Greater Greater Washington

Zoning update opponents keep spreading misinformation

The group calling itself "Neighbors for Neighborhoods," which recently circulated an alarmist flyer about DC's zoning update that is almost entirely false, strikes again. A recent email to Cleveland Park residents makes a new set of wild and almost entirely incorrect claims.


Photo by mueredecine on Flickr.

At-large councilmember Michael Brown met with opponents and then sent a letter to the Zoning Commission, where he worried about "the groundswell of anxiety" about the proposals.

There is a simple way to avoid mass hysteria around the zoning update. The people organizing to fight it need to actually bother to understand it. Not every resident will absorb every detail, but they can learn from others who do.

Unfortunately, instead of educating neighbors, the people sending alarmist emails to certain neighborhood listservs are instead spreading misinformation and then complaining that residents are confused.

Email spreads myths

The latest email makes 4 charges:

Attack 1: Under proposed new commercial and residential zoning rules, increased building height + density, lot occupancy, and use could fundamentally degrade your home's environment and value.
False. No zones allow taller buildings than they do today. No zone's lot occupancy will change at all. The only change to lot occupancy removes an incentive to fill in courtyards and side yards, thereby leading to less density rather than more.

No floor-area ratios (FAR), the standard measure of density, increase in any zones outside downtown. None of the height limits in any zones outside downtown will increase. There's a small change to how to measure heights, which will more often make the height rules more restrictive than the reverse.

Opponents seem to have assumed that the zoning update is massively upzoning their neighborhoods, and speaking on that basis, even though it is not.

Plus, this statement seems designed to alarm rather than inform. Who says "your home" will have its value degrade? One of the changes which is genuine, allowing accessory dwellings, will likely increase the value of most homes because people will be able to rent out a garage, bringing in income, which they can't do today.

Attack 2: Redevelopment on or adjacent to a bus linedesignated a "transit zone"could substantially exceed building allowed today.
Again, false. "Transit" zones only vary from non-transit zones in 2 ways, neither of which allows larger buildings and one of which is more restrictive. Also, single-family house zones, the ones "Neighbors For Neighborhoods" is trying to agitate, won't be "transit zones" even if they are right next to transit.

In non-SFH zones near transit, new buildings will not have minimum parking requirements, but there will be stricter limits on driveways. If a commercial or mixed-use property backs onto an alley, in a transit zone it will have to use the alley for any driveway instead of a curb cut in the front. That's because around transit lines, the design of the buildings should better accommodate pedestrian traffic.

Attack 3: New code standards would be "matter of right", i.e. implementing new rules would require no review nor allow citizen comment.
This sounds like something a person would say who doesn't understand any zoning laws, anywhere. Any zoning code allows some things "matter of right," other things after a hearing (in DC, by "special exception"), and some things not at all unless a zoning board grants a "variance" after a more rigorous and difficult process.

The new zoning code continues this. A few things which need special exceptions do become matter of right, such as an accessory dwelling. A few things which require variances become special exceptions. But rather than argue against any specific changes on policy grounds, this email tries to frighten residents by implying that all building would suddenly happen without any public review.

Attack 4: Overlays designed to protect some communities from inappropriate development or uses would be removed.
Entirely false. Overlays will not exist in the new code as such, but all of the rules of the overlays remain. Right now, up to 3 separate and sometimes conflicting sets of rules can apply to a single piece of land. For example, my house is in an R-5-B (row house) zone under the Dupont Circle overlay. To understand my zoning, I have to look in 2 places, which have different standards.

Under the new code, I will live in an AT-4-B zone. All of the rules of the Dupont Circle overlay are part of AT-4-B. People not in the Dupont Circle overlay instead will have their property zoned AT-3-B. The advantage of this system is that a property owner only needs to look in one place for the rules about setbacks, FAR, and so on, instead of two or more.

