Initial Thoughts on Mayor Bowser’s Proposed FY16 Budget

April 6, 2015

On April 2, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser released her proposed FY16 budget. As with any budget, there are a lot of proposals that I could highlight. I’ve chosen to focus on three items of particular interest to Hill East:

Replacement of DC General
The Mayor’s proposed budget includes $40 million to fund 4 smaller scale homeless shelters to replace the deteriorating DC General shelter. After years of rhetoric about the need to close DC General, it is refreshing to see some actual funding in the budget to achieve this goal. While we still need to see her closure plan, Mayor Bowser deserves credit for making the closing of DC General the budget priority it should be.

Infrastructure Funding for Reservation 13/Hill East Development
I was also happy to see $11.2 million in the Mayor’s proposed capital budget for infrastructure funding for phase I of the Res. 13/Hill East Development. The 11.2 million, which would be spent over 3 years, would be used to fund the roadway extensions (Mass Ave SE, the new 20th Street SE, etc.) surrounding the Donatelli/Blue Skye mixed-use development.

School Modernizations
While the Mayor’s FY16 capital budget includes funding for the modernization of Watkins Elementary School (30.9 million in FY16 and FY17), the budget plan further delays modernization funding for a number of other Capitol Hill schools. Long overdue modernizations at Eliot-Hine and Jefferson Academy Middle Schools are delayed until FY19. These delays are totally unacceptable, particularly in a budget document that claims to make strengthening middle schools a priority. (Councilmember David Grosso’s office has put together a nice breakdown of how the Mayor’s budget will affect school modernizations).

Look, I understand that budgeting is not easy, particularly when the city has to fill a budget gap. And DC has limited borrowing authority and must stay under a statutory debt cap. This means that Mayor Bowser and the Council have to make tough choices. I get it.

But it is hard to accept further delays to school modernizations when the same capital budget includes $106 million in new capital funding (all borrowed) for the DC United Stadium at Buzzard Point – a stadium that the DC Council’s own independent consultant estimated would provide only $40 million in benefits (and is going to eventually cost taxpayers a lot more than $106 million). So the Mayor and the Council (OK, the previous Council) have essentially prioritized a giveaway to a professional soccer team over better (and safer) school buildings. This cannot be labeled a tough choice. This can only be described as a really, really bad decision.

So while I give Mayor Bowser credit for her proposed investments in new shelters, affordable housing and Reservation 13, she also deserves criticism for supporting a soccer stadium that is taking capital dollars away from school modernizations. Hopefully, the Mayor and Council will work to restore some of this funding during consideration of the budget in April and May.

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Testimony on Future of RFK Stadium Site

February 27, 2015

On Wed., Feb. 25, I testified on behalf of ANC 6B at the Committee on Finance and Revenue’s performance oversight hearing for Events DC. My testimony (below) focused on the future of the RFK Stadium site. 

Good morning Chairman Evans and members of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as vice chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and is located immediately west of the Hill East Waterfront, also known as Reservation 13. My district also includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club Building.

I’m here today to provide testimony on our commission’s experience with Events DC and, in particular, our views about the future of a critical piece of land the authority oversees – the RFK Stadium site. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 9-0 during its February 10 meeting with a quorum present. We appreciate Events DC’s efforts to keep our commission and constituents informed about events happening at RFK Stadium, the Armory and the surrounding parking lots. As you know, the site is immediately adjacent to a residential rowhouse neighborhood. Events DC’s quarterly community outreach meetings and frequent event e-mails have been extremely helpful. We particularly want to acknowledge the efforts of Erik Moses, Events DC’s senior vice president and managing director, and Theresa DuBois, Events DC’s external affairs manager, to keep our constituents and the commission informed and engaged.

With DC United set to move out of RFK Stadium in the next couple of years, our focus is on potential uses for this valuable site – a waterfront site that sits on top of a Metro station. The redevelopment of the RFK site could be a potential boon to Hill East, the health of the Anacostia River, Capitol Hill, and the entire city if city leaders are open to some creative and imaginative thinking. But it appears that some city officials have determined that a new NFL football stadium is the obvious future and best use of the site. You’ve been quoted, Chairman Evans, as saying “There’s nothing else you can do there.”

