March 28, 2022 | Update

Ward 1 Update: March 28, 2022



Hi neighbors! Our green spaces and gardens are blooming, budget season is in full swing, and there's lots to share from every corner of our ward! Thanks for being involved and engaged. Let's get into it all.



Council Updates


2023 Budget Requests

My budget request to the mayor (available in full here) calls for transformational investments in housing, youth and families, public safety, education, health, infrastructure, and more. 

The city is in a strong financial position and we should use it to make things better. We can create lasting positive change in our ward (and across the District) with investments like these:

- Protect District residents from evictions and utility shutoffs for another 4 months or more

- End chronic homelessness for 760 households – 500 individuals, 260 families – with permanent supportive housing

- Expand the Strong Families, Strong Futures cash transfer program to reach 1600+ expectant mothers in Wards 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8

- Support survivors of domestic violence and service providers with transitional and affordable housing and additional mental health services

- Fully fund safety and streetscape improvements along U Street between 14th and 18th Street NW and complete the Crosstown Cycletrack connecting Cleveland Park and Brookland

- Close gaps in school-based behavioral health, using additional funding to target the most at-risk students and study expanding school-based behavioral health to serve more families

- Fully fund the Give SNAP a Raise Act of 2022 and remaining provisions in the Birth-to-Three for All Act of 2018

There's so much at stake for Ward 1 in this budget season. I'm going to fight hard for the above priorities and more – all of which promise greater equity, justice, and quality of life both in our ward and across the city. 


Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Act

March is Developmental Disability Awareness Month, and we kicked it off with something amazing – passing the Developmental Disability Eligibility Reform Act, which is now fully funded in the Mayor's proposed 2023 budget. This bill expands access to the Department of Disability Services (DDS) to people with just developmental disabilities, which is a long overdue correction, and one I was proud to introduce and pass with my colleagues on the Council. 


Kenesaw-Renaissance Balcony Restoration

The Kenesaw-Renaissance is a landmark on 16th Street. It's not just the architecture — as one of the city's first TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act) successes, it's also a symbol of tenant organizing. To this day, the building is a unique split between mixed-use cooperative and condominium housing. Residents who organized to buy the building in the 1970s still live there. Together, in our ward, this community made history.

Last fall, DC's Historic Preservation Review Board ruled that the building's decorative balconies required repairs to adhere to historic preservation laws that cover Mount Pleasant. The estimate for balcony repairs was up to $1.5 million, all of which would be paid for by residents. That's as much as $28,000 per resident. 

This threatens everyone in the Kenesaw-Renaissance with financial hardship, if not outright displacement. It's unjust and a real betrayal of the spirit of historic preservation. In support of our neighbors, I wrote a letter to the Mayor's Agent urging the reversal of the Review Board's decision on the Kenesaw-Renaissance. 

The letter builds on the Targeted Historic Preservation Assistance Temporary Amendment Act that I passed with Council colleagues in the fall. That made it possible to pay for some of the repairs. But it won't be enough — even replacing the balconies with railings would cost $750,000. We need the Mayor's Agent to intervene in the Review Board's decision and reduce the amount of work needed to comply with the law.


Performance Oversight Hearings



District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA)

In our recent oversight hearing, I asked DCHA about ongoing modernization and improvements at DCHA properties in our ward. Here's the information they provided:

Harvard Towers: Modernization is underway in 31 units in this building and an elevator upgrade will be completed this spring. 

Kelly Miller: $500,000+ in improvements and a new elevator are in progress at this site. 

Both Kelly Miller and LeDroit Apartments were scheduled to be Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) sites, but that conversion has been put on hold for now. The agency says they are studying build-first development at Kelly Miller on the current site of the LeDroit parking lot, which means they would build new housing on site before demolishing old housing, instead of displacing residents during housing construction. Build first is a policy I've championed because it keeps residents in place and keeps communities together. It's less disruptive and reduces negative impacts. 

DCHA will complete the feasibility study in 90 days — they plan to award a master planning contract for the Kelly Miller site redevelopment by October of this year. 

