Testimony to Committee of the Whole
July 11, 2022
Chairman Mendelsohn and Members of the Committee of the Whole,
I am Meg Maguire, testifying on behalf of the Northwest Opportunity Partners Community Development Corporation about the Chevy Chase Small Area Plan. Our organization is dedicated to reversing the historic racial inequities of removal and exclusion of Black residents in Ward 3 by expanding affordable housing and economic opportunities.
I offer two comments:
First, the Plan fails to set specific affordable housing goals or to lay the groundwork for innovation in affordable housing. Public land suitable for new housing is rare in Ward 3. Redevelopment of the city-owned civic site in Chevy Chase could add significant affordable housing in this amenity-rich community. Yet the Plan fails to set goals for how many units at various levels of affordability could be created, referring only to the 30% required on public land.
Before adoption, the Plan should be amended to include a robust discussion of, and set aspirational goals for, redevelopment that could include innovations such as social housing, limited equity cooperatives to build some measure of generational wealth), a community land trust, and covenants to make the units affordable in perpetuity.
We must ensure that redevelopment of the library, recreation center and outdoor space in Chevy Chase goes far beyond the city’s minimum requirements to become a model of community innovation that will set a standard for other development in the city.
Second, outdated methods of visualizing change have left people unnecessarily confused. The static massing models employed in the Chevy Chase workshops did very little to help participants understand the FLUM changes, how future zoning would impact the area, the effects of different massing on the character of the neighborhood, or the design options we were asked to evaluate. This lack of transparency makes people suspicious that their government is not being straight with them. It need not be so.
In February, at the Committee of the Whole OP Oversight Hearing, our organization questioned why OP is still not using the best 21st century technology planning tools to ensure that neighbors, advocates, developers, and planners all share a common factual and visual understanding of current land use and future options. Cities around the world are increasing citizen engagement and welcoming participant creativity using the data-based technologies ArcGIS Urban and City Engine to literally look at change before it occurs. To understand their tremendous value, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xauXhnlZvbk
- Urban visualizes both citywide and neighborhood-scale projects; designs 3-D scenarios; guides, changes and measures impact; and enables digital engagement with the audience.
- City Engine can integrate past zoning and changes to the Future Land Use Map so that people can understand the impact of change on their neighborhoods.
So why is DC so far behind?
We request – indeed, insist – that the city use ArcGIS Urban and City Engine in all upcoming Ward 3 planning along Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues.