FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Eric Gold, firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Hearing on Advisory Neighborhood Commission “Great Weight” Highlights Consistent Dissent to Zoning Regulations Rewrite (ZRR); DC Office of Planning Chided by ANC’s
Washington, DC — On Wednesday, December 16, 2015, more than fifteen current and former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners from around the City testified before the DC City Council about how City agencies receive and respond to ANC recommendations.
Video link to Council hearing >> http://188.8.131.52:8080/DCC/December2015/12_16_15_Housing.mp4
The overwhelming theme heard at the hearing is that many City agencies consistently do not abide with the ANC “Great Weight” law.
The DC Office of Planning was particularly cited for ignoring ANC input.
Tom Smith, ANC-3B Commissioner, testified that “The Office of Planning has no structure for engaging with the public,” as it regards to projects requiring historic preservation review.
Marge Maceda, Chair of ANC-6E explained that, “communication… is broken” . . . “in my ANC we had nine projects where Great Weight was not given at all even when we provided letters to the Office of Planning” . . . “nor did OP come out into the community… to gather information or find out what the community wanted.”
The Director of the Office of ANC’s, Gottlieb Simon, charged with assisting all ANC’s citywide, also testified to Councilmember Anita Bonds, “It is not the definiton of Great Weight that is the problem, its the lack of implementation and the lack of ability to hold agencies accountable when they don’t provide Great Weight.”
Taalib-Din A. Uqdah, ANC-4C01 said, “We [ANC’s] really don’t matter.”
The Council heard testimony calling the Zoning Regulations Rewrite (ZRR) process uneven across all DC communities, with the Office of Planning and Zoning Commission fostering unequal participation and providing preferential treatment to certain DC neighborhoods.
Renee Bowser Vice Chair of ANC-4D testified, ” ANC-4D did not have the same weight as the people of the ANC in Georgetown,” referencing the special relationship the Office of Planning had with the “influential and wealthy” residents of Georgetown.
In January 2014, ANC’s told the Council about a “Tale of Two Cities” as it regards to the outreach and efforts by the Office of Planning, the agency pushing the ZRR.
“The Office of Planning should reach out to all parts of the City. [My ANC] deserves all of the back and forth and having our issues addressed, and that was not done,” stated Bowser.
“Having spent the past 5 years on the ZRR taskforce . . . I can state without hesitation that ANC opinions did not receive [from the Zoning Commission] the same great weight as that afforded the Office of Planning,” testified Ward 3 Commissioner Alma Gates. “OP succeeded in putting forward proposals [in the ZRR] whch that would eliminate ANC input in zoning cases by proposing that some special exceptions and variances become a matter of right” … “the voice of the community will be silenced [by the ZRR].”
Commissioner Nancy Macwood testified, “The Zoning Commission has decided that they can ignore the ANC views until rendering a final decision” . . . “that is a sham.”
In September 2015, individual ANC Commissioners, particularly those elected to serve residents living East of the River, submitted resolutions and letters to the Zoning Commission describing the unequal treatment across different DC neighborhoods during the ZRR process.
So far, these ANC requests have been largely dismissed by the Office of Planning, Zoning Commissioners and the City Council.
Director of the Office of ANC’s, Gottlieb Simon concluded, “I believe what has been heard [at the hearing] is a concern that ANC’s are ignored, discounted, and not given the gauranteed meaningful consideration that the [Great Weight] statute intended them to have and that is in part because there is no recourse, relief, no place the ANC’s can go when they find that the agency has failed to live up to the law.”
Further, DC’s language access advocates have had their concerns that the ZRR and Office of Planning has largely disregarded Limited English Proficient communities from meaningfully engaging on the ZRR, despite the fact it will affect all District residents.
Commissioner Renee Bowser shed some light on this at the hearing, “In Petworth we represent people of the Latino community, and if you don’t have the [ZRR documents] in Spanish you are leaving out a portion of the community.”
Allegedly started in 2008, the ZRR represents significant changes to DC’s fundamental planning policies which will affect how every neighborhood in the District develops over the next fifty to one-hundred years.
In the fall, the Committee of 100 also submitted a request that an “independent appraisal” be conducted on the ZRR to determine the efficacy of the process and the resultant amended regulations. This request by the C-100 was denied by the DC Zoning Commission.
The DC Zoning Commission has set a meeting in mid-January 2016 to potentially make final the proposed zoning changes found in the 1,000 pages of the ZRR document despite the many serious concerns about the public review process and subsequent controversial zoning amendments.