Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cheh Convenes PPP Taskforce

Councilmember Mary M. Cheh the formation of a Community Taskforce to study the potential public private partnership to build the Tenley Library and modernize Janney Elementary School.

Cheh plans to hold the initial task force meeting on June 4, 2007, to be followed by community-wide meetings.

"I'm hoping to have a broad coalition of community groups represented", said Cheh. The taskforce will include a representative from each of the following: ANCs 3E and 3F, community associations, St. Anne's, St. Columba's, Ward 3 Vision, Coalition to Stop Tenleytown Overdevelopment, Janney school groups, the Janney principal, IONA, Washington Interfaith Network, Cityline Condominium Board, Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place, Tenley Historic Society, and Friends of Tenley Library.

Janey to meet with Deal Parents

Bill Myers of The Examiner updates the controversy surrounding leadership at the Tenleytown Middle School:

District of Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Clifford Janey will meet with a group of parents demanding the firing of a junior high principal today — but the group’s leaders said they have promised that they won’t relent on their demands whatever the superintendent says.

A handful of parents have picketed outside Alice Deal Junior High since last month in an attempt to show their commitment to their cause.

The parents claim that they have evidence that principal Melissa Kim has emotionally and physically abused their children for years.

“Melissa Kim is abusive toward our children,” said Lacrisha Butler, one of the parents organizing the protests. “We went through the chain of command. They have failed us and they have failed our children.”

The protesters have met with top officials, including Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso, but Butler said that “the buck stops with Dr. Janey.”

Janey spokesman John White confirmed that the meeting will take place, but refused to reveal Janey’s position.

“He never said he would not meet with them,” White said in an e-mail. “He cannot tell you what he will say before the meeting occurs.”

The protesters say that Kim has targeted black and Hispanic students for punishment and that she has struck their children.

Kim has denied the allegations.

The protests have divided the parents of Deal children. Most members of the school’s parent-teacher organization have backed Kim, and some have suggested that the protesters aren’t comfortable with her because she’s Asian.

“That’s an insult,” Butler said. “No one would spend two years documenting abuse and then 30 days on picket for something so trivial.”

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cheh creates Tenley Library Partnership Proposal Task Force

D.C. Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (Ward 3) today announced she is forming a Community Taskforce to study the potential public private partnership to build the Tenley Library and modernize Janney Elementary School.

"It is urgent that we explore the opportunity to move forward on two very important community projects", said Cheh. "The library site has languished for too long, and we now face a fleeting opportunity to capture the benefits of developing the site comprehensively. We can have a new library, a modernized school, and we can do it now."

Cheh plans to hold the initial task force meeting on June 4, 2007, to be followed by community-wide meetings.

"I'm hoping to have a broad coalition of community groups represented", said Cheh. The taskforce will include a representative from each of the following: ANCs 3E and 3F, community associations, St. Anne's, St. Columba's, Ward 3 Vision, CTSO, Janney school groups, the Janney principal, IONA, Washington Interfaith Network, Cityline Condominium Board, Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place, Tenley Historic Society, and Friends of Tenley Library.

"A public private partnership – if done correctly with full input from all stakeholders -- can benefit the entire community", said Cheh. "This could be a model that would benefit not only Ward 3 but neighborhoods across the District."

"It is important to act swiftly", Cheh said. "The library is moving forward quickly with its plans and there may only be a narrow window of opportunity to examine the advantages of a public private partnership."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cosi and the Overlay

Cosi, the coffee house/lunch spot in so many Washington area neighborhoods, saw an opportunity to expand its chain into Cleveland Park. A vacant space once occupied by Blockbuster Video in the Park and Shop development atop the Cleveland Park Metro seemed to be the idea location for the next opening. However, the proposal has hit a snag.

Cleveland Park, in addition to Woodley Park, Capitol Hill and a portion of H Street NE are subject to a Neighborhood Commercial Overlay District which "permits design and use provisions to encourage viability, attractiveness and continuation of neighborhood commercial areas". The DC Zoning Commission (PDF) defines this overlay as"

1302.5 Restaurants, fast food restaurants, delicatessens, carry-outs, and similar eating or drinking establishments shall be subject to the following limitations:

(2) These uses shall occupy no more than twenty-five percent (25%) of the linear street frontage within a particular NC Overlay District, as measured along the lots that face designated roadways in the particular district;

Over the past decades, the definitions as enforced by the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affiars (DCRA) has been fuzzy. What constitutes a food establishment? How is the 25% of linear street footage measured?

With question one, in Cleveland Park, do Yes! Food Market and the Uptown Theater count?

