Walter B. Lewis, acting dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at Howard University, was sworn in last week to a second, four-year term on the D.C. Zoning Commission. His appointment was unanimously confirmed by the City Council last month.
Lewis first became involved in District zoning matters in 1978 when he served as a consultant to the city government in helping to set up the city zoning system. He later was deputy director of the Washington Urban League, director of federal programs for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, executive director of the Washington Urban Coalition and assistant director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The son of a minister, Lewis, 60, was born in Vicksburg, Miss. He received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Tougaloo College in Mississippi and a law degree and a master's degree in public administration from Cornell University.
Lewis is one of three commissioners appointed by Mayor Walter E. Washington in 1975. In addition to the three mayoral appointees, the architect of the Capitol and a representative of the National Park Service serve as commissioners.
Lewis' reappointment, announced by Mayor Marion Barry in June, was not without controversy. Some community leaders supported Lewis, but the D.C. Citizens Planning Coalition, a citywide group, asked that he be replaced by one of five persons suggested by the coalition.
While calling Lewis "the best of the mayorally appointed commissioners," coalition members asked that he be replaced by a "citizen representative" on the commission, which they contended was biased in favor of developers.
Carol Currie Gidley, chairman of the coalition, said at Lewis' confirmation hearing, "We have become convinced that the zoning commission tends to favor narrow development interests at the expense of the city's built-up neighborhoods and the city as a whole."
Lewis defended the zoning commission's record, stating that during the past three years the commission had agreed to requests from citizens groups in Dupont Circle, Takoma and Anacostia to reduce the size and density of buildings in those areas, and in some cases, to promote residential rather than commercial uses. In addition, Lewis said, the commission had changed the regulations to limit commercial uses and building heights in several other zoning categories.