McMillan Developers Launch Biased, Flawed Internet Survey

The developers chosen to develop the historic national landmark McMillan Sand Filtration Site have suddenly discovered the need to determine what the nearby community (and everybody else) really wants for the site. A full seven years after signing an “Exclusive Rights Agreement” with the District Government and presenting their plan to overdevelop the site at countless official and unofficial meetings, Vision McMillan Partners (VMP) has sent out, via the Internet and social media, a survey that is both flawed and biased.

Unlike the ANC 5C / McMillan Advisory Group 2012 survey that employed generally accepted methodologies for survey design, the VMP/District survey is subject to these design flaws:

  1. Ballot-stuffing: survey takers are not identified; anybody on the Internet can “vote early and vote often”;
  2. Unfocused: this survey has no mechanism to disaggregate the data collected so that anyone can determine where respondents are from:
    1. the surrounding community,
    2. Ward 5,
    3. the District of Columbia, or
    4. anywhere on the Internet;
  3. Exclusivity: the survey is apparently being conducted only via e-mail and at selected meetings, and thus many people, particularly older, long-term residents will be left out.
  4. Biased questions: some questions offer false choices between either the VMP/District’s poor development or no development at all, and other questions offer many options but limit answers to “choose only three,” automatically diluting the number and intensity of the concerns people have.

“Why are VMP and the District Government all of a sudden doing this survey after seven years of trying to sell us on their plan to overdevelop McMillan?,” asked John Salatti, a Bloomingdale resident, former ANC Commissioner, and member of The Friends. “Are they finally realizing that our rigorous door-to-door survey last year and the hundreds of petition signatures we have collected, both for more park and less development, show what people really want?”

The community completed its comprehensive, unbiased, door-to-door survey over a year ago and presented the results to Mayor Gray, the City Council, including Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, and to neighborhood and civic associations. The survey showed that an overwhelming majority of neighbors want over 50% park and preservation of the underground cells and above-ground silos. The VMP/District plan, in contrast, calls for an undistinguished, suburb-like development with 12-story office buildings on the north, massive automobile traffic at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue, destruction of most of the historic underground water filtration caverns and above-ground structures, and minimal contiguous park space.

“This flawed VMP/District Government survey is one more reason for Mayor Gray to cancel the June 6 meeting on declaring McMillan surplus,” said Salatti. “When we meet with Councilmember McDuffie next week, we will ask him to join our appeal to the Mayor.”

Friends of McMillan Park Urges Councilmember McDuffie and Mayor Gray to Cancel 6 June Surplus Meeting

Last week, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie agreed to meet with the Friends of McMillan Park to discuss the future of this 25-acre site on June 3. At this meeting, the Friends will urge Councilmember McDuffie to ask Mayor Gray to cancel the scheduled 6 June community meeting to be held on his Administration’s proposal to declare McMillan Sand Filtration Site surplus property. The Friends’ request is based on three vital pieces of information missing from the public record and problems of inadequate notice.

The first critical pieces of documentation missing from the public record are analyses that DC law requires the Mayor to provide when attempting to surplus public land. Specifically, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) has failed to make available to the public documents and information needed to fully and meaningfully evaluate and comment on the surplus proposal. According to the DC Code § 10-801, the Mayor must present analysis to the public explaining whether the land being considered as surplus “has any necessary use by the District and why, including economic factors and policy objectives which serve as the basis for this decision and a description of how competition for the land may be maximized, as well as a description of how the economic and policy objectives will be weighted and evaluated in the disposition process.” The Code also requires that the Mayor detail “what public benefit would obtain by selling, or keeping, the land.”

The second crucial document that the public must see is the “Exclusive Rights Agreement” DMPED has with Vision McMillan Partners (VMP), the consultant that DMPED picked to develop the site. This agreement has been the subject of FOIA requests filed on 17 October 2012 and 11 May 2013. Both of these requests were denied, making it impossible for The Friends and others to meaningfully evaluate the Mayor’s decisions and therefore unable to respond to either the proposed surplus designation or VMP’s development plans in a rational, meaningful way.

