D.C. Comprehensive Plan Update Needs Equity Improvements, Report Says

The new D.C. Office of Equity has produced an evaluation of proposed changes to the D.C. Comprehensive Plan.

2 minute read

April 22, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

D.C. Land Use Map

D.C. Office of Planning / Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map

[Updated April 22, 2021]

"As the D.C. Council prepares to debate and propose amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a new analysis from the Council’s Office of Racial Equity has issued a withering assessment of the plan’s impact on racial equity," reports Ally Schweitzer.

Schwietzer puts the report in context of the political and planning process for the Comprehensive Plan update:

The analysis is expected to be the subject of intense discussion [April 20], as lawmakers convene to work on proposed changes to the roughly 1,500-page land-use document, which guides development and growth in the city over a 20-year period. The markup is the latest phase in a five-year-long amendment process watched closely by low-income housing advocates, real estate developers and supporters of “smart growth” policies.

The controversial issues in question include how much to incentivize new housing development as an affordable housing tool and whether the plan does enough to prevent gentrification and displacement. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants the update to make it remove some exclusionary zoning restrictions. Recent amendments proposed by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson "added numerous references to racial segregation, racial equity and prioritizing housing affordability," according to Schweitzer.

“The Comprehensive Plan, as introduced, fails to address racism, an ongoing public health crisis in the District,” the report says. “It appears that racial equity was neither a guiding principle in the preparation of the Comprehensive Plan, nor was it an explicit goal for the Plan’s policies, actions, implementation guidance, or evaluation. These process failures laid the groundwork for deficiencies in policy: proposals are ahistorical, solutions are not proportionate to racial inequities, and directives are concerningly weak or vague.”

The Office of Racial Equity was established in January 2021, with the purpose of independently assessing legislation for consequences relevant to racial equity. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Amber Hewitt to lead this office as Chief Equity Office earlier in April.

[Update: Michael Brice-Saddler and Julie Zauzmer report the latest development in the approval process for the proposed amendments to the D.C. Comprehensive Plan: "The D.C. Council on Tuesday advanced amendments to the massive blueprint that will shape city development in coming years, though several lawmakers voiced concerns that the changes do not adequately address systemic racial and socioeconomic inequities." Also, "Tuesday’s vote was the first step in a legislative process that will unfold over the next several weeks to amend the Comprehensive Plan, which is rewritten every 20 years and spells out the District government’s rules for land use in every neighborhood of the city."]

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 in DCist

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Google street view of yellow "End Freeway 1/4 mile" sign on 90 freeway in Los Angeles, California.

Proposal Would Transform L.A.’s ‘Freeway to Nowhere’ Into Park, Housing

A never-completed freeway segment could see new life as a mixed-use development with housing, commercial space, and one of the county’s largest parks.

September 26, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

Traffic on the 405 interstate freeway through the Sepulveda Pass at Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California

Report: Bike Lanes Can't Make up for New Roads

If California wants to meet its climate goals, the state must stop funding its myriad road construction and expansion projects.

September 29 - Streetsblog California

Late evening view of downtown Minneapolis skyline with stone bridge in foreground

Minneapolis Affordable Housing Project Largest in 20 Years

The city opened its first large multifamily affordable housing complex in decades, but a recent court ruling against the Minneapolis 2040 rezoning plan could jeopardize future projects.

September 29 - Minnesota Public Radio

Close-up of vertical PARK sign on multistory urban parking garage.

NYC Mayor Proposes Eliminating Parking Minimums

Mayor Adams wants to stop requiring off-site parking for new buildings to reduce the costs of construction as part of the ‘City of Yes’ package of zoning reforms.

September 29 - StreetsBlog NYC

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.