Housing Affordability Goals & Comprehensive Plan Updates

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY GOALS

On October 15, 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser released her administration’s Housing Equity Report with housing affordability goals by planning area. The District’s eight planning areas are contained in the District’s Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan). Just as this neighborhood sits in two wards, this neighborhood also sits in two planning areas–Upper Northeast and Rock Creek East. Most of the news focused on the mayor’s desire to add more affordable housing west of Rock Creek Park, but this neighborhood’s planning areas fall in the top four areas for housing production goals, 1,500 units for Rock Creek East and 1,350 units for Upper Northeast. Based on what is in the pipeline already though, the number of new housing units that our planning areas must produce–340 for Rock Creek East and 190 for Upper Northeast–is fairly low compared to what other areas must produce in order to meet the administration’s goals. The report explains the methodology used to get to the goals for each planning area on page 10. The report is a fairly high level report just to start the conversation. For updates, visit housing.dc.gov.

PROPOSED COMPREHENSIVE PLAN UPDATES

On October 15, the mayor and the Office of Planning (OP) also released proposed amendments to the Comp Plan. The DC Council recently approved the Framework element of the Comp Plan, which took over two years to get through the public process. OP has produced a number of helpful summaries of each element of the Comp Plan and a review tip guide. I strongly encourage people to at least look at the updates for our neighborhood’s planning areas, again those are Upper Northeast and Rock Creek East. The summary for Upper Northeast is here and the summary for Rock Creek East is here. It is not clear when the Council will hold a hearing on the rest of the proposed amendments to the plan.

OP is holding public meetings on the proposed updates. Ward 4’s is on November 19 at 6:00 pm at Roosevelt High School (4400 Iowa Avenue NW) and Ward 5’s is on November 23 at 10:00 am at Luke C. Moore High School (1001 Monroe Street NE). OP recommends that residents work with their ANC commissioners so that the ANC can incorporate feedback into an ANC resolution. OP will respond to feeback received from ANC resolutions. Send your comments to your ANC by December 20. Some residents are already asking OP to extend the comment period (including some at the last ANC 5A meeting), but so far there is no indication that the comment period will be extended.

OP’s suggestions for ANC review:

  • Review Area Elements and sections of the Generalized Policy Map (GPM) and Future Land Use Map (FLUM) that correspond with the ANC’s Planning Area
  • Review Citywide Element Summaries
  • Consider dividing up review across ANC or with ANC’s land use or zoning committee
  • Attend Ward meeting to hear feedback from your constituents.
  • OP will share with ANCs a summary of feedback received during the Ward meetings
  • Upload ANC Resolutions by January 31 onto the ANC portal at resolutions.anc.dc.gov

Riggs Road/South Dakota Avenue Area Development Plan Implementation

One nice thing about the proposed updates to each of our planning areas is the very clear priority on implementing elements of the Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue Area Development Plan, our neighborhood’s area development plan (sometimes referred to as our small area plan). This is important. The plan was approved by the DC Council in 2009. The most recent implementation report is from 2016. You can see there is still lots to be done, which makes sense given the amount of development we anticipate in the next two to three years. One big achievement we did get is the startup of a Main Street for the corridor. That has already yielded big dividends in the less than one year that it has officially been operating. There are other pieces of the area development plan independent of development that could use some attention though, especially regarding the neighborhood’s open spaces.

The disadvantage in this neighborhood’s stratification between two planning area is evident in the updates to the Comp Plan. It seems as if OP cannot figure out what to call this area neighborhood (understandable). That aside, the update to the Upper Northeast Element (pages 36-38) mentions the area development plan in addressing what it calls the Fort Totten metro station area, but the actual policy recommendations in the area development plan are included only in the Rock Creek East Element update (pages 40-42). I suppose this was done to avoid duplication, but I am not sure it makes sense. It is not clear why only some of the policy recommendations from the area development plan made it into the Comp Plan update, so I would recommend that all of them be incorporated. The Upper Northeast Element update also adds “high-density” housing, office, and retail uses for the Fort Totten station metro area (p. 37), which is not consistent at all with the area development plan or the proposed future land use map or generalized policy map. In addition, I would also recommend highlighting the recommendations in the moveDC plan for our neighborhood, which were developed in 2014 after the area development plan was created, and which I wrote about in this post.

I do recommend that residents become familiar with the area development plan. You can read the executive summary here and the recommendations here. When I served as president of Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association (LRCA) from summer 2017 to summer 2019, I always referenced the plan whenever we submitted comments regarding any development project in the neighborhood. When budget season rolled around, we would use that plan to advocate for targeted dollars for this neighborhood. Each year, we should be advocating for our elected officials (ANCs, Council, and mayor) to support funding to implement elements of the plan. This is one area where I think the Main Street can be especially useful. Elected officials come and go, but having a consistent entity dedicated to improving the corridor naturally lends itself to making sure the area development plan stays at the top of everyone’s agenda.

