Saturday, September 01, 2012

New Zoning and Ward 3

The District is embarking on a city-wide zoning revision. While this is not solely a Ward 3 issue, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion on various community listservs. Below is a recent, very relevant post:

we have centuries of evidence to see what neighborhoods look like
without parking minimums. I recently stumbled on this great little piece
entitled "Legalize Georgetown" (, written by David
Alpert in 2008, back when the zoning rewrite process was just getting
underway. He points out that some of DC's most beloved neighborhoods would
be illegal under today's zoning code.

"If Georgetown burned down tomorrow, then the zoning code should allow it
to be rebuilt similar to the way it is today. If someone wanted to expand
the rowhouses of Capitol Hill to vacant blocks in Southeast they should be
able to. But that's not true...

"My current building in Dupont has 13 apartments and zero parking spaces.
If it were rebuilt today, it would need an empty lot next door that's about
the same size as the building to fit the seven spaces required under
current zoning. It would mean more cars crossing the sidewalk, and one of
the prettiest blocks in Dupont would be much less. And having these spaces
would encourage more driving and raise the cost of living here."

I would add Cleveland Park to that list; many of the grand buildings lining
Connecticut Avenue predate the zoning code and would be much less grand if
they were subject to the 1950s rules. For that matter most of the pre-WWII
duplexes and townhouses in the neighborhood wouldn't be allowed.

None of the great cities of the world rose up under the constraints of
restrictive zoning codes or parking minimums, nor could they have. The most
beautiful parts of Paris, Rome, London, New York - and Washington DC -
would have been prohibited, or scarred with ugly parking lots and garages.

It's the zoning excesses of the 1950s that were reckless experiments, and
their unintended consequences - from the oceanic parking lots and strip
malls of Rockville Pike to the bleak megablocks of Southwest DC - are plain
for all to see. Today's zoning reforms take a small step towards undoing
that damage.

Residential parking scarcity is a problem; but the correct solution, as
I've argued before, is to price parking on public land in a way that
reflects its value, not to impose arbitrary Soviet-style supply quotas on

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