Census Shows D.C.'s Fastest Growth In NoMa, Navy Yard, And Southwest Over the last decade Ward 6 gained more than 30,000 residents, fully one-third of D.C.'s population growth over that period. One problem: it's now too big.
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Census Shows D.C.'s Fastest Growth In NoMa, Navy Yard, And Southwest

Residential developments at The Wharf and in places like NoMa and Navy Yard fueled population growth in Ward 6, which added more than 30,000 residents over the last decade. Ted Eytan/Flickr hide caption

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Ted Eytan/Flickr

Granular data released by the U.S. Census on Thursday detail how Ward 6 helped fuel D.C.'s growth over the last decade. But the redistricting process that kicks off this fall will likely shift some of those neighborhoods to other wards.

Data released earlier this year put the city's population at 689,545 in 2020, a growth of almost 90,000 residents since a decade prior. The new data released Thursday showed that Ward 6 — which encompasses Capitol Hill, Navy Yard, the Southwest Waterfront, and portions of NoMa and Shaw — accounted for almost a third of that growth, adding 31,604 residents compared to the 2010 census. The slowest growth in the city occurred in wards 2 and 7, though caveats do apply because of the large presence of universities in Ward 2 and possibility of undercounting of Black residents in Ward 7.

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The data also show that almost half of the city's population growth over the last decade was due to the addition of white residents; in Ward 6, the number of Black residents decreased by 10%. Citywide, the share of Black residents decreased 9.1 percentage points over the last decade.

That Ward 6 grew so rapidly isn't surprising; new residential buildings have popped up with almost head-spinning frequency in NoMa and Navy Yard over the last decade, with The Wharf adding to that tally more recently. (NoMa's growth alone was clear two years ago, when the D.C. Board of Elections created a new voting precinct there to accommodate all the new residents.)

But all the growth is likely to have a consequence: Ward 6 is probably going to have to get smaller.

According to D.C. law, all of the city's eight wards have to be relatively equal in terms of population, with a permitted variance of 5% above or below the average ward population, which in 2020 would be 86,193 residents. To get to the upper end of the permitted variance, Ward 6 would have to give up some 17,699 residents to other wards, according to a calculation by Ward ANC Commissioner Corey Holman.

At the same time, the data show that wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River will have to expand, with Ward 7 needing to pick up more than 5,600 residents and Ward 8 some 3,370. (The current ward maps are all here.)

How this all happens will be left largely to the D.C. Council's three-person redistricting committee — Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), Christina Henderson (I-At Large), and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) — which will hold public hearings in the fall on how to adjust ward boundaries before drawing up and finalizing the maps in December.

The process may be less consequential than the state-level redistricting fights that determine congressional representation, but it can be just as emotionally and politically fraught. With Ward 7 having to grow, there is a chance that it will move further into Ward 6; it first jumped across the Anacostia River after the 2011 redistricting process. The late mayor and councilmember Marion Barry also once argued that Ward 8 should leap over the water to encompass portions of Navy Yard or the Southwest Waterfront, and that could well happen this time around.

But the changes could also be less dramatic than that. Ward 6 could give back the portions of Shaw it gained from Ward 2 in 2011 and shed some neighborhoods to Ward 7, while Ward 8 could stay east of the Anacostia River but pick off some neighborhoods from Ward 7.

And an even more parochial matter could animate the proceedings: residential parking. During the redistricting committee's first public hearing in May, some residents admitted they were particularly tied to their specific ward because of the parking privileges it confers; living on the east end of Capitol Hill in Ward 6 means unlimited street parking in hot spots like Navy Yard and Shaw, after all. (That may not be forever, though: As part of the city's 2022 budget, the council ordered a study on alternative approaches to residential parking, including shrinking the size of parking zones.)

If that wasn't enough, redrawing ward maps is but step one in the process — the committee will then turn its attention to Advisory Neighborhood Commission boundaries, the hyper-local representatives within each ward.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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