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I’ve got a cover story this week on D.C. planning director Harriet Tregoning, and naturally, a couple things wouldn’t fit.

  • More on how she’s regarded by the people who build things in this city: I checked in with Merrick Malone, the  immediate past president of the D.C. Building Industry Association, who was former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly‘s deputy mayor for planning and economic development. He had pretty good things to say about Tregoning—-although her office has been a little too anti-parking for his taste, he says she listens to all sides of most issues, and is a good advocate for the District’s interests on the federal level. The more interesting part, though, was remorse for the lack of planning while he was in District government. “I would have killed to have had a planner like [former Planning director Andy] Altman or Tregoning. It was a huge piece that the city had missed for a long time,” Malone said. “I don’t think that the emphasis on planning was as great as it should have been.”
  • The guy who recruited Tregoning was former Transportation Director-turned-City-Administrator Dan Tangherlini, who says that even when they were starting to cut back on budgets towards the middle of Adrian Fenty‘s term, Tregoning fought hard to preserve funding for her office, which could have been gutted. And he had this to say about her manner: “I think she is a fantastically patient impatient person.”
  • The Committee of 100 had also slammed Tregoning for assuming the role of the Mayor’s Agent, who serves as the level of appeal above the Historic Preservation Review Board. She says she didn’t want the job either—-it had been Fenty’s orders. Furthermore, their suspicion that she would put development over preservation was unfounded: She pushed back hard against Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins‘ fear that attachment to old buildings would retard progress. Their full exchange on the subject is pasted after the jump.


From: Hoskins, Victor (EOM)

Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2011 8:50 AM

To: Tregoning, Harriet (OP)

Cc: VCG; Murphy, Christopher (EOM); Kenner, Brian (EOM); Rios, Ingrid (EOM)

Subject: Recent Historic Preservation Designation Activity


I am beginning to becoming gravely concerned by the zealous nature of the historic preservation decisions that I see moving forward in the City right now. Whether it is in Ward 8 at St. E or Ward 2 at K Street and Vermont NW there is an unreasonable level of desire to keep things the same. Cities are dynamic, markets are fluid and growth is essential. As you know, we have respectfully disagreed on points and that is healthy in a complex economy like DC. However, after three decades of experience in the field of Planning and Economic Development, I have learned that it is necessary to strike a balance to keep jobs, grow an economy and preserve buildings, places and spaces.

In view of the aforementioned, I need you, Chris Murphy and I to sit down and discuss how we strike a balance. Some have said having the Mayor’s Agent, Historic Preservation Officer and other essential function placed of historic preservation in the same department creates a policy framework that is unbalanced. We need balance if we are going to be successful in competing for jobs in this global economy.

This is what we need to discuss. I will have Ingrid set up a time for the three of us to meet.

Thank you.


Victor Hoskins

Deputy Mayor

Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Executive Office of the Mayor DC Government



From: Tregoning, Harriet (OP)

Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2011 9:25 AM

To: Hoskins, Victor (EOM)

Cc: VCG; Murphy, Christopher (EOM); Kenner, Brian (EOM); Rios, Ingrid (EOM)

Subject: RE: Recent Historic Preservation Designation Activity

Victor, I am very happy to meet, but I do (respectfuly) disagree.

FWIW, I don’t think the Mayor’s Agent should be in the same office either (the previous Mayor made that decision—more because he held your view, and appointed me to that post), but I have recently did what Council Chairman Gray had suggested and delegated that responsibility to an independent third party as had been the case for the previous 8+ years.

In our city, the laws make it easy to list an eligible historic property and the ultimate decision to make that listing comes from the Mayorally‐appointed Historic Preservation Review Board. Most of the nominations for designation come from community groups, ANCs and non‐profits, as well as the property owner (often in part to gain eligibility for tax credits).

We use discretion on whether to move these designations forward, often based on degree of support for the designation or whether there are proposals to alter the buildings. The law gives the building proposed OR ELIGIBLE for designation some of the same protections that an already designated building enjoys. There are hundreds of buildings in that “proposal” queue, nominated by others but not yet acted upon by the Historic Preservation Office or the HPRB.

If you wanted to change the process or protections that eligible buildings enjoy, that would require a legislative change that of course your office could pursue. Designation or eligibility for designation does not mean that buildings cannot be torn down or altered. However, there is more process that is involved ‐‐ including a demonstration that the alternation or demolition is necessary in the public interest or to construct a project of special merit. So, for instance, demolition might be allowed to permit a property

  • owner to build a modern grocery store in a part of town that is a food desert, but not to replace an office building with a perfectly ordinary office building of exactly the same size.

Recent examples of substantial alternation or demolition being permitted of historic structures include the car barn on Georgia Ave for the Wal‐mart construction and the Brutalist Third Church of Christ building at 16th and I street, NW.

Would you like this meeting to include some background on our existing process, what is mandated by legislation and what is discretionary as well as what roles the various entities play (HPRB, HPO and the Mayors Agent) or is that unnecessary?

Cheers, harriet

Harriet Tregoning

Director, DC Office of Planning