The Big Chair, a landmark in Anacostia. Image by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons.

East of the Anacostia River, the southern half of the area is Ward 8, which contains neighborhoods such as Historic Anacostia, Barry Farm, Congress Heights, and Shipley Terrace. “The Great Ward 8” has its own culture and fiercely advocates for what it needs, though it historically has received much less investment than other parts of the city.

Neighborhood leaders here have an eye on what the future holds for the ward, as the cranes that have long been visible across the banks in Southwest DC are starting to make their way into Ward 8 neighborhoods. We received numerous completed questionnaires from ANC candidates across the ward, and found four we think deserve your vote.

These are our Ward 8 endorsements:

What are ANCs, and why should I care?

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or ANCs, are neighborhood councils of unpaid, elected representatives who meet monthly to weigh in with the District government about issues that are important to their community. ANCs play a very important role in housing and transportation decisions.

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 forward-thinking ANCs offer the government valuable 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 each. Races often hinge on a small handful of votes. Your vote — every vote — really counts.

Here are our endorsements

In Ward 8 there are five ANCs: 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D and 8E. Altogether, those ANCs encompass 35 Single Member Districts (SMDs). This fall, 23 of those SMDs have only one candidate running, so we did not analyze those races. In the remaining 12 competitive races, GGWash is endorsing four candidates. This year, we received completed questionnaires from 19 Ward 8 candidates (some in contested races, others in uncontested races). You can read everyone’s positions and responses here.

Not sure which SMD you live in? It’s easy to find in our interactive ANC Voter Guide! Simply search your address to find your ANC/SMD, compare your candidates’ responses to our questionnaire side-by-side, and take a look at our ultimate endorsements.

 

GGWash 2018 ANC Voter Guide

Ward 8 ANCs and SMDs. Image by Office of ANCs.

 

In ANC 8A, we endorse Troy Donté Prestwood

Historic Anacostia is the heart of ANC 8A. Forming the southern shoreline of the Anacostia River, this ANC runs diagonally north from the Anacostia Metro Station towards Pennsylvania Avenue, with Martin Luther King Boulevard and Good Hope Road operating as its main thoroughfares.

A long simmering discussion in this area is how the ANC should (or shouldn’t) support new affordable housing. Some argue that the area already hosts its share of cheaper units, others argue for taking advantage of the lower cost of construction here to support more. The proposed 11th Street Bridge Park is intertwined into this discussion as it proposed to create a community land trust that would support affordable homes.

The historic district in the area is also involved in this issue. Finally, two other major issues are the plans for a major redevelopment of the parkland at Poplar Point (and was even floated as a potential Amazon HQ site at one point), and a local fight over a storage facility in Fairlawn (which neighbors oppose and would rather have new housing).

On the southern tip of 8A, backing up into Fort Stanton Park lies 8A04. There are two strong candidates running for this seat, but ultimately we decided to endorse incumbent Troy Donté Prestwood over challenger Ronald Thompson.

Prestwood had informed, specific, and smart answers to many of our questions. On housing and affordable housing, he writes: “I believe, as a rule, it should be an imperative that the District develop quality housing for residents at all income levels.” He does however make it clear that he falls on the “we’ve done enough in Ward 8 for affordable housing” side of the debate, declaring that “My community has already provided an outsized share of affordable housing for the city. What we need now is more quality housing that meets the needs of residents at all income levels.”

He continues to describe how he navigated some of this new development within Anacostia’s historic district:

Residents deserve to have their neighborhood’s vision and values front and center when confronted with new development. In the past, I have supported development in the historic district that both honors the charm and character of the district’s past while looking toward the future needs of our residents and a changing city. I will continue to strike the right balance between the needs of residents and developers.

Prestwood is an advocate for transit improvements, saying he “fully support[s] the expansion of new and innovative transit options that improve the way people get around the city.” He is cautiously supportive of sacrificing some parking for those improvements, saying he “can support a limited use of street parking for Capital Bikeshare docking stations in areas where it makes sense.” Overall, Prestwood presents himself as a thoughtful and proven commissioner who is willing to take “positions that may not have always been popular but were the right decision.”

Prestwood faces a great challenger in Ronald Thompson. It is clear from Thompson’s answers that he is a motivated anti-displacement advocate, an issue of critical importance as investment continues to move into the neighborhood. His answers show he is as informed as he is passionate. He writes that the “11th Street Plan is everything I can want from a developer coming to Ward 8, and this neighborhood especially. The 11th Street Bridge Park Equitable Development Plan represents the type of forward thinking development that we need, and from past experience working with some of the minds behind the Bridge Park I know that its leadership is committed to engaging and listening to the communities that will be affected by the development.” On historic preservation he is clear that Anacostia’s “prominent historic corridors… need to be protected,” but “at the same time, we cannot use historic preservation as a cudgel to block development as some other communities have done.”

