IMAGE: The New Hampshire Avenue recreation center gym served as the city council meeting venue Weds, June 1. Photo by Bill Brown.
GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
They had to bring out more folding chairs. They were not expecting so many people – around 70 – to turn out for the special city council meeting at the Takoma Park Recreation Center Wednesday, June 1.
But that was fine. Larger and more diverse turnouts was one reason Mayor Kate Stewart pledged in last year’s election campaign to hold city council meetings in different locations.
The Recreation Center on New Hampshire Avenue is in the shadow of Hampshire Towers. One of the two multi-unit towers is an affordable housing project. It is exempt from the city’s rent control laws, however, because it was a county public/private enterprise. Last year a new owner caused an uproar by raising rents, as reported in Tenants’ plight eased by Auburn Mann, Oct 29, 2015 in the Voice.
The council heard from a number of renters and renters’ organizations during the public comments segment.
Vineda Myers speaks to the city council. Photo by Bill Brown.
Representing the Takoma Park Renters Protection Group, Vineda Myers, presented a list of proposed changes to the city’s rent control code. They asked that rent control exemptions require a vote by the council, and that residents should be notified of exemption requests. They asked that exempted properties should be required to continue to annually report rental rates to the city, that rental increases under an exemption should be stated by amount and that the city should review whether landlords are in compliance with exemption terms.
The group also asked the city to investigate why many rental properties are allowed to deteriorate and remain in violation of city housing code. “All apartment units are supposed to be inspected every year. If the inspections are thorough, units should not be able to decline into deplorable conditions,” said Meyers.
Myers, a 15 year-long resident is also president of the Park Ritchie Apartment Tenant Association and is I am employed by the Community Health & Empowerment through Education & Research (CHEER) as Director of Housing Programs.
Other renters spoke of inadequate parking, too few bulk-trash collections, bed-bugs, month-to-month leases, and retaliatory evictions.
The renters cleverly handed out “Support Renters” stickers at the recreation center entrance, then at the meeting asked everyone wearing a sticker to stand in support.
Resident Jim DiLuigi, presented the council with copies of eyebrow-raising photos he’d snapped two hours before the meeting. The photos showed a parking lot full of apparent construction debris and equipment at the corner of New Hampshire and Sligo Creek Parkway. It’s not clear, said DiLuigi, where the debris is coming from.
Photos by Jim DiLuigi.
Queenie Featherstone, a homeless woman appealed for help from the council. Though she has a job, she is unable to afford a place to live, she said.
The council also heard from a county Green Party representative in support of renters issues, a National Gun Violence Awareness Day activist and
Melanie Isis, director of the Crossroads Development Association about a summer outdoor film and concert series that business association is sponsoring.
Two Ward 6 residents, one of them the president of the New Hampshire Gardens Neighborhood Association, spoke in support of the B Parking Permit, which the council was set to vote out of existence. This probably explains why the vote was put off until June 15. The permit allows people who live beyond walking distance of Takoma Metro Station in areas with no bus service to park in a designated area near the station. It was established many years ago, long enough for the original parking spaces to be eliminated by a bike trail, and long enough for new bus routes to be established. So, now the designated parking area is on a couple of the residential streets. The residents have lobbied to eliminate the permit, which has been characterized as being obsolete.
Not so, say the Ward 6 residents who use the handful of B permits issued yearly. One of them suggested expanding the zone where B permits could be used so it doesn’t impact those two streets only.
Audio/Visual Specialist John Pitt, Video Production Manager Alvaro Calabia and Audio/Visual Specialists William Rice and Bienvenido Martinez (seated). The small blue box on the table is a TriCaster Mini, an all-in-one portable studio system. Photo by Bill Brown.
The biggest problem the city had to solve to move the council meeting out of it’s home auditorium was how to record and televise it. Cameras, microphones, a sound board and a production room had to be set up. The gym floor was criss-crossed with taped-down cables, and camera stands were set up at the back. A small back room off the gym was commandeered for the studio production room.
Unfortunately, the crew could not get a satisfactory connection back to the community center studio, so the meeting was not televised live. They were able to record it, and it will be broadcast on the city cable-tv channel, but as of June 2, it had yet to be re-encoded so it could be streamed on-demand on the city’s website.
Camera operators Isaac Asare and Rob Ratchiffe. Photo by Bill Brown.
More next week on the rest of the meeting.
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