Responses to Questions on the Comprehensive Plan Update
The week following the Council's public hearing on updates to the Comprehensive Plan, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau held an open house to discuss her thoughts on the update and answer questions from Ward 1 constituents. See below for a recording of the open house as well as the Councilmember's answers to questions submitted by constituents.
Q: You mention that “zoning must not be inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan.” Is the Converse also true? “The Comprehensive plan should not be inconsistent with zoning?”
A: Updates to the Comp Plan prompt and structure changes to zoning, so the relationship flows in that direction. The 2016 zoning update was called for in the 2006 comprehensive plan, for instance.
Q: Is there a way that the Comp Plan can redirect big public developments in our area to better align with residents' needs for affordable housing and open space, not luxury mixed use?
A: I want to address this in two parts. First, I want to take a moment to talk about the idea of unit classes, and then I can speak to your question on public developments.
“Luxury” is not a defined class of housing. The closest we have to a definition is “Class A” units, which is an industry standard and marketing term, not a public policy one:
“Class A apartments are typically large buildings built after 1991, with full amenity packages. Class B buildings are generally older buildings that have been renovated and/or have more limited amenity packages.” (Source: UrbanTurf)
By definition then, a substantial majority of any new units built will fall into that Class A category. That’s even true of subsidized units! In that sense it is very much possible to have an “affordable luxury” unit. That encompasses a large number of affordable units the District has built recently, since many are in larger mixed-income buildings with amenities.
That said, I consider myself one of the strongest voices on the Council in advocating for the construction of more Class B units, which create more opportunities for affordable rentals and starter homes. The place we’re going to get those units is not on major corridors, where developments are larger and have more significant underlying costs, but through more modest increases in density. What that looks like are more 3- and 4-unit buildings and small apartment buildings of 10-20 units. All this is very common in Ward 1.
Unfortunately, it’s much more challenging to build housing like that than it used to be. Most of DC’s new housing in the last decade has been in single-family buildings or large multifamily projects. As it turns out, those are the two most expensive types of housing to build on a per-unit basis. Filling that middle allows our subsidy dollars to go farther and takes a lot of influence out of private developers who are able to exert the most power in big and complex projects.
To get to the other part of your question: there is a way we can direct public land to meet our affordable housing needs! The main mechanism we have is our public disposition law, which establishes rules for how public lands are used. Due to Council action from a few years ago, at least 30 percent of units in a project on District land must be affordable, with most of those being required to go towards deeply affordable units.
It’s my policy to push for even higher than 30 percent wherever possible, and I think it’s fair to consider whether we should make that requirement even stronger. I introduced a bill to extend this deep affordability requirement to “quasi-governmental” entities such as WMATA and DC Water (B23-240).
To bring this back to land use, because it’s a percentage, the best way to get more deeply affordable units on public land is to build more units in total. That’s why I’m very closely looking at density on public and quasi-public lands in Ward 1.
Q: Inclusionary zoning is just not enough.
A: I agree! DC’s inclusionary zoning (IZ) policy is important and DC was a national leader when it was implemented. It at least sets a baseline but I think there’s broad agreement that it doesn’t go far enough.
Our current IZ policy requires 8-10 percent affordability in a building, but at not very deep affordability levels. In light of that, I see it more as an integration policy than a program meant for significant affordable housing production. It at least ensures that new housing isn’t exclusive to one income range.
Concurrent to the Comp Plan work, DC is building on IZ to make it more targeted to affordable housing production at-scale. The Expanded IZ program was proposed by the Office of Planning and the Zoning Commission looks likely to approve it soon. It would grant bonus density to underwrite the cost of providing 20 percent of units as affordable, including rules that would create more “family-sized” units (3+ bedrooms).
I’m fully in support of Expanded IZ; it’s likely pushing the limit of how much affordability we can mandate out of a project that is entirely privately financed.
If you want to learn more about expanded IZ, check out the documents from the Zoning Commission Case (source). The “OP Public Hearing Report” in particular goes into how the policy would work and how it intersects with the Comprehensive Plan.
