Jun 25 CDC Meeting Summary

CDC Meeting Summary*

Jun 25, 2014

Actions Taken:

  • The CDC voted unanimously (9-0) to recommend that the full ANC recommend HPRB approval for the concept and massing of the M St, NW façade of SB-Urban’s Blagden Alley project at 917 M St, NW & 1212 9th St, NW. The recommendation also included approval for the alley design, the pedestrian bridge, and the alley setbacks.
  • As part of the same vote, the CDC unanimously recommended that the full ANC recommend HPRB disapproval of the concept and massing for the 9th St, NW façade of SB-Urban’s Blagden Alley project at 917 M St, NW & 1212 9th St, NW, unless the following aspects are addressed: a redesign of the façade, which is presently too industrial, and neither compatible with the historic context of the street nor sufficiently contemporary to stand on its own; a lower glass-to-brick ratio; and a more pronounced roofline.
  • The CDC voted unanimously (9-0) to recommend that the full ANC recommend BZA disapproval of the variance request for a waiver of the rear yard setback for 1738 14th St, NW, noting that the applicant has not met the burden of proof for hardship, and that approval of such a request would set a bad precedent for future development.

Other Agenda Items:

  • The CDC provided feedback on the initial design for a three-unit residential project at 928 O St, NW (Blagden Alley/Naylor Court). The Committee postponed the applicant’s request for a vote on HPRB approval for concept, massing, and design, noting that the design and massing required substantial modification—as well as greater opportunity for community input—before the project would be ready for CDC consideration.

*All actions taken by the CDC will be presented at the July ANC 2F regular monthly public meeting for consideration and a final vote by the full Commission. Please note that this meeting summary is provided as a courtesy for individuals who were not able to attend the CDC meeting. The information contained here within is not an exhaustive summary nor does it constitute official meeting minutes. The above information may not be referenced in any official business matter related to the Commission. Please see the “Minutes” page of the ANC 2F blog for official meeting business.

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Draft Agenda for Jun. 25 CDC Meeting


June 25, 2014
Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle, NW)

Call to order at 7:00 p.m.

· Approval of Meeting Agenda 7:00
· Approval of April 30, 2014 Meeting Minutes 7:00


· HPRB approval for 917 M St, NW & 1212 9th St, NW (Blagden Alley project) 7:05
· BZA rear yard setback exception for 1738 14th St, NW 7:30
· HPRB approval for 928 O St, NW (Blagden Alley/Naylor Court) 7:55




*NOTICE: This agenda provided by ANC 2F in advance of its public meetings contains matters that are expected to come before the CDC. It is, however, subject to formal adoption by the Committee at the meeting, which may result in additions or deletions to the draft. Individuals who may have official business before the Committee or persons with interests in specific matters are advised to contact the Executive Director or the CDC Chair in advance of the meeting. See www.ANC2F.org for contact information.

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June 18 ABRA Policy Committee (APC) Meeting Canceled

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F ABRA Policy Committee (APC) meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 18, 2014 has been canceled since there were no business items for the Committee’s consideration.

The next APC meeting will be Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 7:00pm at N Street Village (1333 N St, NW – 2nd Floor Multipurpose Room).

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June 4, 2014 Monthly Public Meeting Summary*

SPECIAL NOTICE: Due to the upcoming July 4th holiday, the next ANC 2F monthly public meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 7pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel. Subscribers to ANC 2F’s email list will receive future reminders about the date change.

In the absence of ANC 2F Chairman Matt Raymond, Vice-Chairman Walt Cain conducted the June 2014 monthly public meeting.


  • Michael Fabrikant of the Executive Office of the Mayor introduced himself as the new Ward 2 Liaison who will be taking over for James Bulger. Fabrikant encouraged attendees and Ward 2 residents to reach out to him with concerns related to the city and/or city agencies. He can be reached at michael.fabrikant@dc.gov or 202-297-6566.
  • Sgt. Terestre of Metropolitan Police Department PSA 307 presented the monthly crime report.  There were two robberies without guns last month in PSA 307, both of which were cell phone grab incidents along the PSA 308 border. A man armed with a BB gun also shot at a petty cab driver in Blagden Alley. Terestre noted ongoing car theft incidents on the 9th Street Corridor between L St, NW and O St, NW near the Convention Center. The Commissioners and Councilmember Jack Evans pressed Terestre for information about MPD’s ongoing efforts to curb prostitution in the area. Up-to-date crime stats and data can be found on MPD’s website.
  • Donna Cooper, President of Pepco, was present to provide information about a potential merger between Pepco and Exelon Corporation. The April 30 merger announcement will potentially create a sizeable Mid-Atlantic electric and gas utility. See the attached flyer for more information about the merger process, timeline, proposed benefits, and contact information for inquiries.
  • Councilmember Jack Evans was on hand to provide an update. Evans shared that the Council recently sent the marked up fiscal year 2015 budget back to Mayor Gray. The FY15 budget includes $159 million in additional available spending over the FY14 budget. Evans detailed the most salient aspects of the marked up budget, including: fully continued funding of all FY14 budget items plus automatic increases; a substantial ($80 million) increase in school system funding (including early childhood intervention programs and school renovations); broad-based tax relief to be phased in over a five-year period; an increase in the earned income tax credit; and an increase in the estate tax threshold to $5.2 million. Evans noted that D.C.’s finances remain among the strongest in the nation.
  • Mattilda Cox, an ANC 2F resident on Vermont Avenue, NW, shared information about a yet-to-be developed community grant request to install iron tree boxes on Rhode Island Ave, NW and Vermont Ave, NW between Thomas and Logan Circles.


