We commend DMPED for listing affordable housing as one of its top 5 priorities. This is a welcome explicit commitment from the office. DC’s strong population growth and fiscal position enable it to respond to this crisis with policies and funding to directly address the housing needs of our moderate and low income families.
We wish to express our support for the proposed reduced parking to a total of 4 spaces to serve the redevelopment project at 1108 16th Street, NW which will provide office space and 15 residences, while preserving the historic façade of the original building. Given the awkward site and preserved historic features, the reduced parking is reasonable relief, especially for such an accessible location.
Under the IZ program, developers of new buildings containing at least 10 units must set aside between 8 and 10 percent of those units for people making under certain income thresholds. The trouble is that for most of those IZ units, the threshold is 80 percent of area median income, a measure that includes the wealthy suburbs.
The letter cites a recent report from the Urban Institute that analyzed and did a comprehensive review of D.C.’s IZ policy, outlining the ways in which it can be improved. Among those recommendations includes ways to lower moderate-income limits for IZ units while increasing the production of low-income units, pricing affordable housing units based on 25 percent of the occupant’s income rather than 30 percent, and requiring low rise or rental buildings to set aside at least 12 percent of their units for affordable housing and ten percent of units for high rises.
“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.
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.
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 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
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
Prospective restaurant owners in Montgomery County soon may have a less thorny zoning code to contend with that includes much lower parking requirements.
New restaurants would only have to build four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet as opposed to 25 spaces, a restriction that may leave some businesses with empty lots and deter new development.
“You have big parking lots at shopping centers with a lot of empty spaces,” said Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D- At Large) of Garrett Park, who chairs the committee.
“That’s a foolish use of limited resources,” she said. “And our goal in urban redevelopment is certainly to encourage less driving and more alternative modes of transportation.”
The zoning code update is part of a three-year modernization effort to simplify its language and adjust a few other policies, including taking neighboring priorities into consideration for new and re-development.
Those changes are in the hands of Montgomery County’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee.
A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Nov. 12, after which the matter will likely go to the full council, said Jeffrey Zyontz, legislative attorney for the County Council.
One aspect of the policy remains the same. Building owners may pay a fee rather than provide parking if they are in one of Montgomery’s parking districts: Bethesda, North Bethesda, Wheaton, Silver Spring or Montgomery Hills.
New restaurants in mixed-use buildings have even lower requirements, Zyontz said.
Restaurants can choose to supply as much parking as they want because there is no maximum.
The policy will only apply to new structures, Zyontz added.
“An old restaurant would just have too much parking. A tragedy,” he said. “But surface parking in some places really isn’t a good thing if you want people to walk around in that environment.”
Several groups, the Montgomery County Sierra Club, Coalition for Smarter Growth and Action Committee for Transit applauded the proposed lower requirements but said they don’t go far enough in shifting focus away from cars.
The county’s urban pockets will still have ample parking if the council does away with any minimums, said Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
“There’s a lot of parking available and a lot of parking sitting empty because it’s not available to a certain type of user at a certain time of day,” Cort said. “It needs to be managed more effectively and lot of these zoning requirements are producing too much parking and subsidizing driving and car ownership.”
Restaurants and the building owners they rent from would still provide spaces if it was in their best interest, said Ethan Goffman, transit chairman of the Montgomery County Sierra Club.
“You don’t want to distort the market to encourage more driving and more parking,” he said. “We want to move away from a jump-in-the-car oriented society.”
Outside the fold of parking districts, new businesses shouldn’t see much impact from the new policy, said Marilyn Balcombe, president of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce.