EDITORIAL: Multiple Concerns of D.C. Residents on ‘Changes’ to Comprehensive Plan Should Be Heeded

Flag of the District of Columbia
Flag of the District of Columbia (Courtesy of dpw.dc.gov)

As a rule, the many meetings of the D.C. Council and their slew of committee powwows rarely attract sizable crowds, nor are the topics on most of their agendas ladled with the kinds of items that make for sensational headlines — much less fodder for today’s trending items on your favorite social media app.

But during a recent Council hearing where the conversation focused on proposed changes to the city’s comprehensive plan — the document meant to serve as a 20-year guide to growth in the District — nearly 300 people signed up to testify.

Not only did city residents fill the chamber but the number of those wishing to testify apparently broke a record for the District. Add the over 3,000 written comments that were submitted to the council and it’s clear that citizens have a lot to say about the mayor’s proposals and intended development projects and how they will impact the city for at least the next several decades.

Among the key concerns that continue to spark heated debate are gentrification, displacement and affordable housing. However, environmental protection, land use, recreational space and transportation also loom large as evidenced by the hundreds who addressed the Council.

Activists assert that the surge of luxury projects, while good for the city’s booming real estate market, contribute very little to low-income communities already struggling to keep their homes or to find a way to pay rents that for many, are far from affordable. Suffice to say, Mayor Bowser’s proposal of amendments, which would eliminate what Bowser refers to as “nuisance challenges to development projects in efforts to lower the cost of doing business in D.C.,” have not been well-received by many longtime community leaders.

D.C. has seen unprecedented growth in its population, eclipsing a four-decade high 700,000 and is predicted to hit close to one million in the next 25 years. These numbers, without proper planning for the future, do not bode well for a transportation system already unable to keep up with current customer demand or a housing market whose rising costs, both for purchases or rentals, are forcing more and more proud Washingtonians to seek “greener pastures” because of the dirge of affordable units.

Meanwhile, those who live in the poorest part of the city, D.C.’s final frontier of Ward 8, are seeing construction coming to their communities in droves — but without equitable employment opportunities on those projects or assurances that new housing that’s scheduled for the ward will be required to offer a reasonable percentage of “affordable” units.

D.C. appears poised to become one of the country’s emerging business centers and that’s good news.

But things look less favorable for lower- and middle-class families, particularly Blacks. And that’s not good news.

In a previously-published version of this editorial referring to possible changes to the city’s comprehensive plan and the concerns of citizens therein, we inadvertently and incorrectly included a sentence indicating that Council member Anita Bonds had given her support to Mayor Bowser’s proposed amendments of which Bowser describes as “nuisance challenges to development projects…” and if accepted by the council, would presumably remove the possibility of any similar and future challenges lodged by citizens of the District.

Bonds has since supplied us with a statement made during a recent council meeting that indicates her position and which in fact does point to her own concerns about the plan and efforts to change its content and/or intent.
We apologize for the error and any confusion that our misstatement may have caused to our readers.

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