Lotuses at Keniworth Aquatic Gardens, a landmark in Ward 7. Image by octopus.gallery used with permission.

DC’s Ward 7 is the northern half of neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, plus an adjacent section on its western shore. There are lot of conversations about managing growth in these neighborhoods, and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners will be the ones grappling with those issues. In 2016 this was one of the more heavily contested wards in the city. This year, it has the most races with no one on the ballot out of all eight wards. Out of the competitive races, here are our endorsements for three candidates in Ward 7.

These are our Ward 7 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 7 there are five ANCs: 7B, 7C, 7D, 7E, and 7F. Altogether, those ANCs encompass 35 Single Member Districts (SMDs). This fall, 15 of those SMDs have only one candidate running, so we did not analyze those races. There are also a bunch of vacant seats with no candidate on the ballot: 7B03, 7C06, 7D05, 7D06, and 7F07. In the remaining 15 competitive races, GGWash is endorsing three candidates. This year, we received completed questionnaires from 18 Ward 7 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 7 ANCs and SMDs. Image by Office of ANCs.

In ANC 7B we endorse Nicole Smith-McDermott

ANC 7B follows Pennsylvania Avenue from the bridge crossing the Anacostia River to the Maryland border, encompassing the Penn Branch area south of Fort Dupont Park and north of Naylor Road. The Penn Branch Shopping Center is an important area of focus in this area, as its redevelopment has been stalled for years, and it recently moved forward with a curious new development strategy: a custom made zone.

Residents also have their eye on the Skyland Town Center, a neighborhood area where shops and housing were razed to make room for redevelopment, but that still sits vacant after the recent withdrawal of Walmart as an anchor store. Transportation along the area’s corridors also see a lot of commuter traffic, and safety improvements are needed.

Directly in the center of the ANC on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue SE is 7B04, and here we endorse Nicole Smith-McDermott. Smith-McDermott is supportive of the redevelopment at the Penn Branch Shopping center, especially if it means getting a grocery store there. She writes, “The ability to just walk down the hill to the grocery store has been a distant past memory for many years and I would love my son to have the opportunity to have the same memories I had growing up.” A potential red flag for us is her concern about the project “disturbing the aesthetic of the community,” but overall she seems supportive.

Smith-McDermott had specifics ideas to improve transit in her neighborhood and proposes extending bus service along Pennsylvania Avenue SE. She is generally positive on more bike lanes and is for “sustaining affordability in our Ward”. Generally she seems like very capable and forward-thinking candidate. We didn’t receive a response from incumbent Phillip Hammond, but we think Smith-McDermott deserves a shot at the seat.

ANC 7B has three other competitive races this year, but we weren’t won over by candidates in the remaining contests. 7B05 is the southern tip of the ANC, and incumbent Robin Hammond Marlin is again facing a challenge from Villareal “VJ” Johnson. Hammond Marlin did not return our questionnaire. We endorsed Johnson in 2016, but this year were less impressed with his responses. He declares his support for redevelopments at Penn Branch and Skyland and wants better Circulator service in the neighborhood, but is unwilling to take a stance on whether or not it’d be ok to exchange parking for bike or bus improvements. Some of Johnson’s answers were more general, and he doesn't take strong enough positions this year to inspire an endorsement.

To the northeast in 7B06 another incumbent, Donovan Anderson, is being challenged by newcomer April Pradier. Pradier answered our questionnaire, but raised a few concerns for us. She says about new investment that “the greatest potential risk is in over development.” She is supportive of bike infrastructure, but is clear that she would not support removing parking for it “as it may be disruptive to residents.” Without answers from Anderson to compare with, we aren’t making a call in this race.

