City Paper Widget

Friday, January 23, 2015

1309-1315 Clifton Street: "Affordable Housing *is* the Public Amenity"

At its regularly-scheduled monthly meeting on January 20, the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street heard a presentation from a team hoping to develop two adjoining parcels of land (1309-1315 Clifton Street NW) into a 160-170 unit, six-story apartment building. The team includes Aria Development Group, attorneys from the firm Goulston & Storr, and Cunningham Quill Architects. They presented their ideas to the committee for review before it applies to the DC Zoning Commission for a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

Artist's conception of the finished building
No vote on the project was sought by the developers or taken by the committee. The plan is still in the discussion stage.

The group had had an initial consultation with the Design Review Committee the previous month. At that time, the Committee indicated components of a development they were interested in, including off-street (car) parking, bicycle parking, and affordable housing.

Off-Street parking: The two parcels of land are zoned R-5-B. According to Section 11-2101.1 of DC Municipal Regulations, an apartment building on this category of land would be required to have one parking space for every two units, meaning in this case 80-85 parking spaces. The original proposal provided 22 parking spaces. In December, the Design Review Committee suggested more parking. The team came back with a revised design that provided for 36 parking spaces.

Bicycle Parking: According to documents submitted by the team at the meeting, 55 bike parking spaces (one per three units) are required. The current design envisions 80 long-term bike parking spaces and 10 short-term. The bike storage area will have its own ramp from the public alley in the rear of the building. The building will also have a "bike workshop" area.

Affordable housing: Also at the suggestion of the committee, the building plan includes a increased contribution to local affordable housing, as defined by the Inclusionary Zoning Affordable Housing Program of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. Specifically, it increased to eight percent (perhaps 12-14 units) the planned number of rental units that are intended to be affordable for people earning 50% of Area Median Income (AMI). (Washington area AMI in 2013 was $107,300.)

The committee approved of this pledge for increased 50% AMI housing.

"We're not having developers who are willing to go into 50% AMI," one committee member said.

According to a 2013 official document, an two-bedroom apartment designated as affordable at 50% AMI could be rented for a maximum of $1,207 per month.

In addition, the development team said, a further two percent (perhaps 3-4) units would be designated as affordable at 80% AMI. An two-apartment designated as affordable at 80% AMI could be rented for a maximum of $1,931 per month.

When the DC government declares a PUD, a developer pledges "public amenities", to the community. In return, the developer gets to build a something which might otherwise require zoning relief. The result is community groups (e.g., groups devoted to the beautification of local parks), schools, or other organizations appear after the declaration of a PUD and ask for "amenities", often in the form of cash, from developers.

After the developer's presentation was finished, a member of the Design Review Committee reminded the developer: "A PUD requires public amenities."

The developer seemed to be trying to avoid getting into the business of giving away money.

"Affordable housing is the public amenity," a member of the development team said.

(Photo credit: from documents submitted to the Design Review Committee)

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