Greater Greater Washington

Development


Fight over 5333 Connecticut reveals dysfunctional process

After decades of fighting, work began last month on a new residential building at 5333 Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase. While neighbors had few good reasons to oppose it, the project embodies the loopholes developers use in DC's patchwork of building regulations and zoning.


The site before construction began. Photo by the author.

The 261-unit building has long been approved as matter-of-right. It will not be a great building, but it is legal, and further appeals from residents to stop construction will only reduce their credibility in the future. Elaborate delay tactics will only reduce developers' willingness to cooperate with them.

On the other hand, the opponents' objections do reveal how Calvin Cafritz Enterprises designed the building to be as large as possible, using a thorough knowledge of DC's regulations. Architects Eric Colbert and Associates employed clever interpretations of what constitutes a "cellar," adding living space beyond the site's allowed density. The building's height was determined using the most favorable location of measurement.

However, the 5333 Connecticut Neighborhood Coalition doesn't simply want these irregularities fixed, they want a smaller building. They want a smaller building because they believe the effects of density will "harm" their community. They claim that added activity, reduced sunlight, and reduced tree canopy will degrade their quality of life.

Instead of looking for creative solutions to minor problems, they have chosen to fight the building itself. Rather than promoting uniform regulation across the city, opponents are using legal objections as easy tools to prevent a permissible project.

Recognizing that they have no legal standing, the majority of the ANC commissioners negotiated a memorandum of understanding that stipulated a number of design improvements for energy use and multimodalism. The four commissioners who voted for it were those closest to the project. The three who worked on the memorandum of understanding represented the areas that were most directly affected. The dissenting commissioners were in the suburban part of ANC3G, east of Broad Branch Road.

Despite the negotiations, opponents went ahead to protest the building at the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Given that there is no evidence that what Cafritz and Colbert have planned is illegal, the BZA should dismiss the complaints out of hand to avoid setting a precedent whereby the affluent and the influential preserve the narrow, short-term interests of their property at the expense of the rest of the city.

Opponents' case looks good at first, but lacks depth

With a little digging, it becomes clear that the 5333 CNC has no case against the building.

The project uses two sides of the building to calculate the height, a standard practice explicitly permitted by the Height of Buildings Act. Height must be measured from the existing elevation of the curb across from the middle of the mass of the front of building and height is determined by the width of the wider of the two streets it abuts.

Kanawha is narrower, but it is also at a higher elevation. Using the longstanding interpretation of the law, the Cafritz organization declared the Kanawha side the "front" and gained a few extra feet of height.

Opponents use a document from the Zoning Update process to show that this approach is unpopular but elide that the zoning update closes this idiosyncrasy in section 502.3, defining the height as originating from the midpoint of the facade that is closest to the lot line.

They further claim that the roof deck is 1.73 feet above the legal height because of how the development team calculates the Kanawha street frontage. The permitting calculations include portions of the facade of the longer, Military Road wing visible from Kanawha Street. The developer's midpoint is about 50' to the east, and 1.73 feet higher in natural elevation, allowing for the building to be that much taller.

A plain reading of the regulation suggests that this is permissible, if kind of tacky. Perhaps the regulation should be rewritten. Either way, the developer conceded this issue in the MOU, and will lower the building.


Site plan showing building mass, disputed frontage and measuring points.

A similarly shrewd, but legal, reading of code adds habitable spaces in a "cellar story" that does not add to the official FAR. Regulations distinguish "cellars" from "basements," where a basement is simply below the entry floor, and a cellar is a space whose ceilings are no more than four feet above the adjacent grade.

The architect designed the finished grade to hide a string of apartments along Military Road, but also excavated an full-height window well in front of them. This "areaway" also appears in the interior courtyard, projecting into berms in the central courtyard.

DC classifies areaways and parking vaults as projections from the building, and every story of a sub-grade projection is considered independently of all others. Therefore, their claim that the berms around the areaways are "planters" is at some level correct, but not according to the regulations.

