Tag Archives: Zoning

84 Year Old Zoning Fight Foreshadows Current One

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


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The Fight That Wasn’t

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


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Don’t Forget: CAG Meeting Tonight on Zoning

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


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The Coming Zoning Fight

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


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ANC Round-Up: That Lighty Airy Feeling

As basic chemistry tells us, gas seeks an equilibrium. You cannot long have a single space filled half with high-density gas and half with low-density gas. The high density gas would rush to the other side and even out the pressure in the room. Thus it is with the ANC. You might write up a tight two hour agenda, but that high-density schedule is bound to spread out and take up the full three hours the space will allow.

And the theme of air, density and equilibrium is a pretty good place to start the discussion today. The agenda last night had seven projects that included rear additions to the buildings in question. Whenever a project like that comes before the commission, it’s just a matter of time before the words “open space” and “light” are evoked to reject the proposal. However, last night it was Commissioner Birch who boiled all these concerns down to a single word: air.

What the word air really means is the right to look out through other people’s properties. Actually, in England they have an appropriately fussy name for it: Ancient Lights. It’s a quasi-right over other people’s “air” that in some circumstances enables you to block construction that will block the sunlight.

And GM is fine with that. Continue reading


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There But for the Grace of Zoning?

There but for the Grace of Zoning?

Recently, there has been much gnashing of teeth over the supposed decline and fall of Cleveland Park. Blogs have bemoaned it for a while, but the angst gained a higher profile last week when the Washington Post focused its attention on the puzzling growth of vacant storefronts in the historically stable Northwest neighborhood.

The Post wrote:

[M]ost businesses in other parking-starved areas, such as Dupont Circle and Georgetown, appear — so far, at least — to be weathering the economic downturn. In Cleveland Park, 11 of 64 storefronts are vacant.

This recent attention comes in the wake of several high-profile tenants in Cleveland Park closing their doors, including Magruder’s, 7-11, and Starbucks(!). But many are not content to put the blame solely on the economic climate. Rather, many argue that Cleveland Park’s supposedly restrictive zoning regulations: Continue reading

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The Morning Metropolitan

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

  • The Citizens Association of Georgetown is in discussions with the Office of Planning and Zoning to create a special zoning plan for Georgetown.
  • DCMetrocentric gives us a bird’s eye view of Georgetown in the 1940’s.
  • Sprint for the Cure this weekend along the C&O Canal to benefit cancer research.
Photo by Flickr user Ohad used under Creative Commons.

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Evermay Update


No, GM doesn’t haven’t any info about a certain possible new owner, but another piece of information may have slipped by unnoticed. Owner Harry Belin apparently withdrew his appeal to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). It’s not clear whether this move is a predicate to a sale, but it seems clear now that regardless of who owns it, Evermay isn’t going to be hosting any weddings for a long time.

More after the jump:

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