Of course, that alone isn’t good enough either! The Office of Planning has indicated that we may add another tier above Expanded IZ, which would make it easier to develop projects that have an even more significant amount of affordability or are 100% affordable. Most if not all of those projects must have a lot of subsidy, like LIHTC or money from the Housing Production Trust Fund (often both) in order to be viable.
In total, the goal should be to create a broader spectrum of tools to ensure we’re getting the most affordability we can out of every single project, rather than setting a low bar and being satisfied when it’s met, which is how IZ has tended to work thus far.
Q: Will you put Homeward DC (homelessness plan) and housing goals (ex large apts for families) in the land use element so that they are legally given greater weight by the Zoning Commission as a priority?
A: As a “plan of plans,” Homeward DC and associated policies have been written into the Housing Element of the Comp Plan in the amendments the Council is considering. It also includes the Solid Foundations plan to end youth homelessness. You can find this starting in section 517.2 of the proposed Housing Element.
As Chair of the Human Services Committee, funding Homeward DC, Solid Foundations, and our full spectrum of services is one of my most critical tasks as a Councilmember.
Building Permanent Supportive Housing is very dependent on the budget and not typically considered in the Zoning Commission, so that’s where my energy is focused. But this is an area I take very seriously and will look for opportunities to strengthen language if that gets us meaningfully closer to our goals. There may be a place for Homeward DC language in the Land Use Element as well, but that’s not certain. Land Use answers the “how much and where” question of building, while Housing and other elements answer “what goes in it.”
Creating more large units for families is a subject that is dealt with quite extensively in the proposed Housing Element, which is given equal weight as the Land Use Element. We also were able to speak directly to this need in amendments I worked on in the Framework Element, which the Council approved last year.
Q: Will you sacrifice green space for affordable housing if both are your priority?
A: It’s true, I think housing and equitable access to park space are our two top land use priorities in Ward 1.
It’s important to clarify what I mean when we talk about park space. DC is the number 1 or 2 city for park space per resident, but that number often doesn’t line up with residents’ experience on the ground. That’s because a lot of green spaces are just that — land that is unprogrammed, inefficiently laid out, or wholly inaccessible.
Urban parks are not nature preserves. If we don’t take into account how a green space relates to the surrounding area, we’re missing half the picture. When we’re talking about passive parks and plazas in an urban context, building more housing and creating good parks frequently reinforce each other rather than conflict.
A well-designed park with affordable housing abutting it will be a safer and more lively park than a space that doesn’t sufficiently connect with the neighborhood. I have been able to fund millions of dollars in improvements for Ward 1 that will upgrade many locations from simply green space to active and essential parks. I’m also working to create new parks in places that have been previously inaccessible. This work is happening all over the Ward, at places like 19th and Lamont, 11th and Park, Amigos Park in Mt Pleasant, new investments in triangle parks, and at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
Q: As an Affordable Housing Advocate I welcome the use of PUDs with affordable housing as the highest benefit. Do you think there is any danger in the use of PUDs that advocates need to watch out for?
I was very proud to have my amendments incorporated into the Framework element that elevates affordable housing and anti-displacement as our most important priorities in Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). I also introduced legislation, which is now law, that gives ANCs additional staffing support in negotiating PUDs. I think pairing these actions with other zoning tools that raise the threshold for affordability in by-right projects will help push PUDs towards including more affordable housing.
The important thing to remember about PUDs is that they are discretionary — there’s not a lot we can do to require that a developer enter into the PUD process. One of the best ways to encourage more of them is to add density to the Future Land Use Map in the Comp Plan. When we create a gap between the density of existing zoning and the potential future density, there is more incentive for a developer to go through a discretionary process, and more additional land value created that can be repurposed for public benefit with the right processes in place.
Q: When will there be more immediate housing for the disabled and elderly population?
A: Building more senior and disabled housing will require additional funding. I think the Comp Plan proposal has a good new section on accessibility, universal design, and more options to help our seniors age in place. I recommend looking at section 518.11 for the specific policy recommendations.