The agency noted that they've filled eight of the ten positions funded through last year's Homes & Hearts Act. These new positions were part of a transformational investment in housing here that I was proud to help pass — addressing delays and bottlenecks that made the process of securing a housing voucher lengthy and harmful. It used to be the case that an unhoused person with a voucher in hand could still wait months for a unit to open up. I'm optimistic that these new positions will shorten the voucher process and help provide the only true solution to homelessness: housing. 


DC Public Schools/Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)

Teachers, staff, and administrators have been on the forefront of the pandemic, especially for DC families. They shouldn't have to decode layers of guidance to do their job — they have enough to do. Instead, they should have consistent rules that keep as many people safe as possible. 

In this oversight hearing I sought answers from OSSE on current and future COVID-19 safety guidance, especially with respect to different measures in community-based early childhood education settings and Pre-K 3 and 4 in school settings. They both serve children under five, but their pandemic procedures are often different. Sometimes very different. I wanted an explanation and a path to syncing their respective guidelines, with an eye towards safety for children under 5 — one of the last remaining groups to get vaccinated. 

OSSE told me that a new round of guidance based on DC Health and CDC guidelines was coming that would bring them closer together, and that the agency was aligning with DC Health's guidance. But they also clarified that because of the different settings, the guidance for the two settings might never be the same. By nature, DCPS settings have more mitigation strategies in place. 

With transmission rates where they are, and following CDC recommendations, Chancellor Ferebee notified us that masks are now optional for students, staff, teachers, and visitors at DCPS schools, offices, and OSSE-provided transportation. Full guidance is available here.

I'm going to be watching this closely, and should cases start to rise again, this oversight will prove useful in issuing consistent guidance that keeps children, educators, and families safer in all settings. 


Department of General Services (DGS)

In an oversight hearing with the Committee on Government Operations & Facilities, I asked for updates on four big issues: washing machines for DCPS students; the 11th & Bark dog park; the DCUSA garage; and new facilities for the Board of Ethics & Government Accountability. 

Washing Machines for DCPS Students: One frequent ask from students is washing machines and facilities at school where they can do laundry. And DGS apparently has machines waiting for installation, but needs water lines and other hookups to complete these projects at schools in the city. Director Anderson said this is a "conversation" between DCPS and DGS. I'm going to keep pressing it, if more funds are needed to put machines into use, we should work on that in our budget. 

11th & Bark Dog Park: We've been pushing to make this park permanent and legitimate for four years. I found the capital funds to make it happen, even. But a lease with WMATA is still not done, and while the DGS team identified issues with WMATA and said that they were "back on track" to finish lease negotiations "in the coming weeks and months," I'm going to keep pushing them on it, because we've heard this for years. 

DCUSA Garage: Anyone who's used the garage at DCUSA will tell you that it's laughably empty. Many people I talk to aren’t aware there’s a second level! There are hundreds of available parking spaces, and both Councilmember Robert White and I have asked the agency to reconsider the management contract for the garage and look into putting that excess capacity to better use: for nearby medical institutions and nearby buildings for seniors and low-income residents. This is especially smart with planned bus priority projects in Columbia Heights that will need curbside space to succeed. I first opened this issue with the agency in 2020

DGS told me that we can't unilaterally allow public parking at DCUSA without going through Target and other tenants, due to the legal covenants around the garage and the leases worked out with DCUSA. I've asked DGS for full documentation on the ownership and structure of the garage so we can know how to proceed, and I’ll continue to advocate for better use of this publicly-owned space — because if it's being underutilized, we're wasting District resources. 

Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) Facilities: It's been some time since an update on a planned facilities move for this agency. I last engaged DGS on this move during budget season, knowing that time was running out and the agency was eager to sign a lease. 

Now, there's good news on this. Director Anderson said there has been progress here, and that they'd narrowed down sites and were negotiating a letter of intent on a potential property. Once the letter of intent is negotiated, they enter lease negotiations. The agency estimated that the move could be completed by July of next year. 


