September 23, 2020 ANC 5A Meeting Recap: Flood Resources; Catholic University Updates; Providence Updates

ANC 5A held its monthly public meeting on September 23, 2020. Commissioners present: Frank Wilds (5A01), Grace Lewis – Parliamentarian (5A02), Emily Singer Lucio – Secretary (5A03), Ronnie Edwards – Chair (5A05), Claudia Barragan (5A06), Sandi Washington – Treasurer (5A07), Gordon Fletcher – Vice Chair (5A08)

Ward 5 Councilmember Report

Silas Grant, Senior Adviser to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, noted Councilmember McDuffie recently introduced emergency legislation, the Local Business Enterprise Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, to close a loophole around certified business enterprises (CBEs).

For those impacted by flooding and sewer backup issues as a result of the storm on September 10, DC Water has a resource page at https://dcwater.com/storm-and-flooding-september-10-2020. DC Water has established a cleanup fund using two vendors. Residents who still need to dewater, clean, and sanitize their homes should contact the vendors directly: (1) Service Master at (703) 212-7000 or (2) ServePro at (703) 448-8444. DC Water will pay the vendor directly.

DC Homeland Security & Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) Flood Response

Clint Osborn with the DC HSEMA Hazard Mitigation Program has been assigned to work with the MOCRs to help residents affected by the September 10th flood. He outlined the steps affected residents should take:
(1) Any affected resident that still needs to clean and sanitize their home should immediately call the DC Water vendors noted above (Service Master or ServePro) for immediate dewatering and cleanup/sanitizing. Residents having trouble reaching the vendors can contact DC Water’s cleanup temp to help, but the fastest way to get service will be to contact the vendors directly. DC Water will pay the vendor directly up to $5,000.
(2) File a homeowners insurance claim even if the home may be uninsured or underinsured. Residents can contact DC’s Department of Insurance, Securities, & Banking (DISB) for assistance in addressing any policy concerns.
(3) File a claim with DC Water’s insurer at https://dcwater.com/claims.
(4) Apply for DC Water’s backwater preventer rebate program, which provides reimbursement up to $6,000 for installation of a backwater valve by a licensed plumber. Installing a backflow preventer is the best way to prevent sewer backflow into one’s home. DC Water has expanded the program to Edgewood and Riggs Park residents, but residents who live outside of these neighborhoods should still apply, as DC Water will determine eligibility for the program by address. All residents must apply for and be determined eligible for the program before installing a backflow valve in order to be reimbursed. Note: Even if you did not experience sewage backup in your home, if your address is eligible for the program, DC Water will reimburse you up to 90% (up to $6,000) for installation of a backwater valve, so all residents in the affected neighborhoods should consider applying.
(5) Any affected homeowner who has not done so already should participate in DC’s canvassing effort (see image below). Contact James Farley at (202) 738-2085. DC is assessing whether to make an application to FEMA for a disaster declaration in order to get more relief to affected homeowners. DC will need to meet certain thresholds, and the canvassing effort will help with the FEMA request.

Catholic University

Catholic University introduced their new public safety official, Kirk McLean, Associate Vice President for Public Safety & Emergency Management. He is a retired Prince George’s County law enforcement officer.

Catholic has a COVID-19 information page with information related to case numbers and reopening. Judith Biggs Garbuio, Vice President of Student Affairs at Catholic, stated classes are being offered primarily online. She noted 611 students are living on campus, consisting of a small number of first year and transfer students. Catholic does not know how many students returned to the DC area to off campus housing. Ms. Garbuio noted that some students had to return because their landlords would not let them out of their lease. When students enroll in spring classes in a couple of weeks, the university will have a better sense of where their students are living.

Catholic is conducting surveillance testing of student-athletes and symptomatic individuals. As of September 23, the university reported 73 off campus positive COVID-19 cases and 10 on campus positive COVID-19 cases. The university does not have any reported positive COVID-19 cases among faculty or staff since students began returning to campus on August 15. Most faculty are teaching classes remotely, and most staff have the option to telework until at least December 31, 2020.

Catholic recently sent communication to neighborhood residents asking them to contact the public safety line at (202) 319-5111 if residents see large student gatherings. Ms. Garbuio stated that they were made aware of one large student party off campus and those students were placed on threat of suspension.

Providence

View Providence’s presentation here.

Nicole Commodore, Director of Community Impact & Advocacy for Providence, noted Providence continues to work with DC on COVID-19 response. Providence is also willing to partner with organizations to provide masks to seniors in need.

Providence was recently selected and approved as the medical provider partner for the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind’s grant application for the DC Hope Community Grant.

Providence will have a free community flu shot clinic on October 7, 2020, from 9:30 am to 11:00 am and from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm.

DC’s State Health & Planning Development Agency (SHPDA) recently approved Providence’s certificate of need for a diagnostic and imaging center. The center will be housed in the old emergency center and is expected to open in spring 2021. The center will be open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

(One item not discussed was the DC Office of Attorney General’s recent communication regarding the OAG’s investigation of the closure of Providence Hospital. Read more at https://oag.dc.gov/blog/investigating-closure-providence-hospital.)