Q: Is the Mayor’s equity report sufficient to accomplish Homeward DC’s production goals to end homelessness?
A: For context, this is referencing the recent Housing Equity Report, which sets higher goals for affordable housing production in parts of the city that have not done so. (Report)
The most recent Homeward DC progress report indicates that we are set to exceed the initial goal for Permanent Supportive Housing for our most vulnerable residents by 200 units, a result of major budget enhancements championed by advocates. That initial needs assessment called for 1,425 units, and is in the process of being revised in Homeward DC 2.0.
I see the Housing Equity Report and Homeward DC — and their respective production goals — as serving two different but complementary purposes.
Q: What kind of language needs to be added to prevent further displacement?
A: Much of this has to be addressed in the Framework Element, where I worked to add language to prevent displacement and promote additional affordability in the redevelopment of public and affordable housing projects.
In the proposed draft of the Housing Element, there are 42 discrete references to displacement, 31 of which are brand new. There is a significant new section explaining the ways residents are displaced and new and revised policies on how to directly address those specific (and often different) issues. This starts in section 510.3a. While this is not the only place that speaks to displacement (especially cultural displacement), if this is of interest to you I highly recommend giving that section a close look.
Because this is a land use document, it’s a real challenge to wield it as a strong anti-displacement tool beyond what has already been done or is proposed. Much of the displacement of Black, Latino, and low-income residents has been in areas where the land use has not changed at all. The real task in our anti-displacement work is in policies like Rent Control and rental assistance, and in meaningfully improving the lives of low-income residents.
Q: Please provide examples in the Ward where increased density has led to significant affordable housing, especially family sized units. PUDs on Georgia Avenue did not lead to additional affordable housing.
A: Despite the fact that we haven’t meaningfully increased density through the zoning code or the Comprehensive Plan in Ward 1 in several decades, we have had several projects that have contributed to affordable housing that I am proud to have helped advance.
Here are are some examples of Planned Unit Developments in the Ward that have yielded affordable housing and other community benefits:
- 965 Florida Ave NW and the Grimke School - both on public parcels in Ward 1, these were among the first, if not the very first, projects to be built under the new 30 percent affordability requirement for public land. We were able to exceed that at 965 Florida, which has over 40 percent affordability, a majority of which is at the deepest affordability level. Additional density granted at Grimke was also able to fund improved space for the African American Civil War Museum.
- Portner Flats on V Street NW. Because of the density bonus granted through a PUD, that project not only replaced the 48 Section 8 units at the old Portner Place, but was able to double that amount to include 96 total affordable units.
I will agree that some PUDs have not prioritized a significant amount of affordable housing.
PUDs are not just for affordable housing, but can be leveraged for grocery stores, neighborhood services, open space, investments in local organizations, and more. One of my main priorities in the Framework Element, which the Council approved last year, was to elevate deeply affordable housing as a high priority for PUDs compared to other community benefits. I also introduced a bill to give ANCs professional support in PUD negotiation in order to maximize this benefit. That language will likely pass the Council this year.
One prominent historical example of where increases in density have yielded affordable housing is Columbia Heights Village, over 400 units of deeply affordable housing, which was only made possible through an increase in zoning density from R-4 to R-5-C (under the old zoning code). A similar upzoning enabled the creation of Garfield Terrace.
So far, most PUDs on Georgia Avenue in Ward 1 have been approved but not built. One PUD completed is at Georgia and Lamont, which is a 50 percent affordable project and has also provided affordable space for locally-owned and neighborhood-serving businesses. 4100 Georgia Avenue, in Ward 4, used a PUD to increase density and reduce parking minimums, which built a new grocery store and a 100 percent affordable apartment building.
Q: Can you explain in more detail what the changes in color in the FLUM means?
A: If you go to plandc.dc.gov and click on ‘Maps,’ there is a legend in the proposed FLUM.
