By Melissa Silverman
Community leaders, including ANC 6D Chair Edward Daniels and members of Southwest DC Action, raised concerns in March about development at 60 I Street SW and community access to Lansburgh Park.
The location previously housed the Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle – Assemblies
of God church. The church partnered with developer Foulger-Pratt to tear down the
existing structure and build almost 200 apartments on top of a new church sanctuary on the ground floor. Construction began around the end of 2021.
Based on a unanimous vote of ANC 6D Commissioners, Daniels wrote a letter to Keith A. Anderson, Director of the DC Department of General Services, questioning the department’s agreement with Foulger-Pratt, allowing the developer to fence off and use public park land at Lansburgh Park.
The letter stated that “ANC 6D has serious concerns” about the agreement, which restricts public access to park space for up to three years.
“This agreement also raises broader questions about the process by which DC
government allows private companies to use public land to the detriment of city
Residents,” Daniels’ letter said. “The community should be given standing and allowed to comment on agreements affecting public space.”
The development is being built by right, meaning that ANC 6D had no formal opportunity to review the design of the building or plans for construction, but as Daniels wrote, “while ANC 6D would have been a logical partner, as far as we are aware, no efforts were made to include the ANC in the discussion” prior to the signing of the agreement with the developer.
In a letter to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, over a dozen members of Southwest DC Action and an additional 44 local residents expressed similar concerns, specifying concerns related to “the inexplicable removal of 10 trees on public land, lack of transparency around the exclusive use of public park space for private gain [and] unjust compensation for defacement and damage to public land.”
Southwest DC Action is a group of Southwest residents who organize and advocate for a more equitable, anti-racist, and environmentally sustainable neighborhood. Their letter highlighted Foulger-Pratt’s removal of 10 trees on public land, including three within the boundaries of Lansburgh Park. The letter calls the park “one of the few protected green spaces in the SW neighborhood” and notes the disproportionate impact of urban heat islands, which are exacerbated by the removal of trees, on people of color.
The DC Department of General Services agreement with Foulger-Pratt includes the lease of park land for $1 a month. Southwest DC Action uses their letter to juxtapose this rate with “that of any resident of SW who wanted to rent outdoor space at Lansburgh Park for a special event; they would be required to pay the city $12.50 per hour.”
In the letter, Southwest DC Action and community signatories call on Bowser and other city officials to “return the fenced-off area of the park back to the SW community or demand a more fair and equitable payment.”