Mayor Adrian Fenty gets three appointments to the five-person Zoning Commission. All three of his latest picks have been developers—and on account of their professional homogeneity, the Council is likely to only confirm one of the two nominations currently pending.
Stan Wall, whom the Mayor nominated to replace menschy chairman Anthony Hood, has already run into some resistance from Councilmember Phil Mendelson. Yesterday afternoon, Chairman Vincent Gray grilled nominee Greg Selfridge, a partner with the property renovation and management firm NOVO (full resume here). He seems like a nice enough guy: Lives in Capitol Hill, participates in his local ANC, frequents charity fundraisers and neighborhood sporting events.
As far as experience, though, Selfridge was found somewhat lacking. He has been to exactly two Board of Zoning Adjustment meetings, had only glancing familiarity with the comprehensive zoning review underway right now, and had only read bits of the District’s Comprehensive Plan. He didn’t have much to say about the priorities of affordable housing and historic preservation except that he supported them.
“As far as intimate familiarity with the regs, I don’t have it,” Selfridge said, “but I’m certain that I could get myself up to speed.”
Probably the most pointed thing Selfridge said during the vetting session was that he would have been more skeptical about lifting the cap on bars and restaurants in the Uptown ARTS Overlay, which was discussed at his first and only visit to the Zoning Commission a couple weeks ago.
“I was struck at the Zoning Commission why there was not more outcry over the parking conditions at 14th and U,” Selfridge said. “If that was my neighborhood, I would have been extremely worried about parking requirements.” And, of his own Barracks Row: “It would be very helpful to have more shopping, and potentially a check on the growth until the community has a chance to catch up with the restaurants that are down there today.”
How did he come to be nominated? Gray wanted to know. Selfridge answered that he had no personal relationship with the Mayor, but had asked the head of Boards and Commissions for a position, and that it was decided that the Zoning Commission might be a good fit. (Like Fenty’s latest pick for the National Capital Planning Commission—self promotion works!)
Tommy Wells, the only other Councilmember to show up for Selfridge’s vetting, said he was leery of new appointments because of what he’s been hearing about the Mayor’s ABRA board chairman, Charles Brodsky.
“The new chair of ABRA has been characterized by the ANCs in Ward 6 as hostile to voluntary agreements,” Wells said. “It’s clear, it seems, that the balance has been tilted away from the residents’ interest for issues related to liquor licenses and such. So we absolutely want to be careful with the Zoning Commission.”
Regardless of Selfridge’s merits or demerits, either he or Wall will almost certainly not be confirmed, Gray told Housing Complex at a meeting last night.
“The mayor should not have nominated three developers,” Gray said. “The Council is almost unanimous that there has to be a community representative.”