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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Zoning Commission: Come Back with New Plan

I attended last night's meeting of the Zoning Commission to hear what was said about Roadside Development's City Market at O Street proposal. As you may recall, last month the Zoning Commission did not set down the project (in other words, the Zoning Commission did not set down the proposal for a public hearing, which is one of the final stages in the PUD process), but instead asked Roadside to come back to present more information justifying the height and massing of the project. The Zoning Commission's main concerns seem to be with the height of the project in relation to the surrounding buildings and the density of the project in relation to the lower density zones.

I'm sorry to report that last night the Zoning Commission again let down the Shaw neighborhood--and D.C.--by not setting down Roadside's proposal. Indeed, the blow they dealt was even stronger than last month's, as last night they required Roadside to come back next month with a new proposal altogether for the development, suggesting Roadside plan for shorter buildings and lower density. The Zoning Commission's action flies in the face of numerous things going for Roadside's current proposal: the current plan complies with the Comprehensive Plan for the site (which contemplates higher density and taller buildings), advances neighbor and neighborhood desires and input, and meets very real market needs. The plan also opens up 8th Street, thereby advancing the L'Enfant plan and decreasing the developable area of the site, which justifies greater density on the developed portions. Finally, Roadside has conveyed at public meetings in the past that the high density and tall buildings help offset the hugely expensive underground parking and loading areas that their current proposal will offer (two things that I think more-than-justify the offset of higher buildings and density).

Who knows what this will mean for the O Street Market site ultimately. At very least, this will delay the ground breaking by several months. I fear that it could have greater ramifications on the extent of ammenities to the neighborhood provided by the project.

14 comments:

Drew said...

I think this could be a final blow for Roadside to remove itself from this project and look elsewhere for developable land. The BZA seemed ignorant to the desires of the neighborhood, despite the positive remarks presented by the local community, local politicians, and political bodies in Shaw, specifically those surrounding this development. It seemed the main disagreement was with entire comprehensive plan process rather than this specific development, which to my knowledge, falls under the Office of Planning's jurisdiction, not so much the BZA.

Moreover, there was a consistent discussion surrounding the proverbial "slippery slope"... if we allow Roadside to build higher, then every developer in that area may come in and ask for the same PUD. Given the BZA's strangle hold on allowing these requests to pass, the slippery slope argument seems unfounded. The Roadside project is meant to be a hub, the "community center" of Shaw, anchoring the revitalized 9th and 7th street corridors, so it makes sense for this to be a high density, tall development. Just because they allow one developer a PUD for extra massing and height does not require them to grant the same requests to other developers.

The Chairman, Commissioner Hood, claims he knows what's best for the neighborhood, though admittedly he has never lived in Shaw, though he did "hang out here when he was a child."

The worst of the bunch was Commissioner Jeffries, whose tone was patronizing and downright rude. He posed the question to Commissioner Parsons saying, have we ever in the history of this board had a developer come back to the table with the exact same plans, disrespecting our process by not listening to our requests? His snide comment, basically reaching over their pulpit and slapping Roadside's wrist, was quickly refuted by the Director of the Office of Planning. She pointed out that at the original meeting the BZA asked Roadside to return to the table with an explanation of why they were building so high, not with new plans. Foot in mouth, ZING!

Thanks to Commissioner Etherly for his solid, albeit winded, support. It seems he is the one member of the BZA with a brain, at least with regard to this situation.

According to the DCGov website, "The Zoning Commission is an independent, five-member, quasi-judicial body in the District of Columbia, created by the Zoning Act of 1920, as amended, and charged with preparing, adopting and subsequently amending the Zoning Regulations and Map, not to be inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital area." The Office of Planning made it clear this development is well within the Comprehensive Plan, it's your job to ensure that BZA, so enough already!

In case you're curious the Commissioners are:
Anthony Hood, District Resident (Mayor Appointee)

Gregory Jeffires, District Resident (Mayor Appointee)

Curtis Etherly Jr, District Resident (Mayor Appointee)

Michael G. Turnbull, Office of the Architect of the Capital

John Parsons, National Park Service

Anonymous said...

I'm speechless...Shaw just can't seem to move ahead like the rest of the city...

Is it really true that the city is conspiring to keep this 'hood a slum?? Sure seems that way...

Roadside should pull out...I would. How many public meetings have they had on this development over how many YEARS and it can all be blown up by this crew in zoning?

Crazy...

Omar said...

I just emailed the Mayor. My guess is I won't get a response. The funny thing is that the O Street Market is the one issue that everyone in Shaw agrees upon. Yet there are still some forces that prevent it from happening.

Anonymous said...

file this under even more reasons to hate the dc govt....how is this too much height and density given 1330 and gibson tower (hope i got the names right)...how can this project even be viable with so many restrictions like all the parking for shiloh?!? I guess we shouldnt be surprised at this outcome from a govt that doesnt notice that one of its employees is stealing millions of dollars for shopping trips...i know its not really related but how much crap do we have to put up with?

si said...

Roadside will be at MVSNA tonight.
http://mvsna.org/meetings/

Anonymous said...

Michelle Scellin of the Zoning Commission can be reached at 202-727-6311.

IMGoph said...

were the petitions presented to the BZA last night?

this is depressing. probably will kill the whole project. haven't these idiots ever heard of transit-oriented development, and taking advantage of the benefits of two nearby metro stations.

two stations that were located where they are because of the hard work of leaders like walter fauntroy back in the day. in fact, we should get in touch with him and see if we can get his opinion on this. i'm sure he'd be in favor of seeing good things come to shaw...

Anonymous said...

is there any action the community can take now?

rr 446 said...

walter fauntroy? oh brother!

start writing to:

judge.quander@dc.gov

he's the mayors agent in these matters.

Anonymous said...

If anyone went to the MVSNA meeting, could he or she please let us know what Roadside's reaction was?? Thank you so much!!! (Sorry, unable to attend b/c of too much pre-holiday work)...

si said...

the meeting notes are up at lifein.mvsna.org

We voted to officially raise a stink. Roadside was well received.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Si! So I guess it sounds like Roadside considers the project still on track? Can we post an on-line petition for subsequent submission to DC govt?? I think whatever we can do together as a community is very important to keep this vital project moving forward.

si said...

MVSNA is putting out a support document for the zoning commission & release for the press. we voted unanimously with big turnout. Additionally, we should ALL go to the next zoning commission meeting. we wont be able to testify, but we can go there en masse, with "approve it" stickers perhaps, and make it known to the commission where community sentiment lies. I dont think there is a single person in shaw who opposes this project as it stands. Everybody wants it so lets go get it. Zoning meeting details are on the MVSNA blog:

http://lifein.mvsna.org/index.cfm/2007/11/21/MVSNA-Calls-on-City-to-Approve-O-Street-Market

rr 446 said...

correction:

the mayor's agent for historic preservation email address is:


RO.Quander@dc.gov