D.C. Planning Director Stepping Down Following Comprehensive Plan Passage
D.C. Planning Director Andrew Trueblood is departing at the end of the year, and he says he is proud of his role in passing the amended Comprehensive Plan and helping change the conversation around housing development in the city.
Trueblood, who has served in the role for three years, plans to stay on through Dec. 31 before leaving to take on two new roles in the nonprofit and academic worlds, the Washington Business Journal first reported. He plans to work as an adviser to nonprofit America Achieves and serve as a visiting faculty member for Georgetown University's urban planning program.
Trueblood has spent most of his career in federal or local government, including roles at the Treasury Department, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and D.C.'s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. But he said he knew that when he took the planning director job in 2018, it would likely be his last stint in the public sector.
"I knew coming into this Office of Planning job that my next step would likely be outside of government," Trueblood told Bisnow in an interview Monday. "In this job, I had a major mission: The mayor gave me a mission of delivering this comp plan, and so once that was delivered and we delivered these other important things around housing and infrastructure, I knew it would be time to start my own next chapter and to support a new transition to someone else who can help take OP to the next level and continue to implement the mayor’s vision."
Mayor Muriel Bowser in August signed the amended Comprehensive Plan, the guiding land use document that shapes development in the District, ending a years-long process of debating and changing the plan. The amendments allowed for greater housing density in neighborhoods across the city, and they aimed to slow a wave of court appeals that have delayed projects for years.
Bowser introduced the Comprehensive Plan amendments in conjunction with the Housing Equity Report that set neighborhood-level targets for residential development in order to meet her goal of building 36,000 new residences by 2025, including 12,000 affordable units. The District government also pushed Maryland and Virginia to increase their housing goals, and the region in 2019 adopted new targets to build 320,000 total housing units by 2030.
Trueblood, who helped craft these plans and present them to a public that can often be skeptical of new development, said he believes he helped change the dialogue around housing in the city.
"I think the most important work that the housing goals, the housing framework and the work we did with the region, it really all was critical for changing some of the narrative around housing and to really understand that we have to attack it from all different angles, we have to fund it, but we also have to be able to build it," he said. "l think it got everybody aligned around the idea that we need to build it everywhere in city, in a way that I don’t think was part of the discussion before."
In addition to his work on the Comprehensive Plan and housing, Trueblood said he was also proud of his accomplishments related to transportation infrastructure. He said the Office of Planning helped prepare for a series of infrastructure projects that could benefit from the new influx of federal spending, including the redevelopment of Union Station. He also cited the city's resiliency strategy to respond to climate change and other forces that was launched in 2019.
"Something that is not mentioned as much but is quietly important is our work around infrastructure and transportation and resilience," Trueblood said. "That’s been important and will be even more important as this infrastructure money comes down and as a focus on resilience continues across the county."
Also during Trueblood's tenure, he helped with the implementation of D.C.'s Cultural Plan, which was released in 2019 with a series of initiatives aimed at supporting artists and cultural organizations in the District.
"One of the mottos of the Cultural Plan was ‘all infrastructure is a stage,' and it’s interesting to think about how we’ve been able to repurpose much of our infrastructure for other uses like 'streateries,' farmers markets, as well as things like arts and culture," Trueblood said. "Black Lives Matter [Plaza] is perhaps the best example really nationally of that, and the ideas that came from the Cultural Plan really supported that."
Trueblood said a confluence of major milestones in his professional and personal lives — the Comprehensive Plan's passage and his wedding last week — combined with the end of the year approaching, made now the right time to step away from the planning director job.
The Bowser administration hasn't yet announced Trueblood's replacement. The mayor is also looking for a permanent replacement for Polly Donaldson, who stepped down in September as head of the Department of Housing and Community Development. Drew Hubbard is currently serving as interim director of DHCD.
While Bowser looks for new top housing and planning officials, she is also preparing for a competitive re-election campaign next year. Ward 8 Council Member Trayon White and at-large Council Member Robert White, both Democrats, announced plans last month last to run against Bowser in the June 2021 primary.