Sunday, May 17, 2015

request for urgent support for Zoning Case 14-11 approval (with revision)

From: Katelijn van den Berg
To: Austin Lewis, Bertha Holliday, Teri Janine Quinn, DIanne Barnes, Serita Sanders cc:
Subject: Request for urgent support for ZC-14-11 approval (with revision)
Date: Sun, 17 May 2015 23:57:34 +0200
Good afternoon,
In full support of the email that Betsy McDaniel send earlier,  the comment period for Zoning Case 14-11 is open util June 1.
Last week, DC's new Attorney General filed a complaint against Insun and Jefferson Hofgard. Approximately 30 homes are mentioned in the suit and at least 11 are in Bloomingdale, and 2/3 of them are in ANC5E.
Meanwhile, developers seemed to have embarked on a mission to buy up rowhouses on the larger squares of north Bloomingdale. Neighbors have complained or expressed concerns about at least three developers, in addition to the Hofgards.  ANC5E has 4,330 R-4 lots, third highest number of R-4 lots of ANCs in the District. It is important that our ANC's voice be heard.  Residents in W street are particularly scared and upset due to the immense developer pressure on that street.
Please let the Zoning Commission know that this is a matter requiring urgent action. The DC Council has sent a Sense of the Council resolution to the Zoning Commission requesting immediate action, stating:  It is the sense of the Council that the Zoning Commission should act immediately to finalize zoning regulations that address the pending issues set forth in this resolution.
The proposed rule is intended to address concerns about pop-ups and rowhouse conversions.  At the ZC public meeting on March 30 to vote on OP’s proposal, some of the commissioners commented on what they perceived as a lack of resident interest in and awareness of the proposal.  Several commissioners mentioned testimony received from the ANCs, which indicates they value input from you.  To support his vote for conversions, Commissioner Miller singled out the one ANC that supported conversions.  
Below is a summary of the proposed rule and my views on some of the provisions.  I am also attaching sample letters which can be used as the basis to send letters to the zoning commission. Below is more information and the link to the rule.
Kind regards and thanks for your urgent attention, 
Katelijn van den Berg 

Summary of Proposed Rule for R-4 Districts Comments must be submitted by June 1, 2015
Definition of Mezzanine:  Would be amended so a mezzanine level counts as a story (R-4 buildings are limited to 3 stories). 
Conversions:  The proposed rule allows conversions of residential buildings (including rowhouses) to up to four units as a matter of right (section 330.7 ).  Conversions would be subject to about 12 conditions, which are listed in sections 330.7(a) through (l).  I think these conditions are positive.  Notable ones include:
(a)  There must be an existing residential building on the property; no special exception
(c)  Maximum height and addition can’t exceed 35 ft;
(d)  900 sq. ft. of land area per dwelling unit is required (thus, a 2700 sq ft lot allows 3 units (900x3) and a 3600 sq ft lot allows 4 units (900x4); no special exception
(e)  Conversion limited to four dwelling units on the lot;
(f)  Fourth unit must be set aside for moderate income households (up to 80% of area median income).  The proposed rule amends the set-aside requirements of Title 11, section 2603; no special exception
(g)  No more than 30% of gross floor area of the building shall be demolished;
(h)  Addition shall not extend further than 10ft “past the furthest rear wall of any principal residential building on an adjacent property”; (I think this language is confusing and can be misinterpreted);
(i) A rooftop architectural element such as a turret cannot be removed or significantly altered;
(j) Addition or roof structure can’t block a chimney;
(k) Addition, including roof structure can’t interfere with operation of a solar system on an adjacent property.
Under section 336.1 special exception relief would be available for most of the conditions above except for those noted in red.  Section 336 includes other requirements for special exception relief; some are similar to the conditions above.
OP's original proposal would have prohibited any conversion of a residential building to multifamily.  Thus a developer would have been prohibited from converting a rowhouse to 3 or more units.  
Section 330.8 would allow conversions of nonresidential buildings to an apartment as a matter of right subject to similar conditions as section 330.7.  Special exception relief is allowed under section 337.
Height of Buildings:  The proposed rule reduces building height to 35 ft (section 400.1).  40 ft would be allowed by special exception subject to certain conditions (ex: can’t block chimney or interfere with solar system).
If 3 or more adjoining rowhouses are built simultaneously (new construction) a maximum height of 40 ft. would be allowed.
Suggestions:  Provided you agree, I suggest addressing the following in your comment letters:
1.   Oppose conversions to multifamily as a matter of right (at least rowhouse conversions); Should conversions be allowed by special exception?
2.   Request that the limitations in section 330.7 apply to flat conversions; and
3.  Request an immediate effective date upon publication of the final rule.  There should be no exceptions for permit applications that have been filed but not approved.  In other words, all permits that have not been approved as of the effective date of the rule should be evaluated under the new rules.  OP stated that developers requested an 18-month grace period before the new rule is effective.  At the meeting on March 30, Commissioner Miller asked OP to consider a 6-month grace period.  
I do not agree with the decision to allow conversions of residential buildings to multifamily, particularly rowhouses, as a matter of right. This conflicts with the Comprehensive Plan and will deplete existing single-family homes.  Some ANC neighborhoods would be disproportionately affected because they have large lot sizes (ex: ANC 4C and 5D).  Attached is a list from OP of R4 zones by ANCs and the number of lots in those ANCs by square footage.  In addition by allowing conversions, the proposed rule does nothing for neighborhoods like Mount Pleasant.
A lot of developers are converting single-family rowhouses to two units by building large rear additions and upper floors.  I think the limitations in sections 330.7 also should apply to two-unit conversions.  For example, the 10ft limitation on additions would prevent a developer from building a massive rear addition with a two-unit property.  Likewise, the chimney and solar panel limitations should remain because developers could still pop-up with a two-unit conversion.
How to Comment:  Comments are due by June 1, 2015.  I believe comment letters must be signed.   If you wish to submit documents, please do so by email to, by mail or hand delivery to the Office of Zoning, 441 4th Street, NW, Suite 200-S, Washington, DC 20001 or by fax to (202) 727-6072.  For questions contact Sharon Schellin, Secretary to the Zoning Commission; 202-727-6311 or email at

1 comment:

  1. Comments are due June 1 - everyone may send in comments - the instructions are here