The DC zoning ordinance details whether specific geographic zones are acceptable for residential, commercial, or other purposes; and regulates lot size, placement, density, and the height of structures. In 2016, DC adopted a new zoning code that substantially redefined terms and uses. The DC Zoning Handbook and the ArcGIS maps provide efficient interactive tools to describe these terms and conditions.
Zoning cannot be inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital Area. The land use changes on the Future Land Use Map enacted in April 2020 therefore set new parameters for up-zoning requests to the Zoning Commission. (See FLUM above.)
- The Zoning Commission (ZC) is an independent, quasi-judicial body. Created by the Zoning Act of 1920, as amended, the ZC is charged with preparing, adopting, and subsequently amending the Zoning Regulations and Zoning Map in a means not inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital area. Three members of the ZC are residents of the District of Columbia appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council. The fourth member of the ZC is the Architect of the Capitol (or his/her representative). The fifth ZC member is the Director of the National Park Service (or his/her representative). https://dcoz.dc.gov/zc/about
- The Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) is an independent, quasi-judicial body. It is empowered to grant relief from the strict application of the Zoning Regulations (variances), approve certain uses of land (special exceptions), and hear appeals of actions taken by the Zoning Administrator at DCRA. The Board’s five members consist of three Mayoral appointees, a rotating member of the District of Columbia Zoning Commission, and a designated representative of the National Capital Planning Commission. In cases where the Board is performing functions regarding Foreign Mission and Chancery applications, the composition of the Board shall consist of the three Mayoral appointees, the Director of the U.S. National Park Service or his designee, and the Executive Director of the National Capital Planning Commission. https://dcoz.dc.gov/bza/about
Selected Zoning Terms
- A Planned Unit Development is a mechanism that allows developers flexibility to meet objectives such as use, density, site planning, and design. To achieve this flexibility, developers may incorporate public benefits that exceed those that could have been achieved under the general provisions of the Zoning Regulations. PUDs may be sought in conjunction with a map amendment or a related map amendment (related map amendments are specific to the PUD for the life of the development). https://dcoz.dc.gov/node/1356881
- The Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) Program requires that most new (and some renovated) residential developments include some affordable apartments for rent or condos/townhomes for sale. The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) administers the District’s Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) Program, which requires that 8 percent – 10 percent of the residential floor area be set-aside for affordable units in most new residential development projects of 10 or more units; and rehabilitation projects that are creating 10 or more units in an existing building or addition. https://planning.dc.gov/inclusionaryzoning
- IZ Plus IZ Plus is triggered through a map amendment request and establishes an affordable unit set-aside requirement higher than Regular IZ. For IZ Plus to apply, the rezoning must result in a zone that permits higher density development than what was permitted by the former zone and not be located in an area that has an overconcentration of existing affordable housing. The general IZ Plus set-aside requirement for affordable units is a sliding scale up to 20% of the total residential floor area. It is determined by the percent increase from the maximum permitted density of the former zone to the total density built in the new residential development. The intent is to require a significant amount of affordable housing when the maximum permitted density of a property is increased through a map amendment. Map amendments must be not inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use Map. To access additional information regarding IZ Plus, review the ZC case record for Case No. 20-02
- IZ-XL text amendments provide new bonus densities for the provision of IZ units in zones that were exempt from regular IZ, and aligns the IZ set-aside requirements with the recent changes to the building code, which allows buildings to be stick-built up to 85 feet in height. The new regulations are effective January 1, 2022. To access additional information regarding IZ-XL, review the ZC case record for Case No. 21-02. IZ-XL is unlikely to have an impact in Ward 3 or Rock Creek West Planning Area.
NOTE: For a critique of IZ and its impact on meeting affordable housing goals in Ward 3, see https://www.ward3housingjustice.org/post/do-current-policies-help-reach-the-mayor-s-goal-of-1-990-affordable-units-in-rcw-by-2025