Burleith Newsletter December, 2000
At this time of year, I would like to devote this message (and even the entire newsletter) to the pleasures and joys of this holiday season; however, we in Burleith are certainly living in interesting times!
After the University's campus plan and the PEPCO invasion of Burleith are addressed, I will have some news about Burleith's big Christmas event.
First, the GU campus plan. On December 5, the Board of Zoning Adjustment met to discuss final aspects of this plan and to review the conditions that will be imposed on the University. Those of us who represented our communities and worked on the plan for the past year are bitterly disappointed that the BZA gave a ten year approval of the plan with the full requested enrollment increase of 389 undergraduate students (we had requested both a shorter term and an unchanged enrollment cap).
Throughout the hearing process the BZA members indicated that they recognized the problems in the communities and very explicitly denounced the University's poor management of its off-campus students, particularly those living in group houses in Burleith and West Georgetown. Even with the imposing list of conditions that the BZA attached to its approval, we cannot comprehend this complete about-face by the members of the Board.
We are not pleased with this BZA decision; still, we are committed to ensuring that Burleith is not negatively impacted by these decisions. We will work with the surrounding communities and actively participate in all programs to address the problems of student behavior in our neighborhood.
During the campus plan process, the University established a group called Alliance for Local Living (ALL) which meets monthly to discuss off-campus student conduct issues. While we believe this process is deeply flawed, Burleith is participating. Burleith residents Charles Mallett, Rev. Perrin Radley, Bonnie Hardy and myself have attended the meetings, which also include residents from Foxhall and Georgetown. Other participants include University officials, students, landlords, and Metropolitan Police. We will report periodically on issues discussed at these meetings.
Secondly, there is PEPCO. The entire community was taken by surprise when No Parking signs were posted, huge trucks appeared on our streets and new poles were being erected! It is important to acknowledge the efforts of Charles Mallett, who when the first sign went up quickly made numerous calls and finally tracked down PEPCO as the cause. He has continued to work with PEPCO and explain to residents what's happening.
In Burleith, over 96 poles are being replaced and/or serviced to increase the power to 13 kV from 4 kV (kilovolts). The reasons for this project are clear, but the implementation methods leave much to be desired. Representatives of PEPCO and Asplundh, the contractor, will be at the December 13 BCA meeting to describe the project and answer your questions. Please note that the no-parking restrictions must be honored-cars will be towed.
Why not have all these wires underground? This question has been pursued by Guy Gwynne, who also followed through with the People's Counsel. He describes his efforts in more detail in his article in this Newsletter.
Beyond these unquestionably important issues, there are other exciting holiday events taking place in Burleith, with activities for all residents and families during the next few weeks.
Plan to be at the Tot Lot on Saturday morning, December 16 at 9:30 am for the "official" opening of the Tot Lot. In addition to a few short speeches and remarks, we will celebrate this grand occasion by having BREAKFAST WITH SANTA. There will be refreshments, some activities, and a table with materials for children and adults to make garlands and bird feeders to decorate trees on the green lot. Naturally, we are hoping to welcome families with toddlers but everyone in Burleith is encouraged to join the party!
Once again, there will be a Holiday Decorating Contest in Burleith. Houses will be judged by Garden Club Members and others and awards will be made in January. There are no special rules - we look for decorations that enhance these houses and represent the spirit of the season.
And in the spirit of the season, on behalf of the Board of the Burleith Citizens Association, best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.
Nine members of the Board were present at the November meeting - we had a quorum.
Treasurer's report. We have $6,425.34 in the treasury with expenses anticipated for the December decorating event and the winter picnic. The expense for rental of the room at Visitation might be offset by a small admission charge or seeking contributions. (Room rental is $300)
Police report. Police issued three 61Ds ($300 noise citations), two noise warnings and one disorderly conduct arrest in Burleith for the week ending November 12.
Membership. Currently 101 households. Most come in by mail, but block captains are beginning to canvas the neighborhood. Records are being computerized.
New residents are in the process of being interviewed. This will form the basis of a permanent program to welcome newcomers.
