Jan 26, 2023 - News

D.C.'s top two leaders disagree on how to save downtown

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson

The two disagree on development. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

D.C.’s top two leaders aren't seeing eye-to-eye about how to revive downtown, with Council chair Phil Mendelson opposing Mayor Muriel Bowser's proposals to raise building height limits and increase development.

Why it matters: The stark differences portend a stalemate between the mayor and the council over how to revitalize the District in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Driving the news: Bowser and Mendelson spoke last night at an event hosted by the planning advocacy group Committee of 100.

  • Bowser reiterated her support for raising the federal Height Act from 130 feet to 160 feet in some areas to allow for more dense buildings and make room downtown for 15,000 new residents by 2028.
  • Mendelson said “development is not the solution” and that D.C. can reverse its stalled population growth by improving public education, supporting cultural and live events, and getting federal workers back to the office.

One point of agreement: D.C. should not permanently ban cars in some zones, both leaders said. It’s an idea inspired by some European cities and floated by pedestrian advocates.

Context: Cuneyt previously reported on the icy ties between Bowser and Mendelson. Both have had trouble hashing out their differences, impeding progress on topics such as the future of RFK Stadium.


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