Dear Chevy Chase ANC Commissioners…

Here is the letter we submitted to the ANC via their website prior to the meeting last night at which several resolutions regarding the Library were to be discussed.

Dear ANC 3/4G Commissioners,

Please do not approve any resolution that supports the surplus of public land.

All the resolutions, except that of Cmsr Sherman, seem to favor public land surplus, even though nearly 60% of participants in the ANC survey opposed surplussing. I note again that the Chevy Chase Small Area Plan (SAP) does not contain the word surplus. Moreover, the District can easily build its own affordable housing on the Commons without surplussing the land and without involving a for-profit developer. Also, public ownership would mean permanent affordability, one of the city’s housing goals.

However, one wonders why the public land is even being considered for surplus when 8 “opportunity sites” for affordable housing were identified in the SAP. These include Safeway, where underground parking would be more cost efficient and more sustainably achieved, and Wells Fargo, where arguably the company owes society reparation for misdeeds. Perhaps an arrangement with one or both could be devised, if it were prioritized. Instead, so far, the opportunity sites have been ignored. Based on Office of Planning’s performance at the Wardman, where OP was unable to leverage any additional affordability while nonetheless assuring the public of many developer friendly incentives at OP’s disposal, we can assume the opportunity sites will not be pursued, making a further mockery of the city’s planning process.

Over the last twenty years, as Director of the Library Renaissance Project, I have observed the transformation of DC’s public libraries, the greatest on-going civic project in our city’s history. The West End Library giveaway was the only surplus carried out. Four other libraries were targeted for surplussing but their communities fought it off (Benning, MLK, SW, Tenley). A year and a half ago, the luxury housing built over the West End Library caused a flood that closed the public library for nearly two months. The Library administration has never issued a report of the cause, damage, remedy or prevention.

In Chevy Chase, a renovation of the freestanding library should be considered. When built, the library was structurally engineered to support a third floor later if needed. A fourth level roof garden with solar above, and a renovated basement level for things like a recording studio and maker-space could be had. Doing so would more than double library square footage rather than relegating the busy branch to a new smaller space under housing as proposed in the SAP. Of course, renovation is also better environmentally. DC libraries at Capitol View, Georgetown, MLK, Mt. Pleasant, NE, Palisades, Petworth, and Takoma – some historic, some not — have all been renovated to extraordinary acclaim, awards, and appreciation. All remain publicly owned, except the West End with its leaky luxury housing overhead.

Yours truly,

Robin Diener, Library Renaissance Project


Chevy Chase Commons: Privatized Food for Thought

by DC for Reasonable Development’s Chris Otten

Some representatives of ANC 3/4G are considering pivoting away from the nearly 3,000 voices of the same neighbors they solicited regarding the future of the existing Chevy Chase library, community center, and recreation green space at McKinley and Connecticut Avenue, NW.

Chevy Chase Civic Site – Aerial Image.JPG

Ward 3 and 4 residents nearby the Chevy Chase Commons have resoundingly (60:40) informed their representatives not to mix incompatible uses (housing and community services) and not to privatize the public land and air rights at the center of their neighborhood.

However, a combo platter of pro-developer & religious-affiliated growth cheerleaders have seemingly exerted enough pressure on some of the local ANC Commissioners as evidenced by the Gosselin draft resolution and conclusion: “[T]hat some housing should be built at the Community Center-Library site [and] that at least half of the housing built should be affordable … .”

This means that unless some serious amendments happen or another resolution is offered and adopted as a substitute, the Chevy Chase ANC could resolve that the city pick a real estate speculator-du-jour to build housing on a partially privatized Commons and half of that new housing could be some of the most expensive residential units in the city.

More rotten than that is the NIMBY name calling by the well paid “smart growth” advocates who seek to neutralize obvious public opposition to any privatization schemes. But what the “I want more neighbors who are wealthy and dogmatic like me” activists fail to tell their ranks or anyone for that matter is that the handful of “affordable” housing units that may get built at a privatized Commons actually won’t be affordable by anyone making DC’s “living wage” or even two to three times the living wage.

They know full well that DC’s “affordable” studios & one-bedrooms cost between $1500 to $2000 per month and are being delivered largely for singles making $60,000 to $80,000 annually.


