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Land Use, Zoning, and Historic Preservation

Adams Morgan has proven to be a strong lure for developers competing for the scarce available land while still being a vibrant destination for newcomers to the city and those already living in Washington who want to take advantage of the wonderful amenities of our community.

Adams Morgan is subject to zoning regulations governing growth and land use for commercial, industrial, and recreational areas of our community. Zoning classifications allow certain uses either by matter of right or through approvals granted by DC’s Board of Zoning Adjustment. This board issues waivers, denials, or approvals for most building projects in our community that require local and city approval.

The current codes most relevant to us include: (R)-low density, moderate density, and multi-unit residential; (C) –Commercial; (SP)-Special Purpose; (CR) Commercial Restricted and (DD)-Downtown, Overlay and various zones. However, the entire zoning system is undergoing review to update the current code developed in 1958 -- one of the oldest in the country although it has been amended over 1,000 times.

Adams Morgan’s residential neighborhoods, which are predominately row houses with an intermixture of taller apartment buildings, is currently zoned (R-5-B), which is a medium density zone, and (R-5-D) a high density residential zone. These two residential zones comprise the majority of land area in the neighborhood.

Historical Preservation

Adams Morgan is fortunate to have much of its historic character preserved through designated as Historical Districts. These districts are protected under the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978. The Historical Preservation Review Board is charged with being the “watchdog” charged with keeping the historical character of our community.

Recently, however, the designation as historical districts has done little to protect the historic character of Adams Morgan. As profiled in a recent issue of the Kalorama Citizen’s Association (KCA Feb. 2013-Issue 2), developers are being granted approval from the Historical Preservation Review Board to create large and inappropriate structures that are out of keeping with the historic character of the neighborhoods. The conversion of what were once row houses into multi-unit dwellings has aroused community concern and a desire to develop strategies to address this challenge before we lose the historical character of our community.

Our commercial strips have several zone designations. The lower end of 18th Street along Florida Avenue is zoned C-2-A, meaning a relatively low-density mixed use commercial. A higher density commercial zone, C-2-B, begins half way up 18th Street and encompasses the intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road. The C-2-B zone continues along Columbia Road. This designation corresponds to the Adams Morgan BID area. The Washington Hilton is the site of the only medium-high density, C-3-C, zone within Adams Morgan.

Our community has two predominate zoning overlays that protect and encourage specific usages needed in a community without having to change the underlying zoning designations. The most noted zoning overlay, the Reed-Cooke Overlay, encourages new but measured development while protecting the neighborhood’s rich characteristics. Adams Morgan also includes a Diplomatic Overlay created to comply with the Foreign Missions Act, which allows for the location of chanceries with the approval of the Board of Zoning Adjustments.

A critical concern for Adams Morgan residents is the DC Office of Planning’s Zoning Regulations Review which could potentially impact our current status quo. Inside this section the reader will find an analysis of the proposed changes that have been developed by several knowledgeable individuals and civic organizations based in Adams Morgan.

Please visit our Neighborhood History page to learn more about the history of Adams Morgan and review a timeline of key events.

Full Report

Reference documents can be reviewed here or here on Scribd.

DC Office of Planning - Adams Morgan Vision Framework

As a follow up to our work, the DC Office of Planning conducted a series of community meetings to flesh out a vision for the neightborhood that builds on the efforts of Envision Adams Morgan. They have released their final Adams Morgan Vision Framework document to guide future development and community efforts.

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