ANC 5A Website

The ANC is planning to revamp its website again. The current website is not user friendly or ADA compliant. Commissioner Gordon Fletcher (5A08) and Commissioner Emily Singer Lucio (5A03) will spearhead the project. Look for a new website first quarter 2021.

ANC 5A08 Public Safety Task Force

ANC 5A08’s public safety task force held its first orange hat walk on September 16. If you are interested in participating in the 5A08 task force, reach out to Commissioner Fletcher.

Ward 5 Mutual Aid

The ANC informed the Ward 5 mutual aid organization that it needs to partner with a nonprofit organization in order to receive a grant from the ANC. The mutual aid organization will look at partnering with a couple of area churches.

DC Census 2020

There is still time to complete the census if you have not done so. Visit https://2020census.gov.

Miscellaneous

An update on Art Place at Fort Totten was originally on the agenda, but was removed by Commissioner Fletcher. He will provide an update at a future meeting.

At the request of a resident, the ANC will consider recording the meetings to make them publicly available to residents.

September 28: ANC 4B Monthly Public Meeting

ANC 4B Regular Public Meeting
Monday, September 28, 2020, 7:00 p.m.
Virtual Meeting Details:

Virtual Meeting Details: 

For video participation via Zoom on a computer or mobile device, click this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84214249196?pwd=c3E0bzJmMFpoQ1JwVWFtNmhsVkduUT09. Meeting ID: 842-1424-9196. Password: 964318. 

For voice-only participation on a telephone, dial (301) 715-8592. Meeting ID: 842-1424-9196. Password: 964318. 

To watch (but not participate) via YouTube: https://youtu.be/kPF-3QiSqxk.

Agenda

1.        Call to Order & Roll Call  

2.        Administrative Items: 
A. Consideration and Approval of September Agenda 
B. Instructions regarding Participation in Virtual Meeting 
C. Approval of July Regular Public Meeting Minutes 
D. Treasurer’s Report & Approval of Budget for Fiscal Year 2021 
E. Commissioner Updates (if applicable) 

3.        Presentation: Lia Kuduk, Goodwill Ambassador and Community Organizer, Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC, Initiative 81 (Commissioner Palmer – 5 minute presentation; 5 minute discussion) 

4.        Presentation: Paul Kihn, Deputy Mayor for Education, Public School Reopening (Commissioner Yeats – 10 minute presentation; 15 minute discussion) [invited] 

5.        Reports:A. Metropolitan Police Department, 4th District (3 minutes) B. Office of Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon T. Todd (3 minutes) C. Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services (3 minutes)  D. Ward 4 State Board of Education Representative Frazier O’Leary (3 minutes) 

6.        Consent Calendar: 

Resolution 4B-20-0901: Requesting Installation of Speed Humps and Additional Traffic Calming on Whittier Street, NW, between Blair Road, NW, and Piney Branch Road, NW (Commissioner Palmer & Commissioner Bromaghim)  

Resolution 4B-20-0902: Requesting Consideration of Speed Humps on 4th Street, NW, between Van Buren Street, NW, and Aspen Street, NW (Commissioner Palmer & Commissioner Bromaghim) 

Resolution 4B-20-0903: Requesting Speed Humps on Longfellow Street, NW, between Kansas Avenue, NW, and First Street, NW (Commissioner Brooks)  

Resolution 4B-20-0904: Requesting Speed Humps for the Unit Block of Sheridan Street, NE (Commissioner Bromaghim)  

Resolution 4B-20-0905: Supporting the Provision of DHCD Funding for 218 Vine Street, NW (Commissioner Bromaghim)  

Resolution 4B-20-0906: Urging the DC Council to Ban the Use of Gay Panic and Trans Panic Defense in Court Cases (Commissioner Yeats) 

7.        Resolution 4B-20-0907: Supporting Traffic Calming on 3rd Street, NE (Commissioner Brooks & Commissioner Huff – 2 minute presentation; 2 minute discussion) 

8.        Resolution 4B-20-0908: Addressing Pedestrian Safety Measures and Signage at Walmart Supercenter, 310 Riggs Road, NE (Commissioner Huff – 2 minute presentation; 2 minute discussion) 

9.        Community Concerns: *Please use the “Raise Hand” button via Zoom or *9 via telephone to speak during community concerns. The Commission will provide additional details regarding how to present community concerns via the virtual meeting at the start of the meeting.* This is the time for questions or statements from members of the public about issues on the agenda or other areas of concern. Please limit your statement or question to one minute. You may also contact members of the Commission before and after Commission meetings. 

10.     Adjournment 

Next Regular Public Meeting: Monday, October 26, 2020, 7:00 p.m. 