I agree with the opponents that this common interpretation of the regulation is sneaky. The city should revisit this regulation, not because density is bad, but because it is opaque to the public.


North-South Section showing disputed projections

The final legal challenge in the opponents' BZA testimony is that the Military Road wing of the building extends beyond the plot of land zoned as R-5-D by 40 feet. A 1965 amendment extended the zoning of the plot to a length of 290 feet on Military. The zoning maps in 1966 and 1973 show this number. For some reason, from 1975-2003, the numerical description of the zoning plat appears as 251'. The graphical description of the lot remains the same, following the existing alley.


Changes in the zoning plat 1958-1984

Neither side can find why the number was changed. Cafritz's lawyer claims that it is a misreading of the lettering of the 5/9, which I find unconvincing. Opponents have no better case, claiming without proof that the ZC wanted to prevent inappropriate growth and so changed it. The current, digital zoning map shows the current line ending at the alley, as consistent with all maps since 1966.

The opponents' limited familiarity with development issues extends beyond legal practices and into architecture. In response to the MOU, opponents write that they are for "practical, modest changes that would not require wholesale redesign," including shifting the mass towards Connecticut Avenue and creating a "buffer zone."

However, re-masssing a building is a redesign at a fundamental level. Foundations, floor structure, column placement, parking spaces, circulation routes, apartment layout, pipe routing, curtainwall drawings, and even the landscaping plan would have to be redone. Other than a few design motifs, there isn't much work left to save.

By suggesting that their objections are simple, legitimate, and simply resolved, opponents are disguising their desire to have as little built on the site as possible. It's hard to believe that anyone would put up this much of a fight over less than two feet of height and a cellar.

Fighting a legal building discourages collaboration in growth

The majority of the legal objections are in response to loopholes that will be resolved by the update of the zoning code initiated under Harriet Tregoning. The other dubious interpretations should be resolved uniformly across the city. It is unfair to reject these rules in this case specifically when so many other projects have employed them.

It's not fair to other communities if this building is an exception. Closing loopholes would benefit the city by making the development process more predictable for the public.

Tellingly, the opponents of 5333 Connecticut do not want to resolve these regulatory flukes. At a September 15th meeting, Peter Gosselin, one of the 5333 CNC's leaders specifically said he would not ask for city-wide change to any of their complaints.

More locally, all of the objections could be resolved by removing one floor of the building. They are not asking for that either. The 5333 CNC are asking for the Cafritz team to come back and negotiate for their own property on the neighbors' terms.

The developer was under no legal obligation to engage the community. But that does not mean that they shouldn't have. In an ideal world, developers should go into communities in a transparent and open-ended way.

New projects often alter the dynamics of neighborhoods, and developers should work with communities to make a new building amplify the value new residents bring while minimizing the negatives through walkability and sensitive design. Similarly, neighbors should recognize the need for a city to grow and respect others' property rights.

With that in mind, I can't blame the Cafritz organization for not asking permission. The strife over this project is part of long-term context of opposing development through extremely effective legal means. Whether it is the lawsuits that delayed the Cathedral Commons project for ten years or the defeat of the Upper Wisconsin Avenue Corridor Study through lobbying, the neighborhood has shown that it has the means to oppose legal changes.

If I were a developer, I would choose the least complicated permitting option and hire an architect who can get me the most out of the zoning envelope. In other words, I would build matter-of-right and hire Eric Colbert.

The process for this building has proceeded so poorly because Upper Northwest's anti-development groups have consistently punished developers without providing guidelines that are commensurate with the demographic realities of 21st-century Washington. Even when developers try to work with neighbors, as at the Akridge and Babe's projects, they have faced stiff anti-urbanism groups. Now, a dangerous cross between the cost of collaboration and the desirability of the land ensures that development in Upper Northwest will proceed without community input for the forseeable future.

