National Cathedral, a landmark in Ward 3. Image by thisisbossi used with permission.

Separated from most of the city by Rock Creek Park, Ward 3 is the western corner of the District. Known for both its beautiful neighborhoods and wealthy enclaves, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions here have seen lots of bitter arguments over new development and change. However, more and more Ward 3 urbanists are showing up and getting involved, and we chose three to endorse in their candidacies this fall.

These are our Ward 3 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 3 there are six ANCs: 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E, 3F, and one ANC that straddles Wards 3 and 4: ANC 3G. Altogether, those ANCs encompass 43 Single Member Districts (SMDs). This fall, 33 of those SMDs have only one candidate running, so we did not analyze those races. There are also three vacant seats in Ward 3 with no candidates running: 3D06, 3D10, and 3F04.

In the remaining seven competitive races, GGWash is endorsing three candidates. This year, we received completed questionnaires from 18 Ward 3 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 3 ANCs and SMDs. Image by Office of ANCs.

In ANC 3C, we endorse John Grill and Victoria Gersten

The National Zoo, the Naval Observatory, the National Cathedral; all of these are inside the boundaries of ANC 3C. Three major thoroughfares — Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Wisconsin avenues — cut through this ANC, and it includes the neighborhoods of Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, and a portion of Cathedral Heights.

The story grabbing the most headlines in this area has been the proposed homeless shelter in Ward 3. There has been years of debate and lawsuits about this shelter’s location since Mayor Bowser announced her plan to close the DC General shelter in 2016 and replace it with new ones in all eight wards. A group of residents close to the Ward 3 location have filed a lawsuit to try to halt construction.

Transit, walking, and bicycling are also on the top of many neighbors’ minds, especially along Connecticut Avenue NW, where many ANCs and GGWash have been calling for improvements. We asked candidates here about their stance on the National Zoo’s proposal to add additional fencing and gates, and about the redevelopment plans for Fannie Mae’s old headquarters, which lies on the edge of the ANC.

Finally, the perennial question for ANC: What is next for the area around Cleveland Park Metro station? The area is protected by a historic district and is low-density. Businesses have been struggling to stay there and urbanists have long hoped for better land use in the space.

Our first endorsement here is in 3C01, the area east of Connecticut Avenue NW between the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park metro stops. Here John Grill is taking on incumbent Lee Brian Reba, and though Reba did not return our questionnaire, we think Grill is a no-brainer.

Grill had thoughtful, well-reasoned responses to our questions. He is unequivocal when it comes to the new homeless shelter: “Some have seized upon relatively minor design changes to hold up full completion of the shelter. This is unconscionable as the closing of DC General shelter means needy families *need* homes. Most residents in 3C are fortunate and privileged, we owe it to our fellow District neighbors to help.”

We also really liked that he unafraid to use the “d” word when discussing the future of his neighborhood. About the Cleveland Park Metro, Grill says “maintaining a car parking lot above a major urban Metro stop is simply not smart land use,” and that when he asks residents who were involved with getting the area it’s historic status, “even they acknowledge that that process has been frequently abused, applied to buildings and areas inappropriately to block any changes. My hope would be to work with residents who are skittish about increased density to address their concerns.”

Grill backs up that support for more homes in his answer about Fannie Mae, saying “there have been so few opportunities in recent years to add housing to Ward 3 that we can’t miss this opportunity by building too few units, though I would have liked to see this development do more to add affordable units to the neighborhood.” He is similarly strong when it comes to supporting better bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and seems to be willing tackle the idea of losing some parking for those improvements, though he doesn’t quite come out and say it.

While incumbent Reba did not return out questionnaire, we feel confident in Grill (as do, it seems, the Metro DC Democratic Socialist of America, who also endorsed him).

Uptown Theater in Cleveland Park. Image by Photo YourSpace licensed under Creative Commons.

Further west, in the neighborhoods surrounding the Naval Observatory that is 3C08, we are endorsing Victoria Gersten.

Gersten specifically calls for more density along corridors like Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues, and says that “although increasing density is sometimes controversial and not always appropriate, it makes sense to consider and constantly re-evaluate it, especially in commercial areas.”

We also appreciated her reflection that “Ward 3 (and in fact, the City as a whole) missed opportunities to create sites for affordable housing when it redeveloped the library sites (as just libraries again) without increasing the density on these well-located, City-owned parcels. Residential density above the libraries could have integrated affordable housing without more expense to the capital budget, most likely reducing the operating expenses of the libraries through public-private partnerships.”

Being vigilant and ready to support opportunities like that as a commissioner is incredibly important, especially in a ward that has built only 0.6% of the new affordable housing units since 2015.

On redesigning Connecticut Avenue NW, Gersten says “clearly we must better balance competing uses so that bikers and pedestrians are less vulnerable.” When discussing Fannie Mae, Gersten does get a little defensive about traffic and preserving green space, but overall her answers are strong and she seems to be a clear advocate for core urbanist principles in 3C. Sheneman did not complete our questionnaire, and just days before publishing we’ve heard that Sheneman withdrew from the race. But by that point we had already made up our mind — Gersten promises to be a great addition to the ANC.

