DC Reps Grilled on Parking and Congestion

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8F (ANC 8F) met on June 27. Commissioners Nic Wilson (8FO1), Rick Murphree (8F02, treasurer), Brian Strege (8F03, secretary), Edward Daniels (8F04, chair), Clayton Rosenberg (8F05, vice chair), were in attendance.

The commission questioned representatives from the DC Dept. of Transportation (DDOT), DC Dept. of For Hire Vehicles (DFHV), the Dept. of Motor Vehicles and the DC Dept. of Public Works (DPW) to answer questions on congestion, parking and other transportation issues.

What is the protocol for afterhours enforcement against cars blockings alleys and driveways? asked Secretary Strege. DPW is a 24-hour operations and enforces parking rules after hours, stated DPW Parking Enforcement Manager Preston Moore.

DPW parking enforcement workers do not work any place they feel unsafe, Strege pointed out. In such situations, the matter is referred to the police Moore stated. “To be honest, it is hard to get vehicles towed afterhours,” he said. Private towing services which work afterhours are not regulated.

Commissioners complained about DDOT employees parking illegally in Capitol Quarter. There aren’t enough spots in the DDOT building, the DDOT Ward 8 Specialist Ciara Boderick replied. Strege pointed out the irony given DDOT’s push to reduce underground parking in the neighborhood’s new developments. What is the plan when the existing surface lots are developed, queried Treasurer Murphree rhetorically.

Murphree turned the commission’s attention to illegal pickup and drop off activities by For Hire Vehicles (FHV) on Van Street SE. “People are playing frogger trying to cross the street,” he stated. FHV enforcement officers are there, but not conducting enforcement, he said. FHV officers will allow illegal drop/pickup if it is safe, replied the agency representative. “We make sure they don’t stand there,” he added. What about geofencing? Murphree asked. Representatives had no answer.

Chair Daniels raised the issue of illegal parking by DMV workers on sidewalks on Half Street SE. Staff has been instructed not to illegally park, said DC DMV Director Gabriel Robinson. He promised to enforce illegal parking by employees with towing.

The commission asked agency representatives what their approach was to finding traffic fine absconders. There has been a significant expansion in the city’s boot teams, replied Robinson. However, he pointed out the difficulties in locating absconder vehicles for enforcement. Many of these drivers, particularly commuters, do not park in publicly accessible curbside, but rather in private garages, which limits enforcement, he said. Even if the car is identified on a city street, it must remain there long enough to be identified and booted, he added.

Does DMW check license plates of illegally parked vehicles against a database for either stolen or criminally involved vehicles? asked Commissioner Wilson. Moore affirmed this was the case. He asked for increased enforcement in Capitol Quarter.

Commissioners also complained about the Freetomove cars parked alongside Canal Park.

Eighth Street Bus Priority Project
DDOT Transportation Planner Andrew Grinberg briefed the commission on the agency’s evolving plans for priority bus lanes on Eighth St. SE. The agency has identified 51 major bus corridors across the District for improvement. The objectives are to increase bus speeds, service reliability and safety, employing signal treatments, bus stop rebalancing and relocation, bump outs, curb extensions, improved curbside management and bus only lanes to accomplish these objectives, he said. Any new plan will operate with the constraints of the existing curbs.

DDOT is currently analyzing existing conditions. The agency will move into concept design this fall. It will issue a Notification of Intent in early 2024. Construction is planned for Fall of 2024. More information can be found at www.buspriority.ddot.dc.gov.

Public Safety
MPD Lieutenant Kenneth Taylor briefed the commission on public safety. Motor vehicle theft is up over 520 percent the last 30 days, he reported. Hyundais and Kias are the main targets. MPD is giving away free steering wheel locks, he said.

Robberies have also increased in the Navy Yard. Taylor asked community members to keep cell phones and earbuds out of sight. It is important to remain aware of ones surroundings, he said. The good news, he added, is in the last 30 days there were zero burglaries and homicides. Of the four homicides this year, three have been closed with arrests, he said.

Chair Daniels expressed concerns about the nightly sidewalk gatherings next to the courtyard at Third and L Streets SE. Crowds number in the hundreds on summer evenings, he said. Tensions have resulted in two shootings, he pointedly reminded the lieutenant. Police enforcement options on private property are limited, Taylor said. Taylor advised calling 911 to remove any cars blocking driveways.

“We don’t have officers showing up to address the low hanging elements,” Daniels said.

“It’s a slow process,” responded Taylor. “There is no one fix. I can’t send my most aggressive officer over there to clean house and go away.” Police cops are also frustrated.

“The way this department is holding itself together now, piecemeal would be the best description. We are holding on by a thread, trying not to lose the streets,” Taylor said. “Juveniles feel they are immune to prosecution,” he added.

“The crime is so brazen these days. It’s almost as if the criminals have a sense of impunity,” said Taylor.

Vice Chair Rosenberg pressed Taylor on the role of community engagement and conflict resolution.

“One thing is not going to fix it,” said Taylor. “I am all for conflict resolution. We absolutely try everything that I can imagine,” said Taylor.

Since COVID, criminals are masking to avoid identification, Taylor stated. “If you see a [masked] group of kids walking down the street and it is 80 degrees outside, it is not going to lead to a good outcome,” Taylor said.

Other Matters
The commission voted to support the installation of a plaque commemorating the fire at Cinema Follies, formerly located at 37 L Street SE. The theatre featured adult films geared to a gay audience. A 1977 blaze tragically killed nine men.

ANC support was predicated on a greater involvement of the local LGBTQ community in the project led by the Mayor’s Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Affairs.

Atlas Doghouse asked the commission to support its zoning request to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) for a modification of use and a special exception. Located at the Novel, 2 I St. SE, it is a new state-of-the-art, 3,873 sq ft space dog boarding, daycare, walking and training facility. All pickup and drop-offs will occur on the property, the owner stated. There will be a secure, multi-door vestibule. Sound proofing will exceed regulatory requirements. Dog activities will be restricted near residences. Dedicated pee drains and other odor mitigation strategies are in place. The facility will be supervised round-the-clock and cage free. The commission supported both requests unanimously.

The commission voted to request the DC Council to change its northern border to align with the median of I-695. This would transfer the Bark & Go Dog Park and several parklets and green spaces adjacent to the southern side of the highway into the commission.

The commission voted unanimously to protest the application of El Rey, 79 Potomac Ave. SE, for a new liquor license in absence of cooperative agreement.

Treasurer Murphree reported the commission’s bank account is now open and that it has received its first deposit from the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

ANC 8F generally meets on the fourth Tuesday on the month. The next meeting is scheduled for July 25 at DC Dept. of Transportation Headquarters, 250 M Street SE. For more information and links to join ANC meetings, visit www.ANC8F.org.

This post has been updated since the print edition to accurately reflect events at Cinema Follies.