We strongly disagree. While we understand the lure of the site’s tradition and history, a new football stadium at RFK will bring the city and the neighborhood very little. First, football stadiums are used 10 times a year for games, leaving an empty shell the remainder of the time. Second, since tailgating is part of the football experience, football stadiums are typically surrounded by empty parking lots. At RFK, that would mean the continued separation of the surrounding neighborhood from the Anacostia waterfront. Third, a football stadium will not attract new businesses nor help existing businesses in our neighborhood since NFL owners make money when fans buy their concessions in the stadium itself. If you need an example, when was the last time you went shopping or dining at a local business or restaurant next to FedEx Field?

Instead of solely pining for a new stadium that will bring little, city leaders should be open to other uses for the site. For example, a neighborhood-serving sports complex with recreational fields and/or an outdoor environmental education center that draws upon the waterfront location could be better potential uses for the site. Hill East is in desperate need of more playing fields for youth sports and activities and a sports complex would comply with the terms of the National Park Service lease. An environmental education center could provide youth a positive connection to the Anacostia River while providing the city with a destination for environmental education, sustainability and recreational fun.

Speaking of the NPS lease, why can’t it be changed? Why can’t the city develop a comprehensive plan similar to the National Capital Planning Commission’s 2006 plan that includes significant recreational use and some mixed-use development on portions of the site? Such a plan could be used to lobby Congress to amend the lease and/or transfer the land. That is exactly the strategy the city used 10 years ago to successfully obtain Reservation 13, the 67-acre site that sits immediately south of the RFK site, from the federal government.

We are committed to working with Events DC, city officials and our colleague commissions – ANCs 7D, 7F and 6A – to think creatively about the best future uses for the RFK Stadium site. We understand that Events DC has hired the consulting firm of Brailsford and Dunlavey to conduct a study of future uses of the site. While we would prefer that the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Office of Planning were leading this effort, we take Events DC at its word that the study will include robust neighborhood engagement and alternatives that do not include a stadium.

One final point. If the city decides to pursue a football stadium on the site once the study is completed, we should remember that the District has and should retain the upper hand in any negotiations. If media reports are correct that Mr. Snyder wants to build a new stadium at RFK, he should not only pay for the stadium but should also pay for the land, infrastructure and taxes associated with the site. He should also be required to build a stadium that is consistent with the city’s vision of the Anacostia waterfront – a waterfront connected to the surrounding neighborhoods (i.e. no surface parking lots). If Mr. Snyder wants taxpayer dollars to subsidize any of these costs or doesn’t agree with this vision, he can go look for a site in Maryland and Virginia, and the District can pursue alternative, better uses for the RFK Stadium land.

Thank you for your time and I’d be happy to answer any questions.


Testimony on Sense of the Council for Closing DC General Shelter Resolution of 2014

July 10, 2014

This afternoon, I’m delivering ANC 6B’s testimony on PR20-854, Sense of the Council for Closing DC General Shelter Resolution of 2014 at a Public Oversight Roundtable being held by the DC Council’s Committee on Human Services. Below is the full text of my testimony.

Good afternoon Chairman Graham and members of the Committee on Human Services. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and is located immediately west of the DC General campus, located on Reservation 13. My district also includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club Building.

I’m here today to express ANC 6B’s strong support for Resolution 20-854, Sense of the Council for Closing DC General Shelter Resolution of 2014. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 10-0 during its July 8, 2014 meeting with a quorum present.

As you know, ANC 6B supports the closure of the temporary family emergency shelter at DC General. We view housing so many incredibly needy families in such deplorable conditions, including a large number of families with children, as an outrage and embarrassment to our city and as completely counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending homelessness.

When the city started housing homeless families at DC General in 2008, it was announced as a temporary measure. Soon after the shelter opened, the city began housing more and more families at the old hospital, particularly as shelters were closed in other parts of the city. Instead of working to find suitable housing and shelter options within existing neighborhoods, city leaders chose the politically convenient approach of housing more and more families and individuals in a deteriorating, depressing building totally separated from the surrounding neighborhood and city.

In addition to the shelter, the city opened and expanded clinics at the site, including a methadone clinic. So, in addition to an overconcentration of people, the site has an overconcentration of services.

You have held a number of hearings on the topic of DC General, Mr. Chairman, and have heard directly from shelter residents about poor, unsafe conditions at the deteriorating old hospital campus. DC General should not be our city’s answer to addressing homelessness. ANC 6B strongly believes that the city’s goal should be closing DC General and transitioning homeless families and individuals to better housing options. We also believe that these alternative housing options, including a smaller scale shelter and permanent supportive housing, should be a part of the Reservation 13/Hill East Development.

