Author: Emily Maurer

Support ALUs in Fairfax!

Fairfax is moving too slow in addressing zoning barriers to more affordable housing options in the county. While many people are shut out of living in Fairfax County because its too expensive, the Planning Commission last week recommended keeping regulatory barriers for accessory living units (ALUs) in place for several more years instead of making it easier for a homeowner to build one now. The Board of Supervisors has a hearing tomorrow and we need your help to show support for more housing options like accessory dwellings in Fairfax!

Send Fairfax County an Email Today

ALUs – including backyard cottages and basement apartments – offer less expensive housing because of their smaller size. They can provide a place to live for a young teacher, health aides and other essential workers, your college graduate just starting out, or an older parent.  Accessory dwellings can also offer a stream of income, including for retirees on fixed incomes, and can help offset the cost of owning a home.

Fairfax County is proposing modest changes to their ALU policy as part of their Zoning Modernization Ordinance Modernization Project (zMOD). We support:

  • The proposal to remove the current age and disability requirement so people of all ages are able to live in an accessory unit.
  • Streamlining the process for ALUs within the home by allowing for administrative approval, which includes required building and safety permits.

These are modest changes, but a step in the right direction to expanding housing options, affordability, and accessibility in the county. We hope that in the future the county will remove the 2-acre requirement for detached units because these homes are especially needed closer to transit stations and transit corridors.

You can help show support in two ways:

  1. Send an email to Fairfax County officials today.
  2. Sign-up to speak at the virtual public hearing on March 9.

CSG Testimony in Support of Heritage at Old Town

Testimony to Alexandria City Council in Support of the Heritage at Old Town 

Rezoning #2020-00006 

Development Special Use Permit #2020-10032 

Transportation Management Plan Special Use Permit 2020-00084 

February 20, 2020 

Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director 

Good afternoon, Mayor and Council. Thank you for serving our city during these challenging times.  

My name is Stewart Schwartz and I am the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth,  the leading organization in the D.C. region advocating walkable, inclusive, transit-oriented  communities as the most sustainable and equitable way to grow and provide opportunities for all. We are a 24-year-old non-profit with partnerships that span the conservation, affordable housing,  social equity, transit, bike/ped, and business sectors. In 2017, we received the Metropolitan  Washington Council of Governments (COG) Regional Partnership Award. 

We urge you to approve the Heritage at Old Town.  

Alexandria has lost over 90% of its affordable housing over the past two decades. We face a  housing affordability crisis in Alexandria and neighboring jurisdictions. Multiple studies demonstrate  that we need both more supply and more long-term committed affordable units. This project  provides both. Supply is critical to avoid displacement, and a range of tools are needed including  leveraging land value and density to ensure we create more affordable units. 

We work in multiple jurisdictions in the DC region and we can confirm that the City of Alexandria  does its homework. The result here from city and community input is a project that provides the  housing we need in a well-designed development, with much improved streetscape, pedestrian connectivity, and park spaces. Alexandria offers a very walkable, mixed-use environment with  excellent transit – planned to be even better with the redesigned bus network which will provide  frequent all-day, seven day per week service. Far more traffic would be generated through  Alexandria if our communities pushed all development out to auto-dependent locations. 

The project will buffer the neighborhood from the wide, noisy Route 1 entry to Old Town, and has  been designed to step down to the adjacent rowhouses. For nearly 25 years I lived near Braddock  Metro in a four-story condo building across from single-family homes, next to townhomes and 7  and 9 story condo buildings, and within sight of much taller buildings. Public housing was just a  block away. The neighborhood is wonderful, however, it has lost diversity — because when those buildings were built the city did not have the strategies in place to ensure a mix of housing  affordability. That’s why the new RMF zoning applied here is such an important tool. It enables 197  units of deeply affordable housing by a private developer without a public subsidy, allowing the city  to direct its affordable housing funds to other projects, creating additional housing. This level of  long-term and deep level of affordability without subsidy is extremely rare and a big benefit of the project. 

