Testimony before the City of Alexandria City Council re: Coordinated Development Districts #21/#22 and Design Standards for Beauregard Small Area Plan

Good afternoon. I am Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth closely tracked the planning for the redevelopment of the Beauregard corridor and testified in support of the new plan. We have studied the staff report for the new Coordinated Development Districts in great detail.

Our review of the staff report, community advisory committee reports and other supporting documentation indicates a very high degree of due diligence and analysis. The city has invested significant resources in ensuring all the pieces fit together in this complex rezoning, including the design standards, the staging related to transportation improvements, and the developer commitments to financing public infrastructure and affordable housing. The city also established community advisory committees to collect ongoing input and provide independent recommendations to the staff, Planning Commission and Council.

Mixed-use, mixed-income development in walkable, transit-oriented development offers the best way for our region to grow while managing traffic, increasing access to jobs for all incomes, and reducing energy use and pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions.

Understandably, the key area of ongoing concern has been affordable housing and we understand the concern of existing residents who depend on affordable rents. Entendemos. The Coalition for Smarter Growth has included affordable housing policy as a core component of our work including support for housing trust funds, inclusionary zoning, use of public land, zoning and other tools.

Market rate affordable housing is under pressure and at risk due to the region’s continued population growth and the traffic that is encouraging residents to live closer to jobs and transit. It is this demand to live close to jobs, transit and the core, that has developers like JBG seeking out larger parcels of land with the potential for significant redevelopment, such as the garden apartments within the Beauregard community.

Most of the garden apartments are found in an area that the city included in CDD #4 a number of years ago, which created an incentive for purchase and redevelopment, but without a set-aside or other affordable housing preservation strategies for the area. Given the current situation, CDD #21/#22 offers the best opportunity to secure long-term committed affordable housing and a range of other community benefits.

We are glad that the city conducted a tenant survey to better understand the needs, and that as a result, the city has made adjustments to the affordable housing plan, tenant transition, and associated financing plan, including increasing the number of units for households with incomes at 40% of Area Median Income and below.

The plan’s housing goal and an effective strategy to create 800 long-term committed affordable units are essential. It includes the largest developer contribution ever made to affordable housing in our region – $66 million, and the city’s substantial commitment using tax increment financing. It appears to now be better tailored to the needs identified in the tenant survey with a focus on people earning $15,000 to $65,000 per year, depending on family size. Over 50% of the 800 units will be at 40% AMI and below.

Redevelopment of the garden apartments will happen over many years, providing time for creative affordable housing deals, especially with non-profit housing developers, and other strategies to offer additional committed affordable housing units. Espero que; creo que la Ciudad va a hacer lo que es necesario para ayudar a la communidad con este cambio.

The city has drafted an Affordable Housing Master Plan, which is much needed. We’ve lost too much because of not doing enough in the past. The plan should also be improved with clear numerical goals, dedicated funding, and the city’s priority attention to adopting the policies and programs necessary to more effectively preserve and expand affordable housing. At the same time, the city also needs the tax base from well-planned, competitive transit-oriented redevelopment to create the taxpayer resources necessary for this affordable housing strategy.

In conclusion and weighing the information before you today, we recommend that you support the rezoning to Coordinated Development Districts 21 and 22. Thank you.

Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director