Georgetown Current

Stoddert Neighbors Pitch In After Teacher Parking Crunch

September 17, 2014

By George Altshuler
Current Correspondent

The 20 Stoddert Elementary School teachers and staff members whose parking spaces have been occupied by temporary “demountable” classrooms have places to park — for now.

Nearby residents donated their visitor parking passes to the school as a stopgap measure, but the passes will expire at the end of the year.

The elementary school, located at 4001 Calvert St., is bursting at its seams. It expanded from 256 students in the 2010-2011 school year to 429 students this school year, according to Don Bryant, the school’s principal.

Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh said stakeholders put together a package of solutions earlier this summer. They planned to use the visitor passes, put in place a shuttle to a nearby parking lot and eliminate parking restrictions on the south side of Davis Place next to the school.

But the shuttle, funded by D.C. Public Schools, was seldom used. It was discontinued when the solution of the visitor passes proved successful.

Cheh praised the stopgap solution, but she questioned how long it could continue. “I would like to see something more formalized,” she said.

Meanwhile, residents and the Glover Park advisory neighborhood commission have called for more community discussion before the Transportation Department changes parking signs.

At last Thursday’s commission meeting, chair Brian Cohen said removing the requirements for residential parking in the surrounding area is a “terrible idea.”

“It’s not targeted at the teachers. Dozens of people who don’t live in the ward will park there,” he said. “It will also put a hardship on people in the community who need parking in the evening.”

Cheh said that for now the District will hold off on removing any parking signs. She spoke favorably of changing the hours of parking restrictions in the surrounding area so that teachers could park there during the day, but said residents would still have protected spots in the evening.

Cheh added that this change could apply to more than just the block of Davis Place that borders the school. “Perhaps this will be more acceptable if we broaden the lens a little bit and do this on other surrounding blocks as well,” she said.

At the commission meeting on Thursday, commissioner Jackie Blumenthal expressed support for changing parking restrictions. “There is no one parking on these streets during the day,” she said.

Cohen, meanwhile, advocated providing the staff with special parking passes they could use to park on neighborhood streets during school hours. Community members first presented the idea to the Transportation Department this summer, but officials have not responded favorably.

Department spokesperson Reggie Sanders said his agency can’t issue parking permits to specific groups because doing so would open the floodgates to this type of request.

Cohen, however, said this situation is a special case. “I think the ideal solution is still on the table,” he said. “And if someone has taken it off the table, they should put it back on the table.”

Cheh said that her ideal solution would look more broadly and “deal with the overcrowding” at Stoddert Elementary, which underwent a major renovation less than four years ago.

“I would like to see an addition at Stoddert, but obviously that’s long-term,” she said. “What we can do in the interim would be to change the parking hours during the day around the school.”

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

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Additions to Mansion Spark Continued Battle

September 10, 2014

By Elizabeth Wiener
Current Staff Writer

The battle over Katharine Graham’s former mansion is down to two combatants. But neither Mark Ein, prominent venture capitalist and owner of the Washington Kastles, nor Calvin Cafritz, the prolific local developer who lives next door, is backing down.

Ein and Cafritz, both accompanied by land-use attorneys and dueling architectural historians, appeared before the Old Georgetown Board last Thursday, where board members took no action but offered various suggested changes.

At the hearing, Ein presented revised plans for an addition and parking garage at the landmarked house at 2920 R St., built in 1864 and also known as the Beall-Washington house. The revisions — tucking the garage underground behind the house, and shrinking a planned eastern addition from three to two stories, with a mansard roof to mask its size — appeared to satisfy most neighbors, several of whom submitted letters of support. But not Cafritz, who lives in a twin house directly to the east.

Cafritz told the board he still objects to the alterations to “one of most iconic” homes in Georgetown. The large addition will give the house “a lopsided look,” he said, and would be better placed on the south side.

Cafritz also had questions about the cumulative impact, if Ein also builds a pool and pool house on the property — “How large, where located, how it will affect trees that now form a magnificent grove?” He focused as well on the size of the garage and access by a narrow ramp wrapping around the house. “How many cars, is there a turn-around?” Cafritz asked, as opposed to forcing drivers to back up into the street.

Ein, however, emphasized the many compromises he made after consulting with neighbors and the board’s staff. His original plan, for two detached garages in front of the historic house and a three-story addition, caused quite a stir when presented in July. But the scaled-down proposal won over most skeptics.

“It’s a terrific solution — keeps it as a grand house, but also makes it a family house,” said Victoria Rixey of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, a vigorous defender of the neighborhood’s historic district.