  • No update since there was not an APC meeting in May.
  • The next APC meeting will be Wednesday, June 18, 7pm at the N Street Village (1333 N St, NW) 2nd Floor Multipurpose Room.


  • No update since there was not a CDC meeting in May.
  • Commissioner Cain shared that since the citywide Visitor Parking Program (VPP) was instituted for ANC 2F last month, nearly 400 passes have been issued to ANC 2F residents.
  • The next CDC meeting will be Wednesday, June 25, 7pm at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle, NW). 


  • No update since there was not a CPSC meeting in May.
  • The next CPSC meeting will be within the next month (date, time, and location TBD).


  • At the next Ward 2 Education Network meeting on Saturday, June 14 from 10am –11:30am at Luther Place Memorial Church (1226 Vermont Ave, NW), Ms. Joyanna Smith, newly appointed independent Public School Ombudsman, will be introduced to the community.


  • The Commission briefly discussed the parameters for a community grant application and award process for ANC 2F funds. Commissioner Cain suggested that the Commissioners collaborate offline with the goal of presenting written guidelines for consideration at the July 9, 2014 regular monthly public meeting.




*This meeting summary is provided by ANC 2F as a courtesy for individuals who were not able to attend the Monthly Public Meeting. The information contained here within is not an exhaustive summary nor does it constitute official meeting minutes. The above information may not be referenced in any official business matter related to the Commission. Please see the “Minutes” page of the ANC 2F blog for official meeting business



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FOIA Lawsuit Against D.C. Over ANC 2F Actions

Today I issued the following press release:


Contact: Matt Raymond, 202-744-1921, matt@mattraymond.com

Frivolous Lawsuit Against D.C., Logan Circle’s ANC a Product of Misguided Crusade Against Immigrant Small Businessman

 Please note: Any opinions expressed below are those of Chairman Raymond only, except insofar as formal positions and votes of ANC 2F are recounted.

(Washington, D.C.)—A lawsuit filed yesterday in Superior Court (James Kane v. DC, 14-3386 [422992]) against the District of Columbia regarding actions of Logan Circle’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F is rife with demonstrable falsehoods and could have far-reaching negative impacts on the ANC and an upstanding local businessman.

The complaint (http://wp.me/a22M8Q-x4) centers on the ANC’s efforts to comply with a Freedom of Information request filed by James Kane, now the plaintiff, who sought communications about the ANC’s dealings regarding Logan Circle’s Ghana Café between April 1, 2013, and April 23, 2014.  An initial search revealed at least 500 emails plus several other documents directly related to Ghana Café.

However, the FOIA request went far beyond the one business, asking for every communication over a period of more than one year related to broad terms such as the city’s ABRA liquor license enforcement agency, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, such commonly used terms in liquor license matters as “settlement agreement” or “voluntary agreement,” and even the exceptionally broad term “resolution.”

When ANC 2F Chairman Matt Raymond began the broader search, he found that there were literally thousands of potentially responsive documents (the bulk of which being emails). He communicated this fact to Kane’s attorney and suggested narrowing the search to Ghana Café, citing the unreasonable amount of time the search and document production would entail, plus the fact that ANC commissioners are volunteer, unpaid officials, most of whom have day jobs. D.C. law requires only eight hours of personnel time related to document reformatting, which would be exceeded by an order of magnitude in accounting for thousands of documents.

ABRA and the ABC Board are the D.C. agencies that constitute the lion’s share of ANC activities, and Ghana Café is but one of numerous liquor licensees the ANC dealt with in 2013 when residential development and dining establishments boomed in Logan Circle. ANC 2F has a total annual budget of $18,770 and is able to employ only part-time staff to assist with routine matters such as preparing agendas and taking minutes.

Neither Kane nor his attorney responded to Raymond’s good-faith offer to comply, instead taking the matter directly to court.

“To call this a fishing expedition would be an understatement,” Raymond said. “It’s more akin to Captain Ahab’s brash pursuit of Moby Dick. The extreme nature of the FOIA request and this lawsuit speak to the plaintiff’s intemperate efforts to bring harm to Ghana Café, as well as to greatly hinder the ability of ANC 2F to represent the needs of Logan Circle residents.”

One year ago, Ghana Café owner Tony Opare, a Ghanaian immigrant, approached the ANC in hopes of easing restrictions on his liquor license that put him at a competitive disadvantage with nearby businesses. The ANC reached out to Kane and surrounding neighbors who along with ANC 2F were also a party to Ghana Café’s settlement agreement, which places additional conditions on a licensee than normal regulations. When Opare’s application for live music on weekends was denied by the ABC Board, giving neighbors little incentive to continue negotiations, they became nonresponsive to the ANC.

