GM noticed a letter in the Current yesterday discussing the topic of the Office of Plannings historic rewrite of the zoning code. Linda Schmitt of Chevy Chase writes:
Our neighborhood in Chevy Chase D.C. is low-density–single family homes with room for kids, the elderly, friends, dogs, lots of birds, gardens and a general war on crabgrass…The D.C. Office of Planning thinks we need to be fixed. Low density is apparently too low. Modest homes are wrong. The officials think we need homes that are higher, wider and deeper…Why? Well who knows? As one neighbor put it, this mandate is turning her into a tea party advocate for less government. [emphasis added]
This displays a fundamentally flawed understanding how zoning works. The zoning code doesn’t mandate that certain sized buildings get built or that buildings get used in a certain way. It permits buildings to be built or buildings to be used in a way. If no one wants to build a building allowed under the zoning code, no building will get built. If no one wants to open a store in your neighborhood, no store will be opened.
Allowing larger buildings to be built or stores to open is “less government”. Wanting the code to mandate that everything stays exactly the same is advocating for more government. So long as everyone in Chevy Chase D.C. agrees with Schmitt that everything should stay exactly the same, it will. But if someone wants to do something different, the current code says they can’t. If there’s a “tea party” position here, it’s against the current system.
Schmitt ends her letter insulting renters saying they can’t engage with the community like homeowners. As someone who wrote a neighborhood website for years and became Secretary of the neighborhood citizens association all before owning a house, GM obviously thinks this is a rather uninformed position.