There are more detailed definitions of the areas on the FLUM are on page 59 of the approved Framework: https://lims.dccouncil.us/downloads/LIMS/41515/Signed_Act/B23-0001-SignedAct.pdf
Q: There seems to be an abundance of adorable housing advocates at these meetings.
A: Aww. I assume this meant to say “affordable.” I’m glad my constituents are as passionate as I am about creating more affordable housing.
Q: What do the pink lines across Bruce Monroe park represent and what does that mean for size of build? What are the plans for housing at the Bruce Monroe site?
A: Striping means a potential mix of uses - if residential density is higher than the commercial density it’s striped with, that indicates that housing should be prioritized. The coding of that site as partly commercial is to indicate the maintenance of retail fronting Georgia Avenue.
The Medium Density Residential designation is defined as: “Generally, but not exclusively, suited for mid-rise apartment buildings. The Medium Density Residential designation also may apply to taller residential buildings surrounded by large areas of permanent open space.”
The plans at Bruce Monroe and Park Morton have been many years in the making, and were created in close collaboration with public housing residents. Seeing as the project has encountered delays, I continue to work closely with the Park Morton Resident Council to minimize the pain caused by this lack of progress, which includes assisting with interim housing solutions, pushing for repairs in the existing units, and moving the phasing of the project so that buildings already approved can move forward more quickly.
The entire plan calls for full replacement of public housing at Park Morton spread across three sites: The Avenue (already constructed), the Park Morton footprint, and the former site of the Bruce Monroe School. The replacement public housing units are in a mix of multifamily buildings (one at all three sites) as well as in townhouses and flats, some of which we got funding to dedicate for affordable homeownership opportunities for current residents of Park Morton. A critical detail to note is that all three sites have been planned as one project, and thus are financed together.
In total, about three-quarters of the housing planned for the Bruce Monroe site will be affordable housing. That includes the public housing units and additional deeply affordable housing, as well as affordable senior housing. The perception that this is a majority market-rate project is false.
It has planned for a wide variety of bedroom sizes, including 3-to-4-bedroom units. The goal is to be able to match Park Morton households with appropriate bedroom sizes for their families, even if that is larger than the unit they occupied at the old Park Morton site.
The proposal for public and affordable housing at the Bruce Monroe site is entirely consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan we already have. The case was remanded back to the Zoning Commission not based on the merits of the project but on how the zoning order itself was written; that doesn’t negate the language that’s already in the Comp Plan and the District’s goal to build a significant amount of deeply affordable housing in addition to replacing every unit of public housing at Park Morton.
Q: How do you feel about 965 Florida ave 3 or more bedroom units being priced at $3,600 to $6000 at this property?
A: The project at 965 Florida Ave includes 120 units of affordable housing at 30 and 50 percent of Median Family Income (MFI) (source). The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) publishes the schedule of income and rent levels (source) . For example, a 3 bedroom rented at the 30% MFI level can cost no more than $950/mo.
Q: Seems like you have no other goals other than affordability... isn't the point of planning to provide a balance?
A: You’re correct that housing is a high priority of mine. That’s not only because I’m passionate about it, but because wherever I go, Ward 1 residents are always asking about how we can produce more affordable housing. Housing density is also a main focus because it’s one of the few things the Comp Plan can address directly. As I’ve mentioned, I think another significant land use goal is equitable access to park space
That’s not to say we shouldn’t plan for more! Outside of land use planning, I’ve been closely involved in projects like the DC Cultural Plan, transportation safety plans like MoveDC, DCPS’ school modernizations, and a lot more. While the Comp Plan weaves all of those in, it’s only one part of our goal-setting process.
Q: Is there any interest in using the plan to expand prevalence of community land trusts?
A: I am definitely interested in expanding and adding new community land trusts (CLTs). I added additional CLT language in the Framework, which was approved.
Q: In your role as chair of Human Services Comm., how do you think the proposed upFLUMing to high density all along NY Ave will impact the shelters there (NY Ave mens, PEP-V hotels, Adams Pl)?
