Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Verdict is In......

As mentioned in yesterday's post, the Zoning Board reviewed the CCS St. Martin's affordable housing variance request last night. The board approved the variance 5-0 with no abstentions.

This verdict is not very surprising, but saddening at the same time. I along with the other Eckington residents who have voiced their opinions against this variance. Not because we are NIMBYists, or against affordable housing, but because the density of the project is not in line with the neighboring streets. However, it is obvious that the political power of Catholic Charities, their partners (Fanny Mae and GE), and the St. Martin's congregation was too much for the zoning board to bear.

Political third rail topics like affordable housing, race, gentrification and class warfare were all included. If one picks the wrong side, their political lives are over. Its not surprising really. Just kinda depressing. I feel like many people here that believe in the small voices of the neighborhood over the big wallets of corporations and large interests who will forever change the landscape of Eckington. Silly me and my idealism.

Anyway, here are the notes from last nights meeting as reported on by Bloomindale's pride and joy, Scott Roberts:

[ 1 ] DC Zoning Commission Votes to Grant the Archdiocese of Washington Its Zoning Variance for the St. Martin's Apartments

I and few other neighborhood residents attended last night's Zoning Commission meeting. A number of decisions were announced last night, including Case No. 05-39 -- the request by the Archdiocese of Washington to have 116 T Street NE in Eckington rezoned from R-4 to R-5-B to accommodate a new construction rental apartment building that would not be allowed as a matter-of-right under R-4.

The Zoning Commissioners who were present and who voted were: Chair Carol Mitten (who will be leaving the Commission shortly because her term has expired), Vice Chair and Ward 5 resident Anthony Hood, Commissioner Gregory Jeffries, Commissioner John Parsons and Commissioner Michael Turnbull.

Carol Mitten briefly reviewed the issues of the case:
- the design of the new construction apartment building is too dense and too tall
- the facade of the building is complex
- the use of inferior materials (vinyl siding)
- too inwardly focused. The two courtyards serve the apt. residents only and not the community
- the loading berth is too short
- traffic concerns with Hyde, City Lights and McKinley schools
- historic preservation of the convent building on the site
- excavation concerns, which are not a zoning issue

Comments from the Zoning Commissioners:

Anthony Hood:

The affordable St. Martin's Apartments are what the city is trying to accomplish. Something about being inline with IZ (inclusionary zoning).
He commented about the $45 per parking space, but it wasn't clear to me if he opposed it or what...?

Carol Mitten:

There is a struggle with IZ -- can't go as deep as the need is. Willing to grant density in order to achieve the affordable housing amenity. *Not* proferring high-quality design as an amenity. Generally in support of the project.

She commented on the elements that the opponents raised. The Applicant needs to do a better job of the parking needs. The letter from the school that indicates that the school only needs 16 parking space... well, she commented that the operations of the school needs to be looked at. A traffic expert needs to evaluate the traffice from the school. Ms. Mitten also said that the Applicant needs to revisit the assumption that the formerly homeless men *don't* drive cars. These issues can be dealt with before the final action.

Michael Turnbull:

Generally in support.
Too much vinyl in the interior.
Monotonous feeling in the courtyard.
Short of architectural elements.

Gregory Jeffries

After taking a 2nd look at the level of affordability -- the need for affordable housing outweighs the concerns that Eckington made. At the end of the day, the development program is absolutely needed.
The supportive services drove the site plan design.
"I am willing to go forward on this."
He had concerns about the vinyl until the Applicant showed them other projects with vinyl.
"I am supportive."

Back to Carol Mitten:

The Commission has a strong sense to support affordable housing. Struggle for the community.
This project has *not* crossed the line of excessive regarding building height, etc. Affordabilitly can be assured bia a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

Two questions from Carol:
1. How will the affordability be administered? She wants an additional submission on the plans for the ongoing operation.
2. The parking on the site needs to be revisited.

Gregory Jeffries said that he wanted to make it clear to the development community and their attorneys that the zoning plan would not be compromised in order to achieve affordable housing. Carol Mitten also chimed in with something like "this decision is not a green light to developers that affordable housing
trumps all."

The five Zoning Commissioners voted to approve the zoning request. Zero nays, zero abstentions.
The case will be re-opened to accept the requested items from the Applicant. The due date for the additional items is 3/26/2007. Comments from the Applicants, ANC and the DC Office of Planning are due by April 2, 2007.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There goes the neighborhood...