With question two, how are "upstairs" and side lot footages counted?

The questions have been posed repeatedly by the Clevleland Park Citizens Association in varying resolutions as well as ANC 3C.

When Indique first proposed coming into Cleveland Park, there were many posts in support of the food establishment despite the Overlay.

That brings us back to Cosi. A recent post on the Cleveland Park Listserv posits these same questions that have occurred over the past decades about the Overlay:

...the overlay zone, under which Cosi's application was denied, is an anachronism. It's time to repeal the overlay zone.
Created 18 years ago, the overlay zone was designed to prevent traffic, parking and other problems by keeping that part of Connecticut Avenue from becoming an "entertainment destination." But it's the many restaurants in Cleveland Park that help make this a lively, vibrant and fun neighborhood. And new restaurants help old merchants: More people walking through the
neighborhood means more business for our non-restaurant stores.

So is an overlay meant to encourage a variety of businesses working, or is it creating artifical barriers to desired new businesses?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

New Wisconsin Signal Draws Ire

In a previous entry, as part of the solution to the discussion about left turns through parts of the Tenley-Friendship neighborhood, DDOT has installed a new traffic signal at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and River Road. Prior to the installation of the signal, traffic could flow eastbound to Wisconsin and proceed south. North and West bound traffic from Wisconsin could access River Road via a left turn signal at Brandywine Street. The installation of the new signal has created a condition where there are 4 signals in the block between Albemarle Street and Brandywine Street (the new one, the ones at the afore mentioned cross streets, and the light controlling access to the Whole Foods parking garage).

Recent posts on the Tenleytown Listserv have expressed concen and reservation about the new traffic patterns:

...since the traffic light went up on Wisconsin Ave to allow for River Rd traffic, Wisconsin is a pain! Just in the past few days, I've seen a tremendous increase in traffic backed up all the way to the Tenley firehouse. It blows my mind that in that one block, there are 3 traffic lights and not synched up. I have been stopped at every single one. I'm not sure how the River Rd traffic is being affected by it, but I can clearly see that it's a very bad thing for Wisconsin. I don't understand why the lights aren't synched up. In fact, I've seen gridlock by the Tenley metro station because the traffic is so slow.


I have seen nothing but a mess of the traffic, and many times Albemarle is blocked by drivers on Wisconsin Ave. The lights are poorly time. But for the life of me, I can't understand why it is there. Within 100 yards there are 4 traffic lights, that borders on idiocy. Now to complicate the mess, people are now trying to turn left on to River Road, leaving one lane of traffic to go out Wisconsin Ave.

and this prophetic post from the testing phase of the signal:

I'm already hearing complaints from Cityline residents regarding how difficult it is to get out the parking garage because of the line of traffic caused by the new blinky yellow. It's only going to get worse when the light begins to fully stop the flow.
This will become even worse on weekends when traffic gets backed up trying to exit BestBuy (from the same alley). Whoever conceived of this light was not thinking about the bigger picture.

What will happen when there are "No Left Turn" signs installed blocking any traffic from going Eastbound from River during rush hour? As it is, there is a significant back-up at River in the mornings.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Yenching Palace transformation to Walgreens

Margaret Foster reports from the National Trust for Historic Preservation Magazine

Yenching Palace, where Henry Kissinger met with Chinese diplomats in the 1970s, will close this summer to make way for Walgreens. (NTHP)

The Washington, D.C., restaurant that was the site of 1962's Cuban Missile Crisis negotiations will become a Walgreens.

Yesterday the city's historic preservation review board approved a developer's revised proposal to build an addition onto the Chinese restaurant and alter its facade. At the board's request, Rust, Orling and Neale, Architects, will return the restaurant to its 1945 appearance, retaining features like its diamond windows and Carrara glass panels.

"We've really addressed every single concern [the board] had," says principal Mark Orling, based in Alexandria, Va. The firm's researchers found one photo of the former restaurant and based their design on that image, Orling says. "We're working off of a postcard."

The drugstore, located about a block from a CVS, will be the first Walgreens in Washington, D.C. (Another Walgreens is under construction in the city.)

"[Walgreens] saw it as an opportunity to create something that will make a statement and be very visible and also be part of a community," says Randall Clarke, development manager for Mid-Atlantic Commercial Properties, a division of Fort Lauderdale-based Morgan Property Group, which is redeveloping the property for Walgreens. "We've also agreed to put up something on the building describing the history of the property."

Walgreens was "pretty accommodating," says Joan Habib, president of Cleveland Park Historical Society, which recommended that the board approve the revised plans. "We tried to persuade them to maintain as much of the current look as possible because the neighborhood thinks of it as an important place, which, historically, it is."

