OP Budget Testimony of John Boland – 2022

April 6, 2022 

Chairman Phil Mendelson
Committee of the Whole
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004 

Subject: Casey Trees Comments for the Budget Oversight of the DC Office of Planning  

Our mission at Casey Trees is to restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of our nation’s capital. To accomplish this, we plant trees, advocate for stronger tree and green space protections, and educate the public on the benefits of trees. Thank you for the opportunity to provide written testimony on the Mayor’s proposed FY2023 Budget for the Office of Planning.   

Trees have a place in every new development. Having a healthy and expansive tree canopy benefits communities through beautification, ecosystem services such as stormwater management and heat island cooling, and climate resiliency. Recently, land use surveys have shown that the District’s tree canopy coverage decreased by 1% between 2015 and 2020, a loss of roughly 500 acres of trees, while impervious surface increased.  This is a setback to DC’s Sustainability Plan goal of 40% tree canopy by 2032. 

DC has some of the most ambitious climate resiliency and adaptation commitments in the country, and the Office of Planning has a role to play in ensuring that our tree canopy grows to achieve these goals. Executing these large-scale policies without planning is a monumental task. OP is in a unique situation where you have the capacity to anticipate new development, rather than react with mitigation efforts when new developments do not meet environmental resiliency metrics. Allocating resources where they will be needed as opposed to playing catch-up once development occurs enables us to come out ahead of our goals and provide benefits to Washingtonians sooner. Given the decrease in canopy coverage, now more than ever we need to focus on conservation of existing natural resources and how environmental tools such as trees can be used in development to the greatest extent possible.  

Casey Trees is glad to see substantial budget increases to support redevelopment of New York Avenue with new, denser housing and commercial opportunities. We hope that the vision for changes to the New York Avenue area will include more trees and greenspace, both as quality-of-life assets and to provide ecosystem and community services to an area of DC that is already one of the most affected by urban heat island effect. Natural resources can go a long way to improve both the aesthetic quality of new developments and the wellbeing of the communities along this corridor. 

We are also pleased to see funding for implementation of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.  We urge the Office of Planning to prioritize the Comprehensive Plan Amendment recommendation to work with the Office of Zoning, neighborhood and community groups, and ANCs to identify additional areas where the Tree and Slope Protection designation should be extended, particularly in Wards 7 and 8. This would provide significant ecosystem benefits to areas of DC seeing greatest canopy loss, and preserve DC’s natural topography.  

Casey Trees supports the mission of the Office of Planning to ensure that the District’s long-term growth reflects the city’s goal of building inclusive, vibrant, and green communities. With thoughtful growth and development, we can build a resilient and sustainable city in which all residents can thrive.  

Thank you for your consideration. 

John Boland
Policy & Advocacy Associate
Casey Trees