Image by licensed under Creative Commons.

On March 20, dozens of neighbors, activists, and advocates will be debating the future of DC in front of the DC Council. We don’t often ask GGWash readers from DC to come out and show up to DC Council hearings. We are now.

The event is a hearing on the first part of the Comprehensive Plan. The people in the council chamber that night will help shape the course of our city’s growth for decades to come.

I’m sure some will be there on the 20th to say that DC can’t be a city of 1 million people, and that we need to promote “stable” neighborhoods and create (another) ceiling for all new buildings.

I will be there to say that we can be an inclusive city with room for all, but to do so we must build enough homes, build enough affordable homes, and protect residents against displacement. What about you? Will you add your voice?

I'll testify on 3/20!

It’s been a long time coming, but now the Comp Plan is here

The District is currently amending its Comprehensive Plan, a 1,000+ page planning and land use document, which essentially charts the course of the city’s growth for the coming decades. We’ve been writing about it for nearly two years.

So far, the DC Office of Planning has proposed amendments to the first chapter of the Comp Plan, called the Framework Element. Just like any introduction, it’s important to get this first chapter right — especially if we are going to adequately plan for the needs of our growing city.

The Comp Plan has become a big deal

This discussion has recently taken on a larger role in the city, not only because of the public amendment process the DC Office of Planning pursued, but also because of a series of Comp Plan-related court cases that have reverberated throughout the DC housing world.

This historic uptick in lawsuits, beyond directly stalling or halting almost 5,000 new homes (including more than 600 affordable homes), has pushed more and more for- and non-profit developers away from building the homes our growing population needs. At the same time, advocates say that the city needs more affordable homes (genuinely affordable homes) and stronger protections against displacement. The current Comp Plan, written in 2006, is out of date and critically weak on these important issues.

Part of the plans for the Park Morton redevelopment, a project to replace one-for-one 53 units of dilapidated public housing on Georgia Avenue. Park Morton and the connected project at Bruce Monroe are in limbo due to a legal challenge to the project's PUD. Image by Park View Community and District of Columbia used with permission.

Help us advocate for solutions

On March 20, you have a chance to join with others and advocate for one solution to this mess: a better Comp Plan. The Comp Plan we’re using today doesn’t adequately plan for enough housing for the city, and is silent or toothless around affordable housing and displacement.

So let’s fix that, and fix the legal issues crippling PUDs right now. We don’t want to make our land-use decisions in the courts. We do want to empower residents and organizations to build and advocate for the homes and affordable homes we need. The DC Council has a chance to amend the Comp Plan to do just that.

Since 2016 GGWash has been working alongside a diverse group of housing and development stakeholders to advocate for a better Comp Plan (this post is not an official coalition statement, and reflects only the views of GGWash). This coalition included for- and non-profit housing developers, tenant and affordable housing advocates, faith and community groups, and smart growth and policy organizations. That’s an unusual group, but it allowed us to listen to each other and advocate for consensus solutions that work.

GGWash and many other coalition members will be there on March 20th advocating for a better Comp Plan, and I hope you can join us. This is simply one of those hearings where it really will matter who shows up.

If you’re a DC urbanist and you’re only going to make it to one local government meeting this spring, make it this one. RSVP here so we can coordinate with you and give you resources. The hearing starts at 2 PM, but you probably won’t testify until a little later.

I'll testify on 3/20!

For those that can’t come, take a minute to sign the coalition’s priorities statement. We’ll deliver your signature during our testimony.

Feeling nervous about testifying? We’ve got you covered. Join us for one of the upcoming Comp Plan conference calls to get answers to your questions, and then hang out and prepare your testimony with fellow urbanists at our Testimony Prep Party on March 15 from 6-7 PM. Click here to RSVP.