I am no expert. I’m just taking what I understand and putting it out there.
I live in a R-4 zone. That’s what most of the Truxton Circle part of Shaw is, except for the Cooperative which is R-5-B and the main roads that are zoned C-2-A. According to the DC Zoning website, in an R-4 area:
Permits matter-of-right development of single-family residential uses (including detached, semi-detached, row dwellings, and flats), churches and public schools with a minimum lot width of 18 feet, a minimum lot area of 1,800 square feet and a maximum lot occupancy of 60% for row dwellings, churches and Flats, a minimum lot width of 30 feet and a minimum lot area of 3000 square feet for semi-detached structures, a minimum lot width of 40 feet and a minimum lot area of 4000 square feet and 40% lot occupancy for all other structures; and a maximum height of three (3) stories/forty (40) feet. Conversions of existing buildings to apartments are permitted for lots with a minimum lot area of 900 square feet per dwelling unit.
Translated? Low density. Things that are there, pretty much grandfathered in. Any new construction has to be at the least 18 feet wide, no more than 3 stories or 40 feet high. The C-2-A also promotes low density for our commercial corridors where buildings are limited to 50 foot heights.
Why am I telling you this? Well for two reasons. The first is to inform you about the joys of zoning. As an R-4 we don’t have huge towering apartment buildings, but rather small 4 unit apartments and lots of townhomes. The zoning law (if followed and enforced) keeps the area small and intimate. Second, once you know, you might want to defend the character of the area by defending the spirit of the R-4 zone. Developers, neighbors, and whomever will ask for variances and you need to know what they are asking a variance from. May 4th at 6:30pm at on the 2nd floor of 441 4th Street NW there will be a public hearing regarding a bit of confusion in the zoning regs.
Back when the Richardson Place neighbors were battling Wilbur Mondie about proposed townhomes a problem was discovered. The way section 410 is written it seems to allow R-5 apartments in an R-4 zone. The way Mr. Mondie was proposing his development, for a period, he’d have 6 or 8 apartment units, which were to be later to be joined to create 3 or 4 separate townhomes (I’m not remembering exact numbers now). So if he stopped part way, we’d get a R-5 structure in an R-4 zone imposing a density that the particular area in question could not handle.