Posts about Inclusionary Zoning
On Monday evening, CastleRock Partners, the development team selected by Howard University after a decades-long back-story for its Howard Town Center project on Georgia Avenue at V Street, presented its concept for the site at a meeting hosted by the Pleasant Plains Civic Association.
As part of its long-term ground lease agreement with the university, which the developers said should be signed within a week, the project must include a grocery store and the developers were looking to include approximately 450 apartment units. Otherwise, the developers stressed that their proposal was in its initial phases and things like design and potential tenants were subject to change.
That's good, because the Howard Town Center proposal as it stands needs some work. Here are the areas of contention:
Connecting W Street: In 2005, the City Council adopted the Duke plan, a small area plan for Shaw and U Street. One of the key components of the Duke plan was guidance for public realm improvements in the neighborhood, including knitting together the superblocks into a better grid. Tim Kissler of CastleRock told the at-capacity room Monday evening that "what we have is basically what's drawn in [the Duke] plan."
Except it's not. The Duke plan connects W Street between Georgia and Florida Avenues. This project as proposed would prevent that from happening, instead using that area as an underground parking ramp.
Howard University needs to better connect with surrounding neighborhoods. There are few better ways to do that than to stitch together the missing street grid that separates the university from the neighborhoods to the west. As it stands, this proposal fails to achieve this community goal. The Town Center proposal includes a mid-block pedestrian cut-through, but it's located closer to V Street. Perhaps it would be more effective closer to W Street, where the connection is actually missing.
Parking: Since the exact amount of retail is not yet determined (the number floated Monday was up to 125,000 square feet, including the grocery store), the developers wouldn't put a number to the amount of parking they plan to include. They acknowledged the forces competing over parking, with the DC Office of Planning pushing for fewer spaces than required and potential retail tenants (on whom project financing depends) interested in more suburban amounts of parking. It looks like OP has learned the lesson of DC USA, even if retailers have not. When a neighbor raised the issue of the water table hampering underground construction, Tim Kissler told her that it just costs a lot of money to build deep. Since all of this project's parking will be underground, there is a big opportunity cost to building as much parking as retailers demand. That money could be used for a lot of other things that actually make the project better.
Affordable housing: The project is participating in DC's Inclusionary Zoning program, but the developers are only meeting the IZ minimums, proposing that 8 percent of the residential units be priced below market value. This was a big concern for many residents at the meeting, who were dissatisfied with such a low number.
Sidewalks: A DDOT representative at the meeting noted that Georgia Avenue's sidewalks are their narrowest at this project's location. Despite the high-traffic retail proposed for this project, the developer didn't provide for wider sidewalks in this draft plan and seemed reluctant to do so when asked about it by a neighbor. DDOT's representative said that this is something DDOT will be negotiating with the developer. This project is also within Georgia Avenue's Great Streets plan, and the timeline for streetscape improvements on lower Georgia Avenue coincides with the construction timeline for this project.
8th Street streetscape: One neighbor raised her concern that 8th Street, NW would become a de facto alley for this project, with loading docks and insensitive design not unlike DC USA's treatment of Hiatt Place. While there will be loading docks, residential units will also be located on the upper floors of the project along 8th Street. The devil will be in the details for 8th Street - loading docks may move or become larger or smaller, drastically affecting the quality of the streetscape.
Although the developers stressed that their $150 million proposal shown Monday was preliminary, they also laid out an aggressive timeline for development despite the sluggish economy, with groundbreaking in one year and another 18 months until the project's completion. The developers said that they decided not to go through the Planned Unit Development process because it would have taken too much time, and the project is not seeking any zoning variances. PUDs give the public, through the Zoning Commission, an opportunity to improve the design and push for benefits for the community.
While an improvement for Georgia Avenue, the project as it stands barely meets the minimums for responsible development. Because the developer isn't planning a PUD, citizens will need to work hard to ensure the developer improves the product.
The Fenty Administration has completed the last step to implement DC's inclusionary zoning law. Today's DC Register contains the "maximum rent and price schedule" (scroll to page 53), which computes the actual rents and purchase prices for units of various sizes that comply with the income thresholds in the law.
Inclusionary zoning's effect in a C-2-B district (added height).
