Greater Greater Washington

Glover Park ANC supports zoning update; support them!

This Thursday night, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) in affluent upper Northwest's Ward 3 will vote on a resolution about the DC zoning update. We need you to go try to dissuade the reactionary, backward commissioners from trying to keep new residents out of their fancy neighborhods and... wait a minute... they're totally for it!


Photo by MattHurst on Flickr.

ANC 3B, which covers Glover Park and Cathedral Heights, is considering a resolution to endorse the changes in the zoning update. Assuming they pass the proposal, they're totally enthusiastic about more neighborhood-serving corner stores, renting out basements and garages and other parts of homes.

The resolution strongly defends the plan to remove parking minimums "that undermine market forces, increase housing costs, reduce incentives to use mass transit, and damage the historic and walkable form of many neighborhoods."

If you live in Glover Park, please head to their meeting, which starts at 7 pm at Stoddert Elemetary, and speak up for these important (and quite modest if not overly timid) changes.

Here's the full text of the draft resolution:

Whereas, the District's current zoning code, written in 1958, predates Metro and the modern mass DC bus system, and is not consistent with past population shifts or expected trends in population growth in Glover Park, Cathedral Heights, and the District of Columbia as a whole;

Whereas, 50 years of accumulated amendments have made the code complicated and hard to navigate and understand;

Whereas the Office of Planning proposed and sought public comment on a December 2012 update to the generations-old zoning code;

Whereas, the updated proposal makes reasonable allowances for local corner stores in rowhouse residential areas such as Glover Park so that the ability to walk a short distance to local, neighborhood-friendly stores enriches our neighborhood fabric and provides easy access to daily necessities;

Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update contains reasonable limits on these corner stores to limit trash, noise, or other problems;

Whereas the updated proposal offers improved options for homeowners to create an accessory dwelling unit, creating more affordable housing, increasing the value of existing housing stock, allowing for neighborhood population growth without modifying existing building density, and allowing seniors to age in place in their own homes;

Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update contains reasonable limits on such accessory dwelling to prevent overcrowding of neighborhoods or accessory dwellings that are not consistent with the fabric of traditional residential neighborhoods;

Whereas, the updated proposal modifies required parking minimums that undermine market forces, increase housing costs, reduce incentives to use mass transit, and damage the historic and walkable form of many neighborhoods;

Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update does not modify parking minimums outside of transit zones so that the proposal will not adversely impact the availability of on-street parking;

Whereas, a simplified zoning code will offer clear rules that can be followed by the average resident and enable the zoning code to be transparent and accessible to all;

Therefore, be it resolved that the ANC supports the December 2012 Office of Planning zoning code draft that will let Glover Park, Cathedral Heights, and the District of Columbia grow in a sustainable way while meeting the needs of current and future residents of all ages;

Now, therefore be it further resolved that the ANC 3B asks the Zoning Commission to adopt the December 2012 draft zoning code proposal.

In the interests of full accuracy, it's not strictly true that the update "does not modify parking minimums outside of transit zones," since new residential buildings of up to 10 units won't have parking minimums even outside transit zones. However, that doesn't override any of the cogent arguments for the change.

Plus, we've already seen, when there have been parking minimums, that it doesn't guarantee abundant street parking. The neighborhood can protect its street parking by creating smaller RPP zones, making permit prices better match supply and demand, and using performance parking to promote turnover by non-residents.

Meanwhile, the Foxhall Community Citizens' Association took a look and outright opposes just about everything, mainly on the usual grounds we've heard: they don't really want more people around, especially not students, and also think that more people will make it harder to park. Here is an email we obtained, which FCCA historic preservation chair Paul DonVito sent to other citizens' associations:

Here are a few of our concerns. These issues aren't unique to FV - or the FCCA area in general - but they are at least some of the areas of potential concern that have been discussed:

Apartments over garages - seems like a back door way to pack more students into rental housing. Would a "garage apt" mean a house with a max of 6 students could suddenly add a couple more over a "garage" - increasing the max to 8?

Making basement apartments a "matter of right" - Clearly this would lead to pressure additional front entrances as well as full height basement egress windows. This is already a growing problem in the neighborhood as at least a half dozen houses have expanded basement windows on facades over the past few years.

Reducing parking requirements - we already have an overabundance of cars due to all the group houses. Increasing density would only make that problem worse.

Corner shops - we are definitely concerned about commercial encroachment - ie corner stores.

The basement apartment rules will actually not "lead to pressure [for] additional front entrances" because the zoning proposal already forbids new front entrances in single-family type houses (they're okay for row houses, unless it's a historic district and historic preservation blocks such a change).
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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Oh no! A house of six people may become 8! We should ban birthing twins while we're at it.

