Capitol Hill neighbors: No Hispanic PAC house
Want a “party house” in your neighborhood?
Some Capitol Hill residents already have answered with a resounding “No,” and are considering a lawsuit if the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) grants an exemption to a Hispanic political action committee that wants to set up shop in their beloved neighborhood.
The BZA exemption is being sought by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC, a Democratic stronghold whose chairman is Rep. Tony Cardenas of California.
Who are the people already in the neighborhood?
The “party house” is actually a row house at 428 New Jersey Ave. SE. Neighbors include the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, which is the largest bipartisan caucus on the Hill, and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, the American Trucking Association, the Jefferson Institute and Amway House.
On the same block as the “party house” sits the Congressional Black Caucus Institute (CBHI), whose website, perhaps, suggests why some Hill residents are saying no to the “party house.”
“Looking for a unique location for your next event? Choose our row house!” beckons CBHI’s website. “Our beautiful space at 413 New Jersey Avenue SE can hold up to 40 people and includes usage of our full-sized kitchen. Your guests will also enjoy convenient access. We’re less than a block from Capitol South Metro station, and a few blocks from I-395. Looking for a little extra cache? We’re around the corner from the Democratic National Committee headquarters.”
And therein lies a major complaint from residents and homeowners on Capitol Hill. Not that the DNC is part of the Hill, because so is the Republican National Committee.
It’s that residents and community leaders feel as though they are “under siege” by the PACs and the lobbyists and the trade groups.
One elected D.C. official told Hillrag.com that a variance granted to CHC BOLD PAC would be “precedent-setting.”
“It will have a profound effect on other [Advisory Neighborhood Commissions] if this is allowed,” said Jennifer Samolyk, ANC 6B01 commissioner. “It’s precedent-setting.”
Hillrag.com also quoted Desiree Ponti, who lives on New Jersey Ave. as saying, “It’s like we’re under siege. This is taking a serious toll on the community, the stress of fighting it year after year. You can’t put that kind of pressure on residents to prove that this is a residential neighborhood.”
Indeed, some residents are contributing $1,000 a piece to wage a legal fight, if necessary, against the CHC BOLD PAC. The BZA application was filed April 4, and is being handled by the law offices of Griffin, Murphy, Moldenhauer & Wiggins. The BZA was scheduled to hear the case on Wednesday but has postponed the hearing until June 28.
The application, among other things, cites the “public benefit” the special exemption would serve, and the proximity to House and Senate office buildings.
The application also readily points out that “the property is a single-family residential building.”
D.C. law says the voices of the ANCs are supposed to be given “great weight” on policy decisions and lawmaking. Each ANC member represents a single-member district, and each single-member district represents an estimated 2,000 residents. Each ANC weighs in on such issues as planning and transportation, schools and libraries, liquor licensing, parks and recreation and law and order.
Capitol Hill is the largest residential neighborhood in the nation’s capital, one of America’s oldest and certainly recognizable — if only by name.
Its row houses and other singlefamily dwellings are as historic as its legendary federal footprint.
The appeal of the 20003 Zip code to a trade organization, or to lobbyists or partisan political organizations, is understandable. It implies that your kind is close to the seat of power.
Zoning officials, however, should not engage in power plays. They are obligated to think local because they are local. And their salaries and stipends are retrieved from coffers filled by local tax dollars.
ANC commissioners are the elected leaders who represent the voices of the city’s neighborhoods.
In this case, the voices seem to be in sync.