Category Archives: Planning & Zoning

Dog Whistle Planning

Assail the Street View

“Urbanists” are assailing a new project about gentrification that incorporates the views of the streets in communities undergoing displacement. Here’s the project.

In examining the criticism of this new gentrification-analysis (a project, not a study) by students at the University of California Merced, we see several key aspects of the “urbanist” take on development of major cities in the US:

  1. Pushing a dogmatic belief that building more market-rate studio and one bedrooms will trickle down housing costs and this “filtering” effect is the key way to get past a decade-long housing crisis.

  2. Fostering ambivalence in municipal planning that eschews substantial permanent impacts that more development has on existing neighbors and neighborhood services such as a need for increased schools, libraries, clinics, parks, transportation, utility infrastructure, etc.

  3. Believing that a #BuildMore housing policy (even if its largely expensive studios and one bedrooms) doesn’t need to take account of the resultant displacement of communities of color. That is, smart growth means having an absolute ambivalence to witnessing Black and Brown neighbors getting displaced and replaced by whiter new neighbors in almost all major US cities.

  4. Possessing a monolithic cultural approach to reshaping cities in that all people — newcomers and existing residents alike — are expected to squeeze into untested development paradigms. That is, the desire to live with more neighbors is paramount to all other planning considerations especially if these new neighbors are whiter and able to afford significantly higher housing costs in much smaller unit sizes, and can afford expensive food, coffee and beer, appreciate yoga, and have a small dog.

IN SERVICE TO THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY

The critique of the Street View gentrification project indeed has some merit as for it’s limited data scope and subjective definitions.

However, if you are going to slam a qualitative look at gentrification and ignore the quantitative studies and real results of the overarching #BuildMore planning policies that this student project is based on, then you are acting in service to displacement. See the studies below.

For example, how about the data sets used to support the $1Billion Washington, DC gentrification lawsuit on behalf of longtime Black DC residents and families. The fact that real world data like that demonstrated in this critical lawsuit isn’t being incorporated by “urbanists” in their policy analysis & advocacy is quite telling, perhaps even a dog whistle.

Choosing to cherry pick and attack the one limited Street View project and then not openly assail existing harmful public policy that is actually driving our neighbors out of our longterm homes only helps propel real estate speculation and the developers bottom-line. Is that what you really want to do?

KEY STUDIES SEEMINGLY IGNORED BY CITY PLANNERS & URBANISTS

This study shows a feast or famine situation with government investments in our communities, and “[H]ighlights how gentrification and cultural displacement have unfolded in American cities, while many low-income small towns and rural neighborhoods remain starved of investment.”

A Governing report says, “Neighborhoods gentrifying since 2000 recorded population increases and became whiter, with the share of non-Hispanic white residents increasing an average of 4.3 percentage points. Meanwhile, lower-income neighborhoods that failed to gentrify experienced slight population losses and saw the concentration of minorities increase. They have also experienced different economic fates: Average poverty rates climbed nearly 7 percent in already lower-income tracts that didn’t gentrify, while dropping slightly in gentrifying neighborhoods.”

Blavity & Buzzfeed: “A new study … shows an increasing rate of Black residents are being driven out of neighborhoods in the U.S. According to the data, Oakland, Washington D.C., Atlanta, New York City and Baltimore are among the cities that are especially impacted by gentrification.”

This 2000-2010 study says, “Washington, DC, residents don’t need census data to tell them what’s obvious in their neighborhoods: the city is changing dramatically. But numbers can give us context. They can show us how shifts in population are reshaping the city and can help us prepare for changes to come.”

The LegalAid society interprets recent a key displacement study, “Cultural displacement happens when there is “a rapid decline” in the number of minorities in an area as “white gentrifiers replace” minority residents. Both gentrification and cultural displacement have left a powerful imprint on DC over recent years.”

To the public investment issue, “So where do upwardly mobile creatives go as they begin to get priced out? They seek less expensive neighborhoods, where the cycle of displacement continues. “Now, people are looking at Anacostia like, ‘Oh, this is a place to come,’” Aristotle Theresa said. “And so, now the government starts injecting capital into the area, when they didn’t before.”

WaPo analysis, “Low-income residents are being pushed out of gentrifying neighborhoods at the highest rate in the country. The neighborhoods that have experienced the largest outflow of low-income residents, according to the study — places such as Logan Circle, Petworth and Columbia Heights — have an average walk score of 82.5 and an average transit score of 74.5.”