A: The proposed change to the FLUM on New York Ave — from industrial to a mix of residential/commercial/industrial — needs to be considered in tandem with the Generalized Policy Map, which highlights the NY Ave corridor as a “Future Planning Analysis Area.” These are:
“Areas of large tracts and corridors where future analysis is anticipated to plan for inclusive growth and climate resilience. In certain locations, planning efforts will be undertaken to analyze land use and policy impacts and ways to capitalize on, mitigate, and incorporate the anticipated growth. Current infrastructure and utility capacity should be evaluated against full build-out and projected population growth. The planning process will target issues most relevant to the community that can be effectively addressed through neighborhood planning. Planning analyses generally establish guiding documents, such as Small Area Plans, Development Frameworks, Retail Strategies, or Design Guidelines.”
That more detailed planning work would be done before any density changes would be made according to the FLUM. As the Human Services Chair I look forward to conversations with Councilmember McDuffie and Ward 5 residents (including those experiencing homelessness) about how future development on this corridor can benefit our most vulnerable.
Q: Workforce housing has usually been discussed as 80% to 120% AMI, which is about 90k. Why are we building those units?
A: When you hear reference to “workforce” or “middle-income” housing in DC, that’s typically referring to the 60% to 120% MFI (Median Family Income, formerly Area Median Income) range. It’s probably easiest to understand in terms of housing costs: for a 3 bedroom unit, that would be a rent maximum of $1900 (for 60%) to $3800 (for 120%) — or a home purchase maximum of $215k to $544k. (Source)
I think it’s perfectly reasonable, given the limited resources we have, to balk at the idea of subsidizing a unit that still rents at close to $4000 a month. That’s why programs targeted at those MFI levels are usually not a direct subsidy like the Local Rent Supplement Program.
It’s still important to provide housing for people in that income bracket so they don’t have to compete for other units. It’s also critical to the goal of creating more opportunities for starter homes so that more families will be able to access homeownership.
Q: Will changes to single family zoning adversely affect other wards?
A: We aren’t making any changes to single-family zoning through this update to the Comprehensive Plan. However, because of an amendment I introduced to the Framework Element, OP issued a report on single-family zoning in DC and its impact on segregation and racial equity. That work should guide our future actions, especially when we begin the process of a full rewrite of the plan. You can find the report here or go to plandc.dc.gov.
There’s a lot in that report, but I think the key takeaway is that the District’s land use patterns differ in key ways from places like Minneapolis or Portland, and thus our approach should be more targeted. Here’s an excerpt from the study’s executive summary:
“The District’s single-family areas have diverse characteristics and disparate outcomes. Unlike other cities whose single-family zones are principally white and wealthy areas, it is important to note that this analysis finds that planning areas with a large amount of single-family zoning are among the most segregated by race, and many of the District’s single-family neighborhoods are predominantly Black. This report recommends a geographically-tailored approach to assessing and addressing the future of single-family zoning that recognizes the need for more housing opportunities in high-cost, high-opportunity neighborhoods.”
“Incentivizing missing middle housing types in high-opportunity, high-cost single-family zones and single-family zones near transit could create more affordable housing options, address segregation and inequity, and moderate housing costs overall.”
I also highly recommend checking out the work of the Mapping Segregation Project: https://www.mappingsegregationdc.org/. It’s an important complement to the ways government actions like zoning and redlining created the segregation and disinvestment we still see today.
Q: Are there any plans to add language regarding deep reinvestment in local public housing developments?
A: You’ll find language to that effect in the proposed Housing Element, in a number of places but mainly in sections 506 and 510. I am open to feedback on that language to make sure it is as strong as the work we did in the Framework. At the end of the day though, if we want to deeply reinvest in public housing, we have to act on that in our budget.