This tortellini twisted definition of “affordability” in DC is what palpably makes Ward 3 Councilmember Matt Frumin’s reproach of racism in land use covenants more a grandstanding performance than any game changing policy reform. Hearing coming up this Friday:

Racial covenants on land deeds have been found unconstitutional and unenforceable since the late 1940’s (

Frumin’s concocted contortions from the Council dais (in store this Friday) are all in effort to ensure that “affordable” housing gets built on the Chevy Chase Commons to allegedly repair the harms of the past.

Sardonically, DC residents with lower incomes, due in part to the immense racial wealth gap in DC, won’t likely be able to live in any of the proposed housing on the Commons because of DC’s ridiculous definition of “affordable” housing as highlighted above.

DC for Reasonable Development agrees with Colby King about the massive displacement of longtime DC residents and families over the past two decades of so called smart-growth #buildmore unaffordable “affordable” housing:

The city’s “poor folk [are being forced] out of their neighborhoods” by the city’s “active role in development, selling or leasing publicly owned land, changing zoning laws, closing alleys and providing developers with inducements to construct new — or refurbish old — buildings … with resultant racial and class tensions.” –Colby King, WashPost (May 2019)

Ironically, Ward 3 is one of two wards citywide to gain in residents of color over the past ten years as most other Wards have undergone substantial displacement of our more vulnerable neighbors.


Attend the ANC Meeting Wed. Nite Dec 6, 6pm. In person at the community center and by Zoom.

Tune in (perhaps testify) at Councilmember Frumin’s Hearing on the covenants at the Commons.

Explore Social Housing or Community Land Trusts (CLT) as Both Don’t Require Surplus — If truly affordable housing on the Commons is what the some in the community really want (not that there aren’t at least eight other properties nearby where it can be built), public interest only prevails if a CLT or Social Housing model is deployed, both of which don’t require surplusing. Nothing in the law says (in fact quite the opposite) that privatization (surplus) is required of public land for if it’s privatized and given to a for-profit or for that matter a non-profit developer, then the future of the surplused portions will be forever out of the public’s hands. No surplus is needed for CLT’s or Social Housing.

Some Land Uses Don’t Mix — With the West End Library surplus and giveaway, we can see what happens when you mix incompatible uses such as housing over public facilities. In the summer of 2022, plumbing issues in the privatized portion of housing above the West End library shut the library down for almost 2 months. Public community services must be co-located with other public services so the public has control over accidents/problems/mishaps and with that public control we can get any affected public services back online and quickly.

Hope this has been helpful.

In service,
Chris Otten


Library Trustees Hear from Chevy Chase

Last Wednesday, Chevy Chase residents and library patrons sought to make the DC Board of Library Trustees aware that the current work to develop an architectural program around a combined library and community center on the Chevy Chase Commons might be premature. Two nights earlier, on Monday, the Chevy Chase ANC 3/4G had discussed the results of a Civic Site Survey they had carefully created and widely disseminated. The survey showed more than 60% of 2297 respondents in-ANC opposed surplussing the land, opposed housing on that public site, and opposed building heights at the site exceeding 60 feet.

The Trustees, who oversee the beloved and most highly rated agency in the District, did not seem concerned. Board President Antonio Williams said that he expected to be apprised further about the Chevy Chase situation at the January board meeting. Technically, DCPL and the Trustees have no say in ownership and land arrangements, which must be approved by the DC Council. But the Trustees are missing the point in this case — that a combined library and community center with housing above, for which they are developing the program, may not come to pass.

In Chevy Chase, the library land is part of a so-called civic core (with community center, recreational amenities, and park) all of which is proposed to be surplussed out of public ownership into private hands. Under those terms the library would become essentially a condo owned by the city, co-located with the community center in a larger housing and commercial building ala West End. (The West End library was closed for two months last year after flooding from a residential unit located above it, circumstances previously downplayed by Library Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan as a “leak.”)

The DC Office of Planning conducted a small area plan (SAP) approved in 2021, which also identified 8 “opportunity sites” for housing, but notably did not contain the word surplus, catching many residents unaware of the proposed land sale. And causing them to organize into a growing group of now 1500, Chevy Chase Voice, who support retaining the land for public use, and focusing on the SAP opportunity sites for housing. Some think the library facility, which was structurally engineered to have another story added, should be renovated as DCPL has done at Palisades and Capital View branches, which would also be the most environmentally correct approach, and could result in a substantially larger library rather than a slightly smaller new one as now proposed in a co-located facility DCPL as is now considering.