Housing Complex

Wondering About the Zoning Update?

Last week, the Washington Post's ombudsman relayed his conversation with a group of activists from the D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations, who—super-blogger Mike DeBonis excepted—are none too happy with the paper's coverage of local issues lately (the Federation's chairman, Robert Brannum, has used more extreme means to voice his displeasure with the Post before). Among their complaints: The paper had entirely neglected the city's massive overhaul of its zoning code, which hadn't been changed substantially since it was instituted in 1957.

The process has been underway for years now, and is entirely public; all meetings, notes, drafts, and comments have been posted online from the beginning. But it's difficult for the lay person to understand what it all means, and journalists too. Sensing that, I've been asking for a meeting with the Office of Planning since July to go over the proposed changes. Then, they told me that they were finishing edits on the text and should be ready to talk about it in August. But then came delays: The whole process has slowed down on account of three out of the four staff members working on the project leaving city government.

But OP is finally moving forward again with a new project manager, and I'm sitting down with them later this week to get the lowdown. According to OP deputy director Jennifer Steingasser, the "major changes are focused on recognizing/preserving neighborhood character, removing barriers to sustainable development, deemphasizing the automobile and emphasizing transit / walkable neighborhoods, increasing landscape standards, recognizing modern development and construction standards that should reduce the amount of variances needed by builders and homeowners, and ultimately to make the zoning regulations more user friendly and understandable."

So! If you are the kind of person who cares about these kinds of things, I've got you covered!

  • Scott Roberts

    Lydia: Thanks for giving the District's Zoning Initiative some attention. And thanks for reporting on the "lowdown." I am eager to hear how the low-to-moderate residential housing zoning regulations will appear. Will we see neighborhood-specific zoning regs? Will a neighborhood be able to establish zoning regs that can potentially govern pop-ups?