STATEMENT TO ANC-1C PLANNING, ZONING and TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE: OCT. 15, 2014



My name is Ronald Baker.


In 2002, I was lucky enough to buy the house in Lanier Heights which I had rented for more than a decade. 


In 2008, I was one of the founders of the Lanier Citizens Association, organized to keep Lanier Heights residents free from the burden of historic district regulations. 


In 2014, I was one of the founders of Neighbors Against Downzoning, formed to protect home owner zoning rights in Lanier Heights. I am here tonight because the downzoners have proposed zoning changes that will rob Lanier Heights home owners of those rights.


We offer a better proposal: Let your neighbors keep the zoning rights that have existed in Lanier Heights for the last three generations. [1]


This country was established on basic principles of self-government, personal freedom, and property rights; that last item was so important that when our nation was founded, only property owners had the right to vote. 


But the question of downzoning cannot be decided by a vote of today’s property owners; we won’t be around forever, and the future of Lanier Heights does not belong to us. 


If a two dwelling limit is imposed on row house lots now, Lanier Heights could lose more than three hundred new homes in the future. We estimate Lanier Heights home owners will lose, under downzoning, an average of 25% of the potential value of their homes; at current property rates, that is a loss of more than fifty million dollars for the neighborhood; an average loss of $375,000 per row house. [2]


That estimate is based on today’s market. Who knows what the future will bring?


In a letter to ANC Commissioner Rock last March, I wrote that if Lanier Heights is downzoned, “long time home owners like myself will lose the right to convert our row houses. I hope to convert my own house someday, so I may age-in-place; other home owners may have similar hopes.” 


Lanier Heights home owner Jackie Greenbaum agrees: “I want to retain the right to develop my home, whether to add to it or redevelop it back into the four unit building it was when I bought it – or to sell it at its highest possible value, which is its value under current zoning.”


A recent Washington City Paper article about our neighborhood concludes “... Lanier Heights pop-ups are among the best examples of the right way to boost density. From the street, most range from nearly invisible to aesthetically inoffensive ... to change the zoning to allow less density than is currently permitted ... would be a mistake.” [3]


ANC Commissioner Guthrie is quoted in a recent Dupont Current article regarding the future Adams Morgan Hotel: “There are business people in the community who have made substantial investments ... based on the assumption that this hotel is going to happen. I don’t think we should undermine that ...” [4]


We must ask the question: If the investments of business people are worth saving, why not the zoning rights of home owners? Why should home owners be asked to make this sacrifice? A sacrifice not to feed the hungry or shelter the homeless, but a sacrifice to support the downzoner lifestyle.


     Really?


     SERIOUSLY?


The downzoners should be embarrassed to make a proposal that ranks the temporary annoyances of construction work higher than the property rights of their neighbors; that values parking privileges more than the needs of a new generation of residents; that puts preserving buildings above their neighbors’ rights to choose the best use for their own homes.


If you agree that saving the rights of people is more important than preserving the architecture of Lanier Heights, please sign our petition to let the people keep their rights. [5]



Notes:

[1] “A Very Modest Proposal,” Neighbors Against Downzoning, October 2014 newsletter.  

[2] “The Cost of Downzoning,” Neighbors Against Downzoning, August 2014 newsletter. 

[3] “Uppers and Downers,” Washington City Paper, July 23, 2014 edition.

[4] “ANC decides not to battle hotel’s tax break,” The Dupont Current, October 8, 2014 edition.  

[5] “Sign the Petition: Support Home Owner Rights,” at the Neighbors Against Downzoning website.