CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR QUESTIONED ON ZONING

October 22, 2014: Mayoral candidates Carol Schwartz and David Catania took questions from the public in a meeting sponsored by the Kalorama Citizens Association. After a brief statement by each candidate, the microphone was passed to audience members. 

Although candidates were allotted only a few minutes for their replies to each question, time limits were not strictly enforced.

Audience members asked questions about education, economic development, job creation, residential zoning and the city's future. But the first question dealt with the issue of homelessness. So did the final question.

Before we give a more detailed report (forthcoming if time allows) on the entire event, we want to cover the issue of greatest concern to readers of this website: downzoning.

[UPDATE: Kalorama Citizens Association has provided a summary of the forum to the public through the Adams Morgan listserv]


2014 MAYORAL CANDIDATE POLL

NEIGHBORS AGAINST DOWNZONING has been polling all candidates for Mayor, Council and ANC for their opinions on downzoning. Although we've received many responses from ANC candidates, and some replies from candidates for D.C. Council, no candidates for Mayor have responded so far. 

This was not an entirely unexpected situation. So we took the opportunity of the KCA Q-and-A session to ask candidates CAROL SCHWARTZ and DAVID CATANIA for their opinions in person.

We DO NOT consider their responses to our question as equivalent to PARTICIPATION IN OUR POLL. But we believe we can provide an accurate characterization of their responses and that those responses do fall within the options we presented in our poll. 

We invite Ms. Schwatrz and Mr. Catania, along with all D.C. mayoral candidates, to participate in the poll if their busy schedules allow.



Memory is never as accurate as an audio recording but unless someone has such a recording to share with us, we'll have to rely on memory and the few notes we took immediately after the event.

Here's the question we asked the candidates. 
(It was the fourth question of the evening).

"I'm a long time homeowner and my home is my biggest investment by far. I've been counting on that investment for my retirement, so I'm concerned that some people want to downzone my neighborhood to limit both the height and the number of units in a building. What do you think of this downzoning hysteria spreading across residential areas and how it might impact the city's future?" 

Ms. Schwartz replied first, saying no homeowner should lose home value due to downzoning.

Mr. Catania replied that he assumed we were referring to "pop-ups." He cited an example of a house popping-up several stories above neighboring houses, blocking solar panels, etc. Regarding density, he cited an example of a neighbor of his who converted a 2200 square foot house into seven separate dwellings. (The audience gasped audibly at this). Then he bemoaned the effect all those new residents would have on parking. 

Ms. Schwartz backtracked a bit on her previous answer, saying that pop-ups that caused problems for neighbors had the potential to be problematic.

Our follow up comment: 
"Mr. Catania has cited some rather extreme examples, but in our neighborhood, currently we have a 50 foot height limit and some folks want to bring that down to a 40 foot height limit."

Mr. Catania replied that a 50 foot height limit in a neighborhood of two-story buildings could result in additions that towered over their neighbors.

We responded:
"In our neighborhood all the houses are already at least 40 feet tall so downzoning would affect height by only ten feet, but that would block an entire top floor addition."

Mr. Catania said the relation of one house to another in any block could be a factor to consider. He said that seeking a zoning variance was always an option although the process could be lengthy. He expressed hope that neighbors could work together without fear of each other or the government in solving these problems.



Our Mayoral Candidate Poll offers five options and a space for additional comments. 

The options offered are:

I will support downzoning only if a majority in the city support it.

I oppose downzoning that takes away home owner property rights.

I am in favor of downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods.

Every neighborhood is different. There is no "one size fits all" solution.

No opinion.



OUR PLACEMENT OF THE CANDIDATES BASED ON THEIR COMMENTS.

CAROL SCHWARTZ: 
Based on her initial comment, we would place her firmly under this option:
I oppose downzoning that takes away home owner property rights. 
However, her follow-up comments would seem to lean toward this option: 
Every neighborhood is different. There is no "one size fits all" solution.

DAVID CATANIA: 
Based on his initial comments, we would place him under the option of: 
I am in favor of downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods. 
Based on his later comments, he would seem to lean toward this option: 
Every neighborhood is different. There is no "one size fits all" solution.

We will share this post with the Schwartz and Catania campaigns, and hope that the candidates will have an opportunity to read this post and correct any errors of fact or interpretation they may find. 



MURIEL BOWSER:
Although she did not attend the KCA Q-and-A event on Oct. 21, based on her comments quoted below, we must place her under the option of: 
I am in favor of downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods. 

Which city agency would Bowser blow up if elected? Which type of homes does she think are an eyesore? Bowser went further . . . than in any public debate: The Democratic nominee thinks pop-ups are plain “ugly,” she said Sunday night [Oct. 19, 2014]. And the agency responsible for issuing building permits is “in a state of emergency,” she said, because of its failure to be responsive to the building industry.

Reported in 



BRUCE MAJORS: 
Mr. Majors sent us a VIDEO LINK.
Based on his comments, we place him firmly under this option:
I oppose downzoning that takes away home owner property rights. 



FAITH:
Based on comments by her campaign manager, we place Faith under this option:
Every neighborhood is different. There is no "one size fits all" solution.



LIST OF CANDIDATES FOR THE 2014 GENERAL ELECTION