Category Archives: Comments And Testimony

Response to Greater Greater Washington ANC Questionnaire

Each ANC election season, Greater Greater Washingtion sends out a questionnaire for ANC candidates and endorses candidates in contested elections. While I am running unopposed, I still took the opportunity to respond. The questions really helped organized a lot of my thoughts on various issues. Below are my responses, slightly edited for clarity and grammar.

What are your hopes and/or concerns with the 11th Street Bridge Park and its Equitable Development Plan?

The Bridge Park group and its nonprofit partner, Building Bridges Across the River, have been around and active in the community for over four years and have done great work in ANC 6B specifically with residents and facilities at Hopkins Apartments and Potomac Gardens. While less visible, the Equitable Development Plan (EDP) is also a great contribution to the neighborhood and city as a whole.

For ANC 6B, the EDP should be a framework for similar projects and. The Southeast Boulevard land disposition and development, for example, will require a Comprehensive Plan amendment (likely through a council-approved Small Area Plan). Any such amendment and RFP process should look at the work of the EDP as a baseline for community involvement and support for existing residents.

Specifically within the EDP, the Workforce Development and Small Business Enterprise Elements will be non-negotiables for any city-owned or city-funded project like the 11th Street Bridge Park. The Housing Element of the EDP relies strongly on leveraging the Housing Production Trust Fund and working with existing organizations to build, create, and retain affordable housing. I am encouraged that corporate partners are signing onto this aspect of the EDP as evidenced by the recent contribution by JPMorgan Chase.

I really hope the Bridge Park is eventually built and I would urge ANC 6B to help facilitate the building of the park where possible. Equally important, however, is the EDP. I will use that as a benchmark for the redevelopment and excessing of land at Southeast Boulevard and any other similar projects that come across ANC 6B.

What are your hopes and/or concerns regarding the plans for the redevelopment of Southeast Boulevard (including DDOT’s and OP’s plan to create a bus garage) and the Barney Circle redesign?

There are very few opportunities available for the city has to create developable land, fulfill a municipal need, and increase bike and pedestrian connectivity to the Anacostia River. This is a transformational project and one I will support at every turn.

I have been involved in Southeast Boulevard discussions since early 2013. Given the geography of the area, the needs of the city, and financial realities of infrastructure creation, there are two options for Southeast Boulevard. One is the status quo freeway-in-all-but-name that exists now. The other is a subterranean bus garage with a two-lane road and developable land on top of the garage. I categorically reject option one or any similar proposals, such as DDOT’s 2013 plan to rebuild the highway at grade. The second plan represents four years of compromise while accomplishing most of the goals of the immediate neighbors, the wider Capitol Hill neighborhood, and the city as a whole.

Over the last four years, DDOT has convinced me that there is a need for new bus garages in the city. This site minimizes impacts on neighbors and does not crowd out higher and better uses of the underlying land. If there’s one spot for a bus garage in the city, this is it. As we move forward, however, I will continue to encourage DDOT to remove support facilities for gas- and diesel-powered buses. This garage should be the harbinger of a cleaner non-fossil fuel bus system.

Above the bus garage, we have a unique opportunity to build more city. At the Comprehensive Plan level, I would advocate for remapping the boulevard area to a combination of moderate density residential and low density commercial. Because of the broken PUD process, there is only one chance to zone this land right, and I would support RA-2 zoning (matching the existing zoning to the north L Street SE) with a block of MU-4 zoning along 14th Street from L to a new pedestrian ramp across the CSX tracks.

What are your hopes and/or concerns about the future of the RFK Stadium site?

My futile hope is that the National Park Services disposes the land and we build more city in the non-floodplain areas. However, the Bowser administration and Events DC has shown no imagination with this project.

Given that the Bowser Administration will be in charge of this project for another five years, it’s time to accept that they will continue to push a football stadium or basketball arena. Within those confines, ANC 6B needs to continue to advocate for the community-serving aspects of this project and get EventsDC to prioritize those. The Capital Riverside Youth Sports Park group demonstrates exactly the project that I would push ANC 6B to prioritize and support. The one aspect of the existing designs that should come first is the pedestrian bridges to Kingman Island (prioritizing the bridge to River Terrace). I would also urge ANC 5D, 6A, 6B, and 7D to come together and oppose any construction of a riverside road connecting Barney Circle and Benning Road.

