Proposed Zoning Changes

At the January FCCA membership meeting Alma Gates, former ANC member, presented the proposed revision of the DC Zoning laws from the DC Office of Planning. Alma’s presentation provoked significant discussion about the impact of several proposals on the FCCA neighborhood. In response, the FCCA Board voted at its February meeting to send the following letter to the Office of Planning.

“The FCCA Board has discussed a number of the proposals and has serious concerns about certain provisions. Below are a few of those concerns. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but simply a few topline issues that have been at the forefront of our discussions:

  1. Corner shops – The historic character of the row-house portion of our community (which is zoned R4 and is mostly protected as an historic district) would be significantly impacted by the allowance of corner stores or other commercial uses. As a community there is near universal opposition to allowing retail establishments on our residential streets. In fact, our community was well designed to include specific retail zones (e.g. – the small retail building at Foxhall Road and Q Street) and we would be opposed to allowing the encroachment of additional retail.
  2. Reducing parking requirements – As a community that faces parking issues from local employers (such as Georgetown University employees) regularly parking on our residential streets combined with the large number of group houses (again, due to our proximity to two universities) we already have an overabundance of cars. Increasing density as a matter of right would only make that problem worse.
  3. Apartments over Garages – We understand that the new plan would allow apartments garages to be built as a “matter of right” (or, at minimum, be made to be significantly easier to gain approval.) One of our major concerns being in close proximity to a university is oversaturation by group houses. This allowance seems like a back door way to pack more students into rental housing. Would a “garage apartment” mean a house with a max of 6 students would suddenly add additional residents over a “garage” – increasing the max to say 8? This would clearly negatively impact our quality of life.
  4. Making basement apartments a “matter of right” – We understand that the new plan would allow basement apartments to be built as a “matter of right” (or, at minimum, be made to be significantly easier to gain approval.) Clearly this would lead to pressure for additional front entrances as well as full height basement egress windows on front facades. This allowance would be a significant threat to the character defining elements of our historic district. Additionally, we fear this would allow investors to divide houses into multiple units and thereby increase the number of unrelated individuals who could legally live in a house, thereby increasing pressure to create more group houses and negatively impacting our quality of life.

These are just a few of our potential concerns. No doubt as the more than 1000 page Zoning plan rewrite becomes available we may have additional concerns. But overall, we oppose any plan or any element of a plan which threatens the historic character of our neighborhood, which threatens to force out owner-occupants and long-time residents in favor of investors in group houses, or which causes the encroachment of commercial establishments on our residential streets.”