation now has a special process for firehouses."

Since Tenleytown, the Historic Preservation Office has worked with the fire department on the other projects, Maloney said. When Engine 25 at 3203 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE undergoes a $1.7 million renovation this year, it will retain many of its historic features, including an observation tower once used for spotting fires. According to the state preservation landmark report, it was one of the city's largest and most innovative firehouses when it was built.

Similar considerations will be taken on a string of other renovations underway this year: Engine 17 at 1227 Monroe St. NE in Brookland will undergo a $1.7 million renovation; Engine 9 at 1617 U St. NW will have a $2.2 million overhaul; and Engine 28 at 3522 Connecticut Ave. NW will have a $1.5 million facelift.

"A lot of these buildings are charming," Maloney said. "Since Tenleytown, the process has worked well. The community, the firefighters, everyone will be very proud of these buildings."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Precinct Run Down

This may be a sneak peak to the to be determined ANC Races?

7 (Hardy -- Palisades)
Cheh 402 66%
Conroy 204 33%

8 (Palisades Rec Center)
Cheh 949 64%
Conroy 512 35%

9 (Metropolitan - Spring Valley)
Cheh 390 55%
Conroy 306 44%

10 (Horace Mann)
Cheh 736 68%
Conroy 342 31%

11 (Union Headquarters -- Glover Park)
Cheh 1044 74%
Conroy 355 25%

12 (St. Sophia's -- Mass Ave Heights)
Cheh 178 54%
Conroy 147 45%

26 (Oyster)
Cheh 940 78%
Conroy 264 22%

27 (Eaton)
Cheh 873 74%
Conroy 289 24%

28 (Annunciation - Cathedral Heights)
Cheh 885 69%
Conroy 379 30%

29 (2nd District MPD)
Cheh 419 75%
Conroy 133 24%

30 (Janney)
Cheh 509 66%
Conroy 255 33%

31 (St Columbas)
Cheh 927 70%
Conroy 387 30%

32 (Wesley Methodist -- South Chevy Chase)
Cheh 923 71%
Conroy 364 28%

33 (Murch)
Cheh 1028 75%
Conroy 316 23%

34 (Burke)
Cheh 1179 79%
Conroy 314 21%

50 (Chevy Chase Community Center)
Cheh 819 73%
Conroy 288 26%

138 (Capital Memorial Adventist Church)
Cheh 793 78%
Conroy 222 22%

Election Aftermath: Washington Post

Council members and political activists have expressed concern about the gender makeup of the incoming council. Cheh and council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) could be the only women on the council, which had seven women less than a decade ago.

. . . . .

Cheh, Thomas and Wells campaigned on pledges to work for better schools and smart development in their wards. There was talk in recent weeks about upsets in Wards 3 and 6, with Republicans and independents hoping to make gains. In Ward 3, Cheh, a George Washington University law professor, faced a last-minute e-mail and mailing campaign by a small but organized group of Democrats backing Republican Theresa Conroy.

Cheh said the election results showed that voters rejected the group's tactics. "I'm really, really happy to vanquish a negative campaign against me," Cheh said. "I can't wait to get to work."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Notes

Marc Fisher:

Ward 3 ex-pat in Philly:
It looks like Mary Cheh isn't having too much trouble tonight. Your thoughts?

Marc Fisher: She's won the Ward 3 council seat with well more than 70 percent of the vote, verifying the Democratic primary result and yet again showing the DC government and city voters that the NIMBY, anti-development forces in upper Northwest can make noise, but represent only a tiny but loud minority. The effort by some Dems to rally around anti-development Republican Theresa Conroy amounted to nothing.

Posted 10:43 p.m., 11.7.2006

Results as compared to previous years:

Mary Cheh 71% (12,991-5,077) compares to previous years as follows:
Kathy Patterson won with 78% in 2002 (17,000 to 4600)
Kathy Patterson won with 98% in 1998 (no competitor)
Kathy Patterson won with 77% in 1994 (21,000 to 6,000)

Midday Election Day update

After surveying several polling stations around the Ward, it appears as if turnout is moderate. There has been a lot of activity around ANC races, as write-in candidates emerged in several 3F and 3D races. How ironic would the local election be if it turned on ANC races to provide impetus for turnout?

Cheh and Conroy supporters and poll workers were present at the precincts I visited. The large posters which demonized Democrat Mary Cheh were actually removed by Conroy workers at one station, due to complaints from voters regarding its negative connotations.

The weather is calling for rain later today, so turnout may be suppressed in the evenings.

