Lanier Heights Pop Up Battle Update: “ANC 1C Votes Unanimously to Support Zoning Reform Barring Popups”


From an email:

“ANC 1C Votes Unanimously to Support Zoning Reform Barring Popups

This is a statement on behalf of the informal group of Lanier Heights residents whose campaign for zoning reform led to a vote by ANC 1C on December 3, 2014, to support a change to R-4 zoning:

Clearly the vast majority of Lanier Heights and Adams Morgan residents want to change zoning to protect the remaining 165 row houses against efforts to build them up and out and carve them up into multi-unit buildings.

Over the past two months, the ANC scheduled a series of public meetings devoted explicitly to the issue of whether a change in zoning would be the right response to the flood of rowhouse conversions in the Lanier Heights neighborhood, which represents the northeastern section of Adams Morgan, north of Columbia Road and east of 18th and Calvert Streets. Media reports of the controversy, in an understandable effort to be even-handed, have given equal weight to proponents both of reform and of popup development. But the public meetings have revealed that the overwhelming sentiment of the neighborhood is on the side of protecting the neighborhood against popups. The vast majority of the owners of Lanier Heights row houses that would be directly affected by the proposed change who have spoken, and indeed the vast majority of the residents of Lanier Heights apartment buildings, favors preservation of the neighborhood character of the inner streets of Lanier Heights. Specifically, the neighbors themselves want to preserve the rowhouses along such streets as Lanier Place, Ontario Place, and Argonne Place, along with parts of 18th Street, Ontario Road, and Adams Mill Road overlooking Rock Creek Park.

The owners of over 100 row houses have by now put their handwritten signatures on a petition supporting zoning reform, and hundreds more in the neighborhood have both hand-signed and joined an online petition. A copy of that petition, and supporting materials, can be accessed through our web site at Despite a monthly door-to-door distribution of full-color, glossy, cardstock flyers by a few people calling themselves “Neighbors Against Down Zoning” so as to sound more weighty, only ten row house owners, and a few pop-up condo owners, have said they support keeping the current zoning.

Statements by ANC commissioners at last night’s monthly ANC meeting revealed that private email communications from their constituents reflected the same overwhelming tilt in favor of zoning reform. The attached resolution was passed late Wednesday evening December 3 by a unanimous vote of the ANC; concluding as follows: “Resolved that Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C supports the proposal to change the Lanier Heights zoning designation to R-4 and will send a letter of support to the Office of Planning and Zoning Commission to that effect.”

Lanier Heights neighbors look forward to meeting with city zoning and planning officials and with the Zoning Commission to secure a vote in favor of this change.

Paul Alan Levy
Public Citizen Litigation Group”

and the other side:


The ANC vote came as no surprise.

The ANC was most interested in the opinions of the owners of the 165 unconverted single family row houses in Lanier Heights. They are the group that will be most directly affected by downzoning, since their property rights are on the line. They are the group that will be most directly affected by any new pop-ups. That was the view of the ANC.

The downzoning petition claims support from 99 of that select group while “only” 15 people who have signed our petition against downzoning own unconverted single family row houses. The 50 Lanier Heights row home owners who never publicly took a side on the issue weren’t a part of the ANC’s calculation.

Obviously, we disagree with the ANCs decision, but we understand why they voted as they did, based on their definition of who the true stakeholders are.

Our view is different. Those 99 petition signers represent just 60% of the affected home owners. Although that’s a majority, it is not an overwhelming majority. If only a handful of those 99 people change their minds or sell their homes and move, the percentage could easily drop down to around 50%.

While those slim percentages might be enough for the ANC, we think it is a weak result to use as a basis for taking away the rights of 100% of current and future home owners in Lanier Heights.

The ANC did their job as they viewed it. Now the downzoning petition will move on to the next step in the process.

We are encouraged that more home owners on Lanier Place signed our petition and put up yard signs in just the last few days.

To those who have a NEIGHBORS AGAINST DOWNZONING yard sign in your yard, keep it there. If you want a yard sign (or two or three) let us know. If you live in an apartment or condo in Lanier Heights and want signs for your yard or window, let us know. We think your opinion counts. Everyone who lives in Lanier Heights is a stakeholder.

Thanks for reading

Ronald Baker
Lanier Heights home owner”
Neighbors Against Downzoning

27 Comment

  • Excellent news!

  • ANC commissioners are elected by such a small fraction of the registered voters in the boundaries they serve that it is not clear to me how they can claim to represent anyone but their own views.

    Hopefully the zoning board gives the ANC’s recommendation the “great weight” it deserves…which in my opinion, is little to no weight.

