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Help Me Prevent Gentrification in Northeast DC

Help Me Prevent Gentrification in Northeast DC
By Gordon Chaffin • Issue #139 • View online
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That used to be an abandoned industrial site along the MBT and Metrorail tracks. Now it's an apartment building with affordable units.
That used to be an abandoned industrial site along the MBT and Metrorail tracks. Now it's an apartment building with affordable units.
DC Land Use Map Threatens More Gentrification in NE DC
I’m writing my DC Councilmember today, asking him to restore housing opportunities after a last-minute change to DC’s master land-use map ruled out housing or commercial uses like grocery stores. I hope you will join me in writing that a fast-growing part of DC will be emblazoned with rent increases and displacement if much of the area can’t be developed as mixed-use, mixed-income, trail- and transit-adjacent housing.
When I’m not unemployed during a pandemic, I live in Ward 5 – a district with lots of industrial lands, mid-century multi-family housing (semi-detached single-family homes and gentle density like quadplexes), and recent development around Metrorail stations where the heavily used Metropolitan Branch Trail also flows.
Over the last 10-20 years, an extremely important source of new housing in Ward 5 has been the re-purposing of light industrial land into the smart growth development we know as a best practice in 2021: build multi-unit buildings near transportation services, add affordable housing into these residential buildings, and recruit essentials like grocery stories to occupy ground-floor retail locations. Ward 5’s incredible opportunity is all that industrial land where we can remediate any pollution and add assets to an area of the District where unsavory economic activity went.
What happened recently – that I need you to help me stop – is that DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson overruled the Mayor’s request to modify land-use guidance in a HUGE portion of Ward 5 that has an extremely important role to play. Ward 5 CM McDuffie didn’t strongly object in the first of two Council sessions on this land-use plan. SO, we have one last chance to make sure my home communities in Ward 5 can add housing in a reasonable way and we need to raise our voice ASAP in the next 10 days.
The area I'm talking about is labeled above as 2419.2 and 2419.3.
The area I'm talking about is labeled above as 2419.2 and 2419.3.
This Comprehensive Plan isn’t a zoning map. However, it outlines – in specific terms – what the District intends for the future of major land areas. It’s a basis of legal cases bad faith stakeholders use to challenge developments that could add homes. What Chairman Mendelson’s misguided amendment did was make it MUCH more difficult to affordably develop housing in a massively under-utilized area near the Metro.
A developer COULD buy property in this area and seek amendments to DC’s zoning map and other land-use governance. But that process places many different barriers up that could veto the project. Developing a project that contradicts the future land-use map dramatically raises project planning overhead. More land-use lawyers and architect billable hours mean higher rents and fewer affordable units that can be set aside for longtime residents that wish to stay in Ward 5.
The residential areas near this light-industrial land are already on their way to being unaffordable. I think the goal of this Comp Plan process should be to steer demand for new housing toward that smart growth outlined above. My neighborhood of Edgewood, north of here, is feeling the pressure now. If we can’t build more homes affordably in these industrial parcels, there’s no doubt other communities near this industrial land face strong gentrification pressure. Also, speaking strictly as an economic development matter, mixed-use land generates MUCH more tax revenue than this “PDR” land.
You can learn more helpful info from this post co-written by Eckington Civic Association president Conor Shaw. If you have a Washington Business Journal subscription, you can get the business stakeholder side. Jon Banister at Bisnow wrote a free-for-email-signup article about this issue as well.
Click this link to open a draft email or copy-paste-customize with the following text:
Councilmember McDuffie and At-Large Members of DC Council:
I’m writing to urge you to add back a revision to the Comprehensive Plan Amendment you’re completing this month at Council. I ask that you reverse Chair Mendelson’s Amendment from the 5/4/21 legislative session dealing with land near the WMATA, CSX, and Metropolitan Branch Trail alignments. Please reinstate the “Eckington amendments,” or, 2419.2 and 2419.3 on the Future Land Use Map, which would permit residential and commercial uses in addition to production, distribution.
I’m a Ward 5 resident living in Edgewood. I strongly object to the Chair’s decision that pushes extremely high housing demand in our Ward away from the transit-rich, smart growth corridor. Neighborhoods like Brookland, Michigan Park, and Woodridge cannot produce enough housing without displacement so long as DC Council prevents us from converting high-value, underutilized land in our Ward to mixed-use, mixed-income. 
Much of this multi-year process to chart DC’s future has involved discussion of gentrification and racial justice. The Chair makes that restorative process much more difficult if communities like ours in Ward 5 can’t maximize the land area available to add affordable homes. We don’t want newcomers to be unnecessarily limited to small areas, where the highest bidder wins and renters can’t afford the price hikes.
Please, listen to those of us who’ve worked in good faith to preserve what we love about Ward 5 and make it so that more people have affordable homes. Reinstate amendments 2419.2 and 2419.3 to the Future Land Use Map.
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David Leonhardt
The economy is recovering, but mothers of young children still aren't returning to the workforce.

Why not? Because so many schools are daycare centers still aren't really open. They're open only some hours, some days or some weeks. 🧵 https://t.co/i2kEroPeeN
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Mary Beth Williams
For everyone who thinks it's No Big Deal to get a state-issued ID, I spent the past 3 hours trying to get a state ID for my 21 yr old profoundly autistic son just so he can get his social security benefits. Result: No ID anytime in the foreseeable future. @OregonGovBrown
Mary Beth Williams
And it's not because he doesn't have documents—he has his birth certificate, his social security card, and mountains of federal and state docs mailed to his permanent address. But OR DMV is the only place to get an ID, and they are not taking appointments to issue ID. At all.
Mary Beth Williams
I'm a lawyer and work specifically as a disability advocate. If it took me three hours just to get to this point (and, yes, I even broke down and cried in frustration at one point,) just imagine what it's like for people without my skill set. It should not be this way.
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Know of Any Job Opportunities?
I’m job searching – bit.ly/GordonChaffinResume – and I could use your help finding a job in DC or SE Michigan. I’m looking for a mid- to senior-level role in an organization that serves the public interest. A role in public policy, media/journalism, or communications/marketing. I’d appreciate any leads/referrals. Please reply to this email!
Gordon Chaffin's Resume
Gordon Chaffin's Resume
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Gordon Chaffin

This is Gordon Chaffin's newsletter. By day, he's a local journalist and current events storyteller living in Washington, DC. The goal: produce writing and multimedia -- civic participation resources -- that include, inform, and equip stakeholders with the least power to improve their community. On evenings and weekends, Gordon is a freelance audio/video producer and photographer. Topics of interest: transportation -- especially non-car transit -- plus housing, environmental justice, social and gender policies like family-medical leave, and education -- especially early childhood. Please send news tips to gordon[AT]streetsensemedia[DOT]org and freelance job inquiries to gordonchaffin[AT]gmail[DOT]com.

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