Housing Complex

So Much for All That: DCRA OK’s Pawn Shop For Georgia Avenue

Pawn shop incoming! (Lydia DePillis)

It's been more than half a year since community members launched their crusade against a proposed pawn shop on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Fern Street NW, which resulted in a minor overhaul of money lending regulations and granted ANCs "great weight" in deciding whether or not a pawn shop gets licensed.

Well, turns out that doesn't count for much. Even after ANC 4B voted to oppose Famous Pawn's application, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs decided last week to grant the license, dismissing the commission's concerns about crime and lowered property values (as did a Superior Court judge, on November 22). In doing so, DCRA sends a message that as long as businesses dot their eyes and cross their tees, the mere fact that an ANC doesn't want something in its neighborhood amounts to a hill of beans.

"I think of it as a really offensive Christmas present," said Commissioner Sara Green, who spearheaded the opposition. "This is really an enormous slap in the face."

In its letter, DCRA's Business and Professional Licensing Administration wrote:

DCRA concludes that the applicant has demonstrated the financial responsibility, experience, character and general fitness as to command the confidence of the community and to warrant the belief that the business will be operated honestly, fairly, and efficiently....DCRA agrees that Famous Pawn did a poor job of communicating with the community and has failed to establish a trust bond with the ANC. However, it does not follow that Famous Pawn's failure to communicate with the community reflects a lack of the requisite character such as to be unable to command the confidence of the community. DCRA concludes Famous Pawn's failure to engage the community is not indicative of a character flaw. Rather, this failure was a communications and marketing error.

DCRA was very careful on this one–Famous Pawn, a national chain, could very well have sued if it found any toehold. Perhaps a smart decision by the agency, but it raises the question: Would a small business have had the kind of resources necessary to achieve the same result?

  • Andre R. Carley

    If this is true, it is a horrible decision, one I can't help but think is monetarily driven. As I understand, how has Famous Pawn demonstrated the confidence of the community? I know, by making contributions to the campaign chests of City Council members! This decision stinks, because it smacks of back-door dealing and cronyism. It's an awful example of our city government at work...and I won't forget it.

  • Sally

    The ANC's sole complaint is that it doesn't want the business there. That's not a legal reason to not issue a business license and they city would get its ass sued if it did. Which the neighbors could care less about.

  • Sally

    Hey look - that non-transparent, secretive DCRA posted all the documents on its website: http://dcra.dc.gov/DC/DCRA/About+DCRA/News+Room/DCRA+Posts+Legal+Grounds+for+Issuing+License+to+Famous+Pawn

  • KappaNupe

    Ward 4 DC residents need to testify at Nicholas Majett's confirmation hearing to head DCRA. Majett and his current boss Linda Argo at DCRA hasn't done a great job in my opinion at DCRA. DCRA is one of the worse agencies to deal with. We don't need anymore of these ghetto type businesses on upper Georgia Avenue, NW. Would they allow a pawn shop to be placed in Ward 3 on Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues, NW. I can tell you, HELL no! I am having second thoughts about voting for Vincent Gray as mayor.

  • Sally

    KappaNupe: There's a pawnshop next to the Social Safeway in Georgetown. Owned by same company that's opening up on Georgia Avenue. Been there for years. No issues with it, no community complaints, no problem.

  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    Well, the problem here is that there should be special exception hearings for various kinds of potentially unseemly retail in commercial districts. Fast food, pawn, check cashing, and gas stations come to mind. But we don't have provisions for this for the most part -- except for gas stations and fast food, depending on the zoning classification.

    The problem (and CM Bowser doesn't seem to understand this) is that "great weight" means nothing if there aren't procedures and remedies in the law and regulations for the ANC to comment on/utilize in making its "recommendations."

    So what if you get notice or extra notice. If there is provision/guidance/ability to make recommendations based on the law -- what to weigh in on and why -- you can't do anything except maybe slow the process (a/k/a "no recourse").

    This is the case for the pawn broker stuff and for the demolition notice rule, both initiatives of CM Bowser. When the demo notice rule was proposed, I said to her, it doesn't matter, because you aren't providing any additional remedies (the only thing in DC law that can stop demolition is a historic designation application, but for individual buildings such a designation is really hard to obtain).

    The thing that ANC4B doesn't understand, wrt this blog entry and the previous one (and I am sorry you didn't introduce yourself to me at that meeting) is that they have to respond on issues in terms of the law and regulations. The Pawn company provided a damn good response, and the data on usage statistics of the company by 30% of the residents in adjoining zip codes was quite strong. The ANC had nothing substantive in response.

    Same with regard to the proposal for downzoning the Curtis site. They say, give us a hearing. The OP says that the ANC hasn't provided enough evidence justifying a hearing. Instead of providing evidence, the ANC reaffirmed a desire to be heard. That's the best way going to get nothing.

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