Category: Zoning update

CSG Testimony Regarding the DTSS Master Plan Boundary

Chair Anderson and Planning Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization in the DC region advocating for more walkable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities. We support expanding the boundary of the Silver Spring Downtown Plan, in line with option D.

CSG support for Prince George’s Countywide Sectional Map Amendment

CSG Support of Prince George’s County Council advancing SMA

July 2, 2019
The Honorable Todd Turner, Chairman
Committee of the Whole
Prince George’s County Council
RE: Support for:
CB-011-2019, An Ordinance Concerning the Countywide Sectional Map Amendment;
CR-026-2019, A Resolution Concerning the Countywide Sectional Map Amendment;
CR-027-2019, A Resolution Concerning Preparation of a Countywide Sectional Map Amendment and Approval of Goals, Concepts, and Guidelines; and Public Participation Program
Dear Chair Turner and members of the committee:
Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization working locally in the Washington, DC metropolitan region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish.
We wish to express our support for initiating the countywide sectional map amendment to advance the implementation of the zoning rewrite enacted by this Council in the fall of 2018. This zoning rewrite is a significant advance for the county. We appreciate that this is an important change for the county, and we commend the level of public engagement required to implement the countywide sectional map amendment.
This change is worth the effort because it replaces the county’s current obsolete and cumbersome zoning regulations which are holding back the county. Here are some of the ways the zoning and subdivision process will improve:
  • Design and building form standards: the document establishes transit-oriented zones at the local and regional scales to support the goals of walkable urbanism, creating walkable, and bikable areas that are well-connected to transit;
  • Parking standards for urban and transit-oriented areas: the zoning rewrite reduces excessive minimum parking requirements in transit-oriented centers in order to support more multimodal designs and uses.
  • Street designs: the revisions require interconnected streets, shorter blocks, and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. It implements newly adopted urban street design standards that support walk and bike friendly streets.
  • Transportation demand management: the regulations also establish progressive traffic reduction measures that emphasize encouraging more people to ride transit if available, bicycle, share rides and walk.
  • Ease of use: The zoning and subdivision regulations are presented in a more readable format providing tables and graphic illustrations to better understand and visualize the standards.
  • Ending perpetual approvals: The proposed rules establish limits on approvals after a number of years. Today, approvals are allowed to live on forever, despite significant changes that may occur after initially projected conditions. While some of the provisions seem overly generous, setting the proposed limits would be a big step forward for the county.
Adopt this critical reform
We believe implementation of the zoning and subdivision rewrite is a tremendous improvement for the county and the community. It is a once in a generation opportunity. We urge the Council to vote to initiate the countywide sectional map amendment process in order to keep the zoning rewrite timeline on track. The countywide sectional map amendment is the next essential step to ensuring the timely implementation of the county’s modernized zoning and subdivision regulations.
Thank you for your consideration.
Cheryl Cort
Policy Director
CSG Support of PGC advancing SMA

CSG in the News: ADUs gaining in popularity across the country

Cities’ interest in granny flats at ‘fever pitch’ amid U.S. housing crisis

by Carey L. Biron, MAY 20, 2019, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The U.S. capital is one of the most expensive cities in the country, but Derek Wright hopes to cover his housing costs with a novel strategy that local officials are keen to foster: He is becoming a small-scale landlord.

Very small-scale, that is. Wright is applying for a permit to turn his townhouse’s basement into a separate home, the rent from which he expects will cover more than half of his mortgage.

These types of projects are technically known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), but are also called “granny flats”, “mother-in-law suites” or “English basements”….

And they are gaining popularity around the country, said Cheryl Cort, policy director for the non-profit Coalition for Smarter Growth, as policymakers in expensive cities look to them as a way to boost affordable housing.

Granny flats offer a low-cost housing solution because the land is already paid for, she said, and they are often built in more central parts of the city.

They have long been allowed in Washington, but in 2016 city officials tweaked the application rules with the aim of making the process easier, said Cort.

The city struck down various prohibitions and made it so “a homeowner can build one as a matter of right, for the most part,” she added.

Ileana Schinder, the architect who worked with Fazio and Wright on the designs and city approvals for their projects, said she has overseen the construction of about 20 granny flats in Washington over the past few years — and interest is climbing.