The pandemic has illustrated just who are our most essential workers and the extreme stress they  are under due to high housing prices. The racial equity crisis has demonstrated how poorly we have  served people of color in our community and nation. It is time to ensure a more inclusive  community for the long-term. We urge you to approve the Heritage at Old Town. 

Thank you.

Sign-on letter: CSG joins Transportation for America, 75 other groups in asking Biden administration to restore GHG performance measures

The Honorable Peter Buttigieg 

Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation 

1200 New Jersey Ave SE 

Washington, DC 20590 

Dear Secretary Buttigieg: 

Congratulations on your confirmation as the 19th Secretary of the Department of Transportation. We are grateful for your service and look forward to working with you. 

We are writing to urge the Biden administration to reinstate the greenhouse gas (GHG) performance measure. This can be done immediately through executive action initiating a notice of proposed rulemaking to reinstate the measure. 

Transportation accounts for the largest share of carbon emissions in the United States, and these emissions are rising. Yet in 2017, the Trump administration repealed the GHG performance measure that would have required states to measure and reduce GHG emissions from transportation. With the climate crisis worsening, we must take immediate action to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. 

In addition to those undersigned, reinstating the GHG performance measure is supported by 47 Senators and Members of Congress who, led by Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, recently wrote to ask that you “urgently” restore this critical policy. 

Thank you for considering this request. We look forward to working together on this important issue. 


Beth Osborne, Director 

Transportation for America

RELEASE: DC Regional Travel Survey Shows Demand for Walk, Bike, & Fighting Climate Change

RELEASE: DC Regional Travel Survey Shows Demand for Walk, Bike, & Fighting Climate Change

Coalition for Smarter Growth

February 12, 2021 

For Immediate Release 

Contact:  Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437 

“Voices of the Region” Survey Shows the Region’s Residents Want to Walk and  Bike More, Drive Less, and Prioritize Projects that Address Climate Change 

Points to Need for Less Road Building, and More Sustainable, Walkable Communities 

A recently completed survey asked the Metropolitan Washington region’s residents about their  travel before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The results show that residents’ travel  patterns have changed as a result of the pandemic and that they would like to continue to walk and bike more and drive less post-pandemic. These results are similar to those from a national  survey project. 

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) will receive a presentation at  its meeting Wednesday, February 17, on the survey, which is intended to inform the update to  the regional long-range transportation plan. This survey was conducted using randomly drawn  addresses, covered all geographic sub-areas of the region and resulted in over 2,400 complete  responses, with a margin of error of +/-2.5%. 

“The findings of this survey are critically important and should be an important factor in the  Transportation Planning Board’s development of their next long-range transportation plan,  which is underway right now,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. 

“Recently, the TPB voted to prioritize projects that reduce vehicle miles traveled and  greenhouse gas emissions. This survey points to public support for telecommuting, walking,  biking, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is a bigger concern than traffic  congestion according to the survey,” said Bill Pugh, Senior Policy Fellow for CSG. “Land use  must be a core solution to achieve people’s goals of driving less, walking and biking more, and  fighting climate change. In fact the survey showed the benefits of this approach in that people  living in DC, Arlington, and Alexandria, our most compact jurisdictions with the most transit oriented land use, expressed the least concern about traffic congestion.” 

“We hope that our elected officials and government transportation planners will take to heart  both the results of this survey and the urgency to reduce driving and associated greenhouse gas emissions when they create our next regional transportation plan,” said Schwartz. “In the  process there will be other significant benefits including meeting people’s desire to walk and  bike more, and create a world that future generations will thank us for.” 

CSG’s Summary of Important Findings from the Survey 

More Walking and Biking, Less Driving Anticipated for All Travel Post-Pandemic 

38% of respondents expect a change in their travel patterns (both work and non-work travel)  one year post-pandemic compared to their pre-pandemic travel patterns. 53% of all  respondents anticipate walking more and 26% anticipate biking more, in contrast to only 3%  who anticipate walking or biking less. While 34% of residents anticipate driving more, this was  more than offset by the 47% of respondents who anticipate driving less for daily trips, a 13  percent net difference of residents who anticipate driving less.  