Finally, in the northernmost district, 7B07, along Massachusetts Avenue, Jewel Stroman is running against incumbent D.L. Humphrey. We didn’t get a response from Stroman, which is too bad because Humphrey could use a good challenger. Humphrey’s answers are fairly short and don’t really describe his positions on our issues. When we asked Humphrey about the biggest transportation concern in the area, he said it was buses and the delays they cause. We asked where new bike lanes should go in the neighborhood, and he said “I have spoken with many individuals that ride bikes and they have stated that they should be allowed to ride on the sidewalk and not on the street.” When we asked about how the ANC should support the city’s need for affordable housing, he said “First we need to have a real understanding of what is affordable housing. Once there is a clear definition then we can look into addressing some of the concerns.” His answer to what is the biggest controversy in your neighborhood? “No comment.” We aren’t making an endorsement in this race.

Benning Road. Image by David Wilson licensed under Creative Commons.

In ANC 7D, we endorse Tamara Blair and Mysiki Valentine

ANC 7D includes large stretches of the Anacostia River and park space on the northwestern edge of Ward 7. Kenilworth, Parkside, Kingman Park, and River Terrace are some of the main neighborhoods within this district, which is bordered by East Capitol Street on the south and the Anacostia River on the west. This is the ANC that includes RFK stadium and the surrounding parking lots and parkland, so the future of that site is a big deal for residents on both sides of the river. The ANC has also seen an uptick in larger developments, many of which have been Planned Unit Developments (PUDs), a process GGWash has been tracking closely and where ANC commissioners have a lot of influence.

Finally, perhaps one of the defining controversies of the ANC in the last two years was the historic designation of Kingman Park. This issue split the community, and the ANC ended up not taking a vote. Eventually the district was approved, and the process here helped inform many of GGWash’s calls for reform to the historic preservation process.

7D01 stretches west across the Anacostia into Kingman Park and was the site of the historic district debate. There are three candidates running here; two returned our questionnaire and more than 20 readers wrote in about this race — obviously residents are fired up this year. Ultimately, we think Tamara Blair is the best option for local urbanists.

Blair seems to have a very level head on many of the issues facing her neighborhood. She says that “RFK is ripe with opportunity, but it needs to be an opportunity for the existing neighborhood as well as other folks from throughout the region.” When it comes to negotiating for inclusive PUDs, Blair seems tough on developers, but will work with them: “My job will be to hold developers' feet to the fire to ensure quality outreach happens. Job programs, pedestrian safety above moving cars, and effectively integrating new developments with the existing community are my primary concerns that I think will help to make developments more equitable.”

On the historic designation, Blair is a part of the group working on implementation now and is ok moving forward, but says that “the historic designation process, as it was applied to Kingman Park, was not fair.” She has clear priorities for Vision Zero, and clear ideas on where to build additional homes and affordable homes in the neighborhood. When it comes to taking away parking to get some needed bike and bus improvements, Blair advises “aggressive incrementalism.”

Meredith Holmgren is also running for this seat and is an experienced neighborhood leader. She discusses how she changed her mind on the Kingman Park historic designation; she was initially against the district, then was for it after a revised draft came out. She promises to be proactive when it comes to PUDs, and “would attempt to begin the community prioritization process early on, before new PUDs arise, so that we are more prepared as opportunities present themselves in the future.” She tells a story about when she “offered to ‘exchange’ a parking space in front of my home for a larger bike facility and bio-retention planter,” which is certainly a good sign. To be fair, Meredith looks like an capable candidate.

However, readers who wrote in were more mixed in their reviews of Holmgren's responses and tenure in the neighborhood. Perhaps most importantly, Holmgren and Blair are running against Veronica Raglin, who did not complete our questionnaire but who engaged readers had serious concerns about. She is known as the major proponent behind the Kingman Park historic district, and many have concerns with the way that she pushed through that process. Ultimately, we’re encouraging local readers to vote for Blair, who seems to have a slight edge on Holmgren, so that the vote isn’t split leaving Raglin with the seat.

