Comprehensive Plan and PUD Process Update

The Federal City Council has been convening DC’s leading business organizations to create a shared approach to policies impacting the DC business community. For the most important issues, the group develops one-pagers that lay out the key problems and recommended reforms. Below is an overview on upcoming revisions to DC’s Comprehensive Plan and the PUD Process.


The DC Office of Planning (OP) is updating DC’s Comprehensive plan, which is a blueprint for the city’s future development. In 2018, OP submitted to the DC Council the initial Framework Element that sets the guiding principles for the larger 1000-page Comprehensive Plan. Public input for the revision process has been exhaustive—over 3000 written comments were submitted and the Council held a marathon 13+ hour hearing in March 2018. Separate from the Comp Plan process, there are discussions about fixing the PUD process to provide a more predictable environment and limit frivolous court battles that prevent or delay development.

State of Play

The most common critique at the public hearing was that the Framework inadequately addressed affordable housing. The Framework is expected to be voted on by July 15. OP Interim Director Andrew Trueblood is expected to be confirmed by May 1 and he stated he will then conduct public outreach meetings over the summer to begin to draft the rest of its components (the Chapters).

Issues in Brief

1.  We need a revised Comprehensive Plan that provides a roadmap for the District’s growth to one million people by 2045.

  • Without building more housing at greater densities, housing prices inevitably rise, pushing people out of the city.
  • The Framework Element should be a tool for guiding a Comp Plan that, in particular:
    • Creates thoughtful and progressive utilization of areas near transit
    • Encourages the production of housing of all types and for all incomes
    • Clarifies the authority of the Zoning Commission
  • Strategies that provide for greater housing affordability should be addressed in the Housing chapter of the Comp Plan in order to keep other important neighborhood-led priorities and decisions (schools, jobs, commercial corridors, environmental protection and historic preservation, etc.) community-led and local.
  • Increases to building heights in certain areas should be on the table.

2.  We also need clarifications to administrative law governing PUD procedures.

  • The current language is used as the basis for lawsuits and could end up giving the Zoning Commission a greenlight to block development.
  • Uncertainty is having a strong chilling effect on development, with housing projects aiming smaller or avoiding the PUD process altogether.
3.  There are other real social costs to the city when residential development is obstructed.
  • The city loses income and real estate tax revenue that could be invested in social programs.
  • The local community misses out on the benefits that could be negotiated with developers using a PUD process and, in certain instances, the benefits associated with mixed-income, economically vibrant communities.