A bad zoning plan would restrict expansion of housing in key D.C. neighborhoods
(Washington Post Editorial, January 30, 2015)
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.
DEADLINE FOR YOUR COMMENTS IS JAN 29.
The D.C. Zoning Commission is considering a proposal to downzone residential neighborhoods throughout the city.
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.
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
(Click on image to enlarge)
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"
TO: Anthony J. Hood, Chairman, Marcie Cohen, Vice-Chairman
Robert Miller, Michael G. Turnbull, Peter G. May, Commissioners
Dear Zoning Commissioners: