BNCA Meeting Notes
April 16, 2019 (Emancipation Day!)
Brookland Union Baptist Church
Meeting called to order 7:14 p.m.
Dan: Hello and thank you for coming, please sign in by the door and pick up agenda and flyers. We have a busy agenda and we should get right into it. We are an all-volunteer and non-profit organization in Brookland and everyone can be a member. If you’re not a member or unsure of your status check in with Rene our membership secretary and Clyde will take your money. Membership is $10 for a full year. We’ve had a very busy spring—many events happened and more to come.
2. Old Business
Please raise your hand and ask questions if you have them. We had a clean-up at Ft. Bunker Park on April 6th. Thanks to Ian MacFarlane, past BNCA board member. He has a relationship with Park Service and organizes this event. We had 15-20 people out on a beautiful day. We pulled out a lot of invasive species and picked up trash.
At our last meeting, we had a presentation by Ward Five Council Member McDuffie and Commander Fitzgerald of the 5th District in response to an uptick in gun violence in the neighborhood. The meeting went well. It was a prelude to community walkthrough that happened the next day. The big takeaway was Council Member McDuffie’s efforts to get full funding for the NEAR Act, his signature legislation to implement a public health approach to gun violence prevention. This approach has been tried in some areas and is seeing success. We need the credible messengers and violence interrupters here in Ward 5. We did submit comments in support of the NEAR Act and full funding for its implementation to the Judiciary committee at the budget hearing.
Nolan Treadway (CM McDuffie’s Office): Yes, there was a good showing of people at the hearing. There was good engagement in the community, and we appreciate that. The budget process is ongoing.
Dan: And of course, the Great Brookland Yard Sale, our big annual event, is Saturday, May 4. Anyone who wants to have a yard sale that day, in or around Brookland, can sign up. The BNCA will be hanging out at a vendor fair at Atlantic Electric, on 10th St. by Turkey Thicket. We’ll be tabling. If you want to have a table you can sign up there. Space is limited so please do sign up early. Seabury will be at the vendor fair.
Tom: About the register of gun offenders I spoke about at the last meeting: I gave information to Nolan about a study by the Giffords Center, showing a 92% reduction in certain gun crimes in Baltimore as a result of preventing offenders from re-registering. We need more public knowledge of this issue. Tom will send this information to Dan.[H1] Helen: Full minutes are on the website.
3. Treasurer’s and Membership Reports
Clyde: I’m here to present the Treasurer’s Report for the month of March 2019. We had some good activity in March. We had $651.08 in receipts from renewing or signing up 50 people, and $111 in donations. We had our usual paper statement fee, we renewed our post office box, we bought office supplies, paid for web hosting and computer equipment. Expenses totaled $371.43.
Ending balance $3818.42 for the month of March.
We had 180 active members at the end of March. One of largest active memberships we have had in a long while. I ask that this report be accepted.
Motion to accept Treasurer’s for month of April made. Seconded.
Passed unanimously, no abstentions.
4. Brian Kenner, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
Dan: I forgot to say, thank you to Brookland Union Baptist Church for hosting us this evening. We found out from DCTV that they couldn’t host us because of Emancipation Day. Our Member-at-Large Fred Jackson was able to work with the church. Please pass our thanks along to the pastor and others.
I’d like to introduce Brian Kenner, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, he’ll be talking about what he’s been working on, followed by a Q-and-A.
Brian: With me is Marie Whitaker, Chief of Staff in our office. I’m here for 3 things. Thank you for allowing me to come. I want to talk about what our office does. Second, I want to talk about the Mayor’s budget. We are in budget process formulation right now. One of the things we’ve been doing is going to Civic Associations, ANCs, other meetings all around the city, talking about highlights of the budget, to give you a sense of what we’re proposing. And also to field questions. I can’t answer them all, but my job is to take them back to the Mayor so she understands what you’re interested and what you want to see.
