Archive for the ‘Zoning’ category

Park Morton Steering Committee Meeting Schedule for Tonight

March 23, 2017
Tonight’s scheduled Park Morton Steering Committee meeting is Open to the Public and designed to report out to the community where things are with the project. The meeting will be held at the Park View Recreation Center in the rear community room, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.
Topics to be discussed include:
  1. The Park Morton and Bruce Monroe PUD process and status to date;
  2. Receive an update from the Park Morton Relocation and Re-occupancy sub-committee; and,
  3. The upcoming Bruce Monroe park planning process.

The Zoning Commission held a Public Meeting of March 13, 2017 for Final Action in both Zoning Commission Case No. 16-11 and No. 16-12. Those public meetings are available for viewing here.

(Buildings on Park Road belonging to Park Morton, which will be razed and replaced as part of the Park Morton redevelopment effort.)

How Would You Redesign Park Morton?

December 9, 2015

The redevelopment of Park Morton is both necessary and something that will have a positive impact on everyone who lives in the Park View community. Yet, at the first Park Morton Planning and Design Workshop held on December 1st only about 50 residents participated. The next Planning and Design Workshop is scheduled for Saturday, December 12th, from 10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at the Bruce-Monroe @ Park View School.

At the first workshop, the unsettled questions surrounding the former Bruce Monroe School site related to scale, density, and park programming also proved to be more of a distraction for some groups than others, preventing them from focusing on areas of agreement which would help answer the build-first site questions.

So, in the interest of coming up with some concrete ideas to ensure that the new Park Morton is a success and inclusive of community participation, I’m encouraging people to think about how the current Park Morton site could be developed in a way that knits back into the surrounding community. These ideas can then be shared at the November 12th workshop.

Park Morton Existing(Park Morton as it exists today.)

Above is a plan of the current Park Morton site, and you can see how the streets and houses were arranged just prior to the creation of Park Morton here. The general plan from 2008 is below. As you can see, many of the buildings are far more dense than is allowed by the R-4 zoning. In short, massive buildings were considered in 2008 as there wasn’t enough land to accommodate the mixed income community that is planned.

Park Morton Plan 2008(Park Morton Plan from 2008.)

Below is an idea I came up with which, I believe, addresses many of the challenges to redesigning the site while complying with the sites current zoning much more than the 2008 plan did. It retains apartment buildings along Park Road, the west end of Morton Street, and the southeastern corner of Morton Street. The large central building on Park Road is sited away from the street to help provide some green space and convey an entrance to the community.

Morton Street is opened up to Warder Street, and alleys are extend through blocks eliminating dead ends and cul-de-sacs.

Rowhouses line the north side of Morton Street, and face a park on the south side of Morton Street.

Lastly, there is some open land behind the apartment building at the southeast end of the property which could also be programmed as either a playground or a community garden.

Park Morton Redesign 3(One possible layout for the Park Morton area.)

Solving the planning puzzle for the current Park Morton site will help answer the question of how many units will need to be in the build-first phase of the development, which also helps answer the question of density.

So given the size, shape, and zoning (which is R-4) of the current Park Morton site, how would you design it?

Public Comment Period on Pop-Up Regulations Open Through June 1st

May 21, 2015

Regardless of where you stand on Zoning Case No. 14-11 — aka the Pop-Up Regulations — if this issue is something important to you you’re going to want to send in your comments to the Zoning Commission before June 1st (the comment period began on May 1st). While there are many items in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking of interest, to me the most important issue needing community input is implementation — should the Pop-Up Regulations be implemented immediately upon approval or should there be a delayed implementation date?

