ALERT: We won! Yesterday, the DC Council voted for a more inclusive city!

ALERT: We won! DC Comprehensive Plan will help build a more inclusive city!
Photo credit: BeyondDC on Flickr

Yesterday, Oct. 9, 2019, after many delays, the DC Council voted on the Framework Element of the Comprehensive Plan, the guiding document that will shape our city for years to come.

With your help, we fought for and won two key amendments. The first prioritizes preserving and building more affordable housing, and preventing the displacement of residents. The second fixes the broken review process for Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) so it can be predictable, while also prioritizing affordable housing and preventing displacement.

These changes go a long way towards making the District more inclusive!

Take a moment to thank the DC Council!

What happened? Over the last few months we partnered with other housing advocacy groups, sent alerts to you at key points, met with Councilmembers and staff, and explained the issues to the media. With your help we were able to win two critical amendments:

  1. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau’s amendment which helps address racial and social equity in DC by explicitly prioritizing affordable housing and prevention of displacement.
  2. An amendment removing exclusionary language which made preserving “physical and visual character” a dominating requirement in development review. This language was too similar to the type of planning language that has historically perpetuated housing segregation. The Council replaced it with language suggested by the DC Office of Planning, which we supported.

We thank Chairman Mendelson and the Council, who heard us and made the revisions we knew were critical to a better plan. Thanks to these changes, well-designed affordable housing and mixed-income housing proposals will be able to move forward again.

Please be sure to thank the DC Council!

We’re excited to get to work reviewing and supporting good projects. Meanwhile, the rest of the Comp Plan chapters will be coming forward soon. Look for more updates from the CSG team!

We hope you will stay involved, helping to shape land use and housing policies and decisions to ensure our city is a place where longtime residents can stay and thrive, and newcomers can find new opportunities.

Background to the critical Comprehensive Plan amendments 

The 2006 Comprehensive Plan focused too much on preserving the status quo rather than planning for a growing population and the need for more housing that is affordable to middle and lower-income residents. Opponents of new housing have used the 2006 Comprehensive Plan to delay thousands of new homes, and hundreds of new affordable homes — increasing rather than reducing displacement of longtime residents.

That’s why we developed dozens of amendments, and also partnered with other organizations to craft and submit numerous amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, provided testimony at the March 2018 hearing, and why you sent in hundreds of emails to the Council last year.

On July 10, 2019, the DC Council took a preliminary vote on the Framework Element of Comprehensive Plan bill proposed by Chairman Phil Mendelson. While the Chairman’s bill included a significant number of our amendments, as well as the Office of Planning’s amendments, the Chairman’s revised bill still fell short in addressing the need for more affordable housing.

As a result of strong advocacy to the Chairman and the Council by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, our active supporters, and our partners in the DC Housing Priorities Coalition, the DC Council voted for an amended Bill 23-1 on October 8, 2019. Amendments we won:

  • Specific guidance to prioritize affordable housing and preventing displacement in the Planned Unit Development (PUD) approval process (section 224.9).
  • Removal of exclusionary language about “physical and visual character” in the Planned Unit Development approval process, which would have made this “character” more important than any of our other values like preventing displacement and building more affordable housing. The Council supported alternative language recommended by DC Office of Planning, which we supported (section 227.2).

Learn more about the amendments in the CSG blog post: DC Office of Planning and advocates seek to change troubling provision in DC Comprehensive Plan bill