Item 1: We are responsible for executing the Mayor’s vision for economic development. We have three goals that we focus on in our office. The first is getting DC residents jobs – jobs are the foundation of economic stability. Jobs can lead to community investments. Unemployment has come down over last 4 years, with more significant decreases in Wards 7 and 8 where historically that’s been hard. We have lots of work to do still, though. We have lots of people in DC who are struggling for a pathway to the middle class. The second goal: to increase tax revenue, which pays for services that we enjoy – police, fire, health, and everything else. Many of the projects and initiatives are focused on increasing revenue by developing land or stimulating revenue by increasing its use. Our third goal: to increase the supply of affordable housing. This issue impacts everyone everywhere. Over the last 4 years, we’ve stimulated production or preservation of 7k units of additional affordable housing. We funded $100m into the Housing Production Trust Fund, every year, that goes to affordable housing. What are the income restrictions for that Fund? Majority of the projects it funds are for folks at 50% of AMI or lower. That typically means a family of 4 earning $60-65k annually per year. That’s the upper limit, it goes all the way down to 0% of AMI. Many advocates are focused on 0-30% bucket, which is really important— that helps to produce housing for homeless. We have a new investment for above 50% AMI bucket in the new budget.
Now, about the second reason I’m here: the Mayor has proposed the budget. We’re in the process of working through it. In January and February are the Mayor’s Town Hall budget meetings, where people get to engage early in the process. People were vocal, I went to 3 or 4 of those meeting, heard all kinds of things. The Mayor then takes that input and proposes a budget. The Council can make changes, they vote on it once, change some more things, then vote on it again. Then it’s done. Right now, the Council is looking for input before the first vote. The Council Members are also taking in feedback.
The proposed budget is $15.5 billion, which includes $9 billion of local money—tax revenues or fees that come directly to DC. Approximately 25% is devoted to public education, 25% to human support services (health, Medicaid, homeless services), 15% to public safety or justice, 12% to debt service financing (capital budget pays for roads, school, libraries), every year we have to make a payment, paying off long term capital, 10% to direct services, 10% for public works, and 5% for economic development.
Generally we are in good standing. Most cities would love to trade their finances for ours. We have AAA credit rating. We can borrow more cheaply than anyone else. We have a fully funded pension. We have $2.5 billion in a rainy day fund. If something terrible happens, we can operate for a while. We had a test case earlier this year with the government shutdown. There are things for us to worry about in the future. That was an unforeseen expense that the city had. It really hit home. We get tax revenue quarterly, we lost $50m this quarter because of the shutdown, because people weren’t out spending money at hotels, restaurants, etc. That means we have $50m less than we need. Are we in a pre-recession? No one knows. But we should be thinking these kinds of scenarios.
I could talk about all the proposals, but I’ll just name a few. If you’re interested, Mayor’s website has presentation that goes into the specifics. We can also send it back here.
Housing—Mayor has proposed 30% increase to Housing Production Trust Fund, to support additional affordable housing. She’s proposing a new concept, a workforce housing fund. I’ve heard about this in the last year or so—if you make more than $65K, DC has no program to support you. A teacher’s salary averages $80k. That’s close to 100% of AMI. We don’t have a program to support people at this level in the District. We’re putting $20m, leveraged with other private funding, to produce this housing. People in this income bracket are moving out because it’s expensive to live here, and there are not as many housing options. If you can’t find housing at your income level, you go down a level, which puts pressure on those who can’t buy down.
Education—we’re making additional investments around education—keeping 2.2% increase in universal per student formula, which is used to fund schools. $4.6 m budget investment so that every student in grades 3, 6, 9 can get electronic device provided to them for free.
Public safety—this issue hits everyone, everywhere, but in different ways. We’re proposing to build the police force up to 4k officers by 2021 and added $3m for Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and $6m for Office of Victims Services and Grants.
Additional investments—transportation and resilience are things we’re really focused on. We’re looking at the K St Transitway. This is K St between Mt. Vernon Triangle and Georgetown. We’re thinking about it as a bus route so that public transit by bus is a little bit easier. We’re envisioning a center lane that buses can go on more quickly. We can’t add new streets in DC. We have to think about how to move people through the city better. Cars are not the future.
The Mayor had a pilot where Circulator was free. She is now proposing to make the circulator for free indefinitely. To get people to take public transit. Other investments in bike lane enforcement and rush hour towing.
I can take questions.
Dan: Comprehensive Plan is on our mind. We’re concerned about Amendments, the process that’s been going on for a couple years, and haven’t heard what the status is. There were changes that were proposed that were of concern to us. Can you speak to what’s going on with Comp Plan?
