Twenty-One Cleveland Park Leaders Speak Out Against Fear Tactics

Dear Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Cheh,

I am forwarding a letter to you signed by twenty-one community leaders from Cleveland Park including ANC Commissioners and Commissioners-elect, and community group leaders. All have signed in their individual capacity.

The intent of the letter is to push back on a campaign being waged by the Cleveland Park Historical Society aimed at instilling fear over the proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan.

We welcome constructive debate about the future of our neighborhood and believe this can only happen when a fact-based conversation replaces one based on misinformation meant to inflame.

Thank you for accepting this as part of the record for Bill 23-736, the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020.


November 29, 2020

Hon. Phil Mendelson, Chairman
Hon. Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Councilmember
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Cheh,

We write to express concern over the quality of civic engagement happening in Cleveland Park surrounding the proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan.  In any community, competing points of view and robust debate and conversation are to be expected and encouraged.  As we have unfortunately seen at the national level recently, civic engagement breaks down when facts are malleable and debate is replaced with histrionics.

The Cleveland Park Historical Society recently sent out an “action alert” to its members with intent to inflame rather than inform.  We are writing to provide fact-checking and hopefully to steer the conversation back toward reality.

Sensational Claim: Historic Preservation Protections are being eroded for Cleveland Park.

Reality:  This is simply not true.  Legal protections that govern the Cleveland Park Historic District are found in the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978, as amended, and not in the Comprehensive Plan.  As you, Mr. Chairman, have pointed out, outside of the Maps, Land Use and Framework Elements, the rest of the Comprehensive Plan is non-binding guidance.  Director Trueblood made this point to you in his testimony on November 13th: historic protection comes from the D.C. Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act, not the Comprehensive Plan, and nothing is changing that.

Sensational Claim: Cleveland Park is being singled out. 

Reality: Cleveland Park is not being singled out, either as an historic district, or as a Metro site where adjacent land is proposed to be redesignated as High Density.  Every Metro station area in Ward 3 has a FLUM amendment proposing an increase to High Density Residential.  Woodley Park, an historic district like Cleveland Park, is proposed to have a similar increase to High Density Residential being striped over its current Low Density Commercial.  These are part of broader land use changes that allow greater density in our transit zones, and they are overdue.

Sensational Claim: Building heights could be allowed up to 120 feet. 

Reality: As Councilmember Cheh can attest, the Historic Preservation Office made a presentation to the Cleveland Park community on November 9th and Deputy State Preservation Officer Steve Callcott made it clear that since the proposed FLUM density increase is wholly contained within the Cleveland Park Historic District, any future infill or new construction must be found to be compatible by the Historic Preservation Review Board.  Building heights and setbacks will be governed by preservation law first, and not exclusively by zoning.  He made clear that each case will be considered in its context.  At no point did he suggest that zoning, and not the HPRB, would control the density of future construction.

Sensational Claim: Proposals in the Comprehensive Plan would promote and prioritize 4+ story apartment buildings on Cleveland Park side streets which are currently zoned for single-family homes.

Reality: To accomplish what is being suggested would require a change in zoning, which could happen today and not require any changes to the Maps of the Comprehensive Plan.  Again, every contributing building to the Cleveland Park Historic District is and would continue to be protected by current preservation law.  

The Single Family Housing Report issued by the Office of Planning, which is NOT a part of the amendment package before the Council, called for consideration of adding low-scale density in single family home areas adjacent to transit.  Again, that could happen today if there was community will.  The Report specifically says, “The Office of Planning does not recommend a citywide change of what is permitted under single-family zoning at this time, as this action would have to be considered in the context of a Comprehensive Plan rewrite.”  It is a debate worth having in the near future.

Sensational Claim: Mixed-use development in the historic district will not lead to truly affordable housing.

Reality: Any development in Cleveland Park that results in 10 or more units is subject to Inclusionary Zoning.  Under the Expanded Inclusionary Zoning provision approved by the Zoning Commission on Monday, any map amendment that results in a density increase will be subject to a higher requirement of income-restricted housing, up to 18-20%, as compared to the current 8-10%. The Expanded IZ plan is not going to solve the affordability crisis in the city, but it is a significant start, coupled with greater allowable density.  Additional policies in the form of District subsidies will also be required to meet the Mayor’s affordable housing goals.

Adding housing to our transit corridor is good policy for a variety of reasons, including commercial vitality, achieving reduced carbon emissions and housing equity, that is the provision of income-restricted housing in high opportunity areas where it is currently woefully underrepresented.  These policies can be advanced in Cleveland Park with greater allowable density, as difficult as they will be to realize under the very real and intact historic preservation restrictions.  

Respectfully,

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners

Jason Fink, Commissioner ANC 3C02
Jimmy Dubois, Commissioner ANC 3C03
Beau Finley, Commissioner ANC 3C04
David Cristeal, Commissioner, ANC 3F01, Cleveland Park Smart Growth Steering Committee

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners-Elect

Janell Pagats, Commissioner-Elect ANC 3C03, member Cleveland Park Citizens Association
Sauleh Siddiqui, Commissioner-Elect ANC 3C05, Board of Directors (At-Large) Cleveland Park Citizens Association
Adam Hoyt, Commissioner-Elect ANC 3C06

WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group

Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Co-Senior Rabbi, Adas Israel Congregation, Ward 3, WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group
Robin Halsband, Member of Cleveland Park Smart Growth, Cleveland Park Citizens Association, Cleveland Park Historical Society, and WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Working Group, 2927 Macomb St, NW
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, Co-Senior Rabbi at Adas Israel Ward 3 and resident 2940 Newark street NW
Bonnie Politz, WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group
Betsy Strauss, WIN Ward 3 Affordable Housing Work Group, 3018 Porter Street NW

Cleveland Park Citizens Association Board Members

Allison Bernstein, Cleveland Park Citizens Association Board of Directors (Corresponding Secretary), 3883 Connecticut Avenue NW #804
Isaac Bowers, Cleveland Park Citizens Association Board of Directors (At-Large), 3702 Reno RD NW
Michael C. Rifer, Cleveland Park Citizens Association Board of Directors (At-Large), 3238 Rodman Street NW
Jennifer Ward, Cleveland Park Citizens Association Board of Directors (At-Large), 2930 Macomb St NW
(Sauleh Siddiqui, see ANC Commissioners)

Cleveland Park Smart Growth Steering Committee Members

(David Cristeal, see ANC Commissioners)
Megan Draheim, Cleveland Park Smart Growth Steering Committee, 3065 Porter St. NW
Ellen Herr, Cleveland Park Smart Growth Steering Committee, 3000 Connecticut Ave, NW, Apt 407
Glenn Stanley, Cleveland Park Smart Growth Steering Committee, 3605 34th Street NW
Bob Ward, Cleveland Park Smart Growth Steering Committee, member Cleveland Park Citizens Association, 2930 Macomb St NW
Laura Watson, Cleveland Park Smart Growth Steering Committee, 2801 Quebec St, NW

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