Yenching Palace opened in 1955, serving Henry Kissinger, Mick Jagger, George Balanchine, Ann Landers, Art Garfunkel, I.M. Pei, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein, according to its guest book. Now a city landmark, the restaurant is actually two buildings, one constructed in 1925 and the other in 1928, which merged in 1945 to form the Seafare Restaurant.

Yenching Palace's longtime owners, the Lung family, plans to close the business this summer and lease the building to Walgreens, which will gut the interior, strip the neon sign and replace it with its own logo.

The building's most famous featuresits neon sign, its wood booths, one of which may have FBI bugsmay end up in a museum.

"We have spoken to a couple of museums; one has expressed an interest in one of the booths and someone else has expressed in the sign," Clarke says. "We're more than open to talking to people [about salvage]," he says.

After yesterday's approval, the city will issue a permit for the changes to the building, and construction will begin this summer.

Neighbors like Habib aren't particularly surprised that the D.C. institution is closing. "They rose to great fame at some point, with Henry Kissinger changing the world in the restaurant," she says. "The front of the place got crummier and crummier, the food got worse, the business was failing, and they sold. That's kind of the arc that lots of buildings follow."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Council Member Cheh May newsletter

Since Spring has arrived, it is a good time to start a newsletter with a word about how I think we at the Council can best further the environmental agenda of the District. As the nation's capital, I believe we must lead by example and set the highest possible standard for environmental quality in a metropolitan area.

One of the critical components of my environmental agenda is energy use. Over the past four months, I have been working with members of the community and experts from around the region to develop a vision for the future of energy use in the District. Work has already begun; last year's Green Building Act was a huge step in the right direction, creating a standard for environmentally sound building design in the District. This month I will chair a hearing on 'Government Funded Energy Efficiency in the District.' I hope to explore ideas and best practices from around the nation, where utilities, businesses, residents, and city agencies join together to develop a coherent citywide energy agenda. The hearing will be held Thursday, May 17th and I welcome your thoughts, ideas, and testimony. Should you wish to participate, please contact Patrick Leibach of my staff at 724-4902 or

On another front, last month the Emergency Medical Task Force held its first meeting. This task force was convened by the Mayor in response to the tragic loss of journalist David Rosenbaum. Led by the new FEMS Director, Dennis Rubin, the task force will meet over the next six months to examine the system-wide delivery of emergency medical services throughout the city. As a member of this task force, I hope to develop a comprehensive set of practical recommendations, including review of the areas of operations, training and management, with a special focus on improving the culture of the agency to provide the highest quality of professional and compassionate pre-hospital medical care to all DC residents and visitors. At our next meeting, May 24th, we will hear testimony from the public. For those wishing to share their thoughts or concerns, you can contact Lance Holt at (202) 727-6053 or I will continue to share updates and insights from the meetings that follow in hopes of creating an open and inclusive process. Please feel free to email me directly with any suggestions.

Finally, I am excited to announce the opening of my Ward 3 Constituent Services Offic on the UDC campus, located on Connecticut Avenue, right behind the Van Ness Metro stop, building 38, Room C01-A. I hosted an Open House on Saturday, May 5th and was pleased to see so many of you join me in unveiling this new satellite location. I hope the new office will allow me to stay more connected with the community and any ideas or concerns you may have. For those of you interested in volunteering, please let us know by calling Dee Smith of my office at 202 724-8062. I hope to begin with regular office hours on Mondays from 10a.m. - 12 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. If there are any changes in the future, we will post the revised hours on the web site.

Glover Park Transportation Study

DDOT will hold the first community meeting for the study on Tuesday, May 15, 2007 from 6:30 pm-8:30 pm at the Guy Mason Recreation Center (3600 Calvert Street, NW). They request as much community participation as possible to make the study very informative.

DDOT will also hold a community walking tour on May 19, 2007 from 10 am to noon for a review of critical intersections in the study area.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Washington Post on Upper NW development

Paul Schwartzman of the Washington Post has composed this article on development in Friendship Heights, specifically the 5220 development proposal.

DC Bubble has an entry on this article and there is a comments section to the Post article.

What is your view?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Express: Whole Foods to get License soon

According to a report in the Washington Post Express, the Tenleytown Whole Foods market will be getting a license to sell beer and wine in the near future:

Since no one filed an official complaint with the District's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Whole Foods could receive its liquor license within the next week, Sarah Kenney, the company's director of marketing for the Mid-Atlantic region, tells Free Ride.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Marc Fisher on Tenley Library Proposal

In a recent entry into the rawfisher blog, Washington Post Columnist (and local resident) Marc Fisher comments on the Roadside Development proposal for the Tenley Library site.