Overwhelming Support for Expanded Pedestrian Zones, Bike Lanes, Bus Lanes 

Three quarters of survey respondents said they supported use of street space for expanded  pedestrian access and restaurant seating. 63% support more or wider sidewalks and bike lanes. 

While transit ridership has been impacted by the pandemic, a clear majority of the region’s  residents, 71%, which includes many non-bus riders, support dedicated bus lanes. And a  narrow majority (54%) are supportive of dedicated bus lanes even in situations that involve  removal of on-street parking. 

Additional Bicycle Infrastructure, Road Safety Measures, or Access to a Bicycle Would  Make Most of the Region’s Residents More Likely to Bike 

The survey asked respondents about improvements that would make them more likely to use a  bicycle. The proposed improvements with the highest percentages of residents more likely to  bike as a result were: more direct and complete bicycle lanes and routes (34% of respondents),  bicycle lanes separated from vehicles by a barrier (32%), and bicycle lanes or trails near home  (31%). Overall, only a minority (42%) of all residents indicated that no improvements would  make them more likely to use a bike. 

When broken down by age, the impact of bike infrastructure improvements for the region’s  residents under 30 was especially high. Almost half indicated that more direct and complete  bicycle lanes and routes or lanes near home would make them more likely to bike. Only a small  minority (24%) indicated that no improvements would make them more likely to use a bike.

Less Transit Use Anticipated, But Respondents Indicate Service Enhancements Would  Make Them More Likely to Use Transit 

While 13% anticipate using transit more, 38% anticipate using it less one year post-pandemic.  Only 5% of frequent transit riders pre-pandemic and only 26% of infrequent transit riders pre pandemic indicated that nothing would make them more likely to ride public transportation  after the pandemic.  

Most respondents cited measures that transit agencies can undertake to make them more  likely to ride transit. About half of frequent transit users pre-pandemic responded that more  frequent cleaning, more spacing of people on bus and train cars, and more frequent service  would make them more likely to use transit after the pandemic. (Of note, numerous studies  have shown that even during the pandemic, riding transit is relatively low risk. Also, transit  agencies in the region have implemented some of these safety measures already). 

“The survey shows that frequency and reliability of service and convenient real-time travel  information continue to be significant factors for making people more likely to use transit. Safe  and convenient routes to walk, bike or scoot to train stations and bus stops were also found to  be significant factors in transit ridership, where more improvement is needed across the  region,” said Schwartz. 

Climate Change is a Significant Concern and Residents Overwhelming Want Officials to  Address it in Transportation Plans 

84% of the region’s residents agree with the statement that elected officials need to consider  the impacts of climate change when planning transportation in the future. For residents under  30 years of age, those most impacted by our long-range planning decisions and climate change,  that percentage rises to 92%

Traffic Congestion is Less of a Concern Than Climate Change 

Less than half of respondents (44%) indicated that traffic congestion is a significant concern  that impacts their lives. 25% said congestion was somewhat a concern that impacted their lives  a little. 

Residents of core jurisdictions (Arlington, Alexandria, and the District of Columbia) reported the  highest satisfaction with the transportation system and least concern about congestion. 75% of  Core residents say that the regional transportation system meets their needs very well or  somewhat well, in contrast to 55% of Inner Suburb (Montgomery, Fairfax, Prince George’s)  residents and 38% of Outer Suburb residents. Likewise, only 27% of Core residents say that  congestion is a significant concern that impacts their quality of life, in contrast to 46% of Inner  Suburb residents and 54% of Outer Suburb residents. 

