Here is a well-reasoned statement by neighborhood resident Dennis Williams that appeared in the 12/8/2016 edition of The Northwest Current.
WAGG thanks our ANC3E commissioners for their tireless work on the Georgetown Day School (GDS) development project. They have advocated for the best interests of the community throughout this lengthy process.
On October 14, 2015 the ANC3E commissioners wrote at letter (see link below) to Russell Shaw of GDS reaffirming longstanding concerns about the increased traffic and, more specifically, the GDS Transportation Management Plan (TMP). The ANC3E reiterated their call to GDS “…to propose a TMP that achieves no net increase in the number of vehicular trips to and from the combined school over the number that are made currently in connection with the high school.” Further, the ANC3E called “…on the school to share all data and modeling it has done or will do in connection with its traffic analysis, including a comprehensive illustration of proposed changes and anticipated traffic volume at the intersections surrounding the project and at gateway intersections within a quarter-mile radius.” And finally the ANC3E urged “…GDS to consider creating an independent third-party body to ensure monitoring of commitments made to the community pursuant to the PUD process.”
WAGG shares the ANC3E’s concerns about the increased traffic resulting from this development. At this point the GDS’s TMP is vague, aspirational, and unenforceable. We strongly support ANC3E’s goal of “no net increase in vehicular trips” and we welcome the creation of independent third-party traffic monitor.
We urge all neighborhood residents to read the ANC3E letter to GDS.
Please send emails voicing your support of their efforts directly to the commissioners with a cc to Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh. Here is the contact information:
Jonathan Bender, Chair firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Quinn email@example.com
Anne Wallace firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Hall email@example.com
Jon McHugh firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Cheh, CM Ward 3 MCheh@DCCOUNCIL.US
Here is the link to the letter:
GDS says they have no new updates to share and are busy readying their PUD application for filing, consequently they will not present at Wednesday's ANC 3E meeting (7:30 pm October 7 at Embassy Suites, Chevy Chase Pavilion). If you still would like to attend, the revised agenda includes:
- Announcements / Open Forum– opportunity for members of the community to raise issues of concern or importance to the 3E neighborhood; and
- Discussion of and possible vote on a letter to Georgetown Day School regarding traffic management issues related to its planned expansion and mixed-use project#
Both agenda items provide opportunities to express community opinions on the GDS project. Being that it is possible GDS will file their PUD application with the Zoning Commission as early as Monday, October 5, you might have an opinion to express and maybe we can all do that by statement with electronic signatures. Watch for one sometime Tuesday, especially if GDS files.
GDS has said they want to take over three pieces of public space totaling about 20,000 sq/ft, and the DC City Council must approve this. Understand, this is public land, owned by all DC residents. Once the property is transferred, GDS could gate it off, sell it, and the city would get no other revenues. Consider asking Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh to oppose this give-away. The GDS offer to mitigate this appropriation of land is only the Davenport Steps, about 7,000 sq/ft, which are of dubious benefit and are not accessible except by elevator in the South building. Good luck pushing a stroller, a shopping trolley or maneuvering steps if you have mobility issues but want to hang out with your friends with no fuss. If Davenport steps are eventually built, many feel they must include a ramp.
GDS near neighbors have received a mailing from Georgetown Day School postmarked September 26, with Notice of Intent to File a Zoning Application. This notice is required for PUD applications and must be sent by mail to owners of all property within 200 feet of the perimeters of the property in question at least ten days prior to actual filing.
GDS may file as early as Monday, October 5, assuming they have met all filing requirements.
Several neighbors have not yet received the Notice of Intent. If you own property within 200 feet of the proposed project, and believe you deserve official notice, contact WAGG, ANC3E or the DC Zoning Commission promptly.
Bravo to all Tenleytown residents who attended the 9 September ANC3E meeting to articulate their concerns about the proposed Georgetown Day School project directly to GDS and to our elected commissioners. We all voiced multiple complaints about the proposed high density, particularly with reference to proposed building heights that ignore the DC Comprehensive Plan and would overwhelm nearby homes. Neighbors also criticized GDS plans to mitigate traffic increases expected from school expansion .
