Minutes for CFA Meeting — 19 October 2023

The meeting was convened by videoconference at 9:01 a.m.

Members participating:
Hon. Peter Cook
Hon. Lisa Delplace
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore
Hon. Duncan Stroik

Staff present:
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Sarah Batcheler, Assistant Secretary
Jessica Amos
Kay Fanning
Daniel Fox
Carlton Hart
Samantha Jones
Vivian Lee
Tony Simon
Zakiya Walters

(Due to the absence of Chair Billie Tsien and Vice Chair Hazel Edwards, Mr. Moore presided at the meeting.)

I. Administration

A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 September meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the minutes.

B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 16 November 2023, 18 January 2024, and 15 February 2024. He noted that no Commission meeting is scheduled in December; for the Old Georgetown Board meeting on 7 December, the submission deadline has been adjusted to 9 November in order to accommodate holiday scheduling.

C. Introduction of new staff members. Secretary Luebke introduced two new members of the Commission staff, hired as part of the ongoing planning over the past two years for staff needs. Zakiya Walters serves as the administrative officer, replacing Trenice Hall who left the staff during the summer. He summarized Ms. Walters’s 22 years of federal experience at the U.S. Army, the National Institutes of Health, the National Mediation Board, the Department of Agriculture, and most recently the Department of Health and Human Services. He next introduced Samantha Jones, who serves as the chief operating officer; this position is newly created to address the increasing complexity of the agency’s administrative needs. He summarized Ms. Jones’s 25 years of federal experience at the National Capital Planning Commission and most recently at the National Mediation Board. The Commission members joined in welcoming Ms. Walters and Ms. Jones to the staff. Mr. Luebke anticipated hiring additional new staff members within the next six months.

II. Submissions and Reviews

A. Appendices

Secretary Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.

Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Hart reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes seven projects. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.

Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Lee reported that one case listed on the draft appendix has been withdrawn (case number SL 24-004), and three other cases have been removed to be held open for consideration in a future month (SL 24-007, 24-009, and 24-010). The project stage for one case has been changed from a concept to a permit submission (SL 24-002). Other revisions are limited to minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendations for nine projects are listed as being subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the outstanding issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Ms. Delplace with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix.

Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Amos reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes thirty projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix.

At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider item II.B.2. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified this submission as one that could be approved without a presentation.

B. National Park Service

2. CFA 19/OCT/23-2, Rock Creek Park Golf Course, 6100 16th Street, NW. Rehabilitation of existing golf course and construction of new clubhouse facility. Final. (Previous: 17/NOV/22-1) Secretary Luebke said the proposed final design appears to be responsive to the Commission’s comments from the concept review, and samples of the proposed materials have been provided. Mr. Moore confirmed the consensus of the Commission to support the project. Ms. Delplace noted the proposed use of loose gravel on steep slopes, which she said could become a maintenance problem as the gravel moves, and she requested consideration of an alternative material. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the final design with this comment, and with further review of the materials selection delegated to the staff. Mr. Luebke noted that this project results from years of collaborative work between the National Park Service and partner organizations, including the non-profit National Links Trust; he said the design has undergone extensive development, with the goal of a strong future for this historic golf facility.

The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.

B. National Park Service

1. CFA 19/OCT/23-1, Shepherd Parkway – Parkland, rectangular park bounded by Malcolm X Avenue, Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, and Parkland Place, SE. Rehabilitation of existing park. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/22-2) Secretary Luebke introduced a second concept submission for the rehabilitation of Parkland, an area within the National Park Service’s Shepherd Parkway. Parkland is a 1.2-acre park that is currently used primarily by the surrounding community of Congress Heights for recreation, events, and gatherings; however, the park suffers from compacted soils, erosion, and inadequate maintenance. In the initial review of this project in October 2022, the Commission did not take an action on the two alternatives that were presented, instead raising more fundamental concerns about the quality of the design, the process of community engagement, and the organization of the program areas and pathways. In the new concept proposal, the design team has responded to the Commission’s concerns, including a comprehensive description of how this open space fits into the wider context of the Congress Heights neighborhood. The design intent is to weave together the park elements while avoiding any new impacts on existing natural elements. The proposed design organizes the park around a gently curving path that slopes down from the urban context at the park’s northeast corner; the path connects to the program areas that include a plaza, a picnic area, a community garden, and two fenced playgrounds for different age groups. He asked Tammy Stidham of the National Park Service (NPS) to begin the presentation; he noted that Ms. Stidham is now the Associate Director for Lands and Planning in the National Capital Region for NPS, taking over the position formerly held by Peter May.

Ms. Stidham said this park is a small component of the larger Civil War Defenses of Washington (Fort Circle) park system that surrounds the city. This project provides an opportunity to improve existing conditions, increase the recognition of the park as an NPS entity, provide a flexible community recreational space, and increase park safety. She noted that 20 percent of Washington’s land area is designated as parkland, and 90 percent of this parkland is under the jurisdiction of the NPS; the NPS therefore plays an important role as a provider of open space and recreation in the city. She added that 78 percent of the parks in the city are less than one acre; within the L’Enfant Plan area of the city, these small parks are often in the form of circles, squares, and triangles. The NPS has developed a small parks strategy to determine how best to improve these parks and encourage their use. She noted that these parks sometimes serve as the primary green space for many neighborhoods, so it is important to determine how to use them more effectively to support the city, while protecting important cultural, natural, and recreational resources within them. She then introduced Claire Sale, a planner with AECOM, to describe the site conditions and the community engagement process.

Ms. Sale said this project is the first to be implemented as part of the Shepherd Parkway Development Concept Plan, which the NPS developed in 2020 with input from the community. She listed the goals of the Parkland project: to improve the overall appearance of the park; to provide multi-generational community gathering spaces; to provide an enjoyable and safe place for everyone in the community; and to discourage the illegal dumping and littering currently happening within the park. The existing conditions around the site include residential uses north of Malcolm X Avenue and south of Parkland Place, and a commercial corridor along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, which forms the eastern border of the site. This commercial corridor includes a liquor store northeast of the park, and a gas station and auto-related uses on the southeast. The western border of the site is a heavily wooded portion of Shepherd Parkway. She noted that Malcolm X Avenue is a busy arterial that connects this part of the city to the Anacostia Freeway (I-295), while Parkland Place is a local road with minimal traffic volume.

Ms. Sale presented photographs of the existing conditions, indicating the large, mature trees on the site; their critical root zones encompass approximately 85 percent of the park. The western part of the park is the more heavily wooded area. The site topography generally slopes down from the park’s southeast corner to the northwest corner, with steeper slopes toward the west. She said that people using the park come from all directions and walk across the park in multiple ways, with minimal designated pedestrian paths; the most heavily used area is the park’s eastern portion, which has large shade trees and suffers from compacted soils.

Ms. Sale described the community engagement process over the past year: a 60-day public comment period in late 2022; meetings with multiple organizations within the community; coordination with relevant parts of the D.C. Government; and participation in outreach events with high school students, senior citizens, and other neighbors. She said that during these meetings, residents expressed their opinions on how they access and use the park and what amenities they want to have in it. Much of the community does not use the park due to safety concerns and illicit activity, the general poor condition of the park, and the lack of park amenities. In trying to address these problems, the community has held clean-up days, created a community garden area, and arranged to provide social services for those in need. When asked what kind of activities they want to see at the site, community members focused on a few items: participating in community events; creating a gathering place for friends and family, including updated playgrounds; designating an area for a community garden; and having a place to exercise. In addition, the public responses include wanting to accommodate all types of mobility users, eliminate illegal dumping, and improve safety.