For example, one end of my block is in an SP-1 zone. A building owner recently proposed a new exterior stair which I originally thought violated zoning, since the SP-1 zoning requires a 12-foot rear yard setback and "egress stairs" can only break into the rear setback by 4 feet. As it turns out, that's because the Dupont Circle overlay is more permissive with rear yards in SP-1 zones, but that wasn't clear enough when I looked at the SP-1 text in the old zoning code.

When I read the new zoning code, it was far more clear. The area will be an MT-2-A zone, where the Dupont Circle overlay rules apply. In the text for MT-2-A, it listed the different rear yard measurement standard right there with the other information for MT-2-A. There was no need to remember to look in 2 places; it's all in one.

The Office of Planning has posted a table listing all of the current zones and overlays and what designation each will get in the new code. The authors of the alarmist email, who claim OP hasn't provided enough information, must not have looked at that table.

Brown repeats myths

Councilmember Michael Brown's letter, sadly, falls for much of the same misinformation. The letter warns against nonexistent goals of the zoning rewrite and repeats opponents' charge that a 5-year process with hundreds of community meetings, and most of a year or more left to run, is "moving too fast."

He says, "A one-size-fits all approach doesn't seem right for our city, with its rich history of unique neighborhoods, but that seems to be the direction we are heading." The draft zoning code has 94 different zones and myriad different paragraphs that customize rules for each neighborhood. It's hard to seriously conclude that this is any kind of "one-size-fits-all" approach.

Brown writes that "The code should not be used as a blunt instrument to drive unsupported social change," but doesn't specify how a zoning update which takes great pains to change very little in single-family neighborhoods is either a "blunt instrument" or one driving "unsupported social change."

Below is the full text of the email, which went to the Cleveland Park Citizens' Association listserv.

CPCA members might be interested in a new group addressing the comprehensive changes proposed for the DC Zoning Code which the Zoning Commission will adopt later this year or early next year.

Neighbors for Neighborhoods (N4Ndc) is organizing to alert DC residents to the need to respond to the proposed new regulations. Beginning with chapters in Chevy Chase DC, 16th Street Heights, AU Park and the Queens Chapel area, N4Ndc is forming new chapters in all neighborhoods. N4Ndc is a multi-neighborhood effort to make positive zoning changes for DC residents citywide.

Fathoming details of the proposed new Code requires persistence, fortitude and imagination, but here are some generalities:

  • Under proposed new commercial and residential zoning rules, increased building height + density, lot occupancy, and use could fundamentally degrade your home's environment and value.
  • Redevelopment on or adjacent to a bus linedesignated a "transit zone"could substantially exceed building allowed today.
  • New code standards would be "matter of right", i.e. implementing new rules would require no review nor allow citizen comment.
  • Overlays designed to protect some communities from inappropriate development or uses would be removed.
While N4Ndc is building awareness of potential zoning changes in DC's diverse neighborhoods, individual residents are encouraged to inform the Office Planning and public officials of particular concerns. N4Ndc can help you pinpoint your concerns and tell you where to direct your emails. Do not expect CPCA nor any other group to represent your specific concerns: you have the power of the pen, and you possess the right to speak up.

Recently, At-Large City Councilmember Michael Brown has aligned with N4Ndc's goals in a letter to the Zoning Commission. He urged that more outreach is necessary before the new regulations are adopted. He said, "This code has to 'make sense' to the public before adoption, not after [and] should not be used as a blunt instrument to drive unsupported social change. And we should not take for granted the hard-earned tranquility of our residents." He warned particularly about allowing Accessory Housing Units in all residential neighborhoods and expressed concerns about greater development in "transit zones."

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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Brown writes that "The code should not be used as a blunt instrument to drive unsupported social change..."

You could easily make the case that this is exactly what zoning is - a blunt instrument to drive unsupported social change.

http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-avenue/102753/why-regions-fail-zoning-extractive-institution

In a new report I argue that its impacts are destructive. Zoning laws are keeping poor children out of high-scoring schools, degrading education, and weakening economic opportunity.

