Anacostia residents, civic leaders and developers clashed this week over whether the proposed rezoning of a 50-block area of Anacostia would promote neighborhood stability or drive out many present residents.
"Garden apartment units have disrupted our community and 'brought transiency, crime, absentee landlords and too much traffic," said Eugene Poole, president of the Frederick Douglass Community Improvement Council, who supported the zoning changes.
As proposed by three community groups, the zoning of the 50-block area would be changed from a mixture of commercial, apartment house and single-family use to all single-family zoning, called R-3.
Poole said the R-3 zoning would assure Anacostia's future as a community of homeowners. Many residents of the section of Anacostia north of Morris Road, wearing paper-plate badges labeled "R-3", supported Poole.
But there were mixed views expressed by residents and community leaders from the area south of Morris Road. ANC 8A chairwoman Linda Moody said, "The proposed rezoning would bring in a new breed. Only a small percentage of the people there now would be able to remain. To keep people of a variety of incomes, we need a variety of zoning categories."
Three homebuilders opposed the change, saying it would limit their flexibility and force them to build expensive homes that present Anacostia residents couldn't afford.
"This is snob zoning at best," said Joseph Hornig, a developer who said he has built 950 new homes in South-east Washington in the past four years.
Horning said the proposed change would raise the selling price of the average house by about $10,000.
Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc., the Frederick Douglass Community Improvement Council and the Fort Stanton Civic Association, which proposed the change, drew the proposed boundaries to exclude most existing businesses and apartment complexes. The boundaries carve out a jagged area from the rear of the buildings along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on the west to Fort Stanton Park on the east. It also excludes an isolated parcel of vacant land near 16th and Gainesville streets SE. Some of the areas adjacent to the present commercial corridors are zoned to permit 60-foot-high commercial buildings. Much of the area is presently zoned R-5-A, which permits three-story apartment buildings.
John Tetrault, assistant director of Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc., which obtains mortgage and rehabilitation loans for Anacostia residents, told the commission there was vacant land in the area where developers might be tempted to build apartment complexes, unless the area was re-zoned.
Evelyn Wagstaff, a member of ANC 6C, said she would support the proposed change if cost ceiings were put on all new and renovated units. "We have to be cautious that this works for the benefit of citizens now living in Anacostia - not for the relocation of these citizens."
J. Kirkwood White, assistant director of the Municipal Planning Office, said the MPO would support the proposed R-3 zoning but also offered an alternative. The MPO alternative, south of Morris Road, would include a variety of residential zoning categories reflecting the existing housing in the area. This would also permit two-family houses and apartment dwelings to be built.