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Update 6/24: After this post was published, several of you commented that it seemed unlikely that a modest renovation would trigger new zoning requirements. I attempted to get in touch with the architect, but she did not return my calls or emails. Meanwhile, the architect apparently saw your comments: According to Borderstan, the architect responded to comments here and on Greater Greater Washington by re-examining whether a zoning variance was actually necessary, and determined that it was not. So while the parking requirements in the zoning code are still causing problems around the city, in this case they don’t appear to be.
Update 6/25: The Scottish Rite Temple’s Barbara Golden confirms that no variance is needed. “We don’t need a variance for any kind of parking,” Golden says. “Our renovations are to upgrade the building.” Those renovations include adding a handicapped entrance, upgrading plumbing and electrical, and bring air conditioning to a few of the main rooms. The building was completed in 1915, well before the 1958 zoning code took effect. The architects, Golden says, were initially looking into whether a variance was needed, but have since determined that it is not.
As if we needed more evidence that D.C.’s antiquated minimum parking requirements—-soon to be scaled back as part of the rewrite of the zoning code—-often do no one any favors, here’s another good one for the file, from Borderstan:
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC)2B/Dupont modified a resolution last week in hopes of protecting the green space facing 15th Street NW behind the Scottish Rite Temple (1733 16th Street). The modification was part of a larger resolution to endorse the general facelift for the 97-year-old building and its surrounding grounds. … The Scottish Rite Temple reportedly supports preserving the green space as well. However, DC zoning requirements specify that a building of the Scottish Rite Temple’s size have more than 100 parking spaces available.
Currently, there are less than 50 spaces, which are used by the Temple’s permanent staff. In order to satisfy the parking requirement, the Temple would have to pave over its entire property to the street. It does not wish to do so. On the occasions when the Temple is full to near-capacity, it uses shuttle buses from nearby hotels and other locations to ferry participants to the site.
To preserve its green space, the Temple will require a zoning variance.
In other words, the neighborhood wants to preserve the green space, and the property owner wants to preserve the green space, and there’s no one really arguing against preserving the green space
, but by law, the temple isn’t allowed to preserve the green space—-unless it goes through the lengthy, difficult, and expensive process of obtaining a zoning variance. In this case, the architect has now reportedly determined, the law won’t get in the way of that. But in other cases, it’s still not doing anyone any favors.
Image from Google Maps