Revised drafts of Subtitle D Residential (R) House and Subtitle E Residential Flats(RF), are now available on ZoningDC, as well as the PowerPoint presentation from the June 19th Task Force meeting describing these two subtitles.
The draft subtitles consolidate a lot of the information in one place and include improved tables to make it easier for users to find a relevant section of the code. This might reduce the need to flip back and forth between chapters. For example, you can find the bulk regulations (height, setbacks, etc.) and use permissions for a zone within one Subtitle.
OP also refined aspects of the proposed draft text in in response to feedback received from residents and other District agencies. Accessory apartments (accessory dwelling units) would be permitted subject to the following conditions:
1) Only one per lot;
2) By right in the principal dwelling up to 30% of the gross floor area (current code permits 25% of GFA);
3) By right in an existing accessory building provided there is:
a) Permanent access to a public street that meets the following:
i) 24-foot alley or 10-foot clear side yard easement; and
b) No expansion of or addition to the existing accessory building.
All other accessory apartments would be permitted by special exception.
Other proposed changes pertain to corner stores. Corner stores are currently not permitted unless they have a current, valid Certificate of Occupancy. In the proposed draft text, new corner stores such as retail, arts-related, or eating and drinking establishments would be permitted in the R-3 and R-4 zones by special exception, which would include a hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Grocery stores would, however, be permitted by right subject to conditions.
Myth: The proposed changes to the zoning code will allow alleys to become the overcrowded slums of the future.
Fact: In many cities around the world, alleys are scenes of vibrant urban life. Many District residents already consider alleys an attractive location for housing, but the existing zoning code discourages additional residential development along alleys. The updated code would make residential development in alley lots a bit easier in certain zones under certain conditions.
A Long History
Although alley communities were not a part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for the District, they nevertheless have a long history in the city. Newcomers in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War often could not afford land on public streets. Lots were sometimes subdivided so that less expensive residential options could be developed along alleys.
According to Kim Williams, Historic Preservation planner with OP, early alley dwellings were crude; they usually didn’t include plumbing or lighting, and were often associated with various societal ills. The alley dwelling reform movement worked to make construction of additional alley dwellings illegal. Williams says that active and vital communities formed in the alleys, “a concept which was lost on the reformers.”
Myth: Under the updated zoning code, developers will be able to build apartment buildings along alleys behind my house.
Fact: It is not permitted now, nor will it be permitted in the future, to build apartment buildings on alley lots located in residential zones. We are proposing changes which could allow, subject to Board of Zoning Adjustment review, more single family alley dwellings in some residential zones and multi-family apartments in some commercial zones.
In general, “alley lots” are properties which abut an alley with no direct street access or frontage. Currently, the zoning code allows limited use of such alley lots in residential zones (such as parking, artist studios, and storage), whereas a greater range of uses are permitted in commercial zones. However, the existing zoning code strictly regulates residences on alley lots in all zones. Single family alley dwellings are permitted only on alley lots accessible via a 30-foot wide alley or alley network and are generally limited to a height equal to the adjacent alley’s width. Any residence located on a sub-30-foot alley network or multi-family housing would require a “use variance” pursuant to Board of Zoning Adjustment review, which is a high burden for relief.