Film Screening & Talk by documentary filmmaker Michelle Jones at MLK

On Monday March 18 at 7 PM

Michelle Jones’ film “Master Builders” showcases the life and projects of pioneering African American architects in Washington DC at the end of the 19th century. Many years in the making, this documentary brings to light an overlooked contribution to architecture in the nation’s capital.  The DC Preservation League website proclaims it  “… truly a history worthy to be shared.”

Executive Producer Michelle Jones, a former archivist at the American Institute of Architects, will be on hand to discuss the film.

Black Studies Center, Room 316
Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library
901 G Street, NW

Mt. Pleasant Library Friends to hold first book sale in new library


On Saturday April 6, from 10 AM to 3 PM

Volunteers needed for set up Friday afternoon and for the sale itself on Saturday. Even a couple hours would be appreciated.

Book donations accepted through Friday April 5. Drop them off at the front desk of the Mt Pleasant branch when library is open. Please do not put them in the outside book drop.

Join the Friends of Mt. Pleasant Library. Registration forms available at the Library or online

Author Talk by Rebecca Gale March 6 at Tenley Library

Author Rebecca Gale will discuss her new book, Trying, on Wednesday, March 6th at 7 PM at the Tenley Library.

Gale works at CQ Roll Call, where she writes a new weekly advice column called Hill Navigator. She has worked as a press secretary and communications director for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa). Trying is her first novel.

Support the Friends of Tenley Library on Facebook.

Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library
4450 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20016
[email protected]

Court of Appeals Raises Issue of Double Counting in West End Deal

Press Release
February 15, 2013

Can facilities to be constructed by a developer as payment for acquiring public land also be counted as offsets towards a request for zoning relief? That was among the questions posed yesterday in a lengthy hearing at the D.C. Court of Appeals.

The three-judge panel, considered the D.C. Library Renaissance Project’s appeal of the Zoning Commission’s approval of developer EastBanc’s planned unit development (PUD) scheme for three parcels of publicly owned land in the city’s West End. Judge Roy W. McLeese III specifically asked if a new library and firehouse that are part of the PUD deal were being counted “twice.”

DCLRP has argued consistently that, since the city would pay for the facilities through a land transfer, the same facilities cannot be counted to offset the zoning relief requested.

Based on EastBanc’s testimony that it could provide a new library, fire house and 52 units of affordable housing out of the land transfer proceeds and the resulting up-zoned PUD, in 2010 the D.C. Council okayed the land transfer, contingent on PUD approval. By the time EastBanc got to the PUD hearing in 2011, it sought to have the city’s new Inclusionary Zoning law–which requires affordable housing in all new multi-unit residential developments–waived for the luxury residential building it plans to construct, claiming that without this waiver, it could not afford to build both the library and firehouse. EastBanc’s lawyer did not explain this discrepancy.

In rebuttal, DCLRP lawyer Oliver Hall argued that the District’s own appraisal valued the public land at $30 million (the Chief Financial Officer’s Office put the estimated fair market value at $100 million as assessed for deed and recordation fees) and that it was “impossible to weigh the PUD’s adverse effects against its alleged public benefits, as the Zoning Commission is required by law to do.”

The judges seemed to take these contentions seriously, discussing them at length.

Also hearing the case were Judges Vanessa Ruiz and Corinne Beckwith.

Author John Muller on his book: Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC

The Friends of the Woodridge Library invites the public to a talk by author John Muller about his new book Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC: The Lion of Anacostia.

Muller is a local journalist and playwright who grew up in the DC area. His play “The 70”  was performed to great acclaim at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library in 2006. It was about the experience of riding the number 70 bus route that ran between the waterfront in Southwest Washington and the plaza in downtown Silver Spring.  In the Washington Post, the playwright compared the experience to Mark Twain’s traveling the Mississippi and writing “Huckleberry Finn.”

Frederick Douglass is Muller’s first book. He is working on a second about Mark Twain.

John Muller a former reporter for The Washington Times and current contributor to Capital Community News. He is a library lover and also blogs for Greater Greater Washington.

This event is free and open to the public.

Monday February 25, 2013 at 6 pm                                                                Woodridge Neighborhood Library                                                                                 1801 Hamlin Street, NE                                                                                              (corner of Rhode Island Avenue and 18th Street, NE)




Court of Appeals to Hear Arguments in West End Deal

Oral Arguments, Case 12-AA-1183
DC Library Renaissance Project vs. DC Zoning Commission (West End Deal)

Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 9:30 AM
DC Court of Appeals
430 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

COA calendar:

Read the Documents in the Case:

DC LRP Brief:  Brief of Appellant

Eastbanc Response Eastbanc Reply Brief 

DC LRP Response     2012_12_25_westend_WELAG_response_brief

Proceedings are open to the public.

Public Forum on the West End Library and Fire Station Deal

WHEN: Saturday, February 9, 2013, 11:30AM – 1:00PM
WHERE: The West End Library – 1101 24th St. N.W. (Corner of 24th and L)
N.W. (Corner of 24th and L)

Come learn the facts about the District’s plan to “sell” the public properties housing the West End Public Library, Special Operations Police Station, and West End Fire Station to private developer EastBanc-W.D.C. Partners, LLC, in what amounts to at least a $70 million giveaway.

The plan was touted as the only way to “redevelop” these public properties, because the City doesn’t have the money otherwise.

Under the proposed deal — a land for construction swap — EastBanc will pay no cash for the public property it acquires, which is worth an estimated $100 million, according to the CFO’s financial impact statements.

