Wednesday, March 12, 2014

We've Got Issues...

While participating in public hearings and outreach efforts, I've been keeping a running list of issues various residents and neighborhoods have with the proposed new zoning code.  Here's the current version.


Major omissions:

The proposed new code fails to:

·        Address the issue of housing affordability and fix what’s broken in the current inclusionary zoning provisions.

·        Implement neighborhood conservation measures – e.g. to prevent pop-ups, dig outs, McMansions, conversion of housing stock to other uses, condo-ization of houses, out-of-scale development, etc. or to provide more effective buffering between zones with significantly different scale, uses, or intensities of use.  Increasingly, a neighborhood that is not protected by historic preservation will not be protected at all.  And historic preservation itself is becoming less protective than it used to be.

·        Incentivize development in areas that have suffered from disinvestment.

·        Apply the Green Area Ratio and affordable housing requirements to the newly expanded downtown. Analyze what it takes to create attractive and livable downtown neighborhoods and provide mechanisms for insuring that infrastructure, open space, and other public facilities and amenities are provided as heights and densities increase.

·        Make the regulations more user-friendly.   Somehow the Office of Planning has managed to draft a new code that is even more opaque and unwieldy than the existing code.  Moreover, because the new code starts from scratch and uses some of same terms but defines them differently, the status and applicability of previous case law is unclear.  

·        Provide mechanisms for effective representation of community interests in development review processes.

Significant policy changes

The proposed new regulations would:

                 Effectively eliminate single-family residential zones.

                 Encourage the conversion of houses into apartments.

                 Allow more commercial activity in residential zones.

                 Threaten the integrity and viability of neighborhood commercial districts.

                 Activate alleys by allowing home-based businesses and rental apartments to be located in garages and other out-buildings and by allowing residential development of alley lots of 450 SF. 

                 Minimize opportunities for public input and give developers and property-owners more control over development and land use decisions.

                 Rely on generic “conditions” with no enforcement mechanism or penalty for non-compliance rather than on BZA review and project-specific requirements.

                 Eliminate the ability to create overlays; impose one-size-fits-all policies citywide.

                 Deliberately make it more difficult and expensive for people who live in the city to own a car.

                 Treat every area within one-half mile of a Metro station the same with respect to parking requirements -- regardless of existing conditions.

                 Significantly expand “downtown” to encourage maximum heights and densities in areas beyond the city center.