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"Smart" Growthers Attack McMillan Park Court Victory

Ignore Key Stats Showing Massive Displacement

By Chris Otten, co-facilitator, DC for Reasonable Development

Recently, Greater Greater Washington and the DC Smart Growth Coalition have asked the public to sign on with corporate developers and non-profit property managers to together push for “more housing” to be built in DC with less regulations holding them back.

The smart growthers consistently point to a mythical demand to support their call for more housing – that 1,000 people are moving into the city every month. They believe the city should help corporate developers meet this demand by giving them the right to build bigger and bigger condos and apartment complexes. On its face, this not-so-smart "build-baby-build" philosophy is failed civic policy in that it omits a key piece of the equation: EXISTING DC RESIDENTS, FAMILIES, AND BUSINESSES!

First, let's analyze the "smart" growth premise for more housing at any cost. They claim 1,000 people are moving into the city every month, but never point to any evidence showing this. More importantly, where is the associated statistic on how many people are being pushed out on a monthly basis? We certainly know for a fact that the rate of homelessness has jumped significantly over the past several years. This is a sure sign of displacement at a time when housing is popping up all over the city.

Also, when waving around the '1,000 people' mantra, the so-called smart growth philosophy dispenses with any analysis of who these people are and why they are moving into the city. Using the 2010 US Census, we have a sense that those moving into DC are largely single white professionals making relatively significant salaries ($50,000+), and are working at corporate / government entities. These entities, in turn, won't take the time or aren't offered the incentives to train and hire from the existing DC population.

Further, the "smart" growth demand that building more housing in the District will reduce the prices of housing for all is such a fundamental fallacy as to be a complete joke. Developers have built tens of thousands of new housing units over the last fifteen years -- the same amount of time that shows 40,000+ black folks have been displaced from the city.

Smart growthers and some city planners have recently settled that a $1,200/month studio/one bedroom can be considered “affordable.” This is in part because the displacement machine determines DC's affordability based on an Area Median Income (AMI) that includes two of the wealthiest places in the nation, Montgomery County in Maryland and Fairfax County in Virginia. This means the 2016 AMI is $108,000!  This rising polarity in those who have and those who don't is a result of corporate profit desires in conjunction with lack of government regulation directing us towards the predictable Smart Growth vision for our city – a haven for the uber wealthy only.

In 2017, DC's real estate market is tops in the nation with property deals reaching record highs and rents averaging a scorching $1,500 a month for a studio/one bedroom. However, even when the true advocates score a victory, the "smart" growthers attack us. For example, David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington condemned the people's recent McMillan Court decision supporting those who are fighting displacement.

McMillan Park is 25 acres of open public space with a national landmarked waterworks marvel underground. Located between 1st and Michigan NW, and Channing and North Capital NW, the Mayor (Fenty, Gray, and Bowser) have for years tried to shove in 600+ luxury housing units there. At the rubber stamp zoning hearings, key smart growthers were there to champion how great the project is. In approving the McMillan giveaway, the Mayor, Council, and Zoning Commission again failed to account for the EXISTING RESIDENTS and NEIGHBORHOODS around the park.

Click here for more on the McMillan Park legal battle

The McMillan Court affirmed very clearly that when these large luxury projects with abundant housing are proposed to be constructed in already established DC communities, DC officials MUST consider the subsequent land value destabilization brought on with the resultant displacement pressures.

Click here for "McMillan Court Explained"

The McMillan Court victory is a huge step forward in the legal and planning realms of the District for the longtime, existing DC families and peoples and communities that we, the true activists and organizers, want to preserve and protect. It is Greater Greater Washington and the DC Smart Growth Coalition who have shown their true colors, denouncing our victories with a mission for displacement driven by their supporters, the corporate development class, and compromised non-profits.

Ultimately, the people will have to organize on the ground with the help of groups like ONE DC to prevail over defunct and ignorant housing policies and failed planning actions that disregard existing longtime DC residents, families, and businesses.

Please warn your networks not to fall for 'dumb' policies that will ultimately lend to the displacement of our friends, family, and communities. Testify at upcoming hearings, write letters, protest, sit-in, and demand the planners meaningfully take into account the future of existing District peeps and working families.

In solidarity,

Chris Otten, co-facilitator

DC for Reasonable Development

202.810.2768

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Video Highlights from Say No! to Displacement Rally

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Letter to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

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7 Ways to Support the Fight at Brookland Manor

On Thursday, February 23rdBrookland Manor residents and ONE DC members need your support at the 2nd Stage Zoning Commission Hearing. At this hearing, the tenants and their legal team will be arguing for the preservation of affordable housing, including family-sized units, so that no residents will be displaced from their community and face homelessness. Here are 7 simple ways you can support the fight at Brookland Manor!

1. RSVP on Facebook for the Rally & Hearing and invite 10 friends, family, or neighbors to join you. Click here for website RSVP.

Brookland Manor Zoning Hearing poster 

 2. If you are a Ward 5 resident, sign the petition to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie expressing your support for the Brookland Manor residents. Click here to sign. And don't forget to share with your Ward 5 neighbors! 

