Displaced and Gentrified
DC Council Prepares to Finish What It Started
The DC Council is expected to start the mark-up process on the Comprehensive Plan in mid-March. The plan calls for the Mayor’s proposed 200 million square feet of land density increases across the city - known as Upfluming. The Council and Mayor acknowledge the racial implications of housing policy and Black displacement, but will it mean a change in course? This page covers the problematic areas in Southwest with Upfluming. Chairman Mendelson has repeatedly asserted that he will default to the preferences of the Ward representative. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen is unapologetically in favor of increasing density and has three of the major epicenters of Black displacement and gentrification in the District - Navy Yard, Buzzard Point, and the Wharf. Mr. Allen has provided no reassurances that these trends will reverse. View the Map here to follow along.
The irony is that the construction of I-395 split up a Black and White ethnic community in the 1950s and required office buildings north of the highway. The current plan calls for reversing this trend by allowing residences in office buildings, but Blacks who lost out during urban renewal are likely to lose out again. The construction of luxury housing - buoyed by government policy and incentives - is a major threat to housing equity.
The Comprehensive Plan is the most important planning document. It establishes guiding principles and policies on twelve elements including housing, economic development, community services, and recreation. It tends to approve development into certain low-income neighborhoods while protecting affluent areas such as Ward 3 from greater density. While the rest of the city is rapidly increasing in density, affluent areas largely remained confined to single family housing.
The Bard - 2101
501 Eye St SW
Background: 69 condos, combination of market-rate and actor housing
Changes in the land use map after a PUD approval but prior to building construction is problematic. They are doing this in Brookland Manor and Bruce Monroe PUD cases as well. We suspect the Upfluming obviates the need for the PUD and associated community benefits agreements which could all be extinguished by the PUD applicant if the upzoning/fluming proceeds and then they simply seek a map amendment. In addition, the Amidon-Bowen PTA negotiated an agreement with the developer, which could be nullified as a result of the change in land use.
Greenleaf - 9929, 9930, 9931
Background: There are 493 individuals in Greenleaf. The DC Housing Authority seeks to build over 1,400 mixed-income and affordable multifamily rental units, 130 townhomes, and 83 condo units.
Concerns: Changes in land use have huge implications for this project. Typically, this kind of project would go through a PUD process that allows considerable community input and establishment of community benefits. As discussed in the February 2021 issue of Southwest Voice, residents have already been cut out of the process. Allowing the District to change land use will seriously compromise redevelopment as a community-led equitable development. There is nothing to stop the Housing Authority from selling off land to developers, only for them to turn around and produce overwhelming market-rate units. Based on the current proposal for the Comprehensive Plan, public housing redevelopment does not need to seek to replace public housing with new public housing units. Rather, it should seek "affordable housing," a loosely defined concept that could include a single person household making $85,000.
Christ United Methodist 9928
Background: Christ United Methodist Church has indicated that it has no plans to redevelop. No plans show its redevelopment.
Concerns: It is unclear if the Methodist church approved this change in land use and, if so, what would explain the about-face. If the church did not approve, then this change in land use is unethical and opens the District to litigation. Changes in land use would automatically increase property value and put pressure on the church to redevelop.
Background: 99 market-rate units and 123 senior affordable units
Concerns: Changes in land use would obviate the need for a PUD. The church recently "set down" the PUD and future planning would need to define community benefits, but the need for such benefits would disappear if land use changes.
Fire Station - 9921, 9923, 9922
Background: Longstanding site of industrial use
Concerns: The District engages in violations of the federal Fair Housing Act and neglects minorities' housing needs. If the land use changes, it would not require a PUD, so the city could sell the property cheaply (as it often does) and provide for the minimal affordable housing. This housing tends to be for single-person housing (studios and 1 bedrooms), posing major threats to families. Meanwhile, Southwest's social diversity diminishes.
L'Enfant Plaza - 9913
Background: L'Enfant Plaza looks to open to residential use.
Concerns: The plan would allow for mixed use of commercial and residential at this site. It is likely to be what we don't need- luxury housing - and none of what we do need - affordable housing. Unless DC requires major affordable housing concessions, we will see a worsening affordability crisis for low- and moderate-income families. A project of this scale would have a major negative impact on the cost of living and allow rents to rise more rapidly in the area.
Background: In an otherwise area of public housing, there is private housing currently occupied mostly by African Americans.
Concerns: If this land use changes, there is little doubt that Black families currently in these homes will be displaced. There is little protection that Council or the Comprehensive Plan will offer. In fact, changes in land use will directly lead to displacement.
Inspection Station 9924
Background: Longstanding site of industrial use
Concerns: The District engages in violations of the federal Fair Housing Act and neglects minorities' housing needs. If the land use changes, it would not require a PUD, so the city could sell the property cheaply (as it often does) and provide for the minimal affordable housing. This housing tends to be for single-person houses, posing major threats to families. Meanwhile, Southwest's social diversity diminishes.