Thompson is ever-so-slightly more bold than Prestwood when it comes to supporting transit needs over parking needs: “If improving the flow of local traffic and buses meant removing on-street parking in our case I would support it, but not without providing homeowners some recourse.”

Like we said, this is a tough choice for voters, and neighbors here are lucky to have two clearly capable candidates. Ultimately, Prestwood won our endorsement and we encourage readers here to review both candidates great questionnaires closely as you make your decision.

There are two other contested races in 8A we took a look at. 8A01 is the northernmost SMD in the area and is the site of the controversial storage facility in Fairlawn. Here, incumbent Holly Muhammad is running against an impressive challenger in Andrew (Andy) Pulsirisaroth.

From Pulsirisaroth’s responses, it is clear he leans heavily urbanist. He is a strong Vision Zero advocate for his neighborhood, arguing that “Vision Zero goals should be applied to all parts of the city, with an even greater focus on areas east of the river where residents rely more heavily on public transportation and safe accommodations.” On the balance of affordable homes and market rate homes, he writes that “the right balance lies in diversity. The community is better served when there is a more equal distribution of affordable, workforce, and market-rate housing.” Pulsirisaroth does waffle when it comes to street parking; While he clearly is for bike and bus infrastructure, he was unwilling to take a stand on sacrificing parking.

Unfortunately, Muhammad did not return our questionnaire, which left us with a difficult decision. When it comes to the future of 8A and this area, it is going to be incredibly important that long-time residents help lead the way. Pulsirisaroth, while informed and decent on many of our issues, is also a relative newcomer and we aren’t clear how well connected he is to the existing community, which will be very important when it comes to building consensus and having productive dialogues in the ANC. Ultimately, we felt we just didn’t have enough information to make a confident endorsement in this race. We encourage voters from the neighborhood to read Pulsirisaroth’s answers and use your own judgement and experiences on who is best for 8A01.

Rowhomes in Anacostia. Image by Erin used with permission.

The other competitive race in 8A this year is the western tip of the ANC, 8A06, which includes Poplar Point. Both candidates here had decent answers to our questionnaire, but neither won us over for a full endorsement. Incumbent Greta Fuller had many good ideas and stances, but also was a bit defensive on our issues. For example, she writes that “historic buildings and the addition of housing, they are not mutually exclusive. I have always supported growth and development if it is thoughtful and mindful of the people, culture, and structures that make up the community,” and then later voices a lot intense opposition to Maple View Flats (some of which could be warranted!), a new development near her that has been the source of a lot of controversy in the neighborhood.

Fuller does have good ideas for transit improvements and says she has “supported the removal of on-street parking in the past to accommodate” a new bike station, though doesn’t think there is room for bike lanes in much of her neighborhood. We also note than a solid group of readers filled out our reader feedback tool in favor of Fuller — she obviously has a strong base of supporters!

Tyon Jones is running against Fuller, and we liked some of what he had to say as well. We like his take on supporting affordable housing: “Our community needs more affordable housing while at the same time continuing to fight to disperse affordable housing throughout the District.” We weren’t entirely sure what to make of his take on building in a historic district — it might not be a red flag, but felt a bit like one: “The most sustainable way to preserve our historic buildings is to minimize building “new” buildings.”

Some of the defensiveness to change showed up later in another comment as well: “Anytime a company, especially a company located outside of DC, comes to our neighborhood and against the community members wish move forward to build something that will diminish the character of a community, elected officials and the community should spearhead efforts to stop it.” However, we liked his commitment to community benefits agreements, as he said he will “ensure any developer is first aware of development unintended consequences” and will work proactively with all parties to “help balance those consequences.”

In the end, both have some good ideas and stances, but we also had some hesitations about both. We encourage voters here to evaluate for yourselves and pick who you think is best.

 

Anacostia. Image by John Stowe used with permission.

 

In ANC 8C, we endorse Chyla Evans and David Jones

Following the bend in the Anacostia River and including Congress Heights, Barry Farm, and parts of Bolling Air Force Base, ANC 8C is a large area with a number of controversial projects underway within it.

One is the aforementioned Barry Farm redevelopment on the northeastern corner of the ANC. Demolition has just begun in the last few months at this public housing site, but many are still concerned about displacement, and the future designs are still unclear after a series of lawsuits have hit the developers and the DC agencies in charge here.