Non-profit Quarterly comments, “The displacement numbers seem low, but the authors used fairly narrow definitions of gentrification and displacement.”

WJLA: Local Small DC Business also getting crushed under gentrification. “When you invest in a place without investing in the people, what happens is you’re displacing people,” Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC).

Georgetown Voice: “Gentrification isn’t just about the proliferation of pricey salad shops and craft breweries. According to a 2019 study, gentrification in D.C. has pushed more low-income residents out of their homes than almost anywhere else in the country. Between 2003 and 2013, 20,000 black residents were displaced from D.C.”

How about this study (from 2015) that defines gentrification not on a street view but on “a [census] tract’s median household income and median home value.”

Despite saying Gentrification is “beneficial” GGW cites studies that say, “A neighborhood out-mobility rate increase of a few percent on average, across gentrifying neighborhoods in the whole country, can mask what’s happening at the hyper-local scale. In certain neighborhoods, out-movement through displacement, whether direct or indirect, has likely been much higher.”

“In the District of Columbia, low-income residents are being pushed out of neighborhoods at some of the highest rates in the country, according to the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, which sought to track demographic and economic changes in neighborhoods in the 50 largest U.S. cities from 2000 to 2016.” https://housingis.org/resource/gentrification-dc-means

Housing Vacancy Crisis in DC

The DC Housing Crisis vs 30,000 Vacancies in DC. . . What is Going On?

The vacancy information for Washington, D.C. below is based on the 2019 American Housing Survey (AHS) which is conducted biennially by the U.S. Census.

This AHS survey asks landlords about vacancy status, resulting in this table below (Table: B25004) representing a timeframe of 60 months of collected data. There are also 1-year and 3-year estimates.

The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is the smallest level at which the survey reports data.

https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs The American Community Survey (ACS) of the US Census provides estimates of vacant units by type of vacancy and calculates estimates of rental and homeowner vacancy rates. Surveys 3 million addresses per year (mandatory survey).

How can there be 30,000 vacant units when we have a housing crisis?

Thirty thousand vacant units counted! This fact destroys any assumption that building more luxury housing will eventually result in lower cost housing units trickling down in what growth supporters call, “Filtering.”

The D.C. Chief Financial Officer has a bit more of a conservative number of vacant housing units, 10,000. Either way, that’s thousands of vacant units existing pre-Covid that could house our homeless veterans, mothers, families, children, people who are facing homelessness, etc., especially now during the pandemic. See Vacant to Virus Reduction site.

Luxury Units Stay Empty Without Any Market Corrections

Luxury units for investment (lots of it foreign) results in developer demand for upzoning to increase buildable density without providing housing to be lived in. What is the good of new housing being kept uninhabited by investors? It stifles free market supply-and-demand and keeps prices of housing high, while allowing bankers and the construction industry to profit.

Empty housing units are also tax liabilities that can be written off by mega real estate speculators at the end of the year, equaling a form of income. Thus, the myth of the effect of supply-and-demand on housing is exposed as the tax write-offs for empty units completely nullifies any market corrections.

Foreign Investment in Luxury Housing Creates Exclusive New Communities in DC With High Vacancies

U.S. real estate remains attractive for illicit money from all over the world. In DC, that foreign money invests into planning officials follies, like the dramatic changes at Union Market in Northeast. #UnionMarketExclusive

It’s a stable investment that generally maintains or grows in value – and it gives corrupt oligarchs and dictators a potential escape route if they’re ousted from their home countries.

But this money drives out honest purchasers and makes cities hotbeds for dirty, unproductive cash. It turns cities and communities into commodities.

In one part of New York City, for example, the Census Bureau estimated that 30 percent of apartments are unoccupied most of the year.

Legislation is needed to require habitation of units built. After all, owners are not permitted to keep houses vacant on the streets of DC. Why should it be different with condo or apartment buildings?

COVID UPDATE JUNE 2020

COVID UPDATE AUG 2020

The Washingtonian, August 3, 2020 — NoMa and H Street apartments are experiencing an 8.2 percent vacancy rate, while developments in Navy Yard and Southwest are seeing 7.7 percent vacancy. The vacancy rates in those areas were less than 5 percent at the same time last year. District-wide, the average vacancy rate in luxury apartments is currently 6.8 percent, compared to 4.1 percent last year.