Brian Kenner: Yes, it’s in limbo. The last major rewrite was 2006. There were 600 amendments proposed that got us to the current CP. Two years ago when we started the process, we got 3,000 amendments to it. Partially as a result of that, Office of Planning took a specific approach: they established the framework part of the CP in the first 50 pages, and remaining section is 1000 pp with all the amendments. The ddea was that framework would guide individual changes. The framework captures how they city will grow and what principles the city wants to live by. Just that framework—the first 50 pages– was discussed last year. The Council was supposed to set the framework, establishing those guiding principles, and there would be a hearing, that would set what would happen with 1,000 pages of amendments. CM Mendelson had a hearing last year. We’re waiting on him to release the framework. I’ve spoken to him and begged and pleaded with him for the Council to birth the framework. What people want to know is how those principles will affect their neighborhood. CM McDuffie is also agitating for it, because there are lots of CP issues in Ward 5. If you want CP to move faster, CM Mendelson needs to release it, please tell him you want to see it. This spring or summer, OP will be coming back out to community to refresh people on where we are. There will be a series of meetings around the city to re-engage people.
Tom: without or with the CP, some of us are seeing division with development—we see development at RIA metro and retail development. Then also service development—shelter, mental and emotional issues, abused service. 12th to 20th along RIA is being treated and developed different than the rest of Brookland. We are looking for food, people are shopping at Rite Aid, we have no dentist, no vision clinic, you have to go to Giant for food. We have no barber shop or beauty shop. The city is torn by drugs, 80s and 90s, buildings torn down, development is one-sided. You do finance these efforts. You are being watched. 1550 Girard Street is an example.
That kind of tension is happening all over the city. Some would argue Ward 5 is lucky—you have nodes of development, you have Good Food Market, you have amenities, things that people demand, expect, need. Dentist may no longer be able to pay rent. We do subsidize, we give incentives for certain kinds of development. Over the last 4 years, we have targeted areas that have greater than 10% unemployment. So for example, we’re working with Good Foods Market to open a store in Ward 8, we worked on St. Elizabeth’s East, and the Brookland Manor redevelopment. Years ago, that’s how you got Giant and Home Depot. We think about where we can be most impactful in investment of additional amenities.
Ambrose: I’ve always been tried to shoot straight. I try to be respectful despite difference of opinions. I do want to comment about food deserts and the choice of developer who bypass the PUD process. One way of doing it is a challengeable process, the other is not. Developers use that workaround to get a zoning change. With the map amendment process [H2] they don’t even have to do Community Benefits Agreement. There are good things in the budget and there are glaring holes in the budget. Health is a hole in the budget, as are chronic diseases. And again, the PUD vs MAP amendment piece. This is so important, given Opportunity Zones. They can be a wonderful thing, depending on how it’s executed. The Opportunity Zone Fund can exist from anywhere. People from anywhere else, not knowing our community, what our community wants. How can you protect communities from Opportunity Zones the funds are outside DC—people who intend to buy property and try to promote specific business?
Brian: We are thinking about that. The way that the Opportunity Fund law is written, we can’t preclude outsider from coming in. However, we can provide extra incentive in Zones if they meet more District priorities. IF you hire DC folks, if you create additional housing, work with our small businesses, you will get extra funding.
Regarding PUD vs MAP or by right: Up till 2.5 years ago, the Zoning Commission had what they call deference—they were the body deciding, if you did something not covered in CP today, you did a PUD, they heard you present your PUD, and they heard from other landowners adjacent to you, they evaluated the plan, and then they wrote an order that said, you are allowed to do that. When ZC was challenged by Court of Appeals, the courts gave them deference. That deference was put into question 2.5 years ago. ZC has corrected those issues by now. Many developers, when choosing, are facing the road they do know vs, they one they don’t know, they choose the route they know. They don’t come to community because they do it by right, and that largely means they are not adding affordable housing. We’re a growing city. We need low income, workforce, and general housing. This issue is causing our housing shortage to get worse. I’m hopeful ZC will get deference again and we can go back to our own process. People are forced to bypass normal process.
Caroline: I disagree with premise articulated there. Those premises are expressed in changes proposed to CP, and in the framework. They are problematic. The framework is inserting ambiguity into the plan in a way that seems designed to eliminate the possibility of successful lawsuits. You are incentivizing and setting the stage for upzoning and MAPS amendments that would otherwise occur by PUDs. IF you’re concerned by the switch from PUDs to MAP, if you’re concerned by that, you should be concerned about what you’re incentivizing. I’d like to make a broader point. I think too often DMPD treats its responsibilities as if DC were beggar city. We’re not. We’re world-class, people want to live here, we should be using every opportunity to leverage power to get benefits we need—use the authority to leverage those benefits for the city. What happened in NOMA is an example. Someone is getting rich from skyscrapers, but we have to get $50m from taxpayers to build a city park. DMPD should use authority it has. Use your bully pulpit.
