FAQs on How the Zoning Commission's Vote on Case 14-11 Affects Permits and Permit Applications

On June 8, 2015, the District of Columbia Zoning Commission took the required final vote to approve proposed text amendments on Case 14-11, which deals with height and occupancy restrictions in R-4 zones.  Below is a question and answer to help explain how that vote affects projects today. 

Are the rules in effect now?
No.  The rules cannot take effect until a notice of final rulemaking giving notice of the Commission’s adoption of the text amendments is published in the web-based District of Columbia Register.   The Zoning Commission’s notices of final rulemaking are in the form of an order. The Office of Zoning has not yet submitted such a notice for publication.  When it does, the notice will be published on a Friday at the DC Register website

When will the rules take effect?
The rules will not take effect until after they are published as a notice of final rulemaking in the DC Register. 

Who determines when the rules will be published in the Register?
The Office of Zoning (DCOZ) determines when the notice of final rulemaking will be submitted to the Office of Documents and Administrative Issuances ODAI for publication.  The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) prepares a draft notice, which is then reviewed by OZ for consistency with the Commission’s decision.  The approved notice is signed by the DCOZ Director and the Chairman of the Zoning Commission and then submitted to ODAI.  ODAI then undertakes a review to ensure that the notice is consistent with its publication standards.

How will a pending building application be treated before the new rules take effect?
Until the new rules become final, there will be no change in the criteria used to review a permit application.  District agencies such as the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Office of Planning (OP) are obligated to review applications under existing rules. 

How will the new rules affect an issued building permit?
There is no effect on an already issued permit.  Any unexpired permit issued before the new rules take effect are governed by existing rules, regardless if construction has not yet started, is underway, or has been completed.

Will the new rules affect my neighborhood? 
The new rules will only affect R-4 zones.  To see whether your property or a nearby property is classified as R-4, please use the Zoning Map.

DCRA and OP are waiting on the publication of the final rules before the agencies will be in a position to share additional guidance, such as any needed interpretation of the vesting dates established by final rule.  As soon as the final rule is published, the agencies will provide more information about it on their websites. 


ZONING COMMISSION VOTES TO LIMIT HOME OWNER RIGHTS  

Members of Neighbors Against Downzoning are concerned with the loss of home owner zoning rights. When a private citizen’s “Matter-of-Right” is turned into a “Matter-requiring-Neighborhood-ANC-BZA-Approval” that is a real loss for private citizens.

What people do with their zoning rights is not our major concern. Add a story to their house for a growing family, convert a basement for their in-laws, sell to a developer who wants to turn it into 3 or more condos, choose NOT to sell to developers and only sell to a family, or do nothing at all: those are choices that we wish the Zoning Commission would have left to the home owner without new restrictions.

Now that new restrictions have been voted into law by the Zoning Commission we will have a chance to see what the real effects will be on pop-up developments, home improvement projects, real estate values, etc.

ZC Chairman Hood stated at a public hearing that if these regulations turn out to be too restrictive then the ZC can “step them back.” We presume if they are deemed insufficiently restrictive the ZC may decide to reduce zoning rights even further.

Small scale pop-up condos and apartments won’t solve the city’s housing problems all by themselves, but they should be part of the solution.

See: DC Zoning website, Interactive Zoning Information System (IZIS), case 14-11. 



PRESS RELEASE: JUNE 5, 2015

ANTI-POP-UP HYSTERIA MEETS HARD DATA

On Monday, June 8, the Zoning Commission for the District of Columbia will vote on a number of new rules for the city's R-4 residential neighborhoods. This vote is a "Final Rulemaking" and will mark the culmination of a process that began in early 2014. 

Motivated by years of highly publicized complaints from residents about the redevelopment of single family town homes into small apartment buildings or condominiums --- often referred to by detractors as "ugly pop-ups" --- the Zoning Commission requested recommendations from the Office of Planning for changes to the regulations for R-4 zoned neighborhoods. 

The Office of Planning presented a list of possible rule changes (known as "text amendments") to the Zoning Commission last summer. Since then a series of public hearings have been held on the subject (officially known as "CASE 14-11") and public comments were solicited. 