GU campus plan. The BZA approved a ten year plan; however, the issue of the enrollment increase of 389 is still in question. Details are given elsewhere in this Newsletter. (Pat Scolaro was misquoted in the Current - she did not support the final decision of the BZA).
ALL (Alliance for Local Living) is a program initiated by the University to satisfy the demands of the BZA to deal with community issues and problems caused by off-campus student behavior (see the President's Message). It is felt that the group is skewed by the number of University representatives. Students whose house was sanctioned attended the last meeting as observers. It was stated that students with have two or more disciplinary issues during their freshman and sophomore years have restricted dormitory choices for the next two years and so have a strong incentive to live off-campus.
Pat Scolaro expressed concern that the University does not provide specific information on hot line activity or information on sanctions issued relating to incidents in Burleith. The University maintains they are bound by student privacy requirements.
Public services/safety. Ed Solomon wants a strong relationship with the Second District. He suggested that Burleith have an annual award for an outstanding police office for our area.
Transfer of campus plans to the zoning board. The Board voted 8-0, with one abstaining, to support the transfer of responsibility for campus plans from the Board of Zoning Adjustment to the Zoning Commission. The resolution will be presented at a meeting called by the Office of Planning on November 16. The proposed transfer will not affect plans already under consideration.
DCVOTE. The Board voted unanimously to endorse the mission statement from DCVOTE in support of voting representation in Congress for District of Columbia residents. (Attendees at the November 8 BCA meeting informally voted to support this position, after the presentation by Kathy Schmidt of DCVOTE.)
Election endorsement. At the request of some at the November meeting, the Board voted unanimously to write Councilman Jack Evans protesting his endorsement of a student candidate for the ANC opposing Barbara Zartman, who, in our opinion, was overwhelmingly the better candidate in terms of dedication and experience.
Traffic and parking. The December 13 BCA meeting was to have been on traffic and parking (please note that this has changed). C. Mallett will write an article for the next newsletter including the statute codes for various violations. Board members feel there are too many out-of- state cars in the neighborhood. Mention was also made of Corcoran students parking on 35th Street.
For the birds. On Sunday, December 17 there will be an opportunity for the neighborhood children to make tree decorations which will be bird feeders. As always, help is needed. And we will have a Holiday decorations contest (details elsewhere in this Newsletter).
House Tour. Holly Dempsey proposed a Spring house and garden tour. If there is further support, it might well take place! If interested, call her (333-1258) or watch future Newsletters.
Paving and sidewalks. Brick sidewalks in Georgetown are to be redone. Officials were asked about paving the parking area around Ellington, but the answer was "no money".
There will not be a Board meeting in December unless there is an emergency.
Meeting adjourned at 8:30.
PEPCO invades Burleith
Suddenly, in mid-November, anonymous "No Parking/Tow Zone" signs began appearing on utility poles in Burleith. The signs increased steadily, and by Thanksgiving just about every pole in Burleith was marked; the no-parking zone covered nearly half of the neighborhood. Where did these signs come from?
The word is now out: PEPCO, unbeknownst to the neighbors, the ANC, and even some of its own representatives, is conducting a major upgrade of electrical service in the area. The present project also includes Glover Park, where the same kind of disruption occurred at the beginning of November.
The work will include the replacement of every electrical utility pole in Burleith (both on streets and alleys) and replacement of existing wiring. In one block, poles and wires will be installed in front of houses where there had been none before. Rewiring will require that every home be disconnected from electric power for at least several hours at some point during the project; in addition, utility workers may need to gain access to private property for some of the rewiring. The project will continue for at least three months (longer if the weather is bad).
The reason for the work is that the old wiring is overloaded. The modern age of computers, VCRs, and multiple other appliances (not to mention the large number of appliance-using adults in some houses) has brought a surge in demand for electricity beyond the design of the existing system. In fact, Burleith has had power outages in recent years that testified to the strain.
PEPCO is running a new feeder line from the Van Ness area to Burleith at 13,000 volts, a big increase over the existing feeder from Georgetown, which is 4,000 volts. (Higher voltage lines can carry more power without overloading.) In addition, they are installing an alternate feed in the 3700 block of S St that will allow them to quickly restore power to the neighborhood in case of a failure of the main feed on 36th St (at present, there is no backup). The alternate feed is being put on new poles and wires in the front of houses on S St.