Immediately east of the river is 7D04 and the River Terrace community. In this district we endorse Mysiki Valentine. As he has discussed in his post on GGWash and on the recent panel he sat on about Vision Zero, Valentine is very focused on bike and pedestrian safety and improving access to other modes of transportation east of the river. He is very supportive of the ongoing Deanwood Metro redevelopment, and says that he wants “to make sure that any housing built on the lot is diverse and affordable for Deanwood.” Valentine’s answer on addressing NIMBYism was particularly well put. He writes:

An ANC Commissioner has to stand firm in what best for both the community and the city. Ensuring my neighbors are heard and know of their options to advocate and educate while standing firm in the best position is how I lead. The Streetcar is a prime example. Many find the Streetcar to be slow, oddly placed between Union Station and Kingman Park with negative effects on traffic patterns and a safety loop-hole dangerous for many cyclists. Understanding its larger positive effect, the Streetcar moves the city closer to cleaner energy and creates more inexpensive pathways to access other parts of the city and like in other cities will soon develop economic growth into Ward 7… It is the ANC Commissioner’s role to think beyond the narrow concepts, synthesis complex information and convey that message to the community as to how it will benefit everyone.

One weak point: Valentine is clear that it “is not likely I would advocate removing on-street parking” because of the layout of River Terrace.

Valentine is running against Cinque Culver. Last year we endorsed Culver (he lost to the current incumbent, Prue, who recently dropped out of this year’s contest), and he still has decent answers to some of our questions, especially when it comes to adding more bike and pedestrian options to the area. He, like Valentine, is unwilling to touch parking.

However, Culver and Prue are both named parties on a PUD appeal in River Terrace, represented by Aristotle Theresa, the main lawyer behind many of the appeals in the city. The project is a 100% affordable housing development for seniors (affordable to those making up to 50% of area median income), bring in 70 new homes to the community. We don’t know the specifics of this case, but it is very worrying to see that now this spurt of PUD appeals has even stopped an 100% affordable housing development. It seems that many of the letters of opposition cited traffic concerns as their main argument against the project. Given this information, we think Valentine is the clear choice for the future of the neighborhood.

The last competitive race in 7D also has three candidates: Dorothy Douglas (incumbent), Peter Espenschied, and Matinah Muhammad are vying for the seat in 7D03. Muhammad didn’t fill out our questionnaire and we aren’t endorsing either of the other two candidates. Douglas seems laser focused on fighting for her existing neighbors, which is great. But her defensiveness makes a lot of her answers lean towards “no.” She doesn’t take a position on removing parking for transit improvements and doesn’t give ideas for new bike lanes, choosing instead to blame bicyclists for dangerous behaviour.

On the Kingman Park historic district, Douglas writes, “The Kingman Park Historic District was only controversial to those new residents who did not see the need to respect the interests of the residents of the community into which they had moved, their new neighbors, having been spoiled by living all their lives under white supremacy.”

Espenshied is very focused on process, and when he takes clear issues he’s not much in line with urbanist values. For example, he supports a grocery store at Deanwood Metro redevelopment, but is against any residential development there. Espenshied writes that he favors “adoption of measures that increase the degree to which residents can control the physical environment in which they live, with minority positions protected.” Not quite the urbanist challenger we’re looking for, especially to take on an entrenched incumbent who has held the seat for 15 years.

RFK stadium. Image by Erik Kidwell used with permission.

In ANC 7C, 7E and 7F, we aren’t making any endorsements

We received a number of questionnaires from other candidates in Ward 7 races, but unfortunately none of them quite won our endorsements this year.

ANC 7C, the eastern corner of the District, has three competitive races. We asked candidates here about Planned Unit Developments as well, and the future of the Capitol Gateway site.

Patricia Malloy (incumbent) is facing Aaron Watkins in 7C01. Malloy had short, underdeveloped answers, and just doesn't seem to have thought through her positions on our issues. For example when asked about removing parking for transit improvement she just says she will “see if this is what they want.” On the Deanwood Metro redevelopment, she just asks two questions: “Who would benefit from this? Will the units be affordable?”