Anti-density zoning--embodied in lot-size and density regulations--is an extractive institution par excellence. Through the political power of affluent homeowners and their zoning boards, it restricts private property rights--the civic privilege to freely buy, sell, or develop property--for narrow non-public gains. Property owners in a jurisdiction benefit from zoning through higher home prices (because supply is artificially low) and lower tax rates (because population density is kept down, as school age children are kept out), while everyone else loses.

Previously, my work has found that zoning laws inflate metro-wide housing costs, limit housing supply, and exacerbate segregation by income and race. Other work faults these laws for their damaging effect on the environment, since they make public transportation infeasible and extend commuting times. With a few possible exceptions (see Michelle Alexander), it’s hard to think of an existing political institution in the United States that is more destructive of human and social capital.

by Cynic on May 8, 2012 12:03 pm • linkreport

For a supposedly educated city (and I'm going to take a guess and say that Ward 3 leads the city in the number of advance degrees), there are apparently many people who cannot either read or exert any critical thinking on anything involving: zoning, density, or parking. Something about those topics makes people lose all common sense and resort to primitive, emotionally driven outbursts.

by Adam L on May 8, 2012 12:06 pm • linkreport

Anything we can do fight the misinformation from Brown and others?

by Matt on May 8, 2012 12:12 pm • linkreport

Adam,

Simply because someone doesn't agree with you, doesn't make them wrong.

Everyone has a point of view and when it comes to anything that is going to affect ones property or perceived freedom, then they are going to react differently than someone who has less or nothing to lose / change.

by Zoning on May 8, 2012 12:15 pm • linkreport

@Zoning

Great saying: Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but no their own facts. Even though these people are objectively wrong, I was more making an observation about psychology. With all the problems in the world, nothing solicits reactionary passions as much as these issues.

by Adam L on May 8, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

Matt: I'm working on that. There will be another part coming soon and I hope to be able to announce a group folks can join to get more updates and help fight this.

Zoning: You're right that just because someone disagrees doesn't make them wrong, but the thing is that in this particular case, they really are just plain wrong.

I totally respect the right of groups to organize to promote a particular view of the future of the city even if I don't share it, but if they do, they should do so around genuine disagreements rather than myths.

by David Alpert on May 8, 2012 12:22 pm • linkreport

@Zoning. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They are not entitled to their own facts. The point of David's post, and Adam's comment, is that many people are mischaracterizing what the changes are, and do. That's not a difference of opinion over whether the changes are wise or not, it's just being wrong about the facts. At best, it's intellectual laziness and simply parroting incorrect information someone else told them. At worst, it's intentionally lying about what the changes do in order to gin up opposition.

by dcd on May 8, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

So, do Whayne Quinn and Phil Feola charge to draft talking points on this forum, or do they do it for free??

by Axel on May 8, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

Wait, Hold up! You mean to tell me that there are actually people WOTR who get caught up in the misinformation being peddled around their communities?

I feel badly for these misinformed sheep who obviously likely aren't interested in bettering their community.

by HogWash on May 8, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash

Touche good sir. Touche.

by Kyle W on May 8, 2012 4:25 pm • linkreport

Since when did David start doing damage control for the Office of Planning? This must be serious!

by Karl on May 8, 2012 5:08 pm • linkreport

The zoning change does almost nothing therefore it is critical that it be passed !

huh?

by Tom Coumaris on May 8, 2012 8:46 pm • linkreport

It does almost nothing in the areas where the constant complainers seem to live. These are the ones who are spreading misinformation and mobilizing digital denizens to oppose a multi-year transparent effort to update the 1958 zoning code.

by William on May 8, 2012 9:13 pm • linkreport

+1 Tom Coumaris!

