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Capitol Hill neighbors question Ward boundary changes

DC's council advances proposal to align parts of Capitol Hill and the Navy Yard with Wards East of Anacostia River

WASHINGTON — Parts of Capitol Hill and the rapidly growing Navy Yard section of Southeast, D.C. are set to be reassigned to wards traditionally representing communities on the east side of the Anacostia River more heavily impacted by poverty and crime.

D.C. Council members voted 11 to 1 to advance the controversial plan Tuesday.

The plan, if finalized in a follow-up vote set for Dec. 21, would bring the boundaries of Wards 7 and 8 further across the Anacostia River, thanks to population changes reported in the 2020 census. The boundary change has been especially controversial in the far eastern part of Capitol Hill, which will be reassigned from Ward 6 to Ward 7.

"I really like where we at, the way things are now,” said 81-year-old Ronald McIntyre who lives on Bay St. SE. “That’s the other side of the river.  Leave things like they are."

Neighbor Charlie Bright noted that living in Ward 6's fast gentrifying neighborhoods around Capitol Hill come with a measure of prestige.

"A lot of people bought houses because this was ward 6," Bright said. "Is the value of the houses going to go down?"

In the wake of the 2020 Census, councilmembers are redrawing ward boundaries with a particular focus on a population boom linked to growth and development in Ward 6, according to At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who served on the subcommittee that worked on the new boundaries.

"Ward 6 needed to reduce population and 7 and 8 needed to grow," Silverman said. "So, therefore, these Wards needed to be redrawn by law."

The boundaries of Wards 7 and 8 -- traditionally representing Anacostia and other neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, with higher rates of poverty and crime -- will be expanded to take in sections of the east end of Capitol Hill and the Navy Yard, where the population has been growing fast with new development.

Ward 6 representative Charles Allen called it the biggest shift in ward population in D.C. history.

"With a requirement that Ward 6 must lose nearly 20,000 residents, there's just simply no map that you can put in front of me that I'm going to like,  none," Allen said.

In the end, Allen and 10 of his colleagues voted for the plan.

RELATED: Local leaders ‘walk in their shoes' to learn what Ward 7 kids have to navigate to get to school, closest library

The only vote against the plan came from Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie who objected to changes in his ward that would move the Armed Forces Retirement Home and Washington Hospital Center out of his Ward.

The Council was split 6 to 6 on McDuffie's amendment to undo the change.

Notably absent from the meeting was Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray, who suffered a "mild stroke" while hospitalized over the weekend for bronchitis, according to his staff. Gray is in good spirits and recovering. 

The full council is set for a final vote on the redistricting plan on Dec. 21.

RELATED: DC Councilmember had 'mild stroke' while hospitalized, will miss council meeting

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