“What these survey results suggest is that the more compact development in the core doesn’t  reduce the satisfaction of residents when it comes to transportation, and may reflect the  variety of transportation options available (walk, bike, transit) and shorter commutes or trips to  the corner store. In contrast, people living farther out are being provided with fewer non driving options and face longer commutes in congestion generated by high-levels of auto dependent development,” said Pugh. “It points to the need for more housing options in the  region’s walkable communities near transit and job centers, along with more affordable  housing in these locations, and increased investment in transit.” 

Residents Say that Future Generations Will Thank Us More for Clean Transportation,  Transit, Walking, and Biking than for Wider Roads 

The survey asked “What transportation investments should we make today that future  generations will thank us for tomorrow?” and allowed respondents to provide their own open ended answers.  

The majority of the answers involved clean transportation, public transportation, and  improvements for walking and biking. A much smaller group cited roads, parking, and  congestion. 

● 259 responses mentioned expanding areas served by rail transit and bike infrastructure

● 172 mentioned clean transportation (electric vehicles, lower emissions)

● 72 responses mentioned improving the condition of (fixing and making more resilient)  existing roads and bridges. 

● Just 134 responses mentioned more or wider roads 

Increased Telecommuting 

33% of respondents anticipate telecommuting at least one day a week after the pandemic, up  from 16% who telecommuted at least one day a week pre-pandemic. Among the 60% of  respondents currently telecommuting during the pandemic, approximately half would want to  continue to telework 3-4 days per week.  

“Both national and local surveys of employers and employees predict sustained higher rates of  teleworking after the pandemic compared to beforehand. This means that many of the highway  and arterial expansion projects being planned in the region are based on outdated travel  forecasts. Many of these projects were based on the premise of addressing peak-of-the-peak  commuting congestion, but these trips may fall significantly. The Washington, DC region needs  to cancel or at least put on the back burner these major road expansion proposals,” said  Schwartz. “At the same time, we need to ensure that our transit system meets the needs of  people returning to work and addresses their concerns, especially people without personal  vehicle options.” 

Land Use and Affordable Housing are Key Solutions But Are Missing From the Survey 

“The Voices of the Region survey asked some great questions and provided lots of valuable  insights. However, one of the areas it missed was asking about the proximity of services and  destinations that are important to residents,” said Pugh. 

● Do residents live close to their basic needs and would they want to have them closer?

● What factors make that difficult, is it due to the lack of affordable housing in walkable,  mixed-use neighborhoods or due to job centers in isolated office parks? 

“We see that 75% of Core residents find that the region’s transportation system meets their  needs, and that has as much to do with the compact, walkable built environment as with the  transportation options available beyond driving in places like DC, Arlington and Alexandria,”  said Pugh.  

Pugh continued, “three fourths of the trips in the region are for non-commuting purposes, so  even if people are teleworking more, they will still want shorter and easier trips that don’t  always involve getting in the car. The best way to address the evolving travel needs and desires  of most residents to walk and bike more, is in our land use planning. Mixed-use, walkable,  compact neighborhoods offer safe and convenient options for accessing basic needs.”  

A Gap in the Survey — Failure to Reach Enough Low-Income Residents 

“Low-income residents were less well represented than other groups according to consultant  staff who presented the survey results at the TPB’s recent Technical Committee meeting. So it  would be good to understand from the focus groups and possible follow-up surveys how the  region can best meet the transportation and housing location needs of low-income residents  and workers,” said Pugh. While low-income residents expressed similar satisfaction with the  transportation system as non-low-income residents, staff said in their presentation that this  result may be due to the concentration of those low-income residents sampled in Core and  Inner jurisdictions.  


CSG Testimony to County Council in support of ZTA 20-07 and Bill 52-20

February 8, 2021 

Montgomery County Council 

Stella Werner Council Office Building 

100 Maryland Ave 

Rockville, MD 20850 

Zoning Text Amendment 20-07, R-60 Zone – Uses and Standards (Support) and Bill 52-20, Landlord-Tenant Relations – Protection Against Rent Gouging Near Transit  (Support with Amendments) 

Testimony for February 11, 2021 

Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager 

Council President Hucker and councilmembers, thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony  on both ZTA 20-07 and Bill 52-20. My name is Jane Lyons and these comments are on behalf of the  Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization in the D.C. region advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the  DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all. 