Under the program, new residential developments of 10 units or more must to set aside 8-10 percent of the new housing for families making between 50 and 80 percent of area median income (AMI). For a family of four, that's a household income of $51,000 to $82,000.
To compensate developers, they are allowed to build about 20% more housing. In some zones, like neighborhood commercial corridors, that means higher lot occupancy, letting the building cover a bit more of the total lot. In row house neighborhoods, IZ allows projects to build more, slightly narrower townhouses than regular zoning requires (though the same size as many existing townhouses). And in districts with taller buildings, it lets developers add a bit of additional height. IZ won't apply in the low-density residential zones, or in two historic districts (Georgetown Waterfront and Historic Anacostia) where the IZ changes would have forced buildings that didn't fit with the existing historic neighborhood character.
A presentation from DHCD has more details. A 2006 presentation from OP is better at illustrating the program, though there have been some changes. For example, the original plan excluded R-2 zones (denser single-family detached and semi-detached houses), but IZ now applies there as well.
The Inclusionary Zoning law was first passed in 2006, but the Fenty Administration delayed implementation for about two years. That sacrificed many affordable units and in some cases forced developers to plan smaller buildings than they otherwise would have. Still, this program is better late than never, and joins similar programs in Montgomery, Fairfax, and Arlington Counties. This program will ensure that, as the economy recovers and residential construction picks back up, moderate-income families aren't completely left behind.
After months of inaction and 98 days beyond the Council's final, final, we're really serious this time deadline, the Fenty Administration has published final Inclusionary Zoning regulations in the DC Register. This is a big step toward actually implementing the law the Council first approved in December 2006.
If the administration follows through, then Inclusionary Zoning will go into effect in DC on August 13th, 2009. New development approved after that date will have to provide some, fairly modest amount of housing to people below the median level of income. There is still one more step, however: today's publication mysteriously omitted the Maximum Rent and Price Schedule, which gives the exact number of dollars in income a household needs to qualify for various categories of affordable housing. The Council's laws, including their most recent reiteration, required Fenty to publish not only the regulations but the schedule as well by February 6th, 2009.
Today's regulations specify that Inclusionary Zoning will not go into effect until 90 days after the publication of the rules (that's 90 days from today), or after the publication of the price schedule, whichever is later. That means that there's still the possibility for even longer delays.
This is an opportunity for the Mayor to correct what the Council Committee of the Whole called an "egregious ... flouting of the law." By August, he could make things right and put this behind him. Or, he could drag it out and keep breaking the law. Right now, it looks like he's serious about getting the job done. We'll be watching.
In their committee report (large PDF) from this year's budget and oversight hearings, the DC Council's Committee of the Whole lambastes the Mayor for still not publishing the regulations. After pointing out that the Council had given Fenty an extension to February 6, 2009 to publish regulations and April 7 for them to go into effect, it calls Fenty's inaction "an egregious example of the flouting of the law by the Fenty Administration."
Many affordable units never got built in numerous projects as a result of the delay. Since IZ gives developers the right to build extra floors in exchange for providing affordable housing, the city also lost potential housing units overall.
At the April 6, 2009, budget oversight hearing, OP Director Harriet Tregoning, in response to a question that had been asked at the February 26, 2009 performance oversight hearing on this matter, testified that approximately 140 inclusionary zoning affordable units have been lost due to the innumerable delays in the start of this program since October 1, 2007, when IZ implementation funds first became available. Examples of lost potential affordable mixed-income housing opportunities include:Even some developers say that the delay is creating substantial uncertainty. They don't know how tall they can build future buildings or whether they will need to include affordable units. Uncertainty costs money. The administration should publish the regulations now. They should agree with them
- 14th & U Street by-right development project: where at least 8 % of the 250 units would have been IZ affordable units, in Ward 2 on border w/Ward 1.
- Fort Totten Square at Riggs Rd & South Dakota, by-right development: where at least 8% of the 1,000 units would have been IZ affordable units, in Ward 4.
- Dorchester building on 16th St. NW added in Reed Cooke by-right: where at least 8% of the 99 units would have IZ affordable units, in Ward 1.
Although OP Director Tregoning testified that her latest information was that the IZ Final Rulemaking would be published "momentarily," the Committee at this juncture has no confidence that the executive will do so. This situation is an egregious example of the flouting of the law by the Fenty Administration - in this case a law designed to increase mixed income housing opportunities for low and moderate income residents throughout the District of Columbia.