In the current political climate, only large developers, working with the government can handle the risks of Upper Northwest. That is the reality a handful of vocal opponents have earned multiple neighborhoods.

The only way out is for residents to take a broader perspective towards the issues a growing city faces, and propose a vision for development that integrates new residents and buildings into a diverse city. It is up to citizens to begin that kind of planning.

Neil Flanagan grew up in Ward 3 before graduating from the Yale School of Architecture. He is pursuing an architecture license. He writes on architecture and Russia at цarьchitect

Comments

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This is a fair write-up for a difficult situation. Note that this community previously opposed historic designation:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/1338/chevy-chase-wont-be-a-historic-district/

One of the commenters in the above GGW piece was also one of the leading opponents of this development proposal. I will go out on a limb and suggest had historic designation for Chevy Chase been adopted, it would have made a difference in this case.

by Luke on Oct 9, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

This is what's so frustrating about the process in DC. While it's easy to make fun of the Nimbyers, it's their enablers that deserve criticism. If the building is by right, then build it already. But not to leave the neighbors off the hook, they could have used their time to ensure that the building actually fit in better. Oh well.

by Thayer-D on Oct 9, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

"tacky, shrewd, sneaky, dubious"

This is a well-written and detailed account of the proposed building at 5333 Connecticut, but there has been nothing done by the developers to justify the words used above.

The protocol for determining heights, measuring points, floor area, and other characteristics are NOT "loopholes" - these are written into the text of the zoning regulations and all new buildings follow these same rules. This is simply how we measure these items in DC.

by Tony G on Oct 9, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

I don't see how what's happening is a failure of the "process", other than the fact that there are no design review guidelines for avenues, in areas that are not otherwise designated.

Yes, the opponents want a smaller building, even though the site is on Connecticut Avenue. The law doesn't really support their position. So they are suing, using any provisions and interpretations of land use regulations that they believe bolsters their position.

Like you, I don't see merit from a legal-regulatory standpoint in their arguments. Neither of us are lawyers, true, but based on past precedent it seems unlikely that they will prevail.

But in the body of practice that has developed around land use law and regulations, people have the ability to sue.

In other "states" usually there is a provision called something like the Land Use Board of Appeals, which serves as an appeal body for local decisions.

Just because people can sue even if they are "wrong" doesn't necessarily mean that the process is dysfunctional.

At least with that interpretation, almost all of the US legal system is dysfunctional, because people can sue, even if their cases are weak, and are unlikely to prevail.

It sucks for developers though. I presume that developers do risk assessment on projects, and build this kind of cost into the program.

I do wonder if the facade of the building wasn't so discordant, would the residents have still turned against the building. Probably, because of their being against an avenue-appropriate-sized building matters to them more than the design.

by Richard Layman on Oct 9, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

@!#$. My last sentence I left a word out, it should read "Probably _not_..." I presume that the opponents would be opposed regardless, because of the size, and they care a bit less than about the design.

It's an anti-urban position, but hey, it seems as if a majority of outer city residents are anti-urban.

by Richard Layman on Oct 9, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

@ Luke

Wait, there's more on that commenter. Yes, he has opposed a historic district and he opposes this development.

He's also a vehement proponent of eliminating parking minumums.

He also banded together with his neighbors to threaten to sue a developer who purchased a home across the street from his who wanted to raze that home and build a duplex on that property. The developer backed down.

So here in Chevy Chase, we have a special kind of growth opponent. One who opposes all things other will do, while holding fast to his own right to develop his property how ever he wants.

No wonder I have more gray hair since moving here.

by fongfong on Oct 9, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

Luke -- HPRB would have addressed the design of the building. Although there are arguments that can be made from the standpoint of the Sec. of Interior Guidelines that the discordant pos glass building is usefully discordant to demonstrate it is of its day. But others (e.g., Stephen Semes) argue that architectural discordance of new buildings diminishes the contextual quality of historic districts/historic architecture.

