What the heck is a 'Large Tract Review?'

Large development projects in the District of Columbia often require some type of zoning relief. This includes relatively minor zoning relief, which goes through the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA). The Buchanan School project is a good example in 6B06. Projects that are looking for more substantial zoning relief go through the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process. We have three recent PUDs: 1401 Penn, Watkins Alley, and Bowie's/Signature. 

But there's a rare process that applies to large commercial projects that are not looking for zoning relief: the large tract review (LTR). LTRs apply to sites of three or more acres or sites with 50,000 square feet of commercial space. The key word to focus on is review. The LTR process is not an approval--no one gets to sign off on the project, as the BZA or Zoning Commission would in other cases. Instead, the LTR requires that the developer engage city agencies and other stakeholders (like the ANC and community). This results in communication and participation, but not approval or denial. 

Who is Involved?

Through the LTR, a range of stakeholders are pulled into the development process, which is managed by the Office of Planning (OP). Once the developer files the LTR application, OP forwards it to a range of DC agencies, including DCRA, DPW, FEMS, etc. There is also a notification process, which includes the affected ANC, civic associations, and property owners within 200 feet of the property. 

What else happens? 

Cities agencies will review and comment on the application. In addition, a series of meetings typically take place. These include meetings between the applicant and OP, as well as meetings between the applicant and city agencies. The applicant is also require to hold at least one meeting with the community. 

How does the process conclude? 

Regulations require that the review be completed within 60 days of filing the application. OP will collect comments from stakeholders and then produce a technical report that summarizes issues raised during the process. OP provides the report to the applicant and other stakeholders, including the ANC. The report doesn't include and approval or denial, but it can raise issues that the applicant can respond to. 

Bottom line

The LTR is an uncommon process. The OP website lists only 14 past LTRs, and only one in Ward 6 (not in Capitol Hill). It's also clear what the LTR is not: it is not an opportunity for anyone, including the ANC, to approve or disapprove a project. What the LTR does do is provide an opportunity for dialog. Unlike a basic by right project--where a developer does not need to do any type of consulation with the community--the LTR requires that the developer seek out and listen to feedback. This means the community has less influence than with a PUD, but it still provides the community a voice. 

Want more information? 

The Office of Planning has a page dedicated to the LTR, including a description of the process (much of this post comes from those sites). You can find examples of LTR technical reports there, too. 

 

2016 Zoning Update (ZR16) Resources

This month the first overhaul of DC's zoning rules since 1958 went into effect. The update, known as ZR16, aims to take a zoning code written during a different chapter in DC (and US) history and bring it into the modern era. ZR16 isn't a wholesale rewrite, but it does bring some important changes, both in terminology and in zoning rules, that will affect Capitol Hill. Here are some resources to help households understand the code and what it implies for your home and your neighborhood. 

Overviews

DC Urban Turf has a brief overview, along with a series of more in-depth articles. The Washington City Paper also had a nice, summary review. And here's a slideshow from the Office of Planning that walks through the changes in a bit more detail. 

Zone Names

Some of the changes are mostly superficial, moving DC from zones like "R-4" to new names, like "RF-1" (RF = residential flat). Other common zones in Capitol Hill include MU-4 ("mixed use"), formerly C-2-A and MU-5-A (formerly C-2-B). The DC Office of Zoning has a conversion table here.  (Hill East's special zones now range from H-1 to H-4.) 

Zoning Maps

The old zoning map from the Office of Zoning was a great--if somewhat clunky--resource. This has been supplanted by two new maps. One provides an interactive feature to show how zone names have changed. The other, more useful in the long-run, is an updated zoning map for ZR16. The new map of course includes the new zone names, but it also brings a new and improved interface and easier to access information. 

Major Changes Affecting Capitol Hill

The complete zoning changes are too numerous to review, but here are some highlights that affect Capitol Hill. There are some important changes that primarily serve to simplify the zoning relief process, such as setting a uniform lot coverage standard (60%), which means end-unit rowhouses are no longer held to an different (and arbitrary) standard. I won't go into detail on those types of changes, either. Each of the section titles links to a post by the Office of Planning that walks through the details. 

