Friday, February 10, 2012

All PUDs are Not Equal

Hine Junior High across from the Eastern Market Metro is being torn down and redeveloped by Stanton-EastBanc. ANC 6B is managing the PUD (Planned Unit Development) process. To collect the ideas of the "6B community," ANC 6B set up an online survey, asking respondents to list benefits or amenities, as well as concerns about traffic, management, retail choices, etc., that should be negotiated with the developers. As of a few days ago, they received over 200 responses. Who is really included in the Hine PUD process? Of course, everyone is invited, but is the Hine PUD process really inclusive?

In contrast, we can look at the PUD process in Near SE-SW. Back in March, I attended the Near SE-SW Community Summit organized by the Near SE-SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC) with the help of DC-based AmericaSpeaks and LISC. The summit was open to everyone in ANC 6D (others were welcomed too) with the goal of figuring out the community priorities of residents in order to better inform ANC 6D policies, especially given the extensive development going on in the area. It was news to me that such citizen summits happened a lot when Anthony Williams was mayor, but seemed to disappear with Adrian Fenty. The organizers specifically targeted different groups in the neighborhood to get a representative sample: young and old, poor and wealthy, men and women, etc.

It was an extremely interesting process. We were assigned to a table, where we introduced ourselves and got to use our "clickers," devices that allowed us to personally vote. Immediately, we used the clickers to get a sense of the demographics in the room, which showed a good representation of young/old, long-term residents/new residents, and a variety of races (1% Asian/Pacific Islander, 33% Black/African-American, 4% Hispanic/Latino, 1% Native American, 54% White/Caucasian, 6% other) though it wasn't a perfect reflection of the area population. (The summary report has the demographics, goals, findings, and much more).

At our tables, we talked about which topic area we wanted to focus on that day:
  • Workforce Development/Jobs/Community Centers
  • Housing Diversity and Affordability
  • Neighborhood Oriented Retail and Services
  • Youth-Education and Services
  • Environmental Concerns

Then, we moved to a new table representing our chosen topic. At our new table (I chose housing), we introduced ourselves again and began to discuss our topic specifically focusing on the area's assets, challenges, and then concrete projects that could be taken. Each table had two non-area mediators. One mediator helped organize the discussion. The other mediator recorded our ideas on a laptop computer. In a corner of the room, a group of people on computers organized these thoughts coming from various tables into common themes. At the end, we voted for the two concrete projects we wanted most. Some of the chosen concrete priorities were developing pre-K, using the public schools for adult vocational training, increasing locally owned businesses, creating housing desired by the current residents, and developing community gardens.

The rest of Ward 6 could benefit from such community summits because we could get a sense of residents' priorities. The process took four (very interesting) hours, but I felt that we did not completely clarify the priorities. The summit is considered a step towards a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which would help the ANC to negotiate better and more responsibly with developers, the DC government, and other stakeholders because the ANC would know the actual priorities of constituents. I was concerned that developers could use these CBAs to legitimate all sorts of projects not in the spirit of the CBAs. CBAs are a nationwide movement. The Washington Business Journal shows that CBAs are already a big topic of discussion across DC. In spite of some concerns, I found the summit a very interesting and useful process.

A bit different from the Hine PUD, no? Wouldn't it be great to have a community summit in the Eastern Market area (to talk about Hine, etc)?

P.S. See related posts: All PUDs are Not Equal (II) and Why don't the poor go to our meetings?


  1. If we organized our PUD like that here it would almost be like we were living in a....democracy. Is an alliance of fear and greed between homeowners and real estate developers making the Eastern Market neighborhood less democratic (even if more comfortable for some residents) than it might be?

  2. The survey was even more flawed than one might think. The ANC did not give any realistic sense (by providing options, for instance) of what was actually achievable via the PUD process (precious little).
    Hence even many who participated in good faith provided answers that will never be given serious weight.

  3. I agree that these summits are useful. But we have had a number of them on Hine already - including sitting at tables in groups and voting on what we would like to see. What has happened to all that information? Why would yet another meeting help?

  4. The community summit was in place during the post-fire at Eastern Market discussion. It was there that community discussion helped foster the temporary structure and support for the vendors at EM. So... what has happened? Burn-out (no pun intended).

  5. I was at one of those meetings around tables at Hine and at one of the elementary schools. I distinctly remember thinking that the decisions had already been made. We were offered four options, but were these really options and what if we wanted something completely different for the site? Such community meetings cause burn out 1) if no one gets to decide anything meaningful and 2) if the meetings have no real outcomes. In SW, they have been organized for decades and have real outcomes to show for it.

  6. Other than reforming the process, what do you want in terms of amenities and benefits Johanna?

  7. Thanks, Johanna, for this illuminating comparison. The Hine process looks even more flawed than it did before.

  8. FWIW, I hate America Speaks...

    and this entry

    Of course, it all depends on the client. AS doesn't appear to challenge clients that have extremely narrow/citizen constraining scopes. For clients that seek a public engagement consultant and with an expansive scope, I'm sure they're fine.

  9. Oh, and for about 4-5 years, while on EMCAC, I've first suggested there should be an Eastern Market area master plan, which I then extended into a concept for a Capitol Hill master plan/destination development plan.

    DC doesn't really do neighborhood/sector plans. Small area plans are really management plans for geographies with a preponderance of build out opportunities.

  10. and for a different kind of process as well, see this entry, on Eastern Market Metro Plaza describing a PPS design training held there in 2004:

  11. oh, speaking of PUDs, you might also be interested in this line of inquiry as well, on community benefits:

  12. Hi Johanna,

    I have to say that I'm a little perplexed at the characterization of the Hine PUD process as "undemocratic".

    We've worked very diligently to include a broad spectrum of stakeholders, from those adjacent to the development to those with broader interests. All of our meetings are public, and all have included public comment. Many of our meetings have actually incorporated those in the audience into the discussion, i.e. the give-and-take was more than just a trite "please take two minutes to give your testimony". Oft times it is messy, but it is hardly opaque or non-inclusive (would you like to join a working group?).

    As for the survey tool, it is merely one mechanism of collecting feedback. Is it perfect? Of course not. A volunteer, resident member of the Hine PUD process (a statistician) put it together in his free time, and has been diligently aggregating and categorizing the data
    in preparation for our next meeting on the 23rd of February.

    We are still in the formative phases of the PUD process, nothing is set in stone. As your ANC Commissioner, I invite you to come to our next meeting and share your ideas. I can't guarantee it will be accepted. America Speaks isn't cheap ($600K for the Mayor's One City confab), and we don't have much money.

    Hope to see you on the 23rd and please feel free to contact me directly if you like to discuss your ideas further.


    Brian Pate

  13. Thanks for your comments! I made some responses in my new post:


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