The other arguments HPRB may or may not have addressed. They do make arguments about height more often than not. However, Connecticut Avenue as a whole is marked by tall multiunit buildings and anti-height arguments would have been difficult to sustain.

by Richard Layman on Oct 9, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

This is a pretty fair analysis. It should be noted that developers and their consultants always choose the most aggressive interpretation they can, and it's up to the Planning Staff to weigh the merits. The Cafritz's did not invent that, and I agree with other posters that it does not merit the description used.

by Crickey7 on Oct 9, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

wrt Crickey7's comment, a colleague pointed out to me years ago that the land use bar typically recommends the most aggressive interpretation of the regulations and approaches, because that tends to result in more billable hours.

I tend to agree with her assessment.

That being said, the height stuff called into question on this case don't seem to be extraordinarily aggressive.

by Richard Layman on Oct 9, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

I'm am aware that these interpretations are standard. I've worked on a residential building that used the mix-and-match approach and a cellar story.

The neighborhood opponents are particularly irritated about the Military Road side, where the floor of the cellar story is above the sidewalk 10 feet away. You have to admit that that's silly, even if it's legally acceptable.

Saying it's "simply how we measure these items in DC" is not a good argument against revision. It's the same thing people say about the height limit, the zoning, and PUDs. The rules should be justified.

by Neil Flanagan on Oct 9, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

It's because, as here, the most aggressive interpretation yields the most value for the developer. In DC, once a Certificate of Occupancy has been issued, it creates a legal inference that the building complies in all respects with the Zoning Code. That's not the case in other jurisdictions, so there is little disincentive to press the most aggressive position--if you get it, it pretty much can never be revisited barring outright fraud.

You know, I drove up Military this weekend. I really can't see the issue with the building on that side. Once you accept the fact that there will be a building there, I think the height/bulk issue on that side becomes kind of irrelevant. And that's the nub of it. No building, frankly, would be acceptable to the neighbors.

by Crickey7 on Oct 9, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

@Neil

For upcoming discussions on zoning text revisions, of course it's appropriate to consider changes to some of these clauses. But that doesn't mean the developer of 5333 is being "sneaky" or "tacky."

by Tony G on Oct 9, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

Given the more than decade-long battle to renovate the Giant on Wisconsin Avenue near the National Cathedral, where lawsuits after lawsuits slowed the project down and turned that block between Cactus Cantina and Newark Streets into blight, that some neighbors are fighting this development doesn't surprise me. I hope that those neighborhood busybodies don't successfully slow this project down and put that developer in court for a decade.

by Rain17 on Oct 10, 2013 12:43 am • linkreport

Actually matter of right does not result in more billable hours. A PUD or BZA case or design review case results in far more work than matter of right. Even in a case like this, because the opponents will appeal and challenge either way.

Matter of right makes clients happy but does not result in more hours of work.

by Billable hours on Oct 10, 2013 8:43 am • linkreport

I don't see how what's happening is a failure of the "process", other than the fact that there are no design review guidelines for avenues, in areas that are not otherwise designated.

It's a failure of process because the process is producing sub-optimal outcomes.

So long as developers are faced with a hostile citizenry like this, they will choose the path of least resistance. And too often, that path of least resistance ends up producing sub-optimal results.

For all the arguments the opponents raise against this buidling, none of those arguments change the fundamental character of the by-right elements. And that such a by-right building faces such challenges is troubling because it increases the transaction costs for any development in the city - costs that get passed on to all of us, the consumers.