Most Americans were appalled by former President George W. Bush's disregard for the law. On wiretapping, torture, secrecy and more, his administration asserted that the President was, in essence, above the law. Even many Republicans found his repudiation of the republican form of government abhorrent.
Mayor Fenty, however, seems to be pushing a similar "unitary executive" philosophy here in DC. At a recent appearance before the Kalorama Citizens' Association, he was completely unconcerned about ignoring at least one of the laws of the land.
Fenty seemed to repudiate the rule of law while discussing inclusionary zoning. This policy, which gives developers some extra density in exchange for a requirement to include a small amount of slightly more affordable housing, is the law. And the DC Council has made that absolutely, positively, unequivocally clear:
- In December of 2006, the Council passed a law "requiring the Mayor to promulgate rulemaking" implementing regulations approved by the Zoning Commission. Councilmember Adrian Fenty voted for the bill.
- In February of 2008, the Council passed another law requiring "that regulations ... be submitted to the Council by a time certain," in that case April 4, 2008. Mayor Fenty signed the bill.
- The Council reiterated their position the following month by upgrading the previous "emergency" bill to a "temporary" one. Mayor Fenty signed this as well.
- The administration published draft regulations, which say that "final rulemaking action shall be taken in not less than sixty (60) days from the date of publication of this notice." It's been much, much more than sixty days.
- After months passed with no action, the Council passed another law in October 2008 requiring "that final rulemaking to implement inclusionary zoning ... be published by" December 5th. Mayor Fenty signed it.
- The Council then amended the law in November to give the Mayor some more time, until February 6th, and followed up that "emergency" bill by passing a "temporary" version in December. The Mayor signed both bills.
- Congress wasn't in session long enough in the winter for the required review period before the emergency expired, so on February 3rd, they passed a "Congressional Review Emergency" act to extend the deadline. It did not require the Mayor's signature.
- On February 5th, the Mayor became in direct violation of the law. As far as I can tell, he will continue to be in violation through at least May 5th (the last day of a 90-day period beginning February 5th). Assuming the temporary retains the force of law, he'll stay in violation for many months beyond that as well.
Sources inside the Mayor's office told affordable housing advocates that they were just finishing up regulations, and would publish them on Friday, April 10. They didn't. We hear the Mayor is sitting on the regulations.
Now, it sounds like Mayor Fenty doesn't actually intend to publish them. Last Thursday, he spoke to the Kalorama Citizens' Association, where someone asked him about IZ. According to resident and ANC 1C04 Commissioner Mindy Moretti, whose ANC has passed a resolution in support of the policy,
The Mayor gave no indication when IZ would be implemented and also said that because the economy is different now than when IZ was first introduced that we may not need it in the form that it was approved. ... In my opinion, his answer was outrageous and unacceptable.The Mayor is violating the clear, explicit law. The Council has made it abundantly clear, through numerous resolutions and bills, that it expects the Mayor to follow this policy. Yet he's flouting it today, and telling residents that he doesn't have any particular plans to implement it.
He's entitled to hold an opinion that the law is unnecessary or inappropriate, though we disagree. But he's not entitled to ignore properly passed laws. This isn't the Bush administration, and the Mayor can't decide which laws to follow and which to ignore. This isn't the only law the administration is ignoring. We've written twice about specific ways DDOT isn't following the performance parking law. Those are much more minor, but the overall principle remains the same: the law is the law.
Of course there is some room for interpretation, and often the executive writes specific regulations, but it must follow the law. If the Council passes a stupid law, then the Council should fix it. It's not appropriate for the Mayor or any executive agency to decide that obeying the law is too annoying or not worthwhile.
We already knew Mayor Fenty was imperious and disinclined to work with others. In some ways, that has been positive, as he broke through bureaucratic logjams in the administration of DC Public Schools. That's been generally popular, though some disagree with his approach. Sometimes, it's less heartening, like the Mayor's recent firing of DC Parks and Recreation Director Clark Ray, whom many residents thought was doing a terrific job. And sometimes, it's embarrassing, as with the Mayor's withholding of Nationals tickets from the Council. Kwame Brown introduced legislation today to auction off the Mayor's and Council's tickets.
