Photo by Vosburg_09.
Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:
- Great article by Georgetowner Shannon Christmas on the problems with the way DC’s zoning laws are enforced, and not enforced.
- The BIDs rebranding is finally getting its rollout soon. Dave Roffman will be so thrilled.
Canal graffiti by Daquella Manera.
Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:
- Another Zoning Commission meeting last night. GM doesn’t have anything to add because he totally forgot it was happening and didn’t watch it. Sorry.
- O Salon is moving to O St. Seems like it ought to have been there all along.
Last night the ANC met for its May session. And to the extent it had an overriding theme, it would be one of a disconnect between neighbors.
The first case that had this disconnect was the EastBanc project at the Exxon station. This has been discussed here before. Essentially, EastBanc wants to build a five story building where the Key Bridge Exxon now stands.
This would cut off a part of the currently magnificent view enjoyed by the homes on Prospect St. When the ANC first reviewed this project, it took the neighbors’ side, but not aggressively so. It asked that OGB to seriously consider the effect on the Prospect St. neighbors’ views, but they didn’t really come that hard against it, at least not in the resolution.
So last night, EastBanc was back with some modest tweaks to the design. Primarily it reconfigured the facade to be less modern and to “read more” (i.e. kinda look) like a set of rowhouses. Apparently they made a few modest changes to the building’s positioning, but they were all pretty minor.
The neighbors were back again. The criticisms seem to fall into two buckets: the effect the building’s height has on the views of the Prospect St. neighbors and the impact the building would have on the “gateway” of Georgetown.
In GM’s opinion, the “gateway” argument is really just a tarted up way to complain about the height. Right now there’s a gas station, and GM suspects a lot of the people complaining about the height would be perfectly fine if the gas station stayed. Besides, as EastBanc argued last night, the building would be on your periphery as you come across the Key Bridge. Your eyes are directed straight at Dixie Liquors, not the Exxon: Continue reading
When GM was digging through the Post archives the other day researching the Fillmore School, he came across a fascinating article from 1927. It described a zoning fight over the block facing the Fillmore School, on the eastern edge of Burleith.
According to the article, J.R. Hall owned the buildings on the west side of 35th St. between S and T. This block was zoned for residential use, however three frame houses on the block contained stores (presumably built before the residential zoning was applied). Hall proposed to knock down these small buildings and build “new and more ornamental” buildings to house more stores. He needed the block to be rezoned commercial in order to accomplish this.
Hall wanted to serve Burleith residents, who had begun to move in to all the new Shannon and Luchs houses. No commercial district was built into Burleith and the residents soon tired of walking all the way to Wisconsin Ave. for their retail needs. In fact, Hall presented a petition signed by a majority of the neighborhood’s residents in favor of his request. Even the Burleith Citizens Association was for it.
What stopped Hall, and the reason there are still no commercial buildings in Burleith is the topic from yesterday, the Fillmore School. A 35th st. neighbor filed an objection and his effort was supported by the PTA and several other citizens associations from across the city. Their arguments were based off of the belief that no commercial buildings should be in the immediate vicinity of schools. Assistant Superintenent of the Schools, Robert Haycock, argued against the change because, “experience has shown it disadvantageous to the education system and such stores become a factor in delinquency.” Continue reading
Last night, the Citizens Association of Georgetown hosted a debate between the Office of Planning’s Travis Parker and the Committee of 100’s Nancy MacWood over the proposed zoning code rewrite. While GM billed the affair as a potential fight between two rival ideologies, what actually took place was a very respectful, high-minded, and detailed discussion. The event performed a great service for the neighborhood, even if it didn’t provide the fireworks that GM was expecting.
Up first for the evening was Travis Parker. He had the task of explaining what this was all about in the first place and what his office was setting out to do:
What is Zoning?
As explained by Parker, zoning represents the rules and regulations that govern building form and building use. They concern, for instance, what the height of a building is or how large its massing can be. They also determine what you can do with the building, such as open a shop or build a home. They don’t, however, govern design review, construction standards, or specific commercial guidelines (like whether you can have a take-out restaurant or just a sit-down one).
Why the Change?
DC’s zoning code was last rewritten in 1958. Since then, a host of exceptions, overlays, and planned-unit developments have turned the code inside-out. The code is now complex and unreadable by anyone but a land-use lawyer. So the first objective for the change, according to Parker, is to make the code simpler and easier to understand. Continue reading
As mentioned here last week, tonight the Citizens Association of Georgetown is hosting a meeting to discuss the ongoing zoning rewrite. The meeting will be structured like a debate, with the Office of Planning’s Travis Parker presenting the case for the changes, and Nancy MacWood will present the case against the changes, or at least some of the more controversial topics.
The tenor of the debate could be affected somewhat by the recent hubbub over whether or not Mayor-elect Vincent Gray should keep on the Director of the Office of Planning, Harriet Tregoning. What initiated this recent scuffle is that the Committee of 100 wrote a letter to Gray asking that he not keep Tregoning or DDOT director Gabe Klein. Continue reading
Next Monday, CAG will hold its November meeting and the topic of the night will be zoning. While this topic sounds a bit dry at first, it is an incredibly important topic for the future of Georgetown and the city at large.
Right now the Office of Planning is engaged in a multi-year project to completely revamp the District’s zoning code. Many changes are needed to modernize the code and bring it in line with modern expectations.
The Office of Planning is also using this process to set out a direction for how the city will grow over the next fifty years or so. Central to that vision is the need to add many more residents without adding many more cars. To achieve that goal, among other things, the revised zoning code will encourage higher density of residential units and facilitate more mixed use of residential buildings.
How Georgetown fits into that vision is where the fight will be. The Office of Planning is expected to proposed regulations that apply to all corners of the city immediately upon adoption. An eventual carve out from the general rules for Georgetown is expected though. So what should that carve out look like? What happens in the meantime? Can or should Georgetown turn its back on future of the city’s zoning plan? These questions and many more will have to be answered. Continue reading