Tomorrow the DC Council Committee on Government Operations and the Environment is holding a hearing on Bill 18-0592 District Facilities Plan Amendment Act of 2009. It is NO SECRET that District-owned land is being given away to private developers. As my mama always says, "It's better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it." While we are giving away property were are spending approximately $140 million annual in leasing space for DC government agencies. ***shaking my head***
Needless to say yours truly, who has over seven years of planning experience, will be providing testimony as a public witness tomorrow. I wanted to share my written testimony. I'm limited to 3 minutes, so my actual oral testimony will be truncated.
My name is Miss V. I am a Partner/Principal Planner at Nspiregreen, LLC and a proud resident of Ward 7. I would like to thank Councilmember Chen and the honorable Committee members of the Committee on Government Operations and Environment for the opportunity to speak this morning on Bill 18-0592, the District Facilities Plan Amendment Act of 2009.
I commend the Committee for having the foresight and leadership to consider this bill. The Committee has shown clear understanding of the importance of asset management of public facilities. I fully support the creation of a District Facilities Plan. My testimony will focus on six key recommendations that I am presenting for consideration.
Recommendation 1 – Inclusion of the definition and purpose of the District Facilities Plan
The bill should clearly define what the plan is and how it should be utilized. The plan should be a comprehensive assessment of all District owned-facilities and properties, which includes a strategic plan for future use. The purpose of the plan should be to assist the District with strategically investing in the maintenance, use, expansion and upgrading of public facilities.
Recommendation 2 – The development of the initial plan should be an interagency planning effort
As the bill is currently written, Section 3b part (a) departments and agencies notify the Department of Real Estate Services of their facility needs including types and general locations. Then in Section 3b part (e), the Department of Real Estate Services is to conduct a study of the proposed facilities, which includes location and feasibility of costs. As this is a planning document, I recommend that the Department of Real Estate Services and Office of Planning jointly lead in the development of the initial plan. In addition, I recommend that an interagency working group be formed to ensure that as we look to the future we consider ways to collocate uses across multiple agencies.
Recommendation 3 – The District Facilities Plan should be a comprehensive and strategic long-term plan
While Section 3b part (c) infers the plan should be identify short and long-term needs, the bill should clearly define short and long-term. I recommend that long-term be defined as 20-years, which is consistent with the timeframe for the District’s Comprehensive Plan. I recommend short-term be defined as 5-years, which is consistent with the District’s Capital Improvement Plan.
Recommendation 4 – The District Facilities Plan should guide and inform the District’s Annual Operating Budget and Capital Plan
The District’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) is designed to help the City strategically plan for short-term capital improvements such as City utilities, transportation infrastructure, facilities, and open space. The CIP includes projected funding for the next five years across all agencies. Rather than create a separate process, the District Facilities Plan should lay the groundwork for any facility project proposed for the CIP. I recommend the Bill include language that outlines the connection between the District Facilities Plan and the District’s CIP.
Recommendation 5 – The District Facilities Plan should include opportunities for other uses of District-owned facilities
Section 3b part (c) outlines the components of the District Facilities Plan. I encourage the Committee to consider including in the plan opportunities for other uses of District-owned facilities that provide a re-occurring financial benefit to the City. For example, the City could transform an unused school building into a small business incubator and charge for office space. Another example is leasing space to non-profits and other community groups to enable them to carry out their missions. This provides an income stream to the City, while providing an opportunity for organizations to thrive.
Recommendation 6 – The process used to create the District Facilities Plan should be transparent and inclusive
As the bill is currently written, there is a provision for at least one public hearing during the bi-annual revision. I recommend that bill include provisions for a transparent process and public outreach during the development of the initial District Facilities Plan. Comparable to the process used for the development of the District’s Comprehensive Master Plan, there would be at least three strategically- located community meetings, in addition to a public hearing after the release of the Draft District Facilities Plan.
The bill mentions a District Facilities Planning Advisory Committee. I recommend the bill provide a definition of the committee’s purpose and composition.
In closing, this bill is a step in the right direction. In this economic climate, now is the time to think about the long-term sustainability of government functions. Before any more District property is sold to private development, we need to ensure that we can meet the needs of the future residents of the District. Thank you for your time.