Landscape architect Shannon Early of AECOM presented the concept proposal, which she described as a simplified design organized around a central path and supporting multi-generational spaces. Two nature playgrounds are proposed for different age groups of children; people of all ages would use a picnic area, a green lawn area, a community garden, and a plaza. The central path would provide a shaded place to walk through the park, connecting the new plaza on the east to the relocated and expanded playgrounds on the west. The existing sidewalk on the north side of the park would be replaced with a wider sidewalk that would provide a loop connection with the new central path. The south side of the park would not have a comparable sidewalk because it would require the removal of several existing trees. Connections are anticipated to the neighborhood on the north via crosswalks; only one crosswalk is proposed on the south across Parkland Place, on the park’s southeast corner at the intersection with Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. She noted that the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) generally discourages mid-block crossings. She said the flexible community spaces in the design could accommodate programming by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation and could be used by community organizations or church groups. These spaces are designed to protect the existing natural environment by reducing impacts on trees, improving site drainage, and reducing soil compaction. Metal decking at these areas would be placed flush with the adjacent paths, simultaneously promoting tree health and providing barrier-free access.

Ms. Early said the park would have a full complement of new site furniture—different types of benches to accommodate people of all ages and abilities, trash and recycling receptacles to reduce litter, bicycle parking, and lighting for safety. The material palette includes: concrete permeable paving and metal decking for the plaza on the east; metal panels to block the views south toward the auto repair shop; a retaining wall using large boulders along the central pathway to provide seating and address the topographic changes; permeable paving for the central path; and poured-in-place surfacing and metal picket fencing for the playground. She presented photographs of precedents for the entire material palette. She added that the playgrounds would consist of atypical “nature play” equipment made of natural materials; studies have shown that this equipment enhances childhood development and provides increased opportunities for creative play, social play, and sensory play.

Ms. Early said the focus of the landscape improvements has been to preserve as many trees as possible and provide additional trees where needed; nearly all of the eleven trees to be removed are in poor condition. She concluded by presenting the proposed lighting, which will be either on new poles or in bollards.

Mr. Moore thanked the design team for its thorough presentation and for advancing the design of the project following the previous review; he invited questions and comments from the Commission members.

Ms. Delplace agreed that the design has improved, observing that it is now more closely matched to the size of the park. She suggested consideration of one or two additional entrance points to the park, perhaps from the north, that would connect to the central path; this addition would improve internal movement and enhance personal safety by allowing alternative routes through the park.

Mr. McCrery agreed, suggesting a connection from the proposed picnic area to the sidewalk on the north in order to improve movement through the park. He also suggested adding a crosswalk across Parkland Place near the community garden, as well as widening the project scope to provide a connection to the forested area on the west.

Mr. Cook questioned the proposed metal screens in the southeastern portion of the park across the street from the auto repair shop; he said other solutions for visual screening could be considered, such as a “green screen” of shrubs or trees, instead of the proposed six-foot-tall metal panels. Ms. Early responded that the panels could include public art, potentially using a laser-cut design, and the screening could incorporate trees and shrubs as well; she added that the design would have to balance visibility and safety. Mr. Cook encouraged the design team to continue exploring other design options.

Observing that the metal decking would be a new material introduced into the design of the plaza and picnic areas, Mr. Cook asked how the decking would be fabricated and installed in the circular plaza area and across the sloping site; he requested more information about its maintenance and use, with particular consideration of the typical park issues of litter and vermin. Ms. Early responded that the design of the metal decking at the plaza addresses the sloped site by incorporating seat walls, stairs, and a ramp on the downward side of the slope. She said the design team is working with the manufacturer to understand how to fabricate the proposed curved elements, which will be prefabricated instead of being cut on site. She added that the manufacturer would provide a metal riser to close the gap between the top of the decking and the metal tread.

Mr. Stroik questioned the lack of circulation and connectivity along the southern side of the site, and he asked if a sidewalk could be inserted on this edge of the park to increase circulation. Ms. Early reiterated that a sidewalk at this edge is not feasible because it would require the removal of a heritage tree. Mr. Stroik encouraged exploration of creating an additional crosswalk connection at Parkland Place, as suggested by Mr. McCrery. Ms. Early said the project team will continue to discuss this possibility with DDOT, which has discouraged creating a crosswalk. Secretary Luebke noted that the staff has been requesting this connection where the central path curves close to the Parkland Place sidewalk, which seems to be a logical threshold into the park, and DDOT may be persuaded to support this.

Mr. Stroik observed that the previously proposed pavilion structure is not part of the current design; he suggested exploring the idea of providing the desired visual screening by incorporating a green screen into a new pavilion. Ms. Early responded that the project team decided not to pursue a pavilion because the existing park does not include one, and it would be too costly; she noted that several nearby parks have pavilions.

Mr. Moore summarized the Commission’s guidance to include additional paths and access points for the park, including access at the southern edge. He expressed support for the inclusion of a community garden area, noting that community members have already created one. He observed that this part of the proposal currently appears to be more of a conceptual placeholder, and he encouraged the design team to continue to explore the design of this area. For example, barrier-free accessibility should be considered for the treatment of the ground surfaces and perhaps for the design of the planting beds; seating areas should be provided nearby; and this area should be easy for community members to maintain. For the visual screening along the south edge, he agreed with the comment that plantings would be more successful than metal panels; instead of using the metal panels for artwork, he suggested broader consideration of what community artwork in the park might be.

Observing that the new concept submission appears to respond to the Commission’s previous advice, Mr. Moore suggested approval of the submission with the comments provided. Mr. McCrery suggested including an explicit recommendation for DDOT to allow a mid-block crosswalk on Parkland Place. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action.

2. CFA 19/OCT/23-2, Rock Creek Park Golf Course, 6100 16th Street, NW. Rehabilitation of existing golf course and construction of new clubhouse facility. Final. (Previous: 17/NOV/22-1) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.

C. D.C. Department of Transportation

CFA 19/OCT/23-3, Small cell infrastructure in public space. Stand-alone pole designs for use throughout the city. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/SEP/23-4) Secretary Luebke introduced the second concept submission for stand-alone poles to accommodate the expansion of small cell telecommunications infrastructure throughout the city, the culmination of an effort that began in 2018 to deploy next-generation cell service. He said that in May 2019, in an initial review of the guidelines for this infrastructure, the Commission had requested a more expansive study of best practices and design approaches, and had asked for the development of a more elegant and holistic design typology for the installations; many of these comments were incorporated into subsequent versions of the guidelines. The subsequent design effort has focused on developing stand-alone poles that can accommodate the 4G and 5G antennas of different carriers, with the associated equipment contained within a single standard base. He noted that the vast majority of the small cell installations are on existing utility poles; only 100 or fewer of the stand-alone poles would ever be installed, and these would only be in locations where other options do not exist under the guidelines.

Mr. Luebke said that at the first concept review of the stand-alone poles in September 2023, the Commission did not take an action but endorsed the pole’s general design, also identifying an inconsistency in the guidelines: the stated goal of citywide equity conflicts with the different spacing requirements for the poles in designated special interest areas, such as historic districts, the Shipstead-Luce Act and Old Georgetown Act areas, and the Monumental Core, in contrast to the less restrictive spacing across all neighborhoods generally. The Commission requested more information about this spacing issue and how the poles would appear within a range of streetscapes and neighborhoods, noting the potential impact of these elements on the pedestrian experience within the high quality of public spaces in Washington. He asked transportation planner Kelsey Bridges of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) to present the expanded information.

