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It's been just over a year since the DC Housing Authority initially filed with the Zoning Commission a request for "flexibility" in the location and percentage mix of affordable units on three remaining blocks within the Capper/Carollsburg Planned Unit Development (PUD), and tonight the hearing was finally held.
The request has been altered a bit since I last wrote about it in February, but the gist remains the same.
First, DCHA is looking to move 30 affordable units outside of the Capper PUD boundaries and onto the block where WC Smith is developing the Park Chelsea, 800 New Jersey, and a third as-yet unnamed residential building.
Second, instead of being held to the originally approved unit counts on the blocks known as squares 767, 768, and 739 (as described in the fuzzy graphic above that I snagged from the Office of Planning report), the Housing Authority requests the flexibility to change the configuration of the 206 total affordable (ACC) units on each square while not ever going below 15% of the total number of units for that square.
Agency representatives testified at length about the progress at Capper, including that the community center is finally underway. But they told the commission that the current "financing atmosphere," especially for mixed-income residential projects, is increasingly constraining, and so having some flexibility built in could make it easier to work with potential development partners and financial institutions on designing projects before coming to the commission for Stage 2 approvals. (The four-year process and convoluted solution that included a "mountain of documents" to secure financing the mixed-income Lofts at Capitol Quarter was used as an example.)
However, it's been known for a year that one of the creative scenarios that DCHA has come up with to move forward on Square 767 would be to sell half of the block to EYA (developers of the Capitol Quarter townhomes) so that a market-rate condo building can be built, and then taking those proceeds to fund a second building on the block that would be all affordable units.
And while this particular zoning case does not specifically cover that not-yet-finalized plan, and putting aside that any plans for that block will have to come back to the Zoning Commission for approval before moving forward, a number of Capper/Capitol Quarter residents along with incoming ANC 6D07 representative Meredith Fascett used the hearing as a forum to make clear their displeasure with the idea of segregating incomes in separate buildings, saying that it violates the spirit of the entire Hope VI mixed-income vision that the Capper redevelopment has been based on. (Fascett's written testimony is here.)
David Cortiella of DCHA did say that the agency believes many of the issues with the two buildings/two incomes plan on Square 767 "will be addressed" once a "community engagement process" about the project gets underway, specifically mentioning a "shared courtyard" for the two buildings so that a "more friendly environment takes shape."
The zoning commissioners did not seem overly troubled by the requests covered the current zoning case (though Michael Turnbull made sure to say that they "will look very carefully" at future second-stage submittals).
The Office of Planning supports the flexibility request--however, DCHA is still wanting to further modify the modifications that OP put forward in its most recent report, both because of some concerns about the wording about the units to be constructed by WC Smith but also because the Housing Authority wants to come up with a cap on the number of ACC units on each square that is different from OP's suggested 50-percent cap.
It's expected that the commission will vote on this case at its January 26 meeting; if and when this case receives its final approval, there would then be a vote on a concurrent case to grant a five-year extension to the Capper PUD (which I didn't even talk about here because no one is reading at this point anymore anyway).
One other Capper-related tidbit coming out of the hearing is that movement is continuing on the planned 171-unit rental building on the south side of L between 2nd and 3rd, with work on the financing "well underway" (helped no doubt by getting a cut of a $142 million funding pot.)
(Editor's Note: Leading off with a convoluted post about zoning after an extended holiday layoff is not optimal.)
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conngs0 says: (1/9/15 10:25 AM)
JD,

In response your "Editor's Note", I thoroughly appreciated all the information you provided. Thanks again! On the subject of the post, I'm grateful to Ms. Fascett for providing such a strongly-worded intervention at the meeting. I agree with every word.

Is this something that is at all on the BID's radar? I think that current residents of the neighborhood make a compelling argument along the lines of Ms. Fascett's testimony against deviating from the current mixed-income plan for the neighborhood, but the perspective of the neighborhood's businesses really completes the case for why DCHA's broad request for flexibility is a bad idea for everyone.


Packinblackandred says: (1/9/15 10:51 AM)
Hey JD, love this info!

It seems hilarious to me that they think a shared courtyard would foster friendliness. If I were in the affordable building, would I really feel friendlier watching the rich people use my courtyard to go into their nicer building? If I were in the market building, would I really feel friendlier watching the poor people use my courtyard to go into their worse building?


JD says: (1/9/15 12:08 PM)
@conngs0 To play devil's advocate slightly, and to perhaps give you a sense of why developers' feelings (and the *Business Improvement* District's feelings) might diverge from residents':

Residents have been making it clear that they want condo buildings, not just rentals.

A multi-unit building (not townhouses) that contains both market-rate ownership units and public housing units is not a very common configuration. And not at all easy to finance. (And for people who roll their eyes at the financing argument, look at what it took to get the Lofts at CQ financed. Heck, look at what it's taking to get luxury market-rate projects financed. Like Florida Rock. As David Cortiella of DCHA said last night, you don't always get to build the building you wish you could build, you build the building you can build.)

From a business standpoint, what do developers and the city and monied interests want to see? Do they want the 767 site to remain a parking lot, generating hardly any income or do they want it bringing bright shining faces of new residents who will spend money and enliven the neighborhood further? And is a third all-affordable building out of the 14 Capper blocks and a 100-block neighborhood something that would tip the scales and destroy the Hope VI mixed-income vision at Capper? (I am not vouching for any of this--just stating the thought processes I know are out there.)

Let's dig into the numbers some. (Hadn't planned to, but it drew me in.)

This requested flexibility is for three blocks out of the 14 that are part of the Capper PUD footprint. (Square 769N already is past its Stage 2 PUD and so its numbers can't be futzed with, and no more residential is left to build beyond these three squares, residential-wise).

That covers a total of 206 affordable units in buildings that are slated to have 764 total units (with 30 of the affordable units originally planned for these blocks moving to the high-end WC Smith buildings under this case).

The flexibility if granted still would not allow a configuration where one of the three remaining squares would have all public housing units. And this particular zoning case is centered around wording that lays out a range of required affordable units as a percentage of units *on each square.* The number of affordable units on each square can't go below 15%, and above some number that OP set at 50% but that is still being dickered over (my guess is that DCHA thinks 50% is too low of a ceiling, but I also am guessing that the Office of Planning isn't going to agree to anything way higher than that).

And I *believe* that the number of units per square isn't at issue--it's just the configuration of the 206 remaining affordable units within those squares. If they want more overall units on the squares, they'd have to go back to the Zoning Commission for a modification.

So, if Square 767 has to stay at 147 total units, and 768 at 295, and 739 at 322, and no block can have fewer than 15% affordable units, the constraints within the flexibility become clearer.

767 (147 total units):
22 minimum aff units, 88 max (at a guesstimate 60% ceiling), currently ok'ed for 66 aff;

768 (295):
44 min, 177 max, 73 aff currently;

739 (322):
48 min, 193 max, 98 aff currently;

(Use the graphic above to help visualize all of this. And subtract 30 from the total of currently approved numbers, since they are going to Square 737.)

The minimums add up to 114 of the 206 total affordable units needed on the three squares, so there's a need for 92 additional units on at least two of the three squares.

If you max out 767 at 88 units, then the EYA condo building could only have 59 units. Would EYA want, and would the Office of Planning and then the Zoning Commission approve, and would a bank finance, a block on which in close quarters there is an 88-unit public housing building and a 59-unit market-rate condo building? I don't know. It would be interesting to know in DCHA's plans the sizes of the two buildings.

What if it went the other way? What if DCHA built a 22-unit mini-building for the public housing units on 767, and a 125-unit condo building? Then 768 and 739 would house the remaining 184 units, while each still having required 15% minimums.

And all of this is still just numbers--as has been said many times, each remaining square has to return to the Zoning Commission for another approval, at a stage when designs have to be ready, etc. If people think that stage is a rubber-stamp, the 20-year zoning history of Florida Rock might be a good rebuttal.

On the flip side, I think that the residents who testified did put on the radar of the commissioners the need for looking at any two-building design on 767 very closely in terms of how design could impact and then mitigate the issues of very different residents in very different buildings.

Also, the commissioners were very impressed with the residents' repeated declarations of the success of the mixed-income Hope VI model at Capper.






Andrew in DC says: (1/10/15 4:06 PM)
This building got financed:

link

Of course it also had its flaws...

link

link

That said - it still got financed somehow.


Alex B. says: (1/10/15 5:05 PM)
That's a completely different context, of course. One Riverside in NYC has 20% of the units at 60% AMI, and the remainder are really, really luxurious. It's also New York's real estate, where the for-sale, market-price units are priced at $2,000 per square foot.

So, yes, it's easier to get financing when the affordable component is smaller and the market-rate component is really, really expensive.

As for the desired zoning flexibility in DC, I completely understand the desire to keep the mixed-income nature of the plan as part of the original deal. However, another part of the original deal was to replace all of the affordable units as quickly as possible, and that part of the deal has completely been derailed due to the financing challenges.


IMGoph says: (1/25/15 1:01 PM)
"because no one is reading at this point anymore anyway"

not true. never true!

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