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU): An "ADU" is a fancy word for separate, livable space that is in addition to the main home on a property. For example, an apartment in a carriage house. ZR16 makes it much easier to add an additional dwelling unit to a lot in most Capitol Hill zones. 

Alley lots: The 1958 zoning rules were severely restricted what could be done on lots that abutted alleys, something Capitol Hill has in abundance. ZR16 radically redefines what owners of alley lots can do. Essentially, any lot larger than 450 square feet is eligible for a single family resident, with minimal setback and expansive lot coverage allowances. 

Corner stores: Corners stores used to dot the Capitol Hill landscape, but now they're rare. (Greater Greater Washington has a nice post on houses that used to be corner stores.) ZR16 won't change things dramatically, but it does modestly relax the restrictions on corner stores. Anyone looking to put in a new corner store will still have to meet an extensive set of restriction on lot location, store size, and what they can sell. 

Parking requirements: For multi-family structures, ZR16 reduces the parking requirements to 1 space for every 3 units, which reduces the requirements in many cases. There are additional reductions if the building is close to a metro station or other mass transit line. 

Detailed resources

The information above provides a general sense of how the zoning regulations have changes, but the details are important. The most in-depth information is available on the Office of Zoning's site with the detailed regulations. These are full-on zoning documents and not for the timid, but they're not as impenetrable as they first seem. Most of the information Capitol Hill Residents need can be found in Subtitle E (the RF zones). 

ANC 6B consider the Watkins Alley PUD

On Monday, February 22, 2016, ANC 6B will hold the first in a series of meetings over the next month to review the proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) at 1309-1323 E St SE, typically referred to as Watkins Alley. The Watkins Alley project will go before the DC Zoning Commission (ZC) in April, and the ANC has the opportunity to comment on the case. In addition, we are expected to be involved in the process of working with the developer, Opal, on a benefits and amenities proffer for the project.

This post provides a brief overview of the project and reviews its current status. I’m providing a number of pictures and links to supporting documents for the ZC case. If you want all the details, look up the case (ZC 15-13) at the IZIS website, which provides public access to all zoning documents for DC.

The project

Opal is proposing a 44 unit development that will front onto the 1300 block of E St SE (adjacent to the temporary Frager’s location) and continue back into the interior of the block. The project is a combination of rowhouse-style units and condos, and at this point all units would be for sale, not rentals.

Birds eye view of the Watkins Alley PUD, looking toward the northwest

Birds eye view of the Watkins Alley PUD, looking toward the northwest

The project has changed substantially since the initial renderings last year. A few notable changes include the E St façade, which now includes a pedestrian pass-through along with the updated materials and design. The height along E St will reach 42 feet at the highest point, while the project overall will go as high as 56 feet.

E St SE facade, looking south through the pedestrian walk-though

E St SE facade, looking south through the pedestrian walk-though

Walking south from the pedestrian access on E St, there will be a small courtyard, with houses on two sides and a building with flats along a 3rd side. The image below shows the building with flat looking toward the east. It also shows the inner most set of rowhouses, which will front onto a long courtyard. These houses will replace the existing food truck garage. Also off the court yard will be a small ‘carriage house,’ which sits on separate parcel of land that is part of the project.

Building that will house flats and the garage entrance

Building that will house flats and the garage entrance

Separate "carriage house" townhome

Separate "carriage house" townhome

The project will affront the alley running between E and G St, and the image below shows the view of the facing rows of rowhouses looking to the west. This courtyard and the one off E St will both be accessible to the public. The view below that shows a northwest facing view from this same alley, highlighting the rear profile of the building.

Courtyard view looking to the west from the E/G alley

Courtyard view looking to the west from the E/G alley

Rear view of the project looking from the E/G alley to the northwest

Rear view of the project looking from the E/G alley to the northwest

Transportation and Parking

The developer is proposing a below-ground parking garage, which will service the entire project. Vehicles enter the garage off the interior 25 foot alley, adjacent to the smaller courtyard. The parking garage will have 48 spaces for cars and 48 spaces for bicycles. Both of these are above the minimum parking required by zoning laws.

