The parking proposals and other changes in the DC zoning rewrite are controversial. Marjorie Rachlin’s perspective follows – and Forest Hills Connection would like to hear yours. We welcome your contributions and comments.
The DC Office of Planning (OP) has made significant changes to its proposed zoning code rewrite, but there is no change in parking limitations. OP parking proposals are intended to discourage the use of cars, and to encourage people to walk, bike, or use Metro and Zipcars.
At present, business buildings, stores and big apartments are required to provide a certain number of on-site parking spaces in garages or lots. OP proposals would do away with this in many parts of the city. These buildings would not have to provide any on-site parking in areas that OP has designated “transit zones,” defined as areas within half a mile of a Metro stop or a high-frequency bus line. This applies to existing buildings as well as new or expanded construction.
Forest Hills is on the northern end of the Connecticut Avenue transit zones, which stretch from Chesapeake St. south to Woodley Park. Wisconsin Avenue through Tenleytown is another proposed transit zone.
These “transit zones” will affect people who need to use their car to shop, eat or go to the library, and they could prove inconvenient for people who live in the apartments and are presently parking in a garage or lot on-site.
No one knows how businesses and apartment owners will react to this, and it seems likely that present businesses, like the Giant, will keep their parking. However, residents in Forest Hills should consider whether it suits our needs. We have many families with children now living in apartments, as well as in houses, and many older adults. Such residents are very car dependent. The question that such zoning changes pose is whether we will be able to maintain the diversity in age and lifestyle we so value.
Residents should make their views known at the October 5th DC Council hearing. If you do not want to testify in person, submit written testimony.
[col_1_2 style=”box border box_blue”]Council Chair Phil Mendelson has scheduled a public oversight roundtable on the Zoning update by the Committee of the Whole (all members of the DC Council). It will be Friday, October 5 at 1:00 pm in the John A. Wilson Building, Room 412, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue.
To testify (4 minutes) sign up at 202-724- 8198, or email Crispus Gordon, Legislative Assistant, at [email protected] with name, address, phone and organization (if any).
Written comments may be sent until Oct. 19 to: Committee of the Whole, Suite 506, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW, DC 20004 with a copy to our Councilmember Mary Cheh at [email protected][/col_1_2]
Impact of Community Pressure: Some Proposals for Residential Zones Abandoned
OP has given up on several proposals that applied to homes in R-1-A and R-1-B districts (which means most of the single-family detached homes in Forest Hills.)
- The present requirement of an 8-foot side lot (on each side of the house) will be maintained. (Previously OP had set up a sliding scale that allowed some side lots to be only 5 feet).
- Buildings/houses will be limited to three stories and 40 feet in height (as at present). (Previously OP had recommended 4 stories)
- One accessory rental apartment will be allowed in a house, or in an existing garage or building, by right (without any process that gives neighbors a say). BUT newly constructed accessory buildings will require a special exception, which means a hearing. (In the past such rental apartments were not allowed in a house or in a backyard)
Other specific proposals on parking by OP:
- Homeowners in areas such as ours no longer will be required to provide an on-site parking space.
- Apartment buildings with 10 units or less would not have to provide any parking spaces.
- Larger apartment buildings would only be required to have one space for every four units, except in transit zone where there would be no requirement.
- Downtown commercial buildings will not be required to provide on-site parking.
- Private schools that are located in residential areas will not be required to provide as many parking spaces as now.
OP has not responded to the criticism over parking limitations. When you cut on-site parking in a transit zones, it pushes parking onto the side streets, as homeowners close to Connecticut Avenue know.
Residents should weigh in with comments to Chairman Phil Mendelson and to our Councilmember Mary Cheh.
There are other opportunities to weigh in on zoning in the next couple of weeks:
- Officials from the Office of Planning, WMATA and DDOT are expected to attend a Tuesday, September 18th forum organized by the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia. Titled “Transit-Oriented Aspects of D.C. Rezoning,” it’s being held at All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Avenue, NW (Woodley Park-Zoo Metro) from 6:45-9:00 p.m.
- DDOT is hosting a series of public meetings called
- Parking Think Tanks, including one on Wednesday, September 26th at the Wilson High cafeteria, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.