The lack of a humane and holistic plan for housing homeless individuals in this city concerns us greatly, and developing such a plan should be a top priority of the Mayor and the Council. We support PR20-854 because it is a step in the right direction. The resolution outlines clear benchmarks that the city must meet to close DC General, and we urge the Mayor and Council to pursue strategies to achieve these benchmarks immediately.

To that end, we would ask that the committee consider amending the resolution to strengthen the time component. While we appreciate the resolution’s reference to closing DC General before the height of the 2014-2015 hypothermia season, our preference would be for the resolution to set a date, or request that the Mayor set a date, for DC General to be closed. Setting such a date would have the combined effect of pushing the Mayor and Council to develop a plan to achieve the benchmarks and to provide the funding necessary to identify and invest in better housing alternatives for families at the shelter.

Another option would be to amend the resolution to direct the Mayor and Council to produce a plan to achieve the benchmarks by the fall of 2014 or spring of 2015. Without some sort of time component, we fear that both the Mayor and Council will ignore this resolution to the detriment of shelter residents and the city.

Once a plan to close DC General is in place, the Mayor and Council will have to make the investments necessary to make it happen. We support the idea that the savings from the closure of DC General (around $14 billion a year) should be used to fund alternative emergency shelter capacity. And we agree that the Mayor and Council need to fully fund homelessness prevention and affordable housing programs such as permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing and the local rent supplement program. Of course, it is easy to state this in a resolution versus actually funding these investments in the budget. We are going to need the Mayor and Council to follow through on these commitments.

Finally, we want to thank you, Chairman Graham, for introducing this resolution and for your strong support and commitment to closing DC General and identifying better housing options for homeless families. We also want to thank the seven other co-sponsors, especially Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, for recognizing that DC General should not be our city’s answer to addressing homelessness.

Thank you for your time, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.


Testimony on DC General at Human Services Oversight Hearing

February 27, 2014

On Feb. 26, I testified on behalf of ANC 6B at the DC Council’s Committee on Human Services oversight hearing for the Department of Human Services. In the testimony, ANC 6B urges the Mayor, DHS and the Council to develop a plan to close the DC General Family Shelter. Here is ANC 6B’s full written testimony:

Good morning Chairman Graham and members of the Committee on Human Services. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and is located immediately west of the Hill East Waterfront, also known as Reservation 13. My district also includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club Building.

I’m here today to testify about the status of the DC General family shelter and to urge the Mayor, DHS and this committee to make the investments necessary to begin the process of closing DC General. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 8-0 during its February 11 Commission meeting.

Unfortunately, not much has changed at DC General since I testified before your committee last year. The shelter remains at capacity – recent reports suggest almost 1,000 individuals, including 600 children are currently at the shelter – and while the Department of Human Services may have a goal to move families out of DC General, the department appears to not be making much progress in achieving that goal.

ANC 6B views housing so many incredibly needy families in such deplorable conditions, including a large number of families with children, as an outrage and embarrassment to our city and as completely counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending homelessness. The lack of a humane and holistic plan to housing homeless individuals in this city concerns us greatly, and developing such a plan should be a top priority of the Mayor, DHS and the Council.

When the city started housing homeless families at DC General in 2007, it was announced as a temporary measure. Soon after the shelter opened, the city began housing more and more families at the old hospital, particularly as shelters were closed in other parts of the city. Instead of working to find suitable housing and shelter options within existing neighborhoods, city leaders chose the politically convenient approach of housing more and more families and individuals in a deteriorating, depressing building totally separated from the surrounding neighborhood and city.

In addition to the shelter, the city opened and expanded clinics at the site, including a methadone clinic. So, in addition to an over concentration of people, the site has an over concentration of services.

While all this was happening, ANC 6B and surrounding neighbors continued to push the city to implement the Reservation 13 master plan. The plan, approved by the Council in 2003 and created with substantial community input, envisions mixed-use development that will finally connect surrounding neighborhoods to the Anacostia River waterfront. The plan recognizes the site’s many advantages – waterfront location, access to Metro and close proximity to two wards – and it envisions bringing housing (including 30 percent affordable housing), retail and office space to an area of the city in desperate need of all three.

Unfortunately, the city’s expansion and now indecision on DC General is stalling mixed-use development plans for Reservation 13, with real consequences to the city and neighborhood. While the city is moving forward with developing two parcels on the site – the two parcels closest to the Stadium-Armory Metro plaza, the rest of the site is on hold until the city comes up with a plan for DC General.

