Archive for the ‘Department of General Services’ category

The Conversation Continues of Balanced Public Use of School Athletic Fields

July 26, 2017

Yesterday, the 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 @rachel_sadon), Omar Gonzalez (Member, local pickup soccer group), and Alex Bearman (Executive Director, District Sports @DistrictSports).

The issue of community use of the Tubman field was settled when ZogSports decided to relinquish use of the field after the public outcry. However, similar issues can still happen in the future based on the current permitting process from the Department of General Services. I called in to the show and shared that a number of things could be changed to the permitting process, including requiring permits to have a letter of support from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission and working with the community to determine a balanced plan for which days should be reserved for open community and school use and how much time should be identified for permitted organized sports clubs.

You can listen to the Kojo Nnamdi show segment here.

(Commission Boese addressing the community on July 19th at Tubman Elementary School with DGS’s Jackie Stanley (left) and OLA’s Eduardo Perdomo (right).)

Notes From the 1125 Spring Road Surplus Meeting

June 18, 2014
The Hebrew Home for the Aged, 1125 Spring Rd., NW.

The Hebrew Home for the Aged, 1125 Spring Rd., NW.

Last night at the Petworth Library, from 6:30 until about 8:00 pm, the Department of General Services (DGS) held a public meeting on the surplus process for 1125 Spring Road — better known as the former Hebrew Home for the Aged. As expected, there was a lot of community interest with about 67 community members in attendance. DGS’s Stephen Campbell was the primary speaker, with the DC Housing Authority’s Development Project Manager, Alastair Smith, also addressing questions.

The long and the short of the meeting is that all options for redeveloping the property are on the table for discussion at this time, according to Campbell. At the earliest, DGS could submit its surplus package to the DC Council in September or October for their 90 review process before the property is officially available for development.

While the meeting’s primary object was to discuss the need to surplus 1125 Spring Road and the Robeson School building to the east — much of the discussion focused on possible redevelopment of the primary structure, being the 8,500 sq. ft. historic Hebrew Home building. Still, the issue of redeveloping the site really took a back seat to the issue of the building’s proposed new use in support of affordable housing. In fact, I personally do not feel that I really got the full benefit of the presentation as residents took control of the meeting early by interrupting the meeting’s flow with questions. This in turn devolved into one large question and answer session well before the completion on the presentation. Still, I think I was able to glean some details from the conversation.

In essence, and as I’ve written before, the proposed direction the District is going is to investigate redeveloping the historic structure in support of affordable, workforce housing. Currently this means families making around $50,000 to $60,000 per year. The DC Housing Authority would be working on this project with a development partner, which in the end would own about 99% of the development. It was stated more than once that what is being proposed is not public housing. In part, the purpose of the meeting was to hear community feedback and suggestions so that DGS, the DC Housing Authority, and ultimately the DC Council could determine what the right mix of housing will be for the property.

In discussing the types of housing possible for the site, Campbell stated that everything was on the table including senior housing, family housing, and perhaps some upper income housing in about ninety 1- and 2-bedroom units. I was able to get recognized at this point and emphasized that perhaps a lower density of 70-80 units — as was presented to ANC1A in April 2014 — would be better and strongly advocated for some larger units containing 3- or 4-bedrooms. Personally, I can’t emphasis enough the need for affordable family sized units in the community. I also advocated for senior housing as we need a diversity of affordable housing types in the community that will allow seniors to age in their communities even if they can no longer age in their homes.

Earlier in the meeting one community member suggested that DGS conduct a survey of residents so that they had actual data to work from. While I agree that this would be great to have, I also question how the information would be presented in a survey, and what process would be employed so that the feedback was of value. For example, I had a sense that “affordable housing” had several meanings among those in attendance. There would also need to be definitions within the survey to ensure that all participants understood the questions similarly. Lastly, I have questions about the geographic distribution of such a survey and how those on the other side of the digital divide would be able to participate.

Hebrew Home(Hebrew Home from 11th Street looking north)

The surplussing of District owned property occurs after it has been determined that the District no longer has a use for a property. In this case, there is no governmental use for the property — aside from the La Casa building at 1131 Spring Road which will continue to be DC owned. The property is currently zoned residential, thus suggesting the residential uses under consideration.

One theme I heard and that was inferred from the comments — largely through several references to Park Morton — was a fear that the property will support low income or public housing. Conversely, one resident spoke up near the end of the meeting in support of low and moderate income housing (although they prefaced their comment with a statement that what they were about to say was probably not going to be popular with many in the room). There was also one resident who stated that they would like to see the property be developed into a charter school.

What was clear to me by the end of the meeting was this:

  • There needs to be additional community meetings focused on this development so that the outcome is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood (I suggested using Raymond Recreation as a more centrally located option);
  • There needs to be better outreach to the residents who will be most impacted by development of this site;
  • There needs to be a better understanding on how the Robeson school site may be redeveloped and what that development may look like;
  • ANCs 1A & 4C need to provide solid leadership on this issue and organize the community meetings to ensure that the entire community is represented on this issue, and not just those that could travel to the Petworth Library; and,
  • Ultimately, the ANCs will need to consider the position of the community and take up resolutions advocating for what is best for the District of Columbia as a whole.

In summation, there is a lot of work still to do here.


Mowing Contract Signed, DGS Now Tending Public Green Spaces

April 23, 2012

The mowing of Reservation 321-A

At long last, the Reservations in the vicinity of Rock Creek Church Road, Quincy, and Park Place were finally mowed last Friday. This was after a lot of public pressure and work — most notably from ANC Commissioner Robert H. Mandle (4C10) — who took to the listservs and Twitter keeping this issue in the forefront. The unseasonably warm weather coupled with the lack of a signed maintenance contract had allowed most of the District’s small parks to have grass far in excess of the 10″ limit.

It’s also possible that there was some confusion on responsibility with the Reservations in particular. Many, such as Farragut Square or Grant Circle, are owned by the Federal Government and maintained by the National Park Service. Others, like Reservation 321-A at Rock Creek Church Road and Park Place are owned by the Federal Government with management and maintenance transferred to the District.

Moving forward, our local Reservations will now be on a regularly maintenance cycle.

Unseasonably Early Growing Season has Many Area Parks in Need of Attention

April 17, 2012

Reservation 321-A, like most of the District's parks and green spaces, is in need of DGS attention.

The start of an early growing season this year seems to have caught the District off guard. The city’s own grass cutting rules state that any resident who has grass that exceeds more than 10 inches in height, is untended, or creates a dense area of shrubbery that is a detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the public is in violation. Fortunately for most of us, we’re probably not in any danger of violating these rules yet. The 2011 season didn’t begin until May 1, and the same is probably true this year.

But, while rules for residents may not kick in yet, I think it’s a reasonable expectation for the District to respond appropriately as public space violates the city’s own rules. Nearly all of our reservations and parks have woefully overgrown grass this season.

After contacting the city, it was discovered that the new Department of General Services is now in charge of the District’s grass cutting. It was also discovered that they have not taken any action to date because they are waiting for the grass cutting contract with the city to be finalized.

As grass cutting season began on May 1st in 2011, one can only guess that the 2012 contract could soon be finalized and that our local reservations and parks may soon be maintained. However … one has to ask why contracts  such as this one are not negotiated and signed at the start of the fiscal year. An early growing season like this year’s certainly shouldn’t create city-wide nuisance  public properties.

Reservation 321-A has grass well in excess of 10 inches -- something that is all too common in public space this year


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