GDS sent a new Traffic Management Plan to commissioners a mere two hours before the meeting, hardly enough time for them to digest changes. The document Four Ways to Get to GDS proposes students arrive either by school bus, walk or bike, car pool, or public transit. If not they will be subject to sanctions. The sanctions seem to lack teeth and enforceability. All commissioners questioned the adequacy of the school’s traffic plans and school commitment to reduce vehicular traffic to comply with sustainable goals.
The community can be grateful for the ANC3E’s continued scrutiny of the GDS approach to transportation planning.
Unfortunately, despite objections raised by the majority of local residents who attended, the commissioners voiced acceptance of project density and height. To review, both north and south buildings are to have a height of 80 feet along Wisconsin Ave. Along 42nd St the north building will rise to 87 ft 3 in and the south building will rise to 95 ft 9 in even though one of its near facing neighbors is a single-family dwelling. These heights are well over the matter of right 50 ft height limit for the properties as currently zoned, as well as being well over the 65 ft height limit in PUD regulations.
The commissioners did focus on the need for better project amenities than GDS has presented to date. The community has the opportunity and a responsibility to present what is truly needed and truly desirable to offset negative effects of density.
Commission Chair Jon Bender discussed the proposed trade-off of public space along 42nd St to allow construction of a larger retail/residential building than the property owned by GDS would accommodate. Public space is rarely converted to private use. It can only be done through the DC Council and with appropriate mitigation in terms of value to the public. The currently proposed “swap” is for what GDS terms the “Davenport Steps” to extend between Wisconsin Ave and 42nd St, flanked by the 8-story north building and the 7-story south building. The DC transportation office has asked GDS to study opening Davenport St between the two roadways instead, to allow open traffic flow. We favor this idea and find the “Steps” of dubious value, not to mention they would not be accessible to people with wheelchairs, baby strollers, grocery trolleys, and our older residents and others who have difficulty with stairs.
Clearly, we must continue to communicate our concerns about this, the largest project proposed for Wisconsin Ave between Tenley Town and Friendship Heights, to GDS and to our local elected officials. GDS intends to submit their PUD application to the city by October 15. ANC3E commissioners have not yet made recommendations for or against this project. We still have a window of opportunity to encourage GDS to amend their project plans, and correct their traffic management plan to permit zero net increase in vehicular traffic. There is still time to encourage ANC3e commissioners to represent the interests of the majority of their constituents.
It is up to all of us to hold GDS and ANC3E commissioners accountable to the people’s business.
TONIGHT ! PARTICIPATE IN A CRITICAL REVIEW PROCESS!
Georgetown Day School makes its last public presentation this evening at the ANC3E meeting before submitting its PUD application to the Zoning Board.
• Add 700 lower and middle school kids to Davenport St campus
• Build 2 high-rise retail/residential towers on Wisconsin Ave
What’s at stake:
Major increase in traffic snarl from school drop-offs and pick-ups
Sets a bad precedent for future Wisconsin Ave development projects
More strain on local schools, police, fire and emergency services
COME TO THIS MEETING! TONIGHT'S ANC3E MEETING WILL BE HELD AT 7 PM AT EMBASSY SUITES, CHEVY CHASE PAVILION, TENLEY TOWN ROOM 1, 4300 MILITARY ROAD NW. (NOTE: THIS MEETING WAS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR SEPTEMBER 10.)
Planned GDS steps won’t benefit public
Georgetown Day School’s plans for its “Spanish Steps” from Wisconsin Avenue to 42nd Street NW will basically serve as nothing more than a fancy entryway to its schoolyard. The steps are no amenity for our neighborhood. In fact, the steps will likely be nothing but a mighty windy canyon between the two nine-story apartment buildings planned for Wisconsin.
It would be better to keep those buildings low and to open up Davenport Street so that parents can drop their kids off at school without blocking commuters on their way to work.
Roseanne and Philip Clausen
Download issue here.
LATE DEVELOPMENT: On August 28 GDS notified WAGG of their plan to reduce Wisconsin Avenue heights of the North and South retail/residential buildings from 90 feet to 80 feet. The North building will drop from ten to eight stories on the Wisconsin Avenue side; the South building will drop from nine to seven stories, counting ground floor retail levels. Retail square footage will remain at 38,900 sq/ft. Total residential units will drop from 340-50 to "somewhere in the range of 275-290." The South building will continue to hold more units than the North flat-iron building.
