Neighborhood commission appoints new chairman

A local neighborhood advisory group now has a new leader.

After serving a four-year term as chairman of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, Patrick Kennedy relinquished the role to Commissioner William Smith, previously the commission’s vice chairman.

“I want to start by saying what an incredible job you’ve done as chair and how difficult it is to follow in your footsteps,” Smith, who has served on the commission since 2014, said of Kennedy. “You have an extraordinary touch with people and policy and you have a lot of integrity and deserve a lot of credit.”

Kennedy will remain on the commission as vice chair.

The ANC also voted to extend Commissioner Philip Schrefer’s term as secretary and elected Commissioner Marco Guzman as the ANC’s new treasurer, replacing Eve Zhurbinskiy who resigned last month. Sophomore James Harnett is running to replace Zhurbinskiy on the commission.

Commissioner Florence Harmon said, despite the ANC’s initial reluctance to allow a student to serve on the commission, Zhurbinskiy did an outstanding job of representing student interests.

“She brought a flavor of what it’s like to be a GW student and just particular issues that students have and the student community really owes her a debt,” she said.

At the meeting, the first to be held in the newly opened West End Library, GW Hillel Executive Director Adena Kirstein presented modifications for the group’s proposed new building on on the corner of H and 23rd. A D.C. appellate court ruled last month that the building can move ahead despite pushback from neighboring St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on the planned construction.

Kirstein said Hillel now hopes to pursue two goals with the new building: create a “home” to house its large undergraduate population and be a good neighbor to the surrounding community. She said the group has been working on a building agreement with the church that would decrease the size of the planned building to avoid infringing upon St. Mary’s lot.

“We’ve really been evaluating what we want this project to be,” she said.

At the meeting, commissioners also expressed concerns about homeless residents in the neighborhood remaining outside in sub-zero temperatures.

“I’ve never experienced cold like these past few months,” Harmon said. “I’m looking at this individual who’s walking around in cotton in these temperatures and I thought, ‘he’s not going to survive.’”

Commissioners were divided over whether to pass a resolution to build shelters for the homeless. They unanimously voted to draft and send a letter to the D.C. Department of Human Services asking to clarify the conditions needed to create a warming center in the neighborhood.

The commission also discussed issues involving food trucks, including potential traffic issues they create on campus on H Street and nearby L Street. Commissioner Rebecca Coder said the trucks violate city regulations because they park within 40 feet of crosswalks and obstruct fire control areas.

“We just need to understand what our options are to address this outside of having to call 911 everyday,” she said.

Commissioners proposed possible remedies – like revoking a vendors’ licenses – to cut down on the amount of trucks allowed on campus. But Ben Case from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs said that can be a long and strenuous process.

“Some of the food trucks – there being very many of them cycling through and being aggressive with each other – that’s a hard issue,” he said. “We don’t have a quota, we don’t have a cap, which means there are a fair number of food trucks out there.”

The ANC tabled the issue, but said eventually taking legislative action, like recording and restricting license renewals to those who have parked unlawfully, would remedy the problem.

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