DC General should not be our city’s answer to addressing homelessness. ANC 6B strongly believes that the city’s goal should be closing DC General and transitioning homeless families and individuals to better housing options. Many of these new housing options, including a smaller scale shelter, could be a part of the Hill East Development. But we fear that the full vision of development plans for the Hill East Waterfront will remain stalled until the city provides a clear timeline for closing DC General.

To help us get a sense of where the city is on this issue, we urge the committee to ask DHS the following questions:

1)    What is the status of DHS’s plan for reducing the number of families and individuals living in DC General and eventually closing the building? It appears from recent media reports that progress in reducing the number of residents at DC General has taken a step back.

2)    Has the Mayor or DHS considered announcing a date for closure of DC General? Setting such a date would have the combined effect of pushing the Council to provide the funding necessary to provide better alternatives to homeless families while sending a signal to the development community that the city is serious about developing the site.

3)    Will the Mayor’s FY15 capital budget include significant investments in permanent supportive housing and/or funds to build new smaller scale shelters?

4)    Has DHS discussed its plans for DC General with the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development? Given the city’s plans to develop the site, it seems appropriate that DHS should be coordinating closely with DMPED.

ANC 6B stands ready to work with the Mayor, DHS and this committee to support efforts to end homelessness and eliminate the need for shelters like DC General. And we also strongly urge the Mayor, DHS and the Council to make closing DC General a top priority, and to begin funding the programs and making the capital investments necessary in the FY15 budget.

Thank you for your time, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.


*UPDATED* Weigh In Today on Absurd RFK Stadium Study Bill

February 24, 2014

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the DC Council’s Committee on Economic Development will hold a hearing on Bill 20-563, the District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Complex Feasibility Study Act of 2013.  If enacted, this bill would require the Mayor to conduct a study to determine the “economic feasibility, economic impact and costs” of developing a new 100,000 seat superdome, indoor waterpark, soundstage, PGA-level golf course and hotel zone at the RFK Stadium, DC Armory and Langston Golf Course sites. If enacted, the bill requires the study to be completed by Feb. 15, 2015.

As I’ve detailed in a previous post, this is a really bad bill. Instead of outlining a thoughtful, open planning process that involves the community in determining future uses for the RFK Stadium site, B20-563 begins with the conventional wisdom (a new stadium to replace the old one) and surrounds it with a random grab bag of pet projects that will do little for the neighborhood and city.

Unfortunately, six Councilmembers (Alexander, Barry, Bonds, Evans, Graham and Orange) co-introduced the bill, including three of the five members who currently sit on the Committee on Economic Development. The co-introducers need only one additional vote to get a majority on the full Council. We need to make it clear that this bill did not involve community input and lacks support in the neighborhood.

Please take a moment today to e-mail to the members of the Committee on Economic Development and urge them to oppose B20-563. Be sure to copy Robert Hawkins who staffs the committee for Chairperson Bowser. And make sure you ask that your statement be submitted for the record.

Here are the e-mails:

You can also contact Councilmember offices by phone.

Finally, you can watch the hearing (and all Council hearings) by visiting the DC Council website. The hearing will be at 10 am in Room 120. I plan to testify in opposition on behalf of ANC 6B.

Thanks for your help!

Updated 2/24/14:  If you need additional background information on the bill, I outlined my concerns about the bill in a Dec. 19, 2013 post. And here is a link to the actual bill (pdf). 


Testimony on Res. 13 at Feb. 11 DMPED Oversight Hearing

February 11, 2014

This afternoon, I testified at the DC Council’s Committee on Economic Development oversight hearing for the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development . My testimony, posted below, focused mainly on the status of development plans for Reservation 13, though I also commented briefly on the Hine redevelopment. ANC 6B retroactively approved my testimony during tonight’s (Feb. 11) full commission meeting.  

Good morning Madame Chair and members of the Committee on Economic Development. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Building.

I’m here today to testify about the Hill East Development, also known as Reservation 13, the 67-acre former site of DC General Hospital. I’d also like to share some brief thoughts on the Hine development. I’m testifying on behalf of myself and not on behalf of ANC 6B, though the commission will consider retroactively approving my testimony at tonight’s Feb. 11 commission meeting. My testimony is consistent with ANC 6B’s support of mixed use development at Reservation 13 and the Hine PUD.