COVID UPDATE: OCT 2020

Myth Busting!

Housing: Supply & Demand MYTHBUSTING!

In a recent post to a popular DC listserve, there was this comment:

A new ADU (and ADUs at scale) will “contribute to affordability” in terms of adding supply, and thereby reducing the overall pressure for price appreciation and the concomitant pressure to convert existing lower priced housing to standards and expectations which satisfy higher priced segments of the market.

Richard Layman rlaymandc@yahoo.com, Saturday, February 1, 2020, Comment on Columbia Heights listserve columbia_heights@yahoogroups.com

The above intriguing comment seems to not consider the concept that #HousingIsNotACommodity and rather #HousingIsAHumanRight . . . right?

Moreover, the lack of a race and class analysis in pubic discussions around housing and jobs at this point is frustratingly maddening. Essentially, one can enjoy a “LIVABALE WALKABLE” city only if you are young, professional, single, and likely white.

Going to the facts spells that housing is a human need not a product and exposes this false sense that supply of any new housing relieves some kind of “pressure.”


First, let’s take a gander at the Income Gap analysis vis-a-vis housing costs in the City:
* https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2016/11/02/net-worth-of-white-households-in-d-c-region-is-81-times-greater-than-black-households/
* https://www.dcfpi.org/all/economic-inequality-in-dc-reflects-disparities-in-income-wages-wealth-and-economic-mobility-policy-solutions-should-too/

economic-inequality-blog-fig1-768x908.png

This means the posture of continuing to construct more and more of the status quo unaffordable housing for single wealthy professionals without an equally important push for getting longtime DC residents and Black families real jobs with real pay to be able to stay here during the modern day goldrush is simply ignorant and discriminatory. 

And, even if policy makers and the Mayor could wrangle some economic systems that actually helps longtime DC residents and families, there’s no way they will be implemented in a timely way to keep up or be substantial enough to help most people becoming more and more vulnerable to displacement. 

The HOT real estate market in DC is appreciating way too fast for most folks to keep up with rents, taxes, and housing costs generally:
* https://dc.curbed.com/washington-dc-market-reports
* https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2019/09/04/as-d-c-area-housing-market-booms-researchers-warn.html

Bottom-line, given the absolute real estate fire of the last decade and construction of tens of thousands of unaffordable single professional housing, there is absolutely no excuse that anyone should be pushing the idea that constructing any housing type at any cost is ok without a race and class analysis, especially considering the ballyhoo’d equitable development as expressed in Comp Plan Framework changes.


MORE FACTS THAT DISPEL SUPPLY & DEMAND MYTH:

NEW UNITS DON’T BRING PRICES DOWN

The DC Zoning Chair suitably explains as follows:

Tens of thousands of new largely luxury studios/1bedrooms have been built in DC, but prices keep going up and up and up:
* https://twitter.com/ecoylogy/status/1224692194277298179
* https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/z3bnme/tons-of-new-apartments-are-being-built-that-almost-no-one-can-afford

DC POPULATION GROWTH SLOWING DOWN

The influx of DC newcomers (old rhetoric: 1,000 new people a month as routinely expressed by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson) has become a trickle now, and in some months there’s more a net exit of people.
https://wamu.org/story/19/01/30/the-reason-d-c-s-once-dramatic-population-growth-is-slowing-down-and-why-thats-not-so-bad/

WE MUST ACCOUNT FOR THE CURRENTLY VACANT UNITS IN THE CITY

So what of the 30,000 vacant units according to the census, where the vacancy information gathered by the American Housing Survey (AHS) conducted biennially by the U.S. Census (more info about the survey below) shows this:

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 6.19.35 AM.png

This table (B25004) represents the 5-year estimate from the AHS for Washington, D.C.  This timeframe reflects 60 months of collected data and is the most reliable metric for estimating how many housing units fall into each of these categories.  There are also 1-year and 3-year estimates, explained here.  The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is the smallest level at which the survey reports data.

The substantial numbers of vacant units demonstrate how much foreign investment capital is parking itself in these new luxury buildings:
https://www.bisnow.com/washington-dc/news/capital-markets/foreign-investment-in-dc-expected-to-increase-next-year-102315

Empty units do not create successful inclusive DC communities.


The biggest purveyors of the supply & demand myth are the so-called urbanists — largely white single professionals moving back into the cities after their grandparents and parents failed suburban experience, or their cohorts from the mega-real estate industry. 

