GAR training seminars Reply

The Green Area Ratio (GAR) is a new environmental zoning regulation in the District of Columbia that is effective on October 1, 2013.

The Office of Planning and the District Department of the Environment are offering free training seminars on the GAR. Each seminar will provide an overview of the GAR, the plan submittal process, the GAR Guidebook, and the role of the Certified Landscape Expert. Information about the GAR is also available at

All GAR training seminars will be conducted at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, located at 1100 4th Street SW, Washington, DC.

Three training sessions are scheduled as follows:
• October 3, 2013 (10:30 am–1:00 pm), Room E200
• October 7, 2013 (9:00 am–12:00 pm), Room E4302
• October 11, 2013 (9:00 am–12:00 pm), Room E4302

Please contact Matthew Espie at or 202-715-7644 to sign up for a GAR training date.

OP celebrates PARK(ing) day Reply

PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The Office of Planning is celebrating Park(ing) day by transforming our space into a lush oasis using bamboo and other plants. We invite the public to join us with board games at patio tables and chairs.




ZRR Public Hearing Dates Reply

The Office of Zoning has published the dates for the Zoning Commission public hearings for the zoning review process – please go to their website for the complete listing as well as a details on how you can participate. A list of the dates is below:

Monday, November 4, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. – Subtitles A (Authority and Applicability); W (Mapping); X (General Procedures including PUDs and Campus Plan); Y (BZA Rules of Practice and Procedure) and Z (Zoning Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
– Subtitle B (Definitions, including uses)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. – Subtitle D (Residential House Zones)

Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. – Subtitles E (Residential Flat Zones) and F (Apartment Zones)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. – Subtitle C (General Procedures, including parking, bike parking, loading)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. – Subtitles G (Mixed Use Zones) and H (Neighborhood Mixed Use Zones)

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. – Subtitle I (Downtown Zones); J (Production, Distribution and Repair Zones); and K (Special Purpose Zones)

Tuesday, November 19 and Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. – Reserved for overflow from previous hearing dates.


After 6 years of working groups, meetings, consultation, research, discussion, outreach, panels, news articles, blogposts, Zoning Commission guidance and direction, drafting, redrafting, and re-redrafting, on Monday September 9, the Zoning Commission set the proposed ZRR text down for public hearings. This is a big step in moving our 1958 zoning regulations forward into the 21st century. The proposed regulations are consistent with, and further, Comprehensive Plan policies and objectives, and address other important initiatives to make the District more current, more inclusive, more sustainable, more adaptable, more diverse, and more responsive to expectations for a world class city.

The version of the proposed text that was set down, and on which the Zoning Commission hearings will be based, is available on the OZ website and on our website. You can also view the OP setdown report, which includes a summary of the process to date and a chapter by chapter summary of changes proposed to the existing regulations. For those who wish to see it, our website also contains a version of the text “marked up” with all changes made since the earlier draft that was submitted to the Zoning Commission on July 29, 2013.

We want to thank all of you who have already participated in this process and who have provided us with comments, questions, suggestions, critiques, and support. We continue to welcome them – please email us at . Also, be sure to watch the Office of Zoning website and our web and blogsites for the public hearings dates once they are set.

ZRR setdown report submitted to Office of Zoning Reply

The Zoning Regulations need substantial revision and reorganization, ranging from new definitions to updated development and design standards, and even new zones.
Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital: District Elements (IM-1.3)

The Office of Planning has submitted its setdown report to the Office of Zoning. The Zoning Commission is expected to consider this report at its public meeting on September 9, 2013. The report discusses scheduling of the public hearings, public testimony, and how additional OP reports will be structured and submitted prior to each hearing. The report notes that the version of the draft report that the Commission will receive at the setdown meeting will be considered the final version for advertising – this is the document that will be reviewed at the public hearings. Until that time, as noted in all of our postings to date and as discussed with the Zoning Commission, it remains a working document and we continue to make corrections where needed, including ones brought to our attention by other District agencies and members of the public as they review the working copy. These changes are noted in “errata” sheets posted on our website.

The report includes additional background information, summarizing the process to date; Comprehensive Plan guidance; Zoning Guidance (48 pages worth) already received at 19 public hearings and 40 public meetings; public outreach, including over 100 ANC, community, and stakeholder meetings; and a bit of a “snap shot” of the District. A summary of the proposed changes, organized by existing zoning regulation chapters, is provided. The summary does not discuss in detail the bulk of the regulations that are not proposed to change. If the Zoning Commission does set the proposal down for hearings, OP will provide a more detailed summary organized by subtitle of the new regulations, in advance of each hearing.

The complete report is available on the ZRR website – and on the Office of Zoning website,

Revised drafts of all subtitles and errata sheets now available on ZoningDC Reply

Revised draft versions of all subtitles are now available on this blog as well as the ZRR website. Since submitting a draft, working copy of the proposal to the Zoning Commission in July (also available on the website), we have continued to refine the text, correct references and numbering, etc. These changes are highlighted in this current version, and we have also posting errata sheets to make it easier to find the changes. We look forward to hearing your additional feedback!

New zoning codes – the District is not alone (part III) Reply

Part 3 of our “the District is not alone” series, where we head down south to beautiful Miami.