On March 30, by a narrow vote, the Zoning Commission adopted a set of proposed text amendments for publication in the D.C. Register, setting the clock for final review and comment by both District and Federal agencies as well as additional comments from the public. This final comment period ended on June 1.

The current online file for CASE 14-11 consists of more than 300 documents (called "exhibits") from both supporters and opponents of the proposals --- although many in the anti-pop-up group oppose CASE 14-11 because they don't think it has enough new restrictions. 

Opposition comments to the downzoning of R-4 neighborhoods come from a group of home owners, small developers, real estate professionals and smart growth advocates. They think these new restrictions will hurt property values, reduce home owner rights, and shut down an important option for adding new homes for the city's growing population.

• • • • •

Neighbors Against Downzoning has opposed changes that take long-held property rights away from home owners. We have observed "anti-pop-up hysteria" spread across the city in recent years. Today that hysteria is on the verge of becoming legislation that will hurt home owners in R-4 zones now and perhaps the city's other residential zones in the future.

Our filing in this case, EXHIBIT 268, expands upon the theory of anti-pop-up hysteria. 

One of the most puzzling aspects of this "debate" has been an absence of hard data on the actual scope of the alleged problem of "ugly pop-ups." If there is any official count of how many pop-ups have been built in recent years, how many are currently under construction or the number awaiting permits, it is a well-kept secret. 

What we have instead of meaningful data is a handful of "problem" pop-ups repeatedly referenced by traditional media and prominently displayed in image-driven social media outlets. The most widely reviled pop-up, located at 1013 V Street NW, is not even in an R-4 or any other residential zone. This lack of data suggests that "problem" pop-ups are in fact quite rare. 

If "pop-ups" pose a threat to the 35,000 single family town homes in the city's R-4 neighborhoods, a threat so real that the Zoning Commission was compelled by public pressure to ask the Office of Planning for guidance on the issue, where exactly are the long lists of problem pop-ups? Where are the (presumably even longer) lists of pop-ups that are not problematic? How do the two lists compare to each other and to the existing 35,000 R-4 town homes facing lost value and lost home owner rights under the proposed downzoning in CASE 14-11?

On pages 5 and 6 of EXHIBIT 308, filed in the final minutes before the June 1 deadline by a vocal opponent of pop-ups, we finally discovered some evidence in a section titled ANNEX 1: R-4 Zone Conversions. Although not an official list of pop-ups, it was compiled by anti-pop-up supporters who combed through the public records of building permits issued during the thirteen months from March 2014 through March 2015. We assume the list is both accurate and complete since every pop-up permit issued would add to the anti-pop-up argument.

Thanks to this list provided in EXHIBIT 308, we now know that fewer than five dozen building permits were issued in R-4 zones for pop-ups in that thirteen month period: an average of one building permit a week. Most were for conversions to a modest three dwellings for each pop-up.

At the rate of five dozen pop-up permits annually, the conversion of all 35,000 homes in R-4 zones will be complete in just under 600 years.

For exhibits filed in Case 14-11:
D.C. OFFICE OF ZONING 


Appeals of Permits Stall New Lanier Heights Condos

(Dupont Current, May 27, 2015)


Lanier Heights Buildings, Slated to Become Large Multifamily Project, Will Keep Historic Facades

(Urban Turf, May 8, 2015)

(Greater Greater Washington, April 30, 2015)

Hawaii solar boom so successful, it's been halted 

Less than 1% of D.C. homes have solar power panels. According to this article, there may not be room for significant expansion anytime soon.



"Existing rich residents slamming the door shut on their own neighborhoods is the major engine of gentrification . . . "


" . . . the mark of genuine power is seen in the very desirable, expensive areas where new construction is not happening. Developers would make a king's ransom building apartments in Georgetown, but they can't because their strength is nothing compared to the hysterical NIMBYism of the upper class. Existing rich residents slamming the door shut on their own neighborhoods is the major engine of gentrification, because that's what pushes new residents into cheaper neighborhoods that don't have the political power (read: money) to resist expropriation and redevelopment."