Watkins also had fairly short, undeveloped answers. His answers were very process-focused and didn’t take clear positions. We decided to not make an endorsement in this race.

Farther south in 7C02, Dejuan George and Lawrence Davin are competing for an open seat. Davin did not return our questionnaire and we weren’t impressed with George’s answers. Most were incomplete or underdeveloped. When asked about his vision for Capital Gateway site? Two words: “Solar Panels.” For some of his answers, it wasn't clear whether George doesn’t know the issues well or just didn’t put effort into his responses. For example, he thinks bike lanes should be “added on sidewalks.”

Finally in 7C07, incumbent Antawan Holmes is challenged by Alexis Payne. Payne too had underdeveloped answers, and seems not to deeply understand our issues. As an example, Payne suggests giving private parking to people who would lose street parking for a new bus lane, and reveals herself to be unfamiliar with Vision Zero. Overall she seems well-meaning but doesn’t prioritize our urbanist issues. Holmes did not complete the questionnaire.

ANC 7E is another area directly bordering the stalled Capitol Gateway project. Hugging the Maryland border south of the easternmost tip of DC, 7E includes neighborhoods like Marshall Heights, Benning Ridge, and Capitol View. This area is also very active about the future of an abandoned public school property, Fletcher Johnson, and the new homeless shelter being developed as part of the replacement plan for DC General.

In 7E01, only Veda Rasheed returned our survey. Rasheed doesn't take many clear stances on community issues, and seems poised to just reflect what the community is saying. We think that is an important aspect of being a commissioner, but it also very important to state and stand up for your beliefs. Relying only on what people say in meetings can be problematic, as only a small segment of the population regularly gets involved with ANCs. We do note that a lot of readers wrote in in support of Rasheed using our feedback tool! However, we’d like to see a candidate who is willing to take firmer stances on core urbanist issues.

Farther north and west is ANC 7E04. Challenger Norman Dais had some ok answers on our questionnaire. He has a clear vision for where he’d like to see bike lanes, and seems strong on Vision Zero advocacy. Dais writes that it is “mandatory for affordable housing to continue in my Ward.”

Incumbent Takiyah “T.N.” Tate also completed our questionnaire. She had thorough answers, and has been an obvious leader and advocate for the community in the debate around what to do with the Fletcher Johnson site. However, on core urbanist items Tate didn’t take firm stances and some of her answers were very process-oriented. Ultimately, it wasn’t quite enough to win over our endorsement this year. Dais seems to be a decent but a bit inexperienced challenger. Tate is a qualified and experienced incumbent who is hesitant to take strong urbanist stances. We encourage readers to take a close look at both candidates in this race and make your own call.

Last for 7E: 7E07. E. Enoh did not respond to our questionnaire, and Yolanda Fields doesn't take clear stances on many things important to us. For example, on whether or not she’d be willing to remove parking parking, she says “I would go door to door and have the people sign an petitions an have an meeting on the subject at hand.” Overall, Fields seems nice and committed, but isn't willing to say what she stand for and is mostly focused on talking to neighbors and getting them information. We didn’t know enough here to make a confident endorsement.

Finally, sandwiched in between all of these other ANCs lies 7F. An portion stretches across the river to the RFK site, while the majority of the ANC surrounds the intersections of Minnesota Avenue and East Capitol Street, and is bordered by Benning Road on the north.

Two races are contested here; the first is 7F04. Only Racquel Codling returned our questionnaire, and while we liked some of what she had to say, it wasn’t quite enough to win our endorsement. A few statements that held us back: “My primary concern for extending the DC Streetcar down to the Benning Road Metro is that it may cause increased traffic and additional congestion down the existing corridor,” and “I would like to explore all options before considering removing on-street parking.” 7F05 also has two candidates, but neither returned our questionnaire.

Kingman Park. Image by Google Maps. used with permission.

Want to read the responses of all of the Ward 7 ANC candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF for Ward 7. 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.