Many of Schinder’s prospective clients have been young families looking for additional income so they can stay in the city, as well as older people who need the financial boost to continue living in their homes….

View full story here.

Testimony to DC Zoning Commission on McMillan (Parcel 1)

We wish to express our support for the healthcare building on Parcel 1 as part of the adaptive reuse of the McMillan Sand Filtration site. The scale of the medical buildings responds to the scale of the hospitals on the other side of Michigan Avenue, with the highest point closest to the similar height at Children’s Hospital. The healthcare building uses Cell 14 as an acre of open space next to North Capitol Street to buffer its massing from nearby rowhouse neighborhoods.

Testimony to DC Zoning Commission on McMillan parcels 6 & 7

We wish to express our support for the Master Plan and open space elements for the adaptive reuse of the McMillan Sand Filtration Plant. We have tracked the review process at the HPRB for the last year. This thoughtful plan restores all the major historic features, along with creating a new large park that celebrates the distinct historic elements and function of the former industrial site.

Leave the 1950s Behind: Curtailing the Harm of Minimum Parking Requirements

One of the most effective ways to reduce traffic, pollution, and housing costs is to encourage a shift to more sustainable transportation modes through reforming parking requirements. Through smarter management and reduced subsidies and requirements for parking, people can better choose if they want to drive and park, or opt for a more sustainable mode of transportation. For over fifty years, the D.C. zoning code has required almost all new construction in the city to include off-street parking even when unnecessary. The 1958 zoning code’s automobile-oriented vision of the city’s needs is no longer appropriate in today’s world of high costs for housing and car ownership, congested roads, and global warming.  In contrast to the 1950s view of the future where riding transit would be replaced by driving, and car ownership would be nearly universal, we live in a different reality today.  Since the 2000s, the country and D.C. have experienced a pronounced drop in the amount that people drive, after decades of increase. While low car ownership rates are associated with lower incomes, car-less by choice is also increasing among households who could afford a car. Today, 38% of D.C. households are car free. Car free living by necessity or choice offers a more affordable option for a large share of D.C. households. Our zoning regulations should recognize this.

Demand for urban living is being reshaped by the desire of the largest American generation, Millennials (born 1983-2000), who are seeking to live in more urban and less automobile dependent places. The revolution in mobile Internet-connected technologies and social networking are making transportation alternatives to not owning a personal vehicle more convenient, allowing a larger share of households to adopt for car free and car-light lifestyles with dramatically reduced rates of driving and individual car ownership. Baby boomers too are seeking more convenient, urbane places as empty nesters and retirees downsize. D.C. has benefited from these trends as our population has grown since 2000, and shot up in the last two years when we added over 30,000 new residents, more than the total added over the last decade. D.C. can accommodate more people living and working in the city, but if they all brought cars, our streets would not be able handle the added traffic.

Evidence of long term trends show declining demand for driving and car ownership, and accelerated demand for living and working in transit-rich, walkable, bikable urban neighborhoods and business districts.  To ensure that D.C. successfully manages its turnaround from a shrinking to growing city, it needs to build on the strengths that are retaining and attracting residents. At the heart of D.C.’s success is its acclaimed walkability, supported by an extensive transit system. Neighborhoods with the greatest walkability and accessibility are attracting most of D.C.’s new residents. Updating the zoning code to better accommodate this demand, will help make housing more affordable, and foster the trend away from individual car ownership and its associated driving and traffic congestion.

Testimony to DC Zoning Commission on Zoning Update (ZC 08-06A Subtitles X, Y and Z, General Processes and BZA/ZC Procedures)

Dear Chairman Hood and members of the Commission: Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington, D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish.

How to testify in support of the DC Zoning Update at the Zoning Commission

How to testify in support a progressive update to the DC zoning code before the DC Zoning Commission
Sign up to testify in advance 1. In person: call to get on the list –DC Zoning Commission at: 202-727-
6311. You can also sign up to testify by arriving by 6:00 pm at the Zoning Commission hearing
room on the hearing date. Hearings will start at 6pm and continue until everyone has testified or
11:30 pm.