Monday, May 07, 2007

River Road Barrier Meeting

From DDOT:

Please be advised the public meeting to present the River Road/Fessenden/45th Sts intersection traffic calming will be held at
Armenian Church of St. Mary from 6pm-7pm, Tuesday, May 8, 2007.

Armenian Church of St. Mary
4125 Fessenden Street
Washington, DC 200016

The meeting will begin at 6pm.

Friday, May 04, 2007

CPCA meeting on the Tregaron Conservancy

The Cleveland Park Citizens Association meeting on Tuesday. May 15 will feature an update on the Tregaron Conservancy and Washington International School campus modernization, Also on the agenda will be a Q & A on the popular Cleveland Park Listserv and a report on the CPCA officer slate for 2007-08. The meeting, which will be at the Cleveland Park Library (Connecticut and Newark NW), starts at 6:30 pm.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Progress with Tenley Library?

According to the Janney parent newsletter, Roadside Development is proposing a Public-Private Partnership to redevelop the intersection of Albemarle Street and Wisconsin Ave. There is a Q&A posted on their website (recommended to download the PDF to see the images):

Who is proposing this?

Roadside Development, the company that built the CityLine condos across the street from Janney.

What's in it for Janney?

Conceivably, this project could fund major improvements to Janney's facilities, including an addition and renovations to the current building. The current parking lot would be moved underground, freeing up that space for other uses. But a condo building would take over part of what is now the soccer field.

What, specifically, is Roadside Development proposing?

Roadside Development has described three major components to this project. 1. A new Tenley-Friendship Library. 2. A condo building that would be constructed partially above the new library and partially on a section of Janney’s soccer field, with underground parking for residents and for the school and the library. 3. An addition to the school with space for four new classrooms, a library, and a gym. The proposal also includes renovation of the existing school building.

On the left is a sketch from Roadside Development. The school addition is on the hillside west of the current building. A new soccer field has been built in back of the school.

This image may help illustrate the major elements of the proposal. The purple area shows, approximately, the portion of Janney's soccer field that would be covered by the new condo building. The green area is the current parking lot, which would disappear, allowing most of that space to be used as a play area, or as part of a new soccer field. The blue area would be the site of the new addition. The demountables aren’t shown on this image. They would be removed.

How tall would the condo building be?

Six stories high, reaching 65 feet above the level of the soccer field. The building would be about the same height as the condos at Cityline, across Albemarle.

How many units would be in the building?

Roadside’s representatives have said it could include anywhere from 100 to 150 condos

How does that size compare to the Cityline condo building?

There are 204 units in the Cityline building.

How far would it be from the school?

According to Roadside’s architect, it would be at least 85-90 feet from the school

How would cars reach the underground parking lot?

There would be access to Wisconsin through the alley beside St. Ann’s. St. Ann’s owns this alley, so the developers would have to obtain an easement allowing for this use of the property.

How much parking would there be for Janney?

The first level of the underground parking lot would contain parking spaces for the library and the school. Roadside is assuming that 50-55 of these spaces would be assigned to the school, and 20 to the library.
The Janney spaces would available for library users during evenings and weekends. Condo residents would park on lower floors which would not be accessible to the school or library.

Does this mean that Janney would lose its soccer field?

No, but in order to relocate the soccer field, the existing playground in back of the school would have to be moved to the area east of the school, which is now part of the soccer field. If we chose to increase the size of the soccer field, all but the basketball courts would probably have to be relocated.

How much land would Janney give up for the condo building, compared to the space the school would gain by putting the parking underground?

We don’t know yet. Roadside has promised to provide this information.

How large is the proposed addition to Janney?

It would be a two-story structure just west of the current school, built into the side of the hill and using some of the space where a demountable now sits. The addition would be connected to the main building on both first and second floors. One floor would hold a gym (4700 square feet) and the other floor would contain four classrooms (each 700 sq. ft.) plus a library (2200 sq. ft.) The addition would also have bathrooms. This would be a net increase of three classrooms over Janney’s current configuration. (The demountables, with their three classrooms, would go away, but the new library would allow our existing library to be converted into two classrooms.)

The proposed design includes a green roof which creates potential learning opportunities. The initial design has the gym on the second floor. Placing classrooms on top of the gym would require additional structural support, since the gym spans the building with no interior load bearing walls.

Does Janney need this much additional space?