The new poles being installed are noticeably taller than the old ones, because government regulations (new since the old poles were placed) require a minimum separation of 10 feet between power lines and communication lines. Because no crossbars will be used on the poles, only minimal tree trimming will be required. Not all utility poles will be replaced; some alley poles, in particular, are telephone poles belonging to Verizon and will remain.
Now that contact has been made, PEPCO is working with the BCA and to ANC to communicate with residents. (PEPCO representatives will be at the Dec. 13 BCA meeting.) Fliers have been distributed, signs posted, and residents should get 72 hours' notice (a notice placed on the doorknob) before any power outage. The very courteous job contractors have so far not towed any cars, instead working around violators. They have valid city permits and are complying with the law (so some of the blame for poor notice lies with DPW).
Community members are trying to work with PEPCO to reduce the impact of the changes, by lowering (or eliminating) the poles and putting them as much as possible behind houses. (PEPCO representatives said at the Dec. 5 ANC meeting that installing underground wiring costs 5-6 times as much as overhead wiring.) For more information, see the related Newsletter stories-and come to the Dec. 13 meeting.
BCA Winter Picnic February 17
Now that the cold weather is here (who knows, maybe even snow!), it's time to start thinking of the Burleith Winter Picnic. The event is a family-friendly social and pot-luck supper, open to all. Last year a large crowd turned out at Georgetown Visitation School; this year we are looking into other possible venues. Planners and volunteers are always welcome-please call Pat Scolaro at 338-5321. And mark your calendar for February 17!
Proposed stop sign
At the corner of 39th St and T St, the Department of Public Works has published its intent to install a stop sign on 39th St, making that intersection a three-way stop. (At present, traffic from T St must stop but traffic on 39th St has no stop sign.) DPW is accepting comments on this proposal for 30 days; if no objections are heard, the new sign should be installed shortly thereafter. To comment, write to Department of Public Works, District Division of Transportation, 2000 14th St, NW, 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20009. The Docket number is 00-35-TS.
Proliferating utility poles are out of step with the times
by Guy Gwynne
PEPCO has taken upon itself a major utility-pole addition and replacement program in the Burleith area. Upwards of 85 new and replacement poles will be erected in the area. Burleith already is replete with eyesore utility poles and wires in most alleys and along most streets. Some blocks, such as the 3500 block of T Street, are a network of overhead wires.
PEPCO has sent out notices that is "heavying up" the area, in preparation for bigger things-literally. The notice states, "A decision was made [!] to move forward with a heavy-up and thus increase capacity and reliability for the neighborhood." This sounds fine. But it is badly out of step with the wave of the present and very near future: underground installation of all utility wires and cables.
Burleith is largely surrounded by communities with no overhead wires or utility poles whatever. In Georgetown, all such wiring is underground. The streets and alleys there are uncluttered by huge ugly poles; nor are they festooned with cables and wires running in multiple directions. The same is true of Hillandale: everything underground. In Glover Park, one block, the 2400 block of 39th Place, has underground facilities. As a practical matter, utility wires and cables can be put underground anywhere, and definitely should be underground in the District's residential neighborhoods.
The technology for placing utilities underground is called "trenchless tech." Councilmember Carol Schwartz gave a welcome airing of the spreading practice of going underground with cables and the like several months ago. Professional and community testimony indicated that it (1) removes wires and cables from sight; (2) is relatively easy to employ; (3) is already discreetly widespread in the city; and (4) is definitely the direction in which progressive cities are going. Streets are not torn up during the subterranean boring process and community trees would not be subsequently mangled for maintenance purposes, as is now the case with overhead wires.
PEPCO is in the hurried process of positioning utility firms for the next 20 to 30 years of power delivery in the Burleith area. That process should not involve "heavying up" to string ever bigger and more numerous wires and cables aboveground.
The Office of the People's Counsel is looking into the developing Burleith problem. This District agency is charged with protecting citizen interests as they relate to large utility firms and their proposed projects. It has been one of the few efficient DC government agencies over the past 15 years. Let's hope they decide to intervene to change the direction of the PEPCO project, which is seemingly an egregious example of outmoded technology.
