Capi­tol Hill neigh­bors: No His­panic PAC house

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS ● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­

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 Hill­ 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.”

Hill­ 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.

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