Contact your Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner: ANC 4B01 Evan Yeats (4B01@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B02 Erin Palmer (4B02@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B03 Scot Knickerbocker (4B03@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B04 Brenda Parks (4B04@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B05 Perry Redd (4B05@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B06 Tiffani Nichole Johnson (4B06@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B07 Geoff Bromaghim (4B07@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B08 Alison Brooks (4B08@anc.dc.gov); ANC 4B09 LaRoya Huff (4B09@anc.dc.gov) 

Pepco Capital Grid 3-Week Look Ahead 9/21/2020

Pepco has provided a three-week look ahead of the areas of the Captial Grid Project that Pepco contractor’s DCI/Meade and JM Utility Construction are working, starting the week of September 21, 2020. The work zones include Riggs Road NE, Eastern Avenue NE, and New Hampshire Avenue NW. Parking restrictions are in effect in the work zones Monday through Saturday, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm.

For more information about the project, visit pepco.com/CapitalGrid. For questions, email Ann Walters at ann@robinsonpr.com or call/text at 202-680-8533. Virtual Office hours are on Tuesdays from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and Saturdays, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at https://meetingsamer17.webex.com/meet/ann

Pepco Capital Grid Riggs Road/Eastern Avenue NE Presentation

On September 17, 2020, Pepco held a virtual meeting on the Riggs Road/Eastern Avenue NE portion of the Capital Grid Project. The presentation is here.

A few things to highlight:

  • The permitted work hours are 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. Signs will be posted where cars should not be parked in the work zone.
  • The neighborhood’s community relations coordinator is Ann Walters. Ms. Walters will hold virtual office hours on Tuesdays from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. You can attend the virtual office hours by logging into webex, Meeting ID number 1263329849. She can also be reached by phone at (202) 680-8533 and by email at ann@robinsonpr.com.
  • There is also a dedicated number for the project – (833) CAP-GRID (277-4743). The project website is www.pepco.com/capitalgrid and an interactive website is available at www.capitalgrid.net.
  • If you use metrobus, probably best to keep an eye out for detours and delays.

September 23: ANC 5A Monthly Public Meeting (Virtual)

ANC 5A Public Meeting
September 23, 2020
6:45 pm

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81006714937?pwd=U2NRNVo1QXFaZHhCSUpwbENydjZPQT09

Meeting ID: 810 0671 4937
Passcode: 903231

Call in Number: 1 301 715 8592 

All residents will be muted.  Individuals will be called on once acknowledged by the Chair.

Agenda Items

  1. Catholic University of America COVID Plan and progress and Introduction of new Public Safety Director
  2. ANC 5A08 Cafritz Project Update

September 16: DC Water Flood Townhall

From Ward 5 Councilmember McDuffie’s facebook page:

DC Water has requested that all residents who experienced damage from last Thursday’s storm file a damage claim. For information on how to file a claim for damages visit www.dcwater.com/claims or contact Barbara Mitchell at barbara.mitchell@dcwater.com or 202-320-5299.

Information on how to apply for the backwater valve program can be found on DC Water’s website at dcwater.com/backwatervalves.

DC Water will host a Virtual Town Hall to discuss flooding on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 at 6:30 pm. The meeting can be accessed via the link and telephone number below.
Microsoft Teams http://bit.ly/FloodingTownHall
Telephone (855)-756-7520 Ext. 66560

https://www.dcwater.com/whats-going-on/news/dc-water-host-virtual-town-hall-residents-impacted-september-10-extreme-flooding

DC Water General Manager David L. Gadis and senior members of the authority are inviting all residents who were impacted by the historic flooding on September 10 to participate in a live community meeting to discuss the event, opportunities for assistance and future prevention. Mr. Gadis will explain how the storms overwhelmed the sewer system and discuss DC Water’s new initiative to expand the installation of backwater valves, among other topics.

The meeting is aimed primarily at residents who live along the most heavily impacted areas of the flood but all DC residents are invited to participate in the call.

Who:           Virtual Town Hall to Discuss Flooding

When:         September 16, 2020, 6:30 pm.
        
Where:        Microsoft Teams: www.dcwater.com/flooding-town-hall

                    Telephone: (855)-756-7520 Ext. 66560 

Media may participate in the call but questions are reserved for residents with concerns or questions about the flooding. 

For more information, please visit www.dcwater.com/September10Flooding.

UDC-CC Backus Bioretention Project

UDC-CC Backus campus, corner of South Dakota Avenue and Hamilton Street NE

UDC is apparently installing a bioretention and cistern system at UDC-CC Backus in the grassy area of the campus on the corner of South Dakota Avenue and Hamilton Street NE. The work is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. That will be a big improvement for that corner area. I always that it would be a nice spot for a demonstration native plant garden, so it is nice to hear that it will hold a bioretention system to help with stormwater runoff. Now we just need UDC to paint the fence, replace the dead trees on the Galloway Street side, and install native landscaping around the campus and things will be looking much better.