by Alex B. on Oct 10, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

Neil,
This is a very well written article; but I disagree with you on one point. You should not try to read people's minds or psychoanalyze them. I know this is the age of pop-psychology in which everyone who reads a few articles in some popular magazines thinks that he or she has instantly become an expert in analyzing other people's motives or desires. You do something that professional psychologists would never do. You don't know whether the 5333 CNC group does or does not want a smaller building unless you are able to read their minds. They have said that they will accept the PUD that Cafritz previously filed and that was approved by the BZA in 1989. That proposal called for a large apartment building that was close to the same size as the one in Cafritz's 2013 building application. Simply because the neighbors are nitpicking aspects of the 2013 proposal and raising points that are technically inaccurate does not automatically mean that they want a smaller building or that they are just trying to wear down Cafritz so that he will abandon any development there.
Jeff Norman

by Jeffrey Norman on Oct 10, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

I used to live on nearby Huntington Street NW more than a decade ago and on my walks back and forth to work on upper Conn. Ave I always wondered what the story was with this vacant lot.

by John Muller on Oct 10, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

Jeff, I needed no speculation, their actual goals are laid out plainly.They are exactly what I described.

I understand you were on the commission that negotiated the 1990 PUD. I have pored over the expired PUD and I don't find that it offers the city, the developer, or the neighborhood a better deal under today's conditions.

Its FAR is almost half of the current project and has a high parking requirement. Although the massing does step down towards the street, it is also set back from CT quite far and has no affordable housing component.

by Neil Flanagan on Oct 10, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

This sound like "Rich and Richer people problems"....

The Rich people whom already live in that community believe in status quo and getting there way.

The Richer people whom are developing property in question, have told the rich people "FU, go kick rocks" in not so many words. As the developer has the law, approval of the city, and more money than you.

Now when we usually hear about problems issues like this, they have race and socioeconomic status intertwined. But because neither of those issue are in play, the discussion is about disrespect of the community, the impact on how it effects of density will "harm" their community, how it affects lighting, and how they are using liberal interpretations of the law.

Again Rich people problems.

by Jeff on Oct 10, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

@Neil Flanagan: “Its FAR is almost half of the current project.”

I looked at the 1990 Zoning Order, approving a floor area ratio (FAR) of 4.0. Are you saying that the new Cafritz project is for a floor area ratio above 8.0?

by OtherMike on Oct 10, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

I was mistaken, but the point stands. The gross square foot of the proposed building is 299,000sf and the PUD was 189,000sf, or about 60% of the proposed size, and 9,000sf were for a medical clinic.

The PUD used a different lot size, did not use the cellar calculations and affordable housing bonus and got a similar FAR because of the regulatory structure.

by Neil Flanagan on Oct 10, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

I missed one of the PUD modifications in 1990. At the developer’s request, the Zoning Commission modified the original order, and increased the floor area ratio to 4.2, increasing the size of the building to over 198,000. This FAR, 4.2, is also the current maximum allowable FAR in this zone with inclusionary zoning.

Is your point simply that the new proposal is for a larger building on a larger site with the same density as was approved earlier, although without the PUD conditions that addressed neighborhood concerns such as the massing of the project?

by OtherMike on Oct 10, 2013 7:34 pm • linkreport

"This is a fair write-up for a difficult situation. Note that this community previously opposed historic designation."

I'm glad Cleveland Park put int an historic district years ago. Otherwise, developers would be bringing Dulles Toll Road building clones to that neighborhood.

by Molly on Oct 11, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

I think the author is right to say there is some dysfunction here.
Dysfunction here describes a situation where some were unable see the futility of opposing a by right development; if opponents took a less confrontational approach than time spent in development review and community engagement might have yielded results more acceptable to the residents.

Like saying, I won't eat unless you give me pizza. If I only am willing to give you cold cereal, you might still be better off eating.

by Solution Giver on Oct 11, 2013 6:03 pm • linkreport

Alex B. -- don't get me started about "the process". My comments on this general point are pretty clear. The point of planning and zoning in general should be to improve quality of life. When routine outcomes generate suboptimal returns then you ought to look back at the process for producing those outcomes and make process design recommendations for change.

That's what I do when I write plans, when I write in general, when I advocate.

That's not what we do "here." DC's various agencies and the elected officials are not very much interested in improving processes to generate optimal outcomes.

