When the DCRA ruled last week that no more building permits or certificates of occupancy would be granted to eating and drinking establishments in a special zone along 14th and U Streets, they hadn’t released the full accounting of restaurant frontage. Today, Director Linda Argo sent out a comprehensive street frontage spreadsheet in an email to local stakeholders; now it appears the area is over the limit by a good 66 feet.
But these are the key paragraphs:
“Also, it is very important to note that the Office of Planning is finalizing recommendations to the Zoning Commission to increase the 25% cap on eating and drinking establishments, as well as how the cap is calculated. These proposed amendments will be submitted to the Zoning Commission by April 26, 2010.
I also need to make clear that although the Zoning Administrator must, pursuant to the zoning regulations, deny applications for a certificate of occupancy for any business seeking to open an eating or drinking establishment after the overlay district reaches the 25% cap, the applicant can seek a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. If the Board of Zoning Adjustment grants the special exception, DCRA will issue the certificate of occupancy and the business may open.”
Translation: The cap’s still on, but we’re working on trying to lift it, and meanwhile everyone should know that you can still apply for an exemption! Last week, 14th and You theorized that DCRA’s ruling was probably “symbolic,” given that BZA has been friendly to new businesses in the corridor. And, via DCist, Councilmember Jack Evans has come out with a full throated endorsement of lifting the cap:
“We must ensure that this corridor remains lively and a destination for residents around the city,” Evans said in a statement Tuesday. “In this economy, we must do all we can to support and promote local business and neighborhood development. We have already lost several small businesses in this area and we must act now.”
Still, despite the April 26th deadline for amendments, the decision last week may still have a chilling effect on new businesses looking to open in the area. “Uncertainty leads people not to make moves,” says Scott Pomeroy, who served as executive director of the 14th & U Main Street Program from 2002 until 2005 and is now on the board of the U Street Neighborhood Association. “And so potential investment slows down, and you never know where the economy’s going to go.”