D.C.’s zoning code dates all the way back to the 1950s. That means our zoning code has outdated rules that outlaw traditional, walkable neighborhoods forms, require more parking than residents need, and prohibit new neighborhood serving corner stores. This forces more driving, harms transit service, and drives up the price on Metro-accessible housing.
With 27 percent of the USA’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from the transportation sector it’s time we prioritize a zoning update that puts transit options within reach for more people and helps people of all income levels continue to live in a walkable, inclusive D.C.
Fortunately, the city is working to finalize a progressive update to the zoning code this year. You can help to make that a reality by joining with thousands of your neighbors and signing our petition for a smart growth, progressive update to D.C.’s zoning code.
Simply put, our zoning code written in 1958 is not befitting what a modern, dynamic city like D.C., nor does it respect the form of our treasured historic neighborhoods. Our current zoning code is based on dated concepts of what a city is and how it should grow and has no emphasis on sustainability. 50 years of accumulated amendments have made the code far too complicated and hard to navigate. We need to modernize our zoning code to better accommodate the needs of current and future D.C. residents.
Specifically, we would like to see real progress made in the following areas:
• Better options for homeowners to create an accessory dwelling unit without a long and burdensome process. More residents will be able to rent out a basement or garage to help pay the mortgage, give a young person the opportunity to live in the neighborhood, and let seniors age in place in their own homes.
• Recognition that parking minimums require more parking than people need and damage the historic and walkable form of many neighborhoods. Easing parking requirements in downtown areas and along busy transit corridors will help to create more walkable, vibrant neighborhoods and provide more accessible housing options for more people.
• Reasonable allowances for local corner stores in residential areas. The ability to walk just a short distance to local, neighborhood-friendly amenities enriches our neighborhood fabric.
• A simplified zoning code with clear rules that can be followed by your average resident. We want to make sure the zoning code is accessible to everyone – not just land use lawyers.
The previous zoning code tried to force people to live in one type of community in vogue at the time but which radically departed from D.C.'s historic form. A new zoning code will let DC grow in a sustainable way that doesn’t create new traffic or parking problems, but meets the needs of current and future residents.
Thank you for your consideration of these positions. We look forward to working with you for a more vibrant and inclusive city in the years to come.