The saga of the District’s zoning update has gone on for six years and counting. Now, the Office of Planning (OP) has watered down its proposed zoning changes again. Planners have removed proposed restrictions on accessory apartments in a carriage house or other external building and reinstated most of the existing parking minimum requirements around high-frequency bus lines.
While the zoning update is still a meaningful step forward, it has become, over the years, a smaller and smaller step forward as opponents have successfully pushed for more and more delay and as staff turnover has replaced people who already had compromised with new people who look for a compromise.
OP did make a few positive changes, at the request of members of the Zoning Commission. Planners dropped a rule that only allowed accessory apartments on lots of a certain size. Commissioners felt this was unnecessary.
The fire department had pushed to require any accessory apartments be on an alley at least 24 feet wide, and reachable through other alleys that are also as wide. Many in blocks in historic neighborhoods like Capitol Hill do not have alleys that big. The Zoning Commission pushed back, and the new rules would require only at least eight feet (though the Board of Zoning Adjustment will review all of these).
However, there are two significant retreats. Parking minimums still will be cut in half around Metro stations and streetcar lines, but not major bus corridors. That means along Wisconsin Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue and Benning Road and in parts of Logan Circle, Adams Morgan and other neighborhoods, new buildings will have to build parking at a rate that developers have said is often than market demand.
David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.