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What are Advisory Neighborhood Commission(er)s?

Some text1.

Some other text2.

The identifier in the square brackets does not have to be numeric[^my_footnote].

The following content is borrowed from Commissioner Costello with permission, because I can’t improve on it.

First established in 1976, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions are non-partisan, neighborhood bodies made up of locally-elected representatives called Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. ANCs were established to bring government closer to the people, and to bring the people closer to government. Commissioners serve two-year terms without pay.

A Commissioner’s main job is to be their neighborhood’s official voice in advising the District government on issues affecting their community. Although District agencies are not required to follow an ANC’s advice, they are required by law to give an ANC’s recommendations “great weight.” Moreover, District law says that agencies cannot take any action that will significantly affect a neighborhood - including zoning, streets, recreation, education, social services, sanitation, planning, safety, budget, and health services - unless they give the affected ANC 30 days’ advance notice.

Commissioners may also initiate recommendations for improving city services, conduct neighborhood improvement programs, and monitor resident complaints.

end of borrowed content

Can you be more specific?

I’d categorize the work into three buckets:

  • casework: hearing and conveying details of certain types of projects (examples listed below) within the Commission boundaries and taking the lead on shaping outcomes based on community concerns
  • bureaucracy: creating and tracking service requests with various DC (and federal) agencies to secure desired improvements and outcomes for the community
  • outreach: general visibility within the community and offering knowledge and support to working groups, community organizations, or the Council

The logistics of how a Commission approaches work and what is delegated to individual Commissioners depends on the by-laws and formal resolutions of a Commission, as well as the capacity of individual Commissioners. Official actions of a Commission must occur in publicly announced and accessible meetings with a quorum present, by formal votes on motions. Informational and preparatory matters can be handled in less formal ways as authorized.

Commissions have a quarterly allocation of funds from the DC budget based on population represented (~$19k annually for a 7-member Commission in 2023, with savings carried forward indefinitely) to spend on basic functions or outreach projects.

Examples of Casework

  • Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA): When applicants (e.g. developers of a building) are seeking minor zoning relief such as higher lot coverage or fewer parking spaces than generally required of a particular zone, they go before the BZA, which will expect ANCs to marshall community input/feedback on the project and ideally pass a formal Resolution of Support or Opposition.
  • Zoning Commission (ZC): Similar to BZA cases, though these concern larger variances such as changes to the Zoning Map, or Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) where significant variance is granted in exchange for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).
  • Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB): The HPRB considers cases of newly protected landmarks or districts, modification of the original L’Enfant street plan, or the adjudication of construction on a protected building for design/material compatibility.
  • Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA): Establishments that serve, sell, or produce alcohol apply for various kinds of licenses that can have any number of limitations or provisions. ANCs are one of several types of party with standing that can seek to influence the conditions on a business through the license application/renewal process.
  • District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Notices of Intent (NOIs): These are near-final plans for the installation/modification of transportation infrastructure. This can include small projects like the installation of a speedhump, or larger ones like significantly reapportioning road space to accomodate protected bike lanes. ANCs are given a chance to comment, and their comments (or formal resolutions of opposition) can significantly delay work.


Advisory Neighborhood Commission
(aka ANC, Commission)
identified by DC Ward and a letter (e.g. 5C), a neighborhood body and the political boundaries over which it exercises great weight in DC Government affairs. While the eight Wards of DC are generally redistricted to equal population after every decennial US Census, they are not split into the same number of Commissions, so one may contain anywhere from around 4,000 to around 24,000 residents (before population growth since the last Census).
Single Member District
(aka SMD)
identified by the Commission and a two-digit number (e.g. 5C07), a district within a Commission’s boundaries that elects one member of that Commission; while Commissions around DC may contain anywhere from 2-12 members, SMDs are (somewhat) strictly kept to 2000±100 residents (per the preceding decennial US Census).
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner
(aka also ANC, Commissioner)
an elected member of a Commission, representing one SMD within the Commission. While Commissioners will focus on, and be deferred to regarding, issues within their SMD; it’s only the Commission itself that formally gets great weight, exercised on the boundaries of the Commission as a whole.
great weight
🤷🏽, but it’s in the law. Commissions formally vote on resolutions of support or opposition to cases before various DC agencies and decision-making bodies. In the absence of a resolution, somebody with business before one of those entities would need to establish work was done to brief the relevant Commission and gain its support. Commissions may also vote for resolutions regarding pending or desired legislative/executive action, which can inform Councilmembers and the Mayor of the will of their constituents. Agencies are supposed to seriously consider concerns raised, though a DC Auditor investigation found inconsistent results across various agencies.
  1. Some footnote. 

  2. Other footnote.