We’ve asked them to publicly debate these issues openly: David Alpert, Alex Baca, and Cheryl Cort.
* https://ggwash.org/about/staff-board
* https://www.smartergrowth.net/about/contactstaff/


In conclusion:

IF WE WANT A SUCCESSFUL INCLUSIVE CITY — THAT MEANS WE GOTTA HAVE POLICIES AND PEOPLE THAT ESPOUSE SUCH IDEALS, NOT JUST STATE THE RHETORIC. WE ALSO HAVE TO HAVE REAL FACTS AND PEOPLE-CENTERED ANALYSIS BEFORE US, NOT JUST REAL ESTATE DOGMA.

Paving Over McMillan

McMillan Park #Facts

Save McMillan Park #FACTS

Context: McMillan Park is 25+ acres of open land at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue, NW, still largely as it was when the federal government opened it in 1905 to control typhoid and other water-borne diseases in the city. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., it was a public, integrated park until WWII, when it was closed for security purposes. The national and local historic landmark, with panoramic views of downtown Washington, was bought by the city in 1987 for $9.3M. Take a look at the history of the federally protected historic landmark at McMillan Park.

The Mayor’s McMillan Plan and Behavior:

The proposed plan is to privatize and demolish McMillan Park as we know it in order to build two+ million square feet of residential, commercial and medical space. This plan has in part been approved by the DC Zoning Commission, the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation and a premature DCRA demolition permit has been issued. These decisions are being appealed, with a temporary stay now in effect from the DC Court of Appeals.

Reasons to Halt Demolition & Save McMillan:

  • Because the closest Metro stop is over a mile away, the project will generate 20,000 new vehicle trips/day at N. Capitol/Michigan Ave. and there’s been no study of impacts to emergency responders and on this emergency route from center city;
  • Health effects will worsen for an area of the city with some of the highest asthma rates, especially in our children;
  • The major land, water and air impacts from the massive demolition and construction have only been superficially examined;
  • The District requirement for an environmental impact statement/assessment has been ignored;
  • Cell 14, the most north-east sand filtration water cell, is being used now by DC Water to prevent nearby flooding when ever it rains;
  • The number of truly affordable units for families, about 25, is embarrassingly low for a project that will have some of the most expensive residential units in the city;
  • Residents and businesses will be displaced by the inevitable rise in property values, stimulated by the panoramic views;
  • The DC Auditor questioned the ethics in a lack of competition in picking the developer;
  • The DC Government is paying millions for lawyers, architects and others, including to a Baltimore pr firm to “neutralize public opposition;”
  • The new library requested by the community is absent;
  • See more details of the corruption around McMillan Park here.

sign the MCMILLAN PARK petition
CLICK HERE

MW COG

MW COG SETS 2030 HOUSING NUMBERS

UPDATE ON SEP. 11, 2019, MEETING AT METRO WASHINGTON COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS (COG) REGARDING HOUSING IN THE DMV THROUGH 2030

On September 11, 2019, the COG passed a joint resolution that sets into motion the coordination of housing preservation and production targets across the DMV. The goal: 320,000 new or preserved housing units by 2030, and of these 2/3 of the units should be considered “affordable.” Chair of the COG, DC City Councilmember, Robert White, emphasized that these units should be built to include 3+ bedroom units, aka family-sized units.

Find the COG documentation and resolution below:

* https://www.mwcog.org/newsroom/2019/09/11/officials-set-regional-housing-targets-call-for-collaboration-to-address-production-and-affordability-challenges/

============================
RESOLUTION R27-2019
============================

Major points:

  • 320K Housing Units Added 2020-2030 (an additional 75,000 units beyond units already forcast)
  • 75% of all new housing should be located in activity centers and around high activity transit (see definitions above)
  • 75% of all new housing should be “affordable” to lower- and moderate-income housing (see definitions above).
  • To share these goals to all constituents and set targets for each jurisdictions.
  • To work with non profit private and philathnropic entities to advance these goals

ROBERT WHITE — AYES UNANIMOUS RESOLUTION MWCOG R27-2019 PASSES SEP 11 2019

============================
DEFINITIONS
============================

In reviewing the resolution and information from the COG about the Housing Production targets please understand the following definitions as they can be interpreted:

  • Accessibility — Locating housing close to transportation, transit centers, or “activity centers.” This term has almost nothing to do with universal accessibility a principle of the disability advocacy community.
  • Affordable Housing — Housing that costs $2,500/m or less. There is no mention of bedroom sizes or housing costs as a percentage of one’s income. It is strictly the government setting levels of profit making, shifting market forces and volatility from the private sector onto the public.

