“The developer proposes to build many additional luxury units, furthering the transformation of a multi-cultural, multi-generational and multi-income family neighborhood to one that is more exclusive, less affordable, and less attractive to families.”

wardman-park
2660 Woodley Rd, NW

“Dear PoPville,

Since your publication has recently covered JBG’s development proposals for the Marriott Wardman Park hotel and the surrounding property, I thought you might be interested in the perspective of Woodley Park residents. This evening, I have sent this letter below to each of the officials addressed below, along with the attached position statement, supported by the signatures of 417 neighbors to-date.

Dear Mayor, Deputy Mayors, Members of the DC Council, Zoning Commission, Office of Zoning, Office of Planning, representatives of The JBG Companies, and others interested in the Woodley Park community:

We Woodley Park residents and neighbors of the property surrounding the Marriott Wardman Park hotel would like to register our opinions and concerns regarding the proposals for a change of zoning and development of that property submitted by its current owner, the JBG Companies, and by any successor owners if JBG should succeed in in its effort to sell the property.

In total, 417 neighbors (to-date) have signed a petition opposing the Planned Unit Development (PUD) to add a massive “North Lawn building” to a site that is already at its full density limit. (Any building on the site’s current open space, even if smaller in size than the currently proposed massive building, would require the DC Zoning Commission to approve a change to higher density zoning.) We neighbors also opposed the Stage 1 PUD for extensive re-development across the 16-acre site, which the developer recently withdrew.

Please note that the developer withdrew its Stage 1 application to re-develop the site of the Marriott Hotel because it says it is “excited to envision new possibilities for the entire Wardman Park site,” that it wants to develop “a master plan for the site” and that it is interested in “new possibilities for the entire Wardman Park site in years to come.” However, it is still pursuing its application its application for the “North Lawn building” even though a new building on the site now is not only inconsistent with developing a “master plan” for the site, but doing so would unreasonably limit options available for the overall site in a master planning effort.

The developer’s proposal calls to convert an area currently zoned moderate density into a high density zone that would significantly significantly alter the character and livability of the Woodley Park neighborhood. The developer proposes to build many additional luxury units, furthering the transformation of a multi-cultural, multi-generational and multi-income family neighborhood to one that is more exclusive, less affordable, and less attractive to families. In particular, the same company’s recent developments on this same lot (the Wardman Tower condominium, and the Woodley Apartment Building) are dominated by high-cost luxury apartments that are attracting even more luxury development, and which tend to motivate other owners of multi-unit properties in the neighborhood to transition toward luxury units, thus driving out affordable family housing.

This phenomenon is not unique to Woodley Park. In an analysis published on a New York Federal Reserve Bank blog, “Differences in Rent Inflation by Cost of Housing,” economists Jonathan McCarthy and Richard Peach find increasing the supply of luxury buildings enhances the bargaining power of those at the top of the economic ladder, but does nothing for those on the lower rungs of the ladder. In fact, it can make their situation worse as older properties—a staple of Woodley Park—are converted into more up-scale ones to compete with the new luxury buildings. According to the economists, the end result is that currently affordable apartments will become too expensive for low-income families. While the District desperately needs more affordable housing, JBG’s proposal will cause a loss of affordable housing in Woodley Park, pushing many of our less fortunate residents out of the neighborhood.

The developer’s proposal will also make Woodley Park less livable and less attractive to all kinds of families, because it drastically reduces green and open space from the current 67,000 square feet to a promised 27,000 square feet, while increasing population pressure on local park space, nearby Oyster-Adams Elementary School, the single entrance to the Woodley Park Metro station, vehicle traffic, and drainage. The developer has made no plans to consider or address the accumulated impact of its recent buildings, nor the full range of future buildings on our neighborhood’s infrastructure.

