D.C.’s Code Rewrite Doesn’t Remove its 'Zoning Straightjacket'

The City Block examines the ongoing zoning code update in Washington D.C. relative to a zoning code tradition of maintaining restrictions on growth.
February 28, 2014, 12pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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First, the post explains that the current zoning code rewrite falls short of an update to the city’s comprehensive plan, which would achieve the real work of rezoning the city. “While there are a number of substantive policy changes (all good and worth supporting – reducing parking requirements, allowing accessory dwelling units, allowing corner stores, etc.), the intent of the re-write is to look at the structure and policy of the code, rather than look for areas of the city where the zoning classification should change.”

But according to the post, the current effort mostly maintains the status quo. “As promising as the policy changes in the zoning re-write may be, they do not represent any kind of change to the basic city layout – areas currently planned for high density will see more development, and areas zoned for single-family homes will not.”

Despite the constant pressure of population growth in many cities, much zoning fails to allow for the city to expand, even if within a managed envelope; “Even with the perception of runaway development in growing cities, the amount of space that’s set aside for a physical transformation is remarkably small.” For example, the D.C. Office of Planning has identified 95 percent of the city as inappropriate for “additional height based on existing plans, historic districts, etc.”

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Published on Thursday, February 27, 2014 in City Block
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