Meaningful Racial Equity in DC Zoning

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The District of Columbia is required by law to include racial equity analysis in planning and zoning decisions. Are Zoning Commission (ZC) tools and implementation adequate to the task? Community members can weigh in at a Roundtable scheduled for 4 p.m. on September 22 (meetings are virtual). Stakeholders can learn more about DC’s current racial equity analysis tool, compare DC’s efforts with those of other cities, and learn how to share views with the Zoning Commission, at upcoming information sessions hosted by Empower DC

Two sessions are offered: one on Saturday, Sep 17, and another on Tuesday, Sep 20. Details and registration links below. For more on zoning history and challenges, see “Zoning: What is it good for?

To get a sense of what is at stake, We Act Radio checked in with Paul Johnson, organizer with Empower DC.

To begin, Johnson says —

Zoning plays a critical role in issues of affordability, displacement, and construction of new developments. We need the community to hold the Zoning Commission to account for their responsibility by law to use a racial equity analytic tools when making decisions….The exsisting tool is wholly and entirely inadequate, and feedback from the people is needed to ensure a meaningful racial equity analysis on zoning matters.

ZC’s Racial Equity Analysis Tool was launched in April of this year and is available here. The ZC is “required by law, by the District’s Comprehensive Plan, to use racial equity analysis on any zoning case,” Johnson explains. “The tool needs to be rigorous, robust, analytical, and focus on outcomes like redressing racial inequities: who benefits and who is burdened by any decision.”

According to DC’s Comprehensive Plan, District agencies must develop processes and tools tailored to various programs, activities, and decisions, centering and accounting for the needs of residents of color. These processes and tools must

• Identify and consider past and current systemic racial inequities;

• Identify who benefits or is burdened from a decision;

• Disaggregate data by race, and analyze data considering different impacts and outcomes by race; and

• Evaluate the program, activity or decisions to identify measures, such as policies, plans, or requirements, that reduce systemic racial inequities, eliminate race as a predictor of results, and promote equitable development outcomes.

The Empower DC information sessions will encourage key stakeholders — policy makers, community groups and affected communities — to share their views with the ZC. Information sessions are via zoom. The Roundtable, 4 p.m. on September 22, is also virtual.

Empower DC and the DC Grassroots Planning Coalition spearheaded organizing efforts that led to the amended Comprehensive Plan requiring the Zoning Commission to evaluate all zoning actions through a racial equity lens, says Parisa Norouzi, Executive Director of Empower DC. “Join us in holding the Zoning Commission accountable to the intent of this policy.”

Information Sessions and Roundtable

View and/or sign up to testify to the Zoning Commission: Roundtable is on 9/22; sign up to testify by 9/21.

information sessions, held via zoom:

Saturday, Sept 17 – 1-2:30 PM REGISTER FOR SAT

Tuesday, Sept 20th – 10-11 AM REGISTER FOR TUE

— Virginia Avniel Spatz, 9/16/22

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