News and Notes from the Zoning Commission Hearing on the Hanover 8th St. Development
On April 25, 2019, the DC Zoning Commission granted preliminary approval ("proposed action") to the Hanover 8th St. development, a two-building, 375-unit Planned Unit Development on the east side of 8th St., between Kearny (Dance Place) and Irving (Sunbelt Rentals). The development is projected to include 45 affordable units, 186 parking spaces, and a number of improvements to 8th St. along with funds for local organizations.
You can find the relevant project documents here.
ANC 5E support the project in November 2018 (before my time on the Commission), but as the current 5E01 Commissioner, I testified as a representative of ANC 5E. You can view my testimony here, starting at the 1 hour 33 minute mark. Here's an overview of my testimony:
The project was supported by both ANC 5E and the Edgewood Civic Association in the fall.
There were several positive aspects of this development. First, we're converting previously industrial and light commercial land into homes for people. Second, the homes will have easy access to public transit and the MBT. Third, the project includes much-needed streetscape improvements to the east side of 8th St., including pedestrian-friendly sidewalks (where there are currently none). Fourth, foot traffic along the south and east portions of 8th St. should serve as a crime deterrent. Finally, 375 units means customers for local businesses and taxpayers to supplement public services.
I emphasized the importance of affordable housing. The Hanover development includes 12% affordable units. DC law requires only 8-10% affordable units (in certain developments) at 50% and 80% of "Median Family Income," ("MFI") with no requirements on the size of units. The Hanover development, meanwhile, includes 12% affordable units, including some at 30% MFI, and a commitment to make certain family-sized units affordable.
I also supported the Zoning Commission and DC Office on Aging's recommendation to explore setting aside an affordable unit for seniors.
Community benefits should be incorporated into the eventual Zoning Order and/or another legally-binding document, to make sure they are enforceable. You can view the full list of community benefits in the ANC 5E Resolution here.
The Construction Management Plan should be referenced in the Zoning Order. Two highlights of the plan: contractors are not to park on residential streets, and Hanover Co. will commit to working with a Community Advisory Committee to proactively address and alleviate construction-related issues.
I know parking was a serious concern among neighbors at meetings last fall. Hanover had initially proposed 186 parking spots, and argued that analysis of other nearby buildings suggested that a ~2:1 unit to parking ratio was appropriate. Others (including DDOT) felt that the building included too many parking spots for its location near transit, and that too many spots would encourage driving. DDOT and Hanover eventually agreed on 186 spots and a more robust "Transportation Demand Management" plan.
I supported this compromise. If demand for parking outstrips available space at Hanover, I feel the result will not be "Hanover residents get rid of their cars and don't drive" (which would be lovely); it would be "Hanover residents park on the streets, annoying other residents along 8th and making it much harder to build a better on-street connection for the MBT." In my view, cars parked underground inside private buildings is preferable to cars parked on public streets.
Responding to residents' concerns, Hanover conducted a comprehensive traffic study, which you can find here. I've included some parking stats below - interestingly, parking utilization along 7th and 8th, and between Monroe and Franklin, typically does not exceed 65% (except during street sweeping time).
I noted that residents had expressed concerns about the height of the building, as well as the building materials/overall aesthetics. On the other hand, a larger building means more housing units, and more affordable housing. As to the building itself, the Zoning Commissioners had questions, but did not recommend substantial changes to the overall look and feel of the building.
Finally, I asked for DDOT and Hanover's support to improve 8th Street - not just at the project site, but all along 8th Street, between Monroe and Franklin. The street is wide, carries hundreds of MBT cyclists daily, and its pedestrian infrastructure is woefully inadequate. There is no reason we cannot make 8th Street work better for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians before, during, and after construction.
The project now moves forward toward final approval - "final action" and a Zoning Order.