In March 2014, frustrated by the bad-faith negotiations and sympathetic to Opare’s plight, the ANC voted to withdraw from the existing settlement agreement and enter into a new one with Ghana Café, placing it on more equal footing with competitors.

Neighbors had valid concerns about a number of health violations, but Opare rectified them quickly and then had a record on par with other establishments in the neighborhood. The neighbors also alleged numerous violations of Ghana Café’s license and settlement agreement. However, ABRA notes only a single minor infraction in Ghana Café’s history, related to paperwork.

The ANC in recent years has been responsive to the concerns of Kane and his neighbors—e.g., successfully opposing a 2011 Ghana Café application for outdoor seating. In addition, the ANC voted last year to oppose live music before later switching course and voting this year to ease restrictions after deeming the continued opposition to Opare unreasonable.

“Mr. Opare has been held hostage for a year by a small group of surrounding residents, to the detriment of his business and patrons,” Raymond said. “The vehemence with which they have pursued their crusade is disproportionate, if not discriminatory, compared to their dealings with similarly situated restaurants. Ghana Café is not the bad actor those few neighbors would have us believe.

“A likely outcome of their intransigence would be to force the closure of a business owned by a man who was living the American Dream.”

Kane’s lawsuit makes several demonstrably false claims about ANC 2F’s handling of the FOIA request:

 Allegation: “On information and belief, as of May 29, 2014, ANC 2F did not submit a request to [the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, or OCTO] to search ANC 2F’s government-hosted email accounts for emails responsive to Mr. Kane’s FOIA request.”

 Fact: At the request of ANC 2F, D.C.’s Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions made a formal request on May 27 that OCTO do a search of government-hosted emails, which was listed as “in progress” when the lawsuit was filed—a fact the plaintiff could have found out with a simple call or email to ANC 2F.

Allegation: “On information and belief, as of May 29, 2014, none of the non-government hosted email accounts used by ANC 2F Commissioners was searched for emails responsive to Mr. Kane’s FOIA request.”

 Fact: As previously mentioned, all emails and documents potentially responsive to the Ghana Café issue were searched and segregated, numbering more than 500. Raymond also commenced a good-faith search of the other overly broad terms in the FOIA request. While an exact number was not determined, it without question would have been in the thousands, constituting an undue and unlawful burden on the ANC. Again, this is a fact the plaintiff could have found out with a simple call or email to ANC 2F.

 Ironically, the plaintiff’s filing, in quoting Raymond’s emails, contradicts its own claim.

 Allegation: “On information and belief, as of May 29, 2014, ANC 2F did not search for nonemail documents that are responsive to Mr. Kane’s FOIA request.”

 Fact:  Reviews conducted by ANC 2F included non-email documents, all of which were being segregated and held as potentially responsive—another fact the plaintiff could have found out with a simple call or email to ANC 2F.

 The complaint’s contention in “Count One” that the District therefore violated the FOIA law for its supposed failures to search is also false.

The filing further complains that ANC 2F failed to produce a “Vaughn index,” which essentially is a detailed, item-by-item spreadsheet listing all potentially responsive communications and determinations whether each could be considered privileged under the law and court precedent. Producing such an index for the request as submitted would have required untold hours of work by a small army of administrative personnel, easily exhausting ANC 2F’s $18,770 budget.

If the plaintiff’s hope was that the ANC would choose the path of least resistance and turn over, wholesale, thousands of documents without proper review and due diligence regarding potentially privileged information, such as that which would result in invasions of privacy or damage a business’s competitive position, it then would have exposed the District to additional liability for the illegal release of such information. In addition, “capricious and arbitrary” responses to FOIA requests potentially expose government officials to criminal liability.

While the law permits the filing of FOIA-related lawsuits, it also offers an administrative appeals process via the Office of the Mayor, which would have lasted no more than 10 days. If an appellant disagreed with the outcome, he still would have the option to file a civil claim. In bypassing a speedy appeal, the plaintiff could drag out the matter until at least Sept. 12, the date the court set for an initial conference regarding the lawsuit.

“If Mr. Kane and his attorney were truly interested in the information they are seeking, they would have pursued the expedited administrative appeals process rather than delaying the matter for months and incurring substantial attorney’s fees, for which D.C. taxpayers would be on the hook if the District lost in court,” Raymond said.

“Moreover, simple and cordial discussions might have resolved the situation instead of tying up the courts.

“Logan Circle residents and all D.C. citizens should be outraged at this treatment of a well-meaning small businessmen, this flagrant abuse of the legal process, and the potential damage inflicted on hard-working, volunteer representatives attempting to do the work of the people.”

 # # #

 ANC 2F represents part or all of several D.C. neighborhoods including Logan Circle, Thomas Circle, Old City, Blagden Alley/Naylor Court, Franklin Square, and parts of Shaw and Downtown. ANC 2F comprises eight Single Member Districts and therefore has eight commissioners. Its website is located at http://anc2f.org/.


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