If you live in U Street, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, or nearby neighborhoods, you probably live in Ward 1. Here are our recommendations for seven competitive races for Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats in that area on November’s ballot.
These are our Ward 1 endorsements:
What are ANCs, and why should I care?
Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or ANCs, are neighborhood councils of unpaid, elected representatives who meet monthly and weigh in with the government about important issues to the community. ANCs are very important on housing and transportation. An ANC’s opposition to new housing, retail, a bike lane, bus improvements, etc. can stymie or significantly delay valuable projects. On the other hand, proactive and positive-thinking ANCs give the government suggestions for ways to improve the neighborhood and rally resident support.
Each ANC is divided into a number of Single Member Districts (SMDs), averaging about 2,000 voters. Races often hinge on a small handful of votes; Your vote —every vote— really counts.
Not sure which SMD you live in? Find out here.
Here are our endorsements
After reviewing the candidate responses from each competitive race in Ward 1, we chose seven candidates to endorse. You can read their positions for yourself here, along with responses many unopposed candidates.
ANC 1A covers Columbia Heights and Park View north of approximately Harvard Street, give or take a block. The main housing-related activity in the area involves redevelopment plans for the old Hebrew Home, on Spring Street at the ward’s northern edge, and Park Morton, a public housing complex just east of Georgia Avenue.
Debate has also been raging online about whether the neighborhood is “going downhill” after one (former) resident sent an angry letter to PoPville about trash, crime, and a litany of other complaints; others, like ANC 1A chair and occasional GGWash contributor Kent Boese argued his characterization of the neighborhood was unfair.
The neighborhood, and all of Ward 1, has a high level of transit ridership and many bus lines in addition to the Green Line Metro service, but buses often spend a great deal of time stuck in traffic. Bicycle ridership is also high and rising, but there is a big need for bike connections to nearby areas, particularly east and west.
In district 1A01 near 14th and Spring, Valerie Baron and Ernest Johnson are vying for an open seat. We’re endorsing Baron, who says she supports “fairly dense housing near the Metro” and would “prioritize affordable housing at the Hebrew Home.” She bicycles regularly and endorses improving bus service.
We asked all candidates how they would react to proposals that make bus service better (such as with a bus lane) but require removing some parking. Baron was one of the few candidates to give a specific suggestion: Spring Road just east of 16th Street.
Ernest Johnson is unwilling to consider speeding up bus service if doing so takes away even a small amount of parking. He also thinks both housing and retail are “over-developed” and does not want more of either. His responses showed no vision for a better future for Columbia Heights beyond vague claims to want affordable housing; Baron is the clear choice.
A few blocks to the east in 1A07, Sharon Farmer is challenging sitting commissioner Darwain Frost. We’re endorsing Frost. Farmer’s answers were short and vague, except to clearly oppose contraflow bike lanes on one-way streets, bus lanes if they affect parking, or other changes. In his questionnaire answers and record on the ANC, Frost has shown much more openness to learning and considering possible solutions to neighborhood problems.
1A10 is the commission’s southeast corner, along Columbia Road and the Soldiers’ Home. There, we support Amanda Frost against incumbent Rashida Brown, who did not respond to our survey. Frost showed an open-minded view about growth, saying the Hebrew Home should prioritize “density, sustainability, maximizing and maintaining public space, and economic and environmental impact” to “balance livability with growth”; she’d also like to add housing at vacant properties along Georgia Avenue. On transportation, she’d like a bike lane and better sidewalks on Georgia, and praised the recent Sherman Avenue streetscape.
The U Street area and hill up to Columbia Heights, as well as LeDroit Park, make up ANC 1B. Besides many of the same issues around crime and the area’s evolving demographics as 1A, readers wanted to hear what candidates planned for improving transportation options, in particular bike infrastructure.
There is only one contested seat among the twelve districts in this large ANC, LeDroit Park’s 1B01. The open seat there has two candidates, Jonathan Goldman and Anita Norman. We’re endorsing Goldman, who is “never opposed to more bike share stations,” and is paying particular attention to the “deplorable condition of the Kelly Miller”, a public housing complex in the neighborhood. He plans to make working with those residents to improve conditions a top priority, and while he seems in favor of building more housing near the Metro, he says that it will be difficult to add more density because the SMD is “mostly historic.”
1C is Adams Morgan and the neighborhoods (Lanier Heights, Kalorama Triangle) which some people also refer to as Adams Morgan. By far the biggest issue in 1C is the SunTrust bank building and plaza, which could soon be redeveloped.
Sadly, ANC 1C historically has exemplified the public image of ANCs as entities that only say “no.” Here, the ANC has been steadfastly opposed to essentially anything replacing this SunTrust building; they want to preserve the plaza, but also don’t want a taller building that could make preserving the plaza feasible.
In the two contested seats in 1C, none of the candidates distinguish themselves. In 1C07, Wilson Reynolds, the incumbent “is opposed to removing parking in Adams Morgan,” even for bus improvements, and is in favor of using “[e]very legal tool… to diminish the size and impact” of development “on our citizens,” such as plans on the 1700 block of Columbia Road.
Reynolds is facing Chris Otten, if anything an even more well-known and outspoken opponent of new development. Even though he did not complete our survey, Otten has been touring the city trying to drum up opposition to the zoning update, which won approval in January and has now taken effect; he is threatening to file a lawsuit against it, based largely on a series of misconceptions and misunderstandings about what the update would actually change.
1C08 lies just to 1C07’s east. Sitting commissioner JonMarc Buffa chairs the ANC’s planning & zoning committee, and has led much of the SunTrust opposition. In his responses, he said he was in support of affordable housing and thinks “providing protected bike lanes is important,” but is “proud to have supported the downzoning of Lanier Heights.” His opponent, Amanda Fox Perry, did not return our questionnaire.
If you live in either SMD, please consider running for ANC in 2018.
One issue is animating many of the contests in Mount Pleasant’s ANC 1D: what to do about a strip of vacant land where Lamont Street would be if it continued up a steep hill, but it does not. Many Mount Pleasant residents would like some play equipment for children in this area, but many residents of the adjacent 1900 Lamont Street building do not.
Of course, that’s not the only issue in Mount Pleasant, and candidates also talked about ways to add more housing within the scope of the neighborhood’s historic status, improve the vitality of the neighborhood main street, make walking and bicycling safer, and more.
Jon Stewart is challenging incumbent Frank Agbro in 1D01, in the center of the neighborhood. Stewart, who we’re endorsing, is a daily reader of Greater Greater Washington and says the blog “helped spark [his] interest in running for ANC.” He’s for a playground on the contested vacant land, for live music at neighborhood bars and restaurants (an age-old Mount Pleasant controversy), for better bike and pedestrian safety, and for preserving the strong Latino community and businesses in the neighborhood. He as a clear goals for preserving and creating affordable housing in his neighborhood, and improving bus options and infrastructure.
Stewart had perhaps the most humble response to our question, “Why are you the best person to represent” your district, saying “Honestly, I’m not,” but he thinks he can do better than Agbro, whom he says missed five ANC meetings, has threatened the neighborhood farmer’s market, and more. (Agbro did not respond to our questionnaire). Stewart wrote, “I own a house, ride the bus, shop on Mount Pleasant St, walk around the neighborhood, schlep to other neighborhoods’ parks, and buy produce at the farmer’s market. Mount Pleasant is great… and it could be greater. :)” Sounds good to us.
We’re also very impressed with Paul Karrer, who’s one of three candidates competing for an open seat in 1D02 along 16th Street in the neighborhood’s northeast corner. The other two, Alex Hastie and Capree Bell, did not answer the questionnaire, but that’s not the only reason to vote for Karrer.
His questionnaire had a great answer for why historic preservation can be valuable (“who doesn’t love our brick sidewalks, our trees, and our beautiful rowhouses?”) but also not inconsistent with adding housing. His quote: “I think about Mount Pleasant [as] being a ‘neighborhood for all’…Our ANC should support sensible and sustainable development that meets the goals of historical preservation but doesn’t hinder our homeowners… [and] our ANC should advise our elected officials and government agencies to craft policies addressing affordable housing, transportation options, and quality of life that will make Mount Pleasant a great place to live well into the future.”
Huzzah. We hope voters will select Paul Karrer to serve on the ANC.
The final contested seat in 1D is 1D03, a northwest section of the neighborhood that abuts the controversial Lamont Street potential parkland. Incumbent Jack McKay has a long and notable record of service to the neighborhood, but we recommend challenger Benjamin Mann.
McKay says the 1900 Lamont residents should have “decisive say” over the park, and nobody else; he had no suggestions for adding housing within the context of the historic district; and he thinks bus service is good enough. Is there a bus improvement sufficient to warrant prioritizing it over on-street parking? “I don’t see that as a real possibility,” he said.
Mann, by contrast, had excellent answers to many questions. He wants a more inclusive approach to the park that considers many residents’ needs. He’d like to preserve the neighborhood but also add some housing, such as through accessory apartments, saying that “DC needs more housing to help make homeownership and renting more affordable.” He’s open to changes that rebalance the use of street space as well, again only after an inclusive community process.
Want to read the responses of all of the Ward 1 ANC candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF for Ward 1. You can also see the responses and our endorsements for all 8 wards on our 2016 ANC Endorsements Page. We’ll publish our rationale for those in upcoming posts.
These are official endorsements of Greater Greater Washington. To determine this year’s endorsements, we sent a reader-generated candidate questionnaire to all ANC candidates. We then published candidate responses and collected feedback. Staff evaluated all candidate responses and feedback for contested races and recommended endorsements to our volunteer editorial board, which then made the final decision.