============================
NEWS REPORTS
============================

Some news reports that came out after:

============================
OMISSIONS IN THE DISCUSSION
============================

The following are basic planning concepts that wasn’t discussed at all or just briefly by COG before passing the resolution:

  • Expiring Affordability — What is the duration of affordable covenants that may run with the land? Shouldn’t we be ensuring that any new or preserved affordable housing exist in perpetuity.  What’s the point of expiring affordable housing covenants?
  • Public / Universal Housing — The COG made no mention of the importance of public housing and public land while setting these housing targets.  Public housing is a permanent safety net to prevent homelessness.
  • Analysis of $2500/m — How realistic is it to say “affordable” housing set at $2,500 a month.  Doesn’t this just push the status quo?

============================
SOME QUOTES FROM THE COG MEETING
============================

* CHRISTIAN DORSEY, ARLINGTON, COG — “Ready and willing to do our part” “I love three simplistic targets” “This is a big setp for our region” “Our region has failed to effectively deal with housing” “Its complicated” “Roads are full of traffic” “Net effect people are harmed” “Targets are based on thoughtful analysis” “Provide accountability” “Concept of regionalism should not be understated” “lets get it done, im excited”

* DERRICK DAVIS, PG COUNTY, COG — “we explored, what the heck is ami” “no better place to be than the dmv” quotes victor hoskins … as a great thinker.  “messaging is absolutely important, crucial to drive home, to give politicos the right message to communicate with our folks”

* JOHN FOUST, FAIRFAX — “economic development critical” “Fairfax board has committed to 5,000 units over 15 years”

* NANCY NAVARRO, MOCO — asks about the “defintion of high impact areas” when referencing jbg report; emphasizes “social justice and racial equity”

* JUSTIN WILSON, ALEX — “addressing concerns about impacts such as overcrowding schools”

* BEV PERRY, DC — “more work needs to be done”

* KATE STEWART, TKPK — “Board Retreat was helpful” quotes Matthew Desmond “Its hard to argue that housing is not an fundamental human need” … “we’ve been echoing that sentiment” “this is an historic event today” “wants to partner with Mont County”

* RUTH ANDERSON, PRINCE WILLIAM, — “Cast vote in favor” “this will help us forge our comprehensive plan”

* SENATOR GEORGE BARKER, VA, “we gotta keep stepping things up” “things already happening that are pushing us in the right direction” “fairfax is doing a tremendous job in preservng affordable housing”

* BRIDGET NEWTON, ROCKVILLE — “i think this is wonderful what we are doing with housing” “something mr jackson said, taking over current garden style neighborhoods and that we need to build hi-rises — its a problem. its a quality of life issue, displacement of current families. there’s something to be said about having a balcony, to play outide, etc.” “we don’t need 2 types — hi rise or single family” “we need a mix of housing and therefore we lived in communities with all kinds of careers and picture, and we must look at the whole picture” “climate of fear — when people hear about more housing they immediate fear the impacts to roads and schools”

* TODD TURNER, PG — “impacts that come along with the housing” “what the pressure brings to things like infrastructure” “we have to be very careful about that”

* SHARON BULOVA, FAIRFAX — abt to introduce resolution “region forward compact in 2010” “we’ve had more success in the goals than we’ve realized” ** “our air is better” “we set targets to clean up our air, and we’ve done that.” “amazon — needs affordable housing” “we need to make sure weh have housing and quality of life for the industry we want to attract and retain in our region” “we want to create affordable housing for the folks we want to work here and live here”

===
end
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Racine’s Tartuffian Endorsement of Silverman in “Opposing Developer Giveaways”

> DC4RD press release :: nov 2 2018 :: contact c.otten 202 810 2768 <<

Racine’s Tartuffian Endorsement of Silverman in “Opposing Developer Giveaways” || UNION MARKET COURT CASE NOV. 13

Washington, DC — As election day nears, the mailboxes fill with the latest electioneering propaganda including Elissa Silverman’s latest flyer showing DC’s Attorney General, Karl Racine giving robust endorsement of her at-large campaign.

