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.