3. Join for us for sign-making on Tuesday, February 21 anytime between 5:30 and 7:30 PM at the ONE DC office - 614 S St NW (rear Carriage House). We will have snacks & drinks. We will provide materials, but feel free to bring extras, such as paint, canvas, posterboard, or markers!

4. If you are a member of a community group, civic association, educational, labor, or faith-based institution, or any other kind of organization, please send an email to Yasmina Mrabet - ymrabet@onedconline.org to add your organization's endorsement to the Brookland Manor residents' letter to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. Click here to view the letter.

5. Submit your testimony to the Zoning Commission. Click here to view instructionson how to submit testimony in support of Brookland Manor. If you plan to testify, please send an email to Yasmina at ymrabet@onedconline.org so we can keep track of the number of people testifying in support.

6. Sign up for phone banking! Send an email to Claire at ccook@onedconline.orgif you can make 25-30 calls anytime between February 10 and February 21 to ONE DC members & supporters inviting them to the rally & hearing. We will provide a list and a script. You can make calls from home or come in any afternoon or evening to make calls from the ONE DC office.

7. Become a member of ONE DC or sustain the movement by making a monthly donation.

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In the News - Washington Business Journal: "Mid-City Financial advances plans for controversial Northeast D.C. redevelopment" 09.27.16

A business-sector news piece, this article presents Mid-City Financial's redevelopment plan to create RIA, following the demolition of Brookland Manor and the Brentwood Village Shopping Center. The company submitted documents to further their plans despite a pending discrimination lawsuit against the redevelopment. The planned number of units are  1700, with 181,000 square feet of retail. The proposal eliminates most family-sized apartments, which has prompted the discrimination against family size lawsuit. Read the article at Washington Business Journal

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In the News - The Hilltop: "Brookland Manor v. Gentrification" 09.23.16

This article from the Howard University student newspaper includes an interview with one of the plaintiffs, a tenant at Brookland Manor. Adriann Borum describes her positive past experiences with community life at Brookland Manor and the negative impact that redevelopment plans have had on tenant quality of life. Communal outdoor grills have been removed, playing on a basketball court has been prohibited, and restrictions on outdoor activities have been implemented. Borum describes how it makes tenants - Black families specifically - feel like they are a problem in their own community. The redevelopment will impact Borum's family history at Brookland Manor (3 generations reside there) and will negatively affect the many multigenerational families that make Brookland Manor their home. Read the article at The Hilltop online

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In the News - Washington Post: "In gentrifying D.C., large apartments for families are quickly disappearing" 09.29.16

This article highlights the stories of individual Brookland Manor tenants as it details the potential impact of the redevelopment on the District's families. The developer has testified to the Zoning Commission that four- and five-bedroom apartments “are not consistent with the creation of a vibrant new community” and seeks to eliminate all four- and five-bedroom apartments. Mid-City Financial claims that large families can move to smaller units or be split up into several units. Advocates argue that families will instead be moved into poorer areas, substandard housing, be displaced from DC all together, or encounter homelessness. The developer argues that Mid-City Financial is supportive of affordable housing, but tenants and advocates see Mid-City following a city-wide pattern of displacement of low-income,  large families in favor of wealthier tenants with smaller or no families. Read the article at The Washington Post

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In the News - Courthouse News: "D.C. developers accused of pushing out poor" 08.26.16

A legal news source, Courthouse News Service describes the current class action lawsuit filed by tenants at Brookland Manor. Both claimants have 4-bedroom apartments, and the redevelopment plan calls for the removal of all 4 and 5 bedroom apartments. There are presently 116 units with four or five bedrooms, which are not common in the District of Columbia. Currently, only 8 percent of DC housing units have 4 bedrooms and only 4 percent have 5 or more bedrooms.

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In the News - Washington Legal Clinic: "Discriminatory development practices and the affordable housing crisis in D.C."

The article details the discrimination lawsuit filed by Covington and Burling, LLP and the Washington Lawyers' Committee. It describes who would likely be affected by Mid-City's redevelopment of Brookland Manor and how those effects violate both the federal Fair Housing Act and the District of Columbia's Human Rights Act. The Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents' Association is working together with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and ONE DC to fight the potential displacement and also the unfair tactics used by the property owner, Mid-City Financial. The struggle at Brookland Manor is connected with the broader fight for affordable housing across the District of Columbia. Redevelopment projects--approved by elected District leaders, zoning officials, and the Office of Planning--seek to create new communities but do so at the expense and displacement of long-term, low-income Washingtonians. Read more at Washington Legal Clinic

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In the News - NBC Washington: "DC residents file housing lawsuit against developer"

A brief video segment from NBC, this piece describes how large families are afraid of being displaced. Brookland Manor is home to hundreds of low-income residents, many of whom reside in 3, 4, and 5 bedroom apartments. The new development will not include 4 and 5 bedrooms and is planned to have significantly fewer 3 bedrooms. On the video, interviews with residents and lawyers describe the potential impact on families. Watch the segment here.

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