To the editor:
Last week, my neighbors and I attended the second meeting of the Braddock Implementation Advisory Group. It was a significant milestone considering the first meeting was held almost two years ago. According to its website, the city established the BIAG to assist in implementing redevelopment around the Braddock Road Metro station.
The plans were designed to preserve and enhance the character of the neighborhood, while adapting to emerging opportunities and challenges. They supposedly address the changing nature of the neighborhood’s diversity, the increased importance of transit, and the evolving value society places on sustainability. Translated, the plans focus on the retail, transportation, public housing and open-space trade-offs gained from increasing density.
The city and its consultants promised the BIAG would balance these trade-offs and initiate a new partnership with the community to oversee implementation of the plans. Again, that was almost two years ago. Since then, the city has approved drastic changes to the Braddock Metro neighborhood that contradict its plans, without consulting the BIAG. In some cases, they ignored substantial public outcry.
Notably, City Hall approved the conversion of planned townhouse units at the Payne Street site to condos, reduced planned retail at the Madison site by 50 percent, and endorsed an increase of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s public housing inventory at the Pendleton Park site by 24 units.
Adding insult to injury, the city also approved a reduction in mandated sidewalk widths on Wythe Street and is pushing high capacity transit services through our neighborhood without asking the BIAG’s opinion.
Planning and Zoning Director Faroll Hamer recommended that the BIAG contact her staff if they or other groups took issue with city initiatives. To its credit, the BIAG pushed back and insisted the city proactively bring issues affecting our neighborhood to us. We’ll see.
Please join my neighbors and I in demanding more accountability from the city. First, the citizens’ associations must have more input into the composition of planning and advisory groups to preclude City Hall from populating them with their cronies. Second, these groups must demand that all city initiatives, not just Planning and Zoning efforts, be vetted against neighborhood plans.
We must empower our representative groups, especially those established by the city, to conduct oversight and hold officials’ feet to the fire when we are not properly consulted.