(snip)

"Any sensible fight against gentrification would begin outside the affected neighborhoods. But instead, the major political development in DC housing policy of late has been a proposal to restrict density increases, condo conversions, and pop-ups. It will, without question, make the affordability problem worse."

Read the whole article at The Week




WAR AGAINST POP-UPS 
Lanier Heights Battle Begins Second Year

Late winter 2014: anti-pop-up yard signs appeared in Lanier Heights.


One year later: some did not survive to see the first anniversary.


Meanwhile a nine unit condo development is nearing completion. The anti-pop-up sign in the yard next door is still standing, but this development isn't a pop-up.


A dilapidated fully detached house sitting on a large lot (not a row house) was demolished to make room for the new structure.

Lanier Heights is an apartment house neighborhood with a few blocks of row houses. Zoned R-5-B to allow multi-unit dwellings up to 50 feet in height.


Build It In DC: General & Home Improvement Contractor Forum 2015

Date: Monday, March 23, 2015
Time: 8AM - 1PM
Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center – 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, Washington, DC 20001

  • The training will consist of 6 break out sessions as follows:
  • Navigating through the Districts Regulatory Process
  • The Nuts and Bolts of Construction
  • Green Building Best Practices
  • Navigating through the Districts Regulatory Process (Spanish)  ­­
  • How to get your Building Project Done in DC
  • Financing, Grant Opportunities, and Government Contracting  
  • Why Building in the District is Unique 

Goal: To disseminate information, inspire entrepreneurship, and create an atmosphere to foster positive action and to receive feedback.

Audience: The target audience includes current business owners who want to grow their business, get ideas, and have an opportunity to network with other business owners and District leaders.

Register Here

Email: claudia.herrera@dc.gov


What You Missed at the ANC1C Meeting (3/4/2015)


Proposed Development at Meridian International. With respect to the proposed development of a residential building with approximately 130 units and conference space on Meridian International’s property at approximately 2350 16th Street NW, the Commission voted 7-0 to call on the Historic Preservation Review Board to: (i) require that the height be reduced, (ii) require that the scale and massing be reduced, and (iii) require that the materials be revised and enhanced, and (iv) require that a central entrance be provided on the 16th Street facade.

Moratorium on Pop-Up and Pop-Back Developments. The Commission voted 7-0 to send a letter urging the Mayor and the District Council to enact a moratorium on pop-up and pop-back developments of rowhouses until regulations have been put into place. The Commission then voted 7-0 to send a letter urging the Mayor and the District Council to direct the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to use the grade plane method to assess lower level gross floor area, and to conduct an administrative review of DCRA’s processes for assessing construction permit applications.

BZA Appeal for 2305-2307 Ontario Road NW
. The Commission voted 7-0 to include this matter on the agenda without the typical two weeks’ advance notice on the basis that doing so would not be adverse to the community. The Commission then voted 6-0 to join a BZA appeal with respect to the DC Zoning Administrator’s decision to allow the developer of these properties to provide less than the amount of parking specified in the zoning regulations.

But it's all good, they voted 7-0 to send a letter of support for the Rock N Roll Marathon.


Pop-up foes use "creative imaging" to strengthen their weak arguments


Photos of the much-hated V Street pop-up have been widely distributed to create fear and outrage in residential neighborhoods.


The photo above places the development in context and perspective. 

This 65-foot tall pop-up is located in a commercial zone. 
It would not be allowed in most residential zones, where 40 foot height limits are the rule (including zones R-1, R-2, R-3 and R-4 which total 70% of all residential zones in D.C.). 

Pop-ups like this one are NO THREAT to single-family neighborhoods.

Here are pictures of a few other pop-ups that should put people at ease.

Neighbors Against Downzoning finally has a Facebook page.


Where Zoning Commissioners Stand on DC’s Proposed Pop-Up Rule

(Urban Turf, February 10, 2015)



35,000 D.C. Homes at Risk of Downzoning
Estimated $10 BILLION in Lost Property Value
Select Proposed Action: Z.C. Case No. 14-11 to view.
Video from February 9, 2015. (About 45 minutes).


