With a soccer stadium proposed for Buzzard Point and the highly contested CSX tunnel project in Capitol Riverfront, residents and organizations of Southwest/Navy Yard must pull together to demand that comprehensive, enforceable agreements be signed by the city, developers, and community benefits agreement (CBA) coalitions if, and before, these projects proceed.

Through summits and roundtables, many Southwest/Navy Yard residents have clearly prioritized the need to negotiate for financial and additional benefits to support local workforce development, strengthen neighborhood schools, sustain nearby community centers, develop locally-owned businesses, increase all levels of affordable housing, and underwrite ongoing enforcement of agreements. CBAs make sure that whenever development happens, whether desired or undesired, priorities like these are addressed.

Ruth Hamilton, chair of the Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC), a nonprofit started in 2009 to work with ANC6D commissioners to negotiate and enforce community benefits agreements, recently attended the 2014 Community Benefits Summit in Los Angeles, CA. Sponsored by the Partnership for Working Families, there were over 35 cities represented and 50 CBA groups, including CBCC.

“It was encouraging to see grass-roots groups around the country not only helping to strengthen city-wide policies but also making sure there is direct impact at the neighborhood level” Hamilton stated.

The biggest win for the community benefits approach nationwide was last April in New York City when the Kingsbridge Amory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), a broad-based coalition of community organizations, successfully negotiated a CBA for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Northwest Bronx. They did this after first stopping a major project proposed by Mayor Bloomberg. The new project, an ice sports center, will include nine hockey rinks, a 5,000-seat arena, and a 50,000-square-foot community space. Under the CBA, the developer agreed to:

  • an $8,000,000 initial contribution, plus substantial ongoing contributions, to a coalition-controlled fund that may be used for specified community needs;
  • formal structures for community-based oversight and enforcement of CBA commitments;
  • a grant program for local businesses that employ large numbers of local workers;
  • priority community access to the project’s athletic facilities;
  • a “wall-to-wall” living wage payment requirement, covering all workers within the project; and more.

Just this past February, ACCORD, a group in DC’s Ward 8 comprised of several community organizations and the ANC 8E, proposed a multi-million dollar CBA to 5914 LLC, a developer who has submitted a PUD to construct a 236,000-square-foot office building and a 205- to 215-unit apartment building atop the Congress Heights metro station. Among several items, ACCORD’s CBA requests: a minimum $2 million in financial support for ACCORD, paid out over 20 years, to support Ward 8 nonprofit organizations that provide recreational, social services, and educational programs, and a 1,000-square-foot office space for 10 years, with three 10-year extensions, for ANC 8E, at a cost of $1 per month. Although the developer has not yet signed on to the CBA, ACCORD is confident that they will reach an agreement.

The Southwest/Navy Yard community has missed opportunities for funding and ongoing support for local priorities from major projects like the ballpark and portals. The level of collaboration needed to gain significant benefits has not yet been achieved and CBCC is working to change this. In relation to the proposed soccer stadium, CBCC has joined the Winning Goal Coalition, started by SWNA, along with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and Unite Here, a union of concession stand workers. Growth of this coalition will strengthen the CBA and ensure the DC Council does not approve any stadium plan until such a CBA is signed by all parties. At a recent forum, both Ward 6 Council candidates strongly affirmed the need for such an enforceable agreement. In relation to the CSX tunnel, CBCC stands by Navy Yard residents in their opposition to the project, but also understands that a CBA must be ready if the project goes forward in spite of widespread opposition. To get involved with these coalitions, or for more information on joining a CBCC committee, please visit our website at www.seswcbcc.org, follow us on Twitter @seswcbcc, or email our Coordinator, Felicia Couts, at fcouts@seswcbcc.org.

By: Felicia Couts

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