Tregoning may be Committee of 100's best friend
Harriet Tregoning is the subject of this week's City Paper cover story, penned by Lydia DePillis. Besides a lot of great background information, what's most interesting is who's not happy with some of her decisions: ANC commissioners and city officials who think she should be more aggressive in pushing development.
People familiar with her work in DC might not know how influential she was in starting the smart growth movement 20 years ago. It's interesting to see how little driving experience she has. It's probably little surprise that she had a far more detailed vision for DC's growth than Adrian Fenty, at least when he first hired her and before she educated him.
Tregoning hasn't pushed much on development plans on Wisconsin Avenue, partly because a bolder plan under prior planning director Ellen McCarthy riled up neighborhood activists who then pushed Fenty to replace McCarthy. That didn't stop them from also trying to get rid of Tregoning when Mayor Gray came to town, though.
Another critic, at least for a while, was Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins, who wasn't sure he supported OP's approach to historic preservation. A fascinating email DePillis acquired through FOIA shows that Hoskins worried about "an unreasonable level of desire to keep things the same" in some preservation decisions.
Those decisions come mainly from the Historic Preservation Review Board, whose members the mayor appoints. At a confirmation hearing, several people warned that recent Gray appointee Nancy Metzger takes more of a "keep things the same" view.
The Council just confirmed 6 appointees, only 2 of whom are reappointments, so we will soon see what balance the new board strikes between "keep things the same" and helping the city grow and change.
At a recent Federation of Citizens' Associations meeting, many local activists (almost all from Ward 3) railed against the zoning update, but the fact is that it does almost everything skeptics want. It takes great pains to keep single-family home neighborhoods essentially unchanged; the new "corner store" rules, for instance, won't apply there. Some side setback requirements are actually getting larger. And so on.
The other policy changes aim to achieve exact Committee of 100's stated goal: "safeguarding and advancing Washington's historic distinction, natural beauty and overall livability." Tregoning has upheld historic preservation's strong role in DC planning. OP proposed Green Area Ratio largely to promote natural beauty, along with environmental sustainability.
As for livability, corner stores, accessory dwellings and reducing mandates to build unnecessary parking lots all enhance livability. In fact, nearly every decision from OP and every speech Tregoning makes has livability at the core. When Tregoning pushes back against DMPED, it's usually when a development project neglects livability in its quest to get a project in the ground.
Nevertheless, many neighborhood activists continue to push back forcefully against OP. They might want to consider that had they succeeded in replacing Tregoning, or if Hoskins got his way, the policy outcomes might be even less to their liking.
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