A bad zoning plan would restrict expansion of housing in key D.C. neighborhoods
(Washington Post Editorial, January 30, 2015)


(Questionable Economics)


SUBMISSION IN OPPOSITION TO CASE 14-11.

TO:  Anthony J. Hood, Chairman, Marcie Cohen, Vice-Chairman
Robert Miller, Michael G. Turnbull, Peter G. May, Commissioners

Dear Zoning Commissioners:

     On behalf of more than 60 D.C. residents who have signed our online petition in opposition to the downzoning of residential neighborhoods in the District of Columbia, we respectfully ask the Commissioners to reject the proposals put forth in case 14-11 to reduce the existing zoning rights of District home owners in R-4 zones.

     The proposals in 14-11 are crafted explicitly to satisfy the over reaction of some current residents to the inevitable changes that occur in a growing and dynamic urban environment. The proposals in 14-11 give little consideration to the larger population of R-4 residents who are unfazed by these changes or to the many residents who actively welcome them. 

     The Office of Planning Exhibit 1 shows that 70% of residential housing is in R-1, R-2, R-3 and R-4 zones, while only 30% is dedicated to R-5 apartment zones. 

     In testimony before the Zoning Commission (July 17, 2014, page 48) Director Steingasser described the R-4 zone, which makes up only 15% of our residential zoning, as a hybrid zone between single family detached zones R-1, R-2 and R-3 and multi-family apartment R-5 zones. The proposals in 14-11 attempt to shift the R-4 away from this mixed-use state and make it more like the lower density zones which already occupy the majority of residential space in the city.

     The proposals in 14-11 suggest home owners can have “special exception” access to options they currently hold “by-right” under existing zoning. That will be small comfort to future home owners who spend additional time and money only to have their requests for special exceptions blocked by their ANC or denied by the BZA. 

     Rights once surrendered are difficult, if not impossible, to regain. 

     NEIGHBORS AGAINST DOWNZONING has estimated the potential lost property value to Lanier Heights row house owners at between 30 and 50 million dollars if proponents of downzoning were to succeed in their efforts to change zoning from R-5-B to R-4 in that neighborhood. This estimate is based on lost property value to only 150 row homes. The proposals under case 14-11 would affect more than 35,000 homes and lost property values could easily exceed five billion dollars.

     We beg the Commissioners to consider the drastic impact these proposals will impose upon current and future residents of the District of Columbia and reject case 14-11 proposals on that basis.



MORE THAN 37,000 D.C. HOMES COULD LOSE CURRENT ZONING RIGHTS.

DEADLINE FOR YOUR COMMENTS IS JAN 29.

The D.C. Zoning Commission is considering a proposal to downzone residential neighborhoods throughout the city. 

The Zoning Commission held a public hearing on this downzoning (case 14-11) on January 15, 2015. They are accepting comments by email until 3 PM on January 29. 

Send comments OPPOSING case 14-11 to zcsubmissions@dc.gov

You don't need to be an expert in zoning issues to see that limiting residential growth opportunities will only make our current housing crisis even worse. 

Even the former Director of D.C.'s Office of Planning is opposed to this drastic proposal.

The affected neighborhoods are zoned R-4. The proposal will redefine the by-right building height in R-4 zones from 40 feet to 35 feet and impose a two-dwelling unit maximum per lot.

Some Lanier Heights folks want to downzone Lanier Heights from R-5-B to R-4. The Lanier Heights case has not been filed yet but we expect it will be filed soon. If the R-4 downzoning plan is rejected by the Zoning Commission, then Lanier Heights downzoning probably will be rejected, too. If the R-4 downzoning passes, and Lanier Heights is down zoned to R-4, that will be a double loss to everyone living in Lanier Heights.

If this proposal passes it will have a huge impact on the entire city, not just R-4 neighborhoods or Lanier Heights. Everyone who cares about the future of D.C. should OPPOSE case 14-11 now.

PUBLIC COMMENTS WILL BE CLOSED ON JAN 29 at 3 PM.
The Zoning Commission accepts emailed comments only as signed PDF.


