Environmental Issues Prominent at ANC-3F September Meeting

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 3F’s nearly three-hour long September meeting focused heavily on environmental issues, including sustainable energy, stormwater runoff abatement and neighborhood bikeways – though a significant portion of the time also was devoted to a rather testy exchange over proposed curb cuts at 3600 Albemarle Street.  Rather than rehash that debate, this digest will stick to highlights relevant to Tenleytown. Of course, if you can’t get enough of hyper-local bickering and assessing whether a paragraph does indeed constitute a letter or resolution, you can always get your fix by watching the rebroadcast.

DC Sustainable Energy Utility

The DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) community relations manager discussed incentives for homeowners to go green by reducing costs for energy efficient upgrades.   The home energy performance improvement process includes:  a whole home energy audit that assesses air leakage, insulation, HVAC systems, windows and appliances; recommendations on improving energy efficiency; and financial incentives for those who complete upgrades. Energy audits typically take place within five business days of a homeowner’s request, and a report on the audit is available five to 10 business days later.  Incentives include up to $500 for projects costing $1,500 that result in benchmark changes to home energy efficiency.  The current incentives program expires September 30, 2013.  According to DCSEU, a new incentives program will be launched for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.  However, in response to a subsequent inquiry, the utility was unable to provide a date when the program would begin or whether the level of financial incentives would be maintained.

Homeowners can also take advantage of discounts on energy efficient supplies, such as compact florescent light bulbs (CFL), at local retailers.  In Tenleytown, Safeway and Rodman’s offer reduced pricing on CFLs.  DCSEU also offers a $50 rebate on select ENERGY STAR® refrigerators and clothes washers.

Critics of the program question the efficacy of DCSEU, citing its failure to meet more than two-thirds of the benchmarks set by the District of Columbia, while others want residents to give it a chance.  Under a contract with the DC Department of the Environment, DCSEU is supported through a surcharge on electricity and natural gas bills, with a budget of $17.5 million this year.

RiverSmart Homes

The DC Department of the Environment’s RiverSmart Homes program also offers incentives to District homeowners who implement measures to reduce stormwater runoff.  Andrew Oetman told ANC-3F that roughly half of DC is serviced by pipes that carry sewage and rainwater in a single pipe.  As a result, heavy rains cause overflows that dump raw sewage into Rock Creek and the Anacostia and Potomac rivers almost 60 times each year.  RiverSmart Homes’ five main programs, which include installation of rain barrels, shade trees, bayscaping, pervious pavement and rain gardens, seek to reduce runoff to mitigate against these overflows.  To encourage homeowners, the DC government covers 90% of the cost of installation.  Homeowners pay just $45 per rain barrel (cost per barrel is $450), $50 per tree (cost per tree is $300-400) and $75 for a 70 square foot rain garden that captures 600 gallons of stormwater (a $1,200 expense).  RiverSmart will also cover the first $1,200 of the expense of installing pervious pavers.  According to Oetman, 5,000 to 5,500 homes have had at least one feature installed since 2009.  The program is in high demand, with 200 to 300 applicants each month, so those interested should be patient when they sign up.  Read about other homeowners’ experiences with the program here and here.

Neighborhood Bikeways

While the District Department of Transportation’s (DDoT) proposal for neighborhood bikeways on Jenifer and 41st Streets primarily impacts ANC-3E and ANC-3G, Commissioner Manolis Priniotakis put forward a resolution to recommend changes to the Jenifer Street bikeway terminus that falls in ANC-3F.  In his assessment, with which his fellow commissioners concurred, the termination of the bikeway at Nebraska Avenue would not offer cyclists a reasonable way to connect to Rock Creek Park because there is no legal crossing at that location.  Instead, he proposed that the bikeway route go left on Chevy Chase Parkway, then right on Jocelyn Street, which would lead cyclists to Nevada Avenue, allowing them to make their way to Broad Branch Road and Rock Creek Park.  The commission unanimously supported his resolution, which also offered general support to the neighborhood bikeways concept and limited comment to just this segment of the planned route.  Priniotakis noted that ANC-3E had already offered extensive recommendations to DDoT’s plan.

ANC-3F Wants You

And finally, if you’ve read all the way through this digest, you may be just the kind of person ANC-3F wants.  The commission approved a motion to recruit an unpaid intern to assist with meeting notes and video recording.  Commission chair Adam Tope will be reaching out to American University and the University of the District of Columbia for qualified candidates.