In addition to the summary below, scroll down for transcription of an oral history series presented by Norman Knopf and Julie Davies who were present at the beginning half a century ago.
The Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, Inc. (CCCFH) is a non-profit organization and a coalition of local community organizations representing neighborhoods located along Wisconsin Avenue, River Road and Massachusetts Avenue, near its border with the District of Columbia.
Originally comprised of approximately 10 neighborhood groups, the CCCFH was formed in 1971 in anticipation of Montgomery County’s revision of the Friendship Heights Sector Plan, and specifically in response to the proposal to “Manhattan-ize” the area – a term the group coined.
The group, which has met monthly since its founding, managed to get its members appointed to all of the residential positions on the Citizens Advisory Committee that assisted in the drafting of that Sector Plan revision. CCCFH members also helped to establish the standards for the Central Business District (CBD) zoning category, first used in the 1974 Friendship Heights Plan. That 1974 Plan was also the first master plan revision in Montgomery County to include the down zoning of certain properties to decrease the density of development allowed. The CCCFH joined with the government in winning a landmark State Court of Appeals decision that confirmed the county’s authority to down zone.
Membership in the CCCFH had grown to include about a dozen groups by 1990, when this umbrella organization participated in the next revision of the Friendship Heights Sector Plan. The CCCFH managed to keep the emphasis of this master plan revision on housing, rather than retail development, and helped secure the inclusion of the Wisconsin Place Community Center and a local park as public amenities in exchange for redevelopment of certain parcels on land in the area.
Over the years, CCCFH members have helped to advance issues with countywide impact, such as legislation to:
- Tighten storm water management requirements;
- Reduce the impact of mansionization on adjacent homeowners; and
- Place parking restrictions on those engaged in at-home occupations.
The CCCFH has also prevailed in a Clean Water Act enforcement suit in court that required WMATA to stop leaking oil from its garage into Little Falls Creek. CCCFH members participated on the advisory group that studied the redevelopment possibilities along the MD-355/I-270 Technology Corridor and on the Zoning Advisory Panel (ZAP), which contributed to the rewrite of the county Zoning Code, which was adopted by the Council in 2014.
CCCFH delegates and officers have gone on to serve on the county Board of Appeals (former board member Donna Barron and past chair, Allison Fultz), the Montgomery County Planning Board (Pat Baptiste, Betty Ann Krahnke and Meredith Wellington), and the County Council (Betty Ann Krahnke).
In 2008 the Montgomery County Civic Federation awarded the CCCFH the Sentinel Award in recognition of the group’s “significant contributions to good government at the local level.”
Currently comprised of 19 neighborhood associations and towns, the CCCFH is vigilant in defending the section of Wisconsin Avenue between Friendship Heights and Bethesda, known as “the green mile,” against commercial intrusions. The CCCFH is alert and concerned about commercial encroachment on its communities south of Bradley Boulevard and has been active in the county’s revision of the Westbard Sector Plan for the area along River Road and Westbard Avenue. The CCCFH participated in all stages of the Westbard Sector Plan process, consistently arguing for less density and improvement of the Willett Branch.
CCCFH HISTORY SERIES – NORMAN KNOPF AND JULIE DAVIES
April 18, 2018
History of the CCCFH Part I, as told by Norman Knopf.
In view of the recent death of Faye Cohen of Somerset, Norman Knopf took the occasion to recall the major role Faye Cohen played in the early years of the CCCFH. The CCCFH was started in 1971 by Norman Knopf as an organization of civic groups to fight the Koubek Plan and other huge development proposals in Friendship Heights.
Betty Ann Krahnke of Chevy Gardens, now Chevy Chase West, had also started to organize some communities to the north of Friendship Heights to oppose proposed development. Her group subsequently became part of the CCCFH. Betty later served on the Planning Board and on the County Council representing District 1.
CCCFH’s effort to fight excessive development projects and to obtain a new sector plan that down zoned development quickly involved numerous legal battles, which required a lawyer and in turn, required money, which the CCCFH did not have. Faye Cohen suggested the CCCFH hold a house tour of selected Chevy Chase Village homes and by selling tickets could raise money. She volunteered to organize the tour, which was a huge undertaking requiring publicity, getting and coordinating scores of volunteers to be stationed in each room of each house on the tour and countless other details. She raised seed money by having dinners in her house and charging invitees.
