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Lanier Heights Pop-Up Foes Move Closer to Getting Building Size Limits

by Andrew Ramonas — April 12, 2016 at 3:50 pm 1 Comment

Lanier Heights zoning reform sign

Opponents of new pop-up homes in Lanier Heights are one step away from making it harder for developers to build those houses in the neighborhood.

The D.C. Zoning Commission last night unanimously endorsed a petition that generally would limit residential construction in Lanier Heights to one- or two-unit homes. The petition, brought by Lanier Heights residents and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C, which represents the neighborhood, is set to receive a final vote before the zoning panel next month, after a 30-day public review period.

“I must say that I think the ANC made an excellent case,” Zoning Commission vice chairwoman Marcie Cohen said yesterday. “I commend them for their clarity and completeness in their presentation.”

Since 2014, the ANC has pushed the Zoning Commission to restrict pop-up houses in Lanier Heights by making the area an R-4 zoning district that favors single-family homes, instead of leaving it as an R-5-B zoning district that generally allows larger residential buildings. In testimony before the Zoning Commission last month, ANC Commissioner Billy Simpson emphasized that the neighborhood is a “special place” due to its housing diversity, which the ANC is trying to maintain.

Ted Guthrie, the ANC’s chairman, told Borderstan today he was “very pleased” to hear the Zoning Commission’s decision, which he said a “substantial majority of Lanier Heights residents” support.

“It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work,” he said. “My thanks to all who participated in the process.”

But not all of Guthrie’s neighbors backed a zoning change.

Ron Baker, who leads the Neighbors Against Downzoning group, has fought against changing the zoning district for Lanier Heights, saying the neighborhood shouldn’t restrict its housing choices.

He couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Comments (1)

  1. Lanier Heights is a perfect example of an apartment neighborhood with a small number of row houses where keeping a small apartment house development option under R5B zoning makes sense. We can only hope that zoning commission allows the half-dozen projects currently stalled, vacant and gutted to finish their conversion to four-unit condos.

    One, two and three bedroom condos and apartments can offer options for family housing at a lower entry price than the classic “single family row house.” The new Lanier Station development at 1767 Lanier Place was singled out for ridicule by downzoners at the March 21 public hearing because the two most expensive units have asking prices of more than $1,000,000. Not mentioned by the downzoners were the two bedroom dwellings selling at $499,000 and $549,000, nor the fact that this development was not a row house conversion: the former dilapidated house was torn down and combined with an empty lot next to the firehouse to create a six-condo matter-of-right development.

    Pop-up row house condo developments have provided diversity in the form of a middle ground between “single family row houses” and big-box apartment buildings, but opponents were not interested in this type of diversity. More than 85% of Lanier Heights residents live in medium to large size apartment buildings, about 1% in “pop-up condos.”

    Opponents to downzoning offered compromise options (at the request of ANC1C Chair Billy Simpson) at a Special Forum on Lanier Heights held in November 2014. The downzoners never responded or offered their own compromise solutions.

    Only about 50% of neighborhood home owners supported the downzoning petition. Scare tactics were not enough to get a real neighborhood consensus in favor of the proposal.

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