This developer clearly hopes to develop its parcel in a much denser way (having built on the entirety of the parcel to the maximum extent permitted by current zoning), it has submitted its PUD in order to request an increase in the allowed zoned density. The developer’s internal plans have long called for redevelopment of the Marriott Hotel as well, evidenced by the Stage 1 PUD that it filed but has since withdrawn. In fact, the developer acknowledges that it has been pursuing approvals for the development in a piecemeal fashion – with a statement on its website indicating “…we recognize that potential city-wide zoning and planning changes, including amendments the Comprehensive Plan by the Office of Planning, preclude [our own] long-term plan for the site at this time.” Rather than consider the impact of individual applications and buildings, our community urges that the District of Columbia consider the cumulative impact of development in our neighborhood (by JBG, its successor, and others), by undertaking development of a Small Area Plan (SAP) which would then become an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. This will allow for planning of interdependent development and community features, as is appropriate for a large complex site adjacent to a Metro station.

Sincerely – submitted on behalf of and 417 residents of Woodley Park, and the Woodley Park Community Association by Jeff Myers, Chair of the Association’s JBG Taskforce Committee

Attachments:

Positions of the Woodley Park Community Association Regarding JBG’s Proposals to Further Develop Property in Woodley Park:

positions-of-the-woodley-park-community-regarding-jbgs-proposals (PDF)

73 Comment

  • Don’t kid yourself- fighting density under the guise of affordable housing is still NIMBYism.

  • “…multi-income family neighborhood to one that is more exclusive, less affordable, and less attractive to families.” Yeah, because right now Woodley Park is so affordable for someone looking for house to raise a family in that a shell on Garfield is currently listed for a million dollars.

    • Seriously. These people have their heads in the clouds if they think that Woodley Park currently is a “multi-income family neighborhood.” More like people who have high incomes along with people who have extremely high incomes.

  • Sincerely, A Bunch of People in Million-Dollar Houses Who Thought Nando’s Would Be A Threat to Their Very Existences

  • tldr; NIMBY

  • I’d suggest that the petitioners ensure that the Small Area Plan pay a lot of attention to local public park space throughout the neighborhood because any smart owner of the hotel property is likely to build a fence around the North Lawn so high and tight that Trump’s border fence will weep from jealousy. The availability of the current 67,000 square feet of green and open (privately-owned) space will be reduced to 0 (not to 27,000) pending any future construction decisions.

  • Yeah, right. This is concern trolling on behalf of NIMBY types who want to keep their home values rising at the same sky-high rate as DC suffers from a critical lack of housing.

    The faux-concern over affordable housing is nothing but a guise. Shutting down any and all development in Woodley Park won’t make it an affordable place to raise a family. You don’t see these people clamoring for the oi-polloi to live West of Rock Creek Park…

  • Starting with a disclaimer: I live in Woodley Park in group house, but have not been following this issue to date.

    Dumb question here, but what counts as NIMBYism? I think NIMBY is meant to be used in situations where people do not want something that is unpleasant, but needs to exist somewhere (e.g., landfill) near where they live. It implies selfishness. In this situation, though, do luxury condos actually need to be developed here/ somewhere? I think it is good citizenship to be actively participating in our communities and that neighbors should speak up when they are unhappy about proposed development, especially if it doesn’t benefit anyone in particular. How would this development improve Woodley Park? I think their points about congestion make sense. Also, though buying in Woodley Park is pretty ridiculous ($$$), renting is actually fairly reasonable, precisely because the area is mainly older units.

    • +1 – I rent in Woodley Park and it’s by far the most affordable place I’ve lived in DC (downtown, Dupont, Georgetown) – and the best “bang for my buck.” Even as a renter, I’m opposed to additional development without an eye towards additional retail/services for the neighborhood.

      • If your argument is that we don’t have a housing shortage in DC because Woodley Park is “affordable”… I’m not sure what to tell you.

        • I’m not sure how you got that argument out of me saying that the existing housing stock in Woodley Park was affordable.

