Ed. Note: Last week the Washington City Paper reported:
“Just a few months ago, the D.C. government was unified in saying no to the proliferation of digital signs across the city and the powerful corporations behind them.
But that position has changed, at least in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office. Loose Lips has learned that Bowser is planning to circumvent her own government by attempting to reopen a backdoor already slammed shut by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Office of the City Administrator, and the Office of the Attorney General.”
Here’s an update on the stop-work order on the soon-to-be-former Douglas Development headquarters at 111 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Two things are happening:
Douglas is being sued by the District over what it calls the illegal installation of the giant LED signs that were the target of the stop-work order. The suit contends that a building permit for the installation of what are basically giant TV screens facing into the building was illegally used to mount those screens facing out in order to display full-motion video advertising to passersby along three sides of the building.
Douglas is among 10 defendants in the suit, along with other DC property owners and Digi Media Communications — an electronic outdoor advertising company with a slick brochure for their DC plans but no apparent track record. The litigation is currently in the discovery phase.
Meanwhile, the developer is on the verge of getting approval to tear that very building down to its skeleton and add several stories to it. Those signs are not depicted in the renderings for the new design. I’ve attended the last two Zoning Commission hearings, and, strangely, neither the signs nor the lawsuit have been discussed.
Anyone opposed to Digi Media’s plans to Jumbotron-ify Downtown, along with major corridors in and out of it including I-395 and New York Avenue, can speak out in any of these ways:
• Email the zoning commission at [email protected] by 5 p.m. Monday and ask that your concerns be entered into the record of this case. Remind them that Douglas is being sued by the city over their plan to install large electronic signs on the property — signs which aren’t shown in the application. Ask them to have the developer explain their plans for the signs, and recommend that they delay approval until the litigation is settled. The zoning case number is 80-07A; the District’s lawsuit is case #2016-CA-6471.
• Attend the Zoning Commission hearing on Monday night and raise these same concerns. You can speak for up to three minutes before the board if you put your name on a provided slip of paper and submit it when the hearing starts. It begins at 6:30 at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, Room 220 South.
• Peter May represents the National Park Service on the Commission. It’s not clear whether Cobbs Park — which is across the street from three of the signs — is under NPS jurisdiction, but in any case he may be receptive to arguments against allowing such signs so close to a public park. He can be emailed at [email protected].