[box][featured]The Washington DC zoning code has not been comprehensively updated since 1958, when suburban-style planning predominated, cities were built only to accommodate cars, and gas cost $0.24 per gallon.[/featured]
Throughout the DC Office of Planning’s 8 year public process to update the zoning code, the Coalition for Smarter Growth has tracked the Office of Planning’s outreach efforts to the community, educated our DC supporters on the importance, content, and proposed changes to the zoning update, hosted numerous events and workshops, and rallied community members to get involved in the process.
Read on below for ways to get involved, for helpful resources in learning about the proposed update, for a background on the update, and recent news clips.[clear]
What’s Happening Now
Victory! On November 18, 2015, the Zoning Commission UNANIMOUSLY voted to approve the DC Zoning Update!
After 8 years of advocacy, literally hundreds of opportunities for public input, and so many of you — our supporters! — speaking up in letters and in person, we’re finally going to see the new zoning code go into effect.
The Office of Planning still has to make a few more small, mostly technical tweaks and present a final version. The commission will take “final final” action onJanuary 14. Then the Office of Zoning will publish it in the DC Register, and 6 months after that, the code will apply!
Congratulations to all of us who worked so hard to make this update a reality! [line]
The progressive update to the DC zoning code will:
- Drastically reduce unnecessary and costly parking requirements, especially near transit and including major bus corridors (see here for the main parking reforms)
- Permit a basement or carriage house apartment in an owner-occupied home where currently banned (look here to learn more)
- Legalize corner stores — with a lot of caveats, but still, a big step (learn more here)
Opponents have worked to delay the process for a number of years now, claiming that there has not been enough public input. But in truth there have been hundreds of public meetings, hearings, committees, and other discussion over the last eight years. This proposed update has been vetted and tested and DC badly needs modernized zoning code to help create a more walkable, sustainable and inclusive city.
The Zoning Commission has supported a number of our critical issues that will make the zoning code support the kind of neighborhoods and business districts that give more people better housing and transportation choices. The updated zoning code can help build a greener DC with more affordable housing options for the long haul.
While we didn’t win everything we hoped, the updated zoning code is a major step forward for the city. The new code provides better rules for allowing accessory apartments, corner stores, and parking. These changes help the city offer a wider range of less expensive housing, and more walkable neighborhoods.
It’s time to let the Zoning Commission know, we support moving ahead with this meaningful change to our city’s outdated zoning code. After eight long years, it’s time to finish this discussion. It’s taken so long that the 10 year update to the city’s overall comprehensive plan is due again. Let’s tell the Zoning Commission to follow through on reforms to parking, corner stores and accessory apartment, so we can catch up with all the changes happening in our city.
This is an important step forward for a sustainable DC. These progressive steps can help create more housing options, and encourage more people to use a variety of transportation options, rather than relying on a car for everything. That means a victory for a more inclusive and walkable DC – exactly what the Coalition for Smarter Growth works for every day.
About the Zoning Update
The DC zoning code code is older than 78 percent of the District’s population and places little emphasis on historic preservation or sustainability. Simply put, it does not befit a modern, dynamic city like DC.
50 years of accumulated amendments have made the code far too complicated and difficult to navigate. It outlaws traditional, walkable neighborhood forms and requires more parking than residents need. It prohibits neighborhood corner stores. It frowns on accessory dwelling units that could help families pay their mortgage. And it’s nearly impossible to understand without a lawyer!
The proposed update makes positive, progressive changes to the code in several key areas. The most important areas that we have centered our work around are parking regulation changes (parking minimums), provisions around accessory apartments (ADUs or granny flats), regulations around corner stores, and the overall readability of the code. The proposal does not make substantive changes to inclusionary zoning (IZ) policy or the DC height limit, which are separate issues.
The DC Office of Planning and Zoning Commission have conducted extensive public outreach since 2008 through the present seeking input from ANCs, residents and other stakeholders, including: 81 public work group meetings on 20 topic areas, with a total of 1,000 participants; 42 task force meetings by a representative task force of 25 residents; 59 public hearings and meetings by the Zoning Commission on specific topics; 8 meetings in each ward in December 2012 and January 2013 to discuss the zoning revision; over 100 ANC, community group, and special interest group meetings with DC Office of Planning; and made publicly available the draft proposed text to the Zoning Commission July 29, 2013.
What’s the latest on the zoning code update? Here’s a roundup of press coverage over the past year for more information:
- November 19, 2015 – Greater Greater Washington – DC’s move to legalize a little more housing (and other zoning changes): The finish line is in sight!
- April 17, 2014 – Greater Greater Washington – DC’s 40-year out of date zoning code will get at least 6 months more stale
- April 16, 2014 – WAMU – After Six Years, D.C. To Get Six More Months To Debate Zoning Code Rewrite
- December 10, 2013 – Washington Post – Zoning rewrite will get another round of hearings
- November 1, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Is a walkable neighborhood out of reach for you?
- October 21, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Have you signed up to testify on the zoning update?
- July 3, 2013 – Washington Post – Zoning rewrite, after five years, nears finish
- July 2, 2013 – Washington City Paper – Zoning Update Enters the Home Stretch, Over Opposition
- June 24, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Zoning update opponents ask for yet more delay
- June 17, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Endless zoning update delay hurts homeowners
- June 14, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Theaters can’t find homes? Fix the zoning
- March 25, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Can the Anacostia Playhouse escape from zoning hell?
- March 22, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Should corner stores require a hearing?
- March 20, 2013 – Washington City Paper – Out, Damned Spot! How D.C.’s Onerous Parking Requirements Slow Development
- March 18, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Mendelson grills accessory dwelling opponents
- March 8, 2013 – Washington Post – Looser parking rules are no threat to D.C.
- March 7, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Capitol Hill ANC poised to endorse zoning update
- February 20, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Glover Park ANC supports zoning update; support them!
- January 15, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Muriel Bowser unsure on parking minimums, corner stores
- January 5, 2013 – Greater Greater Washington – Panic! Your alley could have a cute, clean little brick house!
- December 13, 2012 – Greater Greater Washington – In Ward 2, residents ask for lower parking minimums
- December 11, 2012 – Greater Greater Washington – What’s in the zoning update: Fewer parking minimums
- December 7, 2012 – Greater Greater Washington – What’s in the zoning update: Accessory dwellings
- December 4, 2012 – Greater Greater Washington – What’s in the zoning update: Corner stores
- October 22, 2012 – Greater Greater Washington – To discourage building empty garages, unbundle parking
- October 5, 2012 – Washington City Paper – Battle Lines Drawn Over Zoning Update
- October 3, 2012 – Washington City Paper – Not Asking for a Lot
Resources to learn more