June 13, 2023
Mr. Anthony Hood, Chair
DC Zoning Commission of the District of Columbia
441 4th Street, NW, Suite 210S
Washington, DC 20001
Amended testimony in Support for ZC No. 22-36, PUD for the Takoma Metro Station
Dear Chair Hood and Commission Members:
Please accept this letter on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG). CSG is the leading non-profit organization in the Washington, D.C. region, including DC and suburban Maryland, 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 are excited to support the transformation of the Takoma Metro station site, proposed in PUD case number 22-36. It’s past time to transform the Takoma Metro station and provide much-needed housing and enhanced public spaces in place of the sterile surface parking lot, passive open space, and large bus loop.
After seeing several site plans over the past 20 years and having been frustrated by the delays, we’re extremely happy that the proposed plan is far more ambitious and appropriate to this Metrorail station in our dynamic region.
The proposed reconfiguration of the station fits into the existing community while improving access to transit and bringing new community benefits. The project enhances walk and bicycle access, bus facilities, and bicycle parking. It also creates a more comfortable waiting environment for bus riders who will be close to the Metro station entrance and adjacent to a cafe-fronted plaza and residents’ apartments. The project preserves large trees, and 1.8 acres of permanent public open space, including: a retail plaza, community park, and green buffer between the site and the adjacent residential properties. For the first time, modern stormwater management controls will be installed.
On top of this lively new station hub will be about 440 new homes, including at least 70 for lower income families (15% of the total living space). Ten of the units will be affordable at 30% median family income (MFI), and 60 units at 60% MFI. The project’s six three bedroom units would all be for 30% MFI households. This is a major benefit of the project. We welcome the large number of affordable and deeply affordable homes to this in-demand neighborhood and convenient transit hub. We hope that the project can win subsidy from the HANTA program for additional affordable housing.
We ask the Commission to reduce the number of project parking spaces, and potentially share them among residential, retail and Metro uses. The project proposes to build 163 residential and 67 retail parking spaces. This is 0.37 spaces to housing unit ratio. The zoning code allows the standard 1 to 3 ratio to be cut in half given proximity to Metro, so only about 73 parking spaces are required (or 82 according to the DDOT report). DDOT stated that its preferred maximum is 130 spaces, though it did not differentiate between retail and residential). We understand that the applicant has agreed to potentially use excess residential parking spaces flexibility in the future. We ask the Commission to recommend that the application share residential, retail and Metro parking to reduce the total number of spaces, in line with DDOT’s recommendation. The shared parking at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station might be reviewed as a guide for this approach.
We recognize the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program provides residents with SmarTrip cards, which we suggest could be given ongoing fare value for the first 5 years of the building’s operation to further encourage riding transit. We appreciate the 23-dock Bikeshare station, Capital Bikeshare memberships, a shopping cart for walking trips, cargo bike storage, and pedestrian and bicycle pathway improvements.
The Comprehensive Plan directs us to assess all zoning decisions through a racial equity lens. This proposal builds on underutilized land displacing no one, and offers a substantial number of affordable homes, including family sized units for extremely low income families. Black and other people of color are disproportionately represented among low and extremely low income households in DC, and bear the brunt of DC’s affordable housing shortage. This project advances the housing equity goal for the Rock Creek East planning area, helping meet the goal of closing the 340-unit gap by 2025. The 440 new homes in the proposal also help to relieve demand pressures and moderate prices.
To achieve all these benefits, the surface parking lot and the pick up/drop off spaces will be reduced to 16 parking spaces in front of the Metro station. 67 retail spaces will also be available on site as well as metered street parking, to provide driving and parking access for the area. In the process, 440 more households will live within walking distance of the Metro station and local residents will have safer access via walking, biking, bus and drop-off.
Making the most of the Takoma Metro station, as this proposal does, helps DC and the region address critical goals of equity, sustainability and affordability. The project offers an inviting, human-scaled environment with increased access to transit and community spaces. It also enables more households in our region to access sustainable transportation options, reducing their reliance on private vehicles, and promotes energy efficiency by incorporating LEED Gold buildings into their living spaces.
We ask the Zoning Commission to approve the Takoma Metro station project quickly so we can begin to realize its many benefits.
Thank you for your consideration.