Tuesday, October 06, 2009

BACA votes to oppose LAYC at Cook School

I attended last night's Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) meeting held at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.

I took some notes.

Here are some of my notes, which should be classified as non-comprehensive and non- exhaustive.

The focus of the BACA meeting was the use of the JF Cook School on the unit block of P Street NW by the Latin American Youth Council (LAYC).

The local Truxton Circle / Bates area community in attendance overwhelmingly expressed opposition to the LAYC moving into the Cook School. The primary item of opposition appears to be the residential component of the school, which was not disclosed when LAYC came before the community on five occasions.

President Jim Berry said that the LAYC school will push back neighborhood retail development 30 years.

He invited the Mayor, who was in attendance, to look at the bigger picture – the methadone clinics, SOME, etc. “Your team didn’t look at the big picture. LAYC will have an adverse, disruptive presence.”

ANC 5C Chair Anita Bonds asked how we can support LAYC. “We are home to the Rayful Edmonds gang. We don’t want another gang in the neighborhood.” “If this is a done deal, you will have to help us determine how best this will work. We were hoping for retail.”

Bloomingdale resident Pat Mitchell commented that there is continued suppressing of retail opportunities. “There is not enough support to mitigate the offset of the social services.”

A number of students from LAYC (and parents? faculty? staff?) attended as well.

Residents challenged the RFP process used, which the Mayor defended.

Resident MaryAnn Wilmer asked why LAC couldn’t co-locate with the Phelps Vocational School. She stated that she strongly opposes LAYC coming in.

ANC 5C Commissioner Sylvia Pickney remarked that the school offers no benefit to the community.

Some guy in the rear of the room asked the Mayor what he would do to encourage economic development in the community.

The Mayor replied that the presence of social services does not hamper economic development.

The Mayor said that he would have his staff walk through the community in the next 30 days to address the issues raised at the meeting, such as the homeless, the intoxicated and the drug dealers hanging out the parks at 1st & Florida NW and 1st & New York Avenue NW.

The Mayor briefly described the Youth Build programs in Petworth and on Park Road NW. Both sites are near successful housing & retail developments. “I see this as a jar half full, not half empty. This doesn’t have to be either or.”

A female resident unknown to me commented that it was news that the school would have housing on the site – that was announced after-the-fact. Housing increases the scope of the project. She then described how buses drop off people from all over the city early in the morning in the neighborhood for breakfast at SOME and then hang out all day, etc., etc.

A 23-year-old student at LAYC spoke passionately about the school and how it has helped turned her life around for the better.

BACA President Jim Berry remarked that he would prefer to have the school available for economic development.

After the general discussion wrapped up – when the Mayor needed to depart – a number of meeting attendees, including most of the people associated with the charter school, also departed.

A woman who identified herself as someone with the school (principal? vice principal?) began describing the schools programs and benefits, but left the room upset and crying. She was clearly not happy that the school was not being welcomed into the community.

Then there was a reading of a resolution by BACA to oppose LAYC at the Cook School. The resolution was quite long, but I jotted down “saturation of social services.” The resolution asked the District to rescind the decision. The resolution passed. Similar resolutions were passed from the Hanover Civic Association and the Dunbar-Shaw Homeowner’s Association (which I have never heard of before). Only one resident at the meeting explicitly expressed support for the project.

It was noted that there was an interest in having an ANC 5C vote to support/oppose LAYC. Ostensibly, the vote was put on hold for a future meeting. So ANC 5C has not taken an official position (yet).

And I still don't understand the relationship of LAYC and Youth Build.


Anonymous said...

I wonder why the Mayor thinks that he can continue to not recognize the Bates St area as an economic development center, but a place to pack in social service agencies? And, why residents in the neighborhood were not asked to comment about this? Clearly, Mayor Fenty is not respectful of what the neighborhood is trying to do to make it a better and safer place.

Anonymous said...

From your blog moderator, Scott Roberts of Bloomingdale:

Let’s review what the rules are for posting comments, once again:

1) Identify yourself. A full name would be best, but at least include a first name.

2) Identify your neighborhood.

3) Totally anonymous posts will not be allowed and be deleted, regardless of the content of the comment.

BOTH name and neighborhood name are required! Thanks for honoring the rules.

Suzanne in Bloomingdale said...

Scott, thanks for going to the meeting and for writing the report.

I wonder if it is possible to note the "no anonymous comments" rule in some kind of an intro that appears at the top of the blog? I know you've repeated this numerous times but unless someone has read previous comments, they might not necessarily be aware of this expectation.

Mari said...

Anon comments are par for the course. However, you can give warnings, have a clearly stated policy and still get them.
Scott, thanks for your take on the meeting.
Truxton Circle/Shaw

Jason said...

I too am confused with this whole proposal. According to LAYC's site, they are providing culturally sensitive programs that appear to offer / provide very little service to the actual residents of the neighborhood. Why was this site chosen over other locations within the District and how was it done w/o speaking with the ANC reps? I'm also curious as to why LAYC requires living quarters. Is this site even zoned for residential?