With rhetoric like “Representing people, not corporations,” and “Opposing developer giveaways,” Racine is full throttle for Silverman while ignoring his own role in promoting corporate developers and giving away significant air-rights entitlements.

On a near weekly basis, Racine’s zoning attorneys provide the now infamous DC Zoning Commission with legal cover to approve major luxury projects citywide, resulting in land use approvals that greatly benefit the bottom-line of the Mayor’s corporate-developer friends while completely ignoring the impacts on existing DC communities and families.

For example, Racine and his zoning lawyers took no issue with the Zoning Commission rubber-stamping hundreds of new luxury hotel rooms & 6,000 new homes across 20 new projects at the blinging new Union Market, with the Office of Planning only brokering 10-units qualifying as “affordable” family-sized (3+ bedrooms) homes.  This type of valuable air-rights giveaway with little in return for existing DC residents holds similarly true for the deals at the Southwest Waterfront and Navy Yard developments, among others.

Racine’s band of top-rate OAG attorneys at the DC Zoning Commission include: Alan Bergstein, Esther Bushman, Hillary Lovick, & Jacob Ritting.  The veteran Alan Bergstein, Esquire, has been plying his trade for more than two decades in DC, directly playing a role in the massive displacement of black residents throughout the city without blinking an eye.

“Racine’s attorneys make it difficult for everyday people and impacted communities to engage in the zoning process and to actually win any permanent equity and compensation out of these disruptive and impactful luxury land deals,” said Ilaf Ayyash who was pushed out of the longtime artists incubator at 411 New York Avenue, NE for a luxury hotel project. “We had to fight just to be heard, and now the OAG is staking claim to the Zoning Commission’s indefensible positions in Court.  It’s such hypocrisy that Mr. Racine decries corporations and land giveaways when that is who his zoning lawyers excel at benefiting.”

Union Market Neighbors will be clashing with Racine’s lawyers again on November 13, 2018, at the highest Court in the District, the DC Court of Appeals, in seeking remedy from impacts due to another massive luxury project at 4th and Florida Avenue, NE. For more info >> http://www.dc4reality.org/unionmarketneighbors

DC Generally a Mess: Timeline

DC General Hospital was hailed as a top emergency trauma center for victims with gunshot wounds, that is until Anthony Williams shut it down as part of the citywide divestment of public services serving working DC residents at the start of the millennium.

2001 – 2013

Over the past decade plus, DC General shifted from a closed hospital to an emergency hypothermia shelter, then to a family shelter as other shelters around the city were shuttered continuing the social service divestment in DC.  The shelter filled up as local politicos luxury-visions for, and gentrification of the city unfolded and homelessness skyrocketed.  Families were forced to pile into expensive motels (and still are today).   Christmas back at DC General was a depressing exercise.

2014

In 2014, the DMV was shocked by the story of Relisha Rudd, a young child living at the shelter who disappeared, furthering calls to close the shelter down.

2015

in 2015, the DC Council had already voted to support the Mayor’s $300 million dollar dispersed family shelter plan and subsequent real estate deals.  In the discussion, Mary Cheh (Ward 3 Councilmember), declares “What’s wrong with us?” as they weaken basic amenities at the proposed family shelters.

2016

Starting off 2016, Mayor Bowser unveils her plan to shut down DC General so she can replace the shelter beds in new family shelters across the city. Legislative support was affirmed again by DC Council vote in 2016, making the closure required by law.

2017

There was immediate pushback by some DC neighborhoods, but with Council support & zoning agency approvals certain to follow, the Ward-based shelter plans moved forward in 2017.

2018

In 2018, the DC General closure plans get real for the families at the city’s biggest, and only shelter available to them in the city.  Advocates speak up and say “Families, not Developers, Must be Primary Drivers of DC General Timeline” as the Mayor discretely sought Amazon’s pick to land in DC.  The Mayor wasn’t budging, DC General will close by year’s end.

As voices got louder both in critique and in seeking clarity about DC General’s closure, transition of current shelter families, and planning for Ward-based shelters, DC Councilmembers started growing spines and demanding answers and holding hearings.

What became clear at the hearings was the rush to raze all buildings at Reservation 13 (the public land where DC General exists) will impact the lives and health of families still living at DC General. The Mayor’s homeless service executives were exposed as frauds.

People demanded the shelter closure be delayed.