Ms. Bridges said the project team has responded to the Commission’s comments by adding information to the previous presentation. The new stand-alone pole design would be used in accordance with the existing guidelines for small cell infrastructure; the guidelines already include information about the location of the poles, but do not address its appearance. The proposed design has been developed in cooperation with numerous stakeholders, including the staffs of Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. She said that when the resulting design was presented to the Commission in September 2023, the Commission gave no specific comments about the design of the pole but raised questions about the areas of special interest and expressed concern about the large scale of the pole’s base.

Ms. Bridges said the guidelines, adopted in 2019, respond to regulations that protect Washington’s vistas, viewsheds, and important buildings. The guidelines attempt to minimize the impact of the infrastructure installations on these areas through various means, such as not placing a pole directly in the center of a viewshed, locating poles in relation to existing streetlights or street furniture, and minimizing the visual clutter of adding poles along corridors that have Twin-20 or Washington Globe lights, to which small cell antennas cannot be attached.

Ms. Bridges presented a chart of the guidelines for the permissible spacing and frequency of small cell installations; the chart shows that several poles are permitted for each block face, both inside and outside of areas of special interest but with differing minimum intervals. She provided the example of the 624-foot-long block of C Street between 1st and 2nd Streets, SE, within the Capitol Hill historic district; the applicable guideline is a maximum number of two poles per block face for block lengths between 451 and 750 feet, resulting in a maximum of four poles per block. She noted that the block depicted is large; most blocks in the city are approximately 500 feet.

Ms. Bridges said DDOT has returned to the Commission to receive approval for the design, height, and other dimensions of the stand-alone pole, which would be a uniform design to be used for all telecommunications carriers; the various antennas of the different companies would be attached at the top of these poles, which would be approximately 30 feet tall with the antennas. She presented a map illustrating the existing deployment of approximately 526 locations for small cell infrastructure installations across the city; she compared this to the 70,000 existing street lights, of which approximately 20 percent are the historic Twin-20s and Washington Globes. She presented a scale comparison of the stand-alone poles and other common elements of street furnishings, including streetlights, trash cans, traffic control boxes, and Capital Bikeshare racks; the typical sidewalk trash can is approximately the same height as the proposed base of the stand-alone pole. She noted that Washington has approximately 7,000 trash cans, 1,500 traffic control boxes, and 740 bike-share rack locations; these are dispersed throughout the city and integrated into the streetscape of its different neighborhoods, including the special interest areas. She presented views of these elements within a neighborhood context with the inclusion of a stand-alone pole.

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace expressed appreciation for the presentation, and especially for the specific examples of how these elements might be located in public space. Indicating the digitally altered photograph depicting a person standing next to a stand-alone pole to indicate scale, she observed the lack of articulation on the 5.5-foot-tall base. She acknowledged that the large base is important for hiding equipment and allowing the poles to be levelled on the ground; however, the proposed base looks clunky and unresolved. She suggested adding some kind of trim or molding to the base where it meets the ground in order to improve the appearance at the pedestrian level by providing articulation, as seen on the existing light poles. She said her suggestion is not to reproduce the base of the Washington Globe pole, but the large-scale new poles should appear more finished and refined. While acknowledging that the poles are necessary to provide cellular coverage, she emphasized her continuing concern about how they will look in public space, and she encouraged the project team to revisit the design of the base.

Secretary Luebke asked if the recommendation is to introduce an additional element or articulation where the base hits the ground, or to add something higher on the base; Ms. Delplace said her suggestion is for an added element at ground level, such as a ring that would help to mitigate the transition between the base enclosure and the irregular surface of the sidewalk. Additional articulation of the base would also help to reduce the perceived scale of the pole; the base clearly appears large in relation to the person standing next to it. She reiterated that the project team should develop a design for the base that would allow it to be level on the surface of the sidewalk and would also provide visual interest through articulation.

Agreeing with Ms. Delplace, Mr. McCrery said the photographic simulation makes clear that Washington has an existing family of pole designs, and the new stand-alone pole will become a member of this family of street furniture. He suggested using the base of the Washington Globe pole as a model for the new pole; he recommended striation or fluting on the tall base and then letting it flare out to meet the sidewalk, which would unify the design. He expressed support for the design of the shaft for the stand-alone pole. He asked if the color proposed for the new poles would match the standard color used for the Washington Globe poles. Ms. Bridges said the project team has considered black or gray for the poles; the DDOT standard color for light poles is black, but the traffic signal poles are gray because it creates less of a contrast with the surrounding environment. She added that the color could be modified.

Mr. McCrery clarified that his question is whether DDOT intends to have a single color for the new stand-alone poles and, if so, what this color would be; Ms. Bridges responded that the intent is to use the shade of gray depicted in the photographic simulation. Mr. McCrery asked if this gray would match the other gray that is already used on poles in the city and thus is already part of the city’s visual landscape; Ms. Bridges said DDOT will specify a matching shade of gray.

Secretary Luebke noted his understanding that historically the city’s street poles were gray, a color with a Classical Revival character, which superseded the Victorian use of black; however, ten to fifteen years ago DDOT began using black again instead of gray, and the current visual landscape includes two different colors. He said the D.C. Historic Preservation Office strongly prefers a return to gray as the standard. Mr. McCrery strongly supported this preference. He said the new stand-alone poles should match the existing gray poles and should not introduce a different gray as a third color; Ms. Bridges confirmed the intention to use the standard shade of gray. Mr. McCrery asked whether the cellular antennas attached to the top of the pole would also be this shade of gray, or whether they would have other colors or exposed metal finishes, or would carry advertisements. Ms. Bridges responded that the equipment would all be the same gray. Mr. McCrery expressed support for this decision, emphasizing the importance of explicitly requiring that the poles and antennas will not bear any marketing or advertising information. Ms. Bridges said this is a requirement of the guidelines; although each company has different requirements for their devices and they look slightly different, the guidelines require that all of the antennas be small and similar in appearance to avoid having large antennas at the top of the poles. She noted that representatives of the carriers are attending today’s meeting and are available to answer questions.

Mr. Stroik expressed support for the comments of the other Commission members, particularly the suggestions for articulation of the pole’s tall base. He noted that the city’s other poles have such articulation, which creates a human scale at eye level; the new addition to the family of street poles should follow this tradition. Ms. Bridges said the project team had considered designs with more articulation on the shaft, but the consensus was that the infrastructure for a new technology should have a new expression and not replicate the more ornate existing features; the proposal is therefore a smooth, unarticulated base. She noted that the design includes a simple collar where the base connects to the pole, which she said would be sufficient to visually relate to the city’s family of existing poles while not making the new poles appear to be historic.

Mr. McCrery said the new poles will be part of into a well-established context; while their design can appropriately reflect that the new poles are part of a 21st-century technology, the new poles should also be good neighbors, both literally in space and also across time. He added that even in Washington’s historic neighborhoods, such as the Capitol Hill historic district, many bills and posters are illegally attached to street furniture; the proposed smooth cylindrical design of this pole’s base would be an ideal surface for attaching bills, resulting in an ugly appearance throughout the city. He said the fluting used on the older lampposts was a good feature because posters cannot be glued to them; the fluting also discourages taping posters and makes them much easier to remove.