Janney’s in-boundary enrollment has been climbing. There is no reason to anticipate that this trend will end anytime soon. The school needs one additional classroom for the 2007-2008 school year, even with pre-K enrollment cut down to half a class. Because of space limitations, Janney has not been able to accept out-of-bounds students in recent years.

The lack of space and general overcrowding has affected the school in several ways. There are a number of teachers and other professionals who are working in inadequate spaces. This includes the ESL teacher, the Occupational Therapist, and the Speech Language Pathologist who all work out of converted closets that are far too small. The school Social Worker and School Psychologist have no space dedicated to their needs and must “make do” despite the confidential nature of their work. The school gym is also used as a cafeteria and auditorium and is insufficient in size for all three purposes. Finally, the lack of classroom space is causing the school to either add more demountables (portable classrooms), which take up playground space, or to allow class sizes to rise dramatically. Finally, the lack of classroom space causes us to regularly turn away many in-boundary students for Pre-Kindergarten each year.

On the other hand, the overcrowding should ease a bit when sixth grade moves to Deal. Currently this is expected to happen for the 2009-2010 school year.

Are renovations at Janney part of the plan?

Yes. The details would have to be worked out, but the priorities for this renovation include major upgrades to the electrical system, heating and air conditioning, and an elevator. The amount available for renovations depends upon the amount spent on the addition and the parking. The more these cost, the less will be available for renovations. Again, the precise numbers are not yet available.

How would all this be financed?

Roadside’s representatives say that their condo development could generate somewhere in the range of $10 million to $20 million for the “public” part of this project: library, school, and the underground parking for both. In theory at least, this money could finance a substantial part of the improvements at Janney.

Would the money from Roadside’s condo development be enough, by itself, to build the addition and renovate Janney's existing building?

We don’t know the answer to that, but Roadside's representatives have suggested that additional funds would be needed. They have talked about the additional tax revenue that this project will generate, and suggested that this represents, potentially, an additional source of funds for the overall project.

Is there any guarantee that funds generated by this project will be designated specifically for improvements at Janney, rather than simply going into the city’s coffers?

This is a big and important question, and no one knows the answer at this point. The arrangements under which the money could be set aside and specifically used for work at Janney are, at this point, completely up in the air. The DC government owns the land, and DC Public Schools controls its use. They ultimately will decide how it is used, and where the money from such a joint development project would be spent. There is, however, at least one precedent in which private development of part of a school site was used specifically to rebuild that school. This is the Oyster School project in Woodley Park a few years ago.

Isn’t DCPS already planning to carry out renovations at Janney?

The DCPS master facilities plan currently foresees spending $4.6 million on improvements at Janney in the year 2013. The plan provides very few details beyond that.

Who will decide whether this happens?

That’s another complicated question.

First of all, both the library system and DCPS would have to agree to it. Ginnie Cooper, the head of DC public libraries, has said that she’d be happy to cooperate with a joint development plan, as long as it moves ahead quickly. The library is proceeding with plans to build a new, stand-alone library on the site, and Cooper does not want to put that on hold while waiting for the community and officials to make up their minds about an alternative. Based on the library’s current timetable, this could mean that the Roadside proposal would have to be approved by the end of this year in order to be viable.

The leadership of DCPS has not yet weighed in on this idea. Representatives from other parts of the DC government, however, including the office of the mayor and Council Member Mary Cheh, have stated that they will support this project if the community supports it.

The developers are planning to seek approval for this project through a Planned Unit Development (PUD) process. It would be submitted to the ANC as well as the Zoning Commission.

How long would it take before this could be finished?

After the project was approved and all construction documents drafted, construction of the library and condo building could take two to three years, because it requires a lot of work underground. The Janney addition, on the other hand, could be built much more quickly, within six months or so, because it wouldn’t require lots of digging.

Why not combine the school library and the Tenley-Friendship Library? Can this be considered as part of the plan?

DC Public Libraries is already moving ahead with redevelopment plans for several branch libraries, including Tenley. It appears that the window of opportunity for such a plan has passed.

Must I make up my mind about this now?

Haste makes waste, of course, but there is some time pressure because of the library's plans to move ahead with its own library. Once the library actually starts building a separate, stand-alone building, a joint project won't be possible anymore. This could happen within a year.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Unofficial School Board Election Results

MARTIN LEVINE 28.71% 3,699
JOE CARRILLO 6.51% 839
MAI ABDUL RAHMAN 10.72% 1,381
SEKOU BIDDLE 30.44% 3,921
HERB SCOTT 8.23% 1,060
ANN HOLIDAY 5.96% 768
Write In, if any 1.05% 135