Below is the announcement from the Office of Zoning Web site:

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Zoning Commission Case No. 14-11 – Text Amendments to Chapters 1, 3, 4, 26, and 31, Maximum Height and Minimum Lot Dimension Requirements and Use Permissions in the R-4 District – or the “Pop-Up” Regulations will be published on Friday, May 1st , in the D.C. Register. The public comment period will open on May 1st and close on June 1st. If you wish to submit documents, please do so by email to, by mail or hand delivery to the Office of Zoning, 441 4th Street, NW, Suite 200-S, Washington, DC 20001 or by fax to (202) 727-6072

The proposed rules are intended to address concerns heard by the Commission with respect to what have come to be called “pop ups.” A pop up generally is a row dwelling upon which an addition is constructed that results in the structure visibly rising above the roofs of adjacent dwellings. Pop ups have been on the increase in R-4 Zone Districts where a maximum height of forty (40) feet is permitted and where buildings existing prior to May 12, 1958 may be converted to apartment houses provided there is nine hundred square feet (900 sq. ft.) of land area for each existing and added unit.

For more information about this case, please review a copy of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by clicking here.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Zoning at 202-727-6311 or


Planning & Zoning Workshop This Saturday, September 27th

September 22, 2014

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion regarding planning and zoning as it pertains to our older residential neighborhoods — particularly in Ward 1. In Lanier Heights, there has been discussion to down zone the rowhouse areas currently zoned R-5-B to R-4. One of the significant differences between the two is that R-5-B allows apartment dwellings whereas R-4 is primarly for single-family rowdwellings which “can” be converted to apartment dwellings under certain conditions.

In much of Columbia Heights and nearly all of Park View, our rowhouses are currently located within the R-4 Zone. Even here, there is a proposal to make changes to the R-4 zone to reduce building height from 40 ft. to 35 ft. and to limit conversions to no more than two dwelling units (unless the owner gets a special exception). The Office of Planning’s proposal to make these changes is in response to the ever increasing occurrence of developers flipping rowhouses in the R-4 zone, converting them to multi-family dwellings, and “popping-up” the houses with another level.

Often times, the result of these flips has been less than attractive, resulting in many reaching out to the Office of Planning seeking help in controlling this trend. Additionally, this has had a direct and negative impact on the number of available living units with three or more bedrooms, thus increasing the cost for family sized housing in the city.

On Saturday, September 27th, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 1A and 1B will be co-hosting a community workshop with members of the Office of Planning to foster open discussion on the current stresses within the District’s  rowhouse neighborhoods. The workshop will discuss the process behind their current proposals as well as the pros and cons related to adopting them.

See the flyer below for full details:


Planning Proposal Recommends Preservation of Family Rowhouse Neighborhoods

August 20, 2014
Map of ANC 1A and 1B, showing areas currently zoned R-4.

Map of ANC 1A and 1B, showing areas currently zoned R-4.

Zoning, Pop-ups, and converting single-family houses to multiple-family dwellings is something that is very much in the news these days. On on side are many residents who see pop-ups and house conversions as both undesirable and destructive to both the character and livability of decades old single-family neighborhoods. One the other side are residents who believe that adding height, back of the house additions, and converting rowhouses to apartments and condos is the only real answer to ensuring that housing supply meets demand which helps keep housing affordable in a growing urban environment.

Currently, the Office of Planning (OP) has proposed changing  both the height and the number of allowable living units within the city’s residential rowhouse neighborhoods — Zoned R-4 (see map for areas Zoned R-4) — with the goal of maintaining the residential character of these neighborhoods (Read the full OP Proposal and Recommendation here). According to the Office of Planning, the R-4 Zone was intended to be a family residential area composed primarily of row dwellings when it was created. The type of development that generally cuts up these structures into multiple units tends to be at odds with the original intent of this zoning.

Key elements of OP’s proposal include, but are not limited to:

  • Change the R-4 by-right height for a detached, semi-detached, rowhouse, or flat building from 40 ft to 35 ft with an allowance up to 40 ft by special exception;
  • Include mezzanine in the number of stories;
  • Conversions:
    • Limit to non-residential buildings (i.e. schools, churches, fire stations) by special exception;
    • Allow conversions of residential buildings up to 3 or 4 units by special exception with units beyond 2 subject to affordability requirements.