Ms. Delplace said there are many examples of abstracted architectural elements that refer to historic elements, which lends sophistication to the new elements. While acknowledging that the proposed pole is a 21st-century design, she recommended studying its scale and architectural precedents to help improve its appearance at eye level. She said this guidance is not necessarily to follow a historicist design precedent, but to look at any column and its base in order to help in developing a design that is not quite as crude as the proposed base; she emphasized that the 5.5-foot-tall base would be at people’s eye level. Citing Mr. McCrery’s comments, she said the addition of fluting would also help to reduce the perceived scale of the pole, because the different surface angles would optically change how light is reflected.

Ms. Delplace also commented that the shade of gray proposed for the light pole is too light; a deeper gray would tend to recede into the landscape, while the proposed lighter gray would visually project and be too prominent. She recommended picking a shade of gray that is slightly deeper to be more recessive.

Mr. Moore said he agrees with the comments that have been provided, particularly concerning the need for articulation of the base and the choice of color. However, he said he wants to return to the broader point about how the stand-alone poles would be installed throughout the neighborhoods, particularly about their different spacing in special interest areas compared with other areas of city. He reiterated his previous concern with this issue and his request for additional information on the purpose of this differentiation. While today’s presentation has focused on the character of the poles, viewsheds, and the impact on the visual environment, the conflict remains between the stated goal of achieving equitable treatment city-wide, in contrast to guidelines demarcating special interest areas such as historic districts that are distinct, requiring greater scrutiny and care. He challenged whether this is truly an equitable response, citing statistics that Washington’s historic districts are 62 percent White and tend to be higher-income neighborhoods, while non-historic areas are only about 30 percent White and tend to have lower incomes. He acknowledged that DDOT’s intent is not to perpetuate this inequality, but these facts should be noted. He emphasized that DDOT is not taking an equitable approach to how the installation of these poles will affect the streetscape, because these regulations are not written in an equitable way. Noting that this previous concern was not adequately addressed in the presentation, he asked for a response from the project team.

Mr. McCrery agreed, adding that although unintentional, the guidelines come across as a kind of “redlining,” a practice which Washington suffered from for decades; entire neighborhoods are compromised because of this differentiated understanding of what is appropriate in different places. He emphasized that the nation’s capital was envisioned as a comprehensive whole in the Constitution itself, and internal differentiation was not intended in the treatment of its different neighborhoods. He noted that twenty years ago he worked as a design consultant to DDOT on the “South Capitol Street Gateway Study,” and at that time he encountered this same attitude—that different designs should be developed for different neighborhoods—a stance with which he disagreed. He said that when that project team took those designs into different neighborhoods outside the historic districts, their residents raised strong objections and asked why they needed to be treated differently than other, more “noble” areas of the city. He emphasized his agreement with Mr. Moore on this issue and said he wants to stress its importance in even stronger terms.

Secretary Luebke asked how the Commission wants this issue to be addressed. Mr. Moore said the Commission would like DDOT to clarify the essential difference between special districts and other neighborhoods, and whether it is only in the allowed spacing or the related question of the number of installations allowed per block. Mr. Luebke summarized that the Commission is seeking the reason why the same standard could not simply be applied everywhere at the more restrictive level. Noting that block faces would generally have only one or two poles, he questioned whether the different spacing guidelines would result in significantly different impacts for the different area categories, compared to simply using the slightly more restrictive spacing for all zones.

Ms. Bridges responded that the spacing requirements were considered carefully, and the maximum allowable number of antennas would generally not actually be installed; the guidelines are only intended to establish a limit. Mr. Moore objected that DDOT seems to be asking for guidelines that allow the poles to be deployed in a way that is inequitable; even if usually fewer antennas are installed than the allowable maximum, the guidelines would still allow for more installations than illustrated in the presentation. He said the question remains of why the guidelines have two standards.

Ms. Bridges responded that many areas of the city have traditional light poles to which the new small cell antennas cannot be attached; new stand-alone poles would be added in these areas, potentially adding visual clutter to the urban landscape. These new stand-alone poles would appear in combination with existing poles. She suggested thinking about the issue as the total number of poles on a block, rather than only the number of stand-alone poles; these vertical elements would have an impact on viewsheds and sightlines. She said different areas may have a comparable number of these elements, but with different types of poles that accommodate the antennas.

Matthew Marcou, the chief of staff at DDOT, reiterated that equity is one of the most important goals for public space, second only to safety under DDOT’s MoveDC plan. He said the stand-alone pole requirement is triggered because the new antennas cannot be attached to some types of existing poles, and the addition of new poles creates additional visual clutter, which in itself is inequitable. He said the goal has been to balance the potential for visual clutter with the need for cellular coverage. DDOT does not want to add new elements to public space if they are not necessary, and attaching antennas to existing poles will therefore be the primary method; only if that cannot be done will stand-alone poles be used. He said this approach ties into the goal of treating spaces equitably, because historically they have not been treated equitably.

Mr. Moore observed that the more restrictive guidelines for the special interest areas appear to have been developed with technical consideration of the minimum number of antenna installations necessary to provide cell coverage. If this minimum works in the special interest areas, why is that minimum not also adequate to achieve coverage outside of these areas? He emphasized this fundamental question of why the guidelines do not simply establish a citywide standard. Mr. Marcou responded that when the guidelines were adopted, the goal of the small cell carriers was to increase the available spaces they could use for installations. Three companies are actively installing antennas, several more are authorized to begin, and more companies could sign on in the future. All of these companies would want to be able to install their antennas along any city block; without the limitation of the guidelines, the result could be perhaps seven different installations along a block and possibly seven stand-alone poles. He said DDOT realized there needs to be a limit, which the cell carriers also acknowledged. The limitation has to balance the need for cell coverage against the responsible management of the right-of-way in the streetscape, and this is why DDOT created this differentiation.

Mr. Moore summarized that the project team has heard specific comments on the design of the new pole and opportunities for further refinement, such as the articulation of the base and the choice of color. He said the Commission could approve the pole design if DDOT is willing to develop the proposal in response to these comments. The spacing of the new poles is also part of the design and would have a direct and perceptible impact on public space; he suggested the Commission recommend that the more stringent guidelines for spacing in special interest areas should be extended to the entire city, and any request for allowing more poles in some parts of the city should be brought to the Commission with further analysis and additional submission materials. He said this response would not prohibit DDOT from using two standards but would require additional study, with illustrations, to give evidence that separate standards would be warranted within the framework of equitable treatment. He added that this guidance would allow DDOT to move forward with further development of the project.

Mr. McCrery agreed, commenting that it is vital that Washington be seen as not having two standards. He said the perception of having different standards for different areas is antithetical to the goals of the Commission, of DDOT, and of the city. He said the implementation of a single standard may present more challenges, but those challenges will be worth it to avoid having two standards.

Ms. Delplace offered a motion to approve the submission for the stand-alone poles, with the condition of requiring further study of the articulation of the bases, and of the location and number of the poles within the city, with the strong recommendation to have one citywide standard. Secretary Luebke noted that Mr. Moore had specifically suggested approving the more restrictive standard for spacing, to be applied city-wide, while leaving open the possibility of an additional submission to request the slightly more relaxed spacing in some areas. He said this action on the concept would allow DDOT to move forward, and the future final design submission could potentially be approved without a presentation. Ms. Delplace supported this clarification as part of the motion. Upon a second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Moore emphasized the need for the city to have this communications infrastructure, and the Commission’s interest in facilitating its installation.

