Georgetown Current

Police Chief Eyes Enlarged Patrol Areas

August 31, 2016

By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer

The District’s police service areas — neighborhood-level boundaries in which officers patrol — will soon be consolidated into larger sectors, according to Metropolitan Police Department 2nd District Cmdr. Melvin Gresham.

Speaking at a community meeting Monday, Gresham said the existing police service areas, known as PSAs, will be clustered into groups to form the larger sectors. The change will allow the same officers to be allocated within a greater area when staffing shortages arise, and will grant existing PSA lieutenants control over the full sector during their shifts, according to Gresham.

“Traditionally, we’re running into an issue with retirements and ... attrition, and you would have certain PSAs that would not have full coverage,” Gresham said at the meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith). To solve that problem, he said, Police Chief Cathy Lanier “thought it was better to consolidate the PSAs into the sector concept.”    

In the 2nd District, PSAs 201, 202 and 203 — encompassing Chevy Chase and Friendship Heights south to Tenleytown and Cleveland Park — will become Sector 1; PSAs 204 and 205 in Woodley Park west into the Palisades, Foxhall and Spring Valley will become Sector 2; and PSAs 206, 207 and 208 — Georgetown and Burleith eastward into Foggy Bottom, the West End, Sheridan-Kalorama and part of Dupont Circle — will be Sector 3. The change will go into effect Sept. 18, Gresham said.

The police department did not respond to a request yesterday for more details about the proposal — including information on the sectors in other police districts and how the sectors’ groupings were chosen — except to confirm receipt of the questions.

Unlike the last change to PSAs — a shift to their boundaries in 2012, which prompted a series of public meetings and D.C. Council deliberations — there has been little notice provided about their replacement with the “sector” model.

Brian Turmail, chair of the 2nd District Citizens Advisory Council, said Lanier addressed a small gathering at his group in July and the advisory council discussed it again in August.

“As much as I would like to think everyone is paying attention to the CAC, we have a dozen, two dozen people at our meetings out of all of 2D,” Turmail said. “The department still has a lot of work to do in terms of communicating to the community this change, and I think they’re working on that.”

Turmail, who also serves on ANC 3B (Glover Park, Cathedral Heights) added that the commission is slated to discuss the issue at its Sept. 8 meeting.

At the ANC 2E meeting and in interviews, several community leaders expressed some reservations about the proposed change, fearing that officers who’d forged a connection to their beats would be sent elsewhere in a large sector. Lt. Gary Durand, who now heads PSA 206 and would become one of the three Sector 3 lieutenants, said he wasn’t concerned. “I don’t think on your level you’ll see the change,” he told residents.

The community leaders interviewed for this article generally expressed a willingness to see if that assurance rings true.

“We want to have adequate coverage here; the commander assured us that we would, so I will take him at his word,” ANC 2E member Ed Solomon said.

Turmail of the Citizens Advisory Council said he’s “kind of in a watch-and-wait mode” regarding the change amid the concerns that have cropped up.

“We want to be ready to support the department, and we want to be ready to help the department if it doesn’t work out as planned,” he said. “We would love to be shown that they’re absolutely right, and if they’re not, we’ll help make it right.”

This article appears in the Aug. 31 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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ANC 2E to See Turnover With Veterans’ Departures

August 25, 2016

By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer

Georgetown’s advisory neighborhood commission will see a shakeup next year, as half of ANC 2E’s eight members won’t be seeking re-election in November.

Meanwhile, one new member just joined the commission last month, another is just finishing her first two-year term, and another is facing a contested re-election bid.

“It will certainly be different,” said Ron Lewis, who is stepping down after 10 years representing single-member district 2E02 in northern Georgetown and serving eight years as the ANC 2E chair. But he said all departing commissioners have identified excellent candidates to replace them.

“The people who have stepped up to run for those seats are all very familiar with how the ANC operates,” he said. “So I have no qualms that folks with their experience and approach to community life will do anything other than be very good commissioners.”