I don't know about the law regarding the tickets, but all accounts emphasized how the Mayor had every right to fire Ray. It's one thing for the Mayor to act brash or even stupid. There's no law against having a certain leadership style. He's within his right to fire people, whether for good reasons or bad. But ignoring a clear law is another matter. The administration's refusal to let officials testify before the Council on issues such as the recent fire truck flap is similarly troubling.
Apparently some developers have been arguing to Mayor Fenty and Deputy Mayor Neil Albert that the law will discourage development. Of course, builders will likely argue that whether or not it's true. It's appropriate for our elected representatives, who certainly don't ignore the development industry, to strike that balance through public hearings and an open process. Our representatives have spoken. The Mayor should follow the law and implement the policy.
As long as this policy goes unimplemented, projects are getting approved that should include affordable housing, but won't. Numerous projects have won approval after IZ was supposed to go into effect, but didn't. Those now won't be providing more affordable units, even though in many cases the actual construction will wait until the economy recovers.
For its part, the Council should not take lightly this affront to their authority. If the Mayor can ignore a law that's about as clear as can be with impunity, he may well do so more frequently in the future. The DC Council should avoid the mistakes of the U.S. Congress through both Republican and Democratic control during the Bush years, when their inability to stand up for themselves emaciated the institution at great peril for our democracy. Mayor Fenty is not a dictator and we still live in a republic. The Council needs to make that abundantly clear.
2 Congress gets 30 days to disapprove any bill in DC except for emergency acts. If they're not in session for 30 days out of the 90 during the emergency period to approve the temporary, then the law could expire. When this happens, Council can pass a special type of emergency bill, a "Congressional Review emergency," to bridge the gap.
3 There's some question about whether resolutions containing deadlines stay lawful if the deadline passes before that resolution formally goes into effect. In this case, the temporary act didn't take effect until March 20, 2009, because Congress wasn't in session for the 30 days until then. That's after the original deadline. However, the deadline at least retained the force of law through the two emergency acts. If the temporary is not valid for some reason, it's an extremely narrow reading of the law that makes it so, and doesn't change the fact that the Mayor was and still is in violation of the letter, and will remain in violation of the spirit as long as he doesn't publish regulations.
In 2006, the DC Council and Zoning Commission passed rules to implement inclusionary zoning. This policy gives developers a density bonus in exchange for a requirement to provide a small amount of housing below market rate. Then-Councilmember Adrian Fenty was a big proponent of IZ, but since becoming Mayor, has dragged his feet on implementing the program. In the meantime, several development projects have gained approval without IZ, depriving our neighborhoods of needed housing for couples and families that don't make two law-firm incomes.
The DC Council has passed several resolutions insisting the Mayor implement the law. Most recently, they demanded final regulations be published for the required comment period by February 6th, 2009. It's 41 days later, and still no regulations.
How long will the Mayor's office keep ignoring the legally binding, repeatedly reemphasized will of the DC Council? What does it take to actually get the Mayor to follow the law? In our democratic system, legislators make laws, and the executive implements them. Inclusionary zoning is the law. Even when they think a law is wrong, the executive doesn't have the right to ignore it. That dangerous philosophy went out the door with George W. Bush.
Besides, this is a good law. We need housing programs in DC to ensure our neighborhoods don't all become like central Manhattan or Paris, where the only residents are either very wealthy or young enough to be able to live in tiny studio apartments. Healthy neighborhoods need a mix of housing types and income levels. We need small studios and three bedroom apartments or townhouses for families. And we need to enable the teachers, the nonprofit employees, the mechanics, baristas, retail clerks, hairdressers and police officers to live in our communities and near the workplaces where they provide our necessary services.
Plus, DC's inclusionary zoning doesn't even impose very strong requirements. For new housing, only 8-10% of the housing will have to be "affordable", and even those units can rent or sell for 50-80% of the Area Median Income, with most at 80%. 80% of AMI is still a lot We can't satisfy all the possible demand. There just aren't enough walkable neighborhoods in our area for that. But we can at least help ensure a healthy mix in our existing neighborhoods. If we don't, in the not too distant future, everyone not rich enough to live in the center city will drive two hours a day from West Virginia.
The Mayor should publish final regulations as soon as possible. Until they do, we've set up a counter on the right sidebar. Will it have to reach 60 before the administration complies with the law and publishes the regulations? 75? 100?
