The D.C. Zoning Commission, trying to protect the residential character of the District's neighborhoods and stop the recent proliferation of fast food restaurants, has approved emergency regulations that severely limit the location of fast food establishments throughout the city for the next four months.
The commission, acting after considering the regulations for more than two years, banned fast food restaurants from locating in the smallest neighborhood shopping areas.
In addition, the regulations require fast food chains to obtain special permission from the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment before they can locate in such larger commercial districts as Georgetown and along upper Georgia Avenue NW.
The Zoning Commission's action, taken on a 4-to-0 vote on Monday went into effect immediately.
Previously, fast food restaurants were allowed to locate in any commercially zoned area of the city by simply obtaining a building permit.
While approving the temporary restrictions, which have been vehemently opposed by several of the national fast food chains, the commission said it hopes to consider their permanent adoption at its July 8 meeting.
Cecil B. Tucker, the commission's secretary, said the agency's action was necessary because "in recent months there has been a noticeable increase in applications to build fast food restaurants . . . " The commission "believed that an emergency existed to maintain and preserve the status quo."
Under the regulations, the fast food restaurants are banned along such existing commercial strips as Connecticut Avenue NW, between Fessenden Street and Nebraska Avenue and between Livingston Street and Chevy Chase Circle, and along Rhode Island Avenue NE, between 17th and 24th streets.
The regulations require the Board of Zoning Adjustment to hold a public hearing before acting on requests to build fast food restaurants in more dense commercial districts, such as along Wisconsin Avenue and M Street in Georgetown, on Capitol Hill along portions of Pennsylvania Avenue SE and along Georgia Avenue, from Decatur Street NW to the Maryland line.
The fast food chains are still allowed to open new restaurants in the city's largest commercial areas, such as at the Hechinger Mall in Northeast, along portions of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE and near the Wisconsin Avenue intersection with Western Avenue in Northwest.
There currently are about 130 fast food restaurants, compared with 95 a year ago, according to city records. The Zoning Commission first proposed regulations governing the location of fast food restaurants more than two years ago.
Since then, regulations have been revised three times and votes on their adoption have been delayed five times.
Craig Forsgren, McDonald's real estate manager for the Washington area, said the commission's vote "was a surprise. We didn't even have our attorney present at the meeting."
He declined comment on the regulations until he has a chance to read them.
Restaurant chains that applied for building permits before Monday's commission action will not be affected by the new regulations.
It is not known how many restaurants the chains are planning that will be affected by the regulations. Three weeks ago, the McDonald's chain submitted revised plans to Washington officials for a restaurant at 3407 Connecticut Ave. NW, across from the Uptown Theater.
Wendy's, faced with vocal neighborhood opposition to two of its restaurant proposals, recently told residents along upper Georgia Avenue NW and near South Dakota Avenue NE that it would delay construction plans if a library is built at the Northwest site and another commercial use found for the Northeast location.