ANC 6B recently passed a letter outlining their concerns about DC’s historic district process. What is your stance on this issues, especially in the context of the proposals to expand the Capitol Hill Historic District to encompass all of 6B?

I firmly believe the historic district designation process is fundamentally broken. The Kingman Park designation started the recent discussions about the process, but it’s the Bloomingdale designation that has shown the need for HPO/OP and the Council to rethink completely this process. HPRB approved that nomination with ANC opposition, household survey opposition, and a nomination from a non-neighborhood affiliated organization. It’s clear that well-connected and well-funded groups and residents are using historic preservation in this city to thwart development.

As a commissioner in ANC 6B, I would push for the following changes to historic preservation, through resolutions or comments where appropriate:

  1. Encourage OP to restart their study of conservation districts and push the council to introduce legislation allowing conservation districts. I would also push for the non-historic district parts of ANC 6B to be the first neighborhood to be covered by this new regime.
  2. Require OP to calculate the loss of development potential in new historic districts and offset that lost potential in upzoning of noncontributing buildings and along mixed-use corridors in the district. If OP cannot offset that lost potential, then HPRB should deny the historic district nomination.
  3. Remove solar systems from the list of permit types that trigger historic review
  4. Require HPRB actions to be full legal orders, including addressing concerns from the ANC and affected parties. Further, require HPRB and Mayor’s Agent cases should use the Office of Zoning’s Interactive Zoning Information System (or similar), to ensure all documents and comments are easily available to the public.
  5. Require transportation, sustainability, and equity issues to have weight in HPRB orders.

Residents increasingly requests Ward 6 zone only parking on their blocks. How would you approach this situation as a commissioner? What is the right balance between parking for immediate residents and parking for people visiting the neighborhood?

The RPP system is broken and resident only parking is a Band-Aid over the real problem.

In August of 2014, DDOT issued a Curbside Management Study that laid out potential solutions to the problem. The solutions that would most appeal to me as a commissioner are the following:

  1. Increase RPP prices for each permit after the first.
  2. Increase RPP prices if you have off street parking.
  3. Dramatically increase the number of distinct parking zones with a concomitant reduction is size of zones.

I like to use my family as an example. My wife and I each came into our marriage with a car. We would park both on the street despite having an off-street parking space, dutifully paying out 10 cents per day for the privilege. We maintained this situation for two years, despite never using both cars at once and rarely using the off-street parking space. When we did use a car, it was often to travel within Ward 6 for free parking near Yards/Canal parks and near H Street. This situation repeats itself all over the city.

Residents in buildings without parking and visitors are not the problem. I, and so many people like me, am the problem. I should pay for the problems I create for others. If our second parking permit were more expensive because we had two cars, more expensive because we had off-street parking, and less useful for intra-ward usage, we would have consolidated down to one car right away. Depending on the price of the first RPP, we also would skipped getting an RPP for that car. Making more parking available for the exclusive use of families like mine is the exactly the opposite thing we should do.

If there were a way to improve bus transit of bike infrastructure in your neighborhood, but it required removing on-street parking, how would you approach this situation? Give a specific example.

I would wholeheartedly support any increase in transit of bike infrastructure even if it required removing off-street parking. As a member of the ANC 6B Transportation Committee, I brought up the topic and made the motion to request DDOT begin studying protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave SE from Barney Circle to the Capitol. That project would remove off-peak travel lanes and peak parking spaces from Pennsylvania Ave SE. Because of ANC 6B’s ask, the facility was included in the most recent constrained element of the MWCOG long-range plan. As commissioner, I will continue to push DDOT to move this project forward. Furthermore, I supported the removal of parking spaces on the 400 block of 14th street SE to bridge a gap in bicycle lanes.

The MoveDC transit element includes high capacity transit lines along Pennsylvania Ave SE from the Maryland border to 8th street SE. As commissioner, I will ask that this part of the MoveDC plan moves forward. Not being a transportation planner or engineer, I have no clue how to design those lanes, but I’m sure DDOT and its contracts can design something that works. If parking has to go because of those high capacity bus lines, I would obviously support that

Where would you like to see new bicycle lanes, sidewalks, or other infrastructure to make it safer for residents, families, and seniors to walk and bike? What are you top Vision Zero priorities for your community?

