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New Zoning Amendments Could Result in Artist Performances and More Homes in DC’s Alleys

by Nena Perry-Brown

A proposed zoning amendment could expand what is possible in DC's alleys.

The Office of Planning (OP) has submitted a text amendment to the Zoning Commission recommending a slate of edits which would ostensibly make alley dwellings by-right on more city lots. The amendments would also give artists with alley studios more freedom in using the public space, permitting the location to host up to five shows or performances annually. The zoning code does not currently have any rules pertaining to alley studio performances.

Diagram from OP Setdown Report. Click to enlarge.

The amendments would aim to ensure consistency and minimize redundancy for alley regulations throughout the zoning code and to clarify various standards, including the definition of "alley". The proposed edits include:

  • Officially reducing the required alley centerline setback from 12 feet to 7.6 feet, bringing the measurement in line with Board of Zoning Adjustment precedent and the required minimum alley width of 15 feet for a dwelling unit.
  • Clarifying that "alleys" include public right-of-ways which have not been named, and that alleys with names are not streets.
  • Amending language that currently allows alley dwelling heights up to 40 feet by special exception in the RF-1 zone, instead requiring a variance with a higher burden of proof.
  • Grandfathering in alley tax lots larger than 450 square feet created by May 1958 as matter-of-right record lots, and allowing for tax lots created between 1958 and 2016 to be converted into record lots by special exception. Unlike tax lots, record lots permit development by-right, and OP estimates this rule change will enable development on 317 vacant alley lots.

"The proposed amendments attempt to make the Regulations more useable for all parties, and beneficial for the livability of the city," the report states, citing an acknowledged need for infill residential development in the Comprehensive Plan. "While a small amount of development on alley lots would not solve the overall housing shortfall, the proposed zoning text changes should allow some additional dwelling units on currently underutilized lots."

OP recommends a public hearing take place on the proposed amendments; a date has not yet been scheduled. 

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/op-proposes-zoning-amendments-to-encourage-infill-alley-dwellings/15609

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