Another is the St. Elizabeths campus, where plans for a Wizards and Mystics practice facility and stadium are underway. 8C also includes part of Poplar Point, and finally the terrible conditions and alleged abuse by landlords have sparked investigations at a series of apartment complexes near the Congress Heights Metro station. There is simply a lot going on in 8C.

There are three contested races this year in this ANC. In 8C07 we didn’t receive a response from either candidate, but we found two candidates we really liked in 8C02 and 8C04. 8C02 is the very center of the ANC just west of Martin Luther King Avenue SE, and here we endorse Chyla Evans.

Evans says she knows from personal experience how important it is to make neighborhoods safe for pedestrians and bikers, and she will “work to promote Vision Zero through effective use of data, education, enforcement, and engineering.” She is clear, if that “means sacrificing some parking, it is worth it.” She seems reasonable when it comes to the influx of development in her area, though we wish she had a stronger opinion when it came to what is happening at Congress Heights (where there are serious displacement concerns). All she writes about the issue is: “I think that gentrification in Congress Heights is inevitable, the St. E development [will] lead new retail and housing outside of the gates into the Congress Heights area, although it may be slower, due to neglected condition of the area. It is the responsibility of the ANC and other community organizations to listen to and respond to developers that want to come into the area.” ANC commissioners can play an important role in educating and protecting existing residents against displacement, so it’s concerning to not see that articulated here.

However, Evans is running against the incumbent Terry Smith. Honestly, Smith didn’t write a lot in responding to our questions, but seemed to just be saying “no” a lot. Perhaps the clearest example: “I would not want to remove street parking at all.” We think Evans is the best choice here.

Directly south is 8C04, and we like the incumbent here, David Jones. In contrast to Evans, Jones articulates a clearer path forward for the tenants at Congress Heights: “The existing residents are our first priority but I believe the project could provide value to our community because it would be the first transit-oriented development located east of the Anacostia River. This is an opportunity for us to create a vibrant, walkable, safe new community that is transit-oriented in our neighborhood.”

He similarly writes well about Barry Farm: “I want to fully support the existing residents of Barry Farm. We want to ensure the residents are heard. If redevelopment continues in that area, the existing residents would need to be involved in planning every step of the way… Furthermore, I look forward to hearing from the District on how they will incorporate and not displace current residents in the new plan. Not one family or individual should be displaced so the District needs to ensure they are transparent with all residents on all of their options.”

On transit Jones also seems supportive… to a point. For example, he starts off this section so well, and then…: “It is great to see bikeshare bicycles finally being added to our community. Moving forward, I would not be in favor of any plan that would involve removing residential parking.” While maybe not an urbanist champion, Jones certainly seems like a solid incumbent and is positive on many of the issues we care about. His opponent, Regina Pixley, did not return our questionnaire, but we feel comfortable saying that Jones is a good way to cast your vote.

In ANC 8B and 8D, we don’t have any endorsements

Southeast of Anacostia are the neighborhoods of Fort Stanton, Woodland, and Buena Vista, all of which sit in the narrow and dense ANC 8B. Residents here want to know how to continue to support existing residents in the community as new investment comes in, and also what commissioners hope to do about the long delayed Skyland Town Center. There are two contested races in 8B, but we can’t make a confident endorsement in either.

In 8B01 Joshua Clark and Leonard Watson are running for an open seat. Watson did not return our questionnaire, and Clark had some answers we liked, and others that we weren’t as sure about. For example, he clearly cares about combating displacement in his area, but also seems kind of defensive about changes in the neighborhood, dodges tough questions about parking, and at times instead of taking a clear position falls back on promising to be “transparent” and to “relay a message that is understood by all of the community.” Obviously that is important, but without more information about his views, we didn’t feel confident making an endorsement here.

One district to the south in 8B03, Gerald Anekwe and Charles Wilson are also competing for an open seat. Again, we only received a response from one candidate here: Anekwe. Anekwe seems proud of the fact that his “neighborhood as at present is well connected by the transit system as no one has to walk more than two blocks to access the system,” but continues on to say that “the neighborhood does not lend itself to a bike lane installation as over 80% of the residents have to curbside park their vehicles.”

He does step out in favor of density in his area, saying that he “will expect my neighborhood, which is mostly single family units, to be converted into multiple unit complexes in the future.” Ultimately, without more information on Anekwe’s opponent we didn’t feel Anekwe’s responses were quite enough to win an endorsement.

ANC 8D is the southern tip of the ward and the city. There is only one contested race here (8D07), and neither candidate returned our questionnaire.

Boling Air Force Base. Image by Cliff licensed under Creative Commons.

