Mary Cheh on Comp Plan Markup

Ward Councilmember Mary Cheh speaks during the markup of the Comprehensive Plan legislation on April 20, 2021.

Comments by Councilmember Mary Cheh:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Largely my comments are focused on Ward 3, but they apply generally. This process has set the stage for inclusive and equitable growth across the District. Historically Ward 3 has lagged other parts of the district in contributing to those objectives. The Rock Creek West planning area, which contains Ward 3 has just 1% of the city’s affordable housing stock.

As we pursue the Mayor’s affordable housing goals and combat displacement, we have to embrace higher density residential development in places where that makes sense, which I think this Comp Plan largely achieves.

And the Comp Plan update so far has been a truly collective effort with meetings, town halls, public engagement. You know, out of my own office, extensive exchanges with groups and individuals and so on, and I’m pleased to see that the changes that have been suggested to the Chairman have largely been incorporated in this draft.

Proposed changes to the Future Land Use Map designating new and higher density mixed use areas properly located along the corridors, Wisconsin and Connecticut, will position Ward 3 communities to accommodate the need for growth. These changes reflect the notion that rezoning can encourage building, mostly residential, and help us cultivate a higher capacity and financially accessible Ward.

The integration of new residents isn’t just good for those residents. It’s also good for our existing communities. Older neighborhoods in marketplaces are at turning points. Our city and neighborhood serving retail centers simply need more neighbors to serve it they are going to continue to thrive.

Literally and figuratively, we will add new life and greater diversity and ultimately a more enlivened and robust community with the changes that are coming to the comp plan.

I’ve also balanced the priority for affordable denser development with the realities of our neighborhood context and I’ve worked with the Chairman to draw back some density designations such as in Cleveland Park, doing so to recognize that neighborhoods serving commercial areas and neighborhoods serving areas in general and historic districts obviously can’t bear the same scale of building as in, for example, some downtown areas.

Nevertheless, we can contribute meaningfully to affordable development.

And growth also isn’t something that developers should be able to impose at will by designating as future planning analysis areas. Many of the Ward 3 neighborhoods set to get higher density land use designations we can commit the District thoughtful planning and anticipation.

And I’ve asked the Rock Creek Element include language including smaller area plans in particular come before, that they precede rezoning in the ward such that all advocates may collectively inform growth.

Just briefly, I just note, however, that I am concerned about the Chairman’s reincorporation of inflexible presumptive language in the comp plan amendments, but we can discuss that further at some point.

Thank you again, Mr. Chairman for bringing the comp plan to mark-up and I look forward to hearing my colleagues’ perspective on the proposal.

Thank you.

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