Legislative Updates


Walk Without Worry Amendment Act/Safe Routes to School Expansion Act

Deaths on our roadways have been going up every year for years — ironically, every year since we adopted a Vision Zero goal. It's a disturbing and dangerous trend that we're seeing in every ward, and the trend is most pronounced in Wards 7 and 8. The past two years have been especially bad, and it's never been more clear to me that we only reduced road deaths in recent years by choking the District with so much traffic that it was physically impossible to go fast enough to kill someone. 

More traffic is not a road safety solution, of course. It's going to take a lot of work to fix what's broken. But we can start by making it safer to cross the street. 

In December of last year I introduced the Walk Without Worry Amendment Act with 8 of my colleagues on the Council. This bill will expand DDOT's use of raised crosswalks and intersections and continuous sidewalks, all of which are safety measures that remind drivers of where they're driving and force them to slow down. A slower street is always a safer one. 

This bill also goes behind the scenes at DDOT to standardize and speed up the construction of street safety features like these. More often than not, getting something like a raised crosswalk involves a long custom design process. This bill makes them a standard feature, something that's part of the paving plan every time DDOT contractors repave a segment of road. It will make implementation easier and more effective. 

On March 14, we had a hearing on Walk Without Worry and another street safety bill that I cosponsored with Councilmember Janeese Lewis George: the Safe Routes to School Expansion Act. This bill calls for new safety and traffic enforcement measures around every school in the city to make the routes traveled by children safer and slower. Click for summaries of both bills. 


Community Updates


Fatal Hit & Run at 18th and Florida

According to DC police, this tragic and senseless loss of life on March 8 began as a carjacking — one of far too many in our city recently, and one that took place in one of the busiest parts of our ward. The car has since been recovered by police, and I will work with authorities to get justice for this victim and his family. My full statement is available here


Amigos Park

We've started negotiations with 7-11 over the land immediately adjacent to the Mount Pleasant convenience store location and are working with the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs to create a path to improve the space and open it to the public. Once the site is secured, I'll be able to more directly involve the Esquineros and local community in the vision for the space.

A community cleanup of the space is being planned for April 2 at 10AM, and neighborhood partners are looking to organize a festival – please reach out to my office if you’re interested in joining this effort. 


Washington Gas Infrastructure Project Update

I received a community calendar update from Washington Gas on two projects underway in our ward, one on Newton Place NW and another on 8th Street NW. 

Newton Place: This gas main and service replacement project, almost a year in the making, is on track to wrap up this month. 

8th Street: This service replacement project is also slated to finish this month.


Grimke School/African American Civil War Museum

A milestone: The African American Civil War Museum has begun to pack up and move objects to their new home in the Grimke School development just off U Street, which first broke ground in 2019. On this site we'll have 68 new homes — 21 of them designated affordable — as well as a beautiful new permanent venue for the African American Civil War Museum and 100 new jobs for our ward.

This is a landmark on U Street and a personally important project for me. Dr. Frank Smith, the museum's founding director, is a former Ward 1 Councilmember. He envisioned the African American Civil War Museum as a destination off the Mall, in the heart of our vibrant community, where visitors could learn about a critical piece of Black history. 

But getting to this point wasn't easy. The original revitalization and development plan for the museum collapsed — it looked for some time like it might not happen. I brought the involved parties back to the table and secured $500,000 in needed funding to make it happen. Most of all, I'm proud to have ensured a permanent home for the museum here in Ward 1. 


We're Hiring!

My office is hiring a new Constituent Services Specialist to help me reach out and resolve issues for our Ward 1 neighbors. Our team resolved over 2000 cases last year — it's great work that helps our communities every day. Applicants don't need specialized professional or educational experience. It's ideal for someone who loves rolling up their sleeves to solve problems and build relationships across Ward 1. We especially encourage people who are returning to the workforce, or have gaps in their resume for any reason, to apply. 


Spring Cleaning for Streets

Warmer weather is just about here — and that means the Department of Public Works (DPW) has started spring cleaning. DPW began residential street sweeping on Tuesday, March 1. This means the street sweeping parking signs are relevant again! 