A similar outrage is the sudden appearance of windows on the front of houses. That simply won't do.

And if one is concerned about the encroachment of corner stores then it would help to elucidate those concerns.

by drumz on Feb 20, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

I thought the owner had to live in the house to allow an ADU. So wouldn't we end up with just a few students, not 8 unless several students bought the main house together?

by GP Steve on Feb 20, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

Am I wrong, or isn't Foxhall a historic district where much stricter rules would apply than those in the zoning rewrite? If I'm correct, please MYOB Foxhall since this is not about you. If I'm wrong, never mind.

by fongfong on Feb 20, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

The code outlines that up to 6 people can live on a property. That might mean 4 in a house and 2 in an ADU, but there is no scenario where 8 unrelated people could live under the same roof in a single family zone.

by Andrew on Feb 20, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

I live near Foxhall Village. There are already two small retail strips and one corner store on MacArthur and Foxhall, respectively, within a five minute or so walk from most of FV. All three are popular with the neighborhood (especially Jetties) and I have never heard any complaints about them. There really isn't anywhere else in the area where a corner shop could be added. So, I'm not really getting where they're coming from with that complaint.

by Potowmack on Feb 20, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

Dumping new tenant parking on public streets is not any sort of smart growth but is a tremendous windfall for developers.

Arlington does it right, lowering parking minimums or abolishing them in return for a developer relinquishing RPP rights for a new building.

DC could easily do the same by excluding new buildings in commercial zones from RPP (we'd always assumed this was the rule until recently). But the smart growth mantra in DC is just a shill for giving more money to developers.

Not everything that makes developers richer is smart growth.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 20, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

The elimination of parking minimums does not eliminate parking.

by Andrew on Feb 20, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

It's not even a blanket strike of parking minimums. The plan specifically cites where parking minimums are to be reduced or eliminated. Is the concerned areas one of those? Is there even a parking problem? Why is banning all development preferable over managing parking other ways (via eliminating requirements to provide it or pricing it higher/longer whatever)?

by drumz on Feb 20, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

The hypocricy of the Glover Park ANC is pretty stunning. On the one hand, they support OP'a proposal to eliminate off-street parking requirements in new development projects, on the theory that residents will use transit. Yet disingenuously, they recently voted to oppose any changes to the ward-wide RPP zone system, and specifically to oppose smaller RPP zones. They concluded that since Glover Park has no Metro stop and the bus service there is inadequate, Glover Park residents need to, you guessed it, DRIVE to Woodley, Cleveland Park, etc. and park for free all day on the streets there.

by JasperJ on Feb 20, 2013 6:08 pm • linkreport

@drumz--

The OP parking plan basically applies to any development project along a road that is served by bus service above a certain mimimal level. This means that projects could be built throughout the city with no offstreet parking in areas where the streets are already parked over capacity. It means that Glover Park, Georgetown, Cathedral Heights, etc. would have no parking minimums, yet the Glover Pk ANC is already on record that that neighborhood's public transit is inadequate. OP's proposal makes no sense, except perhaps as a way to increse developer margins. I sometimes wonder if OP should be called No-P(lanning).

by JasperJ on Feb 20, 2013 6:15 pm • linkreport

"This means that projects could be built throughout the city with no offstreet parking in areas where the streets are already parked over capacity."

Sounds like parking permits are too cheap ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 20, 2013 8:31 pm • linkreport

My boss *does* own a car (and even an off-street spot for it), but takes the bus to work every day from Glover Park. Terribly inadequate transit such that a guy with a lot of money - at least enough that a parking spot in a nearby garage would be zero strain on his budget - would find the bus to be his best route to work downtown...

But, ew, buses. Yeah...who in their right mind would be caught dead on a *BUS.* ::SHUDDER:::

by Ms. D on Feb 20, 2013 8:43 pm • linkreport

@Walker- Yes on-street parking is valuable. Too much so to give it to developers as a windfall. A new development should internalize the cost of new vehicles it brings in or better yet not bring any new ones in.

I'd love to see new car-free buildings come in and there are plenty of people in the market to fill such buildings as Arlington shows. But to allow new buildings to come into commercial zones and depend on free curbside parking in adjacent residential zones for whatever new vehicles they do generate is the worst of all possible alternatives.

I'd be fine with increased RPP pricing in heavily-congested neighborhoods. But when there becomes almost no possibility of finding a spot within any reasonable distance the value of an RPP sticker approaches Zero. To justify a market value for RPP there has to be a reasonable chance of finding a spot.

Arlington +1, DC -1

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 20, 2013 9:34 pm • linkreport

and @Ms.D-- 1985.

