D.C. Planning Director Harriet Tregoning departs for job with HUD

Harriet Tregoning, who helped reshape Washington as a more pedestrian-friendly and environmentally sustainable city during more than seven years as its planning director, informed D.C. officials Tuesday that she had accepted a job at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Tregoning was not immediately available for comment. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who retained Tregoning after she was first hired by former mayor Adrian Fenty, issued a statement thanking her for her service. The news was first reported by the DCist Web site.

“I’d like to thank Harriet for her dedicated service to the District and its residents,” Gray said. “She has worked tirelessly to help the District grow responsibly and become a thriving, more sustainable city. In recruiting her, President Obama and Secretary [Shaun] Donovan have demonstrated a keen eye for talent. Although she will be missed, I look forward to working with her in her new role.”

An avid smart-growth activist who frequently arrived at meetings on her folding bicycle or by Metrobus, Tregoning reshaped the city’s streetscape to be more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists. She pushed construction of the city’s planned streetcar system, the creation of bike lanes, construction of housing in downtown office canyons and inclusion of retail on the ground floors of buildings.

Tregoning drew the ire of many D.C. residents, however, in trying to reduce car usage and scale back parking in areas near public transit. She also worked aggressively to change the Height Act, a federal limit on the height of buildings in the city. The effort divided city residents and ultimately failed in a narrow vote by the National Capital Planning Commission in November.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D) said despite the reports that Tregoning was in the running for the job to be planning director for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, he was surprised that she was departing. “I didn’t realize she was actually looking to leave,” he said.

Mendelson clashed with Tregoning over proposed Height Act changes but worked closely with her on other matters, including neighborhood plans and an ongoing overhaul of the city zoning code. He said she earned good marks overall.

“While she has been frustrating to many residents, I think overall she’s been an excellent planning director,” he said, adding that the planning office’s “professionalism has continued to improve.”

Tregoning previously worked for the state of Maryland and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mike DeBonis contributed to this article.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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