Bike lanes in ANC 6B should be on every diagonal and on all one-lane streets. Luckily, for ANC 6B, most of the neighborhood two-way streets are so narrow the level of stress on bicycle is minimal. So given that, I would support the MoveDC bicycle element’s inclusion of protected bike lanes along Massachusetts Ave SE, Pennsylvania Ave SE, and converting the striped lanes on 4th/6th Street SE to a protected lane, even if parking must be removed near intersections.

As for non-bicycle elements of Vision Zero, there are the ideal and then there are short-term politically feasible priorities. Ideally, I think DDOT should ban right turns on red. I think the default speed limit should be 15 unless otherwise signed (instead of 25). I think speed, red light, and stop sign cameras should blanket the city, with fines reduced and issued within 24 hours to affect change. As for actual short-term options, the following are my priorities:

  1. Push DDOT to add flexposts at all non-right angle corners to sharpen and slow turns and support them when proposed. Specifically within ANC 6B, DDOT will soon be issuing a Notice of Intent to rework the intersection of 15th/Kentucky/Potomac/G. These changes will slow traffic and increase pedestrian connectivity, but remove parking. These are the projects I will push for and support.
  2. Make non all-way stops into all-way stops. Currently as a member of ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee, I am using DC’s open data to document our most dangerous intersections and get four-way stops there as soon as possible.
  3. Remove one parking space closest to intersections in commercial areas and replace them with on street dedicated bicycle parking. This will remove bikes from the sidewalk, increase the amount of parking, and help daylight corners for turns.
  4. Work with bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations to highlight our most dangerous intersections and push DDOT to implement fixes instead of waiting for death or serious injury to make changes.
  5. Remove automated traffic enforcement and parking from the purviews of MPD and DPW respectively. Give those capabilities to DDOT.

What role do you think your ANC could plan in addressing housing affordability challenges? How can you neighborhood contribute its fair share to our growing city needs?

ANCs have limited direct power to address housing affordability challenges. What we can do is foster an environment where housing affordability for both current and future residents is a paramount concern in development projects that come before the ANC.

With the broken PUD process, the ANC will also have less input on large projects, but there are opportunities for the ANC to weigh in on citywide issues. For example, further Comprehensive Plan amendments will at some point be available for comment and I would support the ANC focusing its comments on housing affordability for current residents and accommodating growth for future neighbors.

What is the biggest controversy in your neighborhood not already listed on the questionnaire and what is your position on it?

We have already covered most of the major projects and controversies in ANC 6B. Southeast Boulevard, Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes, major PUD projects coming online and related construction issues, and resident parking issues are or will be import discussions in ANC 6B over the next two years.

Why do you think you are the best person to represent your SMD? What is your vision for the next two years?

Through my work on the ANC Transportation Committee, I am already familiar with many of the ANC processes and can jump into the job on day one. I will doggedly follow up on resident concerns and actively seek to solve problems before the happen.

In two years in ANC 6B06, I am excited to see all six major development projects in the SMD completed, the Pennsylvania/Potomac intersection work well underway, and funding for Southeast Boulevard secured including a vision for major investment in affordable housing on the site. For the larger ANC, I see ANC 6B continuing its roles as a professional and efficient ANC. I imagine the ANC will continue to work with DDOT to identify and rectify traffic safety concerns in residential areas and ANC 6B will be a leading example in the city for traffic calming measures.

Sometime community members advocate for a position that is in their narrow interest but is counter to broader citywide interest and is high problematic position if all communities across DC were to act that way. How will you lead in such a situation?

Neighborhoods are parts of cities and cities need land and services to meet the needs of all of its residents. This is not a controversial stance to take. However, in many situations it is easy to fight against these services and land use rather to seek to accommodate it. In fact, much of our regulatory infrastructure and history with controversial items rewards the loudest most organized group of people who say no.