BZA campus plan decision notes
It all happened so fast, nobody is still quite sure what happened. But it looks like the University ended up getting just about everything it asked for in the new campus plan. The BZA announced on November 8 its approval of the "big" items: a ten-year term for the plan and an enrollment increase. But the details of the order to be announced on December 5 could have included strict conditions that the University would have to meet in order to get building approval or final approval for an enrollment increase. Such strict conditions might have been expected, given the Board's strong reaction in September in sympathy with the widespread and loud neighborhood complaints about University impact.
Nothing from the December 5 meeting is yet in writing, and oral presentations were rapid, making it very difficult to take notes. (About 45 minutes of the meeting was devoted to the campus plan.) But here are some eyewitness impressions.
Four of the five BZA members were present (Herbert Franklin was absent). There were about 18 conditions placed on the plan, most of which dealt with University Office of Off Campus Affairs. BZA member Ann Renshaw was the most active in the discussion, most of which dealt with fines for bad conduct, the legality of parental involvement and notification, and other possible penalties for misconduct. Conditions included:
- A 24-hour hotline, seven days a week, with a real person taking the calls
- Very strict student car registration (through the Registrar) to ensure DC registration and compliance with DC laws.
- If group houses have more than one violation per semester, it will be publicized in student newspapers.
- Restrictions on use of Harbin Field, McDonough Gym and the performing arts center.
- Monitoring of helicopter flights (to be reported monthly).
- Monitoring of complaints about student behavior (reported monthly).
One potentially very important action was the apparent lifting of the existing on-campus parking cap. Instead of a specified number of spaces, the order calls for a minimum number of spaces. This could clear the way for a significant expansion in commuter traffic to the University.
At the end of the proceeding, Ann Renshaw requested a vote on shortening the term of the plan to eight years; this was defeated 3-1.
All in all, there were no real surprises from the November decision. When a transcript becomes available for this meeting and for the November meeting, it will be available online at http://www.burleith.org.
Traffic Photo Enforcement
Red-light enforcement cameras are up and operating throughout DC, and more are on the way. At the Nov. 8 BCA meeting, Lisa Sutter of Lockheed Martin spoke about the program and gave a demonstration of the next step in photo enforcement: speeding.
In 1996, the DC Council passed one of the most comprehensive laws in the nation enabling photo enforcement of traffic regulations. Any moving violation can be photo-enforced. The city put out a request for proposals in early 1997, and in 1999 a contract was given to Lockheed Martin to conduct the program. Lockheed runs similar programs elsewhere in the region; their main competition is EDS, which operates in Montgomery, Howard and Baltimore counties.
The photo enforcement program has three phases: (1) install 40 red-light cameras citywide (now 39); (2) add additional red-light cameras; (3) photo-enforce speeding and other violations. There are over 1500 signalized intersections in DC; not all of these are suitable for camera placement. A suitable intersection must have good visibility for the camera and should not be gridlocked. Cameras (costing about $50,000) are installed in bulletproof cases (costing about $10,000); installation costs between $25-35,000. Camera-equipped intersections are not specially marked; for a map, see http://www.mpdc.org/English/About/redlightfaq.htm.
Lockheed installs and maintains the cameras, processes film according to DC procedures, and mails out the tickets. In exchange, they get a percentage of every ticket paid (in DC, $32 per red-light ticket). Contested tickets are decided by the DC Bureau of Adjudication, not Lockheed. The police decide where to place the cameras, based on community input and a feasibility study and video validation conducted by Lockheed.
The cameras use sensors in the road that measure vehicle speed; if a car enters the intersection moving fast enough when the light is red, the camera takes two pictures, one showing the car entering and another showing the car in the intersection. The pictures are sent to the car owner, who is responsible for paying the fine (points are not assessed for camera citations).
Program results have been impressive. Red-light violation at camera-equipped intersections have declined by 56% and there are also fewer accidents. In the first year, 144,388 tickets were mailed and $6.8 million in fines were levied. Out-of-state violators (most from Maryland) comprise 75% of tickets issued.
