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DC Council Approves Amended Comprehensive Plan

by Nena Perry-Brown

On Tuesday afternoon, the DC Council unanimously approved the amended Comprehensive Plan, potentially clearing the path for a logjam of development citywide to move forward.

The Comp Plan is a macro-level guide that spells out priorities and prescriptions for, among other things, planning, land use, and development in DC; the city's Home Rule charter mandates that new developments be not-incompatible with the Plan. The mayor and the Council have been working toward amending the Comp Plan for the past five years, largely in hopes of finding a way to stem the flow of development appeals that had chilled the pipeline of new projects in the city. 

Throughout the amendment process, many called attention to DC's staggering trends of gentrification and displacement. Along with the establishment last year of a Council Office of Racial Equity (CORE), tasked with assessing the racial equity impacts of all new legislation, the high stakes for revisions to the Plan were apparent by the time the Council resumed consideration last month.

Since then, portions of the Plan have been extensively reworked, primarily to strengthen affordable housing production and to more clearly spell out priorities and add context around various housing initiatives. There have also been several additional changes made to the Future Land Use Map (FLUM), which lays out expectations for how certain sites could be developed in the future if owners of those sites choose to rezone accordingly.

This week's amendments included:

  • A compromise on the mayor's and the Council Chair's FLUM preferences for land currently zoned for industrial use (PDR), enabling some PDR-zoned parcels to be redeveloped with housing;
  • Changing the FLUM to permit housing to be added at the Tenleytown Library site and an adjacent school;
  • Adding references to "deeply affordable housing", defined as for households that earn up to 40% of median family income, and explicitly identifying it as a priority near transit and on city-owned land;
  • The addition of context and updates on the New Communities Initiative, which was launched 15 years ago to redevelop three public housing sites with mixed-income units;
  • Adding language encouraging production of family-sized residential units (at least three bedrooms); and
  • Establishing goals for affordable housing production such that 30% of these units are affordable to households earning 60-80% of MFI, 30% are affordable to households earning 30-60% of MFI, and the remaining 40% are affordable to households earning up to 30% of MFI. 

After Tuesday's vote, the Plan will need to be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission and then signed by the mayor prior to being sent to Congress for a 30-day review period; per the mayor's office, this entire process could take about six months. The Comp Plan is also due for a rewrite, for which the process will start no later than January 2025.

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This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc-council-unanimously-approves-amended-comprehensive-plan-on-final-vote/18282

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