As far as this case is concerned, there is the disconnect that I always write about too, the difference between resident desires, and planners who have to work for optimal outcomes for both neighborhood and citywide goals.

Everything about this project (except for the design) is in concert with the Comp Plan.

But residents, even though there are big apartment buildings on Connecticut Avenue from Calvert Street up almost to the border with Maryland, don't seem to want one on that block.

You can't make that congruent, even with robust planning and zoning processes.

In any case, I was writing about the process as is, and how this case is not unique.

People can sue, even if they have a weak case. That's the nature of our system.

by Richard Layman on Oct 12, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

This article and several comments contain numerous misunderstandings about the CC community's concerns on the building.
1. The building is NOT matter-of-right. Its design includes two huge projections to expand the interior space of apartments on Kanawha and Military. Projections are defined in DC law as a privilege, not a right. The law has very specific restrictions on projections, as to exact dimensions that are allowable, and the nature of their use. Areaways are also projections. The law says projections must be removable and may not be primarily to increase interior space. There are also specific limitations on how wide they are and how far they go over the building restriction line. The Cafritz building exceeds all these restrictions and its proposed projections are solely to expand interior space. Should a building be allowed to violate these restrictions? We are simply asking DC to enforce the law and restrict these projections as the law requires.
2. The CC community is NOT opposed to a large apartment building on the site. Back in the late 1980s, we negotiated a deal with Cafritz that allowed him to build a bigger building than the law permitted as a matter of right, in exchange for some modest design changes that reduced the impact of such a large building on the existing single-family homes that line the two narrow side streets. The FAR allowed then for the site, still the same today, is 3.5. The building he could build under the 1990 PUD had an FAR of 4.0. In 2013, there is a new law that allows him to go to 4.2 (a 20% increase over 3.5) if low and moderate income housing is used for 7% of the units. But that added 20% is apparently not enough. He wants to double dip into extra FAR by artificially mounding up dirt above the existing grade to create a "cellar" floor of 17 additional apartments. If those were deemed basement apartments (which is what they really are), they would count toward the FAR and would increase the building's FAR to 4.67. This manipulation seems contrary to the intent of the zoning differentiation between cellar and basement, and makes for a building too large for the site. If developers are allowed to manipulate the "cellar" definition this way, what is to prevent future buildings from using this dirt mounding approach to always get a free floor not counted as FAR? Is this really what our zoning laws should allow? As Neil Flanagan points out, using such artificially created "berms" is not correct according to the regulations.
3. The article is right that most of the objections could be resolved by removing one floor of the building. Contrary to his assertion, we have suggested that as a compromise to the developer---but he has refused to consider it.
4. The CC community's concern about the city allowing developers to sneak around the law extends to all parts of the city. In learning about the city's lax enforcement of zoning and construction law restrictions, we have come to realize that many other projects in other parts of the city are being approved that create similar disruption of the character of existing neighborhoods. We have reached out to community groups in Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights and Ivy City, to see if we can work together to bring more attention to this problem. The Comprehensive Plan for the city states that a major consideration in development should be preserving the character of existing neighborhoods. That is exactly what the CC community is asking of city regulators and the developer. A wonderful, large apartment building on the site, one that would be highly profitable to the developer and also a great addition to the community, could be built. We respect the developer's property rights----we are property owners too. All we ask is that developers adhere to the legal restrictions imposed by DC law and consider working with the community to produce a quality, profitable building that we can welcome to the neighborhood. It could be a win-win for all, and save a lot of legal fees for everyone.

by Wanda Reif on Oct 12, 2013 6:10 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman--

Please don't talk about this development being consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, when Tregoning's proposed zoning regs rewrite guts the Comp Plan in some fundamental respects. This has been pointed out time and time again by advisory panels and others, that the Comp Plan is passed by the Council and has the force of law and any zoning rewrite has to be consitent with and subrogated to that. It's disturbing when so-called advocates of "smart growth" use the Comp Plan to advocate for particular results, yet ignore it as inconvenient to push through the very developer-friendly proposed zoning reg changes.

by Sarah on Oct 14, 2013 9:43 am • linkreport

@Wanda Reif

It is only your contention that the building is illegal. Every legal and political authority, thus far, seems to disagree.

By basing your arguments on the faulty reading of zoning code, you undermine the balance of the discussion.

Just a thought.

by William on Oct 14, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

William,
I am a lawyer, familiar with both zoning law and construction codes for DC (they are two separate and distinct areas of law). There are many other architects, lawyers, and former zoning administrators we have consulted, who all agree that the building plans have specific elements that violate zoning and/or construction law. We have also consulted political officials and there seems to be general consensus that the process by which DCRA has approved these plans, and many other projects in DC, is faulty. Too much reliance on third-party review, where the developer selects and pays for a third party to review and approve his plans. This review system is at best highly questionable, and certainly suggests undue influence in the approval process.

by Wanda Reif on Oct 14, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

Wanda, you imply that the DC planning staff is either incompetent or corrupt, or both. I find your allegations highly offensive.

The process did not work the way you and the other neighbors liked. That is no reason to smear Calvin Cafritz Enterprises or the DC Office of Planning.

by Crickey7 on Oct 14, 2013 5:11 pm • linkreport

@Wanda Reif

You might be an attorney, congratulations. I think an impartial layperson's read of the zoning rules, combined with the decades of precedent in the District would disagree with your assessment.

by William on Oct 14, 2013 5:36 pm • linkreport

Sarah -- I don't see how this project isn't consistent with the Comp. Plan. Whether or not the proposed zoning reg. rewrite is consistent with the Comp. Plan as written is another argument.

The problem with the Comp. Plan is that everyone reads it how they want to. I see it promoting transit and TOD and surgical insertion of density. Other people don't read it the same way I do.

Plus some sections, like the Transportation Element, and some parts of the Urban Design Element, are deficient. E.g., the urban design element makes no substantive recommendations about design treatment of buildings on the avenues.

by Richard Layman on Oct 14, 2013 6:44 pm • linkreport

Sarah -- #2. The Comp. Plan is precatory law, meaning it is advisory. The zoning map is what has the full force of law.

by Richard Layman on Oct 14, 2013 6:48 pm • linkreport

#3. Plus, many of the points in the Area Elements can be construed as inconsistent with the various Functional Elements. Or vice versa. A lot of the points in the Area Elements were inserted by Councilmembers.

by Richard Layman on Oct 14, 2013 7:52 pm • linkreport

The problem with this kind of article is the same for much on GGW: it lines its arguments (as commenters do as well) with nasty comments about homeowners being against development, against the city, against the people, selfish nimby-ists. At least this time its not calling them racist.
Anyone who owns property has a right to challenge what the property owner next door does, especially if it impinges on his own property. That's what the zoning and development rules are about. The neighborhood has challenged aspects of this project, and the project owner has responded, and mostly won. The author writes: "The developer was under no legal obligation to engage the community."
Easily one can say, "The community was under no legal obligation to roll over." The writer says, " I can't blame the Cafritz organization for not asking permission." He could easily say "I can't blame the neighbors for trying to get a more suitable deal."
There are just as many developers ready to ride roughshod over neighborhoods as there are local residents who reject any greater density or taller developments.
But as this article and commentary shows, GGW has this knee-jerk belief that the developers are mostly holy and single family homeowners selfish as sin.

by polo on Oct 15, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

At least this time its not calling them racist.

Why - do you have evidence that the opponents are completely oblivious to the realities of racism in this city, you know, like having children sing "We Shall Overcome" to protest a building that threatens to oppress them with shadows?

Or are you talking about the time that 5333 CNC chair Richard Graham shouted at OP representatives that he didn't want "strangers in our alleys."

by bax mauckus on Oct 15, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

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