Implementation of the area development plan is one clear item that we can have our ANCs address in a resolution, highlighting particular areas of the plan that still need to be addressed.

Ward 5 Works Industrial Land Transformation Study

OP also recommends priority in implementing recommendations of the Ward 5 Works Industrial Land Transformation Study. I wrote about that study in this post. As noted in that post, our neighborhood is more of a footnote in the report, but all areas of the city will be well-served by District officials actually taking steps to really address municipal planning, particularly for especially burdensome municipal functions. And certain recommendations for other areas of city could be useful for the land abutting the tracks in our neck of the woods from Fort Totten to Takoma. Given the focus on gaining statehood, it is really critical that District officials figure out how to house and carry out municipal functions in the District.

PROPOSED MAP AMENDMENTS

The Comp Plan has two maps, a Generalized Policy Map (GPM) and a Future Land Use Designation Map (FLUM). You can see the proposed GPM here. It is missing the Main Street for the South Dakota Avenue/Riggs Road Corridor. (maybe there needs to be an official designation, not sure). You can see the proposed FLUM here. The FLUM is not a zoning map; it provides an understanding of how development decisions should be made. The FLUM has been the subject of much debate particularly in the litigation that has challenged a number of development projects across the District. For this neighborhood, the proposed FLUM is pretty much consistent with what is contained in the area development plan. A few amendments to highlight below.

McDonald’s & Faith United Church of Christ

The Office of Planning is recommending approval of change in the FLUM for the McDonald’s property on South Dakota Avenue and Delafield Street NE (Square 3786, Lots 1 and 801) from low density commercial to moderate density commercial (see p. 78 responding to submission 2081). This change was requested by Holland & Knight, which represents the owner of the McDonald’s. The owner has been a frequent visitor to ANC 5A about this change, which is the only reason I am mentioning this here. Just down the street from the McDonald’s, Faith United Church had requested a change in the zoning designation for its property from low density residential/commercial to medium density residential/commercial. OP is not recommending approval of that change (see p. 62 responding to submission 1066). Faith United has tried more than once to build affordable housing, particularly for seniors, on their three-acre parcel of land. These efforts have been rebuffed by North Michigan Park residents over traffic and parking concerns. I have heard several long-time North Michigan Park residents laud the fact that there are no apartment buildings in that neighborhood. It is an interesting thing to be proud of (as opposed to being fine with having a new drive-thru in that area), particularly as there is this discussion about affordable housing. Anyways, perhaps OP’s rejection of the change to the FLUM for the church’s parcel will stop the church from trying to add multifamily housing to its property for a long time. We will see.

1st Place NE & Riggs Road NE

Moving north, OP is recommending change in the FLUM for the western side of 1st Place NE at Riggs Road from Parks, Recreation, and Open Space to Medium Density Commercial/Medium Density Residential (see p. 114, submission 9946).

Recommendations

I am still looking at the specifics of our neighborhood’s planning area updates as well as the updates for the major policy areas (transportation, housing, infrastructure, etc.). So far, here are my recommendations just for our planning area updates:

  1. Highlight the importance of implementing the neighborhood’s area development plan (with particular focus areas)
  2. Incorporate all of the policy recommendations from the area development plan
  3. Highlight important of Ward 5 Works Plan & to extent certain recommendations for other areas would be beneficial in our neighborhood (such as buffers and creative uses of industrial space), highlight those
  4. Highlight importance of moveDC plan with recommendations for our neighborhood
  5. Highlight importance of implementing the 2007 South Dakota Avenue Streetscape Study (Given that no District agency can find this study and that its status on the area development plan implementation report in 2016 is listed as future status, I am not sure this study has been implemented
  6. The General Policy Map needs to reflect the Main Street for the South Dakota Avenue/Riggs Road corridor
  7. Be clear that the area around Fort Totten metro station is designated for either medium or moderate density, not high density, noting importance of mitigating impacts to specifically the Riggs Park neighborhood.

This is just my take. What do people think of the major policy themes of the elements for this neighborhood–Upper Northeast and Rock Creek East. What feedback do you have for our ANC commissioners for them to incorporate into an ANC resolution?

One response

  1. More density in the immediate vicinity of metro helps all of us. The neighborhood amenities we all want – restaurants, services, etc – are more likely to open and thrive when there’s more residents and businesses in close proximity. That means more density! When that density is adjacent to metro, it’s more likely to attract residents and customers without adding cars to the neighborhood roads. We should welcome the highest density mixed use zoning upgrades we can get!

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