          If you think building another incredibly expensive luxury building in Woodley Park (seriously, check out the prices on The Woodley) is going to help the housing shortage in DC…

          • Agreed. Adding new luxury buildings just makes the whole market more expensive

          • Well, this: “I rent in Woodley Park and it’s by far the most affordable place I’ve lived in DC”

            My understanding from housing research is that even new expensive buildings lead to lower rents as those willing to pay top-tier prices trade up. This leaves more “old” units open than there would have been otherwise.

            That’s not a hard and fast rule, of course, but if no housing is going to be built in the neighborhood, it’s pretty clear which direction prices will continue to move in. You have to start somewhere.

          • @ textdoc – not true. That’s a common assumption, but more housing is more housing.

          • @ Ack – would you say that’s true even when a similarly-sized unit in a nearby luxury building is more than twice as expensive as the unit someone is currently inhabiting?

          • Nope, Ack, that’s not accurate.
            .
            I’ve been in D.C. long enough and watched progressions in rent long enough to have some sense of how the introduction of “luxury” housing affects the market. It has not made housing cheaper.

          • @AJ – yes. It’s not the most intuitive thing, but whenever I’ve seen actual research about the issue (there’s definitely not enough out there!) it tends to play out like this:

            http://cityobservatory.org/urban-myth-busting-new-rental-housing-and-median-income-households/

          • Textdoc, unless you massively increase housing supply above the rate of population growth, housing isn’t going to get cheaper in absolute terms. Will increased rental supply, even on the high end, help rent increases slow? Yes, definitely. This is already happening in certain market segments across the country due to overbuilding of upper-end multifamily.

          • @textdoc DC, and many cities, have an affordable housing crisis because of several contributing factors, mostly due to restrictive zoning (and in our case a height limit) that has limited the number of units built in the area and the huge population grow in the past decade. What you’ve seen is a city that can’t produce enough housing to keep up with its population growth. The luxury units that you’ve seen following the new residents isn’t the cause of the high prices.

          • Ack – I posted the same link as you did, but it appears to be caught in the moderation filter. It’s good read.

          • It’s a misnomer that luxury buildings drive up rents/housing costs for other homes. Developers don’t build luxury housing where it won’t command the prices they need to build it. The good/experienced developers have excellent market intelligence, and often make the first entry into neighborhoods that can support it. Others often follow suit upgrading the homes they’re offering for rent/sale to get those same prices. It’s not the luxury housing that causes the spike…it’s the market.
            .
            I bought one of my rental properties after an inexperienced developer built a premium product for the neighborhood (not luxury by overall DC standards, but certainly for the neighborhood), couldn’t sell almost half of them at the price he needed to remain solvent, and several units ended up in foreclosure by his lender. Brand-new, never-occupied units developed by someone who thought the housing bubble would go on forever and catch the neighborhood soon enough that he would remain solvent. And even some of the other buyers who took advantage of this “windfall” situation (to them) didn’t realize where they were and that, no, they couldn’t get the same rent as a similar unit on the other side of town, and their units sat vacant for months until they cut the price or were foreclosed on themselves. We also see the same thing, different side, over and over here again where owners of non-luxury housing in neighborhoods that can support the prices for luxury homes try to get the same price, and it usually fails.
            .
            tl:dr experienced luxury developers are building in neighborhoods where demand can support their product. Inexperienced developers/owners may try to push prices up in neighborhoods that can’t support it or demand luxury prices for non-luxury homes, but they usually fail.
            .
            Housing is probably not an entirely “normal good” in the true economist sense because the market is so distorted by everything from zoning rules to tax law, but the basics of supply and demand are still there.

          • The logic of that article is insane. New cars are not a good example. The average new car is $34,000. OK….maybe a little context please? Are you including SUV’s, minivans, luxury cars? Because you CAN in fact buy a new car for almost half that $34,000 price. More to the point, there’s no “affordable car crisis” because the cars that in fact do sell the most tend to be the more economical ones so volume is already high. That article doesn’t understand economics. Just like it doesn’t understand housing.

