Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, April 18, 2014

DC Zoning Code Rewrite written testimony deadline: Friday April 25th, 3 pm (Chickens edition), now September 15th

Updated and republished due to an extension of the public comment period to September

WAMU-FM reported yesterday ("After Six Years, D.C. To Get Six More Months To Debate Zoning Code Rewrite ") that the Zoning Commission has extended the public comment period to September 15th.

GGW thinks this is a bad idea ("DC's 40-year out of date zoning code will get at least 6 months more stale").

I think that the ZRR process has been so flawed from the get go that (1) the delay doesn't surprise me and (2) it is an indicator and recognition of the flawed process (see the past blog entry "DC and the zoning rewrite and the approach not taken").

Will it result in a better code and more support for necessary changes?

Doubtful, because most of the angst has to do with more suburban parts of the city expressing vehement outrage against changes that are more specifically urban and less focused on automobility (see the past blog entries "DC as a suburban agenda dominated city" and "Understanding why Upper Northwest DC residents don't buy into the sustainability mobility paradigm").

But that means I get to polish and craft the various testimonies that I plan to submit.

The DC Office of Zoning hasn't updated its website to reflect the new circumstances.

Previous entry

Update on the Zoning Rewrite Process:  DC Zoning Commission

While I testified earlier on Accessory Dwelling Units, I do intend to submit written testimonies about (1) pop ups; (2) the need for special big box review provisions and problems with large tract review procedures; (3) general organization of the code; and (4) legalization of chickens--because a Greater Takoma resident was "busted" for having a coop and I offered to help.

The volume of the submissions means they'll be quick and dirty rather than hyper-detailed.

With regard to urban agriculture and poultry, I argue that cities have taken two directions, what I call loose or tight regulations.  Tight regulations legalize the raising of poultry in residential districts but have requirements for lot sizes and distance from lot lines that are not sized for cities, making raising poultry illegal in reality.  For example, Norfolk, Virginia requires a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet, which is just under a quarter-acre.  A typical rowhouse lot is less than one-tenth that size.

Loose regulations are focused on allowing the practice by making regulations fit the form of urban neighborhoods.  They don't specify minimum lot sizes, and focus coop placement requirements on the distance from dwelling units (on the property and adjacent properties), not the lot line.  Places like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York City, Portland, Salt Lake City and County, and Seattle have what I call loose regulations.

DC's earliest proposals are definitely a form of tight regulation--lots would have to be about 110 feet wide--making poultry raising in residential districts illegal for the most part.

Interestingly, DC's touted Sustainability Plan doesn't bring up residential poultry raising at all.

Note that one writer in the LA Times likes eggs, but not chickens, and she writes about the organization of "chicken cooperatives" there ("When the chickens came home to roost"), which are on a much larger scale than what I call "Block Supported Agriculture."

Right: chickens in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

It turns out that the State of Virginia held its first Urban Agriculture Summit earlier in the week, in Lynchburg.  See "First Va. Urban Agriculture Summit kicks off in Lynchburg" from the Lynchburg News-Advance.

... interestingly, with regard to DC, you can do urban aquaculture but you can't raise chickens.

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At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The old people prioritize parking over density and new residential alleys- they are vehemently against alley dwellings and alley dwellers and wish we would go away since we take up room for their cars. However- if we want the city to work better- we would be building more alley areas with high density and making it less car- friendly. Where I live the old residents are uniformly against streetcars, density and new mom & pop independent businesses which they would rather see become just all housing or parking. I think they are spies for northern Virginia whi wish us all to drive out to Baileys Cross Roads for every little $2 item.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

1. There are very serious public health issues about why we don't want chickens and human in close proximity. There is a reason why nasty diseases break out in China first.

2. Looking forward to your thoughts on pop-ups.

3. The above comment is part of the problem; properly done development can be both car and parking friendly. Arlington is a good example.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

charlie -- I have thought about the chicken safety issue since you mentioned it when I raised it before.

The big thing is that the number of chickens would be significantly reduced, run more like hobbies, and not on a massive scale like in Chinese cities.

On the other hand, I could recommend that it be piloted in the detached residential zones and wait wrt rowhouse zones.

While it is legal in NYC, I don't think chicken raising is very commonplace. Same thing in Baltimore.

DK why this hasn't been considered a big issue in cities like Seattle, SLC, Portland, etc.

Then again, I see movies like Contagion and get very scared, because I think it's a lot more likely that reactions will be chaotic rather than measured.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt pop ups I am torn.

1. I understand why people want to do them, they want more space.

2. the issue is to balance wacked changes vs. property rights.

3. can this be made congruent through design standards/special exception processes?

I have seen a couple examples of pop ups which aren't terrible.

4. but they occur because the zoning maximum height is significantly greater than when houses/these neighborhoods were built.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... I have been meaning to write about affordable housing. I have a cold and when I am sick I sleep fitfully and dream incessantly. Last night all my dreams were about affordable housing.

I didn't do super well in econ in college, because I am not great (or I wasn't then) at math and graphical reasoning, although I did very well on my microecon final, not that it made any difference to my final grade.

... anyway, in a repricing market, the only real solution to affordability is more housing, a lot more, and various other treatments.

that gets back to ADUs too.

At 12:20 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

yes, see discussion on GGW today. Not much understanding there from the usual suspects.

In terms of chickens+virus, it isn't the scale or density in China -- it is the fact that people and chicken are in close contact. Much of the vectors involve blood but other contact is there (see other avian flu spreading via wild birds). The risk is so high it isn't worth it. If you want to grow chickens move to the country.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

not allowing live poultry markets and slaughter in primitive conditions also makes a big difference compared to China.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I put in a query to the CDC. I don't expect a quick reply, but with the public comment period extended, we should be ok.

At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ultimately the people who are opposing the zoning rewrite need to be asked what they would prefer in the face of a growing city and region.

If the answer is "nothing", then they should be ignored.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

That's a very good point, and I do think it would be interesting to hear the response. It would be "nothing" but it would be designed to not sound that way.

The point though is that they can't be ignored, the point is that it is irresponsible for the people "running the city" and planning for its future to act that way.

I make the point that this is the basic conundrum of local govt.

That residents mostly task themselves with the responsibility of keeping their neighborhood unchanging, while city officials are tasked with respecting and improving neighborhood quality of life while simultaneously _acknowledging_ and planning for the future.

Using the idea of "contradictions" as discussed by Foglesong in _Planning the Capitalist City_, it's like the contradiction is "acknowledging the future will come whether or not you plan for it or if you say no."

very good point. Thank you.


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