Opal has commissioned a transportation and traffic study, which was completed by Well and Associates. The file is quite large, but you can download a copy here. The study finds that the predicted net impact on vehicular use in the alley system will be low, and in some cases zero.

Sun/Shadow Analysis

Opal also conducted an analysis of the effect of their proposed buildings on sun/shade for the area surrounding the development. They looked at multiple times of day at three points in the year, January, June, and October. Those links will take you to PDFs that show the results of the analysis.

Next steps

The ANC 6B PUD subcommittee will consider the project at its February 22nd meeting, which will take place at the Hill Center at 7pm on February 22nd, 2016. This meeting is open to the public.

Sidewalks and snow: the good, the so-so, and the ugly [UPDATED]

Update: As of 4pm on Monday, the Buchanan School property has been nicely cleared all the way around. Thanks very much to the Insight Property Group for their work! (I have not had a chance to review all of the other sites as of this evening.)

Update: As of 6pm on Tuesday, we've seen lots of progress. Frager's cleared the garden store sidewalk, and with the exception of Sunoco, the rest of that block looks great (including Lavender Retreat), too. CAS Rielger came through for New York Pizza's sidewalks, which look great. And late today the city cleared the sidewalks around Watkins field, which means that whole block of E St is passable.

It's been about a day since the big snowstorm ended, and like may DC residents I've spent much of the last 24 hours shoveling snow, both my own, my street's, and some Capitol Hill neighbors (through Capitol Hill Village). Many residents of 6B06 have been doing the same, and this morning I did a short tour of our neighborhood to see where things stand.

In the spirit of Greater Greater Washington's sidewalk snow clearing hall of shame, here's a short recap of some of the commercial and larger residential properties in 6B06 and where their sidewalks stand. I'm putting them in three categories: the good, the so-so, and the ugly. This isn't a complete list, and I'll come back to some of our government-managed properties later. 

The Good

There are a few standout performers in 6B06. At the top of my list is World Wine and Spirits at 15th and Penn, whose owner, Rich Lee, took his snowblower and cleared not only his sidewalk but good portions of his street. A first-rate small business!

World Wine and Spirits and its beautiful sidewalks

World Wine and Spirits and its beautiful sidewalks

Frager's on E St (more on the garden shop lower down...) has done a great job of keeping its streets cleared throughout the storm, and they even stayed open yesterday to provide supplies to the neighborhood.

Frager's (at least the E St location) worked hard to keep up with the snow.

Frager's (at least the E St location) worked hard to keep up with the snow.

Down on Pennsylvania Ave, the new(ish) Pipetown Traders has some immaculate sidewalks outside its narrow store front. Kudos to Trusty's and Wisdom on this block, too.

Beautiful, bare brick outside Pipetown Traders

Beautiful, bare brick outside Pipetown Traders

And further up the block Cherry Blossom Bridal also did a nice job with its sidewalks, as did Gourmet Express at the corner of 13th and Penn.

Clear (if narrow) passageways outside Cherry Blossom Bridal.

Clear (if narrow) passageways outside Cherry Blossom Bridal.

Good looking sidewalks outside Gourmet Express.

Good looking sidewalks outside Gourmet Express.

Many of our small businesses did a great job with their sidewalks, but some large businesses did well, too. Notably, Safeway has relatively wide and clear sidewalks around most of the store (though in a few places they pushed piles of snow across sidewalks or into the alley), and CVS has great looking sidewalks all around its store.

Nice, clear walkways around CVS at 12th and Penn/E St.

Nice, clear walkways around CVS at 12th and Penn/E St.

Finally, thank you to Hatem, who owns the small residential property on the southwest corner of 13th and E St, who had very nice looking sidewalks this morning.

The So-So

I won't go so far as to call these bad, but they're not great performers, either. First up is La Lomita, mid-block on the 1300 block of Penn. The sidewalks on the Penn side are in good shape, but as you can see the G St side hasn't been touched--those are La Lomita's, too. The pocket park (public land) isn't helping things here.

