Hearings will resume today on controversial zoning proposals that would allow operations of group homes in neighorhoods now zoned solely for single-family dwellings.
The group homes, which house ex-offenders, drug addicts under treatment, youths, and mentally disabled and homeless people, are now restricted to neighborhoods zoned for rowhouses and apartment buildings.
Similar proposals in the past have pitted residents of single-family neighborhoods like Georgetown and Chevy Chase, where group homes would be allowed under the zoning changes now being considered, against residents in areas such as Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan, which are presently zoned for the facilities.
More than 100 city residents attended the first part of the D.C. Zoning Commission's hearings Monday.
Sixty representatives of churches, civic and citizens groups and advisory neighborhood commissions were registered to testify but were not able to do so. An unexplained, one-hour delay in starting the hearing was followed by three hours of testimony by city officials in support of the zoning changes.
All the witnesses are expected to testify when the hearings resume today.
According to testimony from officials of the Office of Planning and Development (OPD), 641 licensed and unlicensed, private and city-run group homes are operating in the city. Together, the homes have a capacity for 9,907 residents. Most of the larger facilities, which house five or more people, are located in Wards 1 and 2.
A statement by Mayor Marion Barry, read by OPD director James O. Gibson, said the city administration "strongly supports the effort to rpovide community-based care for citizens who would otherwise have to live in large institutions." The mayor added that he is "fully aware, however, of the concerns of many citizens in the District about the potential impact of this policy on their neighborhoods."
Officials said that in past months city residents have expressed concern about the effect the homes might have on property values, about lax supervision of the homes and safety problems, including fire safety.
Contributions to these fears was the worst group home fire in the city's history which occurred in Mount Pleasant last month, resulting in the deaths of 10 elderly outpatients from St. Elizabeths Hospital.
While city leaders face opposition from residents of neighborhoods where new groups homes might be located, they also face court decrees requiring them to move thousands of mentally disabled people and homeless youths from institutions into community homes.
According to Barry's statement, city administrator Elijah B. Rogers will work with law enforcement and other city officials to resolve complaints about group home residents. Barry said "residents (of group homes) may present severe behavior problems which are uncomfortable or unsafe to neighbors." He said he has asked city agencies "to protect citizens in the community."
Rogers will also be responsible for ensuring that homes are properly licensed and inspected, the statement said. A central Referral Bureau now being established by the Department of Human Resources will monitor all existing and proposed group homes and update the OPD list of facilities in the District.
In addition, each group home will be required to obtain a certificate of occupancy and a Community Residential Facilities License, which sets uniform maintenance and operating standards for goups homes, Barry wrote.
Spokesmen representating 23 citizens groups, including the Friendship (Heights) Neighborhood Coalition, Foggy Bottom and West End, said they would support the zoning proposals with modifications. Four groups, including the Childrens Defense Fund and the Washington Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (WA-CADA), supported the proposals as they now stand.Three groups, with the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations hearing the list, opposed the proposals.
Today's hearings will start at 1:30 p.m. in room 316 of the Martin Luther King Library, 901 G St. NW. CAPTION: Map, Group Homes by D.C. Election Wards By Richard Furno-The Washington Post; According to the Office of Planning and Development, the District has 641 group homes, health care facilities and foster care homes that can house 9,907 ex-offenders, substance abusers, mentally disabled and homeless adults and children. The breakdown by category and ward is as follows:
Table 1, There are 16 homes that can house 462 people under the supervision of the corrections department.; Table 2, There are 37 group homes that can house 1,918 substance abusers (drugs, alcohol) and homeless persons.; Table 3, There are 11 health care facilities with the capacity to care for 2,747 persons.; Table 4, There are 34 group homes that can house 525 homeless youth.; Table 5, There are 296 homes to house 923 mentally disabled people.; Table 6, There are 247 homes that can house 3,332 adults who need supervision for a variety of reasons.