In a post today on Greater Greater Washington, about the third delay of the Zoning Update, David Alpert and I mentioned a report from 1970 that called the 1958 zoning code outdated.
That was in response to Mayor Gray’s announcement that the Zoning Commission would not close its records until September 2014, so we weren’t able to share as much as I wanted. Here’s more:
Barton-Aschman were hired by the pre-home-rule Walter Washington administration to examine the code after the MLK assassination riots, Urban Renewal, the Metro, and freeway revolt. Not all of their comments were negative, but the technocratic, autocentric attitude that ran through the 1958 process was nowhere to be found.
These events had big impacts in the ideologies of the planning community. So, just 12 years after the code was passed, they saw a code that was plagued by assumptions that no longer applied and solutions that only seemed to make things worse:
A considerable number of provisions are archaic or substandard and need to be systematically reviewed and modernized. New techniques should be developed to accommodate changing market demand, technological advances, and new social conditions and programs.
Some things changed after this report was published. Parking minimums got lower. Much of the city was downzoned. Overlays were used to make custom tweaks. A more general PUD was introduced. And certain downtown zones became more open to residential uses, making it less of a nighttime wasteland.
Still, some of the ideas these planners found outdated in the Nixon years are still are at the root of the problems the city faces today.
Continue reading ➞ The 1970 study that said DC’s zoning is obsolete
Recently on a few community boards, I’ve seen posts arguing whoever replaces Harriet Tregoning is obviously
going to disavow “smart growth.” The problem is: where are they gonna find someone like this?
I’ve never met a professional planner who opposes the policies that constitute smart growth. Give or take a few things, what gets called “smart growth” is the standard approach of almost all urban planners. Despite Tregoning’s involvement in consolidating the agenda of Smart Growth, most of what she supports is the product of 50 years of empirical study of what makes cities work.
Outside of the mainstream, there are socialist and libertarian positions to urban planning. Their positions are significantly more radical than anything OP has proposed.
The topic is worth discussing, because today the Post endorsed Muriel Bowser for Mayor and the Mayor, Vince Gray, appointed Rosalynn Hughey as interim director of the Office of Planning. Whether she becomes permanent or steps down, OP will probably view the city’s problems from the same position Tregoning did.
Gray’s development policies were basically the same ones as Bowser’s mentor, Adrian Fenty. Fenty’s policies were really just versions of Tony Williams’ strategies, developed by Ellen McCarthy and Andy Altman. Tregoning wasn’t that different. She was just more upfront – and willing to be hated.
So there’s little threat that Tregoning’s policies will be rolled back under a revanchist OP. The best the intransigent opponents of development can hope for is spineless. If they truly believe that Tregoning sold out the city to developers, what do they think spineless will do?