The fight over DC’s Comp Plan is about the future of our city -- and about who has a say in it.
I’m running to be the next DC Council Chair because, like many DC residents, I’m concerned about DC’s widening income and racial inequities. Our leaders are not doing enough to address the impacts of gentrification, or to shape development that helps all residents. Too many Black and Brown residents are being left behind and pushed out. Too many DC residents worry about paying rent and staying in their homes. And Ward 7 and Ward 8 residents are still waiting for the most basic neighborhood-serving development: healthy and affordable grocery options.
We need to build a fairer and stronger city with equitable growth that benefits everyone. That should start with a Comp Plan focused on racial equity, prioritizes affordable housing for truly low-income families, and protects the voice and role of the community in land-use decisions.
As a candidate, I’ve heard concerns from residents across the District that the proposed Comp Plan changes would put the interests of developers ahead of the needs of residents. That is what’s at the core of the fight over DC’s Comprehensive Plan. The proposed update addresses developer concerns without addressing community concerns, especially affordable housing. That is a move in the wrong direction.
The Comp Plan update should put residents first. At a time of rapid development spreading across the District, residents must have a say on the kind of development coming to their community, and the ability to challenge developers promoting projects that are not appropriate. Community stakeholders need tools when they believe zoning decisions are not consistent with the Comp Plan, yet the updated Framework Element contains vague language that could give developers an upper hand in promoting their projects over community wishes. That should not stand. Any changes to the Comp Plan Framework Element should create clarity, not fuzziness that weakens the role of community stakeholders.
Putting residents first also means placing a top priority on affordable housing. The Comp Plan should address the need for housing for DC’s lowest-income families, instead of small apartments that don’t work for families and vaguely defined “affordable housing” for those with incomes upward of $100,000. The Comp Plan should prevent displacement of existing affordable housing, and ensure that residents are able to remain in their community through the development process. And the Comp Plan should not allow developers to meet affordable housing requirements off-site. All of our communities should be affordable, and we need economically and racially diverse neighborhoods across the District. Concentrating affordable housing in our lowest income communities is unfair.
We should not tolerate the current Comp Plan proposal that silences or weakens the voice of the community in the development process.
As Chair of the Council, I would send the current draft of the Comp Plan back to the drawing board. Any Comp Plan, as required under law, should be presented to ANCs and other community stakeholders before coming to the DC Council.
We can't afford to get this wrong and we need new leadership to get it right.
- Ed Lazere