Get out and vote everyone!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ed Cowan review of the last stand in Ward 3

The following is a review by local commentor, Ed Cowan on the Warde 3 debate from Friday, November 3rd:

In an hour of brisk verbal slugging, the candidates for the Ward 3 seat on the DC Council, Mary Cheh, Democrat, and Theresa Conroy, Republican, debated each other at the Washington International Church on River Road Friday evening.

Some Ward 3 Democrats—at least 44 who circulated a letter, and probably more—have endorsed Conroy, imparting a sense of contest in a ward that typically elects Democrats.

The dissident Democrats fear that Cheh supports more development—especially on upper Wisconsin Avenue—than they would like. Inevitably, development was the hot-button issue Friday night, and each candidate had friends in the audience
who applauded her or jeered her opponent.

The candidates hurled barbs at each other. Cheh was the more aggressive, seeking to associate Conroy with President Bush and asking questions designed to highlight her own expertise in law and embarrass Conroy. Tossing off figures on
criminal recidivism, Chey challenged Conroy to offer a remedy. Without elaboration, Conroy replied, “job training” and “adult education.”

When the debate turned to education, Conroy, who teaches an advanced-placement course in comparative politics at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, jibed at Cheh, “I don’t need to read reports or studies.”

In closing, Cheh unlimbered her big gun, that Conroy was “an anti-abortion Republican.” [Sound of groans and a voter who called out, “What’s that got to do with it?”] Later, Conroy confirmed that she is “pro-life.”

Cheh, the fluent, voluble constitutional law professor at George Washington University, rattled off lists of positions and policies and may have been the more skillful debater. Occasionally, however, she came across as defensive, especially on development. To rebut accusations that her advocacy of “smart growth” means she is aligned with developers, she draped herself in environmental buzzwords, e.g. “green buildings,” “walkable,” “livable” and “mass transit.” She charged that “Conroy and her surrogates” had misrepresented her views.

Cheh acknowledged that she favored “a modest bump-up” of buildings and density in Friendship Heights. She argued that constructing residential units adjacent to the Jenifer Street Metro entrance—a property now occupied by a car dealership—made sense. And she sought to tar Conroy with an anti-Bush brush, causing Conroy to reply, “I’m not a spoiler of the environment, by any means, because I’m a Republican.”

Conroy declared that present zoning affords “adequate headroom” for growth. This referred to the debate under way on a proposed Comprehensive Plan, which Cheh supports and Conroy and her backers dislike. Conroy called for a new study of development, one not influenced by developers.

On climate change, Conroy said she favored “actions that don’t raise costs.” The debate descended at least once into the petty, with the question: What have you done to save energy?

A few minutes into the debate, confusion erupted about the format, and the moderator, Barbara Yeomans of the League of Women Voters, lost control. On the complicated back-and-forth format, Yeomans took instruction from Cheh’s campaign manager, Claire Bloch, evidently the designer of the format. Before long, similar confusion occurred twice more.

Other sponsors of the debate included several ANCs and several neighborhood associations. Carolyn Sherman, an ANC commissioner, chaired the proceedings.

Other topics:

Fiscal Management and Taxes

Conroy opened by saying she favored reducing DC income tax rates “over time,” but she offered no details. She wanted the District to “pay down debt” and she would “look at” business taxes and regulation to see if they were excessive.

She said the law that lets property taxes rise by as much as 10 percent a year “was not a good one,” but she did not say how she would change it. She endorsed the property-tax class action suit brought by Peter Craig of Cleveland Park, a complaint that a trial court has found had merit. She said the District should drop its appeal from a trial court verdict for the plaintiffs, return $15 million of overpayments and change the method of assessment challenged by Craig. Cheh did not discuss the Craig suit.

Cheh disputed an assertion by Conroy that she, Cheh, had said at a forum that she would raise taxes. “I have never called for raising taxes,” Cheh declared. “I’m not interested in raising taxes.” She said advocating tax reduction was “irresponsible” because of the “structural deficit” in DC’s finances and what she called the “degrading” of infrastructure—roads, schools, libraries, community centers—as a consequence of balancing the budget and raising the city’s bond rating. Cheh argued that the District needed more residents and businesses to expand its tax revenues to offset the “structural deficit” and to pay for more spending.

On property taxes, Cheh said she favored “targeted” relief on property taxes for people on “fixed incomes” and for renters and possibly struggling small businesses. That left the impression that she would be content to see property taxes on homes rise annually under the 10 percent cap.

In the most startling statement of the evening, Conroy said “we should look at lifting property tax exemptions for nonprofit educational institutions.” Presumably that would include Georgetown Visitation and G.W.U. Conroy did not elaborate on this unorthodox view and Cheh did not question it.


