Vincent Orange: Councilman For the District Past

At-large D.C. councilmember Vincent Orange has proposed legislation trying to freeze the District in place (boldface mine):

…he circulated “emergency” legislation called the Prohibition on Single Family Dwelling Conversions Emergency Amendment Act. This would forbid any building permit “to increase the height, or otherwise convert an existing one-unit or 2-unit house, including a row house, into a multi-unit dwelling [of 3 or more units].”

DC’s Office of Planning recently proposed, and the Zoning Commission approved, rules to limit height and numbers of units for the R-4, or moderate density row house, zones. Those rules aren’t nearly so restrictive as what Orange wants—they let people still build three units in a house and add on to houses up to 35 feet.

Those rules also don’t apply to the denser R-5 zones which have a mix of row houses and larger apartment buildings. Orange wants to forbid anyone from building onto their home in those areas as well.

Orange’s bill would turn most row house areas into exclusionary bastions open only to people who can afford a whole row house. He’s trying to redline many potential residents out of large parts of the city, even ones where multi-family buildings have always been legal.

The good news is that, even if this were to somehow pass the Council, the Zoning Commission wouldn’t allow (one of the few advantages of being the only mainland colony). But Councilman Orange has laid down a political marker, an ugly one:

But Orange got to make a statement. If you’re a young person who doesn’t own or can’t afford a whole rowhouse, Orange doesn’t want you. If you’re a poor resident, Orange doesn’t care about you. If you want your neighborhood to never change at all, Orange wants your vote, and he’ll propose illegal legislation that will harm the District to get it.

The good news is that he’s an at-large member, so we can vote his exclusionary and divisive ass out. Time for D.C. to join the 21st century and realize density is good for urban neighborhoods–and those who live in them.

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