On August 4th, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 1A and 1B hosted a joint town hall so that OPs Jennifer Steingasser could present the proposal and answer community questions (See the slide deck from the presentation here).

Some interesting information that came out of the meeting is that areas zoned R-4 only comprises 15.6% of the District’s residential land areas. Areas zoned R-5, on the other hand, which supports apartments with no limits on the number of units, has a total land area of 29.8%. The full chart is below.

Residential Land Percentages

Another argument presented for preserving rowhouse neighborhoods introduced at the meeting was the need to preserve housing large enough to support families. This was described as housing with three or more bedrooms. According to OP, few if any new three+ bedroom units are included in new construction. As existing houses large enough for families are converted to apartments, it decreases the number of family units in the District and has been driving up demand and prices for the remaining family sized houses.

The last item on note that I’d like to draw out from the meeting is that the limit preventing  converting structures to apartments would not apply to church buildings, commercial structures, schools, firehouses, and other non-residential structures.

After the August 4th Town Hall, it was clear that there is a lot of community interest in this proposal, and that there are still many aspects of it which need to be carefully considered. Both ANC 1A and 1B and currently working to schedule a follow up meeting for the community for a Saturday in September.

ANC 1A/1B Planning Town Hall Scheduled for August 4th

August 1, 2014
Construction at Columbia Road and Warder Street.

Construction at Columbia Road and Warder Street.

Pop-ups — or, construction projects that add height to existing row dwellings — has been in the news a lot over the past year. When pop-ups occur, it is often a prelude to a single family home conversion to a multi-family dwelling. One thing coming out of the discussion about pop-ups — and out of the Zoning Regulations Review (ZRR) hearings — is a proposal by the Office of Planning (OP) to change two elements within  R-4 Zones. R-4 Zones are typically residential areas that largely contain 2- and 3-story row dwellings.

The proposal currently being considered by OP consists of two parts. The first would reduce the allowable building height within the R-4 Zone from the current 40 ft. to 35 ft. The second would be to limit subdividing an existing house in a R-4 zone to no more than two units regardless of lot size.

To better understand this proposal, ANCs 1A and 1B have collaborated to host a town hall meeting so that residents interested in learning more about this proposal have the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns (flyer below). The town hall meeting’s primary focus will be on OP’s R-4 proposal, although related topics will be introduced as they help provide a broader context and understanding for the discussion.

Jennifer Steingasser, Deputy Director, Development Review and Historic Preservation at the DC Office of Planning will be a key speaker at the Town Hall. It should be an interesting discussion.

R4 Town Hall

Redevelopment of Park Road Church Property Gets Board of Zoning Adjustment Support

July 23, 2014

Perspective 1 625 Park Road(Rendering by Arcadia Design)

Yesterday, July 22nd, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) considered the zoning variances requested to redevelop the former New Community Baptist Church property located at 625 Park Road while incorporating the historic church structure. After hearing testimony from the applicant, the Office of Planning (which opposed the relief), representatives from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A (supporting of the project), and residents the BZA voted unanimously to support the BZA application. This is a significant step forward for this development. Prior to the BZA hearing, ANC 1A voted unanimously at its July meeting to support the project. (You can read a related post on UrbanTurf).

The core issue related to this property has been to balance the competing needs of preserving the historic church with the desire to add density and more housing to the area. The plan as approved achieves this, as the new building along with adaptively reusing the former church will create a 38-unit development (the ANC had previously considered and supported a 41-unit project).

Since first presented to ANC 1A, the front of the building has been set back a few more feet, the third level is now in line with neighboring rowhouses, and the three units along Park Road will now have individual entrances facing the street. As the church structure is set back from the street, this also creates a grassy court that otherwise would not exist. (Those interested in watching the BZA hearing can do so at this link).

The redevelopment of 625 Park Road will significantly help revitalize that section of the community.

Perspective 2 625 Park Road(Rendering by Arcadia Design)

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