      • “I found a place in Woodley Park is more affordable than Georgetown, Dupont, and Downtown” =/= “Woodley Park is affordable.” Compared to Spring Valley, Georgetown is inexpensive housing, and Shaw is downright cheap. That doesn’t mean it’s affordable in any objective sense of the word.
        .
        Did you really need that spelled out?

        • Sharing my experience with housing in DC =/= making an objective statement about the nature of housing in DC. Woodley Park is going to be more similar to Dupont/Georgetown in terms of its residents than it is to Shaw, Bloomingdale, Ivy City, etc. etc. etc.

          • Bull. You added a +1 to the comment before you, which given the character of your comment could only be an endorsement of, “Also, though buying in Woodley Park is pretty ridiculous ($$$), renting is actually fairly reasonable[.]” Your backtracking now because someone called you out on how ridiculous that statement was.

          • @dcd I really have no reason to backtrack on an anonymous web forum. I intended the +1 to be to their last sentence, which I thought was fairly obvious given what I shared spoke specifically to the affordable rents in the area. It’s been a pleasure engaging with you.

    • In this case it means “I want to keep walking my dog on your property.”

    • A lot of people, especially here, misuse that term. And these are likely among the same people who don’t fully understand the demographics of Woodley Park. It’s not all multi-million dollar mansions.

      • I’d be willing to bet the people fighting the development are largely the homeowners, not condo owners. And they probably would have fought the development of the older, large apartment buildings that make up the “affordable” housing stock of the neighborhood that they are now lauding.

    • Their argument- opposition to density- is classic NIMBYism. They simply don’t want more people in their neighborhood parking in “their” spots on the street and standing in front of them in line at Starbucks. They got their houses, it’s not their problem if anyone else can. Woodley Park is on one of the main corridors through DC, right next to Rock Creek Parkway, and next to metro. In the neighborhood is a major national landmark (the National Zoo) and a national park (Rock Creek Park). Housing is already very expensive and another luxury building won’t make it more expensive (you could argue that it could open up some of the units in the older buildings in the area for lower income residents). Pretending like they are fighting to save their sleepy little economically diverse neighborhood is laughable.

    • maxwell smart

      NIMBY – not in my backyard. This is exactly what is happening here – homeowners of million dollar homes who do not any additional development in their area.

    • Yes, that is the correct use of NIMBY (“I think NIMBY is meant to be used in situations where people do not want something that is unpleasant, but needs to exist somewhere (e.g., landfill) near where they live.”)
      .
      However, “NIMBY”/”NIMBYism” seems to have become a reflexive cry on PoPville whenever anyone opposes any sort of development.

    • This is purely selfishness, because this argument isn’t really about whether “luxury condos actually need to be developed here/ somewhere?” It’s about how people who live a stone’s throw from downtown are opposed to density on top of a close in metro station, and who want to maintain a pseudo-bucolic atmosphere at the expense of another private property owner.
      .
      Just look at your own post – “How would this development help Woodley Park? It doesn’t benefit anyone in particular.” What you mean is that the people who already live there think that it would change the way things are, and they like the way things are, so it’s bad. That is literally the definition of NIMBYism.”
      .
      Finally, the faux concern is infuriating, and utterly transparent. Do you want to know how I know that’s true? Here’s a thought experiment: close your eyes, and pretend that the developer wants to develop condos or apartments exactly the same size ad is planned now, but it’s not luxury condos. Instead, it’s condos, or apartments, designed to be marketed at a price that is affordable to people who make half the median income in DC ($45,000). Do you really think that would assuage all of the concerns of these “concerned citizens?” Of course not – they’d react the same way, plus be secretly horrified that the neighborhood would soon be inundated with the poors.
      .
      tl;dr – this has nothing to do with the price of the proposed development, and everything to do with keeping Woodley Park encased in amber. They like the way things are. Well, tough.

  • These guys seem like absolute NIMBY rookies. Go home and try again; maybe get mommy to help out with the second draft. All they have to do is start accusing everyone and anyone of wanton racism. Their classist argument won’t hold water here without the racist aspect. (Never mind that these 400-some upper crusts could likely pool their savings and outright buy this from JBG – perhaps that’s JBG’s long game?)