Leroy. I went to hearing on affordable housing. There’s a basic problem. Council and mayor have been enacting a gentrification plan. If we stopped spending money on things we don’t need, like streetcar, spend on what we need, things like housing, jobs, education, health, things will be fine. Don’t just invite people to the city. Where are you going to put them? We don’t need 800k people. We want to maintain the quality of life for people who are here now. Get rid of the streetcar, don’t extend to Minnesota Avenue, we can never make any money on it.
Audience member: My question is a about tax abatement for real property for developers—I put phone calls in, I’m realtor, I’ve identified 23 properties that went to a tax sale, that went to developers that don’t pay taxes. I can go to MLS and do research. Is it public information who gets those abatements?
Brian: It is normally, because normally Council approves those abatements.
Question: Does that money that’s being abated, where does it go?
Brian: Sometimes it’s just a straight up abatement. Occasionally there are affordable housing projects that have an abatement that doesn’t come to general fund at all. We have taken potential abatements and put it back into projects as TIF to pay for parks, etc.
Lamont: I’ve been in commercial real estate since 90s. Current process is never going to get Mayor what she wants. Instead of giving RFP, giving or selling land to developers– you can cut out the developer and get 100% affordable housing. You could do 100 projects a week. She can get there, but not with projects where she gives RFP to developers and they build 100 units, and 10 of them are affordable. There are many people in the community who can build homes. You just cut the developer out of it.
Brian: It’s a great question. On public housing—should we be building public housing? Feds are not funding anymore. Big question we’re facing. I want to acknowledge my limitation. We are terrible builders of housing. There is a lane to incentivizing professionals to do. Eliminate RFP process where developers want to get profit. City owns the land and the entity, and private industry builds it and runs it.
Fred: I’m a native Brooklander, I’m thrilled about Mid City and the refresh of Brentwood, Union Market. Council talks about determinants of health and equity. We talked about 9 areas that are important. We talked about services on RI Ave. We feel we’re getting a burden of that. Deputy Mayor of Health not being responsive. We want to look like Michigan and Monroe. We have vacant lot on 13th and RIA. We could have market rate housing. We want to be refreshed but we want it done fair. There’s significant amount of frustration. We want to help. You’re not listening to single family homeowners. We want to work with you.
Brian: I appreciate the candor; I’ve been treated worse elsewhere. We appreciate voices of support. For every voice that says they do want a development, there’s another voice that says they don’t. We need engaged citizens to speak up. When do CP reengagement, your voices will be important. How do you incentivize low scale density and increase storefronts.
Fred: But point is, we need rich folks to support those businesses. We’re fortunate that we have these families coming in, we want them to come in.
Dan: Thank you for coming Brian.
5. Health Alliance Network, Ambrose Lane Jr.
Dan: Unfortunately, we’re way over time.
Ambrose: Can I come back next month?
Dan: Yes, absolutely.
Ambrose: I’m talking about social determinants of health, housing is a big component, framework element has language that’s unethical, lends toward greed, what we’re fighting is greed. When you allow greedy interests, not all developers are greedy, when you reduce great weight of ANCs, create language that is intentionally ambiguous, it pushes needle to greed. I’m not criticizing Brian. I think he’s in a tough spot. We are most intensely gentrifying city in he nation, most economically stratified, in the nation. That’s the legacy of the Council and the Mayor, and it didn’t start with this mayor. It’s a badge of honor you shouldn’t want. Policies continue to go on and on. Are you kidding me with the second streetcar? $300m that could have cut unemployment in half in Wards 7 and 8. Why wasn’t Fletcher Johnson included as Opportunity Zone? I have an issue with that. It’s an opportunity to provide more opportunity. It’s the 4th largest tract of undeveloped land in DC. So much of the budget is uneven—Karl Racine got $360k for violence interrupters, but we spent so much more on dog parks. I love dogs. But if kids and dogs are in a burning house, I’d get my kids first. We keep resuscitating the dogs first.
Dan: I met Ambrose at Dept Health presentation on health equity report. It’s really worth a read. Goes through all the different drivers of quality of life. Sweeping analysis. Showing gross disparity across all these sectors, life expectancy differences. We should scrap the CP and start with this. One of the best research reports I’ve seen in decades in DC. 9 key drivers, around social determinants of health. It’s the Department of Health Health Equity Report.