D. D.C. Department of General Services

CFA 19/OCT/23-4, Crummell Community Center, 1900 Gallaudet Street, NE. Renovations and additions to building and landscape. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed renovation of a historic school campus for a new community center, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. The school was constructed in 1911 and designed by Snowden Ashford, the D.C. municipal architect; it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was named for influential abolitionist Alexander Crummell. The school served Black students in the era of segregated schools, and it closed in the 1970s. After decades of abandonment, the school must be gutted for the proposed renovation; however, many of the bearing walls remain, and the distinctive pinwheel plan would be partially retained; many of the character-defining exterior features would also remain, including entrance pavilions and decorative brickwork.

Mr. Luebke said the project would restore the historic building and construct two pavilion-like additions that would contain a gymnasium and a fitness center; these would be connected by a central two-story volume providing access and vertical circulation. Smaller areas such as classrooms and lounges would be located in the historic building, where they can be accommodated more easily within the school’s original plan. The site is mostly paved and was used as parking for school buses for many years; the proposed site design would provide play areas and stormwater management. He asked architect Suman Sorg of Sorg Design to present the proposal.

Ms. Sorg said this community center will be an important addition to the Ivy City and Trinidad neighborhoods. The site includes the abandoned school, extensive concrete paving, and a burned-out trailer; the only amenities are to the east of the school: new basketball courts, which the community wants to keep, and a small playground. She said the context in this area of the New York Avenue corridor is super-blocks, which tend to impede pedestrian access. She indicated Okie Street on the north, Gallaudet Street on the south, and Kendall Street on the west; to the east is an industrial property, and the prevalence of industrial uses in this area is necessitating extensive environmental studies for the groundwater and soil. She said the D.C. Office of Planning has designated Okie Street for markets; currently this street has no curb, and the proposal includes a new curb and sidewalk. An existing walkway between the basketball courts and the school building would remain to provide through-block access. The grade change across the site is approximately thirteen feet, with a berm configuration toward Gallaudet and Kendall Streets.

Ms. Sorg said the school’s historic design included separate entrances for boys and girls; because of the school’s extensive use of steps, the community center’s barrier-free entrance and vertical circulation would be located within the proposed additions. She noted that the T-shaped top floor of the 1911 building was enlarged in the 1930s to fill out the square footprint of the two lower levels. She presented photographs of the deteriorated interior conditions after more than fifty years of abandonment. The proposal would reconstruct some of the interior based on the small amount of historic fabric that remains, such as ceilings; areas to be reconstructed include the center hall, one of the two stairwells, a dividing screen between the stairwells, and at least one classroom. The pinwheel plan configuration would also remain on the lower floors. She said the exterior is in similarly poor condition, with extensive ivy growth and much of the ornamentation removed. A dormer, cupola, and small chimney remain at the building’s roof. The project would restore the exterior and recreate some of the historic features. The existing windows are unusable, and new energy-efficient windows would be installed with wood-clad aluminum framing.

Ms. Sorg said the proposed additions would be west and north of the school building; the east side of the site would have the basketball courts along Gallaudet Street, a multipurpose field along Okie Street, and a new playground. A small parking lot is tentatively sited to the northwest with access from Okie Street; the grading is still being resolved. The lowest part of the site toward the southwest would be used for stormwater management, wrapping around the gymnasium addition, which would be sited farthest from the historic building. The new entrance lobby would have access from the north and south, accommodating the existing neighborhood population to the south and the potential new population allowed by the zoning of the New York Avenue corridor to the north; the lobby would also provide access through the building and the block, as requested by the community. She asked landscape architect Bruno Carvalho of Carvalho & Good to present the site design in greater detail.

Mr. Carvalho said the intent is to take full advantage of the site; the block’s large size and rectangular shape provide ample room for outdoor programming, which can be rare for an urban school site. The site design would emphasize the unique beauty of the historic school building, consistent with the landscape design tradition for institutional facilities at the beginning of the 20th century; he said that such landscapes in this period tended to be spartan, creating a formal approach and setting for the building. The proposed landscape would emphasize the new entrances to the community center, including entrance plazas. The large bioretention area to the southwest could include a small overlook as part of the community center’s learning experience. He indicated the playground areas and splash pad; visual and physical separation from the service area would be provided. The design for the outdoor meditation area is still being developed, and the site plan also includes an outdoor fitness area, a multipurpose field, existing basketball courts, and a community garden. He said the generous site allows for these numerous amenities requested by the D.C. Government, with minimal need for retaining walls or alterations to the grade. He described the site layout as working well for the community center’s users, with visual permeability into the site and strong connectivity to the surrounding neighborhood; the reconfigured streetscapes would become more usable and pedestrian friendly.

Ms. Sorg presented drawings to illustrate the architectural character of the proposed additions. She indicated the new connector addition with entrances from the north and south, the gymnasium addition to the west, and the fitness center addition to the north. The stairs in the connector would provide an additional egress route for the historic school, necessitated by modern building codes; she said the connector has been sited to minimize the disruption to the historic facade. A ramp in the connector would lead down to a lower lounge with access to the lowest level of the historic school; an elevator within the school would provide barrier-free access to the upper floors. The top-floor multipurpose room within the historic school would have a view of the U.S. Capitol through large windows; a demonstration kitchen and administrative space would be adjacent. The reconstructed roof of the historic building would be the tallest part of the community center; the gymnasium addition, although only one story, would be tall enough to accommodate a 25-foot-high interior space. She said the exterior of the connector would have a light character with extensive glazing. The other additions would have metal panels with a woodgrain finish; the color selection is still being studied, with the intent of a muted color that allows the historic school to stand out. Metal louvers would be placed on the large windows in the gymnasium and the fitness center. She noted that the materials must be very durable and cost-effective; much of the project’s budget will be used for the expensive restoration of the historic building.

Ms. Sorg said the project is currently designed to achieve a LEED Gold environmental rating. The additions would have green roofs with the capacity for adding solar energy panels. She concluded with a series of perspective views to illustrate the proposed design.

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Cook said the site design strategy is generally successful. He expressed concern about the character of the meditation area to be located along Okie Street, which will continue to have potentially disruptive industrial traffic and buses; he asked if the “meditation area” should be relocated to a less noisy part of the site that is more conducive to meditation. Mr. Carvalho responded that the name for this area may overstate its purpose; the intent is to provide an outdoor space that is not programmed for a specific active use. This space may be developed with seating areas, plantings, and a small path, perhaps with an opaque or semi-opaque barrier to separate it from Okie Street. He described the space as suitable for contemplation in small groups, not necessarily for meditation.

Mr. Cook noted the submitted narrative describes the intent for the additions to be “subservient” to the historic building. He expressed support for this design approach, which is evident in the site planning that configures the larger additions as pavilions around a connecting hyphen. However, he questioned the volumetric expression of the proposal, observing that the hyphen would rise to be uncomfortably close to the roof eave of the school building. He also observed that the proposed massing, as illustrated in the section drawings, would result in 24-foot-high bathrooms. He suggested refining the design to reduce the massing where possible, with the goal of more strongly articulating the additions as pavilions and making the connector appear more comfortable next to the other volumes. Brandon Peters of Sorg Design responded that the design team will study the building volumes more closely as the project is developed. Mr. Cook said the solution might involve moving the fitness center addition closer to Okie Street and moving the meditation area from Okie Street to a quieter, more internal location on the site. The footprint of the connector could also be expanded if necessary to allow for lowering its height.

Mr. Cook commented that the perspective views convey a somewhat aggressive or confrontational character for the additions, instead of the intended subservient approach. He expressed support for the intent to select a color that will give a muted appearance, and he suggested refining the articulation and fenestration to be less strong. He emphasized the goal of designing the additions to sit comfortably next to the restored historic building.