All of this information and links to project details are to be posted on a newly formatted GDS Campus Planning website by September 1.
GDS high-rise plans are wrong for Tenley
An Aug. 19 Viewpoint piece by Ward3Vision’s chair Susan Kimmel lauded Georgetown Day School for its “thoughtful” conception of a pedestrian staircase marked by flower boxes proposed to link Wisconsin Avenue and 42nd Street between the two high-rise, 340-unit apartment towers that are a major part of its massive development plan.
Yes, it would be “thoughtful” to open up what might otherwise be a solid wall of brick and windows rising 90 feet high on the former Martens Volvo and Volkswagen site along the Wisconsin Avenue side and an even higher 104 feet along 42nd Street.
It would be even more thoughtful if GDS lowered the heights of its proposed residential building to “protect the character of our residential neighborhoods” (a phrase taken from Ward3Vision’s 59-word mission statement) and if GDS conformed its ambitions to those stated in the D.C. Comprehensive Plan. The document’s intent for this section of Wisconsin Avenue is clear: "The scale and height of new development on the corridor should reflect the proximity to single family homes, as well as the avenue’s intended function as the neighborhood’s main street. This means an emphasis on low- to mid-rise mixed use buildings rather than high-rise towers or auto-oriented strip development." (See Policy RCW-2.2 Wisconsin Avenue Corridor)
As for the staircase connecting GDS to its eastern neighbors, it’s true that it would allow a glimpse of school grounds. However, the neighbors on the other three sides of the campus will still contend with chain-link fences and limited access points to school grounds that discourage kids from using their feet and their bikes to get to their classes and encourage drivers to drop off students at unauthorized locations.
Since April 2015, members of WAGG have attended all ANC3E meetings that list the GDS project on the agenda. We’ve met with local elected officials, concerned community groups, and GDS staff members at the school. Now that our website is up, you can read about our latest activities below!
Here is the text to a "letter to the editor" published in the August 5, 2015 issue of the Northwest Current:
"Answers needed on GDS project impact
Members of the community east of Wisconsin Avenue have formed the Wisconsin Avenue Gateway Group, or WAGG, to work with and encourage Georgetown Day School to promote smart growth development on its Safeway and Martens auto dealership properties. We welcome an expanded campus and strongly support new shops, eateries and housing.
In other words, we enthusiastically support the fundamentals of the Georgetown Day School plan for campus expansion and mixed- use retail/residential development. But to build something great for both the school and community, Georgetown Day will have to reduce the ambitious scale of its project to more reasonable and real- izable goals, take meaningful steps to maximize community benefits, and do all possible to minimize potential burdens on its neighbors.
We greatly appreciate the close attention advisory neighborhood commissioners have given to what seem to be questionable underpin- nings of elements critical to the plan’s success. We find that the school’s plans insufficiently account for the impact of more than 1,000 daily vehicular trips in and out of its 10-acre plot through only four access points. Moreover, the 42nd Street access road is to be reduced to 20 feet, allowing only one lane in each direction. Backups on this
road are inevitable — cars break down, parents make unauthorized stops to drop off their kids. The Georgetown Day School Transpor- tation Management Plan for the school actually encourages more traffic onto the campus, for example, by offering parking spaces for a small fee to “parents who want to drive their children to school and leave their car in the GDS lot for the day.”
We frown on the intended swap of public space along 42nd Street, land necessary to construct the northern mixed-use building, for a set of steps that would extend through a canyon formed between the north and south mixed-use buildings — steps of dubious benefit to the neighborhood, yet counted as a community amenity by Georgetown Day.
All D.C. residents are affected by the prospect that, as a nonprofit institution, Georgetown Day School will be exempt from property taxes on the Safeway land, now taxed as a commercial business. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3E, in its July 13 letter to the school, esti- mates this loss at $230,000 without improvements — and much more once the land has been improved.
We regret that GDS principals have dragged their feet and been less than forthcoming, despite promised transparency, when asked by the neighborhood commission and by us, the people who live here, to provide more detailed informa- tion about their plans for our community.
Download the entire issue here.