Councilmember Allen Introduces Two Bills to Put People First and Create Pedestrian-Only Streets, Support Civic Life and Boost Economic Activity

Today, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen is introducing two bills to create more regular pedestrianized corridors in the District. The goal is to designate more desirable areas for people to gather and local businesses to thrive.

The Public Life and Activity Zones Amendment (“PLAZA”) Act of 2023 directs the District Department of Transportation (“DDOT”) to identify and designate one corridor that is at least one-quarter mile long to be closed to personal vehicle traffic for at least 24 daytime hours per week starting in October 2026, with two more corridors to be designated by 2027. 

Councilmember Allen will also reintroduce a bill originally introduced in 2018: the Game On: Providing Leisure Activities for Youth Amendment Act of 2023, which would allow residents to close their block to play in the street on short notice.  

Public Life and Activity Zones Amendment (“PLAZA”) Act of 2023 

“Open Streets and Adams Morgan Day are incredibly popular for a reason, and pedestrian-friendly City Center and the Wharf are driving economic activity in our city. But right now, we give up a tremendous amount of our public space to traffic most of the time, which limits our ability to create vibrant hubs for civic life and entertainment,” said Councilmember Charles Allen. “The most desirable places in DC and in countries across the globe have one thing in common: they put people first to create public plazas for walking, shopping, art, dining, entertainment, and importantly, building community.” 

The bill requires DDOT to identify potential corridors, gather community input, and ultimately establish three pedestrian-only zones. 

  • DDOT will identify three possible streets and gather feedback from residents, business owners, ANCs, BID, CIDs, Main Streets, and other community groups that could be impacted by closing the road to cars. 
  • DDOT will issue a report by January 2025 describing the three potential corridors, challenges associated with closing each street, recommendations for addressing these challenges -- including plans to maintain emergency, government, freight vehicle, and public transit access during street closures, and more. 
  • After publishing the report, DDOT will gather community feedback and convene public meetings about each potential corridor. 
  • The initial corridor will be chosen and announced by September 30, 2025. 
  • DDOT can then issue up to $2.5 million in grants to residents, businesses, BIDS, and other organizations to support efforts to enhance the pedestrianized zone, such as installing public art, establishing or expanding streateries, developing public space to be utilized during the car-free times, and more. The District will also dedicate $2.5 million within the Capital Improvement Plan to fund infrastructure improvements within the selected corridor.  
  • The first pedestrian-only corridor begins closing to vehicles during the designated times in October 2026. 
  • After a one-year pilot program of the first designated corridor, plans for the remaining two corridors would be included in any updates to MoveDC -- the District’s Long-Range Transportation Plan -- beginning in 2027. 

Game On: Providing Leisure Activities for Youth Amendment Act of 2023 (the GO PLAY Act) 

Councilmember Allen will also be re-introducing another bill that would help prioritize using public space for all residents, the “Game On: Providing Leisure Activities for Youth Amendment Act of 2023” (the GO PLAY Act), which would establish a process to close a residential block to create play space.  

In particular, the bill would allow a resident over 21 to apply for their block to become a “preauthorized block.” On a preauthorized block, any of three designated residents could close the street for street play on any weekend, holiday, or a scheduled day off for DCPS. The resident would simply post notice on the block 48 hours in advance and notify DDOT, and on a preauthorized block, the permit would be deemed approved—and the street closed—unless DDOT affirmatively objects. Preauthorizing a block would require annual agreement from 80 percent of residents on the block and approval from DDOT, which would determine whether frequent closing of the block would create a public safety or traffic concerns.