Besides Lewis, the commissioners stepping down are Tom Birch, who has represented 2E06 in eastern Georgetown for 14 of the last 16 years; Jeff Jones, who is in his third two-year term in 2E03 in central Georgetown; and Reed Howard, a Georgetown University student who joined the commission early last year in one of the campus’s two districts. Kendyl Clausen, the second student commissioner, stepped down earlier this summer and has been replaced by Mara Goldman.

The student commissioners frequently turn over after graduating, but Lewis, Birch and Jones each told The Current that they were ready to dedicate more time to family — and themselves. “It seems that the longer I have served the more my time is required of matters ANC-related,” Birch wrote in an email. “I look forward to stepping away from that while continuing to take a less formal role in the community.”

ANC 2E, which includes Burleith and Hillandale as well as Georgetown, weighs in on matters ranging from alcohol license applications to the Georgetown University campus plan to the size of local trash cans. A chief issue is the rigorous review of Old Georgetown Board applications, which are required for a host of construction projects within the neighborhood’s federally protected historic district. Each unpaid commissioner represents about 2,000 residents, and is also responsible for constituent-service work.

The outgoing commissioners described a carefully cultivated collegiality among ANC 2E members, and also a level of respectability their commission has forged with various government agencies and other key community stakeholders. Most candidates for ANC 2E seats have worked with the commission either through the Citizens Association of Georgetown or the community’s partnership with Georgetown University.

Longtime Georgetown resident James Wilcox is running unopposed to replace Birch. He told The Current that he has years of experience with the citizens association, as well as the Georgetown Business Association, a D.C. Department of Transportation parking task force and a DC Water working group.

Joe Gibbons, running unopposed for Lewis’ seat, is a relative newcomer to the neighborhood — he attended college there in the 1980s but moved back from Chicago in 2013. He quickly became active with the citizens association, with a focus on historic preservation issues that include the Yarrow Mamout site at 3324 Dent Place NW and the Alexander Memorial Baptist Church development at 2709 N St. NW.

Meanwhile, Greg Miller and Rick Murphy are competing for Jones’ old seat.

Murphy — who was praised by Jones and several of his colleagues — has recently served as ANC 2E’s pro bono counsel, working on issues with airplane noise and sewers, in addition to landlord issues in Georgetown University’s community partnership.

Miller, who has also worked on the university-community partnership, said he can bring a unique perspective to ANC 2E as a recent Georgetown University alumnus who now works at the school. He told The Current he was “inspired by the ANC’s active role” in the Georgetown Business Improvement District’s “Georgetown 2028” plan and wants to be involved.

ANC 2E’s other contested race, for 2E05 in southern Georgetown, pits the longest-serving commissioner against a challenger who says fresh perspectives are needed.

Bill Starrels, who has represented the single-member district since 2000, is facing Lisa Palmer, who doesn’t have the typical resume of an ANC 2E candidate. Starrels said that particularly given the departures of Lewis, Birch and Jones, he would be a valuable asset next year.

“With those three leaving, we have several years of experience leaving with them,” he said. “Georgetown is a very special community, a very important community, and experience matters. I’ve been doing this for a while.”

Palmer hasn’t been active on the Citizens Association of Georgetown or other leading community organizations. But she said she has been meeting with voters who are instead enthusiastic about her background as the mother of young children who has worked for various prominent nonprofits.

“A fresh look brings new perspectives to deeply entrenched issues,” Palmer wrote in an email. “A fresh look also brings a new personality and style to the negotiation table. There has been no choice in the ANC race for many years.”

The remaining candidates, all unopposed, are six-term incumbent Ed Solomon in Burleith; one-term incumbent Monica Roache in northeast Georgetown; Goldman, the newly elected student commissioner; and student candidate Zac Schroepfer. Both students have been active in the university-community partnership.

“All in all, I think we bring some experience to take up some of the loss of a great deal of body of knowledge from three of the best ANC commissioners I’ve worked with,” said Solomon.

