The Office of Planning (OP) invited leaders of Southwest residential and community organizations to serve as an advisory committee toward the preparation of a Southwest Small Area Plan. This spring, OP has been soliciting the members’ support of its preliminary recommendations.
 
However committee members have a range of significant concerns with both the process and proposed recommendations. Concluding that many of the same concerns have been repeatedly raised, yet not appropriately addressed or incorporated in OP’s recommendations, committee members decided to notify our fellow community members and elected officials in an open letter that we aren’t comfortable with the current process.  
 
We look forward to working with OP, other government agencies, and the community to transparently develop an equitable, sustainable, and successful plan.
The Southwest community embraced your administration’s proposal to develop a Southwest Neighborhood Plan to recommend public investments that will accommodate the development pressures facing our community.

After the first public workshop, the D.C. Office of Planning (OP) articulated ten themes that the plan would focus on: Southwest Culture, Neighborhood Character, Pedestrian/Safety, Retail, Parks, Community Amenities, Housing, Transportation, Historic Preservation, and New Development. OP also conveyed that the land uses of a handful of government parcels would be closely evaluated. The community consented to this approach.

The community has engaged in three public workshops, and in record numbers. Appointed community representatives have participated in three focus groups – Elderly, Historic Preservation, and Education. Additionally, many comments have been submitted online and over email. Despite the significant amount of feedback, the community’s priorities are not reflected in the proposals that OP has put forward.

• OP’s accounts of community comments have not been representative. The January 25 meeting notes, in particular, categorically avoided capturing comments opposed to allowing big box stores along South Capitol Street and those in support of maintaining Southwest’s stand-alone library.

• The recommendations ignore the balanced set of themes.

• The recommendations fail to incorporate the comments and conclusions developed at the focus groups.

• OP’s resultant recommendations focus on increasing the recommended land use density for well over a dozen key sites, despite clear indications from the community and your consultants that increased density alone will not improve our quality of life.

• Rather than supporting Southwest’s buildings and open spaces that this community values, OP recommended a watered down set of guidelines.

OP has not addressed the priorities and concerns of Southwest residents, including parks and open space, transportation congestion, the Greenleaf housing community, and cultural development.

OP’s planners and consultants have not only ignored parks and open space in their recommendations, but also have spoken out against existing plans in public meetings, including the $1 million earmarked for Randall, a fully-funded 15,000 square-foot dog park at Lansburgh, and a $450,000 playground in the open space along the library. We understand that OP’s proposal to eliminate the stand-alone library would also eliminate the adjacent playground, which is an amenity that many members of our community have worked hard to enhance.

Rather than recommending transportation improvements to try to best accommodate the billions of dollars in new development already approved, OP is recommending more development allowances. Increasing the allowable density on so many sites raises concerns not only about the scale of development, but also the type. The community has spoken time and time again about their desire for small businesses that provide basic services, however, none of OP’s recommendations have focused on providing incentives for developers to build the smaller, more affordable spaces in which such neighborhood retail could thrive. Instead, OP’s recommendations to increase density support large development envelopes that better facilitate big box stores like Walmart.

This is not what the community needs or wants. Moreover, without a well-developed transportation plan, how would we ever manage the resultant traffic congestion?

The community has repeatedly voiced concerns about preserving and accommodating the future of Southwest’s residents living in the large Greenleaf housing development. However, OP’s only Greenleaf-related recommendations were land use changes that would facilitate demolition of the Greenleaf area with no concomitant recommendations for keeping the Greenleaf community intact. Southwest still bears the scars of social injustice from the mass displacement of residents from the urban renewal process of the 1950s. We should not let this unfortunate history repeat itself.

Southwest has become a bourgeoning cultural hub, with Arena Stage, Blind Whino, SW Arts Fest, the Wharf’s performance hall and smaller music-themed bars, Westminster’s Blues and Jazz nights, the planned Rubell Art Museum, Washington Project for the Arts, the Randall Community Center, and other smaller venues and events. We have expressed—and assumed DC would have a mutual interest—in buttressing our cultural assets. But OP hasn’t facilitated any substantive discussion, much less articulated recommendations that would support our cultural assets.

We call on you to make the Southwest Neighborhood Small Area Plan a sincere community-led vision for the Southwest neighborhood. Our community has spoken. We need the Office of Planning to listen and plan accordingly for the growth of our neighborhood.

Sincerely,

Kael Anderson, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly President

Roger Moffatt, ANC 6D-05

Andy Litsky, ANC 6D-01

Rhonda Hamilton, ANC 6D-06

Gail Fast, Carrollsburg A Condominium President

Carolyn Mitchell, Channel Square President

Colleen Rooney, Tiber Island Cooperative Homes President

Hara Bouganim, Waterfront Tower President

Cecille Chen, Tiber Island Condominium representative

Thelma Jones, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Youth Activities Task Force Chair

June L. Marshall, Capitol Park II Condominium Association, Inc, President

Bob Hall, Capitol Park IV representative

Shauna Stallworth, Carrollsburg Square Condominium Association President

Dena Walker, Greenleaf Gardens Residents Council President

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