September 17: Pepco Capital Grid Project Virtual Community Meeting; Other Construction Work

Pepco mailer on Capital Grid Project

Pepco Capitol Grid Riggs Road/Eastern Avenue NE
Virtual Community Meeting
September 17, 2020
6:30 pm-8:00 pm

Join Virtually (to view the presentation): 
https://tinyurl.com/CapitalGridMeetingSept17

Join by Phone (to hear presentation only):
1-443-529-0267; Conference ID – 396 316 663#

Topics of discussion will include:

  • Construction updates
  • Construction timelines
  • Neighborhood impacts

The subject of so many community meetings over the past few years, Pepco’s Capital Grid project has finally made its way to Riggs Road NE. Road work to place transmission cables underground along Riggs Road has commenced. Drivers will encounter lane closures in the work zone. You can view an interactive map of the project at https://capitalgrid.net.

Please pack some patience and pay attention to the flaggers. I have seen drivers become impatient and proceed driving contrary to instructions to stop. Needless to say, that is dangerous. Your best bet is to avoid Riggs Road NE if you can.

Other Construction Work

Site construction has started at the Riggs Park Place townhome development on the southeast corner of South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road NE. The construction entrance is located on South Dakota Avenue, so you will see flaggers in that area directing traffic to stop to allow construction trucks to enter and exit the site.

There will be occasional lane closures on both sides of South Dakota Avenue.

Finally, there is road work taking place all over the city these days, so probably best to give yourself a few extra mintues to get wherever you need to go.

Neighborhood Home Flooding Resources

According to news reports, some neighborhood residents experienced flooding/sewage issues as a result of the recent storm that dumped a large amount of rain in a short period of time on Thursday, September 10. Homes affected were in the 600-700 blocks of Nicholson Street NE, 600 block of Kensington Place NE, and 5800 block of 8th Street NE.

For many years, there has always been flooding around South Dakota Avenue and Galloway Street and Gallatin Street NE after flash storms, but South Dakota Avenue NE between Kennedy Street NE and Farragut Place NE looked like a small river after this most recent storm.

If you experienced flooding/sewage issues, please reach out to Ward 4 MOCR KeShawn Harris at keshawn.harris@dc.gov.

Below are a letter from Mayor Muriel Bowser to affected residents and contact information for residents to report flood/sewer issues as a result of the September 10th storm.

September 9, 2020 ANC 5A Special Meeting Recap: Hope & Joy Home Health Center; EYA Josephite Development; Pepco Rate Case; ANC Space at Art Place

On September 9, 2020, ANC 5A held a special public meeting. Commissioners present: Grace Lewis-Parliamentarian (5A02); Emily Singer Lucio-Secretary (5A03); Ronnie Edwards-Chair (5A05); Claudia Barragan (5A06); Sandi Washington-Treasurer (5A07); Gordon Fletcher-Vice Chair (5A08)

Hope & Joy Home Health Care Agency

The owner of Hope and Joy Health & Allied Services, a home health center based in Laurel, Maryland is looking to open a location in DC, specifically in Ward 5. Ostensibly the purpose of appearing before the ANC was to request the Commission’s support for the business’s Certificate of Need application with the DC Department of Health State Health Planning and Development Agency (SHPDA). The owner identified a home at 4328 Varnum Place NE that is currently being used for a catering business as a potential location. Because this home is zoned for residential use only, he would need a special exception to operate a business at the home. It is not clear if the homeowner currently resides in the home while the catering business is being operated, but if Hope & Joy’s owner were to obtain a special exception, no one would reside in the home and there would be four to five employees working out of the home. No clients would be served at the home.

The ANC voted (5-0-1) not to support Hope & Joy because the owner would ultimately be seeking to operate a business in a residential zone. Commissioner Claudia Barragan (5A06) abstained. The discussion was strange because the owner stated that it would actually be more affordable for him to lease an office suite rather than go through the zoning process to turn a residence into a business, so it was not clear why he was even approaching the ANC about this idea. At any rate, he is apparently committed to opening in Ward 5, so he is working with Commissioner Emily Singer Lucio (5A03) to identify commercial space in Ward 5, including available space at Art Place at Fort Totten. He stated that he does not need to have a location identified for the Certificate of Need, but it would be useful and ultimately he would of course need to identify a location for SHPDA.

EYA Josephite Development

EYA is proceeding with a townhome development at the St. Joseph’s Josephite Seminary called Townhomes at Michigan Park near 12th Street and Allison Street NE, after the DC Court of Appeals affirmed the Zoning Commission’s approval of the project back in July of this year. That lawsuit by a nearby resident delayed the project for a few years. View EYA’s presentation to the ANC here.

The project will have roughly 80 three to four bedroom townhomes. Six of the homes will be reserved for families with income at or below 60 percent of area median income. The price of those homes will be in the $250,000 to $300,000 range. Four of the homes will be reserved for families with income at or below 80 percent of area median income. The price of those homes will be in the $350,000 to $400,000 range. There are other community benefits, including a permanent easement preserving some green space, public art, publicly accessible playground, training opportunities for Phelps High School students, money for a tax assistance fund, and an application for historic preservation of the seminary building, as well as pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures associated with the project. Residents will see a sales trailer at the site in the next couple of months. The first homes are anticipated to be completed by late 2021. If you have questions about the project, contact Commissioner Emily Singer Lucio (5A03).