Ein explained the rationale for the project. He and his wife, Sally, hope to have children someday, he said, and need to expand the 7,000-square-foot mansion to create a usable family home. “It will make it a house we can live in for decades,” he said, promising to sign a covenant ensuring single-family use in perpetuity.

Board members, all local architects who had soundly rebuffed the original proposal, still had doubts.

“In a community where lots of people have to park on the street and walk a long way home, is there really need for a garage?” asked member Alan Brangman. He noted that a carriage house on the property could be converted to hold cars.

Ein’s architect, Outerbridge Horsey, protested. “The carriage house is so far away. You don’t want to walk down there in snow and rain.”

Board chair Stephen Muse said he was “willing to entertain” the sunken garage idea, but also questioned the rationale. “The way it’s always worked, you drive up a great graveled drive” in front of the house.

Board member Richard Williams also questioned the size and scale of the east addition. “I believe the family room could be done well as a garden element, distinct from the house, and not necessarily have a gym underneath it,” he said.

Another contested point was the planned demolition of a 1914 kitchen addition designed by famed local architect Waddy Wood, which Ein would sacrifice in favor of the family room and bedrooms for his future offspring.

The D.C. Historic Preservation Office has opined that such demolition could be found acceptable under city preservation law, since the kitchen addition does not make up a “significant” portion of the entire historic house.

But, Muse said, “l’m personally opposed to total demolition of the kitchen. It’s an important historic element, and there are ways to keep at least the front.”

Here, both Ein and his architect protested. “We’re trying to take your feedback. Bur from our point of view, this has to work,” said the homeowner. “This was a staff kitchen. To make it work, we’d have to widen it.”

“It’s a service kitchen, not part of a family house,” Horsey said.

In the end, the board took no action on the revised proposal but asked Ein and his team to come back after reflecting on its suggestions.

“I’m not sure this is something we win and you lose. We’re trying to make it better,” Muse said. “I know you wanted concept approval today. We’re not gonna give it. Come back next month.”

This article appears in the Sept. 10 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Parking, Noise at Issue in Two License Protests

September 3, 2014

By Graham Vyse
Current Staff Writer

In a nod to residents concerned about noise and parking scarcity near their homes, the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission voted last week to protest liquor license applications from After Peacock Room and the planned Yakitori restaurant.

After Peacock Room, a tearoom/coffeehouse at 2622 P St., plans to shift into serving lunch and dinner. Yakitori, at 1515 Wisconsin Ave., is a new Japanese restaurant set to open next year in the space where John Rosselli Antiques currently sits. The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is scheduled to hear both cases this month.

After Peacock Room plans to open six days a week with its new offerings — Tuesday through Sunday, from noon until 10 p.m. That schedule would be a change from its current hours, which are noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. In addition, the restaurant is seeking to open a 16-seat seat outdoor patio, although no alcohol would be allowed outside. Inside, individual customers would be limited to three glasses of wine or three bottles of beer.

Commissioner Tom Birch noted that there are currently no businesses with liquor licenses on the block that includes After Peacock Room. He said several neighbors are concerned about the prospect of sound carrying from the patio.

Birch said he could relate to their worries. “I have a small back patio with neighbors on either side,” he said. “When anyone is in their rear yard, I hear them. Silence is a very rare commodity.”

Karen Cruse of the Citizens Association of Georgetown agreed. “The patio is a non-starter,” she said.

The other major issue raised about the After Peacock Room application was the impact it could have on parking. By adding more meals and drinks, the commissioners and residents agreed that the establishment would begin to attract patrons likely to linger in the area longer than those coming for just coffee or tea.

“Where are these patrons going to park and for how long?” one resident asked. “There just isn’t any public parking lot anywhere near there.”

Community members were also concerned about how the opening of Yakitori would affect the relatively quiet character of a section of the neighborhood several blocks north of busy M Street. The fear is that with more restaurants, even those that don’t serve alcohol, the area could feel more like the bustling corridors of Adams Morgan and U Street.

But representatives of the planned Japanese teriyaki restaurant are looking to reach an agreement with the neighbors. They have said they will not have outdoor space, live music or a DJ. Their establishment would be open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight during the weekend. They are also promising high-quality food offerings, with a chef from the acclaimed Sushi-Ko restaurant on board to run the kitchen.

The commission’s protests mean that the two establishments will have to either agree to concessions with the community in a settlement agreement or must persuade the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that they won’t harm the community.

This article appears in the Sept. 3 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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