Montgomery County has a housing crisis, a crisis that stretches from those with the lowest incomes  to even those of upper-moderate incomes. There are too many people who spend over half their  income to keep a roof over their and their loved ones’ heads, and fear that next year’s rent increase  will force them to find a new home. There are also too many people who feel that they cannot  comfortably age-in-place in the communities they’ve called home for decades and too many young  families who find it impossible to put down roots. 

Montgomery County is a great place to live, which is why so many people want to be here, but we do  not have enough housing to meet the high and growing demand, especially in walkable, transit oriented neighborhoods. Wealthier households are able to out-bid others, pushing teachers,  healthcare workers, and other essential workers to farther and farther out, undermining our economy  and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. 

There is no easy answer to solve our housing challenges, but the two proposals before you this  evening are a step in the right direction. Neither proposal is perfect, but both are the beginning of  critical conversations about making sure the county’s housing opportunities are more inclusive,  sustainable, and affordable. 

First, ZTA 20-07: From various studies, reports, and plans over the past several years, missing  middle housing typologies such as duplexes and townhomes have emerged again and again as a 

Coalition for Smarter Growth 202-675-0016 

key tool that we continue to constrict. Building duplexes, triplexes, and small apartment buildings  near transit needs to be much less onerous. To do this, they need to be allowed by-right with  appropriate requirements, although those requirements must ensure that middle housing types are  actually feasible to construct.  

We would also like to see this initiative expanded to include both R-60 and R-90 zones near Metro,  Purple Line, and along major transit corridors. However, targeting zoning reform only around transit  does not undo the legacy of inequitable land use policies and segregation. We encourage zoning  initiatives such as this to also enable a diversity of housing options in areas of high incomes and job  clusters. To that end, we also urge you to consider creative approaches for incentivizing affordability  in middle housing developments. 

Secondly, Bill 52-20: We support legislation to restrict rent gouging, but such legislation must be  carefully crafted to make sure that rent controls do not result in a reduction in new housing or  disinvestment in existing housing. To achieve a more balanced policy, we propose the following  amendments: 

1. Set the rate of allowed increase to three percent plus the rate of inflation. The voluntary rent  guidelines, while useful, are essentially just the rate of inflation – the most restrictive type of  rent control policy. The cost of labor, construction, and climate change mitigation/adaptation  measures are often rising faster than the rate of inflation. 

2. Apply the provision countywide so that all renters are protected and transit-oriented  development is not disincentivized. 

3. Increase the exemption period for new buildings to 15 years. Properties need to produce the  highest rate of return for the first 10-17 years in order to pay off construction loans. Without  an expanded exemption period, new construction is unlikely. 

4. Consider different treatment for small multi-family buildings (10 to 50 units) and exempt  buildings less than 10 units. Smaller buildings often have a more difficult time with capital  maintenance because financing costs are typically higher due to a lack of economies of  scale. 

5. Exempt already rent regulated units until that regulation expires. For example, overlaying  another rent regulation on top of existing ones could discourage Low Income Housing Tax  Credit (LIHTC) investments, resulting in lost lower-priced units. 

In conclusion, we urge you to take up the complementary issues of rent stabilization and missing  middle housing to help Montgomery County become more affordable, equitable, and sustainable. Thank you for your consideration.

How we’re building a more equitable and sustainable region

February has arrived, and the CSG team is continuing to incorporate equity into our work. We spent the past week tuning in to Smart Growth America’s Equity Summit, which featured great speakers and leaders from across the smart growth and urbanism community, and we’re excited to continue building a more equitable smart growth movement for a more equitable and inclusive DC region. Be sure to check out the videos and recommended reading from the Summit when available!

