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Contained in the materials for Thursday's meeting of the National Capital Planning Commission is a document that sheds some light on something I've always wondered about--exactly how does the Navy Yard feel about the planned 90-foot-tall office building right across the street at 600 M, on the site of the old Capper Seniors building? And, concurrently, how do the Marines feel about the planned apartments directly between this new 600 M building and the Marine Bachelor Enlisted Quarters on L Street?
The NCPC board is reviewing the Zoning Commission's approval of the slew of Capper zoning changes that I wrote so much about earlier this year, some of which focus on these two new buildings on the old Capper Seniors site. The Executive Director's recommendation document (which provides some good background if you haven't been following along), refers to letters included in the document to the Zoning Commission from both the Navy and Marines stating that the new buildings on what's known as Square 882 "may pose a safety and security threat to the military personnel at both the Navy Yard and the Marine Barracks and that the there will be a visual impact on the Navy Yard Historic District."
Apparently the Navy, Marines, the DC Housing Authority, and Forest City (developers of 600 M) have tentatively agreed to a few steps to mitigate these concerns: the placement of surveillance cameras on the roofs of the proposed buildings, procedures for notifying the Navy and Marines when the roofs are to be accessed, review by the Marines and Navy Yard of tenants wishing to occupy the third through eighth floors of the 600 M office building, and a "window design to enhance security for Navy and Marines." (On this last point, the document says that "the Navy and Marines would request that the windows facing their sites not be operational," but I wonder how tenants in the proposed apartment building along L Street would feel if none of their windows could ever be opened.) The document says that memorandums of understanding between the housing authority and the Navy and the Marines should be able to be completed within the next few weeks.
Additionally, in its letter to the Zoning Commission, the Navy Yard mentions its belief that "buildings exceeding the currently permitted fifty (50) foot height restrictions located across M Street from the Navy Yard Historic District will negatively impact the view shed from the Navy Yard" and "could potentially compromise the integrity of the Washington Navy Yard Historic District, including the Latrobe Gate." It might be worth noting here that the old Capper Seniors building, built in the 1950s and demolished in 2007, was nine stories high, and so an uninterrupted "view shed" is not something that the Navy Yard has always enjoyed since its arrival in the neighborhood back in 1799.
The NCPC's reason for reviewing Zoning Commission cases in DC is to determine whether the proposed actions would have an "adverse effect" on federal interests, and, in this case, the NCPC staff is advising their commission to vote to advise the Zoning Commission that these Capper cases do indeed meet that "adverse effect" standard. Also, the NCPC staff is recommending that the Zoning Commission delay their final action on this case (scheduled for Monday, June 8) to allow the agreement described above to be finalized.
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Michael says: (6/3/09 6:34 PM)
It seems the DoD will never tire of preposterous claims of "security concerns."


IMGoph says: (6/3/09 9:23 PM)
agreed, michael!


BBC says: (6/3/09 11:11 PM)
I for one do care very much about the security of our DoD personnel and DoD facilities. There seem to be enough DoD hating nutjobs out there for me to take these concerns seriously.


Michael says: (6/4/09 12:27 AM)
Maybe we should close off Eastern Market and have car inspections for anyone driving in Southeast? Or require ID to walk within 2 blocks of Barracks Row?

The DoD is full of baloney when it comes to things like this... I deal with it every day.


IMGoph says: (6/4/09 6:18 AM)
bbc: following up on michael's responsei care about everyone's security. but admit it, most federal agencies (including the military, it would seem) have been paranoid the past few years. we didn't say there should be no rules around military installations, but there's no reason to assume the worst from the get-go.


BBC says: (6/4/09 9:28 AM)
I feel that requiring ID check to walk within two blocks of the gate is excessive because they would still be outside the gate. However, I feel that people allowed to buy a place that LOOKS OVER THE WALLS AND INTO A MILITARY BASE should be of concern. Quite frankly, if the security folks were not concerned, I would question their competance. Gov't assisted housing that existed there before is a whole different animal from a commercial or residential building where the spaces go to the highest bidder. I would imagine that someone with an axe to grind and enough money would desire a place looking into a base more so that the average joe -> would be willing to pay more than the average joe -> would be more likely to get the place than the average joe.

There have been some cases that are a bit of stretch in my opinion. I don't believe that this is one of them.

Also, since my butt is not on the line if and when something goes wrong, I also have the luxury of saying that so-and-so is parinoid. I suppose that I don't choose to say such things however.


G-Man says: (6/4/09 10:44 AM)
BBC,
Get over yourself. If ever military installment in DC couldn't have a tall building near it, a big chunk of the city would be 2 stories. A CYA mentality can result in never allowing anything to occur because something bad might happen.


Mark says: (6/5/09 9:28 PM)
Wasn't it just a few days ago that some nut walked into an armed forces recruiting center and killed members of our military?

I'm just throwing this out there, but perhaps - being at war and all - there is a reason to be concerned...


Ken Jarboe ANC 6B says: (6/6/09 8:08 AM)
Regarding your comment on the height of the old Capper senior's building, the Navy has a legitimate complaint about the sight line. Capper Senior structure was set back quite a ways from M Street. So it's impact on the visual sight line was greatly reduced. The new building will be right on M Street - creating a canyon effect. Remember that this site is almost to the top of the hill.
For the record, ANC 6B opposed the developer's originally request to put a 110 ft building on that site. Under the first zoning order, the height was brought down to 90ft. We continue to believe that is too high for the site as well - and opposed the latest request. And by the way, the measurement will be from the 7th street side -- so, because of the hill the actually height of the building at the other end will be closer to 110 ft.
What we have here is "development creep" -- let's add just a little more height, take away a little more greenspace, add a few more units, delay the community center once again, etc, etc etc.


G says: (6/7/09 10:07 PM)
The only thing that kept Cap Hill from being your typical SE DC war zone in the past was the Marines presence. Remove the USMC and Cap Hill and JDLand revert back into being unlivable DC swamps.


Trulee Pist says: (6/9/09 9:15 AM)
I am 100% with ANC-6B Member Ken Jarboe on this--development creep. I hope between the ANC and the National Capital Planning Commission, this developer gets reined in.

Having said that, I AM in favor of a new development I am lobbying for, and that's "Ray Mabus Point" where 8th Street meets the Anacostia River (currently behind Latrobe Gate inside the Navy Yard). Think how great it would be for the neighborhood if the Navy could see its way clear to allow a pedestrian walkway from 8th and M Street to the water, then a secured pedestrian walkway west from there to Nationals Park.

On game days, the prefered way to get to the ball game will be to come early, have a bite to eat on Barrack's Row, then walk through the riverside parkland to the game. Beautiful!

So far I've got one vote for this (mine).

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