There was feedback I heard at the Comp Plan hearing and in messages from constituents that expressed concern over one change in the amendments: the replacement of “public housing” with “affordable housing” in some sections. While I understand this concern, I do not believe this is a weakening of language, for an important but very technical reason:
Specifying “public housing” in sections of the Comp Plan can be narrowly construed to refer to only “traditional” Section 9 public housing. While I very much support that housing program, federal law has blocked any funding of new Section 9 units (though house members like Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been working on repealing that language). In the absence of federal support for traditional public housing, states and cities have had to resort to other programs like Section 8 and DC’s Local Rent Supplement Program. While these can provide an almost identical rent structure to Section 9 housing, they may be missed by the narrow definition of “public housing.”
Q: Are there plans to develop a shelter for singles in Ward 1?
A: Currently there are not; as Chair of the Human Services Committee, I’ve been proud to shepherd a significant increase in funding for homeless services, and can’t wait for our final Short Term Family Shelter to open in Ward 1. While we’ve made significant gains in supporting unhoused families, we’re currently in the process of investing more strongly in singles, especially returning citizens and veterans. While there may not be plans currently for a new standalone shelter in Ward 1, I’ve invested more in programs like Permanent Supportive Housing and Targeted Affordable Housing every year, which creates a more sustainable path to end homelessness for singles and has an effect on every Ward.
Q: In terms of affordability, how much deeply affordable housing are you looking to see added as part of this plan (less than 30% of the median income)?
A: My goal is to build as much deeply affordable housing as we can. There is only so much we can prescribe in the Comprehensive Plan; the main thing dedicated by this plan is how big things are and where, but not so much what goes into them. The work of adding more affordability and at deeper levels is much more of a daily task, and one I take very seriously in my job. It involves increasing funding every year, passing new laws, and expanding tools like TOPA, DOPA, Land Trusts, and cooperatives.
Q: How much affordable housing are PUDs building (#s of units)?
A: Unlike public land dispositions, there’s no set amount of affordable housing that must be built in a Planned Unit Development. The 8-10 percent for inclusionary zoning is the absolute floor. Neighborhood stakeholders negotiating with developers may decide to emphasize another benefit rather than affordable housing, like workforce development or a neighborhood retail amenity. PUDs were designed to offer that kind of flexibility.
However, we know that the affordability we’re getting out of many projects isn’t enough; that’s why I worked to elevate affordable housing as a more urgent community benefit need in the Framework Element, and have been pushing to give ANCs and communities more support in the benefit negotiation process.
There is a tracker that shows the total number of units (both market and affordable) built since January 2019: http://open.dc.gov/36000by2025/
If you want to look on a project-by-project basis, that can be found here: http://open.dc.gov/economic-intelligence/affordable-production-preservation.html. Note that not all of those projects are PUDs.
Q: Do you think that OP has conducted an equitable process with the amendments?
A: I think the decision to have residents work with their ANCs to submit the final round of comment was a good one — commissioners, in general, are able to be more accessible to their constituents than an agency will likely ever be able to. That’s why I fully endorsed Robert White’s proposal to permanently ensure that ANCs are given great weight in this process. That legislation just passed the Council.
To me, it is unfair to expect or demand that every single resident have the time, interest, or bandwidth to engage fully with a document like this. Since this amendment process started in 2017 there have been many meetings, webinars, conference calls, and email chains, and no matter the forum or location or time of day they have a tendency to attract the same faces.
Ensuring equitable representation in public decision-making is an existential problem for government, and one far larger than this process. It is a mistake to think that this can be solved simply by empowering more people to speak — we have to learn new ways to listen to those who we may never hear from.
It is not my job to defend an executive agency — quite the opposite — but given the constraints of every public input process like this, I think it was well thought-out and provided multiple levels of engagement for such a challenging document.
One of my main goals for this amendment process is not just to amend the Comprehensive Plan itself but to clarify the legislation that guides how we amend and rewrite the plan in the first place. That also involves shortening the document in a rewrite so that it can be more focused and accessible to the public. If you’ve ever been in a class teaching The Count of Monte Cristo, you know there are only so many ways to get people to participate in a text that’s over 1,000 pages, no matter how interesting it is.
Q: Do you have a sense of how many amendments were accepted from impacted communities in Ward 1?