A lot of the issues summarized in these posts are the ones which concern me because I already live in an area where most of the 'changes' are already 'by right'. But I am concerned about the issues that will affect me. For example, why brand my neighborhood as a 'transit zone'? Those of us who chose to live downtown vs. merely visit downtown have for long had to defer to the wishes of the commuting majority ... be they from the suburban parts of DC or the surrounding states. First they threatened to knock down our neighborhoods to building inner beltways and ramps to access and leave them (e.g., the widening of 15th Street into a highway) and then they took our sidewalks away (compare Conn. Avenue near Dupont now to old pictures when it had wide walkable sidewalks.) We fought to make us as important for ourselves as our importance as a place just to commute (or transit) through. We fought to make ourselves neighborhoods where our needs would be balanced with the commuters' needs. Remember when the 'no parking during rush hour' signs came down on streets such as R St and Q Street? And now we're going to do the reverese? We're going to remake ourselves into a place serving transit needs vs. trying not to be trampled by them? This isn't a good thing.

by Lance on May 9, 2012 12:30 am • linkreport

*are the ones which DON'T concern me

by Lance on May 9, 2012 12:31 am • linkreport

Mr Alpert,

5 years and hundreds of meetings on this zoning change really? Post details of such meetings in 2007 and I will accept your opinion. If not, you're spreading the hysteria.

by Ward4foryears on May 9, 2012 8:25 am • linkreport

@ward4foryears (and others):

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/738/zoning-review-discusses-retail/

https://www.communicationsmgr.com/projects/1355/docs/Retail%20Strategy%20Meeting%20Summary%20-%2003-18-08.pdf

Now, if you'll all please get off my lawn, I have some complaining to do.

by thestinkykoala on May 9, 2012 8:38 am • linkreport

Lance is correct. A few zoning changes that might allow for corner retail or larger home-office uses is very much like an inner beltway.

by Tyro on May 9, 2012 8:44 am • linkreport

@Tyro, It very much is ... because what's being proposed and what it actually means are two very different things. To use your example of the home office (and that's NOT the only matter), we already have home occupation allowances. And while they might legally be permitted to operate more restrictively than what is being proposed today, they rarely do. They actually operate more like what's already out there. Take the b&b home occupation regs. They allow someone to operate a b&b in their own home with up to 6 rooms rented out. But look around you. Can you think of any b&b around here downtown that actually operates that way? Right off the bat I know of one chain of something like 4 in Dupont alone. Each 'home occupation' house in that chain operates far more like a business than a home occupation. First off, the owners don't live in any of these houses. They run and operate them like hotels with a full staff, and don't really pay much attention to the 6 room limit. Other b&b's (again with absentee owners) really do as much, if not more, business as venues with banquet and restaurant facilities. I.e., The enforcement isn't there to keep these to simple home occupations now. What makes anyone think it'll be any easier to enforce the new rules being designed? It's like a speed limit. You want to be sure people don't drive faster than 70 you set the limit to 55. You set it to 70 and suddenly people are driving 80. (As happened when the 55 nationwide speedlimit got rolled back.)

And the problem with enforcement isn't only limited to size and scope. It extends to a lot of other 'business requirements' which only come into play when you're dealing with a business. To return to the b&b example. We have one b&b in the neighborhood who when they asked for a variance related to the conversion of a residence into a b&b (I think the variance was for more rooms than the limit), specifically stated in their application 'no cars will be parked on site'. Go by there now and not only are they using the circular drive for parking, but have paved out 2 additional spots in the front (public space) yard.

When you start mixing business uses with residential uses you're opening a whole kettle of fish. You can't control what you're asking for as simply as Planning would have us believe (e.g., who thinks a 7 pm closing time for these stores sandwiched between residences will really stay that way for long?) And while I'm all for creating new and more mixed use zones where the people moving in do so freely of their own will and are ready to accept all the commerical activites which go with living right next door to a business, it's neither fair nor right to impose these conditions on existing neighborhoods where that is not the expectation. And I won't even go into the domino effect caused by a business moving in next door to a house and how eventually the business uses will crowd out residential uses. Oh yeah, we have enforcement to keep that from happening. Right.

by Lance on May 9, 2012 9:28 am • linkreport

I am sure other neighborhoods would hate the have something like the Braodbranch Market in Chevy Chase.

(please note the sarcasm in this post)

by Lukas on May 9, 2012 9:39 am • linkreport

@Lukas, I am sure other neighborhoods would hate the have something like the Braodbranch Market in Chevy Chase.

