Tubman Field Permitting Creates Conflict with Community Use: Meeting Seeks Solutions

Early this July, the Department of General Services (DGS) issued a permit to Zog Sports reserving the athletic field at Tubman Elementary School for an organized soccer league on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The permit runs through August 31st. A Bocce league currently has a permit to use the field on Tuesdays. The permits for these leagues have effectively closed use of the field to the neighborhood pick up soccer games that have occurred nightly at Tubman for many years.

This conflict of use was brought to the attention of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A on July 12th when an incident occurred on the field during their meeting. While most recreational areas are under the Department of Parks and Recreation, athletic fields on DC Public Schools property are part of DCPS and supervised by DGS.

Over the past week, I’ve been working in collaboration with DGS, the Mayor’s office, and the Office of Latino Affairs (OLA) to find both short- and long-term solutions to this issue. The community members organized a meeting on Wednesday, July 20, to continue the conversation with representatives of DGS, OLA, the ANC, and the Mayor’s office to follow up on where things currently stand.

(Commission Boese addressing the community at Tubman Elementary School with DGS’s Jackie Stanley (left) and OLA’s Eduardo Perdomo (right).)

DGS’s Jackie Stanley came prepared with an initial short-term solution that included reserving the field for the community on Friday evenings and Saturdays as well as before 6 pm on weeknights. Based on the community’s response, this proposal doesn’t meet the neighborhood needs, and Stanley listened to feedback from the residents so that she can continue to work from within DGS to find a solution.

I addressed the assembly stating that I believe there is both a quick fix to prevent this conflict occurring in the future and suggested a need to review the underlying cause that allows for school athletic fields to be permitted in the first place.

The simple solution moving forward would be to change DGS’s process to require that permit applications be reviewed by Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and have a letter of support from them as part of the application process. This is currently standard practice for DPR permit applications. When a permit application is reviewed by the local ANC the community is able to identify use conflicts before an application is approved. In short, this provides the necessary oversight to ensure that the community is not adversely impacted by the issuance of the permit.


(Commissioner Boese discussing the need for ANC review and letters of support for DGS/DCPS school field permits.)

The practice of issuing permits to use DCPS athletic fields dates back to 1982, with the establishment of the DCPS Realty Office as a result of D.C. Law 4-158, the District of Columbia Board of Education Leasing Authority Act of 1982. The purpose of this law was to grant permission to the Board of Education to enter into lease and other agreements for the use of DC Public Schools buildings and grounds, to defray costs associated with the operation and maintenance of public school buildings, and for other purposes.

I believe that this 35 year old law no longer adequately serves the best interests of the community or the District of Columbia as a whole. It was established during a period when the District population, and our tax revenue, was in decline. As the District has grown, so has its budget. This has resulted in many school fields being renovated for the benefit of the community. However, this also makes these athletic fields more desirable for organized sport clubs which are also looking for places to play.

Because of this, we need to go back and review the 1982 law as well as the entire permitting process with the goal of amending both to ensure that we continue to have fair and balanced access to school fields for all who wish to use them.

 

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4 Comments on “Tubman Field Permitting Creates Conflict with Community Use: Meeting Seeks Solutions”

  1. Mike Says:

    I applaud Chairman Boese’s commitment to the community and his leadership on this issue. A compromise must be found that meets the needs of both the local community and the organized leagues.

    I don’t believe a permitting process is the problem- a mechanism for deconflicting use of space is essential to reducing tension between competing groups. That said, allowing one for-profit organization to reserve public space for three weeknights per week seems excessive and incompatible with the needs of the local community. A balanced compromise must be found.

  2. Anon Says:

    I support both groups being able to use the field.

  3. Christine Says:

    Thank you Chairman Boese for your attention to this matter! Finding a balance in usage is key, but the high fees are also an important factor. In addition to public and for-profit use, these and other fields are school grounds and are used by school groups for activities and fundraising events. Unfortunately, school groups don’t get a pass and we are required to pay fees, too. They are reduced, but still substantial compared with DPR fees. When you’re trying to raise money for kids and your margins are already pretty slim, that fee really takes a bite out of a small organizations budget and profit (if it’s a fundraiser).

    Thank you again for taking this on and your continued hard work for our community!


  4. […] Kojo Nnamdi Show had a segment that focused on access to recreation spaces as a follow up to the recent dust up at the Harriet Tubman athletic field. Guests included Rachel Sadon (Editor-in-Chief, DCist […]


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