Hard to see, but the Penn sidewalk is okay. The G St sidewalk? Not so much.

Hard to see, but the Penn sidewalk is okay. The G St sidewalk? Not so much.

I'm putting the building at 1442 Penn (McKormick Paints) in this category. This picture shows off the value of putting overhangs on buildings, which accounts for most of the cleared sidewalk. Credit here: as I walked by there was a large crew clearing the back side of the building, too.

Clear-ish sidewalks around 1442 Penn, mostly since snow never landed here.

Clear-ish sidewalks around 1442 Penn, mostly since snow never landed here.

Another set of mostly-good, if quite narrow, sidewalks alongside the church and residential buildings on the 1500 block of K St, which have been purchased recently. Watch out for some incredibly icy patches along this stretch. 

A clear but narrow and icy path along a long stretch of the 1500 block of K St SE.

A clear but narrow and icy path along a long stretch of the 1500 block of K St SE.

The Ugly

As of 9am this morning, there were a handful of properties I passed ... or rather, didn't, since they were all but impassible. Here they are, starting with the northeast corner of 14th and Penn, where the long-unoccupied space (and new Wells Fargo ATM machine) sits near Potomac Ave Metro.

An important corner at 14th and Penn SE, that sites largely unshoveled.

An important corner at 14th and Penn SE, that sites largely unshoveled.

Just outside 6B06 at 15th and Penn is the new residential building going up. They're making progress on the construction but not on the sidewalks.

The new building going up at 1500 Pennsylvania Ave being built--but not shoveled--by Goldstar.

The new building going up at 1500 Pennsylvania Ave being built--but not shoveled--by Goldstar.

Across the street, the sidewalks around New York Pizza and the future side of the residential building from CAS Riegler are covered in snow. I have heard from CAS Riegler that they are working to get the sidewalks cleared, although New York Pizza could have made some progress at this point, too.

Not sure if delivery is an option from New York Pizza, but pick up certainly isn't right now.

Not sure if delivery is an option from New York Pizza, but pick up certainly isn't right now.

Further up Penn, Lavender Retreat has some pretty gnarly looking sidewalks, just up the block from Sunoco, who hasn't shoveled their either (though you can cut through the gas station itself).

Watch your step (if you can step) walking past Lavender Retreat.

Watch your step (if you can step) walking past Lavender Retreat.

Cutting through the Sunoco station is the only way around this portion of uncleared sidewalk.

Cutting through the Sunoco station is the only way around this portion of uncleared sidewalk.

Finally, while Frager's has been a standout performer on E St, I can't say the same for the garden store on the 1200 block of Penn. Here the sidewalk remains untouched and tough to navigate.

The other Frager's, on Penn, which is not in good shape.

The other Frager's, on Penn, which is not in good shape.

In addition, I don't have a photo but the long sidewalk around the Buchanan School site--soon to be developed by Insight Property Group--was entirely unshoveled as of 9am today.

Watkins modernization community meeting - Nov 17

Watkins is undergoing a multiyear modernization project to improve the physical structure of the building and improve the educational experience for Watkins staff and students. This has been a ongoing process, which has been conducted jointly between the the DC government and multiple stakeholders, including the School Improvement Team (SIT), which including staff, teachers, and parents. An important recent development involves potentially relocating Watkins students for a period of time during the construction process, known as a "swing" scenario.

DCPS is holding a meeting to engage the broader community on November 17th at 6pm at Watkins Elementary (420 12th St, SE). They will discuss the developments since last spring, when the last community meeting was held. If you're interested in learning more or weighing in, please attend on the 17th.

What is a community impact statement?

There's been a lot of discussion about public safety in DC, Capitol Hill, and Hill East lately, growing out of an increase in the number of violent crimes in many parts of the city relative to the past few years. Those discussions, whether on the newhilleast listserv or at public meetings, such as Councilmember Allen's office hours and the large meeting at the Friendship Charter School with Councilmember Allen and Chief Lanier last week, have generated a lot of questions along with a lot of information on how residents can promote safe streets and neighborhoods.