Pepco Proposed Rate Increase

The DC Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) gave a very detailed presentation on Pepco’s proposed multi-year rate increase application. The presentation is not available on the ANC website yet, but a helpful fact sheet from OPC on this issue is available on the OPC website. According to the fact sheet,

On August 11, 2020, OPC and all of the non-utility parties to the Pepco rate case proceeding (Formal Case No. 1156), filed a joint motion with the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) requesting that the PSC direct Pepco to withdraw its rate increase application, dismiss Pepco’s Multiyear Rate Plan (MRP) Enhanced Proposal, and grant additional consumer relief.

OPC Consumer Fact Sheet available at https://opc-dc.gov/images/pdf/OCF_PastPerformanceEvaluation.pdf

I will not attempt to explain OPC’s position in full; the fact sheet is a good explainer. OPC and the other non-utility parties argue that Pepco has not provided enough evidence to support its requested rate increase and that Pepco has used unreliable data.

The ANC voted unanimously to support OPC’s recommendation requesting that Pepco withdraw its proposed rate increase application and multi-year rate plan. A public hearing before the DC Public Service Commission is scheduled for September 29, 2020. Individuals may sign up to testify or submit comments for the public record. Instructions from OPC’s fact sheet:

• You can file comments with the PSC via this link:
https://edocket.dcpsc.org/public/public_comments or send an email to
PSC-CommissionSecretary@dc.gov. Please reference Formal Case No. 1156.
• You can speak at the virtual community hearing that the PSC will be holding on September 29. If you wish to testify, send an email to
PSC-CommissionSecretary@dc.gov by the close of business on September 22.

ANC Space at Art Place at Fort Totten

The ANC gave Commissioner Gordon Fletcher (5A08) the green light to proceed with securing a self-insured document from the Office of ANC so that ANC 5A can occupy space set aside for the ANC at the Modern at Art Place. Once that document is obtained, the ANC will apparently be able to use the space free of charge. Recall that there has been a multi-year conversation regarding this approved public benefit and who would be responsible for utilities and liability and such. To date, the space, which was completed in 2017, has remained unused. The commissioners now believe that they can in fact secure the required self-insured document and will decide later on how to best use the space for the ANC.

ANC 5A08 Public Safety Task Force

There was a bit of follow-up regarding the creation of a public safety task force for ANC 5A08. It sounded like orange hats have been purchased for that single member district (SMD). The idea of the orange hat is an old one; individuals wearing orange hats would walk around their neighborhoods promoting public safety. If you live in ANC 5A08 and would like more information, contact Commissioner Fletcher.

The next ANC meeting is scheduled for September 23, 2020.

September 6: Smokemade Meats & Eats at Hellbender Labor Day Weekend

Barbecue caterer Smokemade Meats & Eats will be popping up at Hellbender this Sunday, September 6 from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. You can also place pre-orders at https://smokemademeats.wixsite.com/laborday/online-ordering. Hellbender is located at 5788 2nd Street NE.

Hellbender has emerged as a nice avenue to getting different food options in the neighborhood. In a typical week, one can order local oysters from Sapidus Farms for pickup from Hellbender on Thursdays (order by Tuesday night). Timber Pizza usually makes an appearance one or two days during the weekend as it will do this Friday and Saturday. And usually Dolci Gelato pops up one or two days during the weekend as well. Occasionally, different food trucks will add a little variety to the usual weekly offerings.

If you are looking for something new to try for the Labor Day weekend, check out the offerings at Hellbender, and be sure to follow them on facebook to see food and beverage options each week.

September 9: ANC 5A Special Public Meeting

ANC 5A Special Public Meeting
September 9, 2020
6:45 pm

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81006714937?pwd=U2NRNVo1QXFaZHhCSUpwbENydjZPQT09

Meeting ID: 810 0671 4937
Passcode: 903231

Call in Number: 1 301 715 8592 

All residents will be muted.  Individuals will be called on once acknowledged by the Chair.

Agenda Items

1) Hope and Joy Home Health Care Agency CON Request (Requires ANC Support)
2) EYA St. Josephite’s Development Update
3) ANC 5A Additional Office Space
4) Joint Motion Seeking Withdrawal of Pepco’s Rate Increase Request & Dismissal of Its Multiyear Rate Plan (Formal Case No. 1156)

November Election Information

By Gavin Baker

Sharing information from the DC Board of Elections

Your ballot will come by mail: The Board of Elections will automatically mail all registered voters a ballot for the general election. You do not need to request an absentee ballot.

Check your registration: Confirm your registration to make sure your ballot goes to the right address. You can check your registration online. The Board of Elections also recently mailed postcards to registered voters. If the information on yours was correct, you’re all set. If you need to change anything on that postcard, fill it out, fold it, tape it and mail it back.

