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ANC 6D Again Opposes M Street Project

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D unanimously opposed a proposed project at 5 M St. SW, citing a lack of affordable housing. Plans for the residential high rise, proposed by developer JBG Smith, include 608 units, an amenity rooftop and retail space at the street level. The project is by-right but is subject to design review by the Zoning Commission (ZC).

In September, ANC 6D submitted a letter of opposition to the ZC, saying that the design did not suit the character of the neighborhood and citing a lack of affordable housing. A representative from JBG Smith said that they have made efforts to make the building fit into the “fabric of the neighborhood” since they presented the initial plans of the project.

The developer explained that main portion of the project does not trigger the requirement for inclusionary zoning (IZ) units. However, since the plan includes a habitable penthouse unit, one IZ unit is required at 50 percent AMI. In addition to the required unit, the developer is planning to add an additional 19 units at 80 percent AMI. This will mean that three percent of the units in the building will be considered affordable housing units.

Commissioner Gail Fast (6D01) said that what the developer is offering does not constitute affordable housing.

“For the record, when you putting something at 80 percent of a MSI, that is considered workforce, housing, that is not affordable housing,” Fast said. “Affordable housing is things that are at the lower MSI of 50 or below.”

Commissioner Collins, Commissioner Litsky, Commissioner Kramer and Commissioner Hamilton echoed Fast’s concerns expressing distaste for the lack of affordable housing units.

Commissioner Kramer emphasized the importance on the part of the developer to recognize and appreciate what is going on in the District.

“I don’t think any development should come in and ignore its obligation to address what’s going on in the city and what’s going on in Southwest,” Krammer said. “Southwest is undergoing this enormous amount of development.”

Former 6D02 Commissioner Anna Forgie, present at the meeting, expressed similar concern about the lack of affordable housing and clear answers about the plans.

“I’m just really struggling to find a reason behind why there can’t be more affordable units in this building, other than profit,” Forgie said. “And if that’s the reason, I would appreciate an honest answer of just that’s the reason, instead of hemming and hawing and sort of thinking about (it).”  Forgie, together with other commissioners, also expressed concerns at the meeting about the building fitting into the Southwest neighborhood.

“I share an opinion that the building is a bit of a standalone project and does not incorporate the neighborhood around it,” Forgie said.

The commission will draft a letter for the hearing on Nov. 12.

The next meeting of the ANC 6D will occur on Nov. 16 virtually via WebEx.

Commissioners Gail Fast (6D01), Commissioner Ronald Collins (6D03), Commissioner Andy Litsky (6D04), Commissioner Fredrica (Rikki) Kramer (6D05) and Commissioner Rhonda Hamilton (6D06) attended the meeting.

Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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