“Equity for Ward 3” Dog Whistle

At the Cleveland Park Citizens Association meeting this past Thursday, we heard push-back from some community members frustrated by what they see as an unfair push to add density in Ward 3.  Added to this were politically-charged comments that Mayor Bowser is protecting her “home base” while stripping Ward 3 of protections, and is acting inequitably toward the residents of Ward 3.  Here’s what was said by a community leader (poor audio quality video follows):

“Talking about equity, it’s not just the map amendments.  It’s really important to pay attention to the various text amendments that OP has put forward.  If you compare, say, the Rock Creek West area, where we are, with Rock Creek East, there are some pretty big differences.  For example, OP is proposing that current references to infrastructure limitations, schools, roads, police stations, fire, that are now considered during development discussions, they are eliminating those.  They are eliminating references to stepping down new infill development as it gets closer to houses in Ward 3.  There are reduced emphasis on historic protection.  But then, if you go to Rock Creek East, which is I think largely Ward 4, there are enhanced protections. A lot of new language protecting view sheds; about protecting neighborhood character; about respecting historic resources in a Ward which is, after all, the Mayor’s home base.  If we are going to talk about equity should the same policy be applied across the city.”

The impression these comments leave the reader/listener with is that Ward 3 has been stripped bare.  But the reality of the proposed changes to the Rock Creek West Element (RCW) tell a very different story that causes this divisive charge to fall apart.  Much of what was cut from the RCW Elelment comes from the narrative in the section about our “Priorities.”  The entire section was cut – AS IT WAS IN EVERY AREA ELEMENT IN THE CITY, NOT JUST RCW!  But the key parts of the RCW Element (indeed all Area Elements) that have teeth are the specific Policies outlined.  In reading these, you find these protections are in fact very much intact.

For example, in regard to historic preservation protections, new language has been added to the RCW Element Policies that say, “Where more intense development is proposed in the vicinity of historic properties, adverse effects should be mitigated through careful siting, massing and design to respect the character of the historic property and to provide appropriate transitions between the historic property and surrounding areas. 2309.6”

In regard to schools, the proposed Plan makes expanding, not just renovating and improving, schools in the area a priority.  Moreover, this policy is no longer linked to future development, but would be in place right now (Policy RCW-1.2.8: Schools and Libraries).

Are we stripping public safety protections?  The new Plan says, “Policy RCW-1.2.7: Fire and EMS Services — Renovate and enlarge fire stations while remaining sensitive to their historic architectural qualities.  The number of fire stations must be sufficient to serve the needs of area residents and businesses.2309.8″

What about the character of our neighborhood (and we have some characters, let me tell you…)?

  • 2309.17 Action RCW-1.2.F: Façade Improvements — Encourage urban design and façade improvements in the established commercial districts along Wisconsin Avenue and Connecticut Avenue. 2309.17
  • When it comes to mixed-use development near our Metro Stations?  “Design context-specific transitions to be more aesthetically pleasing from development along the avenues to nearby low-scale neighborhoods. 2308.7”
  • The focus on Urban Design policies for the area are unchanged, “Policy RCW-1.2.1: Urban Design Focus — Focus urban design efforts in the Rock Creek West Planning Area on its commercial centers and major avenues, historic landmarks, historic districts, and areas with significant environmental and topographical features. 2309.1”

It is irresponsible to for our public leaders to engage in “us vs. them” parochialism, especially when the base of the charges are not rooted in fact.  We get enough of that in our current national political environment.

There is a lot of positive changes in the proposed RCW Element that moves our area in a direction that I have outlined here.

If you support positive change that takes steps to protect what is important about where we live but responsibly addresses our city’s challenges on housing, affordability, vibrancy, sustainability and, yes, equity, please come to the following two meetings and engage.  Be a voice of reason amidst the dog whistles and rants against the process:

Ward 3 Comprehensive Plan Information Session (hosted by Office of Planning)
Date/Time: December 7 (Saturday) 10am-12pm
Location: Wilson High School, 3950 Chesapeake St. NW-Gym (Metro: Tenleytown)
Register here for the Ward 3 Comp Plan Meeting

ANC 3C December Meeting
Date/Time: December 16, 2019 7:00-8:30 pm
Location: Cleveland Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008

Not a Member?  Join Cleveland Park Smart Growth

Send Emails

You can also start sending emails to advocate for the proposed changes.  Personal emails that capture what you want and why are most effective.  Even if you send the same email to different policy makers, send one at a time, and not to a group distribution (except for the ANC*).  NOW is the time to start sending emails.  The public record closes December 20th.

Andrew Trueblood, Director DC Office of Planning, plandc@dc.gov
Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Council Member, mcheh@dccouncil.us
Phil Mendelson, Council Chairman, pmendelson@dccouncil.us
Anita Bonds, At-Large Council Member, abonds@dccouncil.us
Robert White, At-Large Council Member, rwhite@dccouncil.us
David Grosso, At-Large Council Member, dgrosso@dccouncil.us
Elissa Silverman, At-Large Council Member, esilverman@dccouncil.us


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