Cheh favored taking administration of the public schools—property management, payroll, etc.—away from the Superintendent and assigning it to the mayor’s office, leaving the Superintendent to focus solely on instruction and curriculum. She wanted to “train and reward good teachers, get rid of bad teachers.” She favored “fulltime” pre-kindergarden instruction in public schools. She said Congress had forced vouchers “down the throat” of DC. -

Conroy used education as the fulcrum for accusing Cheh of having a conflict of interest because of her affiliation with G.W.U. Cheh has said that she would go on teaching her constitutional law course, which she has repeatedly said requires only three hours a week. In the past, council members have taught on the side, she said, citing former members Dave Clarke, Charlene Drew Jarvis and Kevin Chavous.

With heat, Cheh asserted “there is no conflict of interest.” She would not benefit personally from any real estate acquisitions G.W.U. might make, she said. She was a tenured professor, meaning that she had job security and could vote independently.

“My opponent does not have a law degree,” she added.

She challenged Conroy to state her plans to accelerate modernization of schools and to say how she would pay for it.

“I certainly wouldn’t pay for it by excessive development in Ward 3,” Conroy shot back.

Public Safety

Conroy said DC needs more police and surveillance cameras and rehabilitation for minor drug offenses. Cheh said DC needed not more officers but “better deployment” that would get cops “out of cars.” She would “come down hard on assault, robbery” and “vacuum up guns.” She did not explain how she would do that and did not discuss the view that gun buy-backs bring in only a small fraction of weapons in the community, chiefly old, unworkable pieces.

Cheh called for “a complete overhaul” of the Emergency Medical Service, which is part of the Fire Department, and the replacement of fire chief Adrian Thompson. She said chief Charles Ramsey of the Metropolitan Police Department had done “a mixed job” and she would not “shed a tear” if he were replaced by the next mayor. Conroy said Ramsey had “done an adequate job.” (Ramsey let it be known this week that he was prepared to move on.)

Cheh made a point of saying that “many” in her family had done police work and that her sister’s husband “was killed in the line of duty.” As if to show further that even though an academic she does not live in an ivy-covered tower, Cheh told a story about how her brother, a roofer, took pride in his work.

She said she wanted to serve on the Council’s Judiciary Committee. She has already worked for that committee as a consultant to its former chairman, Kathy Patterson, who supports Cheh and who came to the meeting.

In closing, Conroy adverted to her earlier statements in support of advisory neighborhood commissions, pledged to be “an independent voice” who “would not be bothered by special interests” and who had no “conflict of interest.” She said she had raised legitimate questions about Cheh.

In her close, Cheh accused Conroy of having changed her position on development opportunistically and of favoring vouchers. Cheh said “I’ve run a positive campaign.”

Saturday, November 04, 2006

DC Examiner on Cheh, Fenty and Schools

Courtney Mabeus, The Examiner
Nov 4, 2006

WASHINGTON - As she describes it, Democrat Mary Cheh’s Ward 3 Council candidacy is simply a right place, right time matter and a culmination of smaller realizations added up during her three decades in the District.

Cheh, a law professor at George Washington University, watched as the District teetered on the edge of financial ruin in the 1980s and ’90s and saw it surge back again under outgoing Mayor Anthony Williams.

With her daughters now grown, and a new mayor and several new faces guaranteed on the Council, 56-year-old Cheh decided to run after being energized by years of pro bono work as a city legal reformer.

“Those of us who have been here a long time, we know how bad things can get,” said Cheh, who moved to Washington with her journalist husband in 1976.

“We know where danger lies. ... Now there’s going to be the biggest change in the city governance since Home Rule, with a new mayor, five members of the council and, with many of us, a memory of those times before Mayor Williams.”

But, Cheh, who is passionate about assuring the efficiency of the District’s finances, approaches politics more like a policy wonk than a glad hander who knows everyone who steps off Metro.

She seems genuinely surprised that she won every precinct in her nine candidate Sept. 13 primary.

“It seemed like there were so many people,” Cheh said. “They were all, you know, credible, strong legitimate contenders. Most of them did have prior political experience. I thought I could win, I thought I could lose. I didn’t think I could win everywhere.”

In largely-affluent Ward 3, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1, Cheh is expected to handily beat Republican Theresa Conroy in Tuesday’s election.

Cheh, who still has her native New Jersey accent, wants to bring more recreational opportunities to her ward and is receptive to a mayoral takeover of the District schools system.

“We can’t, and haven’t been able for decades, run a school system that gives kids a real opportunity sometimes to even get a job when they’re out,” Cheh said.

“How can that be? It boggles the mind. There are these other schools system where they’ve been able to figure it out, why can’t we? It’s a moral question as much as it is a practical question.”

Part of the Washington DC Examiner's 2006 election coverage.