Mr. McCrery expressed support for the comments provided, especially the suggestion to reduce the volumetric prominence of the connector. Aside from the bathrooms that were discussed, he observed that the section drawings illustrate excessive height for the teen lounge and game room, and these spaces would be remote from other activity areas of the community center. He also observed that the height of the tall lobby would be too similar to the height of the gymnasium, and a one-story volume of space could be removed from this part of the project. Ms. Sorg responded that the proposed height of the connector is necessary to connect with the school’s top floor; the connector is intended to provide a code-compliant fire egress route that would not be available from the historic staircases within the school building. She agreed that the height of the lobby could be reduced; Mr. McCrery said this change could help in articulating the separate taller volumes of the gymnasium and the connector’s emergency egress staircase, separated by a lower volume for the lobby. Ms. Sorg added that this revision might require additional adjustments to other spaces, such as the teen lounge area.

Mr. McCrery questioned the design approach of providing needlessly extensive window areas that are then shielded with applied solar screening devices; he noted that this concern has often been expressed by Chair Tsien. Instead of designing glass boxes, architects should focus on designing walls with an appropriate proportion of windows and solid walls, avoiding the “design gymnastics” of added fins.

Ms. Delplace commented that the architecture was presented with a clear analysis of the program and adjacencies, but this discussion was not part of the landscape presentation. She observed that the program areas of the proposed site design do not appear to be located with any thoughtful relationship to the interior spaces. In addition to the questionably sited meditation area identified by Mr. Cook, she cited the children’s play area that would be located next to the parking lot. She suggested further analysis of the site program as well as further coordination with the interior program.

Mr. Stroik expressed agreement with the comments that have been provided on the height of the lobby and the connector. He said the presented aerial perspective view from the northwest emphasizes the additions but obscures the view of the historic school’s north facade, which is somewhat crowded by the fitness center addition. He said both the north and south facades of the school should be prominently visible, with sufficient space to allow appreciation of their strong, classic design. Repositioning the fitness center addition westward could give the school’s north facade a stronger presence. He also supported Mr. Cook’s citation of the intended subservient character for the additions, agreeing that the proposed additions have a very aggressive appearance in relation to the historic building; he said the solution may involve further consideration of the material palette and color, especially the strong yellow of the shading elements at the windows. He added that the design might be appropriate for a separate building, even for a building located alongside a historic school, but this proposal is for additions that should be subordinate to the school.

Mr. Moore joined in supporting the comments of the other Commission members. He said the general footprint of the proposed additions seems thoughtful, but some adjustments could be made to the massing and the design character, with the goal of making the new construction a better neighbor to the existing building. He suggested that the Commission be given the opportunity to review alternatives and additional studies for the exterior materials and colors. He questioned the proposal to provide metal fins that are finished to look like wood, noting the Commission’s ongoing skepticism of such design gestures. More broadly, he said the new construction should incorporate current awareness of concerns such as climate, energy efficiency, and the project’s carbon footprint, taking advantage of modern technology and fostering a dialogue with the important historic building on the site. He suggested further development of the planting plan, potentially placing more plantings along the extensive blank wall surfaces to create a richer dialogue between the landscape and the architecture.

Ms. Sorg responded to several of the comments that have been provided. She clarified that the gymnasium would be a multi-purpose space, and it is therefore designed with plentiful windows; the community had requested the inclusion of a large assembly hall, but this could not be provided as a separate space. The orientation of the room requires shading for the windows. She also emphasized the limitations of the budget, especially because of the disproportionate expenses associated with the architectural reconstruction and the brownfield site. She offered to look further at the selection of materials, subject to the budget limitations.

Mr. Moore noted that the Commission typically does not take an action following such extensive comments on a concept submission; the project team should instead return with a response to the Commission’s guidance. Secretary Luebke agreed that a concept approval would not be appropriate, and the comments will be conveyed to the project team. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

E. U.S. Mint

Secretary Luebke noted that the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee has not yet reviewed the three submissions from the Mint.

1. CFA 19/OCT/23-5, 2022–2025 American Women Quarter Dollar Coin Program. Reverse designs for five coins to be issued in 2025. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for the five reverses of the quarter-dollar coin to be issued in 2025, the final set for this four-year program of twenty reverses honoring a wide range of prominent American women and their accomplishments. He noted that these circulating coins will be widely used by the public. As liaisons for this program, the Mint has developed the designs in consultation with the Smithsonian Institution and the families of the honorees.

Mr. Luebke asked design specialist Megan Sullivan of the Mint to present the design alternatives. Ms. Sullivan introduced the program, noting that the continuing obverse design for this series features a portrait of George Washington sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser.

Ida B. Wells

Ms. Sullivan presented nine alternative designs for the reverse honoring civil rights advocate Ida B. Wells, who was a prolific educator, journalist, feminist, and businesswoman. Ms. Wells was a founder of the NAACP and other organizations, and she worked with many other well-known civil rights activists. Ms. Sullivan noted that alternative #6 is the family’s preference, and alternative #6A is the family’s second choice. These designs feature a portrait of Ms. Wells with a proud and courageous expression; in addition to the standard coinage inscriptions, alternative #6 includes the words “Journalism, Suffrage, Civil Rights,” and #6A has the words “Journalist, Suffragist, Civil Rights Activist.”

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery characterized the designation of the denomination as “25¢” in alternative #6A as “very pedestrian” in comparison to the more noble phrase “Quarter Dollar” in alternative #6. He also observed that the portrait in alternative #6 is framed to include Ms. Wells’s hands, while the portrait in alternative #6A is more tightly cropped. He noted the long tradition in portraiture to show the face and hands to convey the subject’s personality, and he said that alternative #6 fits well with this tradition; he therefore offered a strong preference for alternative #6, consistent with the family’s choice.

Mr. Cook commented that the inclusion of Ms. Wells’s hands is particularly significant because of her important writing work as a journalist, and he agreed that “Quarter Dollar” is preferable to “25¢” for the denomination. He said that an additional problem with alternative #6A is that Ms. Wells’s name blends in with the other circumferential text; her name stands out more strongly in the composition of alternative #6, and he joined in supporting this design.

Ms. Delplace agreed with the preference for alternative #6, but she commented that the position of the right arm is awkward in this design; she suggested more careful detailing. She also noted her initial support for alternative #4, which depicts Ms. Wells holding papers as part of her journalism work and conveys a stronger sense of her presence.

Mr. Stroik observed that the presented designs include a large amount of text compared to typical coinage; he asked why the explanatory words are part of the design. Ms. Sullivan responded that some coin designs rely more heavily on text, including coins that are not part of this American Women series. The format for this series requires that the reverse include several standard inscriptions—“United States of America,” “E Pluribus Unum,” the denomination, and the subject’s name. She said that additional text can be a choice of the artist for each design as well as a request from the Mint’s liaisons. Mr. Stroik said that less text would generally be preferable for coin designs, although he acknowledged that extensive text can be necessary and is part of the design that the Commission members are supporting. He added that ideally the design would simply feature a strong portrait and the subject’s name.

Mr. Moore joined in supporting alternative #6, as preferred by the family, with the comment to refine the depiction of the right arm. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this recommendation for the Ida B. Wells coin.

Juliette Gordon Low

Ms. Sullivan presented nine alternative designs for the reverse honoring Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts organization in the U.S. In subsequent years, Ms. Low promoted the Girl Scouts as an international organization that now has nearly two million members. Ms. Sullivan noted that the Mint’s liaison for this coin is a representative from the Girl Scouts of America, and the liaison’s two equal preferences are alternatives #1 and #7. In some of the designs, including #7, the required coinage inscription “United States of America” is included as part of the phrase “Girl Scouts of the United States of America.”

