Council joins fight over Stevens site

A D.C. councilmember assured Foggy Bottom residents Tuesday that, as long as the neighborhood is opposed to the selection, his committee would block the city’s reported decision to develop apartments at the Stevens Elementary School site.

Councilmember Kwame R. Brown, D-At Large, the chair of the Committee on Economic Development, appeared at the Foggy Bottom Association’s monthly meeting to address the controversy that erupted last week after the deputy mayor’s office reportedly selected Equity Residential’s apartment plan over two proposals that had neighborhood support.

Brown said the committee has to review and accept any proposals selected by the office. He pledged to involve the neighborhood in the review, saying he would hold the meeting “right here in the community.”

“The selection process is the direct opposite of how I believe we work together as a city,” Brown said. “If the decision hits me, it’s not going anywhere unless it’s signed off on by the community.”

Commissioners ranked the Equity proposal last at a special meeting in June held to select a preferred developer from the final three contenders. They have also expressed dissatisfaction with Valerie Santos, the D.C. official responsible for the last week’s reported decision. Asher Corson, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A commissioner and president of the Foggy Bottom Association, testified against Santos at her confirmation hearing last week, presenting letters from all the 2A commissioners recommending that her confirmation be blocked.

“I supported the hotel because the majority of the community e-mailed me and said they wanted a hotel. I said the property has to be a hotel – I don’t think they listened to me either,” Brown said of Santos’ office.

Several members of Brown’s committee have pledged their support for the community. Corson said Councilmember Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, met privately with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty last week, prompting Fenty to postpone an official announcement which had been scheduled for Tuesday of last week.

“Councilmember Evans has been a perfect ally,” Corson said. “His intervention stopped the announcement.”

Corson said the support the community has received from the D.C. elected officials has given him hope that the site will be developed by a company that Foggy Bottom residents want in the neighborhood.

“I’m very confident that it will not go to Equity,” Corson said. “I just don’t think there’s any way that the council, given the amount of community opposition, is going to allow the deal to go forward, no matter what the deputy mayor’s office does.”

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