Monday, February 13, 2012

proposed DC zoning regulations would accommodate * retail * in residential areas like R-4 - what do YOU think? fantastic? wretched?

This Bloomingdale blog post references these two recent Greater Greater Washington blog posts by David Alpert on the DC zoning regulations rewrite initiative:

Rewritten DC zoning code corrects past mistakes
by David Alpert • February 8, 2012 10:47 am

Is DC`s zoning update ``too timid``?
by David Alpert • February 9, 2012 2:07 pm

Might some of the proposed zoning regulations impact Bloomingdale?


Read on.

David Alpert`s first post above addresses these six zoning categories:

- Accessory dwellings
- Corner stores in residential areas
- Minimum parking requirements
- Alley lots
- Green Area Ratio.

Let`s dive into each category:

Accessory dwellings

The residential portion of Bloomingdale is mostly R-4, so the proposed zoning for accessory units would not apply to Bloomingdale. More than one dwelling unit per lot is already accommodated in the current zoning regulations. ``Row house neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Columbia Heights, and Bloomingdalealready allow these units because they are R-4 districts, which allow 2 apartments per building.`` I don`t see these proposed zoning changes on accessory dwellings directly impacting Bloomingdale.

Corner stores in residential areas

I have copied in the section below from David Alpert`s GGW first post. It is a long list that ostensibly would be permitted in residential areas – I guess that would include R-4 neighborhoods (? ? ?):

OP`s proposal would allow some limited retail in residential areas, but with a great number of restrictions:

•Only ``Arts Design and Creation`` (arts studio, furtniture making, radio broadcast station), ``Food and Alcohol Service`` (deli, ice cream parlor), ``Retail`` (drugstore, grocery, jewelry store, but not auto shop or firearm sales), and ``Service`` (bank, travel agency, tailor, but not daycare, animal boarding, health clinic, or sexually based business) uses are allowed.

•They can`t be in any building within 500 feet of a commercial or mixed-use zone, so this doesn`t let existing retail corridors expand (though, arguably, some of that might be a good idea).

•There can`t be more than 3 other arts, retail or service uses within 500 feet, or more than 1 other food establishment, to prevent too much of a concentration of these non-residential uses in one area.

•It can`t be above the ground floor of any building, except for artist live-work spaces. This prevents a building from becoming entirely commercial.

•It can`t be larger than 2,000 square feet.

•It can`t be open after 7 pm or before 8 am.

•There can`t be more than 4 employees at the business at any time.

•It can`t have more than 1 sign, a lighted side, or a sign sticking out from the building.

•All of the trash and materials have to be stored inside; there can`t be a dumpster, for instance.

•Any alcohol sold has to be for consuming elsewhere, not at the business, and can`t take up more than 15% of the business`s floor area. That means a small grocery could offer some beer and wine, but there can`t be a wine bar or liquor store.

•Food sales can`t involve cooking food on-site, but reheating pre-cooked food is okay. Grease traps (a part of kitchens that do frying or other cooking with grease) aren`t allowed.

•There can`t be dry cleaning chemicals, so a dry cleaner in a residential district has to be the kind that sends its clothes out to be cleaned rather than doing the work in the building.

-- So under the proposed zoning regulations, one could possibly see the additional uses mentioned above pop up in the neighborhood without any zoning variances -- permitted as a matter of right.

Minimum parking requirements

David mentions church parking in his text. You can read what he has to say. For those residents who have expressed concern over church parking, I don`t think that the proposed zoning regulations force churches to now supply offstreet parking, etc.

Alley Lots

Bloomingdale currently has alley dwellings on Bloomingdale Court NW.

Here is David comment on alley lots: ``Current rules allow alley dwellings as long as the alley lot is 400 square feet or greater, it has adequate plumbing and so on, and the alleys serving it are particularly wide, at least 30 feet. The new code removes the 30-foot alley rule, but any alley unit will still have to get a special exception and satisfy DC agencies on fire safety, traffic, waste and more.``So Bloomingdale might see more alley dwellings, once the 30-foot wide alley restriction would be removed. More alley dwellings in Bloomingdale could be created, such as the set of contiguous garages bounded by V, W, Flagler and 1st St NW.

Green Area Ratio

David indicates that this part is still under draft. No comments from me (yet).

My general comment about David's evaluation of the proposed zoning rewrite -- he has a ``new urbanist`` spin on the categories, such as parking. I am not suggesting that you adopt his position on all of these categories. But David`s review does provide a jumping off point for the discussion.

Regarding the McMillan Sand Filtration site -- the development of the site would be governed by the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process. The site is presently unzoned and would get zoned in the PUD process.

What do you think?


  1. Well it will not make a difference for ANC Commissioner James Fournier's two story illegally built garage. That structure will be coming down soon since it was built without a permit, without zoning approval, and with illegal immigrant labor.

  2. What an inappropriate and irrelevant comment! thank goodness you're no longer "the Comiss". Perhaps it's time to change your user name.

  3. I think the zoning changes sound like common sense