In June 2013, ANC 6B voted unanimously to support moving forward with the Donatelli/Blue Skye response to DMPED’s Request for Expressions of Interest in parcels F1 and G1 of the Hill East Development. In September 2013, DMPED announced that the city would move forward with the Donatelli/Blue Skye response. The response – which consists of two mixed-use residential/retail buildings next to the Stadium-Armory Metro– is consistent with the community-supported Reservation 13 master plan and the Hill East District zoning on the site. I believe that the Donatelli/Blue Skye plans will help catalyze development on the rest of the site, assuming Mayor Gray, DMPED and the DC Council make the investments and policy decisions necessary to make the long-stalled vision of the Hill East waterfront a reality.

Currently, DMPED and Donatelli/Blue Skye are in negotiations on a final agreement which must be approved by the DC Council. I’d like the committee to ask Deputy Mayor Hoskins and his team:

1) When do they anticipate bringing a final agreement on the first phase of the Hill East Development to the Council?
2) Since this project is finally set to begin, how much funding is the Mayor and DMPED requesting in the FY15 budget related to the Hill East Development? As I’ve mentioned in previous testimony, public funding will be needed to extend public roads/sewers, demolish buildings and to mitigate any environmental concerns on the Hill East site.

I also urge Mayor Gray and DMPED to take action immediately to prepare the remaining parcels of the Hill East site for development. Specifically, DMPED should be:

• Working with the Department of Human Services on a plan to close the temporary homeless shelter at DC General and begin transitioning homeless families and individuals into better housing options. The current policy of housing up to 300 homeless families in a dilapidated, deteriorating old hospital building completely separated from the surrounding neighborhood is an embarrassment to the city and completely counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending homelessness. Instead, the city should be looking to other alternatives for serving the homeless population in less concentrated settings.

• Developing a plan for transitioning social services located on the site. The Reservation 13 master plan envisions, and I certainly supports, continuing to provide existing services on the site at a reasonable scale in new facilities constructed on parcel L.

To ensure that DMPED is looking beyond the first phase of the Hill East Development, I urge the committee to ask Deputy Mayor Hoskins and his team a few additional questions:

1) What is the timeline for future phases of the Hill East Development?
2) Does DMPED plan to continue developing Hill East parcel-by-parcel? Or is DMPED considering issuing one RFEI for the remainder of the site?
3) If parcel-by-parcel, what parcels are being considered for phase II?
4) Is DMPED working with the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and the Department of Human Services on a plan for eventual closure of DC General?
5) Does DMPED plan to talk more about the Hill East Development in the coming year? Last year, I didn’t see the Hill East Development referenced in any of the Mayor’s presentations on economic development. I’ll be curious to see if it made DMPED’s presentation today.

After years of distractions, three RFPs and numerous delays, I’m pleased that the Hill East Development is finally moving forward. This is just the first step to bringing mixed-use development to Reservation 13. The ultimate goal remains the achievement of the Council-adopted and community supported Reservation 13 master plan which, when completed, will finally connect the eastern end of Capitol Hill to the Anacostia waterfront.

I’d also like to share a couple of additional comments on the Planned Unit Development process for the Hine School redevelopment. As you know, the Zoning Commission has approved the PUD but the project is currently stalled by pending litigation.

First, I’d like to raise the issue of transparency. I believe the record now reflects that DMPED mishandled the Freedom of Information Act request submitted by community members and needlessly delayed and limited access to information that was appropriate for the public domain. Irrespective of the content of that information and its relevance to any proceeding, the mishandling of this request undermined the spirit of the public process around these types of developments and is not consistent with the city’s commitment to an open and transparent government.

Second, I want to raise a broader point about the PUD process itself. PUDs typically happen on straight forward property purchases where the owner has full ownership and is simply seeking to obtain zoning relief through the PUD. The community and affected ANC then negotiates appropriate levels of benefits, amenities and mitigation with the owner, with the Zoning Commission eventually approving the PUD and the package of benefits. In the case of Hine, the PUD process came after and RFP process, which included a very lengthy, closed door negotiation between DMPED and the selected developer to set the terms for benefits and amenities.

