Photo by Steve Rhodes on Flickr.

At the first few meetings of the Dupont Circle ANC I attended, the Commission voted unanimously on almost every issue. I criticized the appearance, if not also the reality, that Commissioners were voting on important resolutions without much discussion, or going along to vote for resolutions even when some privately told me they disagreed.

That’s certainly changed. Last night, ANC Commissioners spoke up to debate at least three issues: tenant abuse at 1433 T St, the proposed development at 14th and U, and staffing at Francis School. Commissioner Jack Jacobson (2B04, between 15th and 17th from Q to S) has a detailed recap of the meeting’s issues.

At 1433 T, the developer and architect presented plans to renovate an existing apartment building. They want to partly fill in light courts on each side and add another story onto an addition in the very rear of the building. The Historic Preservation Office and the Dupont Circle Conservancy feel that this is compatible with the historic fabric of the neighborhood (as do I), but there is another problem: tenants and tenant advocates allege that owners of this building illegally forced out residents in one of Dupont’s few rent controlled buildings, for the purpose of renovating it into market-rate apartments.

The Council held a hearing on the topic in 2006, at which DCRA testified that the safety issues claimed by the landlord shouldn’t actually require tenants to vacate the building. I don’t know all the subsequent steps, but the head of the tenants’ association claims that the landlord is taking steps to force out tenants and “most have left due these actions and continuously deteriorating building conditions.”

Ultimately, any alleged misbehavior can’t factor into HPRB’s decision, so the Office of the Tenant Advocate will have to pursue this issue through other approval channels (such as DCRA’s granting of actual building permits).

Several Commissioners also spoke up in favor of the 14th and U project, in contrast to previous meetings. The proposal has been scaled back and “sculpted” through numerous rounds of historic review, and is now much less massive than the original proposal. Some of the Commissioners pointed out that density at this corner (near a Metro stop) is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan), and therefore amended the proposed resolution to approve this project moving ahead.