Thursday, March 30, 2006

Opinions Wanted on Parking Variance Request for 1446 Church Street

One of our Church Street residents brought the following issue to our attention, and we'd like to get your views and encourage you to attend the ANC2F meeting on April 5, 2006 to voice your opinions. If you are unable to attend, you may also wish to contact your SMD commissioner directly.

A parking variance has been requested by DC Hampton LLC for a property it intends to develop at 1446 Church Street. The proposed 28 unit building would have 7 parking spaces, which is 7 fewer than required by DC regulation. The building incorporates an historic structure, which may faciliate the variance. For information on zoning and parking variances, please visit the District's Board of Zoning Adjudication ("BZA") and the Office of Zoning.

The ANC will consider the variance at its April 5 meeting, after which it will make a recommendation to the BZA. The BZA will decide whether to issue the variance at its May 2 hearing.


Anonymous said...

I searched the BZA website but could only find case #17459 which deals with their request for a variance from the recreational space requirement - not a variance from the off-street parking requirement. Is this the case you are seeking comment on?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the parking requirement a moot point since the zoning regulations on parking requirements do not apply to a contributing structure in a historic district and therefore they are not required to provide the "one space for every two units" called for in a C-3-A district?

I really don't know how the neighborhood is going to meet the additional demands for on-street parking this and the other condo down the block on 14th Street (that also was exempt from the parking requirements) is going to place on it but we really have no choice or voice in the matter.

Christopher Dyer said...

Here is some information that I have been able to gather in my role as Chair of the Community Development Committee of ANC2F.
(Standard disclaimer: Please note the following is my understanding about what is going on with this variance. Any errors in the statues cited is solely mine and any opinion expressed in this post is mine as well.)

The listing on the BZA web page is outdated. Intially, the project only needed a variance on rec space. However, it is my understanding that there has been a change in how the Zoning Administrator has interpreted the regulations.

Historically, the BZA has granted waivers for parking in the historic district. However, the new Zoning Administrator has interpreted the regulations that all projects need to conform with the parking requirements in the zone and the developer is now seeking a parking variance from ANC2F as well as a recreation space variance.

I have heard from other developers that the BZA is not upholding this new intpretation of the regulations so whatever action the ANC takes at the next meeting might be immaterial.

However, it is important for interested parties to note that in order to obtain a variance from the zoning regulations it is encumbent on the developer to prove the following three points.

1) the property is affected by an exceptional or extraordinary situation or condition;

2) the strict application of the Zoning Regulations will result in a
practical difficulty to the Applicant; and

3) that the granting of the variance will not cause substantial detriment to
the public good or substantially impair the intent, purpose or integrity of the zone plan.

If you have any questions about this, please e-mail me directly at

Christopher Dyer
ANC Commissioner 2F03

Christopher Dyer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Philippa Hughes said...

Even if the BZA is not upholding the Zoning Administrator's intrepretation of the parking requirements, I think that if we believe that parking is a problem in Logan Circle, then we should voice our opinion on the matter as a show of support for his interpretation.

I support development projects in Logan Circle and live here because of the renaissance that has occurred in the last few years as a result. However, I also think that development should be done responsibly and that means ensuring the quality of life for the neighborhood and for old and new residents alike. And one element of a good quality of life is having adequate parking.

The ANC meeting on April 5 is an excellent opoprtunity to express your opinion on this matter. The ANC will make a recommendation to the BZA on the variance and and the BZA is required to give the ANC's recommendation "great weight" when considering whether or not to allow the variance.

Anonymous said...

The zoning administrator, ZC and BZA has to follow DC code and code clearly states:

"2100.5 No additional parking spaces shall be required for a historic landmark or a building
or structure located in a historic district that is certified by the State Historic
Preservation Officer as contributing to the character of that historic district."

Also, going through all the available minutes of past ANC meetings, our ANC has never (that I could find) required an exempt contributing historic structure be required to conform to the "new" building off-street parking requirements. It is important that the ANC apply it's rulings equally, consistently and fairly.

If the BZA is to take the ANC's opinion seriously and give it the "great weight" it is required to, the ANC has to make sure it's opinion is based on law and code and not emotion.

Philippa Hughes said...

Chapter 21 of the DC zoning regulations requires one parking space per two units. However, regulation 2100.5 says that no additional parking spaces shall be required for a historic landmark in a historic district. This second provision has been interpreted to mean that only the portion of the building that is considered historic can go without parking and the rest must have adequate parking. Under this interpretation, the development in question has correctly requested a variance.

I am not trying to stop this development. I want the rest of Church Street to be finished and to look as nice as what has already been built. I am simply asking for serious consideration of the current parking strain and am looking for ways for all of us to work together to find ways to relieve the pressure.

Hope to see you at the ANC meeting!

Philippa Hughes said...

Also, in response to the first commenter's question: I think what happened is that originally, the developer did not think he had to seek a parking variance and filed only an application for the recreational space variance. However, I suspect that further scrutiny of the possible interpretations of the parking regs revealed the necessity for a parking variance, as well. It just hasn't been published on the zoning website yet, but all the residents within 200 feet of the project received notices of the parking variance from the developer's law firm in the mail.

Stephen said...

Hey, just send the excess cars over to my block (Kingman Place). We're already the neighborhood commuter parking lot (out of district workers actually park all day here and some even park and then bike downtown - it's a good mid-point on their commute). At lunch and dinner time the cab drivers eating at the Ethiopean restaurant line the block with their cabs and will even radio each other so when one is leaving another will be right there to take it's place. In the daytime the Studio Theater staff parks here only to be replaced at night by their patrons. Parking Enforcement doesn't enforce the 2 hour non-residential limit and pretends the "no parking street-sweeping" days don't exist. We're all set to absorb The Matrix with it's lack of parking so I'm sure we can easily accommodate seven more cars.

Cheryl Cort said...

Currently on-street parking, an extremely valuable resource that given away for free, is essentially unmanaged and this causes conflict. Residential parking permits (RPPs) are issued as if there is no limit to curbspace. A more reasonable approach is to issue RPPs to match the available supply of public curbspace. New RPPs could be auctioned with existing permits grandfathered but new ones would be issued as old permits are not renewed. Cash rebates or discounts could be given to low income residents to address the question of impact on low income residents.

A reasonable compromise for this case might be to limit the issuance of new street permits for new building occupants at a ratio of 1 permit to 2 or 3 units. Thus cap the issuance of new permits at 9-14 permits. A last resort would be to bar the building's residents for obtaining RPP stickers altogether. These ideas to manage residential public street parking allow existing car owning residents to minimize or eliminate new competition for their existing privileges to parking their vehicles on public streets for essentially free, while allowing new housing opportunities and restoration of buildings in need of rehabilitation to proceed. Also, supplying more parking might compromise the street frontage of buildings, degrading the neighborhood with inappropriate driveways that also take public street parking out of shared use and privatize it. There are many nearby examples of private driveways intruding into the public realm to provide often unsightly off-street parking.