Meanwhile, nearby commissions are seeing fewer changes. To the north, the five incumbents in ANC 3B in Glover Park/Cathedral Heights are running unopposed. To the west, the incumbent ANC 3D commissioners near Georgetown are also running unopposed, with the exception of a Wesley Heights district that also includes northern Foxhall Village, where Chuck Elkins is running unopposed to replace Spence Spencer.

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GU Campus Plan Tweaks Win Praise in Community

August 17, 2016

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

Georgetown University released an updated version of its 2017 campus plan draft last week, retaining the essential features of the previous version and incorporating revisions suggested by neighborhood leaders and residents.

Major changes to the plan include addressing potential future expansion options for the Henle Village and Village A apartment complexes, as well as removing the previously proposed demolition and reconstruction of St. Mary’s Hall, home of the nursing school and located just west of Georgetown MedStar University Hospital. Other tweaks are mostly administrative in nature.

The draft campus plan was released to the public in early June, with the university hosting public briefings and accepting comments through July 15. Neighborhood leaders and residents responded favorably to the draft plan at the time, and the largely favorable opinions extend to last week’s update.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E chair Ron Lewis told The Current yesterday that he was happy with the June plan and remains satisfied with the latest iteration. Stakeholders agreed that the university’s St. Mary’s Hall doesn’t need to be reconstructed and that a demolition process there would be disruptive, Lewis said.

“I don’t have anything more,” Lewis said. “I think the plan they unveiled in June was a very sound plan and the result of a lot of collegial work with the community, the students and all the stakeholders.”

Several neighborhood leaders in the Palisades, just west of the campus, raised minor concerns about some wording in the June plan that would have permitted the university to develop housing for graduate students along MacArthur Boulevard NW. Under the earlier plan, such a project could have proceeded without consulting with neighbors ahead of time, provided that the consultation process would prove detrimental to the cost of the endeavor.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D, which includes the affected stretch of MacArthur in the Palisades, raised objections to that provision at its July meeting. Since then, ANC 3D representatives met with the university and negotiated an agreement, according to chair Tom Smith. The resulting language in the new plan prevents the university from taking action on MacArthur between Foxhall and Reservoir roads NW without consulting with neighborhood groups. The new plan also makes specific reference to the Palisades Citizens Association as a stakeholder worthy of consultation.

Smith told The Current that he and his colleagues had hoped for even stronger protections for the neighborhood but that they’re satisfied with their discussions with Georgetown.

“I think what we achieved was reasonable. It provided for a good outcome for all of the residents of the Palisades,” Smith said. “It’s a much improved product as a result.”

Meanwhile, Bob vom Eigen of the Citizens Association of Georgetown said he had also been concerned about the possibility of graduate student housing beyond the campus, but for a different reason: He’s wary of the university encroaching on the immediately surrounding neighborhood. But the updated plan convinced him that the university will focus its energies in areas that don’t affect the residents of Georgetown in negative ways.

ANC 3D voted unanimously in support of the draft plan at its August meeting Monday night — “pretty remarkable, especially given that it’s in draft form,” Smith said. ANC 2E will consider the draft plan at a meeting Aug. 29.

The document maintains the university’s trajectory toward housing as many students as possible on campus, with plans for additional residences closer to campus, as well as renovations to existing buildings. It also includes the expansion of the hospital — a welcome inclusion for vom Eigen, who thinks the current facilities could use a major upgrade.

So far, the campus plan process has not sparked much heated debate in the neighborhood; rather, community working groups have been involved with its development from the beginning. Lewis said the lack of contentious back-and-forth in this campus plan process is a result of the work done after the protracted battle that dogged each iteration of the last campus plan a few years ago.

“The way everyone has approached the new campus plan is a world of difference from the beginnings of the predecessor plan,” Lewis said. “It’s all based on successful agreements we ultimately reached with the earlier plan.”

Georgetown University plans to send the updated draft to the Zoning Commission in September for consideration, with a hearing expected in late 2016 or early 2017.

This article appears in the Aug. 17 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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