Blog Archives

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. Looking to Incentivize Office to Residential Conversions

As office vacancies remain at record levels in D.C., and even leased buildings continue to remain largely empty thanks to COVID, the city is looking to find ways to incentivize conversion of older commercial buildings (office, hotel, or retail) to residential use. The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development issued a Request for Information (RFI) last month seeking input on what type of incentive structure might be created to encourage such conversions.  About The Author

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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 Approves Six-Month Extension of Orders Expiring Through December 31, 2020

As part of the initial flurry of administrative and regulatory changes in response to the ongoing pandemic, the Zoning Commission (Commission) took emergency action to approve a text amendment to the Zoning Regulations extending the validity of approval orders that otherwise would expire between April 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020. The amendment applies to orders from the Board of Zoning Adjustment approving a special exception or variance as well as orders from the Commission approving a first-stage planned unit development or any contested case such as a consolidated planned unit development.  About The Author

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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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Board of Zoning Adjustment Reverses Zoning Administrator’s Interpretation on Multiple Dwelling Conversions in the RA-1 and RA-6 Zones

On July 1, 2020, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (Board) reversed a decision by the Zoning Administrator (ZA) allowing the by-right conversion of an existing dwelling unit into an eight-unit apartment house in the RA-1 zone.   The crux of the appeal in BZA Case 20226 concerns the ZA’s interpretation of Subtitle U §§ 401.1 and 421.1 in the Zoning Regulations, which govern multiple dwelling uses in the RA zones. Under Subtitle U § 401.1, multiple dwelling uses are permitted as a matter-of-right in all RA zones except for the RA-1 and RA-6 zones. Whereas, in the RA-1 and RA-6 zones, Subtitle U § 421.1 dictates that special exception relief is required for “all new residential developments, except those comprising

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Summary of DCRA Business Licensing Virtual Meeting on COVID-19 Impacts to Operations

The District of Columbia’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) – the agency that, among other tasks, issues building permits and business licenses – conducted a virtual meeting on April 15, 2020. More than 500 residents and business owners submitted their business licensing questions online during the meeting so that DCRA staff could respond in real time. While the building at 1100 4th Street SW is closed during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, DCRA has remained open for business. DCRA staff are working remotely –likely through at least May 15, 2020 – and are responding to emails. This move to a remote work environment has resulted in the following important changes at DCRA: About The Author

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Important Update to the Office of Zoning Operations During the COVID-19 Emergency

As reported in this blog, on March 20, 2020, the District of Columbia’s Zoning Commission (the commission) and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (the BZA) suspended all public hearings and public meetings. But, in a glimmer of positive news, the District’s Office of Zoning has announced that the Commission and the BZA will start virtual public meetings this month. The commission’s first virtual meeting will be on April 27, and the BZA’s first virtual meeting will be on April 29. All virtual meetings will be held via WebEx, and the Office of Zoning’s website says that “instructions on how to join will be made available in the coming days.” Under the Zoning Regulations, the commission and the BZA conduct public

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D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue Delays Hotels and Motels Real Property Tax Payments for “First Half 2020” in Response to COVID-19

Similar to the rest of the District of Columbia government, the District’s Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) has made changes and extended deadlines for certain real property and business sales and use tax filings this year. As a general matter, all OTR walk-in centers are closed and its building at 1101 4th Street SW is inaccessible. All staff are working remotely and taxpayers are encouraged to pay taxes either online or via mail. Also, Wells Fargo has closed many of its braches where real property taxes could have been paid in person.  There are two notable updates to D.C. Real Property payments as a result of the COVID-19 emergency affecting property owners. About The Author

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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