Photo by MattHurst on Flickr.

This Thursday night, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) in affluent upper Northwest’s Ward 3 will vote on a resolution about the DC zoning update. We need you to go try to dissuade the reactionary, backward commissioners from trying to keep new residents out of their fancy neighborhods and… wait a minute… they’re totally for it!

ANC 3B, which covers Glover Park and Cathedral Heights, is considering a resolution to endorse the changes in the zoning update. Assuming they pass the proposal, they’re totally enthusiastic about more neighborhood-serving corner stores, renting out basements and garages and other parts of homes.

The resolution strongly defends the plan to remove parking minimums “that undermine market forces, increase housing costs, reduce incentives to use mass transit, and damage the historic and walkable form of many neighborhoods.”

If you live in Glover Park, please head to their meeting, which starts at 7 pm at Stoddert Elemetary, and speak up for these important (and quite modest if not overly timid) changes.

Here’s the full text of the draft resolution:

Whereas, the District’s current zoning code, written in 1958, predates Metro and the modern mass DC bus system, and is not consistent with past population shifts or expected trends in population growth in Glover Park, Cathedral Heights, and the District of Columbia as a whole;

Whereas, 50 years of accumulated amendments have made the code complicated and hard to navigate and understand;

Whereas the Office of Planning proposed and sought public comment on a December 2012 update to the generations-old zoning code;

Whereas, the updated proposal makes reasonable allowances for local corner stores in rowhouse residential areas such as Glover Park so that the ability to walk a short distance to local, neighborhood-friendly stores enriches our neighborhood fabric and provides easy access to daily necessities;

Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update contains reasonable limits on these corner stores to limit trash, noise, or other problems;

Whereas the updated proposal offers improved options for homeowners to create an accessory dwelling unit, creating more affordable housing, increasing the value of existing housing stock, allowing for neighborhood population growth without modifying existing building density, and allowing seniors to age in place in their own homes;

Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update contains reasonable limits on such accessory dwelling to prevent overcrowding of neighborhoods or accessory dwellings that are not consistent with the fabric of traditional residential neighborhoods;

Whereas, the updated proposal modifies required parking minimums that undermine market forces, increase housing costs, reduce incentives to use mass transit, and damage the historic and walkable form of many neighborhoods;

Whereas the December 2012 draft of the zoning update does not modify parking minimums outside of transit zones so that the proposal will not adversely impact the availability of on-street parking;

Whereas, a simplified zoning code will offer clear rules that can be followed by the average resident and enable the zoning code to be transparent and accessible to all;

Therefore, be it resolved that the ANC supports the December 2012 Office of Planning zoning code draft that will let Glover Park, Cathedral Heights, and the District of Columbia grow in a sustainable way while meeting the needs of current and future residents of all ages;

Now, therefore be it further resolved that the ANC 3B asks the Zoning Commission to adopt the December 2012 draft zoning code proposal.

In the interests of full accuracy, it’s not strictly true that the update “does not modify parking minimums outside of transit zones,” since new residential buildings of up to 10 units won’t have parking minimums even outside transit zones. However, that doesn’t override any of the cogent arguments for the change.

Plus, we’ve already seen, when there have been parking minimums, that it doesn’t guarantee abundant street parking. The neighborhood can protect its street parking by creating smaller RPP zones, making permit prices better match supply and demand, and using performance parking to promote turnover by non-residents.

Meanwhile, the Foxhall Community Citizens’ Association took a look and outright opposes just about everything, mainly on the usual grounds we’ve heard: they don’t really want more people around, especially not students, and also think that more people will make it harder to park. Here is an email we obtained, which FCCA historic preservation chair Paul DonVito sent to other citizens’ associations:

Here are a few of our concerns.  These issues aren’t unique to FV - or the FCCA area in general - but they are at least some of the areas of potential concern that have been discussed:

Apartments over garages - seems like a back door way to pack more students into rental housing.  Would a “garage apt” mean a house with a max of 6 students could suddenly add a couple more over a “garage” - increasing the max to 8?

Making basement apartments a “matter of right” - Clearly this would lead to pressure additional front entrances as well as full height basement egress windows.  This is already a growing problem in the neighborhood as at least a half dozen houses have expanded basement windows on facades over the past few years.

Reducing parking requirements - we already have an overabundance of cars due to all the group houses.  Increasing density would only make that problem worse.

Corner shops - we are definitely concerned about commercial encroachment - ie corner stores.

The basement apartment rules will actually not “lead to pressure [for] additional front entrances” because the zoning proposal already forbids new front entrances in single-family type houses (they’re okay for row houses, unless it’s a historic district and historic preservation blocks such a change).

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.