A: That’s too subjective for me to give an easy answer for, but you can find documentation of outreach, as well as a list of all the amendments submitted by the public in 2017, here: https://plandc.dc.gov/page/past-outreach
Q: The Post pointed out that luxury rentals are double the usual vacancy rate while such units are still being built. Are we not freezing in that kind of unneeded development through the adoption of the Comp Plan as written?
A: If Class A units are filing to rent at high enough levels, the pipeline for their production will be drastically reduced. It is true that a lot of new residential supply has been at the top end of the market, but there is no good mechanism to “freeze” that construction in a way that does not also harm our ability to build other units.
Pre-pandemic, DC’s vacancy rates were one of the lowest in the country, and the vacancy rate the Post cites (around 7 percent), is almost exactly the national average. We should never strive for a vacancy rate close to zero — a healthy number of vacancies means that residents have a place to move to if their families grow or if their current housing is sub-standard or hazardous.
Q: Why aren't there more Small Area Plans? How do we create more so that residents can have a greater voice?
A: A number of new Small Area Plans were just announced. There are areas indicated in the proposed Generalized Policy Map that show where future Small Area Plans will take place, and there can be more so long as they are funded. However, most of that work can’t begin in earnest until the Council approves the rest of the Comp Plan.
Just as I think we should do more to create stronger processes in amending and rewriting the Comp Plan as a whole, I think the Council may have a role to play in setting guidelines for Small Area Plans and their enactment.
Q: As the comp plan process continues, what is the best way for ANC commissioners to stay engaged and support goals of more affordable housing, transit, etc.?
A: I was very glad to see that the Office of Planning actively solicited resolutions from all ANCs in the District. I want to make sure that feedback is heard and acted upon by the Council.
I’ve received a lot of feedback from residents about what they want to see to make their neighborhoods more inclusive, so I will be engaging with our Ward 1 ANCs and the public on any potential changes.
Q: What would disempower those suing to prevent affordable housing? Is it all about how judges interpret the law, or can the council make policy changes to reduce these kinds of frivolous lawsuits intended to indefinitely delay affordable housing?
A: There was a bill introduced to the Council last year that would have significantly reduced legal standing, which I do not endorse. As much as I am frustrated by suits like the one that has delayed new homes for public housing residents on Georgia Avenue, I do not believe the solution is to limit standing.
This is challenging, because similar legal tools and rhetoric have been used by tenants fighting displacement and by those wanting to block new housing or shelters, and we should not conflate those two efforts.
I have concentrated on improving the process holistically: strongly emphasizing affordable housing and anti-displacement, giving clearer guidance to the Zoning Commission, making sure staff have the resources to write better zoning orders, and supporting ANCs in benefit negotiations. I think if we can create a more predictable process that can reconcile our many goals, and one that delivers better outcomes, we have no reason to take such a drastic action as reducing standing.
Q: How are initiatives like the Park Morton Equity plan reflected in the comprehensive plan?
A: As a guiding land use document, the specific details of project financing and management are not addressed in the Comp Plan, nor is there an actionable way to include them.
Q: How do you envision developing a process for community led planning which continually engages community members? How do you envision ensuring the process is accessible to all especially those who aren’t able to regularly attend a traditional meeting?
A: There’s no singular way we will get to a system of equitable planning. I think in the context of development, encouraging more Small Area Plans is the best vehicle we have to get people involved in a meaningful way. Working issues out on a neighborhood level takes considerable pressure off of litigating individual projects. Much of the work for Small Area Plans is now being done in-house at the agency rather than being contracted out, which I think is good for building knowledge on best practices for engaging with District residents and creates a fairer and more consistent process across neighborhoods.
I actually think the wide use of virtual meetings has been a major asset to public participation — many events have been much better attended. There are other steps like holding meetings at various hours or reaching out by phone or mail to engage more people. The work of organizers and advocates will always be critically important in reaching residents in ways that the government can’t.
Just as we can’t expect every resident to be able to come to a meeting, we also shouldn’t require every resident to become deeply engaged for their needs to be met.