To remind motorists of the restrictions, DPW issued warnings between Tuesday, March 1 and Monday, March 14, to vehicles parked during the sweeping periods. Since March 14, violators have been subject to $45 fines. Parking is generally prohibited for two hours (9:30 am to 11:30 am or 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm) while sweeping is underway. Alternate side parking is required to facilitate street sweeping. 

Street and Alley Cleaning: DPW resumed residential alley cleaning on April 1. Litter placed in bags and trash receptacles reduces the amount of debris potentially left behind during collection. File a 311 request for an alley cleaning if the alley poses a hazard to public safety or has become inaccessible to emergency vehicles.


Yard Waste: Please submit a 311 request when you're ready for a yard waste pickup, and note that DPW now only accepts yard waste in paper bags — a change from prior years when plastic bags were acceptable. DPW will collect up to 20 paper bags of yard waste per trip. Residents must already receive trash and recycling collection from DPW. Place all yard waste for pickup where trash and recycling is normally picked up. 

Graffiti Removal: DPW is cleaning graffiti from public and private property using paint or non-toxic cleaners that are applied and removed with a high-pressure water spray (power wash). DPW's power washers are not suitable for all walls, including walls with loose or crumbling masonry. Graffiti removal requests for public and private property are filed through 311. Property owners will be asked to sign a waiver of liability before DPW begins work on private property. 

Helping Hands Neighbor Cleanup: Resources are available for community groups that organize Saturday neighborhood cleanup projects through the Helping Hand Program. This DPW program will lend tool kits to participating groups that includes five rakes and brooms, two shovels, and 20 trash bags. A $20 refundable deposit is required for all tool kits loaned under the Helping Hand Program. File a 311 request and DPW will help you acquire a tool kit for a Saturday of your choice. Free compost will be delivered as well for use in neighborhood beautification projects. Find more on the program here. If you’re scheduling a cleanup here in Ward 1 please let me know so I can stop by and lend a hand too!


Vax & Groceries Pop-Up #2

My team joined State Board of Education Rep. Emily Gasoi, Commissioner Amanda Farnan, DC Health and partners from around Ward 1 to give out groceries and COVID-19 vaccinations in Columbia Heights Plaza on March 10. This was our second partnership event, and I’m thrilled that so many residents participated once again.



FREE Update for 3G Phones

Verizon is offering free upgrades to people with older 3G phones. The 3G network is being shut down in favor of faster 4G and 5G networks, which means 3G phones won't be able to make calls anymore — not even emergency 911 calls. 

Text MIGRATE to 611611 to check if you have a phone eligible for a free replacement. 

Lower Georgia Avenue Equitable Development Survey

You may recall that I kicked off the Lower Georgia Avenue Equitable Development Planning process to help prevent displacement of local residents and businesses in the growing community. I launched that initiative in 2019. Unfortunately, the pandemic set in just months after that, hampering our work. 

Now, District Bridges has joined the effort as our partner and is seeking input on an Equitable Development Plan for lower Georgia Avenue, considering real estate development, public spaces, and other physical changes to the environment. The survey is open to anyone who lives along, works on, or visits the Georgia Avenue corridor. Click here to start their survey.

Appointments and In-Person Services from the Social Security Administration

They're back! Starting in early April, the Social Security Administration will add more in-person appointments and services for people without an appointment. The agency recommends that anyone able to use phone or online services should continue with them — there's been great demand for in-person services. More information here.






Anacostia River Festival

This year marks the 8th annual Anacostia River Festival! Presented by the 11th Street Bridge Park, the National Park Service, and National Cherry Blossom Festival, this free and family-friendly event is the premier closing event of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Join us April 10 at Anacostia Park from 1:00-5:00 PM for canoeing on the river, shop local artists and entrepreneurs, and more! Event is free and open to the public. Click here for more

Neighborhood Seed Giveaway

Get your hands dirty on April 10 at the Euclid Street Community Garden! Join them — along with Slow Food DC/Share a Seed and Ward 1 Mutual Aid — for their second annual seed share, volunteer garden day, and plant swap. Ward 1 Mutual Aid will be tabling there to share information about mutual aid and resources in our ward. Contact Reana@slowfooddc.org with questions.