In his July 19 Local Opinions essay, “The District’s two futures,” David Alpert presented a false dichotomy between rising housing costs pricing poor and middle-class families out of the market and zoning and planning strategies that promote growth. Zoning laws, regulations and the District’s Comprehensive Plan allow for balanced growth that expands housing compatible with urban residential neighborhoods and that is attractive to families without resorting to “pop-ups” and high-rise developments.
Georgetown Day School is proposing a mixed-use commercial/residential development between Wisconsin Avenue and 42nd Street NW near its Tenleytown campus. The retail/residential building would be 90 feet tall — or nine stories — on Wisconsin Avenue and 104 feet — or 10 stories, because of a slope — on 42nd Street, exceeding the 50 feet allowed as a matter of right and the 65 feet allowed under a Planned Unit Development.
Many neighborhood residents support balanced growth and a project within the 65-foot limit. The Comprehensive Plan emphasizes such mid-rise projects along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor rather than high-rise buildings. By insisting on excessive height and density projects, advocates and developers miss the opportunity to achieve balanced growth and increased housing and invite protracted legal battles. They should use current zoning regulations and the Comprehensive Plan to achieve what Mr. Alpert called “a diverse city that has planned enough housing to fit all of the new residents alongside longtime ones.”
Dennis Williams, Washington
The writer is head of GDS Neighbors, a group of residents who live near the Georgetown Day School’s Tenleytown campus.