You make a good point ... in that you're showing the lack of understanding of the problem. Of course the neighborhood would love to have something like that move in ... just not on their street or within earshot or visibility of it ... never mind parking issues. Is the District (i.e., the taxpayers) going to compensate those whose right to the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their homes is being compromised? It's a clear 'taking'.

by Lance on May 9, 2012 9:49 am • linkreport

When you start mixing business uses with residential uses you're...

... living in a civilized society.

by JustMe on May 9, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

I haven't kept up with the zoning rewrite as much as several neighbors. If indeed the exceptions for "transit ways" is so broad as to encompass almost all of the l'Enfant city, I would consider it intellectual dishonesty and be suspect of the plan.

As far as this fascination with corner stores-wow what a disconnect. I don't know Broadbranch market but I sure remember the dozen "mom & pop" 85%er's we had in our neighborhood on most corners. Undoubtably they were grandfathered in as pre-1958. They were our biggest headache and getting rid of them was one of the most important items in revitalizing our neighborhood. They still plague most parts of DC. Romanticizing them won't fly with most Washingtonians. But by all means, let OP try.

by Tom Coumaris on May 9, 2012 10:37 am • linkreport

What are corner stores such a big concern? I have several in my neighborhood. They certainly don't produce noise. And, because they are corner stores, no one ever arrives by car (by foot or by bike). It's not a taking on my peace and quiet by any stretch of the imagination. Most are also very well-kept. I love being able to walk there when I forgot butter, etc and going to a larger store is just not an option. That's why I chose to live in a city.

by AM on May 9, 2012 10:57 am • linkreport

What are corner stores such a big concern?

I think CM Barry has some thoughts on the subject that he made known recently...

by Dizzy on May 9, 2012 11:13 am • linkreport

@AM, everyone loves having a corner store to walk to ... except for the families whose abutting houses have to put up with the noise, trash, and foot traffic and delivery trucks traffic associated with it. Yeah, it's easy to say "I don't care about my neighbors and am ready to sacrifice their peace and quite and livibility to get what I want" ... But you know, YOU could be the neighbor that gets sacrificed for 'the greater good'. Now if OP (and the taxpayers) were willing to compensate homeowners for the 'taking' they're proposing, then this might actually work. But I haven't heard a word about compensation ...

by Lance on May 9, 2012 11:27 am • linkreport

Is there any evidence that townhouses adjacent to a corner store sell at a significant discount to townhouses in areas that don't have a corner store?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

@Lance. I know your opinion is set and you'll dismiss anything that doesn't fit in your world view, but I would absolutely welcome living next door to a corner store. I would happily "sacrifice" the peace and quiet of my busy urban existence.

by Tim Krepp on May 9, 2012 11:33 am • linkreport

"Unfortunately, instead of educating neighbors, the people sending alarmist emails to certain neighborhood listservs are instead spreading misinformation and then complaining that residents are confused."

The ultimate irony of this is that just a day or two ago, GGW published just such an "alarmist" post saying that if readers didn't sign the petition the site was pushing against the U Street moratorium that they'd never get good service or even a table at a restaurant ever again, and that their food would be eternally bland. While the zoning email does mislead, it isn't really different from what happens on other issues....

by shaw guy on May 9, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

For every Lance out there who can't abide the idea of living next door to a corner store or coffee shop, there are five other people who will gladly pay a premium to do so.

by Phil on May 9, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

Also, another point to consider:

Dupont is either commercial or R-5-B and up, even though the neighborhoods around it are largely rowhouse neighborhoods. OP has basically looked at Dupont as a one-size-fits-all type thing, not considering particular sub-neighborhoods, and also they have ignored one of the main reasons for the zoning rewrite, which was that the Comp Plan called for zoning that would be more in line with the existing development patterns (and not as they seem to take it: look at the worst example in an area and make it the rule for that area and other similarly zoned neighborhoods). This arose because of concerns raised by neighborhoods like Dupont and Logan, as well as neighborhoods that are low-density, where the matter-of-right height is 40 feet, and yet most of the houses in the area are significantly shorter, usually two stories. The Comp Plan called for a careful look and decide which areas should have lower heights, lot occupancy, etc. to make certain that future develop was in scale with what was there. OP went in the opposite direction, and kept the 40 foot height limit, but also eliminated the limit on the number of stories, so it was more likely that a developer would build to the full 40 feet, where as with a limit of 3 stories, there might not be as much profit in going that high, but now they can get a full legal fourth floor (plus basement, and a MOR accessory dwelling in the house).

