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Pop-Ups Along Lanier Heights Row House Streets Nixed; ANC to Seek Downzoning

Accompanying images can be viewed in the December 2014 issue PDF

By P.L. Wolff

In a remarkably civil, low-key, evening December meeting (lasting to near midnight) of the Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), proponents of an anti-pop-up, downzoning petition secured a unanimous vote of 7-0 from the ANC in support of a resolution recommending a change in the Lanier Heights zoning designation for that section of Adams Morgan’s residential row houses from R-5-B to R-4 and to so inform the District’s Zoning Commission and Office of Planning (OP) of that decision.

The circumstances necessitating such a change, which would reduce the allowable height of such Lanier Heights residential structures from 50 to 40 feet, limit the number of units in such structures, and tighten restrictions in the rules on floor to area ratios (FAR) for such structures, were outlined in the ANC’s concisely written resolution.

These circumstances — calling for change — were identified, in formal resolution language, as the following:

“Whereas a number of row houses in Lanier Heights in recent years have been redeveloped into apartment or condominium buildings due to the more flexible restrictions of the R-5-B zoning designation on height, FAR, and number of units; whereas ANC1C has received hundreds of constituent emails and calls and held three meetings where the Lanier Heights zoning issue was addressed (one of which was solely dedicated to this issue); whereas the overwhelming majority of the feedback received on this issue by ANC1C, particularly by affected home owners, supports changing Lanier Heights zoning [from R-5-B to R-4 designation; and whereas ANC1C believers that the R-4 designation will address the concerns that the majority of the Lanier Heights residents raised during this process: limiting the height and number of units of each row house.”

Summary statements of two minutes or less from proponents and opponents of the resolution were allowed toward the end of this five-hour meeting, with the admonition that those who had spoken at the previous, well-attended — by both commissioners and residents — recent community forum held at the Festival Center not speak unless they had changed their minds from their earlier expressions of support or opposition to the Resolution. Those who spoke remained calm and almost dispassionate in stating their views.

The volatility of hot-button Adams Morgan issues appears to be mellowing, as was occasioned, by all accounts, by speakers at the recent Festival Center meeting on the downzoning issue.

In summing up the Commission’s observations, Chairman Billy Simpson noted that the ANC had been a stalwart supporter of new apartment developments — this answering any assertion of the ANC being anti-growth — and had received overwhelming support for the downzoning from both residents and residential property owners in Lanier Heights. Long-time ANC Commissioner Wilson Reynolds observed that supporting the resolution was a “no-brainer,” but warned that it was “not a perfect solution. . . . “We will still have problems with pop-ups,” he predicted.

Editor’s Note: We recently reported on the effort to garner neighborhood support in opposing any downzoning thereby allowing residential property owners to expand and convert their houses into condominium properties. See, “Growing Push to Increase Development In Lanier Heights Roils Neighborhood,” InTowner, September 2014 issue pdf page 1;

“Pop-Ups” Became an Issue a Decade Ago

As far back as 2004 we reported on the first of these to appear in Adams Morgan; the photos that accompanied our article stirred up considerable controversy at the time and started people worrying about the prospect of this becoming a trend – which it indeed has. (See, “Belmont Road Townhouse Still Looms Over Neighbors; Roof Structure Not Set-Back is Claimed to be Illegal,” InTowner, May 2004 issue pdf page 1;

See, also, our follow-up report, “Belmont ‘Tower’ Controversy Argued Before the BZA; Final Ruling Likely to be Appealed,” InTowner, July 2004 issue pdf page 10;