Racial Equity Considerations
From the Takoma Park City Council
In recent discussions on the proposed redevelopment of Takoma Junction, residents have raised questions about how the project might impact racial equity. Residents also have asked about the data sources and methodology applied to assess the impact of the project on residents of color in the community.
We are encouraged that residents are asking questions about racial equity. Over the last year, the Council has taken steps to operationalize its racial equity initiative, including providing racial equity training to members of Council-appointed committees, Councilmembers, City staff, and other residents; exploring the creation of a committee or task force on racial equity; and conducting a racial equity survey among City staff members.
Given residents’ feedback, the Council has reviewed our process and begun to identify ways to improve its deliberation process to better assess racial equity impacts. This review has reminded us of the limitations and challenges of this work, as well as the great opportunities it presents. As with much of the work we undertake, time, budget, and staff constraints create challenges. Specifically, for the racial equity work, one of the main limitations is that available data related to racial equity in the City are limited.
During our review process, we decided to change the name on agenda item memos from “Racial Equity Impact Statement” to “Racial Equity Considerations.” We will do the same for the fiscal and environmental impact statements. This change will emphasize that the content is not intended to be an end-product but rather is meant to generate discussion and thoughtfulness among members of the Council and the community at large. This new section will also include questions for consideration, rather than statements. More information about our review of the racial equity process can be found on the City’s Racial Equity Project Page.
Given the above, we have begun to revisit the racial equity considerations for the Takoma Junction Redevelopment Project. We plan to include new language in future agenda memos on the topic that raise questions we will consider during this process. The racial equity considerations are meant to generate discussion and we hope for feedback and ideas from residents. Below are our current racial equity considerations for the Takoma Junction Project. We look forward to residents’ feedback and continued discussions.
Over the next few months, the Council will also consider the proposed Takoma Junction redevelopment project and its impact within the larger context of the Priorities the Council has already set, such as:
- Support and commitment to rent stabilization and other affordable housing programs, such our affordable housing reserve fund, our affordable housing and economic development strategic plan, and continued use of PILOTS and grant programs to support equity goals;
- Support for recreation programs that provide low-cost and free childcare and recreation options;
- Investment in public services and public spaces including the renovation and expansion of the Library and ongoing negotiations regarding improvements to the New Hampshire Recreation Center, which could include increased recreation offerings to residents and new opportunities for affordable housing;
- Advocacy regarding elementary school site selection;
- Advocacy on behalf of residents and businesses impacted by the Purple Line;
- Community engagement efforts including additional translation of the newsletter, community survey, exploring innovative ways to increase participation in resident committees;
- Continued efforts regarding community policing and building strong relationships among our police officers and residents, especially young people.
Takoma Junction Racial Equity Considerations
Based on the latest Census data, 57% of residents in the City are people of color and 30% of businesses in the city are minority-owned. For the two wards closest to the Takoma Junction project — Ward 2 and Ward 3 — the racial composition of the wards are 38% and 34% people of color respectively.
Racial equity questions raised by this project include:
- Would the project create new barriers or hardships for communities for color? Would it provide new opportunities for communities of color?
- Who would be drawn to shop, eat, relax, and/or work in this development? How does that compare with the current situation? Could the project lead to greater inclusivity in the City?
- Is this location accessible to people who do not have cars, through public transit and/or safe walking/biking infrastructure? How might traffic or pedestrian impacts affect people of color?
- Does this project displace residents or create hardships for them? Who is impacted by any potential displacement or hardships? How would it affect existing local minority-owned business and property owners?
- Could the City provide opportunities through policy, programming, or other actions to expand potential positive opportunities and/or mitigate negative impacts?
If the project moves forward, in the coming months, the Council would consider program, policy, and budget steps to expand positive opportunities and/or mitigate negative effects. The following are examples of possible ways the City could address racial equity at Takoma Junction and in the City as a whole:
Encourage economic opportunity:
- Encourage minority-owned businesses: Are there policies or programs the City can put greater emphasis on or create to support minority-owned businesses?
- Create jobs available to local residents on an equitable basis: How can the City partner with local businesses to expand the City’s summer employment program for young people and expand the program to year round? Are there other steps the City could take regarding equitable job opportunities? Can local jobs be created during construction?
- How can the City provide opportunities for community engagement, for example, building on successful public arts projects such as the mural project on Holton Lane? What opportunities are there to encourage inclusive events and activities?
- How can the City encourage services, products, restaurants and other types of businesses at Takoma Junction that would be desired by a variety of residents in Takoma Park? For example, City could ask for that information in community surveys.
- Continue discussions with SHA and the County about the reconfiguration of the intersection, location of bus stops, and sufficient parking, and ensure we are considering racial equity impacts in assessments.
- How can the City best use additional revenue from the development to advance racial equity in the City? For example, Council could allocate a percentage of the property tax or ground lease revenue to go directly to the affordable housing reserve or to fund local recreation programs that serve low-income families and children, such as the free Lunch and Learn summer camp or the ACES afterschool program at Essex House.
Commitment to racial equity overall:
- Explore potential ways to assist low-income homeowners through property tax assistance programs, and build on and improve affordable housing policies and programs, including rent stabilization, the housing reserve fund, tenant advocacy and assistance, and more.
Consider the questions posed above and others related to racial equity at each step of the process and look for opportunities to create more racially equitable outcomes.