Thursday, June 25, 2009

Downtown Neighborhood Association June Meeting Notes

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night .. .
The regular second Tuesday June meeting attendance was hampered by heavy rains and lightning. However, with Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Lt. Craig Royal, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, and District Consumer Regulatory Agency (DCRA) Director Linda Argo, those who attended were served a spirited discussion on noise measurement, noise regulations, and their enforcement. There was a second public meeting held on Thursday, June 18 to consider the liquor license applications from the owners of Muse Lounge, located at 717 6th Street NW and Levels, located at 315 H Street NW.

Patrol Service Area 101W
The meeting started with a discussion of the Chinatown Initiative that First District Commander Kamperin introduced in May. A team of volunteers including ten police offers and sergeant Sheldon who provided an update of the program. This team has been working nights in and near the Chinatown section of downtown focussing on youth-crime along with a host of quality of life crimes that are not always addressed in our neighborhood. There has been greater enforcement of parking violations, public alcohol consumption laws, public urination, curfew violations. The initiative will continue to provide focus on the neighborhood for at least a year.

We learned that DCRA has started training of MPD officers on how to measure noise with calibrated decibel reading instruments. Their plan is to provide instruments and trained personnel throughout the District to enable better response to noise complaints by providing tools and police qualified to determine whether a noise source is within the legal range.

Discussion Leaders
Councilmember Evans provided an update on the state of city finances and discussed the emergency crime bill that was coming before the council. Then, with Director Argo, Councilmember Evans, and Lt. Royal a discussion ensued on noise violations determination and measurement. There appeared to be confusion over the need to measure noise levels after 9:00PM and a MPD officers ability to use a “reasonable persons” determination that the noise was too loud. Evans noted that the police already have the authority at night to ask the source of loud noise to reduce or turn it off. He shared that if a nightclub was producing loud noise that a reasonable person would believe was above the legal range that they could ask them to turn it down or shut the club down. Director Argo agreed. However, Lt. Royal was concerned with the ambiguity of this and the potential liability it presented. He also noted that there was a problem with the process since tickets written for noise violations were routinely thrown out by the court so officers were resistant to issuing tickets for noise violations. We learned that since there were no formal “noise violation tickets” or a court the focused on these type of quality of live crimes that issuing tickets was a waste of time. This perplexed Evans and many of the neighborhood residents attending the meeting. It was clear that despite efforts to draw up rules concerning noise, the enforcement process fell short of the council intent and needed further legislation.

Special Public Liquor Application Meeting
As required by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration, ten days notice for this meeting was provided with all neighborhood residents invited as well as the owners of the clubs making application. The meeting was held in the lobby of Madrigal Lofts with over 50 people attending. There is an excellent report on the meeting on the Mount Vernon Triangle blog, “The Triangle” at that details the discussion that occurred at the meeting. Several were concerned by the comments of Dimitri Mallios, the attorney for both establishments, that the neighborhood residents meeting was unnecessary and a waste of time. He argued that we should rely solely on the ANC that was already protesting the license application for Levels and that the request from Muse Lounge to stay open to 3:30AM weekdays and 4:30AM weekends didn’t impact those attending the meeting.

July Regular Second Tuesday Meeting
Mark your calendar for our Tuesday, July 14 Meeting which will be at Calvary Baptist Church starting at 6:30PM and over by 8:00PM. We are developing a panel to discuss downtown family amenities - parks, playgrounds, and other elements that our children, grandchildren, and visitors desire. The invited participants are from the National Capital Planning Council, DC office of Economic Development and Planning, Downtown Business Improvement District, the District Office of Planning, More details will be forthcoming. Refreshments will be provided.

This meeting will also include PSA 101W officers and questions.

Miles E. Groves

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