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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: Jul 01, 2008
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At the end of a long day of legislating, the City Council this evening passed an emergency bill to expand the number of spots for vendors on the streets near Nationals Park. I haven't seen a copy of the bill, but apparently it specifically mandates 14 new vending slots, seven of them on Half Street between M and N, and other specific slots on N Street and on First between N and N Place. This was done because of what council member Graham referred to as the "cruel joke" of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs placing the original 28 vending slots in locations that can't charitably be called "near" the stadium. (See the map to judge for yourself.) As mentioned in this morning's entry, the Nationals are not in favor of vending south of M Street, considering it competition.
Council members Cheh and Wells opposed the measure, saying that the council should not insert its own judgment if DCRA and DDOT consider these locations to be a "threat to public safety" because of the construction in the area and the movement problems that there could be in case of a mass egress from the ballpark (like if Zimmerman busts the Capitol dome again). Wells tried to say that the council perhaps doesn't know better than DCRA how to apportion space for vendors; council member Barry explained how he walked the area around the ballpark with vendors and police officers, measuring out locations, sidewalk sizes, etc. Originally council member Catania said he would not support the bill because of the "haphazard" way that the new slots would be awarded to vendors (Barry took offense to "haphazard," but I think he was misunderstanding what Catania was referring to, which was the lottery system and not the identifying of new slots).
Barry asked for the vote to be deferred, and at 7:50 pm, it returned to the agenda, with some tweaked wording--the mayor has until June 21 to add these 14 new positions and hold a lottery for them that will allow the winners to have the spaces until the end of the year. (The lottery for the original 28 spaces will be handled as before, with new drawings held every month for the spaces.) Council sources tell me that the original version of the bill required that 14 new slots go to RFK vendors only--the amended version allows any qualified applicant to enter the lottery for these spots. This gave Catania what he needed to support the bill; Cheh and Wells renewed their objections. In the end there were enough votes to pass the bill on an emergency basis.
Catania was strongly in favor of preferences for District residents, but those have proven problematic when attempted in other areas. However, Barry said that he and Catania and Graham will work on ways to get a residential preference, perhaps by leasing the slots, which would then allow the city to use Local, Small, Disadvantaged Business (LSDBE) rules. More to come, I'm sure.
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Today is the city council's monthly legislative meeting, and since they don't have one in August, this one--like all July ones--has an agenda a mile long, with a few items related to Near Southeast:
There's an emergency bill to correct a problem with the 2005 bill that transferred Tingey Street to the city--a drafting error apparently drew the road through part of the Pattern Shop Lofts.
And the "Taxation Without Representation Federal Tax Pay-Out Message Board Installation Act of 2007" (Bill 17-0028) is finally getting a vote--this is the bill that would put electronic tote boards on the Wilson Building and the ballpark showing the federal taxes that District residents pay while still having no votiing representation in Congress. You can read more about it here and here--I don't know if the bill being voted on today has the same language as the original one introduced in 2007, since the council was told pretty clearly by the Sports and Entertainment Commission that the stadium's lease agreement states that the Nationals control the signage on the stadium's interior, exterior, and perimeter, and the DCSEC's outside counsel feels that this tote-board bill "could conflict" with the lease.
But first up, on the consent agenda, is the bill to close the alley between South Capitol and Van just north of the old BP Amoco station on N Street across from the ballpark. This request is coming from Monument Realty, so they can combine the Amoco lot with the parking lot to the north of the alley and develop the site as a residential building with somewhere between 180 and 210 rental units, with 15 or 16 of them being affordable units priced at between 50 and 80 percent of the area median income. There would also be about 14,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
I failed my fiduciary duty to ever post a summary of the hearing on this bill held back in May, but most of what was said at the council hearing wasn't too different from the presentation about the closing to ANC 6D in January. Monument's representatives told the council that they would expect to start the project approximately 18 months after receiving the alley closing (depending on market conditions, of course), meaning it wouldn't deliver before 2011. Monument is not so far committing to any sort of LEED certification for the building (though I imagine that changes if they don't build it before the city's new green building laws go into effect). The project would also need a Capitol Gateway Overlay Review by the Zoning Commission.
The hearing starts at 10 am, and can be seen on DC Cable 13 or via streaming video. I'll update this entry later today with the various outcomes.
UPDATE: I haven't started watching the proceedings yet (I'll be spending my evening fast-forwarding through them), but the Post's DC Wire blog has an entry on another bill of interest being brought up today, to improve upon the locations carved out for street vendors near the ballpark (here's the map). Some council members want the vendors much closer (presumably, along Half and N streets), which the Nationals and MLB are not much in favor of. Other council members say that bringing the vendors closer should wait until the construction near the ballpark is completed. We'll see what happens with the bill today.
FAST-FORWARDING UPDATE: What more could I want to do with my evening than to sit here speeding through 8-plus hours of city council proceedings? Here's what I'm finding:
* The Square 700 alley closing passed its first reading on the consent agenda.
* The Tax Pay-Out Message Board bill passed its first reading--Chairman Gray said that the second message board would be built "on public space near the Washington Nationals baseball stadium," which gets around the problems I described above with the original bill. Apparently Chairman Gray had discussions with the Nationals earlier this year about putting the sign at the ballpark, and the Nationals did not indicate any sort of desire to have the sign, so the compromise was hatched to put it on public land near the ballpark (I'm trying to find out where). Marion Barry pronounced himself "appalled" at the Nationals' refusal to put up the sign at the city-funded ballpark, calling the team "not good citizens." The sign at the Wilson Building is to be erected in time for the 2009 presidential inauguration, so that the entire parade can march right past it.
* The "Tingey Street, SE Right of Way Amendment Emergency Act of 2008" passed its first reading, so the street will no longer run through Building 160. Whew!
* I'm going to address the vending expansion bill in a new entry. Check back later for that.
 




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