Sunday, October 28, 2012

Zoning Overlay: More Food in Cleveland Park?

The every two year discussion about the restaurant zoning overlay is taking place on the Cleveland Park listserv. Recall that about 25 years ago, neighborhood leaders, fearing the "Adams Morganing" of their neighborhood took two measures. First, they created a historic district to help manage changes to the Connecticut Avenue commercial strip in the vicinity of the Metro station. Second, they were able to convince the city to install an overlay restricting the percentage of storefronts that can be dedicated to restaurants.

In the early 2000's, clarifications were made with the DC Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs related to how the 25% was measured and what kind of food places counted towards the cap.

In the intervening years, the wishes for the desired book store and hardware stores, while still present, seem to be measured with the reality that the viability of such places in a neighborhood like Cleveland Park are pretty slim. Instead, non-food places include a number of tanning salons, nail salons and other uses that some in the community feel are less desirable.

In this era, with internet based retail and more flexible working patterns, the neighborhood experience is evolving. More people want to be able to conduct meetings at coffee houses, enjoy a unique meal or be able to carry out lunch or dinner in an expedient manner. Corridors such as 14th Street, U Street, H Street, or 8th Street South East and the Navy Yards are transforming to very vibrant and unique places based on the services available.

Cleveland Park, on the other hand, remains relatively static in comparison. It is a wonderful neighborhood with fantastic building stock and natural foot traffic based on visitors to the National Zoo and the density of apartment buildings and condos along Connecticut Avenue to the north and south of the commercial strip.

In a 2008 poll, neighborhood listserv members supported the removal or relaxing of the zoning overlay by a factor of 70%. While this is not a scientific survey, it is one measure of public sentiment. So again, there is a new poll to measure public sentiment. Maybe this time, the ANC and Community Associations will take note that residents of the community really do not like this artificial barrier to improving realistic and improved choices in the community.

If you are a member of the listserv, vote now!

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