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace asked about the trefoil insignia at the top of alternative #2; Ms. Sullivan confirmed that this is the original insignia of the Girl Scouts organization. Ms. Delplace offered support for alternative #2, citing the dynamic composition with Ms. Low’s portrait extending beyond the border on the right; the mountainous hiking scene suggests a setting in the American West and conveys the theme of getting out into nature, part of the culture of the Girl Scouts. She said the insignia in this design is beautiful and more carefully detailed than the insignia in alternative #7. Ms. Sullivan noted a comment from a reviewer at the Smithsonian Institution that this design may overrepresent Ms. Low’s ruggedness in outdoor activities. Ms. Delplace therefore agreed to support alternative #7, a preference of the liaison, while suggesting that its insignia depiction be modeled more closely on the insignia from alternative #2.

Mr. Cook joined in supporting alternative #7. He asked about the fish-shaped medallion draped around Ms. Low’s neck; Ms. Sullivan said it is the Silver Fish award in scouting. Mr. Moore agreed with the consensus to support alternative #7, along with the comment to use the insignia motif from alternative #2. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this recommendation for the Juliette Gordon Low coin.

Dr. Vera Rubin

Ms. Sullivan presented four alternative designs for the reverse honoring astronomer Vera Rubin, noted for her pioneering work on galaxy rotation and for observations that provided the first persuasive evidence for the existence of dark matter, which constitutes approximately 85 percent of the mass in the universe. Dr. Rubin also mentored other women astronomers, encouraged women to study science, and fought for gender parity in science. Ms. Sullivan said that Dr. Rubin’s family supports all the presented designs, with a preference for alternative #7 over #7A.

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Cook expressed support for alternative #2, citing the pose of Dr. Rubin looking upward with a joyful expression; he said this design is simple and straightforward, and it conveys her passion for astronomy. He added that alternative #3 is also an interesting choice, but the design seems overly complex.

Mr. Stroik agreed that alternative #2 is an inspiring design. He said that alternatives #7 and #7A are also interesting because they depict an astronomical observatory in the background; he suggested that these designs might be improved by omitting the phrase “Dark Matter.”

Mr. McCrery said he does not strongly support any of the alternatives, observing that they have a deeply conceptual intent that may not be an appropriate basis for a design. He agreed with Mr. Cook in supporting alternative #2 because it conveys Dr. Rubin’s playful sense of joy and her comfort in the world of astronomy. He also agreed with Mr. Stroik that the background observatory in alternatives #7 and #7A is a strong design element.

Ms. Delplace offered support for alternative #3 because it conveys the widely shared sense of pondering the possibilities when looking upward into the sky. She said this design is strengthened by not relying on a telescope, instead emphasizing the upward-looking pose. Ms. Delplace acknowledged the interest of including an architectural element in alternatives #7 and #7A, but she said it may be excessive in the same way as including too much text; the upward gaze in alternative #3 is more powerful than explicit astronomical elements in the design, suggesting the origins of Dr. Rubin’s scientific interest. She also supported the comment that less text would be preferable.

Mr. Moore said his initial preference was for alternative #2, which suggests the potential of using the telescope to explore the sky; this design could inspire the curiosity of a young person who sees the coin. He said the phrase “Dark Matter” should be included in the coin design because it is closely associated with Dr. Rubin’s contributions, and it would encourage people to learn more about her work; the text is needed because dark matter cannot readily be depicted visually. In contrast, the observatory is not a necessary design element because Dr. Rubin was not known for creating or designing these buildings.

Mr. Stroik offered a motion to support alternative #2, observing that this design is the preference of most of the Commission members. Ms. Delplace agreed to support this choice. Upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this recommendation for the Vera Rubin coin.

Stacey Park Milbern

Ms. Sullivan presented seven alternative designs for the reverse honoring disability justice advocate Stacey Park Milbern, who was active as a visionary writer, inspirational leader, organizer, and speaker. Ms. Milbern’s advocacy began in high school and continued through her 20s; she died at age 33 in 2020. Ms. Sullivan noted the family’s preference for alternatives #2A and #6A.

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace said alternative #6A is preferable to #2A, which is a good design but has distracting text that competes with the portrait. She discouraged the designation of the denomination as “25¢” in alternative #6A. Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission could choose to recommend alternative #2A with revisions to the text to improve the problematic hierarchy in this design. Mr. Stroik agreed that alternative #2A is a good design if the amount of text can be reduced or the lettering can be smaller.

Mr. Cook and Mr. Moore joined in supporting a modified version of alternative #2A. For alternatives #6A and #6B, Mr. Cook said the concentric arcs do not contribute to the design; if either of these alternatives is used, the arcs should be simplified to allow more emphasis on Ms. Milbern’s name and the other inscriptions. Mr. Moore said the text revisions for alternative #2A should retain Ms. Milbern’s name and “Disability Justice,” which is an important phrase within the disability rights movement; even with this amount of text, the design goal should be a balanced composition.

Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission recommended alternative #2A, with the comments provided on adjusting the text, for the Stacey Park Milbern coin.

Althea Gibson

Ms. Sullivan presented nine alternative designs for the reverse honoring athlete Althea Gibson, who won many tennis championships in the 1950s and went on to play professional golf in the 1960s and 1970s. Ms. Gibson broke through several U.S. color barriers and gained international prominence during her career. Ms. Sullivan noted the family’s preference for alternative #1, depicting Ms. Gibson holding a tennis racket and ball at the net of a tennis court.

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery offered support for the family’s choice of alternative #1. He observed that Ms. Gibson is holding her racket across the net, which would only be allowable at the conclusion of a tennis match; the scene is therefore depicting her as a victorious champion, and he said this composition and the portrait make alternative #1 the superior design.

Mr. Moore joined in supporting alternative #1 as an outstanding design. In response to the other alternatives, he reiterated the Commission’s past concern that the Mint needs to have a greater range of artist expression and talent in developing the artwork intended to represent the wide range of people who comprise our nation’s history. He urged the Mint to respond to the Commission’s letter on this topic from May 2023.

Mr. McCrery offered a motion to support alternative #1; he suggested careful study of the tennis racket to depict the correct scale for the webbing. Upon a second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission adopted this recommendation for the Althea Gibson coin.

April Stafford of the Mint responded to Mr. Moore’s comment about the available range of artistic talent. She said the director of the Mint has replied, and the Mint staff will be briefing the Commission on the results of the Mint’s most recent call for artists, which included a national outreach campaign. The current goals for the Artistic Infusion Program include broadening the diversity of the program’s artists as well as obtaining strong artistic talent. She noted that the enrollment process for the selected artists is still underway. Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for this update.

2. CFA 19/OCT/23-6, 2024 American Liberty Silver Medal and 2025 American Liberty High Relief 24k Gold Coin. Designs for a silver medal and gold coin. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed design for a gold coin and silver medal for the 2024–25 issue of the American Liberty series. The Mint intends to reproduce a historic coin design, the “flowing hair” liberty coin from 1794, which was the first one-dollar coin minted by the United States; the design would be updated with the new minting year. He asked April Stafford, chief of the Mint’s office of design management, to present the proposal.