    • It would be REALLY fun if the developer announced that he’s making 20% of the units affordable to use tax credits.

      • OMG – this would be incredible just to troll these numbnuts. Please JBG? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

        • They could go further and pull a George Lucas- Marin residents opposed him building a studio on a large plot of land he had in the county, so he proposed an affordable housing development instead, claiming they “have enough millionaires in Marin.”

        • Would love it. Love.

  • andy

    if you all actually brought in some affordable housing, i’d start to believe this. thanks nimbys!

  • .
    On “affordability”: Housing in Woodley Park isn’t “affordable” in the sense of “low-income,” but I do think this group has something of a point.
    .
    Historically, much of the housing on Connecticut Avenue (and immediate side streets) from Woodley Park going north has been in older apartment buildings that were actually fairly affordable, despite being west of the Park. It didn’t seem like the “let’s renovate this into luxury housing!” craze had reached that area… but now it’s starting to. And if these older buildings with parquet floors, older kitchens, etc. start getting turned into luxury apartments, the supply of reasonably priced rental apartments in neighborhoods that are safe — even if they’re not the neighborhoods with the most nightlife buzz — is going to decrease.

    • As I was saying in the thread on McMillan Park, people in the middle — the ones who don’t qualify for low-income housing, but who can’t afford “luxury” apartments — are increasingly getting squeezed in D.C.

      • Yup – many of the people who live in my building (one of the relatively affordable ones in WP) are young-ish families who are still making it work in DC – you see a lot of people with one kid, but not a lot with two. Many of the similarly-sized units in the Woodley are more than twice as expensive as the ones in my building.

      • Yeah, but we are starting to see some of the older buildings become more affordable (or, realistically, prices have stopped increasing like they were) as all the luxury units have opened up in the city recently. Similarly, I bet if there is nicer housing available for residents who would like to upgrade but stay in the neighborhood, more units would open up that are priced for the middle. Trickle down does actually work in housing.

      • Which is part of why we’re heading just outside the district…womp womp 🙁

    • That may be true, but my understanding is that this would be a new building.

      I might be wrong, but I don’t see how adding more supply, even at the upper end, would manage to increase median rents in the area. If this building is enough to bring in more retail and then more residents in a positive cycle that eventually raises rents, that’s a much bigger story.

      • I live near the convention center, and the increase in luxury buildings has only driven prices higher. Landlords and realtors watch what the market is doing, and even the oldest buildings in my neck of the woods are putting rental prices (and sale prices) up higher – and the increased demand is making that feasible, for now. I do think that this will eventually correct and I would note, for my particularly neighborhood, that the walkability factor adds a big incentive for people to pay more, but it’s not necessarily wrong to anticipate the possibility that an increase in luxury housing in the area will drive all prices up.

        • I totally believe that, but I think this speaks more to gentrification that’s happening in the neighborhood than a price increase spurred by luxury housing.

          In other words, the older buildings would still have rent hikes even if barebones buildings were going in instead of, say, City Market. The neighborhood as a whole is going through changes that make more people want to live there relative to 10 years ago.

          • You’re right, it’s a whole neighborhood makeover, but to the point of family-friendliness, one major loss for the Shaw/Logan/Convention Center ‘hood is green space, and density is becoming a problem. I do think that my neighborhood is becoming more transient, short-term renters and/or buyers looking for starter homes, but moving out once they have kids. There are some folks hanging on to their single-family homes, but not that many. And so I don’t disagree that going from a huge green space to a much smaller or non-existent one in Woodley isn’t really good for the neighborhood. Because while my area is now very popular, it’s become in some ways less livable, too. All this by way of saying I think they’re out to protect themselves, but the loss of green space and increase of density starts to make every single neighborhood the same, and I don’t love that either.

    • maxwell smart

      I think there can still be a reasonable amount of upgrades made while not turning into luxury housing. I would wager to say that most of the older housing stock could probably benefit from overall finishes/fixture upgrades.