For the next step, photo radar, Lockheed now has one fixed unit and four mobile units that they are testing. The mobile units will issue warning tickets in every PSA in DC for 30 days; thereafter, they will pick 30-40 intersections with serious problems to focus on.
ANC election results
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2E has eight members, each representing 2000 potential voters. After counting the special and absentee ballots, here are the results for the November 7 election, with winner given first:
|SMD 2E01 (Foxhall, MacArthur)|
|SMD 2E02 (Hillandale, Georgetown Reservoir)|
|SMD 2E03 (Burleith, North Georgetown)|
|SMD 2E04 (W. Georgetown between P St & Reservoir)|
|SMD 2E05 (W. Georgetown between N St & P St)|
|SMD 2E06 (S. Georgetown, Prospect St, C&O Canal)|
|SMD 2E07 (E. Georgetown between canal & P St)|
|SMD 2E08 (E. Georgetown north of P St)|
The new ANC will hold its first public meeting on Jan. 2. For more information, call 338-7427.
Free Christmas meals to seniors
IONA Senior Services delivers meals and cheer to home-bound seniors on Christmas Day at no charge. To obtain this service, register by December 11. If you know of anyone in need of this service, or if you'd like more information, call the IONA information and assistance office at 895-9448.
Some nearby playgrounds
by Peter Pulsifer
Now that the Tot Lot is finally open, it might be a good time to consider the wealth of good playgrounds in this area. With my son almost 3 years old, our family has amassed quite a collection of playgrounds within walking distance or a short bus trip or drive. I list them below with some highlights and rough distances from Burleith. Further suggestions and comments are welcome! Call 337-3065.
Tot Lot. (0 mi.-walk). Brand new! Small but feature-packed metal structure, swings, playhouse, sandbox. Sure to be a neighborhood family center.
Volta Park Recreation Center (DCPR), Volta Place at 33rd St. (0.5 mi.-walk/D2 bus). A fenced, mulched play area with a "younger" and "older" structure, monkey bars, and sandbox, and an enclosed concrete area with picnic tables for toys. We call it the "toy playground" because of the public scooters, push toys and trucks there. Urban, crowded at times.
Guy Mason (DCPR), Calvert St near Wisconsin Ave. (0.5 mi.-walk). Large new play area surrounded by grass, near Guy Mason recreation center. Tall twisty slide, spring toys, lots of swings, big sandbox. Good place for a picnic from Fresh Fields or Rocklands. Popular, lots of international kids.
Montrose Park (NPS), R St east of Dumbarton Oaks, down the rope walk. (1 mi.-walk/drive). Old but sturdy. A tall metal slide, lots of swings, 2 big climbing structures for older toddlers, big sandbox, and a seedy but fun hedgerow labyrinth. Great lawn for running and woods for hiking. Never crowded.
Hardy Recreation Center (DCPR), Q St and 45th St, west of Foxhall Rd. (0.75 mi.-drive/D4 bus). Renovation has added some new metal structures. Not crowded, not much entertainment nearby.
Palisades Park (DCPR), off Sherrier Pl near Edmunds Pl, (2 mi.-drive/D4 bus). The most athletic playground, great for "basic training." Big wooden structures, tall tube slide, walls to climb, monkey bars, poles to slide down. Small but fun sandbox. Surprisingly empty. Soccer center. Listrani's restaurant is nearby.
Turtle Park (DCPR), Van Ness St at 45th St, (2.5 mi.-drive). The most social playground; almost always crowded. Large fenced area with a variety of activities, centering around a huge sandbox with turtle statues. Wooden trains, play houses, lots of swings.
Macomb Recreation Center (DCPR), Macomb St near 34th St. (1.5 mi.-drive). Social, busy, not crowded except when daycare groups are there. Good place for exercise. Lots of room (on three levels). Wooden, child-scale structures, a rope climber, wooden train, creative toys to climb on. Soccer classes in the field nearby.
Stoddert Recreation Center (DCPR) and School (DCPS), Calvert St at 40th St. (0.75 mi.-walk, D2 bus). Recreation center is small fenced area for younger kids, with older equipment. Always kids there, but not crowded. School playground is extensive, with new metal structures behind the school. Not much used outside school hours.