Register to vote: If you are not registered to vote, visit the DC Board of Elections website to find out how to register. You can also register or update your registration if you go to vote in-person, which is called “same-day registration.”

Vote by mail or ballot drop box: When you receive your ballot in the mail, you can fill it out and return it by mail. Read all the instructions carefully to make sure you fill out everything required and send it back by the deadline. If you prefer, instead of mailing it back, you can drop it in a secure ballot drop box. In Lamond-Riggs, there will be drop boxes at UDC-CC Backus (5171 South Dakota Avenue NE) and the Lamond Recreation Center (20 Tuckerman Street NE). Any voter can use any drop box location.

Voting in person and early voting: If you prefer to vote in person, you can visit a vote center on Election Day, November 3. The vote centers in Lamond-Riggs will be at UDC-CC Backus (5171 South Dakota Avenue NE), the Lamond Recreation Center (20 Tuckerman Street NE), and LaSalle-Backus Education Campus (501 Riggs Road NE).

You can also vote early starting October 27. The closest early voting sites to Lamond-Riggs will be at Ida B. Wells Middle School (405 Sheridan Street NW), Emery Heights Community Center (5801 Georgia Avenue NW), and Turkey Thicket Recreation Center (1100 Michigan Avenue NE).

For more information: Check with the DC Board of Elections for updates or if you have questions. Their website is https://www.dcboe.org and their phone number is (202) 727-2525. Remember that in-person lines and telephone wait times can be long on Election Day, so make your voting plan in advance if possible.

Workers needed: Looking to make some extra money and serve your community? The Board of Elections is hiring election day workers. If you’re 16 or older and a DC resident, you can be an election day worker! Apply online or find more information here.

Riggs Park Home on HGTV

Catching up on some older news. Earlier this month, Riggs Park had a cameo on an episode of House Hunters on HGTV. An engaged couple looking for more space looked at three homes during the episode. Residents might notice the second home is near the Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center. The caption on the home says it is in Queens Chapel area (probably because that is what Google maps calls part of the neighborhood), but the house hunter calls the neighborhood Riggs Park. Check it out.

(h/t Gavin Baker)

ANC 4B Housing Justice Committee – Riggs Park Residents Apply!

I am reposting Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B’s call for applicants for the Commission’s new Housing Justice Committee. The chair of the committee wants to make sure that the committee is representative of the entire ANC. To that end, they are especially interested in receiving applications from residents in Riggs Park on the Ward 4 side of the community (Single Member Districts 4B08 and 4B09).

The resolution establishing the committee describes the committee’s work as follows:

The Committee’s work shall include (1) considering proposed developments within the Commission’s boundaries for purposes of determining how best to maximize affordable housing, including deeply affordable housing; (2) analyzing and providing feedback on proposed legislation and policy affecting affordable housing and homelessness with a goal of increasing and expanding deeply affordable housing; and (3) hosting and supporting educational events on topics related to affordable housing and homelessness.

Below is the initial call for applications with information about how to apply. The application deadline is August 31, 2020.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B in February approved a Resolution establishing a Housing Justice Committee. You can read the Resolution here: https://resolutions.anc.dc.gov/ViewResolution.aspx?Id=yN25GigcNTp/LrkMj/yPmA==.

The Commission is seeking applicants for Committee membership. You must be a resident or businessowner within the Commission’s boundaries to be a member. Check if you reside within the Commission’s boundaries here: https://anc4b.com/about-the-anc/.

If you are interested in serving as a member of the Committee, please send a statement of interest, including any relevant experience, by August 31. The Commission will not be monitoring responses to the listservs. Please send any statements of interest directly to the Chair of the Committee, Commissioner Erin Palmer (4B02), at 4B02@anc.dc.gov

Comment on Proposed Playground

By David Kosub

Below is what I shared with the Department of Parks and Recreation regarding my comments on the new playground proposed for the Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center. I encourage other community members to directly share their feedback with Peter.Nohrden@dc.gov. Feel free and share your thoughts in the comments section too.

Good day Mr. Nohrden,

Thank you for meeting with members of the larger Lamond-Riggs community on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, to discuss the plans for the new playground located at Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center. I appreciated hearing about the plans under consideration and your willingness to encompass feedback from the community. As noted in the Upper Northeast element of the District’s Comprehensive Plan, “…much of Upper Northeast is starved for public parkland. More active recreational areas, playgrounds, athletic fields, and traditional neighborhood parks are needed.” So, this community discussion and project are welcomed.

I support the new playground project. Anything that gets our kids and families outside, playing in the fresh air, the better in my opinion. As requested during the meeting, please find below some additional thoughts for consideration.

·        Link the new playground with the existing splash park and other amenities in the existing play space. A safe passage between the two sites will be a vast improvement to ensure children and families do not need to dodge vehicles in the parking lot just because they want to play.