ZONING COMMISSION PUBLIC HEARING VIDEO ONLINE.

We saw six and a half pages of people who had signed up to speak, more than 160 speakers. Those who had checked off as SUPPORTERS and OPPONENTS of the proposal seemed about evenly split. However as the meeting progressed more and more people who were called upon to speak had already left due to the lateness of the hour. 


On site, enter 14-11, click GO, then VIEW DETAILS, then VIEW FULL LOG.


Another reason to reject downzoning row houses.

From Prince of Petworth: Best use of attic space in a row house?



ZONING COMMISSION FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING 


TIME AND PLACE: 

Thursday, January 15, 2015, @ 6:30 p.m. 

Jerrily R. Kress Memorial Hearing Room 

441 4th Street, N.W. Suite 220-S 

Washington, D.C. 20001 


FOR THE PURPOSE OF CONSIDERING THE FOLLOWING: 

CASE NO. 14-11 (Office of Planning – Text Amendments to Chapters 1, 3, and 4, Definitions, Maximum Height and Minimum Lot Dimension Requirements in Residence Zones, and R-4 Zone Use Permissions) 



 
Public Hearing Notice: Click here for more details


“Unintended consequence of anti-pop-up proposal”



DC may limit condos and building heights in some row house zones.




(Click on image to enlarge)

DEC. 3, 2014: ANC1C VOTES AS EXPECTED

The ANC was most interested in the opinions of the owners of the 165 unconverted single family row houses in Lanier Heights. They are the group that will be most directly affected by downzoning, since their property rights are on the line. They are the group that will be most directly affected by any new pop-ups. That was the view of the ANC.

The downzoning petition claims support from 99 of that select group while "only" 15 people who have signed our petition own unconverted single family row houses. The 50 Lanier Heights row home owners who never publicly took a side on the issue weren't a part of the ANC's calculation. 

Obviously, we disagree with the ANC's decision, but we understand why they voted as they did, based on their definition of who the true stakeholders are. 

Our view is different. Those 99 petition signers represent just 60% of the affected home owners. Although that's a majority, it is not an overwhelming majority. If only a handful of those 99 people change their minds or sell their homes and move, the percentage could easily drop down to around 50%. 

While those slim percentages might be enough for the ANC, we think it is a weak result to use as a basis for taking away the rights of 100% of current and future home owners in Lanier Heights. 

The ANC did their job as they viewed it. Now the downzoning petition will move on to the next step in the process. How long it may take for a final decision from the zoning commission is unknown. 

If you have a NEIGHBORS AGAINST DOWNZONING yard sign in your yard, keep it there. If you want a yard sign (or two or three) let us know. 

We are encouraged that more home owners on Lanier Place signed the petition and put up yard signs in just the last few days. 

If you live in an apartment or condo in Lanier Heights and want signs for your yard or window, let us know. We think your opinion counts. Everyone who lives in Lanier Heights is a stakeholder.


ANC1C VOTES FOR DOWNZONING
Years of Continued Controversy, Litigation Ahead.







NOTE for those who read the Washington Post headline below without clicking on the link for the full story: The "mini-skyscrapers" refer to pop-ups in some commercially zoned areas of the city that permit 65 foot height limits in blocks where some existing houses are only 20 feet tall. That is not the case in Lanier Heights, where current buildings almost always have a height of at least 40 feet, and where current R-5-B zoning limits height to a maximum of 50 feet.

In a city filled with pop-up loathers and lovers, D.C. ponders its mini-skyscrapers

The pop-up debate in Lanier Heights pits "property rights" against "neighborhood character" 

Greater Greater Washington, November 20, 2014


THE POPUP THAT ATE THE NEIGHBORHOOD



1696 Lanier Place NW 
(2nd from left, in case you were wondering).

WHERE ARE THE OTHER "UGLY POP-UPS"
Do you know about the other "ugly pop-ups" destroying Lanier Heights?


Produced by NEIGHBORS AGAINST DOWNZONING, an all volunteer group of friends, neighbors and home owners in Washington, D.C.  Established 2014. Contact: Lanier.Neighbor@gmail.com