As developers build new condos and apartments across the city, there is a growing clamor for larger units–more than two bedrooms–to accommodate families wishing to stay in the city. The demand and lack of supply of housing for families was partially to blame for a delayed Zoning Commission decision on requested additional height and density for the latest phase of the Yards project coming to the Navy Yard neighborhood.
Forest City went before the Zoning Commission Oct. 16 to request a change in the overlay impacting the maximum height and density for its next phase of development, Yards West. To date Forest City has constructed about 700 new residential units at the Yards and the developers expect by the time the entire project is built out, they will have created 2,800 residential units.
The site is currently zoned differently from other plots under redevelopment nearby, with a height limit of 110 feet and a density limited to 6.0 floor area ratio (FAR). Forest City wants their parcels to fall under another zoning overlay that allows structures of 130 feet with densities between 7.0 – 8.2 FAR for residential development. The additional density and height would result in approximately 264,000 square feet of additional gross floor area.
Yards West is made up of five parcels: Parcel A, which fronts on M Street SE, and Parcels F, G, H, and I, which are located south of Parcel A and between 1st Street SE and Canal Street SE.
The request received the support of the local advisory neighborhood commission (ANC) with one caveat–a request that the developers commit to building units larger than two bedrooms.
ANC Commissioner Roger Moffatt told the Zoning Commission that his ANC supports the height and density request and welcomes the additional affordable housing that would come with more residential units.
“The land at issue has already been purchased with the belief that the current density would be in place. Any addition to that density will be an increase to the value of the property—a windfall,” testified Moffatt.
With that “windfall” should come community benefits he reasoned.
“ANC 6D supports growing DC into a larger population, but we don’t want to exclude families who have children from being able to live in our section of the District,” said Moffatt.
His comments found sympathetic ears.
Commissioner Marcie Cohen asked the applicants to respond to the ANC’s request.
Ramsey Meiser, senior vice president of development for Forest City, told the commission that they are not planning out specific buildings or their layout at this time, but that they would be “willing to consider” the request for larger units as they begin to refine the plans for each new building.
Cohen said since the developers are asking the zoning commission for something they could “make a greater commitment for larger units.”
“I believe that families are being pushed out of the city,” said Cohen.
Commissioner Peter May balked at the nonchalance with which the developers requested the 264,000 square feet of additional gross floor area. He said he would hope Forest City in turn would consider doing “something that serves the greater good” such as the requested family-sized units.
The Zoning Commission was touching on an issue the Office of Planning has been looking at recently as well.
During a recent public meeting on changes to the R-4 residential zones in the city, Jennifer Steingasser, deputy director of Development Review & Historic Preservation at the Office of Planning (OP), said three-bedroom housing options are among the smallest growth group in the District though they have the highest resale value because of high demand for family-sized units. In the last three years, the price of three-bedroom units has risen at three times the rate as one-bedroom units, according to OP records.
Commissioner Anthony Hood acknowledged that a zoning text amendment was perhaps not the most natural place to have a discussion about housing for families, but said he wanted to begin thinking about demand for larger units as a commission as they review projects across the city.
Forest City did not get a decision from the commission last week, but instead was asked to continue discussions with the Office of Planning about including larger family-sized units.
The commission will have an opportunity to consider changes to the R-4 zone during upcoming January hearings on the Office of Planning’s proposals.
Image by Flickr user Adam Fagen https://flic.kr/p/dc65rY.Comments