Tag: Zoning update

D.C. draws closer to letting developers decide on parking

“It is a really important step forward for the city,” said Cheryl Cort, the policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who detailed her position on the zoning rewrite, which covers more than parking requirements, in a blog post at Greater Greater Washington.

“Everything tells us that people are driving less and are owning fewer cars. Every day we have another transportation option and there are all these new ways for people to get around,” Cort said.

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.

Full schedule of November 2013 hearings on the D.C. Zoning Update

DC Zoning Update Hearings Monday, November 4 – Subtitles A, W, X, Y, and Z
o Topic – Authority, practice, and procedure of government bodies that work
with zoning  Tuesday, November 5 – Subtitle B o Topic – Definitions and terminology used in zoning code  Wednesday, November 6 – Subtitle D
o Topic – Accessory apartments in low-density residential areas and
corner stores  Thursday, November 7 – Subtitles E and F
o Topic – Corner stores

Zoning Over Pizza

If you’ve signed up to speak in front of the Zoning Commission at the public hearings on the zoning update this November (we need more supporters to sign up!), this workshop is for you! Over snacks, we talked about what the Zoning Commissioners will be looking for when you speak, and what you can say to best show your support for the zoning update. We’ll break into small groups and brainstorm what we can say.

ANC Smart Growth Summer Camp

ANC Smart Growth Summer Camp

At Smart Growth Summer Camp on August 21, 2013, Matthew Bell of the University of Maryland, School of Architecture and David Fields of Nelson\Nygaard discussed urban design, transportation, and the role ANC Commissioners can play in enacting positive change using smart growth principles. We brought together ANC Commissioners from across the city to meet, learn more, and share their stories.

Proposed D.C. Zoning Code Re-Write Sparks Debate

zrrThe first major re-write of Washington’s zoning code since it was established in 1958 is expected to be submitted by the Office of Planning today, ending six years of work and triggering another lengthy public process before the District’s Zoning Commission, which will have the final say on new zoning policies.

Among the most controversial proposals is the effort to make D.C. less car-dependent by eliminating mandatory off-street parking space minimums in new development in downtown D.C. Planning Director Harriet Tregoning had also proposed to eliminate parking minimums in transit corridors, but recently changed her position to only reduce those minimums.

Tregoning’s change has left advocates on both sides of the debate unhappy.

“We’re encouraged that there’s not going to be an absolute rule that there will be no parking minimums. We think that’s a step in the right direction, but we are still very concerned because the planning director of the District of Columbia has shown her hand. She, for whatever reason, does not believe there is a parking issue throughout much of the District,” said AAA MidAtlantic spokesman Lon Anderson.

“We are disappointed the city has listened to the opposition to progressive reforms and is backing down on the important reform of removing parking minimums in areas that are well served by transit. The proposal would address a number of the biggest problems with parking minimums but we still maintain that parking minimums are not the right approach to building a more affordable, sustainable city,” said Cheryl Cort, the policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

At the heart of the controversy lies the question: how much parking does a growing, thriving city need as developers continue to erect new housing, office and retail space near Metro stations, in bus corridors, and downtown D.C. The alleged scarcity of parking spaces today is a common complaint of motorists, but those who favor dumping the parking minimums say residents and visitors will have adequate alternatives to automobile ownership, like car-sharing services, Metro rail and bus, and Capital Bikeshare.  Smart growth advocates also point out developers will still be able to build parking if the market demands it, but the decision will be left to them, not decided by a mandate.

“We’re building a lot of parking that generates a lot of traffic, undermining the best use of our transit system,” Cort said.

“We spent the last 100 years building our society to be automobile dependent and then to try to change that in a very short period of time is really imposing an awful lot in a region that is still very, very dependent on the automobile,” counters Anderson.

About 38 percent of all D.C. households are car-free, according to U.S. Census data.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Michael Dwyer. Copyright 2013 by WMAL.com. All rights reserved.

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D.C. planners drop proposal to end minimum parking rule for developers

Bowing to vocal opposition, District planners have backed off a controversial proposal to eliminate long-standing requirements that developers in some areas include parking spaces in their projects.

The decision not to wholly abandon “parking minimums” in outlying neighborhoods served by Metrorail and high-frequency bus lines comes as planners prepare to submit a wholesale rewrite of the city’s zoning code for approval by the Zoning Commission and shortly after opponents repeated their concerns at a council hearing.

The elimination of parking requirements in “transit zones” had been promoted zealously by Harriet Tregoning, director of the Office of Planning, and her deputies as a necessary response to a city growing more populous and less car-dependent. But residents in some neighborhoods viewed the proposal skeptically, claiming it was based on unfounded assumptions and would only worsen the scarcity of curbside parking.

