January 12, 2023
Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 317
Washington, DC 20004
Attention: Gilles Stucker, Director of Strategic Initiatives, email@example.com
RE: Chevy Chase Civic Site Public Surplus Hearing – support to maximize affordable housing as the library and community center and other public uses are rebuilt
Dear Mr. Stucker:
Please accept this testimony on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG). CSG is the leading non-profit organization in the Washington, D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish.
We wish to express our support for the surplusing of the development and use rights of the Chevy Chase Civic site in order to “redevelop the community center and library into a multi-purpose civic core with state-of-the-art public facilities and mixed-income housing.” We understand that “surplus” means the excess space of the public site not needed for the renewed public uses of library, community center, civic and recreational space, which can then be used for much needed affordable, mixed income housing.
After years of preparing the update to the DC Comprehensive Plan, housing equity report, and Chevy Chase Small Area Plan, we are thrilled to be talking about how we can fulfill these planning efforts by building affordable, mixed-income homes at this civic site.
We’ve joined with Ward3Vision and Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) to propose goals for the site. Building on these goals, the Coalition for Smarter Growth wishes to provide more detailed recommendations:
- Include at least 100 new homes as part of a mixed-used redevelopment of the library and community center site. The site should be maximized for creating the public uses and mixed-income housing. Previous analysis showed that 100 units is realistic for the site. 100 units is also a typical threshold feasibility scale for financing and constructing a new affordable housing development. Less than 100 homes fails to maximize the housing equity opportunity of the site, and address the large gap in affordable units in Rock Creek West, which has a 1900-unit goal for 2025. Increasing affordable housing at this site advances the District’s commitment to turning back racial and economic exclusion, and advancing racial equity. We should not lose this opportunity like we did at Tenleytown Library.
- Ensure the project includes mixed-income housing, serving a range of households from 30% median family income (MFI) to 80% MFI. The RFP should favor more affordable housing at deeper levels of affordability, with a feasible plan and proven track record for securing necessary subsidies and financing.
- As with all public land dispositions, we support the law’s requirement that affordable housing will be affordable in perpetuity. Given the public uses for the site, a long term ground lease, rather than sale of any portion of the site, is desirable. The RFP should not recommend that the site be subdivided, as this would reduce flexibility for the site to accommodate this ambitious set of uses.
- Step up engagement with the community and other stakeholders to expeditiously develop a library and community center needs assessment for programming, and space usage. This engagement should be used to provide public input into the scoping of the RFP. We recommend using DMPED’s “Our RFP” engagement model. Better public engagement does not mean delay. Specific public consultation for the site is necessary to inform the RFP, and provide adequate guidance to applicants.
- The library and community center should not be planned separately by their respective agencies, instead this should be coordinated to make the most of co-location and potential shared uses that can capture operational efficiencies and enhance shared spaces.
- Ensure the RFP is guided by and contributes to the goals of the Small Area Plan and new zoning provisions for building forms and public spaces to enhance the upper Connecticut Avenue corridor. We do not need to wait on a new zone, though the concepts being developed now might be ready to be applied for the site. This can be an iterative process between the new zone’s development and the design of the site.
We reiterate our support for a surplus determination for portions of the site not needed for library, community center, and civic space uses. We urge the District to not delay in determining the surplus use for the added benefits of affordable, mixed-income housing, as directed by the Small Area Plan. We urge the District to conduct an “Our RFP” public engagement process to inform a well-scoped and integrated RFP for public facilities, and maximized housing for the site.
Integrating a new library, community center and maximized opportunity for affordable, mixed-income housing will demonstrate the District’s commitment to inclusion and racial equity in Ward 3. Including affordable, mixed-income housing fulfills the intent of the Chevy Chase Small Area Plan, the Comprehensive Plan, and the DC housing equity goal to add 1,900 affordable homes to Rock Creek West Planning Area by 2025.
Thank you for your consideration.