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February 2018 Monthly Meeting

Tuesday February 20, 2018, 7:00 pm
The meeting was held at Judy's Restaurant, 2212 14th St NW, at 7 pm.

Board members included Chris Young, Christina Parascandola, Ken Yu, and Monika Pamp. Other members included Wayne Shields, Christopher Ede-Calton, and Andrew Velthaus. Visitors included Tai Meah from the office of CM Nadeau, ANC Commissioner Ackerman, and representatives of the MPD 3rd District. A quorum was present.

Board Elections
The nominees included: Chris Young, Christina Parascandola, Monika Pamp, Ken Yu, and Kurt Staiger. A vote was held. Wayne Shields moved to elect the slate, and Christopher Ede-Calton seconded. The motion passed unanimously.  Congratulations to the 2018 Board.  

Metropolitan Police Department, 3rd District
Several representatives of the 3rd District attended. They provided a brief update of recent crime statistics, noting that crime has been down recently by most measures. Theft from autos is a notable exception to that—all should remember not to leave any objects, especially not objects of value, in a parked car. They also announced that this spring the bicycle tactical unit will begin operation, which brings officers closer to community members, with good mobility throughout the neighborhood.  
We also asked for an update about a February 4 shooting on 14th St. at Euclid. The police acknowledged that the shooting occurred, and stated that the case was closed with no further information to share. In response to a question as to whether the incident might indicate ongoing activity (e.g., gang or another situation that could lead to further safety issues) MPD staff stated that was not a factor in this incident.

Madison Investments / Martha’s Table Redevelopment
BZA Case No. 19705
Representatives of the proposed building on 14th between V and W Streets that will replace Martha’s Table attended to discuss the project. Jake Greenhouse of Madison Investments (the developer) and Eric DeBear of the law firm Cozen O'Connor (the developer’s attorney) attended. Mr. Greenhouse noted that the Elysium Fourteen (1925 14th St.) is an example of one of their local projects, among others in the DC area. Together they provided a detailed overview of the project design and requested exceptions to “of right” zoning requirements. We appreciate that they both stayed far later than anticipated to answer participants’ questions.  
Currently the project plan entails a rental building (subject to change) with 242 rental units, along with 6,000 sq. feet of office space and ground level retail. The development would rise above most of the block between V and W Streets, north of the Provision-14 building[1] on the corner of 14th and V. It will extend to W St, taking over the Valero gas station at W St. It would provide 65-70 parking spaces in an underground garage. The project representatives highlighted plans to maintain the existing streetscape along 14th St, both by preserving and providing setbacks above some of the existing architectural features, and through other design decisions. These other decisions include placing a building entrance in the alley on the west side of the project along with other retail, commercial or entertainment uses (they referred to this as “activating the alley”), and placing the main building entrance on W St, so that no street frontage on 14th St will be taken up by a residential entrance or lobby.  In addition, the developers intend to incorporate “arts” features and amenities, including an outdoor space on the roof of the existing “garage” building in the center of the block. The proposed building will be 85 feet, 11 1/8 inches tall, as measured from the uphill W St side of the structure.  
The project requires approvals, and requests relief from certain zoning requirements, as discussed below. Participants at the meeting raised questions about other aspects of the proposal as well.  
The total height will be about 2 feet 10⅝ inches taller than what ARTS-3 zoning rules permit of right, according to post-meeting calculation. The rules allow for 75’ of “basic” height, up to 83½ feet including livable penthouse space and mechanical equipment.  The project seeks an exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) for the difference. A related request involves the angle at which the top of the building will slant inward at the higher floors. DC rules required that when a building abuts a residential zone, as this one does, normally it must slant back away from the residential zone starting where the building is above 50 feet. This rule helps maintain air and light in residential zones where the buildings are not allowed to reach such heights at all.  Finally from BZA, the development seeks an exception from a lot occupancy requirement on the second floor.
In addition to these exceptions from “of right” zoning rules, which require BZA approval, the developers also seek approvals from HPRB and DDOT. Participants did not raise questions about the historic preservation aspects of the proposal, but HPRB must approve the design because the project lies within the U Street Historical District and includes several contributing structures. DDOT approval is required because of the existing curb cuts at the gas station and need to position an entrance to the underground parking garage.  
As permitted under zoning rules, bay windows would project above W St, outward from the property line, on upper floors. Some participants expressed displeasure that the bay windows may jut six feet over the sidewalk on W St, obscuring the view down that street from 14th St.
The project’s incorporation of “arts” also raised questions. Plans call for a lit artistic video display within the building along 14th St. The representatives also said that plans for the “activated” alley will also entail “arts,” but could not provide details. Finally, the proposed “arts” space over roof of garage building, underneath the proposed bridge portion of the building, is intended for “arts” use. The representatives stated that access would be controlled, but did not clarify whether that would be by the building management or a commercial tenant. They also stated that they are unsure how entrance and egress would work. There is an elevator shaft in the alley, but the representatives stated they were not sure they would use it. Despite some questions, participants could not determine exactly what the “arts” use will entail.[2]  
In response to a question about the arts overlay zoning requirement that limits the amount of eating and drinking establishments on a block, the project representatives stated that they had not considered how adding retail space in the alley would affect the requirement, and stated it is an open question whether the rule would include the alley.  
One attendee noted that in the past, one of the Martha’s Table plots was used as an auto repair shop, and was known to dump oil on the site. Thus, there may be an environmental remediation issue in addition to whatever may be discovered around the Valero gas station’s underground storage tank.  The same attendee also reminded us that an architect unfortunately passed away due to carbon monoxide asphyxiation in the cellar beneath one of the buildings, and suggested that some kind of memorial to that person would be appropriate.  

New Business  
Spring Beautification Day  
We briefly discussed whether to organize the event for April 21 or April 14, but tabled the discussion due to the length of the discussion with Madison Investments.   

[1]That building will remain, and the Madison Investments project does not own it. The owners have entered a sort of “air rights” agreement that allows Madison Investments to put windows on the south side of its project above that building, and to be considered a “through lot” for DC regulatory purposes.

[2] At an earlier, separate meeting, residents of Union Row raised questions about noise, and whether the rooftop space would be a bar, or regularly involve music.

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