Miami’s new code, dubbed “Miami 21,” was developed over a period of five years and included over 500 public meetings before finally being implemented in 2010. Of the three codes examined for this blog post, Miami 21 most radically differs from the District’s ZRR in that it is the largest and most comprehensive example of a form-based code in the nation. Form based codes are predicated on physical form rather than on use. Prior to Miami 21, Miami’s zoning code was a conventional “Euclidian” model, characterized by establishing and regulating land based on use (the District, like most jurisdictions in the US, uses the Euclidian model). According to the Form-Based Codes Institute, under certain circumstances form based codes allow for a dynamic mix of uses because its emphasis is on the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) of development, rather than on separating uses. However, some critics say that depending upon the quality of the code and its diagrams, form-based codes can be difficult to interpret and administer.

Downtown Miami (photo: Marc Averette)

Downtown Miami (photo: Marc Averette)

According to the Institute of Sustainable Communities, Miami’s prior code included antiquated parking requirements and inflexible separation between the places where people live, work, and shop. This resulted in automobile dependent communities, traffic congestion, and urban and suburban sprawl. Nancy Stroud, legal counsel to the team that created Miami 21, noted that a major impetus behind Miami’s decision to write a new code was to provide developers and residents with more predictability during the development process. Stroud says that in contrast to the prior code, which provided too much discretion to planning and council boards, Miami 21 simplifies the development process and makes it more transparent.

Miami 21 attempts to mitigate these issues and manage the city’s growth through the concept of transects, an idea promoted by planner/architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) as an alternative or revision of conventional use based zoning. Their idea was to substitute conventional zoning’s focus on use with a focus on the relationship between the form and density of the built environment (a high rise is not appropriate in the middle of the wilderness, just as a single-family bungalow makes no sense in the middle of Manhattan). A transect is a sliding scale between rural wilderness and dense central cities; it defines a series of zones that transition from sparse rural farmhouses to the dense urban core. The transect manages the relationships of buildings to the streets, to open space, and to each other. Miami 21 uses the transect model to enhance neighborhood character and walkability through emphasis on concentrating development along transportation corridors, neighborhood centers, and urban cores.


New zoning codes – the District is not alone (part II) Reply

Part 2 of a series looking at a few of the other cities undergoing a zoning code revision. Today, we are off to Baltimore!

Baltimore’s proposed new code, dubbed “TransForm Baltimore,” rewrites Charm City’s existing 40 year old code. The city’s existing zoning code was developed by a commission appointed in 1957 and was eventually approved in 1971. It followed a suburban model– separating commercial and residential uses. According to the Baltimore City Planning Department, the existing code is not only outdated, but is overly complex, with hundreds of overlay districts, Urban Renewal Plans and Planned Unit Developments. Understanding and working within these complexities is often expensive, time-consuming and unpredictable. For example, the existing code does not readily permit the creation of new mixed-use developments — it can often take months or years of administrative maneuvers and an act of City Council to convert an old industrial building to a mixed-use residential/commercial space.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor (photo: Jawed Karim) Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (photo: Jawed Karim)

TransForm Baltimore was approved by the city’s Planning Commission in April 2013 and has been sent to Baltimore City Council for approval. The new code is designed to be easier to use and understand, more predictable and enforceable. The goals of Transform Baltimore include:
• Increasing user-friendliness;
• Improving administration;
• Modernizing use structure;
• Incorporating urban design objectives;
• Preserving neighborhood character while promoting appropriate redevelopment;
• Ensuring coordination with the Comprehensive Plan;
• Integrating Urban Renewal Plans; and
• Promoting sustainable development.

New zoning codes – the District is not alone Reply

What do Boulder, Chicago, Denver, Fort Collins, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and St. Petersburg have in common with the District of Columbia? The answer is that these cities either recently completed, or substantially updated, their existing zoning codes. In addition to those cities, Baltimore is currently nearing the finish line for its major zoning rewrite, and Los Angeles has recently started to update its code. Is there a reason behind this seeming rash of new codes?

As is the case in the District, the previous zoning codes in these cities were decades old and unwieldy. Most of the codes were written in the years following World War II, when separating land uses was all the rage (in many cases, the encroachment of “noxious” uses into residential areas led to zoning restrictions which separated residential, commercial and manufacturing uses). In recent years, these old codes have proved to be ill-suited to the needs of evolving cities:

• The American economy has largely transitioned away from heavy manufacturing, removing many of the noxious uses from many cities.

• Mixed-use zoning is increasingly prevalent in American cities and many residents want to live near where they work and shop.

• Attitudes toward the private automobile are changing. The lynch-pin of many existing zoning codes was the supremacy of the private automobile, and zoning regulations (much like Federal and local transportation and land use policies in general) reinforced the notion that everyone should aspire to suburban living, which required an automobile to meet even the most basic of needs. Now, many people prefer to live a car-free or car-light lifestyle because there are a wider variety of transportation options, to be more environmental friendly, or just to save the expense and bother of car-ownership.

• Finally, there is the changing demographics of the country, with more retirees and recent graduates seeking to live in walkable communities built as mixed use developments that would have been frowned on by the old codes.

In revamping their codes, these jurisdictions used somewhat differing approaches specifically suited to each place — from conventional use-based zoning to form-based codes that replace use districting with design controls. However, the common link is that these cities sought to replace unclear and antiquated codes with streamlined versions which better allow for mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, and transit-oriented development.

A few of the most recently developed codes, including those created by Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Miami, merit a closer look. Over the next few days, we are going to post a summary of each. First up in this series – Philly!