In ANC 8E, we endorse Amanda Beale

Finally, ANC 8E is the area along the southern edge of DC’s diamond, just above Southern Avenue SE. Both of the developments at St. Elizabeths and Congress Heights are near the northern edge of the ANC, and we also asked candidates about the hopes and concerns about the newly created Opportunity Zones, which will encourage private investment in selected neighborhoods.

There is a lot of competition in 8E this year. For ANC 8E02 (the northernmost most tip of the ANC), we endorse Amanda Beale. Beale had a lot of positive and informed answers to our questionnaire that we really liked. For example, she writes: “I welcome development East of the River and I look forward to dining out/socializing without having to leave my neighborhood. However, people should not be displaced for my or any other person’s enjoyment. The city needs to ensure that our most vulnerable residents (e.g. people with disabilities) have the necessary resources and services to survive.”

She sees the role of the ANC as an important mediator in the process of neighborhood change, and says that she does “not want a hostile relationship between natives and visitors, like Trinidad and Ivy City vs ‘The Atlas District.’”

When we asked about how she would handle parochial and narrow concerns that often come out in ANC meetings, she said “Very simply, facts and data trump emotion. If it is a very controversial situation, I would have 'all my ducks in a row' and be prepared for rebuttals. Ultimately, what is best for majority of the community is what is important.” Beale did not take a clear stance on parking vs. transit improvements, but overall seems like a strong and fair advocate for her neighborhood.

Beale has two opponents. Cheryl Moore did not return our questionnaire, but incumbent Anthony Muhammad did. Unfortunately, many of Muhammad’s answers were simply incomplete and fragmented. Those that weren’t showed that Muhammad doesn’t agree with us on many of our core issues.

When asked about the possibility of a new bike lane, he simple wrote “I would advocate against bike lane.” Similarly, when asked about Vision Zero, he said “No bike lanes on Alabama Ave SE, we need new allies and new sidewalks and new LED lights.” Finally, what’s the biggest controversy in the neighborhood and your response to it? “Loitering, don’t like it.” For us, Beale is the clear choice for 8E02.

We never got a response from either of the candidates in 8E04, but to the west of 8E02 there are a bunch of people running against incumbent Joseph Johnson in 8E01. Johnson himself did not complete our questionnaire, but two of his opponents did, and we struggled to find a clear winner of our endorsement here. Both Adeoye Owolewa and Rufaro Jenkins look like decent candidates, but for distinct reasons.

Owolewa is clear-headed and practical. He writes that his “priority as ANC Commissioner would be to increase the number of bicycles in our local Capital Bikeshare station to prepare the community for the future. Once there's more cyclist activity in Ward 8, we should strongly consider adding bike lanes to busier streets like Alabama Avenue.” However, he also says that “although increasing space for public transportation and bike services can benefit commuters, I do not support removing sidewalks and parking space to create bike lanes at this time. The benefits don't outweigh the costs since there's minimal cyclist activity on our main roads.”

At times Owolewa writes with a bit of defensive tone. For example, he is worried that “profit driven big businesses” will drive “out lifelong residents in favor of expensive condos and studio apartments.” Nonetheless, while he might not be an all-star urbanist, Owolewa appears very capable and well-reasoned.

Jenkins, on the other hand, presents as an enthusiastic candidate with a lot of excitement about our issues, but it is less clear how much experience she has with them. What is clear is how much she cares about raising up the quality of life and stature of Ward 8 and her neighborhood. For example, she had good answers on bikes and bike lanes, with specific ideas for where to put them and is willing to lose some parking for them. Jenkins writes:

If I want to ride a bike in neighborhood and feel safe I should be awarded that right. Therefore give me a bike lane the same way you would give it to the folks in Northwest. I shouldn't have to feel safe riding a bike in NW and not in SE. It's time to bridge the gap and create a Fair City throughout the City.

Amen. Yet while we liked Jenkins’ passion and she was sometimes better aligned with urbanist views, we were also attracted to Owolewa’s clearer command of the issues. Ultimately, we encourage readers and voters to look carefully at each candidates' responses and make your own decision here.

St. Elizabeths. Image by Tom licensed under Creative Commons.

Want to read the responses of all of the Ward 8 ANC candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF for Ward 8. You can also explore our ANC Voter Guide, which allows you to compare candidates in your neighborhood side-by-side. Over the next few weeks, our endorsements for competitive 2018 ANC races will be updated regularly at our ANC Endorsements Page as we continue publish our detailed rationale for each decision in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

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. Our volunteer elections committee then evaluated all candidate responses and feedback for contested races and with staff came to our final decisions.