So OP which was charged with implementing the Comp Plan which the people of DC participated in writing and getting approved by Council, is blantly disregarding the wishes of the people and the Council's legislative approval of this will of the people.

by Lance on May 9, 2012 11:46 am • linkreport

While the zoning email does mislead, it isn't really different from what happens on other issues....

Well you've said a mouthful. Add the protests4Wells as one of those other "misled" issues.

But oh well

by HogWash on May 9, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

"Mom & Pop" or corner stores in DC:

In order to qualify for a liquor license they have to have 85% food. This has come to mean that they go to Giant or Safeway and buy a bunch of junk and fill shelves covering 85% of their floor space with it. They don't care if it sells. In fact it's a nuisance if it sells and they have to go back to Giant and buy more junk to cover their shelves with.

Almost all of the revenue comes from sales of beer and wine. Usually MD 20-20 or other brands with high alcohol and low price. Often the controversy with neighbors is when they sell or give away plastic cups so that the customers can drink right away in public.

The second most important source of revenue is selling crack pipes and chemically-treated "spice" to be smoked in place of pot. The crack pipes are sold as "vases" (with a tiny flower in them) or "pens" (with a pen refill in them). Some of the "spices" are benign but many have serious chemical treatments that cause injuries. My own (personal) experience is that spice is much more dangerous than pot. Yet another bad consequence of marijuana prohibition.

Sexual potency enhancers are also pushed with pretty graphic displays of genitalia on the packages.

Crack pipes usually aren't on display but behind the counter. Sometimes spice is also but often it's taped to the plexiglass shield showing the brands they carry.

The customers are not the sort people appreciate congregating in front of their homes next door.

I guess this isn't an accurate description of Broadbent Market in Chevy Chase, huh.

There were many corner stores in our neighborhood that had been grandfathered in before 1958. Before supermarkets corner stores were where people shopped. Thankfully we got rid of them and now you have to go over a mile to buy a crack pipe and cheap wine is harder to find. I realize this is an inconvenience to many. We planned it that way.

I don't know if anyone from OP is from DC, but their pushing for more corner stores is a delight.

by Tom Coumaris on May 9, 2012 12:12 pm • linkreport

Tom,

Sounds like you have some serious complaints about those businesses. However, none of them appear to be related to land use, which is what the zoning code regulates.

by Alex B. on May 9, 2012 12:29 pm • linkreport

Another salutary effect of the re-write will be to relieve BZA of hearing non-controversial de minimis cases involving small changes in lot occupancy, particularly in R-4 and those involving non-conforming courts, additions to non-conforming buildings and accessory structures, which abound in that zone. The 1956 code seems to have been written with deep hostility to row dwellings. Relieved of these cases that clog up the docket, BZA can spend its time adjudicating the serious cases that have larger public impacts than someone's enclosed porch or garage.

by Paulus on May 9, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

@ Tom - theres a corner store called Cornercopia near where I work at in the Navy Yard area. AFAICT the only alcoholic beverages they carry are mid to high end wines, and Ive never seen anyone actually buy a bottle. Mostly they seem to get by selling coffee and made to order sandwiches. They have a bunch of pricey food items, which I guess they sell some of, since there is no supermarket in the area. The only spices Ive seen there are overpriced gourmet stuff. I've never seen anyone congregating outside.

by Mstreetdenizen on May 9, 2012 1:10 pm • linkreport

There were many corner stores in our neighborhood that had been grandfathered in before 1958. Before supermarkets corner stores were where people shopped. Thankfully we got rid of them and now you have to go over a mile to buy a crack pipe and cheap wine is harder to find. I realize this is an inconvenience to many. We planned it that way.

