A citywide coalition of representatives of 36 citizens groups from the Palisades to Upper Northeast -- had asked Mayor Marion Barry to adopt by May 1 an interim land use plan for the city and to revamp the Municipal Planning Office, the Zoning Commission and the Office of the Corporation Counsel.
A letter outlining the recommendations was drafted by the Washington Citizens Planning Coalition and delivered to Barry before he took office.
The coalition of about 60 persons "flung itself together" last fall, according to Carol Currie Gidley, and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from American University Park who served as chairman of the coalition.
A meeting between members of the coalition and James Gibson, head of the newly created Office of Planning and Development, will be set up at a mutually convenient time, according to Kay McGrath, an assistant to Gibson.
One of the principal concerns expressed in the coalition letter is the lack of a "comprehensive plan governing land use, transportation or other factors affecting the future development of our city."
The citizens said they feared the lack of an overall plan "at a time when development pressures are greater than ever in the city's history" might result in "the disruption of our neighborhoods, still greater traffic and congestion, increasing pollution, inadequate water supply and sewage capacity, shrinking open spaces, higher taxes and just plain ugliness."
Under a schedule in the Home Rule Act, the mayor was to have presented a comprehensive plan to the City Council more than a year ago. The Municipal Planning Office (MPO), which is preparing the plan, submitted the first part of it -- the goals and policies statement -- to the City Council in September. It was approved and is now awaiting ratification by the National Capital Planning Commission.
According to Jacqueline Wells, director of Planning Services for the Office of Planning and Development, which replaced MPO, staff work on the land use section of the plan will be completed "shortly."
"We exist in a planning vacuum in which zoning decisions are made without any underlying logic or land use arrangement based on agreed citizen objectives," said the coalition letter. To fill the vacuum, the coalition proposes that an interim plan, based on the pre-Home Rule comprehensive plan as amended by neighborhood-generated plans, be prepared.
Stating that "the zoning process must be responsive to the citizens" and "members of the Zoning Commission should be made accountable to the citizens," the coalition also asks the mayor to request the resignations of all the mayorally appointed members of the Zoning Commission and of the Board of Zoning Adjustment.
The mayor appoints three of the five members of the Zoning Commission, and four of the five members of the BZA. The Zoning Commission writes the zoning rules and maps the various zones -- such as commercial, residential and special purpose. The BZA considers variances and exceptions to these rules.
"We realize that the only member of the Zoning Commission due to step down is Walter Lewis," said Gidley. "And he's the member many people on the coalition felt was most responsive to the citizens. But we feel that all three members appointed by the mayor should be asked for their resignations so that the mayor can either renominate them or pick new people."
In addition to the Zoning Commission, which, according to the coalition is viewed by most citizens as "a developer-oriented body," the coalition criticized the Office of Corporation Counsel as "invariably supporting legal positions which favor developers against the opposing concerns of neighborhoods and citizens."
The letter also expressed concern over "the effect of the revolving door between the Office of Corporation Counsel and MPO and the law firms which represent developers in the city."
The coalition called for a commission "to review and strengthen the District's conflict-of-interest rules to deal with this "revolving door problem."