The D.C. Zoning Commission, facing opposition from the Barry administration, last night decided to provide an additional 30 days for public comment on a controversial proposal that would link downtown development to housing.
The plan, which proponents call a blueprint for creating a "living downtown," was tentatively approved by the commission on a 3 to 2 vote last month. The commission predicted at the time that it would add 6,000 housing units in the East End of downtown, Chinatown and the area around Mount Vernon Square.
But the proposal was criticized this week by the Barry administration, which contends that it would hurt the future development of the District at a time when the economy already is flagging.
In a letter to the commission yesterday, City Administrator Carol B. Thompson said the panel "should more fully recognize the dramatically altered market and financial environment that confronts the city today," and called for a housing plan that provides the city with more flexibility.
Specifically, Thompson called for approval of a proposal by the Non-Profit Housing Coalition that would require less downtown housing and provide developers with more incentives to build housing in other areas of the city.
In another letter to the board, Raymond A. Skinner, executive director of the city's Office of Business and Economic Development, reversed his agency's earlier support of the plan and called on the panel to reconsider its approval.
He also supported the housing coalition's alternative, which he said would provide flexibility, create money for affordable housing in other areas of the city and promote both commercial and residential building downtown, "bringing increased tax revenue for the city at a time when the revenue is critically needed."
The plan approved by the board would allow developers to fulfill 30 percent of their housing obligations by subsidizing housing in other parts of the District, subsidies that would create an estimated 4,000 additional housing units.
Commissioners said the additional 30 days of public comment would allow discussion of how the proposal could be affected by the slowing economy.