Mann School (DCPS), Macomb St near New Mexico Ave, (1.75 mi.-drive). Near Sutton Place Gourmet. Great for athletic kids. A huge tube slide goes down the hill. Large area with 2 playgrounds; a child-size wooden structure for younger kids and a modern metal structure for older kids. Not busy, except for soccer players.
Rose Park (NPS), P St at 26th St. (1.25 mi.-drive/D2 bus). One new medium-size metal climber/slide, and a fenced area a little distance away with a geodesic climber, sandbox, swings and animals. Very quiet.
National Zoo, (2.5 mi.-drive). Not a playground, but a great place nearby to walk and see some exciting scenery!
Next BCA Meeting
Wednesday, December 13, 7:00 p.m., Washington International School
PEPCO, poles and power
Special guest: PEPCO representatives
The "heavy-up" now underway in Burleith: consequences for parking & power outages.
Information also available on the coming competition in electric power.
Meet your neighbors, share your opinions!
All are Welcome !
Tot Lot opens, party planned
It's not complete, but The Tot Lot has finally opened! All of the "regular" equipment has been installed and the sand is in the sandbox. The landscaping has not been planted because of the cold weather; there's a chance it will be put in this winter, but it may have to wait for spring. In addition, the delays this fall may have created an opportunity for community involvement in the spring planting.
A dedication ceremony for the new tot lot has been set for Saturday, December 16 at 9:30 a.m. (if weather is questionable, call 338-5321). The ceremony will include decorations, crafts and games, as well as a couple speeches. And look for a special appearance by Santa Claus! Meanwhile, kids and their families are welcome to stop by anytime and play!
Dates to Remember
|Dec 7 (Thurs)||GU classes end.|
|Dec. 12 (Tues)||GU exams begin.|
|Dec. 13 (Wed)||BCA meeting, 7:00 p.m.|
|Dec. 16 (Sat)||Tot lot dedication/tree trimming|
|Dec. 18-23||Judging of holiday decorations.|
|Dec. 20 (Wed)||GU classes end.|
|Dec. 20 (Wed)||Board meeting, 7 p.m.|
|Dec. 24 (Sun)||Rake leaves out for curbside collection.|
|Dec. 25 (Mon)||Christmas Day.|
|Jan. 16 (Tues)||GU classes begin.|
Off-campus trash/litter program
Georgetown University's Office of Off-Campus Student Affairs has initiated a program to respond to complaints about trash and litter at student houses. When a complaint is received, a staff person is dispatched to the property, photos are taken and the tenants are given a warning asking that the problem be addressed within 24 hours. If the problem is not resolved in that time, a University fine of $300 is imposed on the tenants. If you have a complaint about student trash, call Genevieve Villamora at 687-3766.
Kiwanis Club speakers
The Georgetown Kiwanis Club meets at 12:15 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 2101 Wisconsin Ave. Here is your chance to hear interesting speakers from all walks of life.
On Dec. 13, Dr. Zeng-Xian Ling will speak on the art of Tai-Chi. Dr. Ling is a professor who has taught at the University of China for over 40 years.
On Dec. 20, Dr. Charlotte Jenson will speak on chiropractic care. Dr. Jenson is a practicing chiropractor and a graduate of the Palmar College of Chiropractics.
On Dec. 27, Chris Platts will speak on Operation Smile. Mr. Platts has a background in dentistry.
DC child and adult seat belt laws
While riding in a car, all children up to age three must be in a child safety seat. Children ages 3-16 must be either in a child safety seat or wear a safety belt. The penalty for violations to the driver is a $55 fine plus two points. If there are more children in the car than the number of safety belts, children may ride unbuckled in the back seat only. The law is the Child Restraint Act of 1982, as amended in 1991.
To learn more about the law or about child safety seats (available for low-cost rental), contact Project Safe-Child at 939-8018.
For adults, the law is the Mandatory Use of Seat Belts Act of 1996. Effective April 9, 1997, the driver and all passengers are required to buckle up. The penalty for violation is a $50 fine plus two points. Taxi drivers are not exempt. For more information, contact the DPW at 939-8017.