Transit Equity Day

Transit Equity Day is this Thursday, February 4, celebrated on Rosa Parks’ birthday! We’re joining advocates across the U.S. and DC region to highlight both the progress and challenges in achieving equity through better, more accessible transit.

We’re co-sponsoring the national Labor Network for Sustainability’s Transit Equity Day with virtual public hearings on February 3 and 4.  

In VA, we’re co-hosting with the Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter a lunch and learn panel on February 4 at 12pm, featuring transit champions from NoVA, Richmond, Charlottesville, and Hampton Roads.

In DC, we’re cosponsoring #TranspoBINGO! The bingo card will be revealed at a virtual happy hour (RSVP here) on Feb 3rd at 8pm and the game will run Feb 4 to 11, with another virtual happy hour on Feb 11 at 6pm to announce winners. It’s a great chance to connect with fellow transit advocates! Tweet your progress using #TranspoBINGO. Learn more here.


Speaking of transit, Fairfax County continues public outreach for their Transit Strategic Plan, which is a county-wide review of bus service and a plan for future service. You can provide input here until February 19.

Meanwhile, Sonya is working across NoVA organizing and speaking up in support of inclusive and sustainable housing policies. Thanks to Alexandria residents and CSG supporters, the city passed a strong new accessory dwelling unit policy by a 6-1 vote last week! In Fairfax, Stewart and Sonya provided testimony to the Planning Commission in support of the county’s Workforce Dwelling Unit policy update and their zoning modernization (zMOD) updates to accessory living units. Both will go before the Board of Supervisors and needs your support. Arlington County extended the survey deadline to provide input on their Missing Middle Housing study to Feb 8, so there’s still time to support missing middle housing by filling out the survey!


Missing middle housing is also up for consideration in Montgomery County! The county is discussing missing middle as part of their Thrive2050 General Plan update, as well as Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 20-07. The ZTA would allow missing middle housing on lots zoned for single family houses within a mile of Metro stations. To learn more, check out last week’s Montgomery for All meeting, hosted by Jane, with experts Lisa Govoni and Eli Spevak. The Council will hold a public hearing on the ZTA on Feb 11, so join the waitlist to testify or submit written testimony here

If you live in downtown Silver Spring, RSVP to a virtual meeting on Feb 9 at 7pm to learn more about the drafting of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, which will guide the area’s growth for the next 20 years.


The fight continues for passage of the Comprehensive Plan! Cheryl is working with the Housing Priorities Coalition to organize support from DC residents, including submitting a sign-on letter from residents to urge passage. The updated plan removes exclusionary language, requires the use of a racial-equity lens when making decisions, increases affordable housing supply and sets goals for equitable distribution of housing opportunities. It would also allow construction of over 1,000 affordable homes stalled by the Comp Plan’s delay. Click here to send an email to Council!

Cheryl is also continuing to work on expanding DC’s inclusionary zoning (IZ) regulations, or IZ+, which would require additional affordable homes in developments resulting from upzoning. Stay tuned for our event on IZ+ later in February. And ICYMI, we released the long-awaited ADU DC Homeowner’s Manual: How to Build an Accessory Apartment or Second Dwelling in the District of Columbia with United Planning Organization and Citi.


Transportation is our #1 source of emissions, but officials aren’t doing enough to reduce the amount we have to drive. Thanks to Bill, we won a vote at the Transportation Planning Board to require projects to be prioritized to reduce vehicles miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. But we’re seeing delays by staff and aren’t convinced some jurisdictions will do their part to select transportation projects that reduce emissions, so we sent a joint sign-on letter to every local government. Multiple CSG staff are also providing input to local government climate action plans under development in Virginia and Maryland.

Want to volunteer for CSG?


We’ve recently received several inquiries from supporters who are interested in volunteering their time to support CSG’s advocacy. If that describes you, please fill out this form to let us know how you’d like to help. Two key projects — local photography and monitoring local government meetings.

Thanks for all you do,

Stewart, Cheryl, Jane, Sonya, Emily, and Bill