One item that came up at the meeting with Chief Lanier and Councilmember Allen was the community impact statement. This is a mechanism associated with sentencing, once a defendant has been arrested and convicted, by which the community can bring to bear information on how it is affected by the crime(s) someone committed. The goal is to ensure that the sentencing process reflects the impact on the community. The US Department of Justice, which through the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO), prosecutes many crimes in DC, has a brief but helpful description of community impact statements here.

Community impact statements are not done in all cases. Because they require significant effort on the part of the community, they tend to be somewhat rare. But they are important, since they can affect sentencing and broader community safety. The USAO encourages community members to work through their ANC commissioner to submit an impact statement. 

Recently I worked with residents in 6B06 to submit a community impact statement related to the conviction of a defendant arrested repeatedly for package theft in our neighborhood. The residents compiled a statement that documents how repeated thefts had negatively impacted them and their community, and we submitted it with the help of Doug Klein of USAO. The statement was read in court and contributed to the sentence the judge issued.

If you know of a case where you would like to see a community impact statement submitted, please get in touch with me or with Doug Klein.

Community Race Relations Forum this Saturday

This Saturday, September 12th, at noon, Liberty Baptist Church is hosting a race relations forum, and they invite members of the Capitol Hill community to attend. The forum is motivated by events around the country and in our area in recent months, and the church is looking to provide a venue for discussion, exchange of ideas, and learning.

The forum panelists will include ANC6B10 Commissioner Denise Krepp; Professor F. Douglas Powe, Wesley Theological Seminary of Washington, DC; and Kelly Matthews, a business owner on Capitol Hill. I believe Councilmember Charles Allen is planning to attend, and I will be there as well. I hope to see you there.

The Liberty Baptist Reverend, Anthony Owens, has asked that people who would like to attend call or email the Church: 202.543.7894, libertybaptistchurchdc@verizon.net

 

Opportunity to shape the future of RFK

Events DC--the official convention and sports authority of the DC government--manages the RFK Stadium site, and they are soliciting feedback about the future of RFK and the surrounding land. Events DC will host the first of two community meetings on September 16th to solicit input from the community on the how the site should be used in the future. This includes not only the stadium but also the Armory and the skate park. They will walk through the ongoing study process they are conducting and ask for feedback from the community.

This is an important opportunity for us to hear about the process Events DC is undertaking and to make sure we are involved in shaping that process to be as beneficial as possible to the broader community. I encourage you to attend this upcoming meeting, listen, and ask tough questions of Events DC. The RFK site offers an amazing opportunity to improve a community resource, one that is immediately adjacent to the river.

When: 
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Where:
St. Coletta of Greater Washington

1901 Independence Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003

RSVP:  Attendees are encouraged to RSVP in advance for this community meeting: http://rfkcommunity.splashthat.com/.

Community meeting on new proposed E ST development

On Tuesday, August 18th at 6:30, Insight Property Group will hold a broad-based community meeting on their proposed PUD development on E St SE. The project would redevelop two sites that are currently occupied by Bowie's trash service and Signature auto repair, midway down the 1300 block of E St. Insight is also the developer behind the project at the Buchanan School (former IGU) at the end of 13th St.

The meeting will take place at the Hill Center, starting at 6:30. If you'd like to learn more about the plans, voice your opinions and ideas, and engage with the Insight team, please attend! If you can't make it, this will be one of a series of community meetings over the next year, since this project will be in a planning stage for a while to come.

Meeting about the proposed Bowie's/Signature PUD project

The Insight Property Group is in the early stages of a proposed redevelopment of the site on the 1300 block of E ST SE that is currently occupied by Bowie's trash company and Signature auto repair shop. Insight is proposing a medium-scale development that is planned for 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartment units.

They are holding a meeting this evening at 6:30pm at the Hill Center to discuss the impacts of the project on the adjacent neighbors (primarily those living along E St and the west side of the 500 block of 14th St). While the focus will be on massing and shade studies for the adjacent neighbors, the meeting is open to the broader community. If you'd like to attend, head to the Hill Center tonight, July 21st, at 6:30pm.