Black Residents to DC Council: DEFUND McMILLAN

Media advisory, Monday, July 6, 2020
Contact: Linwood Norman,, 202-656-3012

The DC City Council is being asked by Black residents in the District to use the Council’s newly adopted “racial equity lens” to analyze and then defund the McMillan Park redevelopment plan, because it will intensify displacement in a city that is one of the fastest gentrifying in the country. The group demands defunding, i.e. rejecting, the $75.5 million the Mayor has budgeted for McMillan in FY 21 and using the money for health clinics, low-income housing, school laptops, immigration centers, and other critical human needs and services.

“The continued practice of allowing public land to be use for for-profit housing cannot solve the affordable housing crisis. If we truly believe Black lives matter, then access to affordable housing for Black people must also matter,” says Ward 6 resident and teacher, Coy McKinney. “Black Washingtonians have disproportionately been harmed by the affordable housing crisis, thus, if we’re serious about justice, we must treat housing as the human right it is and act accordingly.”

The DC Government’s plan for the 25-acres of public land at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue, NW calls for a suburban-style “town center” with 2+ million sq. ft., of mostly market rate housing, offices and medical buildings. Most of the structures at McMillan Park, a National Historic Landmark would be crushed and thrown away and its breathtaking views of monumental Washington would be shrouded by new 120 foot tall buildings dwarfing the iconic above-ground silos and pump houses.

Until WW II, when the site was fenced-in, McMillan was one of the first safe spaces as an integrated park in the District. After the war, the park was never reopened, a reflection of the racial discrimination put upon the Black residents who had moved into the area, who now are being taxed out of the community and the city.

It is time now for the Council to step up and use its racial equity lens and Defund McMillan, especially during this endemic,” proclaimed Antoinette Lawson, longtime Ward 8 resident and healthy foods advocate. “We want to fund human needs, not corporate greed.”

Examining the development plan for McMillan Park through a racial equity lens reveals these critical inequities:

  • Affordable housing: the DC Government plan does not move the District to greater racial equity. Fewer than 20% of planned units will be “affordable” (under HUD-imposed AMIs) for studios and “one-bedrooms for seniors”, all with a separate “poor” door and “poor” lobby next to the market-rate entrance and lobby. Also, this group wants to know why the project is exempt from the 2014 law sponsored by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie that calls for a greater affordable housing obligation when public land like McMillan is disposed of to developers. In fact, the high prices for the market rate housing will be a displacement and gentrification engine as McMillan resets the housing market at its much higher price point.

  • Environmental racism: the McMillan development will generate approximately 20,000 new vehicle trips per day on an already overburdened intersection that serves the hospital center adjacent to this predominately Black/racially-diverse neighborhood??). Large amounts of air and water pollutants are expected in addition to noise and possibly asbestos release during years of demolition and construction. Shockingly, no Environmental Impact Statement has yet been required by the DC Government. And, no metro system has been designed to serve this massive development.

  • Displacement/gentrification: The McMillan project is a case study of the DC Government creating a project that, as Washington Post columnist Colby King said, will force poor folks out of their communities. The District acts by “…selling or leasing publicly owned land, changing zoning laws, closing alleys and providing developers with inducements” to develop, putting “upward pressure on rents and housing values [so] that poor folks [are] therefore going to be forced out of their neighborhoods, with resultant racial and class tensions.”

Residents’ opposition to the McMillan development – from thousands of local petition signers, oral and written testimony from organizations and individuals, and by street demonstrations – has been largely disregarded by DC Council. And, some on the Council went through the trouble to retroactively change DC law to approve the sole source selection of a developer who has shamelessly borrowed ideas from a far more creative, less dense plan presented by the community as an alternative to the banal and destructive project selected.

“In order to push a bad deal, the DC government added insult-to-injury by using our tax dollars to pay lawyers, architects and consultants to design the project and to quiet opposition to McMillan,” says Ward 4 ANC Commissioner and housing activist Renee Bowser, in part referencing a Baltimore public relations firm (Fontaine Inc.) to discredit the grassroots movement to preserve the park (an expense found to be so egregious as to have been eventually disallowed).

“DC developers hire so-called experts to say more market rate development is good for the city and stops displacement. They couldn’t be more wrong or ignorant about reality,” says Ward 4 resident, Lorenz Wheatley. “For example, RCLCO is a national real estate and developer consultant with a local office in Bethesda, Maryland, a firm that is so “White” that it is the antithesis to “Black Lives Matter”!.”

The DC Court of Appeals has been the only body to seriously consider McMillan’s legal, development, and displacement problems. Only the Court’s actions have held up the demolition and construction — so far.



Ben Franklin, Ward 5 since a child

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