The final vital document not in the public record is an updated Fiscal and Economic Impact Analysis (FEIA) for the McMillan Park project. The only document on file was crafted in June 2011, but despite the significant changes to the development plans presented to the public and official review bodies, including those resulting from the addition late last year of the DC Water infrastructure project to address neighborhood flooding, DMPED has failed to produce an accurate FEIA.

Regarding inadequate notice about this community meeting, The Friends are very concerned that DMPED is attempting to limit community input in two ways. First, the only meeting notices from the District have been electronic. This effectively disenfranchises older, long-term residents who tend not to use the Internet. Second, the District’s electronic notices identify the site in a way that can easily mislead the public. Instead of identifying the parcel of land in its announcements to the affected communities to be considered as “the McMillan Sand Filtration Site”, DMPED identified the land by a street address only: 2501 First Street NW. No one knows McMillan by that address in no small part because the District has never posted a street address anywhere on the property. At best, this use of the address smacks of clumsy bureaucracy and lack of concern for the community; at worst, it is a not-so-subtle way of trying to prevent public input through the use of disinformation.

Because of the lack of vital information needed for a meaningful and rational meeting on the proposal to surplus McMillan Park, we strongly urge Councilmember McDuffie to advocate along with us that Mayor Gray cancel the June 6 meeting.

Friends of McMillan Park 28 May 2013 Letters to Government Officials:

  1. FMP Letter to CM McDuffie – 28 May 2013
  2. FMP Letter to Mayor Gray – 28 May 2013
  3. FMP Letter to DMPED Hoskins – 28 May 2013

Friends of McMillan Park Requests Meeting with Councilmember McDuffie

On the morning of Monday, 20 May 2013, Friends of McMillan Park delivered the following message via email to the Office of Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie regarding the DC Government’s proposal to declare the city-owned portion of national historic landmark McMillan Park to be surplus public land suitable for giveaway to a private developer.



Dear Council Member McDuffie,

As you know, the city will hold a meeting on June 6th to seek the community’s views on its plans to declare the publicly-owned McMillan Reservoir Park Historic District “surplus” and, therefore, eligible for sale to a private developer. The future of the McMillan Reservoir Park Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will have a direct impact on — and is of great interest to — many residents of Ward 5.

We would like to meet with you prior to the June 6th meeting to hear your position on the proposal to declare the site “surplus” as well as the Vision McMillan Partners’ plan. Would you please let us know a date and time convenient for you? You may reach us by contacting Hugh Youngblood at 202-630-2262 or sending an email to

Thank you, in advance, for your prompt response to our request.


Friends of McMillan Park


Save the Date – McMillan Park Surplus Hearing – Thurs, 6 June 2013, 6:30pm

All hands on deck! We need YOU to attend the critical upcoming community meeting on the surplus declaration proposed for McMillan Park.

On Thursday, June 6, 2013, at 6:30 pm, the District Government will hold a public hearing in the neighborhood to listen to the community’s views on its plans to declare the McMillan Reservoir Park Historic District to be “surplus” public real estate.  This is a clinical way of the Government saying that our historic site provides zero value to the community and is therefore best suited for disposal via sale or give-away to their developer cronies.

The city is going to great lengths to minimize the publicity of this important community hearing. For example, the required 30-day meeting notice fails to even include the name “McMillan”.  Rather, the notice simply and coldly identifies this historic treasure as “2501 First Street NW” or “Square 3128, Lot 0800”.

In order to save McMillan Park, we must pack the hearing room with DC residents ready to speak out loudly against the proposed “surplus” designation. We need your help.

Please join us – and bring a friend or two.  Let’s make it clear to the Mayor and City Council that our historic green space is an essential community asset rather than waste to be thrown away.

Logistics details:

  • Event: McMillan Park Surplus Community Meeting
  • Date: Thursday, June 6, 2013
  • Time: 6:30pm
  • Location: All Nations Baptist Church
  • Address: 2001 North Capitol Street NE (North Capitol & Rhode Island)