Comments on Proposed Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan: Southeast Boulevard

The District Office of Planning (OP) is nearing the end of a now four-year process to amended one of the most consequential documents in the government, the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan is made up of two maps that dictate future growth and land use changes, and many chapters which detail city-wide plans as well as specific plans for neighborhoods. The changes to this plan must be approved by the DC Council. Last year, the Council approved changed to the Framework Element which is the guiding principles of this plan. In October of 2019, OP release proposed changed to the maps and remaining elements of the Comprehensive Plan.

As ANC Commissioner for 6B06, which includes part of the Capitol Hill Planning Area and Lower Anacostia and Near Southwest Planning Area, I took specific interest in these areas as well as the two maps, the Future Land Use Map and Generalized Policy Map.

The Comp Plan Amendment Process has called for detailed comments from ANCs. Below are my proposed comments on the Comprehensive Plan related to Southeast Boulevard, which I will be moving at ANC 6B’s February Planning and Zoning Committee. These comments are draft and have not been voted upon and do not currently represent the view of the Commission.

As part of the 11th Street Bridges Project, the District removed the stub of the Souhteast freeway from 11th Street to Barney Circle from the interstate highway system and marked it for conversion to a “Boulevard.” This process started in 2005. Unfortunately in 2013, then-Mayor Vincent Gray “temporarily” rebuilt the freeway mostly because he believe it would help speed up his commute from his Ward 7 home to the John A. Wilson Building downtown.

Beginning in 2014 through now, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and OP began a series of studies on how to remove the temporary freeway stub and turn that area into an urban boulevard with land available for housing and other uses. I fully support this plan. Bringing Southeast Boulevard to grade is one of the few opportunitites we have in the District to simply Build More City. Further, this will allow pedestrian connections to M Street SE and the Anacostia River.

One concept from OP’s 2015 Southeast Planning Study

Proposed Comments

The quoted text below is the comment I will move at ANC 6B’s February Planning and Zoning Committee on February 4 and will likely be up for discussion at the full ANC meeting on February 11.

ANC 6B fully supports the goals for housing creation laid out in the Mayor’s May 10, 2019 Order Housing Framework for Equity and Growth and subsequent October 15, 2019 Housing Equity Report: Creating Goals for Areas of Our City. As one prong to bridge the 1,120-unit gap of Affordable Housing production, ANC 6B fully supports the proposed revisions to the Capitol Hill Area Element regarding Southeast Boulevard. There are few areas to simply create more city blocks and this is a unique opportunity to create land to meet the market-rate and committed affordable housing needs of the city and Capitol Hill Planning Area.

Given the financial constraints of the project, ANC 6B understands the needs for other municipal uses of the land below a new Southeast Boulevard, including a potential bus garage for DDOT. ANC 6B recommends codification of a process in the Comp Plan that will push the District Department of Energy and Environment to take the lead on any such use, under the auspices of the transportation, environmental, and newly adopted resiliency elements and guided by an unwavering sense of environmental justice and equity. Specifically, ANC 6B recommends detailing the potential negative impacts of a new bus garage including mitigation of impacts on air quality, neighborhood traffic, and increased noise.

A newly created Southeast Boulevard will be adjacent to Hopkins Apartments, a DCHA public housing community. All development in newly created land must be sensitive to the current uses and the improvements and benefits from the changes must be shared with all residents including those in Hopkins.

The land created by Southeast Boulevard serves as the perfect buffer between the existing moderate density rowhouse neighborhoods to the north and the proposed high density uses to the south. Given the uncertainties of future ward redistricting and legislative action, ANC 6B recommends the land for Southeast Boulevard be changed in the Future Land Use Map to Medium Density Residential and Low Density Commercial rather than maintaining the existing Production & Technical Employment designation. Further, we recommend this change extend all the way to M Street SE incorporating a small but impactful triangle (Square 1024, Lot 0808) owned by CSX, whose industrial uses are incompatible with the surrounding FLUM designations.

ANC 6B is excited to be an equitable partner in housing development, and encourages OP to work with its sister agencies to expeditiously move plans forward for Southeast Boulevard.

Proposed changes to the Future Land Use Map referenced in comments

1 thought on “Comments on Proposed Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan: Southeast Boulevard

  1. Hill East Resident


    I am a homeowner residing in the vicinity of L Street SE. I appreciate your attention to the longstanding need to redevelop Southeast Boulevard. As you correctly note, the land south of L Street is one of the few undeveloped waterfront areas in the city, and has massive potential for increased housing and commercial activity. The anticipated opening of the 11th Street Bridge Park in 2023 is another strong reason that militates in favor of moving forward on Southeast Boulevard as soon as possible. Currently, there is no easy path of access to the base of the future park from any Metro stop, particularly from Potomac Ave. The redevelopment of Southeast Boulevard will enhance the likelihood of the Park’s success.

    There is one other important consideration that, it appears, is not included in your proposed comment to the Comprehensive Plan. I agree that the consideration of affordable housing needs to be included in any plan going forward, and increasing affordable housing city-wide is an important and laudable goal. That being said, as your comment tacitly acknowledges, the immediate neighborhood north of Southeast Boulevard already features a large amount of dedicated public housing. It is a disproportionate amount compared to the rest of Capitol Hill and the rest of the city. Furthermore, Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Apartments represent a decades-old and failed model of public housing that has concentrated too many at-risk individuals in the same location with inadequate access to necessary support and resources. The unfortunate result has been a consistent, year-over-year rash of violence and crime, particularly in the vicinity of I and K Streets between 11th and 13th Streets SE, including numerous shootings, robberies, and assaults. As you are aware, in one episode last year, a maintenance worker was murdered in his car while he was eating lunch. To this point, elected officials, including yourself and, particularly, Councilmember Allen, have focused on addressing the problems as a police issue, rather than acknowledge the systemic problems that arise from the public housing model that Potomac Gardens and Hopkins Apartments represent. I understand that discussing these difficult and complex issues is among the third rails of DC politics, but to this point, I have yet to hear a single elected official address the future of Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Houses. That is not acceptable.

    As you consider the planned redevelopment of Southeast Boulevard and weigh the possibility of increased affordable housing in that area, I would like to hear more about the model of affordable housing you envision for the Southeast Boulevard redevelopment and how it would fold into the surrounding neighborhood. The violence that has consistently plagued the neighborhood directly stems from the city’s inability to redevelop the existing public housing in the area into a more successful model. Look no further than the success of the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg redevelopment as a window into what is possible. Both the residents of Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Apartments and residents of the surrounding community deserve answers, particularly as you push for the addition of new housing in the area of Southeast Boulevard. I hope in the near future you will write a dedicated post responding to these concerns and questions, which many of our neighbors in the community share, and which stand among the most important issues facing the community. Thanks for listening.


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