Faye’s efforts were so successful that the house tour became an institution that ran for about a decade and the monies raised paid for the CCCFH attorney, Roger Titus, currently a Federal District Court Judge sitting in Greenbelt. In addition, Faye was very active in fighting development on the Bergdohl tract, where Somerset Houses are today, and led the fight to de-annex the Bergdohl tract from the Town of Somerset. She also persuaded her husband, Sheldon, who was President Johnson’s IRS Commissioner, to be the plaintiff in a law suit the CCCFH brought challenging the issuance of a building permit in violation of the sewer moratorium for the Marina, now the Elizabeth.
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May 16, 2018
History of the CCCFH Part 2, as told by Julie Davis.
In the 1950’s the routes for Metro were planned and in the early 1960’s the first station stops were dedicated: Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton. Montgomery County started getting ready for redevelopment. Thelma Edwards, a local real estate agent and Milton Barlow started assembling properties in Friendship Heights. In 1966 when Kathryn E. Diggs was County Council president, the Council attempted to rezone the Village of Friendship Heights to have an F.A.R. of 14. In the late 1960’s many of the large apartment buildings and condos were constructed.
Most of the large property owners – Chevy Chase Land Company, Saks, Woodies and the Mazza family — both on the D.C. and Maryland side of Friendship Heights were looking to redevelopment. In 1971 they hired architect Vlastimil Koubek who presented the Koubek Plan to the community in October 1971 in the Geico auditorium. After seeing this plan, the community was galvanized. Norman Knopf was already in touch with 12 citizen associations on the Maryland side and three on the D.C. side of Friendship Heights business district.
At that time, on the Maryland side there was 1.5 million square feet of commercial property and 3 million for residential. The Koubek Plan called for an additional 7.2 million commercial square feet and 3.8 million residential square feet. This total of 11 million new square feet was a 250% increase to what was already on the ground.
Traffic issues were among the many problems with the proposed Koubek plan. Traffic studies showed that the road capacity in the 1970’s could handle 3,000 new evening trips. The Koubek Plan would generate 13,000 new evening trips. Koubek proposed a monorail system to get around the county and Friendship Heights.
In 1972, Neiman Marcus proposed opening its first store outside of Texas at Western and Wisconsin Avenues in what became the Mazza Gallerie.
From 1972-1973 most of the current membership of the CCCFH was established and the new sector plan in 1974 provided an outline for development of Friendship Heights. The 1974 Sector Plan provided for .9 million square feet of new commercial development and 1.6 million square feet of residential development – a 60% increase in development, compared to the 250% proposed by the Koubek Plan.
Friendship Heights was saved by the citizens and the sewers. There was not enough sewer capacity for the Koubek Plan and ultimately the County Council down zoned the area prior to approving the 1974 Sector Plan.
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June 20, 2018
History of the CCCFH, Part 3, as told by Norman Knopf
The CCCFH was very litigious in its early years defending the down zoning the Council adopted as part of the 1974 Friendship Sector Plan and in bringing law suits whenever development in the Friendship area was believed to be in violation of law. Our ability to bring law suits lead developers to consider taking their projects elsewhere rather than get bogged down in litigation or to negotiate with CCCFH in earnest to avoid litigation. One of the law suits started in 1973, which was addressed at the prior CCCFH meeting, was a challenge to the building permit issued for 4615 N. Park Ave, then known as the Marina and now an apartment house. CCCFH contended the building permit violated the sewer moratorium. We won in the lower court when the building had been constructed to the 10th floor and a stop work order was issued. The developer appealed to the State’s highest court and we lost by a 4/3 vote.
Another law suit involved METRO and the Clean Water Act. In 1981-82, Metro was still being built under Wisconsin Avenue near the Town of Somerset. Oil was found in the ground water that seeped into the Metro tunnel and was pumped out into the Little Falls Creek in Somerset. Two environmental lawyers working in Norman Knopf’s law firm filed a federal law suit under the Clean Water Act, one of the first such law suits as the Act was recently enacted. Under the Act, attorney fees had to be paid by the polluter so CCCFH incurred no costs.
It turned out that under the WMATA bus terminal in Friendship Heights there was a very large diesel oil storage tank that had been leaking for years creating a huge plume of oil under the garage that moved north under the Mazza Galleria and was heading toward Little Falls Creek. Water with oil in it had first moved into the Mazza Galleria basement and the sump pumps had pumped it into storm drains that discharged into Little Falls Creek. Similarly, when this oily water mix showed up in the Metro tunnel, it was also pumped into the Little Falls Creek. CCCFH and The Town of Somerset were successful plaintiffs in the suit
As a result, WMATA had to dig up the storage tank, replace the tank and clean up the oily water that had already been discharged. And, they could no longer dump the oily water into the Little Falls Creek. Somerset received $10,000 to help restore the creek. We believe the oil pollution under the garage site was a reason that Metro has been unable to sell the site for private development.