Zoning Matters in Washington, D.C.
Reasons for Reform:
Washington D.C.'s zoning code dates from 1958, and is rife with regulations and concepts that neither reflect the reality of the city's built environment nor support its plans for the future. The District noticed a steady increase in the amount of text amendments and appeals to its Zoning Commission, and found that the constant revisions were complicating the code and leading to unintended consequences for development. The city's mayor established zoning reform as an important point on his first-year agenda, and directed the Office of Planning and a special Zoning Review Taskforce to oversee the process.
From January 2008 to May 2009, the entire text of Washington's zoning code was reviewed by a series of working groups, with one to four months devoted to each of 20 subject areas. The Zoning Review Taskforce reviews the recommendations of the working groups, after which that material is posted online for a public review period. This period will be followed by a formal public hearing on each subject area's recommendations before the Zoning Commission. Once any changes have been made, the Office of Zoning will codify the amended recommendations into a legal zoning code, which will be posted online and returned to the Zoning Commission for final approval. Washington estimates that their entire review and approval process will take two to three years.
Washington's citizen/professional working groups are currently reviewing and submitting recommendations on their zoning code in the following subject areas:
- Flood Plain
- Retail Strategy
- Arts & Culture
- Low/Moderate Density Residential
- Commercial Corridors
- Medium/High Density Commercial & Residential
- Mixed/Other Districts
- Parks/Open Space
- Planned Unit Development (PUD)
- Design Review
- Administration & Enforcement
- Zoning Commission & Board of Zoning Adjustment Procedures
Washington, D.C. is carrying out the review of its current code through public working groups with a very limited use of professional consultants. The zoning code was divided into 20 subject areas, and a group of city officials and volunteers are working on each one. Working groups are meeting to evaluate and make recommendations on their part of the code.
Washington, D.C.'s zoning reform process can be followed at www.dczoningupdate.org. The city's current zoning code and maps can be accessed through the Office of Zoning's website at http://dcoz.dc.gov/main.shtm.