In situations like this, it is easy for an ANC commissioner to join the chorus of no’s. However, I will not do that. Let’s look at Southeast Boulevard Bus Garage as an example. At every turn and every iteration, I have supported this project. DDOT has demonstrated a need for a bus garage. DDOT has sought a site that will have minimal impact on its neighborhood and pledge to mitigate concerns. The immediate neighbors, of course, would be better off with an at-grade Southeast Boulevard with no bus garage underneath. However, we have a unique opportunity to accommodate a city need and I believe ANC 6B will continue to support this garage (though pushing for electric only instead of diesel- and gas-support facilities). As commissioner of ANC 6B06, I will continue to engage with impacted residents and DDOT to provide the least impactful bus garage while allowing full functionality that will support all residents of DC.

Comments for Vision Zero Roundtable 9/27

On Wednesday, September 27 Council Members Mary Cheh and Charles Allen will hold a public roundtable on the implementation of Vision Zero. Below are my comments since I won’t be able to testify in person.

Committee Chairpersons Cheh and Allen,

Due to schedule constraints, I am unable to testify at the Public Roundtable on the Implementation of the Vision Zero Initiative and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016 on September 27, 2018. I submit the following written testimony and hope if informs your discussions and decision making resulting from the roundtable.

When the Mayor announced the Vision Zero Initiative in 2015, I was enthusiastic. There was a lot of work to be done, but I believed declaring vulnerable road users the priority would lead to wholesale changes quickly in the city. There have been many successes since then, of course. I’m sure your government witnesses will highlight those, but I want to single out the Open Data work done by OCTO and data folks from the agencies. It’s simply outstanding and the folks at OCTO are incredibly responsive to issues I’ve encountered. Related, the number of geographic layers and geocoding of crashes and violations is simply outstanding and credit must go to the agency partners and their data folks.

With the niceties out of the way, I want to point out two glaring problems with the implementation of the two acts.

The first problem is easy to spot and easy to diagnose. In December of 2015, DDOT released proposed rule makings to implement further Vision Zero. After extending the comment period on that first rulemaking, DDOT didn’t release final rulemaking; instead, DDOT released a second rulemaking in January of 2017. DDOT twice extended the comment period on this second rulemaking and guess what happened next? Nothing. For almost three years, DDOT and the Mayor have refused to move forward on these critical rule changes.

Second, I want to push DDOT on the purported use of data to find dangerous intersections and to put safety of vulnerable road users first. As a member of the ANC 6B Transportation Committee, I used the OCTO open data to examine safety at our two-way stop signs. In 6B, there are 63 4-way intersections with all way stops and 17 4-way intersections with two-way stops. In the OCTO crash datasets, at those 63 intersections with all way stops, there are 591 crashes with an average of 9.4 per intersection within 109 feet of the intersection. At the two-way stops, there have been 227 crashes for an average of 14.2. Clearly, this data points to two-way intersections being more dangerous than four-ways.

So what happens when ANC 6B asks for the most dangerous two-way intersections to be converted? Traffic studies and pedestrian counts that say there’s not enough cross traffic for a four-way stop. But there’s less cross traffic because the intersections are dangerous. Anecdotes aren’t data, but on both bike and in a car, I avoid 12th/G St SE despite it potentially being a quicker route for some of my trips. This process repeats itself at 17th and A. At 10th and South Carolina. At 18th and East Capitol. At 16th and Massachusetts. At 5th and Independence. You get the idea.

I’ve used open data to determine the most dangerous intersections and have presented this data to DDOT. At the four-way intersections, by far the most with crashes in 6B is 17th and A streets SE with 52 crashes. The next closest was 35 crashes, at the four-way stop of 7th and E. 17th and A is a two-way stop. 17th and A is constantly cited by it’s SMD as the most dangerous intersection. 17th has speeding problems. This is not a complicated problem. Everyone will be safer with a four-way stop. Data shows this. But DDOT is unwilling to recognize this and fix this problem. If safety won’t be improved, DDOT should say this. But all we hear about is cross traffic and level of service and all sorts of things that make clear FHWA money and commuter times are priority number one and vulnerable road users aren’t.

Good luck crossing here

This is not to complain specifically about this intersection, but to show that the data portions of Vision Zero are working. The implementation is failing. I encourage you to bring this example up with your government witness and push them to use data to implement safety improvements.

Thank you for hosting this roundtable.

(I’m currently cleaning the data referenced above and will post it to the Data Analysis when it’s ready)