Zoning rewrite, after five years, nears finish


Planning Director Harriet Tregoning said Tuesday that further consensus with her critics is “not likely.” (Jeffrey MacMillan/For The Washington Post)

A years-in-the-making revamp of the city’s zoning regulations is finally moving toward completion, city planning officials said Tuesday.

Planning Director Harriet Tregoning told D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) that her office intends to send more than 700 pages of reworked code later this month to the D.C. Zoning Commission, the body that will review and ultimately enact  it.

Her comments came during a council hearing, amid continuing objections to the zoning rewrite, a process nearly five years old that has unleashed deep anxieties about the city’s growth and how it could reshape some neighborhoods. The most contentious issues have circled around allowing “accessory” apartments on residential properties and, above all, limiting the amount of off-street parking required to be built in some areas near public transit.

Much of the testimony Tuesday came from civic activists who have long been engaged in the drafting process and have been critical of the city planning office’s policy goals in official hearings, community meetings and other forums. Several urged Mendelson and other city officials to slow down the approval process and send the proposals back to the planning office for further changes — highlighting the need to revisit the parking measures, in particular.

But Mendelson, who faced pressure this week from rewrite proponents, appeared reticent to delay the process any more that it already had been. Tregoning detailed how much of the past year has been spent addressing criticisms of the early drafts resulting in “a much better set of proposals going forward.” Those changes, she said, include modifications to the controversial “transit zones” that had generated the parking anxieties, but she declined to detail them Tuesday.

Any further delay or consultation, Tregoning said, would be unwise. “Consensus is not likely for many of these proposals,” she said. “We are really seeing diminishing returns for the amount of time we spend on them.”

Mendelson said after the hearing Tuesday that he was pleased the planning had made some changes in response to community concerns and that it “doesn’t look like I’ll have another hearing.”

The Zoning Commission is unlikely to make any decisions when it is presented with the new code at its July 29 meeting; a formal review of indeterminate length is likely to proceed in September, planning officials said.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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