Category: Newsletters

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.


Virginia

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!


Maryland

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.


DC

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.


Climate

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?

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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

Working hard to make 2021 better

Dear Friend,

Can you believe it’s been another month? We hope you and your family are continuing to stay safe and healthy. We’re working hard to ensure that several progressive policies across the region are passed before the end of the year, so we can build a better 2021.

Smart Growth Social

We celebrated a successful virtual Smart Growth Social at the end of October! Beth Osborne of Transportation for America gave an inspiring update on the exciting possibilities of transportation reform, while social breakout rooms provided a much needed opportunity to reconnect and network. If you weren’t able to make it, you can watch a recording of the event here. Congratulations to Ted Eytan, who won our photo contest with his stunning shot of Ben’s Chili Bowl:

Climate

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) is preparing a Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP) for the year 2030 that will provide direction to regional efforts like TPB’s Visualize 2045 transportation plan update. However, the draft CEAP needs to set stronger land use, vehicle miles traveled reduction, and non-auto mode share goals and strategies to ensure the region adequately addresses its transportation sector emissions. CSG submitted comments to MWCOG and to TPB on this effort in October and this month we’re contiuing to work with our partners to push for a more robust plan. End of YearWith the end of the year comes end of year fundraising! This year has been unlike any other, and it has been especially tough for nonprofits. If you’ve been inspired by the work CSG has done this year to make our region a more livable, inclusive place, please consider supporting our work.Support CSG’s ongoing work with $5, $10, or $25 today!


Election updates

While the presidential election has been taking up a lot of bandwidth, lots of local elections also turned up promising results for the region.

In Virginia: 

  • Voters approved a constitutional amendment that will give redistricting authority to a bipartisan commission made up of citizens and legislators, rather than the governor and General Assembly. 
  • Preliminary results on bond referenda in Fairfax County show all 4 bonds (parks and recreation, public libraries, health and human services, and transportation) have passed with a safe margin, but certified results will not be available until November 16th.

In Maryland:

  • Voters approved a measure that gives more authority to the General Assembly, allowing them to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such measures do not exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor. 
  • In Montgomery County, voters passed Questions A and C, which remove an existing cap on overall property tax revenue and add two new District seats to the Council respectively.

In DC: 

  • The crowded field for two open at-large council seats in DC yielded a win for incumbent candidate Robert White and newcomer Christina Henderson.

A busy month in Maryland

This past Monday was the deadline for public comments on MDOT’s draft environmental impact survey for the proposed expansion of I-495/I-270. You can read our comments here and our joint comments with Sierra Club here.The Council will have their final vote to repeal the housing moratorium within the Subdivision Staging Policy this Monday. It’s been a long fight, but it is very likely that the housing moratorium will finally be repealed, once again enabling development in desirable growth areas of the County. Thank you to all the supporters and local advocates who helped make this happen!Public hearings for the update to the Montgomery County General Plan are on November 19th! Click here to sign up to testify before noon on November 18th. You can also submit written comments by sending them to MCP-Chair@mncppc-mc.org.For the final Montgomery for All meeting of the year, we will be joined by guest speaker Councilmember Will Jawando, who is one of three councilmembers on the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee. The PHED Committee is the primary body behind reviewing and implementing the updates to the General Plan, so it should be an interesting and fruitful meeting. Register here!


The fight continues in Virginia

Next week there will be a series of community meetings on service improvements to the Fairfax Connector in the Centreville-Chantilly-Vienna-Tysons areas. If you’re a Connector rider along any of these routes, RSVP to one of three meetings here or take the survey here. Connector service remains an essential service during the pandemic and your feedback is necessary to improve reliability, increase mobility, and provide better access to desirable destinations!

We’re continuing to monitor 495 Next, the proposed northern extension of express lanes on I-495. With our local partners, we won an extension to the comment deadline until December 4th. Our main concerns are the current lack of transit funding and the apparent rush to commit to the project before knowing the outcome and timing of Maryland’s plans. You can submit comments to VDOT and your elected officials using our email form here

Arlington kicked off its missing middle housing study two weeks ago and we’re continuing to monitor its progress. You can read more about the study here and give input until December 31st.


Still fighting for a more affordable, inclusive DC

The second of two public hearings on the DC Comp Plan will take place today. The updates on the table have been long approved, it’s just a matter of adopting them. We’re fighting for adoption before 2021, before new councilmembers assume office. The DC Zoning Commission will hear the proposal for Expanded Inclusionary Zoning this Monday November 16th at 6:30pm. The proposed policy isn’t perfect, but the existing affordable housing crisis and the additional pressure generated by the pandemic has created the need for urgent action. You can read our testimony here and sign up to testify here. A survey on MoveDC, the District’s long range multimodal transportation plan, is currently open until tomorrow, November 14th. The last update to MoveDC occurred in 2014, and some aims of the upcoming update include: 

  • Map mobility networks for bicycles, transit and freight to achieve mode shift goals
  • Address how recent, emerging and future mobility trends and innovations will shape our transportation system
  • Ensure equity is a key consideration in making transportation decisions

Share your input with DDOT here!


Our work would not be possible without the support of people like you. Please consider making a donation today

Thanks for all you do,

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

Our big fall event and lots of updates!

We hope you and your family are well. Please join us for our annual Smart Growth Social, don’t forget to vote, and read on to catch up on the latest in your smart growth community.

Smart Growth Social

Our annual Smart Growth Social (virtual edition) is October 28th at 7pm via Zoom! Join us to hear Beth Osborne of Transportation for America, network in social breakouts, and enjoy a photo contest to celebrate the best of smart growth in our communities. For more details visit the SGS webpage. Register here. If you or your organization is interested in sponsoring the event or joining the host committee, click here.


Don’t forget to VOTE!

Today is the last day to register in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Between mail-in voting, early voting, and ballot dropboxes, there are more options than ever before. Identify what works best for you, and make your voice heard! And don’t forget that there are key ballot initiatives on many local ballots — highlighted below.


A climate agenda

Photo credit: Jane Lyons

Last month we introduced Bill Pugh, our Senior Policy Fellow, who is leading our climate agenda. We know transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions, and reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is key. Bill is crafting our advocacy agenda to work with policymakers to reduce VMT and carbon emissions. 


Fighting for an inclusive Comprehensive Plan in DC 

Room for more housing proposed from Friendship Heights to Tenleytown.

It’s not over yet! We’re still fighting to ensure vital amendments to the DC Comprehensive Plan are adopted before the end of the year — for a greater diversity of housing options for different income levels. Tell Chairman Mendelson you want to see these changes passed in 2020! 

  • Meanwhile, join our forum on the DC Comp Plan and transportation, October 22nd at 5:30pm, co-hosted with Young Transportation Professionals-DC, featuring Andrew Trueblood, Director of DC Office of Planning, Gabe Klein, former director of DDOT and founding Partner of Cityfi; and our Policy Director Cheryl Cort. RSVP
  • Testify to win! We’re also co-hosting a testimony workshop with partners October 27th at 4pm. You’ll learn more about the Comp Plan and how to effectively testify at the  DC Council virtual hearings November 12th and 13th. RSVP here and sign up to testify here.
  • Our Better DC Buses campaign with partners is bearing fruit. DDOT accelerated its Bus Priority Program (notice more red painted bus lanes). Join us at DDOT’s moveDC meetings October 13 or 15 to support better buses and safer, more sustainable and equitable transportation. 
  • And don’t forget to vote! DC has two open, at-large Council seats and two dozen candidates! The Post profiled the race here. There’s also a ballot initiative to decriminalize the use of psychedelic plants

Fighting for a better future in Maryland

  • A win for smart growth! We supported Bill 29-20 in Montgomery County, which passed 7 to 2. It creates a 15-year tax abatement for development on WMATA owned land at Metro stations, with up to15% of affordable units. The bill is expected to spur up to 8,600 new homes at Metro including 1,300 affordable homes.
  • Just around the corner — public hearings on the update to Montgomery County’s general plan, Thrive 2050RSVP for our testimony workshop with Montgomery for All on October 15th at 7pm to learn how to effectively communicate your desires for the future of the county.
  • The Council is discussing the Subdivision Staging Policy, and you can still send a message asking them to repeal the harmful and outdated housing moratorium here.
  • There are four critical ballot initiatives in Montgomery County regarding the makeup of the County Council and property tax caps. We encourage you to vote yes on Questions A & C and no on Questions B & D; more information can be found here.
  • Participate in the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, via an online listening session tonight,  and fill out the survey here. To stay updated, sign up for the plan e-letter here and visit Montgomery Planning’s website here.
  • The Purple Line, and the economic benefits it would bring to Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, are in flux after a judge ruled that private contractors could abandon the job. Work has halted, but after a major advocacy push Governor Hogan has committed to the project’s completion. Read more in this piece featuring quotes from our Maryland Advocacy Manager Jane Lyons. 

Fighting for safer and more sustainable transportation in Virginia

  • First the ballot initiatives: There are 2 State Constitutional Amendments. Question 1 would move redistricting authority from the General Assembly to a bipartisan redistricting commission composed of eight legislators and eight citizens. Question 2 would provide disabled veterans a tax exemption for one vehicle.
  • In addition to the constitutional amendments the following NoVA localities have bond initiatives, and one special election: 
    • Fairfax County:Transportation (Metro), Parks, Schools, Health and Human Services, and Libraries 
    • Arlington CountyStormwater, Schools, Transportation (Metro + other), Parks/Rec and County infrastructure
    • City of Falls ChurchA special election to fill unexpired term for one council seat
    • Loudoun CountySchools, public safety, and transportation 
  • Fairfax County wants to improve Fairfax Connector Franconia/Springfield bus service with faster, more frequent service, and improved accessibility. If you ride in this area, learn more here and fill out the survey by October 16th.
  • VDOT wants to widen the Beltway to extend toll lanes between Tysons and the GW Parkway. But increased telecommuting could permanently reduce peak trips, and with climate change increasingly apparent, we must rethink massive highway expansions. Ask VDOT to put the 495Next project on hold to consider better alternatives.
  • We are partners in the fight for an effective solution for Route 28 in Prince William. Together we’ve proposed a parallel street network that will revitalize the Yorkshire area, include bus rapid transit, and improved safety. The Prince William Board, and NVTAuthority, voted instead for a new bypass that will take up to 50 homes, harm drinking water, and fuel more traffic. See our joint press release.  
  • Four people have died walking along Richmond Highway (Route 1) this year alone. We’re pressing for design changes and reducing the speed limit from 45 to 35 mph to make Route 1 a safer place to walk, bike, and drive. These steps could reduce fatal crashes by 40%. Tell VDOT you support a safer Richmond Highway!

We hope to see you on October 28th at 7pm for Smart Growth Social. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

A busy fall: top issues and events in DC, MD, VA

Regional Campaigns

The Bus Transformation Study is out: We need more frequent, faster, and reliable service!

The final report of the Bus Transformation Study is out! Serving on the Executive Committee we ensured the study stressed the urgency of improving our region’s bus service, including installing priority bus lanes, route redesign for more frequent service, and lower fares. With MetroHero, we issued the first DC Bus Report Card, and a set of solutions to make our buses faster, more frequent and more reliable. We’ll be pressing elected officials to implement significant bus improvements, and we hope you’ll join us in this effort.

Regional Housing Needs: We need more homes, more affordable homes near transit

Yesterday, the Urban Institute and Greater Washington Partnership issued a report showing our region needs 374,000 more housing units by 2030 including 264,000 that are affordable for families annually making $54,300 or less. We need to say yes to more homes near transit, mixed-use redevelopment of commercial strip shopping corridors, accessory dwelling units, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, expanded housing trust funds, and inclusionary policies. Join CSG in making more affordable housing accessible to transit a top priority!

 

CSG In Action – District of Columbia

The DC Comprehensive Plan: The critical vote is coming up on September 17

For two years, we’ve been pressing for an updated citywide Comprehensive Plan that ensures we’ll have enough homes and affordable homes as our city grows. On September 17, the DC Council will take its final vote on the Plan. We are still fighting to make more housing a priority. We’ll need you to continue to weigh in. Here’s our call to action outlining priorities for the Plan. Look for a new action alert in your in-box soon.

Parking Cashout: We STILL need one more vote to make this happen!

Do you live in Ward 4 or 5? We need your help! If your employer offers you a parking benefit, we think you should have the option to cash it out and put the funds toward your biking, walking or bus/Metro commute. Unfortunately, our bill is stuck in the D.C. Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee. Contact Councilmembers Brandon Todd and Kenyan McDuffie and let them know you support B23-148, the Transportation Benefits Equity Act of 2019. Check out our factsheet here, and our webpage here.

CSG joins with UPO to launch “DC ADU”: to help low-income renters and homeowners

United Planning Organization (UPO) in August announced the launch of ADU DC, a pilot initiative to make accessory dwelling units (ADUs) more accessible to lower-income homeowners in DC. UPO is collaborating with CSG and founding corporate supporter Citi Community Development. DC ADU will help qualified homeowners build ADUs on their property; increase access to affordable and lower-priced housing in the District; and help homeowners with information about ADU development, zoning, permitting, design, and financing.

A Community Conversation:  DC’s Housing Framework for Equity and Growth

Join in the conversation to be held on Saturday, Sep 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Ron Brown High School in Deanwood. RSVP. This is an important city initiative analyzing how we can produce more affordable and market rate housing in the District, including achieving a more equitable distribution of new affordable housing across the city. They will examine public policies and regulations, market forces, and community dynamics.

Benning Road Streetcar Project Public Meeting #1: September 19

On Thursday, September 19, 2019, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., DDOT will hold an open house to kick off the Benning Road Reconstruction and Streetcar Project. Check out plans for DC’s streetcar extension at the event to be held at the Department of Employment Services (DOES), 4058 Minnesota Avenue, NE (Minnesota Ave. Metro station).

 

CSG In Action – Maryland

Event: “Climate Emergency: Montgomery County Responds”

CSG is a co-sponsor and will be tabling at “Climate Emergency: Montgomery County Responds” on Saturday, September 14th at the Silver Spring Civic Center. Attend the town hall — with a panel of advocates and county officials, moderated by WAMU reporter Jacob Fenston — and then come say hi! Learn more and RSVP here.

Save the Date!: Homeowner workshop on building an accessory apartment in Montgomery County

Mark your calendar to join CSG on Thursday, November 14th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center to learn about the process of building an accessory apartment! We will have presentations on zoning, permitting, licensing, financing, and more, as well as a Q&A session to help demystify the process. The workshop will be limited capacity, so keep an eye out for the registration link!

Montgomery General Plan: What does the county’s future look like?

Montgomery County is kicking off its General Plan update, Thrive Montgomery 2050, which will create a vision for how we work, live, and play. Planning Department staff are touring the county to get your feedback. You can also provide input via their online quiz. We believe the county has the opportunity to be a national leader in planning and implementing a sustainable, zero-carbon emissions, walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented future.

Subdivision Staging Policy: We need to end the housing moratorium

The Subdivision Staging Policy is the tool Montgomery County uses to ensure public facilities, like schools and transportation, keep pace with development. It’s also the policy that governs the county’s harmful housing moratorium, which is discouraging walkable, transit-oriented development. CSG is working to support revisions to the policy, and you can get involved by attending the county’s community workshop on October 7th.

Prince George’s County: The Westphalia kerfuffle and zoning for TOD

We supported the Prince George’s County Council’s steps to implement its newly adopted zoning code. The changes will improve public transparency and strengthen transit-oriented development. However, the Council took a step backwards when it arbitrarily redefined the Westphalia Town Center plan to allow a 19-acre warehouse with a sea of parking, declaring the warehouse appropriate for a walkable, mixed-use development. 

We joined local residents in opposing the change and talked to the Washington Post about the importance of consistency for ensuring high-quality transit-oriented communities. The corporate end user, Amazon, backed out, and we’ll be teaming with local advocates to ensure more walkable, transit-oriented communities are the focus for the county’s growth.

495/270 Toll Lanes: Smart growth offers a better alternative

Governor Hogan’s highway plan threatens the environment without actually lessening traffic congestion. We’ve been pushing for a comprehensive approach to our regional transportation needs: advancing transit projects, managing transportation demand, focusing development in walkable, transit-oriented communities, and expanding affordable housing. These measures would not only reduce emissions but would do far more to reduce travel times than adding additional highway lanes. Look for our calls to action!

 

CSG In Action – Virginia

Seminary Road: The Council Votes September 14!

Thank you to all who signed our petition! If you haven’t yet signed in support of the safest option — Alternative 3, please do so. Meanwhile, don’t forget to send an email to the City Council ahead of their vote on September 14. 

Seminary Road between Quaker Lane and I-395 is a high-speed, four-lane road without bicycle lanes or safe crossings despite the presence of neighborhoods, schools, and Alexandria Hospital. The City of Alexandria’s Seminary Road Complete Streets Project shows the best design option is Alternative 3, which adds two protected bicycle lanes, and converts to one through car lane in each direction with a middle left-turn lane. We urge you to email the Council in support of Alternative 3.

Merrifield Plan Update: Where’s the bus rapid transit?

Fairfax County is full steam ahead with a proposed Merrifield Comprehensive Plan Amendment that will transform the old Exxon-Mobil headquarters on Gallows, and Fairview Park across I-495, into a mixed-use community. The plan protects some open space and forests, establishes strong stormwater requirements, and recommends expanded bicycle and pedestrian networks.

However, it focuses on widening roads and numerous intersections, but lacks firm commitments or timeframes to expand public transit and build the bike/ped trail network. Completely missing is a much needed bus rapid transit link to the Dunn Loring Metro Station and Tysons. The Planning Commission hearing is September 11, and Board of Supervisors, September 24. Check out the staff report here and look for our alert on Monday.

Richmond Highway: Still fighting to get the design right

Fairfax County and VDOT are moving forward with plans to widen Richmond Highway and implement Bus Rapid Transit, but we are pressing them to design Route 1 to be safer and easier to cross — asking for narrower lanes, tighter right turns, and a design speed of 35mph instead of 45 mph. It would be even better for the road to be two through lanes in each direction instead of three — but VDOT and Fairfax won’t budge on that count. Learn the latest details and provide feedback at the Richmond Highway BRT public meeting coming up on September 17 at Bryant High School in Alexandria. 

Event: Tour the Railroad Cottages in Falls Church on Saturday, September 21!

Join us for the first of two fall walking tours! The award-winning Railroad Cottages in Falls Church is next to the W&OD trail and within walking or biking distance of two Metro stations. They illustrate how we can gracefully provide more homes for people. Instead of three homes, 10 EarthCraft sustainable homes were approved in a cottage format around a central walking lane, with a commons building and covered bicycle parking. CSG supported the project and is working for safer walking and bicycling access to the West Falls Church Metro. We’ll post the registration page shortly.