Honest and literal NIMBYism - refreshing!

by Dizzy on May 9, 2012 1:10 pm • linkreport

I'm assuming that Tom was being sarcastic..at least I hope

by HogWash on May 9, 2012 1:17 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

There's a house a block down from me which has quite a few folks selling drugs, hassling people, causing all sorts of problems, etc. It's already caught fire once, and there's a real concern it could happen again. Should I try and get it rezoned as the residents are problem neighbors?

by Tim Krepp on May 9, 2012 1:24 pm • linkreport

Almost all of the revenue comes from sales of beer and wine. Usually MD 20-20 or other brands with high alcohol and low price. Often the controversy with neighbors is when they sell or give away plastic cups so that the customers can drink right away in public.

It's a real problem with DC culture that they associate commercial activity with poverty, quality of life problems, and low-rent activity such as this. I think it's possibly the most major cultural shortcoming of DC.

It's the presupposition that a business owner is doing "something wrong."

by JustMe on May 9, 2012 1:40 pm • linkreport

While I would not call my local corner store a gourmet heaven, they are definitely not selling MD 20/20, rolling papers, and crack pipes. Perhaps the experience of 14th St in the 1980s is not representative of the entire city today..just guessing..

by Phil on May 9, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

It may not be the entire city today, but neither is Broadbent Market. East of Georgia Avenue and certainly EOR this is what these stores very often are still. OP preaching to people in these areas about the need for more of them makes people wonder if OP stands for Other Planet. But I'm certainly not looking to help OP's PR, so by all means let them keep pushing more corner stores.

We were glad to see the backside of these places around 14th but they still plague Georgia Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, Florida Avenue NE and everyplace east.

And a NIMBY is someone who proposes something like low-income housing, shelters or recovery houses generally, but not for THEIR area. That's hardly me.

by Tom Coumaris on May 9, 2012 2:56 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

You have yet to make the case for why the zoning code, which governs land use, is the solution to the problems you lay out - which have little to do with land use at all.

by Alex B. on May 9, 2012 3:03 pm • linkreport

@Alex, I think I made that argument earlier. Ie, since we can't count on enforcement to address the problems once they've arisen, people who've been here for a while have learned that they instead need to be prevented in the first place by not allowing them fertile ground to grow on. Work at addressing current enforcement issues, and you might find more people having trust in the proposed changes. And of course I probably mean more OP than you. But ask any regulatorty agency in DC today about enforcement of one if THEIR regulations, and they say "not my problem". That's the elephant in the room in this discussion. Rule making agencies in DC have to develop rule enforcement mechanisms concurrent with development of rules. The zoning laws today are only blunt because the ZA ignores half the picture ... Enforcement.

by Lance on May 9, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

As I said Alex B, if OP doesn't realize what "corner store" means in most of DC, it's not my goal to help them out. Presumptive outside planners making fools of themselves in DC is a favorite spectator sport in DC.

by Tom Coumaris on May 9, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

"Thankfully we got rid of them and now you have to go over a mile to buy a crack pipe and cheap wine is harder to find."

Stores next to me - bad. Stores over a mile away - fine. That's pretty much the definition. You needn't be proposing something new, just generally recognizing the need and utility for its existence. Most people are not involved in urban planning or development, so they're not going to be proposing new jails/fire stations/subsidized housing/whatever. But they recognize their overall necessity, yet mobilize to keep them away (at a safe driving distance, usually) from their homes.

by Dizzy on May 9, 2012 5:13 pm • linkreport

where I live the supermarkets generally carry Magen David 20/20. Do they not in these parts of DC? Is the assumption that certain "elements" are involuntarily carfree, and so rely on the "corner store" to purchase their beverage of choice, whereas the better sort who want to buy food, drive to a supermarket? Is the different viewpoint common on GGW perhaps due to a different assumption about who is car free and thus would benefit more from corner stores?

