We’d like to bring you up to speed on the proposed alley lot provisions. Alley lots and alley dwellings are topics that we’ve covered before on the blog, but this post is a quick update on the proposed changes.
First things first, what is an alley lot? An alley lot is a lot facing or abutting an alley and at no point facing or abutting a street. It is not part of any other lot that does front on a street, and any building on an alley lot can have separate ownership from any street fronting buildings in the square.
Most alley lots are in the older parts of the city of Wards 2 and 6, such as Capitol Hill and Georgetown.
To recap, the zoning code currently limits the use of alley lots in residential zones (typically only allowing uses such as parking, artist studios, and storage) and permits a greater range of uses on alley lots in commercial zones. The existing regulations strictly regulate residences on alley lots in all zones. A single family alley dwelling is permitted only on an alley lot accessible via a 30-foot wide alley or alley network. An alley lot house is generally limited to a height equal to the adjacent alley’s width. Any residence located on a sub-30-foot alley network, or any multi-family housing would require a variance pursuant to Board of Zoning Adjustment review.
During the review process, greater flexibility was introduced in the proposed regulations when it comes to permitting single family residences on alley lots in most zones. In the rowhouse and apartment neighborhoods, i.e. the R-3, RF (R-4), RA (R-5) zones, and in the commercial zones, a single family dwelling would be permitted by right on an alley lot located on an alley of 24 feet in width or on an alley of at least 15 feet in width if the lot is within 300 feet of a public street, subject to conditions. Single family uses on alley lots that do not meet those criteria would be allowed by special exception. A variety of interested agencies, such as DC Water, FEMS, DDOT, and DPW as well as the ANC and the public would have an opportunity to review the proposal as part of the Board of Zoning Adjustment review process. Other conditions that would apply to alley dwellings include setback requirements, a 450 square foot minimum lot area (for an existing alley lot), and 20-foot building height limit in a residential zone (30 feet in some commercial zones), among others.
Alley dwellings would not be permitted in low-density residential areas (R-1 and R-2 zones) which are predominantly developed with detached or semi-detached houses; OP research indicated that there are very few alley lots within these zones. Multi-family alley dwellings would not be permitted in residential zones, but could be permitted subject to conditions in some commercial zones. However, if an alley lot is large enough, it could be subdivided to create more than one lot, as is the case under the current regulations, provided each lot meets the minimum lot area and lot width requirements of the zone.
If you’re interested in the specific development standards proposed for alley lots, see below.
Alley Lot Development Standards
All alley lots must be recorded in the records of the Surveyor, District of Columbia as a record lot. An alley lot that is only recorded on the records of the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue as an assessment and taxation lot (tax lot) may be recorded by the Surveyor, District of Columbia as a record lot if the tax lot was created on or before May 12, 1958. (click image to enlarge).