6. DC Federation of Civic Associations – Graylin Presbury
My name is Graylin Presbury. President of DC Federation of Civic Association. President of Fairlawn Citizens Association. Lived there since 86. Became President in 2010. Civic Associations are volunteer orgs, only as strong as people who volunteer for them, we’re at a disadvantage when it comes to advocating on behalf of residents. IF you have informed, engaged community members, or part of governmental establishment, or have left it and have no conflict of interest, you’re one leg up. Two sides to the coin—being reactive, trying to stop the train that’s run you over, the other is proactive, trying to organize members of your community. Bringing them together by whatever bonds them beyond boundaries of neighborhood. What can they grab a hold of, take ownership of, be to the betterment of the neighborhood? Current issue is CP. I don’t want process to move any faster because right now its not in a state I support. We’re at a disadvantage—I had no clue about it 2 years ago. IF you look source of comments—for amendments—by and large they’re from law firms, representing developers. I didn’t know I needed to look at SAP for where you are. Brookland does have a SAP. We do want firm language about what you want to see in that community and how it develops. No weak wishy washy language not useful for advancing your position. That’s an advantage you have as civic association. I used to see ANC as opposed to us, but now I appreciate that they augment us. Another internal issue is merger, of two federations. There is a Citizens Association formed for 1910, Constitution basically says, no African Americans. Frustration with trying to join Citizens Association that forced founding of Federation of Civic Associations in 1921. Been around 98 years. Rumors circulating about the merger for the two federation. Purely rumors. We do seek to collaborate on issues of mutual concern—most of them are of mutual concern. Education, transportation, housing. What’s different—members of civic federation, particularly those in less developed wards, 6, 7, and 8, there’s a difference in priorities that we set.
Dan: Thanks for sharing the legacy of segregation, within the two organizations. It seems there are two different groups doing the same thing. Wouldn’t there be advantages to two groups coming together?
Graylin: Yes. Many people have long memories. But some people just don’t want to do it. They’ll be dragged kicking and screaming or left behind. There won’t be a shotgun wedding. We’re dating. Trying to figure each other out.
Dan: We haven’t taken a vote, speaking from my point of view—there’s value to be had, we could benefit from these groups coming together, unifying groups with common concerns, there’s strength in numbers.
Earl Williams is your counterpart—President of the Federation of Civic Associations. He lives in Hillcrest.
Graylin: People are pushing for more Associations to join Civic Federation. The end goal is to force a vote on this. Think it would be premature and a bit unfortunate. But it may come down to that.
Dan: we’re running out of time, we’re losing people, thank you for coming.
7. Membership Discussion on BNCA direction
8. Other Announcements
a. Great Brookland Yard Sale – Saturday May 4
Kathy: Metropolitan Branch Trail Walk. Run, April 27th, next Saturday. Sign up. We are bronze level sponsor. We will have a table and we can sponsor two runners.
Ra: ANC full commission, last 4th Wednesday of the month, next Weds, at Noyes Elementary. 6:30 p.m.
Agenda: Julie Lawson from Mayor’s Clean City Office, and a representative from DDOT.
Also, the 4th Thursday of every month, 7 p.m., 5th district at Bladensburg Citizens Advisory Council, 5th District, direct access to law enforcement officers.
Casey Trees will be at our June SMD meeting for SMD 5B04. We’ll be hearing from the Director and his team. They want to hear from you, and I want to hear from you.
Seabury: We’re doing our annual event at Annie’s hardware to collect gardening tools, May 4th, stuff supply shed to supply volunteers providing gardening services, Seabury. Stuff the Shed.
Nolan: Greetings from CM McDuffie’s office. The CM has introduced legislation to create racial equity tool to be used in evaluating all legislation. There’s a hearing on April 25th. There are trainings at Benning Rd. [H3]
Ra: I spoke on this on WPFW. It’s on the website.
Ambrose will testify on equity.
Ambrose: I’m with the Health Alliance Network—established in Ward 7, we are working in Ward 5, we were meeting at Unity Health Care on Saratoga, free meeting places, metro accessible. Need a home to meeting in Ward 5. Seabury? Brookland Metro, check out the Brooks Mansion.
Meeting adjourned at 8:42 p.m.
[H1] Tom Kirlin may need to check and verify the specific statistic he cited. [H2] The “map” refers to the two maps in the Comp Plan – a policy map and future land use map. The designations of general land use categories on these maps are the most significant elements of the Comp Plan from a land use development perspective. [H3] This was apparently a training on how to advocate for the bill and related racial justice and equity issues. We can find out more about the organizers of this effort if anyone is interested.