Advocates turned up the heat heading into June and July, 2018, gathering steam for the Council to consider legislation that would delay the closure.  Pushback from the Mayor led to the Council weakening the bill, disappointing advocates, and indeed leaving the families now at DC General exposed to injury.

DC is considered a United Nations Human Rights City.  In the midst of the DC General controversies, a report was published showing how the city policies and politcos are falling short as to this acclaim.

 

Juneteenth, Zoning & Land Use

Displacement of residents because of their class or race has become commonplace in every community in this city and in too many cities across this nation. This in large part is because [city planners] allow our land use decisions to be guided by marketplace principles and ‘highest and best use’ principles.

~~ Ronald Shiffman, FAICP, Hon. NYS AIA, Professor Emeritus, Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, Pratt Institute Director Emeritus, Pratt Center for Community Development  1964-2004, Member of the NYC Planning Commission 1990-1996, Jane Jacobs Fellow, APA Planning Pioneer Award.  Shiffman on Land Use & Displacement.

DCRA Threatens DC Property Owners; Lawsuits

Based on the recent Council hearings, it has become clear that the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has exposed DC taxpayers and property owners to negligence and serious injury with a lack of accountability from the Mayor and Council.

A review of the October 24, 2017, City Council hearing shows numerous cases of fraud and injury perpetrated by this agency and the director, Melinda Bolling, who was chosen to lead this agency by Mayor Bowser.

This follows on in a series of hearings that the Council acts out before the taxpayers, but does little else to enforce the laws or address accountability.

 

Disperse Poverty! Concentrate Wealth!

DE-CONCENTRATE POVERTY MEANS GETTING RID OF POOR PEOPLE WHILE THEY CONCENTRATE WEALTH IN NEW LUXURY HIGH-RISES

We must de-concentrate poverty.  It’s a refrain we are hearing alot from city officials lately, especially now as East of the River communities are facing the first big swells of the massive gentrification wave heading that way from the westside.

Those screaming for the dispersal of poor communities have usually been the developers, more recently the “smart” growthers, and now City officials are parroting it up on their John A. Wilson dais.

“The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty” — Dr. King, “Where do we go from Here: Chaos or Community”, 1967.

But, instead of seeking tools and policies like a guaranteed basic income, or robust job training programs, feeding programs, good quality schooling, and social uplift, the de-concentration of poverty advocated for by the DC’s developer-class and the City Council and Mayor is that of dispersal, i.e. getting rid of the poor by way of streetcar, condos, hotels, stadiums.

The New Communities program, following on from the Hope VI programs, in turn from Urban Renewal is referenced across many Housing and Urban Development documents as “dispersal projects” no matter what new euphemism they want to call them.

Due to the self-selection inherent in voluntary dispersal programs, and to the screening that these programs apply to applicants, participants are likely to be more motivated and possess more human capital than the families that do not participate. Program operatives choose the families they think will succeed, based on these families’ being organized enough to pass home inspections and other steps in the application process. Still, mobility programs typically have a low success rate, because fewer than half the applicants who are accepted are able to lease an apartment. The Reality of Deconcentration, By Edward G. Goetz

Simultaneously, while the city disperses the poor to heed the call to de-concentrate poverty, the DC Zoning Commission, Office of Planning, Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development, alongside Ward level Councilmembers push hard for new projects that have only 8% to 15% “affordable” units in them, and those are usually for singles, not families.

That is, city planners and officials are encouraging, even touting projects that concentrate wealth with 85% of the housing units being built for wealthy single new DC residents.

So, the developer-class wins again with each call from advocate-community and pronouncement by city officials saying we must de-concentrate poverty and rip up generational familial networks with innate powerful neighborhood connections that have grown in some ways to supersede abject poverty through mutual aid and reliance & trust.

The reality is, the development underway in the District is dispersing and displacing poor DC families (the census numbers don’t lie), but consistently concentrating wealthy singles and somehow that is considered good planning in DC.

It’s not, it’s unreasonable and unacceptable.  This purposely poor planning has resulted in DC’s #unRealEstateMarket


Deconcentrating poverty is a smokescreen. It camouflages forced relocation of low-income house-holds. What do we mean when we talk about  deconcentrating poverty? As it has been implemented to date, deconcentration has meant manipulating the spatial arrangement of federally subsidized low-income families to either disperse or dilute poverty. — The Smokescreen of Poverty Deconcentration, by Edward Goetz


 

In their own words . . . opinion by Chris Otten, co-facilitator, DC4RD