by DontDissTheKosherWines on May 9, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

Get real. Any place that is selling MD 20/20 is already open - they are places that USED to be frequented by people for all kinds of things in the past but are now in depressed neighborhoods. Nobody's going to go to the trouble of opening a new corner store to tap the lucrative bum wine and 40s market. Please.

by MLD on May 9, 2012 5:53 pm • linkreport

There are other ways to deal with the shops selling MD 20/20 and similar anyway. From Wikipedia comes one idea:

"In 2005, the Seattle City Council asked the Washington State Liquor Control Board to prohibit the sale of certain alcohol products in an impoverished "Alcohol Impact Area". Among the products sought to be banned were over two dozen beers, and six wines: Cisco, Gino's Premium Blend, MD 20/20, Night Train, Thunderbird, and Wild Irish Rose.[9] The Liquor Control Board approved these restrictions on 30 August 2006.[10] The cities of Tacoma, Washington and Spokane, Washington also followed suit in instituting "Alcohol Impact Areas" of their own following Seattle's example."

by Phil on May 9, 2012 6:25 pm • linkreport

Phil- This isn't Seattle.
MLD- If there's money in something it will open.
Don'tDiss- Mad Dog 20/20
Dizzy- I don't wish that plague on anyone.
AlexB- When something is a nuisance you don't enlarge it.
Lance- There's no enforcement because these items are legal.

by Tom Coumaris on May 9, 2012 6:46 pm • linkreport

When something is a nuisance you don't enlarge it.

The corner store isn't the nuisance, however. The activity of a few particular stores is, in your case.

Zoning is not a nuisance law, and it is not one for a reason.

by Alex B. on May 9, 2012 7:16 pm • linkreport

A few particular stores? From Georgia Avenue east many blocks have one of these grandfathered-in corner stores. And most sell the same stuff under the same 85% charade.

by Tom Coumaris on May 9, 2012 7:39 pm • linkreport

This isn't Seattle.

The funny thing is that arguments about zoning in DC simultaneously argue that our quality of life in DC is so much better than it is in places like Seattle and New York because of our zoning decisions while also arguing that quality of life in DC is so terrible that we cannot accept the zoning decisions they make in NYC and Seattle.

We're both too awesome and have too many social and economic problems.

If DC is full of such terrible, terrible people contributing to such an awful quality of life such that you have to chase business owners out of town, why do you live here? Wouldn't you rather live in a more civilized environment where corner stores provide better quality goods, or do you think that all business owners are universally crooks trying to destroy your neighborhood?

by JustMe on May 9, 2012 8:24 pm • linkreport

JustMe- If you want to lead a movement for laws similar to Seattle's here by all means do so. I'll sign your petition.

I deal with as many businesses here as anyone in a very friendly way.

Not all businesses are bad.
Not all businesses are good.

by Tom Coumaris on May 9, 2012 8:46 pm • linkreport

Thanks for posting these opinions re the alarmist views about the zoning code changes. They are actually not that big of a deal and in the best interest of all. But if you say that on the Chevy Chase List Serv, you would get blasted and bullied.

by Chevy Chase Resident on May 10, 2012 12:24 am • linkreport

It sounds like these zoning laws are going to do nothing about the wasted space this area suffers from with it keeping buildings under two and three stories tall which in turn will keep the rents sky high. They really got to start letting more sections of the city and other secitons of Northern Vriginia start going up into the five and six and ten story range in that most of the city is maxed out at the number of people it could hold. Also they should allow zoning that would allow someone to own a five story tall brownstone building and have a office or shop in the bottom two floors of it and some apartments over top of it to make income form apartment rents. This would free up a lot of new space in the city in that there is tons of space sitting over top of these two story and three story buildings and their parking lots. They need to grab zoning by the nipper and start zoning for some more taller buildings.

by Ocean Railroader on May 12, 2012 4:10 pm • linkreport

I will give this group credit - they did a good job of hitting neighborhoods with higher than average wealth, homeownership rates, and age.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on May 22, 2012 2:55 pm • linkreport

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