Last week the Zoning Commission heard Forest City's request for more height
(and thereby additional density) in what is being called "Yards West," specifically four sites along N Street between 1st and New Jersey.
The early questions from the commission centered mainly around Peter May
's contention that granting this density--which the applicants refer to as an additional 1.0 FAR but which May was happy to always refer to as "264,000 square feet"--was akin to "incentivizing something that's going to get built anyway." May expressed that the additional height and additional density were "perfectly appropriate" but that he was "not seeing the greater good that comes out of this," i.e., what Forest City would be providing in return.
Initially May zeroed in on proposed language he felt was too weak, that the eventual review of any building proposed along the Yards West M Street frontage would ensure that its design and site plan would "facilitate the provision of a public entrance to the Navv Yard Metrorail Station
" on the southwest corner of New Jersey and M. (He also mentioned as an aside concerns he said he had heard recently that the explosion in residential development in the neighborhood instead of office projects was restricting the amount of available evening and weekend garage parking for stadium events.)
But then ANC 6D chair Roger Moffatt testified
, noting that while the ANC voted 6-0 to support Forest City's request, it did so while strongly encouraging the Zoning Commission "to require units have more than two bedrooms as a condition of this added height and density." He continued: "ANC 6D supports growing DC into a larger population, but we don't want to exclude families who have children from being able to live in our section of the District. We believe this is an issue whose time has come and we hope that Zoning will take a step in the right direction here tonight."
A light bulb then seemed to go on, with each commissioner supporting May's request that Forest City work with the Office of Planning and the Office of the Attorney General to come up with stronger language not only on the Metro issue but on a "greater mix." Marcie Cohen spoke of families being pushed out of the city, and that Forest City needs to offer "compelling evidence" that there is no market and will be no market for units with more than two bedrooms. Michael Turnbull discussed how if a family has a boy and a girl "you are looking at a three-bedroom unit to make things work" and that "two children is not unreasonable for a lot of families."
While agreeing with the desire to have the language of the proposed text amendments looked at, commissioner Robert Miller did say that the board shouldn't treat lightly that granting the additional density would result in an additional 350 residential units to the area beyond what's already allowed, 70 of which would be affordable housing units, which is "something we need."
Finally, chair Anthony Hood admitted that the commission hasn't concentrated on the issue of units with more than two bedrooms ("I don't call it derelict because I'd call myself derelict"), and that it is something that the board needs to "start looking at this in other projects across the city." However, he seemed a bit skeptical that anything could really come of taking the extra time for the Office of Planning to work on the language in this particular case to achieve that end: "Let's see what happens. Make me wrong."
This case is scheduled to be back in front of the commission in late November.