·        Install as much native landscaping as possible, with minimal sod grass, at the site, including markers indicating what plant species are present. This could make for a great learning tool informing the community about the flora all around them. More information about the landscaping plan in future meetings would be appreciated.

·        Clearly display the hours of operation for the playground on a visually appealing sign

·        Prefer the swing set over the zipline as it would allow more opportunities for children to play

·        Ensure the design of the new playground is one that is aesthetically pleasing and blends into the natural environment and neighborhood whenever and wherever possible. This could include choosing earth tone colors, public art, using building materials which are more environmentally friendly and long-lasting, as well as removal of unsightly existing structures and tall chain-linked fencing.

·        Ensure all playground materials are not toxic and hazardous (i.e. avoiding lead based materials and poured-in-place rubber surfaces)

·        Establish a relationship with the nearby school and recreation center to enhance the environmental quality, accessibility, maintenance, appearance, usefulness, and  “park-like” character of the site above what currently exists (see Policy 4.1.3 of the Parks and Open Space element of the District’s Comprehensive Plan)  

For your reference, the desire and need for a new playground has been a topic of interest in the community for many years. I personally have heard the issue raised at various community meetings, directly to city officials (go to 42 minutes in the recording of this LRCA meeting with Mayor Bowser in February 2018), and while chatting with neighbors. Moreover, the 2009 Small Area Development plan for our neighborhood called for more active recreation, such as playgrounds or trails. Though that specific recommendation was to work with the U.S. National Park Service, it is quite applicable for working with the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation too. As a testament to the community’s interest, below is a sampling of what was shared on our public neighborhood listserv in support of the new playground:

* * * * *

Again, I appreciate your willingness to work with the Riggs Park community on this project to ensure we have the best playground possible that meets the community’s needs. To paraphrase from the 2004 Play D.C. master plan,

Our legacy of parks provides an extraordinary foundation and we owe it not only to our predecessors, but to our current and future residents to capitalize on and fully realize our rich heritage. We must continually invest in, and improve our existing parks and recreation centers citywide to provide quality and equity of service…we must strengthen the connections between parks and neighborhoods, and residents and their communities.

I encourage the Department of Parks and Recreation to send updates on this project, including future meeting announcements, directly to the neighborhood list serv to ensure as many residents are made aware as possible. Emails may be sent to lamond-riggs-community@googlegroups.com. I’m also willing to forward messages directly to the group on your behalf.

Thank you

David Kosub

Riggs-LaSalle Playground Meeting Recap

On August 19, 2020, the DC Department of Parks & Recreation and Department of General Services held an initial community meeting about a new playground that will be built at Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center. The rec center is located at 501 Riggs Road NE at the corner of Nicholson Street NE. The playground would be built on the Nicholson Street side of the rec.

The project website is https://dgs.dc.gov/riggs-lasalle. The presentation has not been placed on the website just yet, but a resident kindly passed along screenshots that I have placed below. (Update: The presentation is now on the project website at https://dgs.dc.gov/riggs-lasalle). If you have an interest in this project, please send comments to the project manager Peter Nohrden at peter.nohrden@dc.gov. Officials hope to start construction in fall 2020 with completion anticipated late 2020/early 2021. They have asked that people send comments in the next two weeks, so please send comments as soon as possible.

I suggest that people take pictures of things at other playgrounds that they really like and send that with their comments. This new playground will be limited by space and budget. The footprint they are working with is only 5,000 square feet, so there is not a ton of space for a vast array of playground equipment. The budget is only $550,000. The rec would really need (and could benefit from) a full redesign and layout to really have a larger, cohesive play space, and that is just not going to happen at this point.

Features of the proposed playground

  • A play area for 2 to 5 year olds and a play area for 5 to 12 year olds. There is an Option A and an Option B for both so let officials know if you feel strongly about either option.
  • New signage
  • Shade trees and low maintenance landscaping
  • A couple of benches oriented towards the play structures so that parents/guardians can keep an eye on their children and socialize
  • Swing set with one toddler swing and two regular size swings
  • Optional drinking fountain with bottle filler
  • The playground would be ADA accessible
  • The playground would be open 7 days/week and open to the public during school hours

A few suggestions raised during the community meeting

Some initial comments from residents who attended the meeting:

  • Connect the new playground to the existing playground with a pathway
  • Connect the new playground to the existing splash pad so that children do not have to cross an active driveway to go back and forth between the two
  • Keep the existing playground open to the community. The existing playground is open to the community during non-school hours when school is in session.
  • Supplement the existing playground with different items at the new playground so that children have more play structures.
  • Remove or relocate the shipping containers on the field to increase the amount of space for a playground. These containers apparently have been used to store equipment for the football team, but it is not clear if the team needs that storage space. The project team is discussing that with the rec center staff.
  • Remove the batting cages to increase the amount of space for a playground. Some residents seem to believe that the batting cages are not used. I believe they are used by baseball/softball teams, but I do not know for sure. Other residents stated they would like the batting cages to remain.
  • Have more sitting areas for parents/guardians
  • Include the drinking fountain
  • Several residents expressed a desire for a walking path/track at the rec. DPR officials noted this is a longstanding desire, but noted the layout of the field make installation of a walking track difficult and doing a a full scale redesign of the field is cost-prohibitive at this time.
  • Have a security plan in place

A few concerns & a little background

One of the big concerns that came up even before the meeting and one that has existed with the existing playground is safety. I mentioned in this post that the community worked for several years to get the existing playground opened back up to the community. It was finally reopened in June/July 2019. I did not go into all of the drama of getting that playground reopened.