What will taxpayers get in return for this $100 million gift? EastBanc will include a new library on the ground floor of a luxury condo development, and a new fire station on the ground floor of the another housing development  over the firehouse, with easements for public access to each one.

EastBanc will then own the formerly public properties.

Does the City need to do this deal in this way? Couldn’t the City sell these public properties at fair market and reinvest the tens of millions into city services (including expanding library hours and finishing the library transformation process)?

Does this really sound like a good deal? Come learn the facts, and help rectify the $100 million taxpayer giveaway to EastBanc.

Hosted by: The D.C. Library Renaissance Project / West End Library Advisory Group

For more info: 202-387-8030

The West End Library & Fire Station Deal: Bargain or Rip-Off?
WHAT: Public Forum on the West End Library and Fire Station Deal
WHEN: Saturday, February 9, 2013, 11:30AM – 1:00PM
WHERE: The West End Library – 1101 24th St. N.W. (Corner of 24th and L)
N.W. (Corner of 24th and L)

Gandhi Announces Resignation Questions about West End Deal Remain Unanswered

The D.C. Chief Financial Officer’s economic impact statement about the West End land sale provided contradictory information, and failed to fully analyze an extremely complicated deal involving publicly owned city assets, the DC Library Renaissance Project has found.

The information that D.C. Council members were provided by the CFO, while not untrue, omitted a key variable: the estimated fair market value of the land to be sold. Without further analysis of their own, Council members would not have had adequate information to evaluate the deal.

At stake is the value of three properties in the West End “sold” to a developer, Eastbanc, through a complex and unprecedented land swap. The deal calls for a new library facility, new firehouse, and new affordable housing — together worth $30 million according to Eastbanc — in lieu of payment for the land.

The CFO’s report states, based on values from its own tax database and those of an independent valuator, that the land sale would reduce the city’s assets by approximately $30 million. The Mayor, D.C. Council members, and community groups assumed that $30 million in new construction matched the $30 million reduction in assets, making the deal seem reasonable.

In his testimony, however, the CFO noted that deed and recordation fees totaling $1.45 million would be forgiven as part of the deal. Since deed and recordation fees in D.C. are based on a formula of 1.45% of the total estimated fair market value, the real value of the land is $100 million, not $30 million. So transferring ownership to Eastbanc is a giveaway worth roughly $70 million.

In addition, Eastbanc asked for help to complete the affordable housing, claiming it could not make a profit without a subsidy. In April 2012, Mayor Vincent Gray announced that the city would provide an additional $7 million in cash to Eastbanc so it would construct the legally required affordable housing.

The CFO’s office is an independent agency charged with providing objective and unbiased information to the Mayor, City Council, and city agencies regarding fiscal matters. D.C. Council members often rely on information from the CFO to make decisions. They should be able to count on a full and faithful analysis. If the omission was deliberate, it could constitute corruption. If the CFO’s office simply made a mistake, it was incompetent.

The waiving of deed and recordation fees is not uncommon or unjustified when eventual resale is the goal of a construction project, as in this West End deal. The far more serious issue is that the $100 million number, the fair market value on which the $1.45 million fee is based, was omitted from the Financial Impact Statement.

Come to the West End Do the Math Forum Saturday February 9.

Irish Book Giveaway — for the love of literature and literacy

You may not have known it but Monday was exactly half a year from St. Patrick’s Day. In honor of this not-quite occasion, a local group called Solas Nua handed out 7500 free books to passersby at Metro stops and libraries around the city making it, well, quite an occasion.

For inveterate readers, a free book is treasure and Irish literature is especially prized.

The mission of Solas Nua, which means new light, is “to give voice in America to contemporary Irish artists and writers.” Solas Nua volunteers have been distributing free Irish books on St. Patrick’s Day for seven years running. This year marked the first mid-year giveaway, christened “Another Craik at St. Patrick’s Day.”

An additional first time aspect of Monday’s book bonanza was an almost invisible focus on adult literacy. Some of the books handed out were part of the Open Book series, a publishing project by Gemma Books, which commissioned bestselling literary authors like Maeve Binchy and Roddy Doyle to write extremely short books that would entice reluctant readers and low-literate adults. The books are charming pocket sized editions designed in slightly larger-than-usual print, which appeals to struggling readers although it might not be noticed by good readers.

The reward that comes from opening one of these small packages, whatever your reading ability, is a great story that the most sophisticated readers will appreciate and that slower readers will be able to digest. The stories succeed marvelously in their intent not to condescend. The characterization is complex, the dialogue realistic, and the poetic power in full force.

If you didn’t get a book, you can check on what you missed at Solas Nua, and if you like what you see, you can check them out of the DC Public Library. The Adult Literacy Resource Center on the third floor of MLK has multiple copies to lend. Center Director Marcia Harrington embraced the book giveaway enthusiastically. Two of her personal passions — for literacy and for all things Irish – came together in the Solas Nua project.

If you did get a free book, you also got a bookmark that asks you to consider becoming a literacy tutor. If you are interested in finding out more, the Resource Center can help point you to a program that needs you, one  that suits your skills and your schedule.

If you love literature, don’t miss another Irish Book day. Sign up with Solas Nua be reminded. Don’t let another “craik” at a free book go by.

And light a candle in thanks for the presence among us of Dennis Houlihan, the head of Solas Nua’s board, who organizes this wonderfully “craik” event every year.  Thanks be to Dennis.