Posts about DCOZ
The DC Office of Zoning (DCOZ) and National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) have both made improvements to their websites to help residents get information about the cases they are considering and their deliberations about those cases.
NCPC launched live streaming video of its meetings, one of which took place today and, at least at the moment, is still going on. The video shows the presentations being made and zooms in on individual commission members as they speak. The video will also be archived afterward.
DCOZ has launched its system to provide access to zoning filings online. The search tool is still somewhat limited, but if you know the case number or name of a case, you can now see the submitted applications, at least for some cases.
Not all of them are online yet; for example, a case about Buzzard's Point coming up before the Zoning Commission later this month has no documents listed, nor do older cases like this one at 14th and U from a few years ago.
But this is a great start. Hopefully DCOZ can continue to get more of the filings online.
I've been maintaining a little table of how different development review boards in DC are doing to make their cases and decisions open and accessible. The boards listed are the Zoning Commission (ZC) and Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA), both of which are part of DCOZ; the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), the Public Space Committee (PSC), NCPC, and the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA).
|Post staff reports||N/A2||N/A2|
|Post agency/ANC comments||3|
|Receive emailed comments||Unclear|
|Post individual comments|
In addition to the changes listed above, the table now reflects that NCPC posts detailed information about its cases under consideration, once those cases are on the upcoming agenda for consideration by the commission.
NCPC has also recently started tweeting, and during today's meeting, tweeted interesting developments throughout the meeting. Nice job!
The DC Office of Zoning recently released a slick interactive zoning map of the District. Not only can you view a neighborhood's zone boundaries, but you can also view campus plans, historic districts, and overlay zones, too.
The map also plots each individual property in the District and notes the square number (block number), and the lot number. When you click on a lot, a dialog opens displaying the owner's name, a photo of the property as well as any zoning rulings that apply to the property.
The site uses Google Maps as a base platform, but overlays other city data on top. Displaying zoning, property ownership, and zoning ruling data in an easy interface helps demystify these otherwise obscure areas of public policy.
We've done a fair amount of criticism of DC and regional agencies lately. There's plenty to criticize. But most agencies do good work day in and day out, despite periodic lapses
of into stupidity. A few agencies are doing a particularly good job with recent technology developments that deserve special mention: DCRA's Twitter, the Office of Zoning's on-demand video, and OCTO's data feeds and apps.
DCRA's Mike Rupert watches for people including @dcra in a tweet, and responds promptly. There are examples every day; just yesterday, @joni_pod complained of price gouging at an impound lot and @dcra followed up for more information. When a shady architect forged some papers for Capital City Diner's foundation and DCRA stopped them from moving in, Rupert helped them find an interim solution partly via Twitter. When
And Now, Anacostia's @DG_rad reported some sign vandalism, Rupert pulled in DDOT via Twitter (and DDOT followed up).
Rupert even follows up when his agency is falsely accused of narrow-mindedness. Yesterday, ReadySetDC's Justin originally reported that DCRA was asking for crazy 22' buffers for Park(ing) Day, but Rupert quickly clarified that DDOT is responsible. The confusion arose because people apply for public space permits at the DCRA permit center (whose wait times, by the way, Rupert frequently reports via Twitter), but DDOT officials actually make the policy decisions and work with the applicant.
Another technology gold star goes to the Office of Zoning, which supports the Zoning Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustment. They've offered live video streams of their meetings since at least last year, but they now also offer on-demand video for all of their past meetings as well since about September 2008. They've rolled out some impressive new features as well; now, while watching a hearing, you can see the agenda, and click on an individual agenda item to jump right to the discussion of that item.
Many agencies often have snazzy Web sites but don't keep them updated very well. Not the Office of Zoning. I wanted to watch tonight's meeting shortly after it concluded. To my surprise, the Office of Zoning already had the video online. Nearly real-time access to government information is extremely important for public participation. Too many agencies have weeks or months of delay before information becomes available. Now if they could just finish the online system for viewing zoning variance and PUD submissions that they're working on.
The DC Council also has a nice on-demand video system, though hearings don't usually show up until a day or two after they happen. Bills newly introduced often take around a week to appear in the LIMS database.
Most frustratingly, the Council Web site has an interactive calendar that shows meetings but doesn't list the subjects of any of the hearings; neither does the list of hearing notices. You have to click on and read each of the PDF notices to see what a committee is discussing. And knowing that there's a meeting of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation on September 16th without knowing the subject isn't particularly useful, unless maybe you are Jim Graham and need to know to show up no matter the topic. (It's on fire hydrant maintenance).
Much of this technological progress comes courtesy of DC's OCTO, which handles technology across the government. They've been leaders in releasing public data feeds and encouraging people to build applications using that data, launching a network of Wi-Fi hotspots, and even creating an app store to assemble all of the tools and apps in one place. In fact, OCTO just won an award from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government for the data warehouse.
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