• Michael Rouse

Let's get planning... Zoning

Updated: Dec 16, 2018

Every project starts with constraints. Some of the constraints are self imposed, think budget, while others are imposed by local, public regulations like zoning or historic district design guidelines. For our project, we only have to worry about zoning and our budget.

Zoning regulations limit uses that are allowed on a site as well as mass and bulk of structures through requirements of yard depths, lot coverage and height limits. For us, our project will have to meet the requirements of the DC 2016 Zoning R-1-B, a zone with mainly single-family detached residences. According to the Zoning Ordinance, R-1-B was created to "protect and stabilize quiet residential areas" to help foster "a suitable environment for family life".

Amongst the requirements of the R-1-B zone are side yard setbacks. These required open yards limit where the house's addition can be placed. For us, R-1-B requires an 8' wide side yard. After receiving our survey, we discovered our west side yard is 8' and our east side yard is 4' at the existing house and 5' at the existing rear covered porch (an important dimension).

Zoning regulations are rules that get applied to every site, building and structure in the city. In someplaces, buildings were constructed in another time when rule limitations were markedly different. In our case, our house was built in the 1920's when the 8' side yard was not a requirement. Our lot is also very narrow for the width of the house that was ultimately constructed. If we apply the side yards to our house as written, we'd be limited to building an addition that would be roughly 17'. Great size for a large single room, but hard to get two rooms of any great dimension.

Fortunately, the DC Zoning Ordinance has an additional side yard rule for single family structures in R-1-B:

For a building subject to a side yard requirement but which has an existing side yard less than eight feet (8 ft.) wide, an extension or addition may be made to the building; provided, that the width of the existing side yard shall not be decreased; and provided further, that the width of the existing side yard shall be a minimum of five feet (5 ft.). DC Zoning Ordinance, D307.5

Hosana! A way to gain 3 feet! Now we, can get a little closer to 20' which will get us at least one good sized room and a smaller width room that can still be functional.

Final Site Plan

Now just to work on that budget constrain... Oh well. Time to start sketching...


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