The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


New coalition aims to improve regional planning

A new coalition of elected officials, planning professionals, and engaged citizens is hoping to improve coordination of regional planning in the DC area, with the goal of fostering more complete and accessible communities.

Last month, the Region Forward Coalition (RFC) held its inaugural meeting. The coalition is sponsored by the Council of Governments (COG) and is charged with providing policy guidance on regional planning matters, and with advancing the goals set forth in COG's Region Forward plan. The plan was adopted in January, 2010, and is an aggressive vision of regional Smart Growth.

I serve as a coalition member representing Greater Greater Washington, and will report on the group's progress from time to time. GGW was invited as a member because of our ability to reach people who care deeply about regional development. The selection is a testament to the hard work and insight of our community.

The Region Forward report identifies goals in several categories with specific targets relating to accessibility, sustainability, prosperity, and livability. The goals range from minimizing economic disparities and achieving balanced growth throughout the region to maximizing connectivity and walkability.

The report's land use goal sums up the overarching theme very succinctly: "We seek transit-oriented and mixed-use communities emerging in Regional Activity Centers that will capture new employment and household growth."

The purpose of the RFC is to oversee the implementation steps recommended in the Region Forward report, and to advise the COG Board on future regional planning activities. The RFC consists of 80 members representing area jurisdictions, planning committees, and advocacy groups. Prince George's County Council Vice Chair Eric Olson serves as the RFC chair, and Arlington County Board Member Mary Hynes and District of Columbia Planning Director Harriet Tregoning serve as vice chairs.

The author discusses the regional activity center of Woodbridge with Mary Hynes and Robert Brosnan of Arlington County, Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, Greg Goodwin of COG, and other members of the RFC.

Our kickoff meeting offered excellent opportunities for RFC members to engage with each other on a variety of topics, including the question of what's included in the concept of "complete communities." What surprised me the most was the fact that there was a great deal of agreement among participants about the essential elements. These included a variety of transit options to integrate activity centers into the region, a mix of land uses to enhance walkability and livability within the community, and the presence of a variety of economic and social opportunities nearby.

I was also impressed by the initial focus on transit-oriented affordable housing. Too often, large scale planning exercises like this pay only lip services to things like public safety, education, and affordable housing. I look forward to a process that ensures these priorities are factored into planning in a meaningful way.

Alicia Lewis of COG moderates a panel on transit-oriented affordable housing programs

The next step will be to organize working subcommittees that will consider the definition and identification of "regional activity centers," taking baseline measurements of those centers, and developing future planning approaches to help them grow according to the goals identified by the Region Forward plan.

As with any diverse coalition, the goals and needs of members will not always align, but everyone involved is committed to the vision in the Region Forward report. I am excited to be serving with so many outstanding public servants and representatives from such diverse communities, but I am even more excited about strengthening the dialogue between these groups and the GGW community.

It was obvious from the kick off meeting that there is great potential for GGW to have an impact on regional planning through the course of the RFC's work. In the future, we envision live chats, guest posts and other forums to ensure that your voices are heard as we continue planning the future of the greater Washington region.

Eric Hallstrom is attorney interested in political law, public policy, urban planning and music. He lives in Arlington, VA. 


Add a comment »

Was Montgomery County at the meeting?

by James on Jul 28, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

James, Montgomery County is definitely part of the coalition. It was a very large meeting and I can't be certain who was there on the County's behalf.

by Eric H. on Jul 28, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

Please tell me there was someone representing East of the River, Ward 7 specifically. Or was this a collection of larger representation i.e. DC MD and VA as a whole?

by EastRiverHeights on Jul 28, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

With all due respect, what expertise does David have to be sitting at the table with regional planners. He's an IT guy! This does instill much confidence in the coalition. Sorry David offering opinions is one thing, making decisions that affect the lives of thousands is another.

by Karl on Jul 28, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport

With all due respect, what expertise does David have to be sitting at the table with regional planners.

It's not like the Committee of 100, ANCs, or other community associations know much about planning, either, but they weigh in all the time without even any deference to the expertise of professional planners.

by JustMe on Jul 28, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

How can someone like me become more involved in something like the RFC? I have no experience in transportation or city planning or anything like that, but I do enjoy it recreationally. I am huge advocate for transit and biking and TOD, but I'm just a voter when it comes down to it. Is there something I can do to help with this?

by Xavier on Jul 28, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

With all due respect, what expertise does David have to be sitting at the table with regional planners. He's an IT guy!

Read the byline, then think about who the "I" in this article is.

by MLD on Jul 28, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

@Karl: with all due respect, what expertise does David have to be sitting at the table with regional planners.

Maybe I missed something, but it's Eric Hallstrom that's on this committee. I didn't see anything about David being part of the group.

Maybe I missed it, but if so, I'm not sure how that would be far outside the range of:

 Business
 Nonprofit
 Philanthropic
 Advocacy
 Community‐Based
 At-Large

by Jacques on Jul 28, 2011 4:24 pm • linkreport

@Eric H - the orange type on green field is very hard to read as it vibrates all over the place. I suggest a color combo for the logo that doesn't cause pain when someone reads it - or causes someone to just not read it b/c its too hard to focus on. If the group must have orange on green then putting a neutral border around the type will make it more legible.

by Tina on Jul 28, 2011 4:28 pm • linkreport


Although the District’s representatives on the Coalition represent the entire city, the affordable housing preservation fund (GreenPATH) highlighted during the panel discussion seeks to initially focus on opportunities in Ward 7. Also, Alicia Lewis, the COG staff person who moderated the affordable housing panel is a Ward 7 resident.

by Eric H. on Jul 28, 2011 5:14 pm • linkreport


The Coalition's membership is not limited to regional planners. The idea was to have a diverse coalition to improve capacity building and multi-sector partnerships in order to implement the Region Forward plan.

by Eric H. on Jul 28, 2011 5:24 pm • linkreport

How does one join such a committee?

I recall that COG had 'citizens' advisory boards' for such things as transportation; prior to about 1999 this was open to anyone, but was since made by appointment only- speaking volumes about the ideological credibility of that which was thus favored by this.

by Douglas Willinger on Jul 28, 2011 10:26 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us