The code is older than 78 percent of the District’s population and places little emphasis on historic preservation or sustainability. Simply put, it does not befit a modern, dynamic city like D.C.
Fifty years of accumulated amendments have made the code far too complicated and difficult to navigate. It outlaws traditional, walkable neighborhood forms and requires more parking than residents need. It prohibits neighborhood corner stores. It frowns on accessory dwelling units that could help families pay their mortgage. And it’s nearly impossible to understand without a lawyer!
Get Involved through Pro-DC
- Learn more about Pro-DC
- Sign the Pro-DC petition in support of a progressive Zoning Update
- Pledge to testify at a Zoning Commission hearing
- Download the Pro-DC guide to the Zoning Update
D.C. Office of Planning Resources
- Draft copy of the zoning update
- Office of Planning spring 2013 presentation on the update
- Office of Planning’s official D.C. Zoning Update website
- Office of Planning’s Zoning Update FAQs
- Office of Planning’s Zoning Update blog
What Should the Update Look Like?
We need to modernize our zoning code to better accommodate the needs of current and future residents. Specifically, we would like to see real progress made in the following areas.
Accessory Dwelling Units
We need better options for homeowners to create an accessory dwelling unit without a long and burdensome process. More residents will be able to rent out a basement or garage to help pay the mortgage, give a young person the opportunity to live in the neighborhood, and let seniors age in place in their own homes.
Just the facts: the accessory dwelling proposals will…
- Allow one accessory dwelling in the house or an existing separate building in single-family and low-density row house zones
- Not change higher-density row house and apartment zones
- Require a special exception for construction of (or expansion of ) a garage or carriage house with an accessory dwelling
- Require the owner to live in the house at the same time
- Limit the overall size of the dwelling to 25% of the size of the main one
- Include other restrictions as well.
Parking minimums require more parking than people need, increase the cost of housing, and damage the historic and walkable form of many neighborhoods. Easing parking requirements in downtown areas and along busy transit corridors will help to create more walkable, vibrant neighborhoods and provide more accessible housing options for more people.
Just the facts: the parking proposals will…
- Eliminate parking minimums in downtown zones and commercial or mixed-use zones with frequent rail or bus service
- Retain parking minimums in neighborhood corridors without frequent transit
- Eliminate parking minimums for buildings under 10 units
- Retain parking minimums for churches, schools, and other non-residential uses in residential zones.
We need a code that makes reasonable allowances for local corner stores in row house residential neighborhoods. The ability to walk just a short distance to local, neighborhood-friendly amenities enriches our neighborhood fabric.
Just the facts: the corner store proposals will…
- Allow small retail, service, or arts uses in corner buildings or buildings that were historically retail in residential row house areas
- Not allow on-site cooking, dumpsters, liquor stores, dry cleaning chemicals, or a long list of other impacts that would harm neighbors
- Limit the number of other such corner stores within a 500 foot radius.
We need a simplified zoning code with clear rules that can be followed by your average resident. We want to make sure the zoning code is accessible to everyone – not just land use lawyers.
Just the facts: the code reorganization will…
- Create a more accessible, easy-to-understand and easy-to-use code
- Create a new zone category for each current combination of zone and overlay
- Provide a ‘development standards’ table for each zone, listing building limits and pointing to relevant sections with rules for measurement and more
- Provide a ‘use table’, listing which uses are allowed and referring to relevant sections with rules for conditions or special exceptions.