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Less Parking, More Homes: Newest Zoning Code Rewrite Released

by Shilpi Paul

Less Parking, More Homes: Newest Zoning Code Rewrite Released: Figure 1
Tenley View, the first building to break the no-parking barrier.

For the past few years, the Office of Planning (OP) has been working on a rewrite of the city’s current zoning code. After the most recent round of community meetings, the OP released their latest draft of the new code, reported The Northwest Current recently.

The new draft can be found here, though there are hundreds of pages to sift through and no indication which portions have changed. At a community meeting several months ago, OP Director Harriet Tregoning stressed that 90 percent of the zoning code would remain the same. Last October, we outlined the proposed changes to the code.

In the August 7th issue of The Northwest Current, reporter Brady Holt interviewed the OP’s Deputy Director Jennifer Steingasser to get a sense of what is new in this version of the rewrite.

Here are a few highlights:

Backing Away From Market-Based Parking

Currently, zoning mandates that new residential buildings include a certain number of parking spaces proportional to the number of units. While several developers are currently building projects without parking, they had to make a specific request to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) and seek approval from the local ANC.

When we last reported on the rewrite, the OP was planning on eliminating parking minimums in certain parts of DC, such as high-density residential areas near public transit. The number of parking spaces built into new developments would be determined by the market in that area, rather than by code.

The OP received some resistance on that point, and the new draft pulls back. Parking minimums will still be eliminated downtown, but will exist in areas close to public transit, albeit in a lower proportion than what is currently mandated. New single-family homes will be required to have at least one off-street parking space.

More Community Feedback Before A Corner Store Opens Up

As a way to increase neighborhood-serving retailers, a previous version of the rewrite was quite encouraging towards corner stores in R-3 and R-4 zones. In the latest version of the code, rather than allowing them as a matter-of-right, corner stores — with the exception of small grocery stores — would have to go through a special exception process with the BZA. This means the ANC will have a chance to weigh in as well.

Small grocery stores in all neighborhoods except Georgetown will be able to open as a matter-of-right, as long as they are on a corner or in the middle of a block, at least 500 feet from another grocer. The stores will not be permitted to cook food or serve drinks.

Accessory Dwelling Units Made it Through the Rewrite

One of the most anticipated changes to the zoning code has been the loosening of restrictions when it comes to accessory dwelling units, like existing carriage houses or new construction that could be turned into income-producing properties. Currently, it is not easy to create an accessory dwelling unit on your lot; the new rewrite makes it a bit easier. On page 37 of the Residential House Zones section, the OP has laid out certain limited conditions where these dwellings will be allowed “by-right.”

The Zoning Commission will begin evaluating the new code on September 9th, and will either begin the process of public hearings that would eventually result in the code’s adoption, or send it back to the OP for another rewrite.

For the full report from The Northwest Current, click on the pdf here.

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This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/newest_zoning_code_rewrite_released/7438

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