We can't satisfy all the possible demand. There just aren't enough walkable neighborhoods in our area for that. But we can at least help ensure a healthy mix in our existing neighborhoods. If we don't, in the not too distant future, everyone not rich enough to live in the center city will drive two hours a day from West Virginia.
The Mayor should publish final regulations as soon as possible. Until they do, we've set up a counter on the right sidebar. Will it have to reach 60 before the administration complies with the law and publishes the regulations? 75? 100?
In 2005, the Zoning Commission adopted, and the DC Council approved, an inclusionary zoning law. It gave developers the right to build just a little higher in exchange for including affordable units in the development. Then-Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian Fenty strongly supported this law, and used it as part of his platform for Mayor.
An older plan for 14th and U. Drawing from Eric Colbert Architects.
Since winning the election, however, Fenty has stalled. It's now almost a year after the rules were supposed to go into effect. Observers think certain developers, big funders of Fenty's who have the ear of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Neil Albert, are pushing to water down the rules.
The delay is creating consequences on the ground. The proposed 14th and U development, which will replacing a parking lot and several ugly mid-century fast-food restaurants, originally planned for inclusionary zoning. But with the delay, they've reworked the project. Architect Eric Colbert and developer Bob Moore presented new plans to the Dupont Circle ANC last month with the top two floors gone, some extra mass in the back to make up for it, and no affordable housing units.
As gentrification spreads through our city, there's a real danger that we'll become a city of all wealthy white people and young people who are willing to live in very little space. Manhattan has this problem Our neighborhoods are better with a mix of ages, races, and income levels. We don't know how to ensure healthy neighborhoods, but inclusionary zoning is one small piece of the answer. Each new building built without affordable units while the Fenty administration drags its feet is another small step closer to an urban monoculture.
Our neighborhoods are better with a mix of ages, races, and income levels. We don't know how to ensure healthy neighborhoods, but inclusionary zoning is one small piece of the answer. Each new building built without affordable units while the Fenty administration drags its feet is another small step closer to an urban monoculture.
Will developers start getting pinched between inclusionary zoning and historic preservation, and the wishes of neighbors? Will some push to weaken one or the other? Do we need to do that, or is that just an argument meant to increase profits?
HPRB shrank the top two floors. Will that
and/or IZ imperil the 14th and U project?
Drawing from Eric Colbert Architects.
The proposed inclusionary zoning law requires some affordable housing (reducing the potential for profit), while also allowing some extra height (increasing the potential for profit). Meanwhile, residents don't want the extra height, and HPRB shrinks the sizes of floors to get buildings to fit with the historic neighborhood.
To build a building, a developer must get financing from big national investment funds which demand a certain return. Deliver it, and they'll finance the building; otherwise, no building. At last week's Dupont Circle ANC meeting, the developer of the 14th and U project claimed that HPRB's shrinking of the top two floors is threatening the ability of the project to get funded. Further, they could afford to do without the top two floors entirely (as many neighborhood activists want) if the inclusionary zoning rules didn't exist.
At the behest of developers, Mayor Fenty's administration is proposing to trim back the inclusionary zoning rules that were agreed upon by the Council but not yet implemented by the Mayor. The argument for weakening is that the IZ rules will cut profits too much and buildings just won't get built; the argument against is that developers may simply be looking for more profit at the expense of affordable housing.
This discussion led one observer at the meeting to speculate that historic areas might become exempt from IZ. That'd be dangerous (and a bad idea). Preservation already sometimes appears to be a tool of rich white neighborhoods to divert change away from their areas; any serious push by people in historic districts against IZ would seem like more of the same with a tinge of class warfare or racism. Other advocates might be excited about the pinch of IZ and historic preservation restrictions if it stops buildings in their neighborhoods that they don't want.
We have three competing interests: developers, preservationists, and housing advocates. Let's hope the final outcome effectively balances all three. We need to preserve historic areas, need new housing and stores throughout the city, and mustn't exclude the middle class and lower-income people who form the backbone of the city's workforce.
- Cyclists are special and do have their own rules
- M Street cycle track keeps improving, draws church anger
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools
- O'Malley announces first projects using new gas tax money
- ICC losing bus service in classic bait and switch
- WMATA launches "Short Trip" rail pass on SmarTrip
- Silver Spring mall could get massive facelift, new name