    • HaileUnlikely

      This is an important point. For an example more relatable to much of the PoP readership, Woodley Park (really all of Connecticut Ave north of Dupont Circle) has a lot of apartment buildings that are kind of like the Park Monroe in Mount Pleasant (on 16th NW between Park and Monroe). It was billed as a luxury building back in its day, but its day was a long time ago, and now it’s a very decent, safe, clean, well-maintained older building at which a renter who isn’t interested in paying top dollar for shiny new stuff can score a relative bargain.

    • I do acknowledge that we have a dearth of moderate, non-luxury dwellings in DC, and I’m not much of a supply sider. But that doesn’t mean that this group has a point; their REAL point is to keep out density. Period. Imagine that the planned development was all 3 and 4 BR apartments, for rent at $1800-$2500. Perfect for families, and moderately priced, right, so there would be no problem? Of course not. The bugaboo for these people is density. But you know what, when you buy a house precisely because it is two metro stops to Farragut North and three to Metro Center, expecting that large swaths of private property are going to remain undeveloped, exactly as they are, is both insanely unrealistic and incredibly selfish.

  • I’d love for the city to say they agree with this letter and then require affordable housing here. Then see if these people truly believe in a multi-cultural, generational and income community. They will freak.

    • Well, you boiled down my wordy rants to a perfect three sentences. This, exactly.
      .
      Or, in the patois of my home state, “F**k me? No, f**k you!”

    • HaileUnlikely

      I agree with this. I would rather just address their stated concerns as if I believed that their stated concerns were their actual concerns, than just assert that I don’t believe them and sort of get stuck there.

  • per redfin, there are currently 103 homes priced at <$200,000 within the DC borders. if you broaden the search to basically include all inside the beltway areas and areas just outside, there are over 600 properties. We simply don't have an affordable housing problem. Now, people can't necessarily live exactly where they would want to, or have houses as big as they'd like, but the "lack of affordable housing" is factually untrue.

    • Oh, come on. The median home price here is really high; of course you can find properties way below that.

    • This response is inane bordering on ridiculously ignorant. First, you do not define home, $200,00 for a 3 bedroom rowhouse or for a 500 sq. foot studio? Because depending on family size, square footage matters. Second, inside the beltway is NOT DC, that is the greater DC metropolitan area and includes large swaths of real estate not serviced by Metro or bus. Some people need to live closer in the city because they do not have or cannot afford a car. Finally, the income range to qualify for affordable house is extremely low. I mean you have to be steeped in poverty or have a super large family with little to no income to qualify. So DC has not only an affordable housing shortage but to a greater extent, it has a serious shortage of housing for median family incomes.

  • Woodley Park is two metro stops from downtown which is easily walkable for some if chosen. There’s no reason that WP should’t become denser. More people deserve to live car-free lives and are willing to pay the “luxury” price tag. If this is indeed privately owned land, then the citizens who are opposed to any development being proposed need to pony up and purchase the land.

  • You have to wonder how folks like this Jeff guy don’t understand how elitist and spoiled they sound.

    Jeff Myers personally pulls in more than three quarters of a million dollars a year in salary (he is a CEO, you can look up his salary) and lives in a neighborhood where the freaking MEDIAN house price is $830K, and he is trying to some how tell us that increasing the number of housing units in the neighborhood, on a ~17 acre private lawn a 4 minute walk from a metro stop (exactly where you should be increasing density) is somehow going to make his ivory tower neighborhood LESS affordable for the supposed “low” income folks of Woodley Park?

    What planet are these people living on?

    I wish that people would simply say what they mean and stop trying to hide their NIMBY rich man entitlement and just say “I’m wealthy, I live in a wealthy neighborhood and I don’t want to do anything, at any point that would allow other people in.”

    I have lived in quite a few places around the nation and never have I seen such an unbelieveable NIMBY aversion to any development whatsoever as is commonplace in the District.

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