Ms. Stafford said that past designs in this biennial program have featured modern images to represent liberty. For the upcoming design in this series, the Mint wants to demonstrate the use of new laser-engraving technology by reproducing a historic design; the selection of the 1794 liberty dollar will mark the 230th anniversary of this coin. She presented the proposed obverse, featuring a portrait of Liberty along with fifteen stars representing the number of states when the original coin was minted. The reverse features a wreath surrounding an eagle. As with the historic coin, the denomination for the gold coin would be edge-incused.

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace expressed admiration for the clarity and simplicity of the historic design, with a minimal amount of text; she observed that older coin designs had a consistent hierarchy that emphasized a central image and treated the text as secondary. This strength has been lacking in more recent coin designs; she noted the Commission’s concern that excessive text could detract from the images in the quarter-dollar reverses that were reviewed for the previous agenda item. She added that the 1794 coin’s depiction of Liberty is not superlative but has historical significance.

Mr. McCrery expressed support for Ms. Delplace’s comments. He questioned the kerning of the text, observing that some of the letters and numbers appear to be unevenly positioned; he indicated the asymmetrical spacing between the year “2024” and the stars to its left and right, which he described as “jarring.” He also observed that the vertical alignment of the obverse appears awkward, with “2024” at the base appearing to be canted off-center to the left while the portrait of Liberty is rotated to the right. He suggested addressing these imbalances by rotating “2024” slightly counterclockwise, rotating the stars on the left side of the coin, and adjusting the “Liberty” text to align with the coin’s vertical centerline.

Mr. McCrery said the reverse is a beautiful design, but the spacing between the elements is crowded. He suggested slightly reducing the lettering height for “United States of America” to allow for adequate distance between the text and the wreath, balancing the space between the lettering and the border of the coin. He observed that the presented spacing results in a lack of continuity for the phrase “United States of America,” and an improved balance for the spacing could give the words a more cohesive appearance as part of a more unified design.

Mr. Stroik described the historic design as elegant and beautiful, and he supported the comments that have been provided; he suggested that modern designers should relearn the principles of this historic design in creating new designs, such as those seen with the previous agenda item. He observed that the obverse’s asymmetry results from dividing the fifteen stars into groups of seven and eight, and he agreed that other spacing problems are present in the design.

Mr. Moore said he had the same concerns, leading him to do additional research; he provided an image of the historic coin, observing that the spacing issues are part of this original design. Ms. Stafford noted that the Mint has been working with photographs of the coin provided by the Smithsonian Institution from its numismatic collection, although these images were not included in the presentation. Mr. Stroik said the Commission could choose to accept the odd spacing because of its historic origins. Mr. McCrery suggested that the Mint develop a more carefully considered design as an alternative to the presented proposal; Mr. Stroik agreed but asked whether the Commission can request a follow-up submission. Secretary Luebke said the Mint has occasionally returned with a new design if the Commission requests a fundamental reconsideration of a proposed alternative; the basic issue for the Commission to consider with this proposal is whether to reproduce the historic design or alter it. Ms. Stafford emphasized that the Mint’s intention is to be as faithful as possible to the historic design, showcasing the use of modern technology in producing the new dies.

Mr. Moore observed the flattened appearance in the image of the historic coin, perhaps due to the coin’s wear; in contrast, the presented images of the proposed design convey a stronger sense of relief, especially in the pointed sculpting of the stars. Ms. Stafford clarified that the Mint’s only source of the historic design information is photographs; it has not been possible to acquire an example of the actual coin, and the proposed design is therefore not based on a three-dimensional scan of an original coin. She added that the gold coins in this series are categorized as “high relief,” and the Mint’s sculptors will therefore strive to bring the historic design to life with a strong sense of relief. Mr. Moore reiterated his observation that the shaping of the stars in the proposed design appears different from the historic coin. Ms. Stafford offered to ask the Mint’s engraving team in Philadelphia to look more carefully at this detail, with the goal of a modern design that reflects the best possible understanding of what was created in the 1790s.

Mr. McCrery and Mr. Stroik summarized the request for a follow-up presentation that addresses the Commission’s comments; Mr. McCrery emphasized the beauty of the historic design and its representation of Liberty. Ms. Stafford agreed to return with a revised alternative, and she said she will inform the Mint’s artists of the Commission’s observations on the positive qualities of historic designs for consideration in developing new proposals.

Mr. Moore clarified that the Commission wants the follow-up submission to address two concerns: a revised design that resolves the historic coin’s spacing issues, and a more carefully detailed reproduction of the historic design including the modelling of the stars. The Commission will then be able to better advise on the best approach for creating a modern-day design that honors the historic coin. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

At this point, Mr. Cook departed for the remainder of the meeting.

3. CFA 19/OCT/23-7, Congressional Gold Medal honoring Benjamin Berell Ferencz. Design for a gold medal. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring Benjamin Ferencz, who was the last surviving American prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials held after World War II and who subsequently advocated for international agreements to address war crimes and genocide, continuing his activism past the age of 100. Noting the large number of alternatives for this medal, he asked April Stafford, chief of the Mint’s office of design management, to present the designs.

Ms. Stafford summarized Mr. Ferencz’s contributions to international criminal justice that will be honored with this medal, noting that he died in April 2023 at age 103. She said Mr. Ferencz’s son has been the Mint’s liaison in developing the designs, and his preferences will be noted. She presented 22 alternatives for the obverse design and 15 alternatives for the reverse design. The liaison’s preferences include obverse O-01B as the most compelling portrait; reverse R-04A, which prominently features the inscription “Law. Not War.”; and R-08A as a second choice for the reverse, featuring the scales of justice, olive branches, and five stars representing the battle stars that Mr. Ferencz earned during his military service.

Mr. Moore invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery expressed support for the strong design of obverse O-01B, a preference of the liaison, and he suggested selecting a reverse design that includes the important motif of the battle stars. Ms. Delplace joined in supporting obverse O-01B. For the reverse, Mr. Stroik said that both of the liaison’s preferences—R-04A and R-08A—are good designs. Noting that the medal honors Mr. Ferencz’s work at the Nuremberg trials as well as his entire career, Mr. Stroik asked for the context of the inscription “Law. Not War.” Ms. Stafford said these words had become a personal motto for Mr. Ferencz, continuing from his role as the lead prosecutor at Nuremberg to his work in establishing the International Criminal Court; the motto summarizes the entirety of his career.

Mr. McCrery said his preference for the reverse is R-04A, but he criticized the depiction of the olive branches, which he said are better detailed in alternative R-08A. He suggested that the artist for R-04A would benefit from studying the previous agenda item’s 1794 coin for its beauty, modulation, sculpture, and the treatment of the olive branches. He said an advantage of R-04A is the distinct treatment of the inscriptions “Law. Not War.” and “Act of Congress 2023,” in contrast to the potentially confusing placement of both inscriptions around the perimeter in R-08A that could imply “Law. Not War.” is the name of an act of Congress. He also discouraged the inclusion of periods in the text, observing that punctuation is not used in coinage or in building inscriptions. He said the different lettering sizes in reverse R-04A are sufficient to clarify the phrasing of “Law. Not War.”

Mr. Moore joined in supporting obverse O-01B and reverse R-04A with the comments that have been provided; he noted that both designs are among the liaison’s preferences. He asked how the field’s textured appearance in the drawn design would be conveyed in the sculpted medal. Ms. Stafford responded that the gold medal does not receive a polished finish, as sometimes seen in proof-quality coins, but the texture would be incorporated into the sculpting.

Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission recommended obverse O-01B and reverse R-04A with the comments provided concerning the punctuation and the olive branches.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:12 p.m.


Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA