Don’t Delay Comp Plan – Approve It!

The Cleveland Park Citizens Association sent out a request for feedback today on their board’s resolution to call for the Council to delay consideration of the Amendments to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Civic associations across the city are being asked to do this. It is the work of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. Their reasoning is that the lasting effect of COVID-19 will impact the way Washington works, educates and transports itself that no updates should happen until that impact is better understood. Until then, the current Comprehensive Plan, written in 2006 and last amended in 2011, is adequate for our times.

Sounds reasonable? It is not. The current Comprehensive Plan, although amended just nine years ago, is very much out of date. Since 2011, the population of the city has increase by 90,000 residents, a whopping 15%. Housing prices have skyrocketed since then, a clear indication by the market telling us to build more housing. A quick look at Zillow shows that by the end of 2011, the average home price in D.C. was $413k. At the end of May 2020, a few months into the pandemic, the average home price in D.C. was $627k. That’s a 52% increase! Sticking with the current Plan, which inhibits the growth in housing our city needs, would be a disaster.

Office of Planning Director Andrew Trueblood notes, when asked about the Committee of 100’s letter by Council Chair (and C100 member) Phil Mendelson, that the proposed amendments rightfully refocus our long-term priorities on key issues like resilience, equity and housing.

Andrew Trueblood, D.C. Council Committee of the Whole Budget Hearing, May 27, 2020

It’s also important to understand who is asking for the delay. The Committee of 100 on the Federal City is a group known for resisting policies that would result in growth. When the City rewrote its zoning code a few years back, C100 sounded off against many changes that would provide more housing. For example, they opposed by-right backyard cottages, “Adding apartments to many backyards would diminish neighborhood character and change living patterns.” And they opposed reform to parking minimums, even though excessive parking requirements near transit, where many new residents live car free already, drive up the cost of housing and occupies space that could otherwise be used for housing. Despite this opposition, the new zoning code allowed for backyard cottages and did reduce parking minimums near transit in the final re-write o the zning code.

Moreover, the C100 have real problems with the proposed amendments – it goes too far removing cherished terms like “preserving neighborhood character” and is too anti-automobile calling it “youth-friendly but lifelong-lite” – which is why they would like to see it put on the shelf. Hopefully, they will continue to be unsuccessful.

If you are a member of the CPCA (if not, you should join, as they will be speaking on your behalf anyway), let them know that now is not the time to be putting the brakes on needed changes to the City’s planning. You can email CPCA President Barr Weiner at president@cpcadc.org.

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