Blog Archives

Deal for Wizards and Capitals is a Major Win for Downtown D.C.

Last week, downtown D.C. received another huge boost when it was announced that Mayor Bowser and Monumental Sports entered into a non-binding agreement that will keep the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals playing in Capital One Arena for decades to come.  The announcement came only weeks after Mayor Bowser unveiled the “Housing in Downtown” tax-incentive program, which is meant to spur office-to-residential conversions and create a livelier mixed-use neighborhood in downtown D.C. About The Author

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Mayor Bowser Announces Tax Abatement Program to Spur Downtown Residential Conversions

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the writing has been on the wall that downtown D.C. could use a breath of fresh air. With office vacancy rates skyrocketing, the Bowser administration has made no secret of its desire to resuscitate downtown D.C. as a livelier mixed-use neighborhood. One of the primary aims of this policy goal is to encourage the conversion of office buildings into residences. From a land use perspective, this is a bet on “if you build it, they will come.” But the market has been slow to embrace the conversion process. About The Authors

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Major Shake Up in the Department of Buildings’ Zoning Division

It is a New Year for D.C. zoning and we are all wondering what 2023 will bring given the recent changes at the Department of Buildings. As of October 2022, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) was officially dissolved and split into two new agencies – the Department of Buildings and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection. The move comes two years after a D.C. Council vote to dissolve the DCRA. Under the new structure, the updated Department of Buildings is charged with issuing building permits, conducting inspections, and enforcing the building code and Zoning Regulations while the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection oversees licensing and regulating businesses.  About The Authors

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D.C. Council Considers Changes to Condominium Warranty Adjudication Process

If the COVID-19 pandemic was not already difficult enough on the D.C. real estate development community, recent proposed legislation by the D.C. Council might make developing condominiums in the city more challenging. On September 17, 2020, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization held a public hearing on two bills that will impact the processing and adjudication of structural warranty claims for the District’s condominium buildings: The Condominium Warranty Claims Clarification Amendment Act of 2020 (Bill 23-0623) (Claims Clarification Act) and the Condominium Warranty Amendment Act of 2020 (Bill 23-0601) (Warranty Amendment Act). The Claims Clarification Act, which was generally supported by members of the development community, proposes a formal process to resolve condominium warranty claims. Specifically, when

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Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Issues Fines to Restaurants and Bars Violating Social Distancing Measures

Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during his testimony before a Senate subcommittee on September 16 that wearing face masks may be more effective than a vaccine at protecting against COVID-19. What is surprising is the authority tasked with enforcing public health requirements for face masks in the District–the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. About The Authors

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Zoning Commission Moves to Clarify Regulations for Virtual Meetings and Hearings

As COVID-19-related closures are likely to continue into 2021, the Zoning Commission (Commission) recently took emergency proposed action to further clarify the rules and procedures for virtual meetings and hearings. The text amendment applies to Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) proceedings, which have been held virtually since May 2020. The amendment would allow for evidentiary offerings during hearings, whereas the existing regulations require submission of evidence no later than 9:00 am on the day of a hearing. However, in order to offer evidence during a hearing, the party or individual must explain how the exhibit is relevant, demonstrate good cause to allow the exhibit into the record, and show that the evidence will not unreasonably prejudice another party.

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COVID-19 Impact on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals (“Court of Appeals” or “Court”) is making significant operational changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as reflected in the March 23, 2020, Order entered by Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby. The change to Court procedures follows suit with many appellate courts throughout the country. Last week, the United States Supreme Court announced it would postpone oral arguments through its session ending on April 1, 2020. The nation’s highest court has not postponed oral arguments in over 100 years – since the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. The Court of Appeals will close the Historic Courthouse Building and cancel all oral arguments scheduled through May 31, 2020.  Cancelled cases will be decided without oral argument unless

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The District’s Alley Lot Development Frontier May Be Expanding

There are big changes afoot for alley lot development in the District of Columbia.  Over the past year, several clients approached Cozen O’Connor with challenges in developing alley lots.  This was a peculiar juxtaposition given that the District’s Zoning Regulation rewrite in 2016 was seen as a boon for alley lot development.  It became clear the new regulations did not go far enough to ease restrictions on alley lot development.  Too many hurdles remained to make a dent in the District’s many vacant and underdeveloped alleys. On behalf of its clients, Cozen O’Connor worked directly with the District’s Office of Planning to address these regulatory hurdles and draft revisions to the alley lot regulations.  On July 8th, the District’s Zoning

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The Court of Discontent is a Whale of a Problem

A blue whale grows more than thirty pounds a day and doubles in size in its first six months of life.  Every developer wants to land the whale of a deal.  Many big deals in the District of Columbia require complicated entitlements before the Board of Zoning Adjustment or the Zoning Commission.  Unfortunately, the District’s zoning world has fallen prey to a growing number of challenges before the DC Court of Appeals, and the court is only feeding the problem. What we are seeing is not only an increase in zoning cases that are being appealed, but also greater scrutiny from the Court of Appeals over decisions made by the Board of Zoning Adjustment or the Zoning Commission.  Simply put,

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The Caveman’s Club vs. The Modern Neighbor

Protecting one’s property is an innate impulse that dates back to the beginnings of man.  The cavemen defended their caves with clubs and rocks.  It remains unclear whether cavemen also went to community meetings and objected to an increase in density at the neighboring cave.  The question is: how similar is an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (“ANC”) meeting or Party Status in Opposition in the District to the Caveman’s Club? Here, in DC in the 21st Century, property owners do not need a club because they are emboldened by the ANCs and other legislative ways to oppose development.  The District’s ANCs were created by the DC Council in 1976 to give neighbors an important voice in the District’s zoning process.  Under

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Real Estate, Zoning & Land Use

Cozen O’Connor has represented residential, commercial, retail, and industrial builders in the development and redevelopment of building lots and millions of square feet of real estate. Our team handles every aspect of the zoning, land use, and development approvals process, from obtaining building permits and variances to negotiating stormwater management and traffic plans.

Head of the DC Zoning Group & Blog Editor