Janell Pagats is the ANC commissioner for district 3C03, which is located in Woodley Park across Connecticut Ave from the Kennedy-Warren and the Zoo. She was elected in 2020 and was selected by her fellow commissioners to be the Vice-Chair for ANC 3C. Cleveland Park Smart Growth interviewed her in December 2021, a year into her service. You can follow her on Twitter @Janell105Janell.
CPSG: What were your reasons for running for the ANC?
JP: I’ve lived in the neighborhood for nearly 12 years now and had varying levels of interaction attending ANC meetings or providing comments on matters over that time. My involvement and attendance really ramped up during the Macklin redevelopment, the redesign of Connecticut Avenue, and the Comp Plan Amendments and Future Land Use Map discussions. Commissioner Dubois told me that he did not intend to run again and asked if I would consider it. I had decided to seriously consider doing so and then the pandemic hit. I, like many, was not doing well in isolation and saw running for this seat to be an opportunity to engage with others and meet new people in circumstances that were challenging but there was still a chance to engage, even remotely.
The events of the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd further blostered my decision to run. I have always read a lot about urban planning, demographic segregation and the opportunities and lack thereof. Remembering the battle that occurred at the ANC for The Brooks, I could not see myself sitting in the audience should anything like that come before the body again. There is plenty of opportunity in Ward 3 and we need to build more housing to accommodate more people to take advantage of that.
CPSG: You recently convinced your fellow commissioners to stand up a committee on grants and community engagement which you will chair. What do you hope to accomplish with it?
JP: We have about $55,000 in the ANC checking account and another nearly $30,000 in the savings account. We need to put that money back into the community. Our ANC maintains one of the highest balances in these accounts across all ANCs and that is not where this money does the most good.
The grants process is not an easy one and not a lot of people are aware that they are available, so my thought behind standing up the committee is to gain awareness and efficiency. By engaging a number of the existing groups in the community in this space and giving them the opportunity to work together, share ideas, etc will hopefully produce some creative results. This also allows myself and some of the other commissioners to really learn and understand the process so we can do better getting funds into community engagement efforts.
CPSG: What has been the most satisfying aspect of serving on the ANC for your first year?
JP: Working together to get the resolutions passed on the Comp Plan and the FLUM, and supporting Connecticut Ave Concept C was great. Having them accepted and currently actioned is even better.
I also made some great friends. Some enemies too, but more friends.
CPSG: What’s one thing you hope ANC 3C addresses in the upcoming year?
JP: I hope that we can be more supportive of projects that bring more housing into the area. It will also be interesting to work on the design development guidelines for the Connecticut Ave Corridor over the next year. I am hopeful that they will be able to provide the needed guidance that defines what is “protected” under historic preservation and what is needed to survive in the future especially in regards to the potential for Transit Oriented Developments. It just makes sense to build over or near the existing stations.
CPSG: At CPSG we frequently ask members to write to elected officials like you to advocate for urbanist policies. Does grass roots advocacy and engagement make any difference?
It matters A LOT. We were able to point to the numbers of emails we got on the Comp Plan and Concept C. It helped that people turned up to the meetings to give their testimony. I do think the virtual meetings have helped bring more people to the meetings and allow them to speak up. It is important to send the note – doesn’t need to be a manifesto – we just need to hear from people. The tendency is that people who are in opposition to something are the loudest because they speak out often and always but they are in the minority of the larger group affected. The majority cannot just assume that they will be heard if they do not speak up.
CPSG: Most people in our area live in multi-unit buildings, including you. Do you feel building residents’ voices are being heard and having an impact?
JP: I think there is a real challenge with residents of multi-unit buildings in the area thinking that they have the ability to be heard and that they have the chance to make an impact. My building is a condo with a good mix of owner and renter occupied units. I think sometimes renters get the sense that their voice doesn’t matter as much as those who own their home/unit. While that might be true of the condo board it is not true of the ANC where we represent all residents regardless of homeownership status. I think there is a disconnect / misconception that you need to be a homeowner to participate or have your voice heard. I do not think that the homeowners who start statements at meetings with the fact that they are homeowners are helping.
CPSG: What’s the best part about living on Connecticut Avenue?
JP: I like that I can get around without having a car. Walking or taking the bus to get to where I want to go is one of the reasons I selected and remain in this neighborhood.
We’d like to thank Commissioner Pagats for taking the time to speak with us!
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