The D.C. Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the District’s plan for its coming growth and advancement and added racial equity as one of its components.
Councilman Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) submitted and got his colleagues to add a required racial equity tool in the Comprehensive Plan, the 20-year framework that guides future growth and development for the city.
The plan, adopted in 2006 and updated in 2011, addresses a wide range of topics such as with land use, economic development, housing, environmental protection, historic preservation and transportation.
Now, because of McDuffie, racial equity will be a part of it.
“As I have stated consistently since this process began more than a year ago, we must take this opportunity to be bold and codify our shared values into this document,” McDuffie said. “The District must be committed to normalizing conversations about race and operationalizing strategies for advancing racial equity. Through the Comprehensive Plan, we have a unique opportunity to create a document that reflects the District’s commitment to eliminating racial inequities and explicitly expressing and reinforcing these values throughout the plan.”
While not saying it explicitly, fellow Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) seemed to endorse McDuffie’s amendment, noting the Comprehensive Plan needs to be a boon for his ward if it is to succeed.
“Ward 7 hasn’t enjoyed the economic development that neighborhoods west of the Anacostia River have,” Gray said. “We want high quality retail and workforce housing in our ward and we need improved transportation infrastructure.”
The council discussed other issues that the plan touched on. Councilwoman Anita Bonds (D-At Large) said affordable housing and displacement are “issues that the comp plan can address generally” while other city officials can delve into the details.
Councilwoman Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) said affordable housing should be a top priority as well as preventing displacement.
“We should work together for our city and not for the developers,” Silverman said.
Councilman Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) said affordable housing should be a prerogative but also emphasized the need to improve the city’s transportation, particularly its bus system, and focus on environmental concerns and neighborhood public schools.
Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) got her colleagues to adopt an amendment to get the Office of Planning to look at single-family developments and their positive relationship to land use. Her amendment to tackle anti-displacement practices didn’t have the support of Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), with the chairman saying that the topic needs to be studied more explicitly on whether displaced residents have the right to return to their original buildings.
During the summer recess that starts on July 15 and ends on Sept. 16, council members said they would research and discuss the Comprehensive Plan so that a final version would be ready for approval for the fall session.
A number of residents showed up at the council meeting to express their reservations about the plan. Parisa Norouzi, executive director of Empower DC, said there seemed to be some confusion about the plan.
“I am concerned that a number of council members were not fully up to speed on the Comprehensive Plan,” she said. “The plan still lacks transparency and real engagement. But this is just the first reading. Hopefully we can get more details later on what will be done to produce more affordable housing and to stop displacement.”
In other action, the council voted to strip longtime Council member Jack Evans the chairmanship of the powerful Committee on Finance & Revenue but allowed him to stay on other committees.
Through a reorganization proffered by Mendelson, McDuffie, who chairs the Committee on Business and Economic Development, will permanently get to deal with taxes matters formerly deal in Evans’ committee as well as oversight of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
The council also agreed to hire law firm O’Melveny & Myers to investigate Evans and after that, an ad hoc committee will be selected to deal with his punishment.