That's about the last time I can remember seeing an empty seat on a Metrobus during morning rush hour by the time it got to my neighborhood. The most we can hope for is a compassionate bus driver who will open the door and allow us to try and force the people in the aisle to push together tighter so we can get into the standing flesh-press.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 20, 2013 9:51 pm • linkreport

@ Tom

I'm sure you are aware this RPP issue has been before the City Council, and the deciding vote was cast by Chairman Mendelson against permitting the very restrictions on RPPs you advocate. The Post quoted him as saying that he wanted to "leave it to the market to decide," or some such nonsense.

So please don't ascribe the absence of these limitations to the smart growth people. Being one of them, I am baffled as to why the Chairman did not go along.

The following is twisted logic, but I suspect he was advised by his anti-growth constituents that to do so would then help set the stage for the coming zoning rewrite to be properly aligned with a no RPP policy. But now that the law that would is not in effect, it permits those same groups to argue against eliminating parking minimums in the zoning rewrite.

I must say, if that was the way it went down, that is a most cynical way to try and limit development along our transit corridors. But in my experience, those who would oppose these changes will do whatever it takes.

So how about you and me start lobbying the Council to make this change, which I agree is needed and overdue.

by fongfong on Feb 20, 2013 10:22 pm • linkreport

I'd say its a dumb idea to blame developers for a lack of street parking which is owned an controlled by the city. Moreover I'd rather the city just manage the parking spots it owns rather than just decree what can and can't be built.

by Drumz on Feb 20, 2013 11:20 pm • linkreport

fongfong- I've written every councilmember and the mayor paper letters on the issue and emailed them all again. I button-holed Harriet Tregoning for 20 minutes on the issue at the Ward 2 zoning meeting. She was under the impression C zones could not get into RPP and promised she'd meet with DDOT the next day on it. I'll certainly put on my lawyer drag and go down to buttonhole in person- especially Phil.

I'm especially upset because my block has a new 125 unit building on the commercial end and at the BZA hearing DDOT came in and testified less than 2 years ago that the building would not be eligible for RPP. The builder probably overbuilt parking based on DDOT's word and the residents listened to me assuring them DDOT would not give RPP there. Giving RPP to commercial zones is a fairly new surprise they've sprung.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 20, 2013 11:25 pm • linkreport

I used to live in Glover Park. The parking was neither great nor awful to my memory, but I didn't have a car. However, commute wise I can't see most people driving downtown anyway. If they are driving they are likely going elsewhere. The bus ride was awful, but 80% of that was all the #$%#ers in their SOV clogging up Wisconsin and M in the morning. I would say their opposition to neighborhood RPP would probably be more related to off peak travel and activities.

by Alan B. on Feb 21, 2013 9:23 am • linkreport

@ Tom

True that RPP's are not immediately available for some commercial zones. But I understand that if a residential building goes up and the residents request it to be made eligible, DDOT will change that propery's designation.

But don't blame Harriet or DDOT. The fact of the matter is that these agencies don't want to be hung out to dry on denying this apparent "property" right to residents. And I don't blame them. That is a job for our legislators, who should enact legislation that gives DDOT the ability to deny the RPP under those circumstances the Council sees fit.

Let us know what Phil says about this one, because he seems to be the problem here.

by fongfong on Feb 21, 2013 9:43 am • linkreport

I don't understand why parking is such a hotly debated topic. Is there a parking problem in DC? If there is one, I certainly haven't noticed it.

by rg on Feb 21, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

ANC 3B unanimously passed this resolution supporting the proposed zoning update: http://anc3b.org/?attachment_id=1243

by Brian Cohen on Feb 21, 2013 9:27 pm • linkreport

fongfong- I lay the blame at DDOT and partly at OP.

For the history of RPP there was never any idea that the Residential Parking Program applied to commercial zones. I'm sure if DDOT had counsel look at the law and the legislative history it would be apparent that Residential parking was concerned with residential zones.

Unlike Boston where RPP zones include commercial streets for resident-only parking, commercial zones in DC have parking meters for everyone. People in those commercial zones never had any advice they could participate in adjoining residential areas' RPP until recently.

As I said, less than 2 years ago DDOT testified a building here in a commercial zone could not get RPP and Harriet Tregoning just a month ago was under the assumption commercial zones could not have RPP.

And if OP were going to recommend that parking minimums be lifted they should have tried to co-ordinate with DDOT to make sure commercial zone RPP died quickly.

Or we could do like Boston and rip the meters out and make commercial zones RPP parking.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 21, 2013 10:11 pm • linkreport

Looks like "commercial zone RPP" is the new "underground garage sump pumping."

Let's see, if DDOT and OP are constantly saying that people in commercial zones can't get RPP, then how are those people able to do so?

by MLD on Feb 22, 2013 8:12 am • linkreport

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