    • It’s not the ANC commissioners’ fault that many of their constituents don’t bother to vote. And sure, many ANC races are uncontested, but that’s because being an ANC is a pretty thankless job and most people are relieved to have a neighbor who’s motivated enough to do it.
      To the extent that there is representative government in D.C. at a smaller unit than the ward unit… it’s ANCs. If people care about government at a smaller-than-ward level, then they should vote in ANC races.

    • I live in this ANC, but I didn’t vote for the candidate running for my single member district because he didn’t make an effort to win my vote. The race was uncontested, and I knew he’d win. But I won’t give me vote to someone who doesn’t act like he wants it.

    • So by that rationale, no one, Republican or Democrat should have been elected in November’s Midterm elections because turnout was historically low, about 34 percent nationwide. Saying someone doesn’t represent an office they are elected to represent simply because of a small turnout is just ridiculous.

    • “…it is not clear to me how they can claim to represent anyone but their own views.”

      I guess you missed this part of the article:

      “The owners of over 100 row houses have by now put their handwritten signatures on a petition supporting zoning reform, and hundreds more in the neighborhood have both hand-signed and joined an online petition.”

      Clearer now?

  • Yes, I’m glad that the neighbors spoke up and rallied. Thank you to our ANC reps for their hard work.

  • Can we do this in Petworth? That would be fantastic!

    • most of petworth is already in an r-4 zone. A north of webster street it’s mostly an even more restrictive r-3 zone.

    • Are you serious? Why disincentive developers from re-doing some of the rundown houses in our neighborhood? It’s not like Petworth is overrun with condos. I’m all for some discretion in eliminating hideous design, but I haven’t seen many of those recently.

      • The problem is, there isn’t much of a way to “eliminate hideous design” other than 1) establishing a historic district or 2) changing the zoning to prohibit building higher than x number of feet or y stories.

  • Based on the 40 foot, three-unit pop-up/down/back down the street from me in an r-4 zone, downzoning doesn’t prevent popups. All it does is limit it to 40 feet, 900 square feet of land per unit, and 60% lot occupancy.

    So much of the pearl clutching in the city is over pop-ups are in r-4 zones.

  • These folks, or their families that inherit these houses will be the first ones to wonder why their houses sell for ~30% less than all other comps in the neighborhood should this go through. The hutzpah of these folks, demanding to be able to determine what other home owners in the neighbor do with their property. Unbelievable…

  • oh, cool. So, can we also do a multi-block upzoning elsewhere in DC to balance the proposed downzoning since the demand for more housing units will still be present?

    Who else finds it inefficient to have R-4 zoning directly adjacent or even on top of a heavy rail metro station in DC, especially those not in a historic district?

    Our zoning system is really out of balance in places and could gain from a reality check.

    • A lot more neighborhoods in D.C. would already have gone for historic-district status if the requirements weren’t so stringent, or if there were a “conservation district” option (sometimes described as “historic district lite.”)

  • The homeowners know exactly what they’re doing…..they are boosting the value of their homes.
    Restrict supply in the ‘hood and the price of existing housing goes up. Sure, it takes developers out of the market. But they are lowballing as much as possible. I’d do the same thing, if I owned a house in Lanier.

    • Actually, economic research and theory suggest that historic designation preserves values mainly in sparsely-developed areas. In dense, urban areas – where building vertically is valuable, and prospective residents require fewer square feet per unit – historical designation does not preserve home values, because doing so forfeits so much vertical value and disallows the subdivision of suboptimally-large housing units. It’s worth noting that lots of folks in Lanier Heights have pop-ups next door/nearby already; they are basically locking in the pop-up’s negative impact on their home’s value as a single-family residence (whereas a developer doesn’t discount the value of the property for being in the shadow of another building, since the developer can build out from under it).

      • Which is why the houses in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Shaw, and Capitol Hill are so inexpensive. Oh, wait…

  • I would like to know what the zoning was when these 99 home owners purchased their homes. If you didn’t want to live in in R5B then you should have bought in R4 in the first place. I would be pissed if I lived in a neighborhood and my zone changed because of 100 peoples personal opinions. Also i’m sure it was hard to say no to your crazy neighbor knocking on your door with a sign up sheet.

  • maybe power wash your ‘beautiful’ cement-grey brick house before talking about other peoples homes ugly

  • So glad to be moving out of this neighborhood. These chuckleheads whine and whine about the supposed beauty of this neighborhood, yet every time I walk down that block I’m stepping over piles of dogshit and trash. I guess as long as the piles don’t get too high they don’t count as popups?

  • If you live in a neighborhood, it is always good to remember that ONLY owners have RIGHTS.

    If you rent, its not really your neighborhood and you don’t count.

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