Tregoning disclosed the change during an interview Friday on WAMU-FM, where she acknowledged she had got “a lot of feedback” about the parking changes. “It’s certainly in response to what we’ve heard from a lot of people,” she said.

In a subsequent interview, Tregoning said the planning office still intended to pursue elimination of parking minimums downtown and in fast-growing, close-in neighborhoods such as the Southwest Waterfront and NoMa. But in other areas eyed for the change, she said, the minimums would be “substantially” reduced rather than eliminated entirely.

“A lot of people were very, very concerned with the concept of no parking minimums,” she said. “I wanted to take that out of the discussion so we could focus on what is reasonable.”

Opponents “seemed to be really hung up by what they perceived as an ideological position,” she added. “I’m not an ideologue. I’m very practical. The practical effect is not very different.”

For a multi-unit residential building under the new proposal, Tregoning said, developers would have to create one parking space for every three units in most areas. They could also apply to the Board of Zoning Adjustment for a “special exception” to the minimum. Under current rules, the minimums vary but often require one space for every two units.

The zoning rewrite is nearing the end of a five-year process that has included discussions about liberalizing rules for “accessory” apartments and corner stores in residential neighborhoods. But the parking debate emerged over the past several months as by far the most contentious point of discussion, generating push-back from several neighborhood groups and AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The decision to back off the elimination of parking minimums vexed a group of activists who view it as a cornerstone of efforts to make the city denser and more transit-oriented.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which had rallied support for the measure, said Sunday it was “disappointing” to see Tregoning ease off a measure that could have helped make housing more affordable by lowering development costs.

“I think it would have been much simpler and effective” to eliminate the minimums and allow the market to dictate how much parking developers provide, he said, adding that “we’ll still call for the cleaner, market-based approach” at the Zoning Commission.

Some leading skeptics of the original proposal said it was too soon to tell if the revised parking-minimum measures would prove acceptable.

“It’s fine, but I’m not sure it goes far enough,” said Alma Gates, who has monitored the zoning rewrite for the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, a group of civic activists with a special interest in planning matters. “I’m waiting to see it in writing. . . . We’re talking about a big issue here. It affects everyone who has a car or [is] thinking about a car or coming to Washington.”

Juliet Six, a Tenleytown resident who has been vocal in opposing the parking measures, voiced extremely cautious optimism about Tregoning’s comments. She suggested that the announcement was calibrated to create an illusion of consensus as the debate moves to the Zoning Commission. “This is one way to take the heat off,” she said.

Tregoning acknowledged the change would “make it easier” for the zoning revision to gain the commission’s approval. The planning office is expected to submit the rewritten zoning code, totaling more than 700 pages, to the commission July 29. It is unclear when the body will hold hearings and give its final approval.

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Statement on DC Office of Planning Decision on Parking Minimums

JULY 12, 2013

CONTACT: Alex Posorske, (202) 675-0016 ext. 126

Statement on DC Office of Planning Decision on Parking Minimums

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU, the Director of the DC Office of Planning, Harriet Tregoning, announced that DCOP was scrapping its proposal to eliminate parking minimums in transit zones.  The decision was also reported in the City Paper.

“We are disappointed that the opposition to progressive reforms has caused the city to back down on the important reform of removing minimum parking requirements.  Parking minimums have driven up the cost of housing in a city that needs more affordable housing. The costs of too much parking are being passed on to all residents even if they want to save money by living car free,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.  “Parking mandates are a legacy of a different era and have hurt America’s cities as Matt Yglesias so clearly laid out Slate this week.”

Greater Greater Washington has covered the issue extensively including a response today.

“We are waiting to review the new proposal from DCOP and we hope that it will still move our city in a more affordable and sustainable direction.  We understand that there will be no minimums throughout our expanded downtown from the West End to NOMA and to our two revitalizing riverfronts,” said Schwartz.  “Moreover, parking requirements will still be lowered in the city’s transit zones. That’s as it should be.  With the expanded transit, walking, biking, and carsharing options that DC now offers, we shouldn’t be mandating more parking than we need or than people will use.”

The Coalition for Smarter Growth will be continuing its campaign for a progressive update to the city’s outdated zoning code including rollback of parking minimums, easier requirements for accessory dwelling units, corner stores in rowhouse neighborhoods, and other components that will make the code easier to understand and more appropriate for a modern, transit-oriented city.


About 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 needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at www.smartergrowth.net.