Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2016 7:58 PM
Subject: [HistoricWashington] Zoning Commission Approves Mixed-Use Development at McMillan Park
Tonight, the Zoning Commission voted in favor of “Modification of Approved Consolidated PUD and Related Map Amendment Multifamily/Retail Building, Parcel 4” at McMillan. I naively thought that there might be a pause before the vote in order to consider testimony/comments that came in over the course of the day, as well as at the hearing. I submitted the following testimony before the hearing commenced, thus my interest. I was assured that the Commissioners read all the testimony, but given the timing, I think that must be an unrealized ideal. Here follows my testimony, simply because I do not wish it to plunge into the void.
As part of the second-stage PUD for Jair Lynch’s neighboring mixed-use development, located on Parcel 2 of Square 3128/Lot 800, the Office of Planning requested “clarification” of the developer’s commitment to a “distribution pattern that does not cluster the affordable units” into what might be called a ghetto. Jair Lynch so committed, and the company’s PUD Application shows 27 affordable units scattered throughout the first four floors of the six residential floors.However on Parcel 4, to which Case No. 13-14B pertains, the multi-family/grocery building providing affordable units for seniors not only segregates those 85 units to the building’s southern wing, it accommodates this segregation with two separate entrances and lobbies, one for the market-rate tenants and one for the seniors paying affordable rents. I suppose developer Jair Lynch might argue that people who are 55 years of age and older might prefer to dwell at a distance from noisy babies or partying singles. However that theoretical argument does not explain the provision of separate entrances and lobbies—a separation emphasized by the fact that that the two entrances are adjacent! It’s hard to imagine a set-up that is more glaringly expressive of the divide in our society than a “poor-door” right next to a market-rate entrance, allowing residents to eye one another but not mingle, forced by the very architecture to sort themselves by income. What next, separate water fountains?
Furthermore, this project is now embarrassingly out of synch with District law as to the number and type of affordable housing units it provides on what is probably the largest tract of public land to have been promised to a developer to date by the District government. The point has been made in this chamber before that the residential component of “McMillan Town Center” does not meet the new standard for the inclusion of affordable housing in projects built on public land disposed of by the District government, as mandated in D.C. Code §10-801. DMPED has made the argument that the McMillan dispositions were passed before the new standard went into effect. That is true. But the time schedule for disposing of this land has undergone a material change since that massive discrepancy was airily dismissed. The District still owns the land, and because the Council approved PR21-0307 – the “McMillan Townhomes Parcel, Commercial Parcel, and Multifamily Parcels Disposition Extension Resolution of 2015” last November, all 7 parcels that make up McMillan Sand Filtration Site and Park may continue to be District-owned public land until 2021. The announcement of the public hearing on the bill stated that “the extension is necessary to ensure that the Mayor will have the necessary legal authority to convey the property after all obligations for pre-development by the city are completed.” Is it legitimate to waive affordable housing provisions of the current D.C. Code on the basis that the city disposed of the property before the relevant amendment became effective if said amendment is now law and the city admittedly does not yet even have the legal authority to convey the property?
DMPED testified to Council Chair Phil Mendelson on October 26, 2015, that affordable housing accounts for 20 percent of units across the site. The 85 units of senior housing in the parcel under discussion in Case No. 13-14B are to be rented at 50-60 percent of AMI. All but two of the units in Parcel 2 are to be rented at 80 percent of AMI; those two units are to be rented at 50 percent AMI.
According to D.C. Code §10-801 (a) (a-3)(1)(A): If multifamily units are located “(iii) Within 1/4 mile of a Priority Corridor Network Metrobus Route, as designated by the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority, located entirely or partially within the District of Columbia,” “at least 30% of the units shall be dedicated as affordable housing.” A significant percentage of these units are meant to be for earners of 30% and 50% of AMI. (http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/30743/B20-0594-SignedAct.pdf)
North Capitol Street, the eastern border of the proposed McMillan Town Center, is a Priority Corridor Network Metrobus Route (frequent congestion notwithstanding). So McMillan Town Center should meet the new affordable housing standard. Twenty percent affordable housing across the site does not meet the new standard, nor does the preponderance of units for residents earning in excess of 60 percent.
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau wrote in an op-ed in the October 7, 2015, Washington Post that the Bowser administration “revisited” a nearly two-year old deal to sell 965 Florida Avenue, NW, to MRP Residential in order to implement the new affordable housing law. Why should McMillan be different?
 According to LIMS, the Disposition of District Land for Affordable Housing Amendment Act of 2014 was signed November 27, 2014; published in the D.C. Register on December 5, three days after the McMillan disposition resolutions were approved; and transmitted to Congress three months later, on March 10, 2015, which became its effective date.