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.