I certainly understand the need for closed door negotiations after the city closes an RFP process and selects a developer. However, I also believe that the community should be involved in helping set the parameters for these negotiations, particularly when it comes to desired benefits and amenities. Our ANC approached the RFP process with a fairly well publicized and organized process, but the commission’s entire focus was on which development team to support. Presumably this was somewhat predicated on the idea that the real discussion benefits and amenities would happen in the PUD process. We now know that the major conversation on benefits and amenities happened during DMPED’s closed door negotiations with the development team. To its credit, DMPED’s aggressive negotiations produced a well-defined and directed list of benefits and amenities to be delivered by the project.
Given the experience of ANC 6B, I encourage DMPED and the Council to consider strategies or ideas on how to engage the community and ANCs in helping set the parameters for benefits and amenities in situations where a PUD follows a city-led RFP process.

Thank you for your time, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.


Vincent Orange’s “Vision” for the RFK Stadium Site

December 19, 2013

I first learned of Councilmember (and mayoral candidate) Vincent Orange’s District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Complex Feasibility Study Act of 2013 on November 7, the day it was introduced. The bill requires the Mayor to conduct a study to determine the “economic feasibility, economic impact and costs” of developing a new 100,000 seat superdome, indoor waterpark, soundstage, PGA-level golf course and hotel zone at the RFK Stadium, DC Armory and Langston Golf Course sites. If enacted, the bill requires the study to be completed by Feb. 15, 2015.

Based on media reports, I fully expected B20-563 to be 1-2 pages of legislative text. Instead, the bill is 15 pages long, detailing every pet project Councilmember Orange and others have dreamed up for the site. Here are some examples of what is included.

  • A proposed “hotel zone” would include a minimum of three hotels, adding a combined total of 1000 rooms to the site. The hotel zone would also include a 24/7 spa, fitness and wellness establishment that includes an Olympic size pool, leisure pool, children’s pool and sauna. And don’t forget the “health conscious café open 7 days a week featuring juice and smoothies bar, organic foods and healthy eating options.”
  • Apparently, the more than 1,000 hotel rooms in the hotel zone are not enough, because the bill also calls for another 200-300 room three star hotel to go along with the indoor waterpark resort. The waterpark also includes 15,000 sq. ft. of conference and meeting facilities. I’m not sure why you would build conference and meeting facilities in the waterpark and a pool facility in the hotel zone.
  • The detail for the hotel zone and indoor waterpark pales in comparison to the detail provided on the multimedia soundstage. The soundstage, which apparently would be in the DC Armory, includes everything from a television recording studio and production offices to green rooms and a paint shop.
  • The bill does call for retail on the site, mainly in the “Robert F. Kennedy Domed Stadium Complex” which includes the 100,000 seat stadium, two “nationally recognized” department stores, two nationally recognized family restaurant chains, one nationally recognized chain bar or nightclub, one nationally recognized high end restaurant, one nationally recognized movie theatre, one independently owned restaurant and a beer garden. The bill is silent on whether the beer garden must be nationally recognized.
  • The bill does call for some housing on the site, but it is very vague. There would apparently be affordable housing units for low-income residents and students. It is also unclear as to where the housing would be built.

This is a small sampling of the ridiculous level of detail in the bill (I didn’t even mention the required 3D model). It would be laughable, except five (!) additional councilmembers joined Councilmember Orange in co-introducing the bill – Councilmembers Alexander, Barry, Bonds, Evans and Graham. This tally is one short of a Council majority.

Apparently, almost half of the DC Council actually thinks it is worth taxpayer dollars to study Councilmember Orange’s dreamland. Why would we build more than 1,000 additional hotel rooms for a stadium that will be primarily used for 10 football games a year? If the idea is to hold more than sporting events at the complex, aren’t we competing with our own taxpayer-funded convention center which is still struggling to attract events? What happens to the DC National Guard when the Armory is turned into a soundstage? Where would the hotels, housing and retail be built since most of the RFK Stadium site sits on a floodplain and under federal lease terms must be used for stadium or recreational use? And why would we fund this study when Mayor Gray has already asked Events DC to conduct a study on future uses for the RFK Stadium site? (Events DC has already posted a Request for Expressions of Interest seeking a consultant to conduct the study)

Clearly, Councilmember Orange’s plan is not feasible and not in the best interests of the city. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on a poorly thought out study, the DC Council should look to fund realistic future uses for the site – uses that serve both residents and visitors. An example is the Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park proposal, which aims to turn a portion of the stadium’s north parking lots into recreational fields. Not only is this project feasible, it also responds to a critical need for more recreational field space in the city.

What do you think about Councilmember Orange’s vision for the RFK Stadium site?