Giving Away Development Rights in Washington, DC

Today the Washington Post reports that the District of Columbia is considering giving away development rights to publicly owned property to private developers, in exchange for commitments that they build libraries, schools or other public facilities.
With the costs of fixing schools and libraries estimated at close to $2 billion, said D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, “I don’t believe we can tax our way out.”

Does it occur to proponents of such programs that the monies raised from such giveaways are not donations — but typically paltry payments for the generous handing over of public property?

In a city such as Washington, DC, where developers are falling all over themselves to put up new luxury condominiums, wouldn’t it make more sense to require private developers to build public facilities as a condition of gaining zoning and other regulatory approvals for yet another luxury development? This is not exactly a novel idea — the idea of development “linkage” remains vibrant (see a discussion from PolicyLink for more details), even after some developer-friendly U.S. Supreme Court decisions — but seems off the radar screen in the District, where the mayor and the council chair are too cozy with developers.