Housing Complex

Council Tweaks Comprehensive Plan: Good News for Charter Schools, Mixed-Use Development

The 2006 Future Land Use map, which will now have to be updated.

Last week, the Council approved a raft of amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, the fat document that guides land use in the District. The update process has taken over a year, with hundreds of changes proposed, and many rejected. Several of those that made it through very clearly reflect Almost Mayor Vince Gray’s campaign promises. Here are a few that caught my eye (italics are my summary, quotes are from the Plan, with additions underlined):

  • Charter schools now have first dibs on decommissioned public school buildings. “In the event that DCPS facilities are surplused, provide a right of first refusal to public charter schools for use of the facilities.”
  • Greenhouse gas emissions must now be considered in environmental impact assessments. “The process should ensure that such information is available when a development is proposed and is available to the public and decision makers before any decision is made.”
  • Vince Gray’s “turn-D.C.-into-Bermuda” idea gets codified. “Enhance the District’s status as an international financial center by supporting the enactment of pending federal legislation to ensure that insurance reserves are held and invested in the U.S., rather than offshore in foreign jurisdictions, to cover losses from natural and man-made catastrophes.”
  • Neighborhood branding becomes official policy. “Brand the distinct character of retail districts through signature promotional events, signage, streetscape, district gateways, as well as building unique clusters where appropriate.”
  • A long list of industrial and low-density residential sites all around the city, as well as a handful of former schools and metro stations like Congress Heights, were rezoned for higher-density residential and commercial uses, paving the way for more retail and housing.
  • High-density development is encouraged in Poplar Point. “Provide a scale and pattern of development in Poplar Point that recognizes the area’s proximity to a Metrorail station and other major surface arterials and that the area is physically separated from surrounding neighborhoods and may therefore accommodate buildings and site plans unlike but is compatible with the fine-grained pattern found in nearby Historic Anacostia.”
  • One amendment emphasizes mixed-use development in Brightwood for a diverse population, rather than just senior citizens, whom the Plan had previously emphasized.
  • Ward Three needs attention too! “Given the strength of the private market within Rock Creek West, generally discourage carefully consider public sector initiatives that would stimulate additional development in the area.  Economic development and growth in this area can be achieved without the leveraging of public dollars that may be needed in other parts of the city.”
  • Skipper

    Why would the Bermuda insurance haven idea be codified into the Comp Plan? That has nothing to do with land use.

  • Indeed

    Who the hell calls it Rock Creek West?

  • m

    Re #1, This was already in effect ~2 years ago when Rhee did the first round of school closing. While arguably good in principle, it should be expanded to require these first-round bids to be 100% charter school. The Cook School reuse has exposed a flaw in the current process where a group can jump to the front of the line while including only a token charter school component.

  • IndeedSir

    Rock Creek West is preferred to "Upper Caucasia." It's that neighborhood rebranding thing.

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  • Micah K

    Your summaries used a lot of words like "codified", "rezoned", and other constructions that imply the plan automatically changes city processes, policies, and ordinances. It doesn't. Comprehensive plans are a roadmap for policymakers to use in considering changes to their laws and regulations, but they do not have any force in and of themselves. They don't even determine zoning (zoning ordinances do that). The important thing to do after a plan is updated is to continue lobbying your counselors to ensure that they enact the parts of the plan that you support.

  • Property excessing question

    Hey Lydia, can you help answer this?

    I've seen the bit about charter schools wanting first dibs on buildings and I was kind of shocked. Didn't EMPOWER DC use their People's Property Campaign to force the city to put all property through some sort of regulatory and oversight procedure to officially excess unused property before being able to simply turn it over to non-government entities? Like, I thought that was the whole point--end the process by which buildings were closed and then immediately turned over to private interests.

    Figure you'd know best. Thanks!

  • Anonymous, Too

    Dear PEQ:
    Empower DC finally got the Council (via an extremely reluctant Mary Cheh) to pass its public property bill. However, the former Office of Property Management (now the Office of Real Estate) has never performed its legally-mandated responsibilities of producing an accurate inventory of public property or a master facilties plan.

    Public property is still a purely political football.