Connecticut Avenue NW in Cleveland Park. Image created with Google Maps.

In ANC 3B there are no competitive races, and in 3D we liked both candidates

Just west of the Naval Observatory and Massachusetts Avenue NW is ANC 3B, but everyone there is running unopposed, so we didn’t analyze those races. Farther north, ANC 3D is the westernmost section of the District of Columbia. Spring Valley, Palisades, Foxhall Crescent, and the American University are all a part of this ANC.

There has been a long brewing fight in 3D over the Ladybird (SuperFresh) site along Massachusetts Avenue, where a small, vocal group of neighbors have successfully delayed and reduced the size of the proposed building over and over again. This is wrapped up in the future of the low-density area and how it can accommodate more neighbors of different incomes, and how it can encourage more people to walk, bike or take the bus with its infrastructure.

There are two vacant seats on the ballot this fall (let us know if you are running a write-in campaign for either of them!), and one contested race in 3D05, which encloses much of the Palisades neighborhood. In this race, we received responses from two good candidates, and ultimately we just couldn’t decide which one was better.

Heather Gustafson has the support of many in the GGWash community, and she had good answers to our questionnaire, but also wrote often in general terms and didn’t take firm stances on some of our questions. As an example, she is clearly supportive of bike and bus infrastructure, but instead of taking a stance on whether or not she would sacrifice any parking for these things, she wrote: “I am not aware of a bike[/bus] infrastructure proposal in my neighborhood at this time that would negatively affect on-street parking.”

However, many GGWash readers weighed in our our feedback tool and vouched for Gustafson. One said she is “incredibly smart and extremely community-minded, and, as the owner of a pre-school and a day care center, she was on the receiving end of harassment and negativity from her ANC, especially her former SMD Commissioner, which is one of the things that motivated her to run, to be a positive force for change. She is new to many smart growth issues, but I think she is eager to learn and I think she is very willing to spend the time to get up to speed.”

Gustafson is running against Alan Karnofsky, who had stronger answers on our questionnaire, but readers who wrote in argued that he has less experience in the neighborhood. Karnofsky had specific recommendations for bike lanes and other Vision Zero priorities.

He also shows he willing to stand up to NIMBY pressures, and cites a controversial sidewalk installation on Arizona Avenue NW. He supports the sidewalk, saying, “Many residents on Arizona Avenue do not want a sidewalk, but the District Department of Transportation is moving forward with installation to help with their Vision Zero plan. The sidewalk will make our community safer by allowing residents a safe place to walk down a very busy street.” We like Karnofsky’s firmer stances in our questionnaire, but also value the deeper experience Gustafson presents (according to her neighbors).

This is a tough choice for voters in 3D05, and we encourage residents to read both candidates’ questionnaires carefully and decide for themselves. We will note that both of these candidates are running to replace Alma Gates, who was one of the main supporters of a back-door attempt to downzone much of the city earlier this year. We look forward to working with either of these two as her successor.

The Superfresh site is in the background. Image by Susan Balding.

In ANC 3E, we endorse Amy Hall

ANC 3E stretches from stretches up along the northwestern border of the city between Massachusetts Avenue NW and Reno Road NW, including neighborhoods like Tenleytown and Friendship Heights.

This ANC has built a reputation over the last few years as a Ward 3 leader on urbanist and smart growth issues. 3E has gone to bat multiple times for the Superfresh/ “Ladybird” redevelopment on its southern edge, and has its eye on the the now vacant former home of Channel 5 WTTG as another pivotal redevelopment site.

There is only one contested race this year in 3E: 3E02, westernmost corner of the ANC. There are two candidates running here, and we are endorsing incumbent Amy Hall over challenger Elizabeth Callanan Mitchell.

Hall looks to continue to the ANC’s tradition of being an advocate for more inclusive development. Readers wrote in that Amy has been an ally on the controversial Superfresh site, which is in her SMD. On the topic of this redevelopment, she shows her urbanist credentials:

One suggestion received was that the developer should simply build townhouses. In practicality, this would mean car-centered homes of higher income. This would not promote inclusiveness or economic diversity, and would not decrease the number of single-car drivers/promote use of public transportation. If communities across DC acted this way, we would have further clogged streets and further escalating gentrification. We need to find a diversity of uses for development sites and promote diversity in residents to strengthen our community, encourage and improve public transportation and build strong communities that we can all be proud of.

Hall suggests a number of transportation, bicycling, and safety improvements for the neighborhood, especially around the area schools. She mentions multiple times that she will continue push developers to go above and beyond the affordable housing requirements dictated by Inclusionary Zoning, and also promises to bargain with developers for multi-modal transportation improvements around new projects. We like her priorities!

Hall is facing Elizabeth Callanan Mitchell, who, based on her responses to our questionnaire, shares many urbanist principles. For example, she writes that she supports “changes to the [Comp] Plan that encourage growth and development along our transportation hubs-specifically along Wisconsin Avenue where our Metro stops are located” and would “like to see better opportunities for more diverse housing and think that could be accomplished by encouraging more rental units and accessory dwelling units.”

However, multiple readers wrote in to note that Mitchell has been a vocal opponent to long-embattled Superfresh site. Quoting from her testimony at the January 2018 hearing on the project, Mitchell said that “The proposed development would irrevocably alter the character of our neighborhood and threatens the unique qualities which drew us all into it in the first place.” She continues on later to reveal that a main source of her opposition had to do with fears that the current local tenant, Wagshal’s, would be replaced: “I am all for developing this site. But not at the peril of Wagshal's and our community.”

As they say, actions speak louder than words, and Hall’s actions repeatedly show off her urbanist leanings, while Callanan Mitchell has not been as consistent. We encourage voters to keep Hall in office this fall.

Tenleytown. Image by NCinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

In ANCs 3F and 3G, we aren’t making any endorsements

The neighborhoods surrounding Connecticut Avenue NW between the Van Ness metro stop and Nebraska Avenue NW make up ANC 3F, places like Forest Hills and Wakefield.

There are two competitive races this year in 3F, but out of the responses we received, no one won our endorsement.

In 3F02, Dave Donaldson is running against Carolinn Kuebler. We only received a response from Donaldson, and while he had some decent responses, he also skipped or didn’t clearly answer others. When asked about Vision Zero, he seemed to blame bicyclists and pedestrians: “My hope is that we will be more enforcing of bicyclists wearing head gear and vests of some type after dark. Pedestrians should cross at the crosswalk when the lights are in there favor (green).” Ultimately, we aren’t making a recommendation in this race.

For 3F06, we received response from both candidates. We found Monika Nemeth to be informed and thoughtful, but not a full-throated advocate of urbanism. For example, she says “that development is healthy,” but doesn’t get into specific ideas for more or more affordable housing in her neighborhood. Later Nemeth dodged our question about sacrificing street parking for bus or bike infrastructure, but opposes the reversible lanes on Connecticut Avenue NW.

Incumbent William Sittig was perhaps more specific in his responses, but also raised some red flags for us. For example, on parking he writes that he “would be hesitant to remove on-­street parking on a major thoroughfare, such as Conn. Ave., if that would result in increased parking on residential streets.” He is “an avid supporter of the efforts of Van Ness Main Street to improve the increased development of retail and affordable housing in the vicinity of the one Red Line station in our ANC,” but then later when asked about Fannie Mae he writes mostly about traffic concerns.

Ultimately, neither candidate was a clear winner of our endorsement, so we encourage residents to review their respective answers carefully and come to your own decision.

Finally, there is only one competitive race in ANC 3/4G, which includes Chevy Chase and the portion of Ward 4 west of Rock Creek Park. Here we only received response in 3G05 from incumbent Jerry Malitz, and while he seems like a knowledgeable and active commissioner, we don’t align with him on many issues.

On the Comprehensive Plan, Malitz writes that the Office of Planning’s draft changes “abandons the certainty that is needed for an effective Comprehensive Plan and creates unacceptable ambiguity that could harm residents” and “give developers greater reign to bulldoze long-established planning expectations.” The Committee of 100, a powerful and often anti-change planning and preservation organization in the city, has been expressing this view, and we do not agree. Conflating the strictness of zoning with the Comp Plan is a mistake, and could make it harder for neighborhoods to grow and accept new neighbors if we aren’t careful.

Malitz might be okay with that though, given his later answer to our question about adding new homes and affordable homes to the neighborhood: “Based on the last decennial census (2010) ANC 3/4G has virtually the same population count as it did in 1980 (14,205 to 14,223). One of the reasons for that is that there is no logical room to grow (e.g. empty lots) via the current zoning laws.”

The population growth numbers may be correct, but not that there is no room to add homes; people could add accessory apartments or legalize townhouses or apartments in select areas. The current artificial “lack of room” is a real problem, and one that contributes to a pattern of pushing growth onto other more vulnerable neighborhoods.

We need commissioners in neighborhoods like Chevy Chase to understand this and push for changes so that pattern does not continue. If you get it and live in such “no-room” neighborhoods around the city, we hope you consider running for ANC in 2020!

Chevy Chase. Image by Ken Firestone used with permission.

Want to read the responses of all of the Ward 3 ANC candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF for Ward 3. 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!

Also, Cleveland Park Smart Growth is hosting an ANC Candidates forum this Sunday, October 21 from 1 to 2:30 pm at the Cleveland Park Library. For voters interested in asking candidates questions and hearing from those who did not submit our questionnaire, this is a great opportunity.

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.

Correction: This post initially misspelled the name of Elizabeth Callanan Mitchell. We regret the error.