OZ Performance Oversight Testimony of Spenser Balog – 2022


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

February 24, 2022 

Subject: Casey Trees Comments Performance Oversight for the Office of Zoning 

Dear Chairman Mendelson,  

Our mission at Casey Trees is to restore, enhance, and protect the tree canopy of our nation’s capital. We achieve this mission by planting trees, educating the public about the importance and significance of trees, and advocating for the preservation and protection of trees and green space.  

We recognize and commend the efforts of the Zoning Commission this past year in holding development teams accountable for their submission materials and ensuring that development impact on tree canopy is documented, contextualized and justified. It is essential for the City to meet its housing goals, and this should include providing residents with valuable green spaces.  

The District’s many environmentally-focused initiatives undoubtedly help make the City more livable, but it is imperative that private development contributes to the success of these initiatives by considering their holistic impact on a planning area. We urge the Council to update the PUD regulations to require every Community Benefits Agreement to include a sustainability or resiliency component. Removing mature tree canopy and replacing it with young canopy trees whose shade benefits cannot be enjoyed for a decade or more does not equip residents to withstand worsening climate effects in the near-term. With the scrutiny under which PUDs are reviewed, all facets of how the built environment impacts our ability to access and enjoy the natural environment should be considered.

Green buildings cultivate healthier indoor living conditions, but with over 90% of all life spent indoors on average, it is essential to have accessible green spaces within ¼ mile of all residents. We urge the Zoning Commission to memorialize the importance of green space in the zoning code by creating a Parks and Open Space Zone. Green space is not just an amenity, but a necessity for life in our current and future City. There is a finite amount of land available in the District that can support the growth of large canopy trees, and with recent data showing over a 1% decline in tree canopy over the last 5 years, plantable space is more valuable now than ever before.  

Lastly, we ask that the Office of Zoning and the Office of Planning prioritize the Comprehensive Plan Amendment recommendation to coordinate with neighborhood and community groups, homeowners and other landowners, and ANCs to identify additional areas to which the Tree and Slope Protection (TSP) should be extended, particularly in Wards 7 and 8. Sensitive habitat requires sensitive design, and we must be proactive now to ensure that the District’s unique topography is preserved long into the future.  

Thank you, 

Spenser Balog
Conservation Planner
Casey Trees