The existing playground had been closed to the public for at least 8 years that I know of, but I am pretty sure it was closed for a longer period of time. The official reason we were given for its closure to the public was that it belonged to the school next door, LaSalle-Backus Education Campus. I served as president of the Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association (LRCA) from June 2017 to June 2019. We held a public meeting in February 2018 with members of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Cabinet. I asked parents to attend that meeting to ask the mayor about opening the playground to the public. In response to questions, the mayor stated that it should be open and that she did not know why it was closed. We let DC officials know that we were pretty sure the playground belonged to DPR not DCPS. [Note: At the same time, we were also working to get funding for a new playground because there was not a playground open to the public in the neighborhood at all. We did get a commitment for funding.]

There was a scramble with DPR, DGS, and DCPS doing research, and they eventually determined that the playground actually belonged to DPR and that the school had first right of use. The school would have exclusive use during school hours, and the school would be responsible for cleaning and maintenance of the playground during school hours. During non-school hours and on the weekends, the playground would be open to the public and DGS would be responsible for cleaning and maintenance. In order to open the playground to the public, DGS had to install an ADA ramp and a second entrance. So all of that was done and the playground was reopened to the public last summer.

Unofficially, many residents believe the playground was closed for so long because of safety reasons. I spoke with MPD officers who stated that they thought the playground was in a poor location, basically sitting in a valley behind a tall chain link fence, making it difficult for officers patrolling to see the playground from Riggs Road. DPR officials have said the same. Likewise, the playground could not be seen by officers patrolling on Nicholson Street because the playground sits behind the rec center. The playground was built years before the rec center. When the rec center was built, it was constructed with its back side facing the playground. That layout made it difficult for rec center staff to monitor the playground. As part of the reopening, DGS installed cameras on the back side of the building.

But really the issue is that the playground has been around for decades, so it was there during the crack epidemic. All sorts of things took place on the playground and kids were returning to school finding things they should not be finding on a playground. There are hot blocks in the neighborhood. Over time, the area around the rec became one of the hot spots. One would think people would not do antisocial, anti-community things around an elementary school and community recreation center that community residents lobbied to have built, but here we are.

So now the current president of LRCA, Rodney Foxworth, is objecting to a new playground on the pretense of public safety concerns and that “the community” was not notified. Public safety is a legitimate concern, but it is also a concern that exists regardless of whether this new playground gets built, as I noted above. The new playground would face Nicholson Street and would be visible from the street. DPR reached out to the ANC commissioner for that area ANC Commissioner LaRoya Huff (4B09) to do a site visit and talk about plans for the playground. Ms. Huff is also a current officer on the board of the LRCA. She is also a staffer for Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd.

I will go ahead and say it. One of the frustrating things about this conversation for me is that the loudest voices citing public safety concerns and problems with “process” are the ones who love to talk about how long they have lived in the neighborhood and they love to behave in an unwelcome manner to anyone who was not raised in the neighborhood or who moved into the neighborhood in the last 10 years. The people engaging in anti-community behavior near the rec are not strangers. They are people that long-time residents know. They grew up here. They are friends and relatives of long-time neighbors.

This notion that we should not have anything in this neighborhood because it will just get messed up is a hopelessness and fiction that I just cannot abide. Yes, we need to have a plan in place for making sure the playground stays clean and the equipment is not destroyed. That plan should already be in place for the existing playground. Yes, we should be realistic about the fact that prior to COVID-19, certain people liked to congregate in front of the rec and on the side of the building out of view of the cameras and engage in anti-community behavior. We should also tell the truth that they were permitted to do so. We do not actually have to just shrug and say welp when we see our own neighbors using a community space in ways making it difficult for that space to be used for its intended use, but that is what has been happening. We do not actually have to just shrug and say welp when long-time neighbors know the people responsible for the few shootings that have happened near the rec.

Last summer a few residents (not the loudest voices) and a DC government employee started a program working with some of the youth who would hang out at the rec, and that program was very promising. That is the type of work that we should be championing and expanding. There is a new Friends of Riggs-LaSalle Rec that is in the process of standing up. Once that organization is fully stood up, hopefully it will be an avenue to support this community space. Bottom line, I hope that as neighbors we actually do the work and work together to have the community we want.

Remember to send any comments about the proposed playground to Peter Nohrden at peter.nohrden@dc.gov.