Office to Residential Conversions
Two proposed zoning text amendments provided the Committee of 100 the opportunity to continue its advocacy for the elimination of the exemption of most of downtown from required affordable housing set asides. First, the Mayor’s Office of Planning (“OP”) proposed that existing non-residential buildings, including those located in the downtown area, be permitted to convert to residential use as a matter-of-right. Case Number 22-01. Second, the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) proposed that the Zoning Commission take emergency action to adopt a proposed text amendment that would apply Inclusionary Zoning to the Downtown Zones. Case Number 21-23. Most of downtown is currently exempt from Inclusionary Zoning. In our comment on both proposals, C100 pointed out that the environment is changing as more workers become accustomed to working remotely, and that in the future there will be less demand for office space. OP’s position has been that office use is more economic in the downtown area. However, the changing environment provides an opportunity for a livable community with more affordable housing downtown.
Concerning the OAG proposal, the Office of Planning stated that more analysis is needed on the potential impact on the production of housing and IZ units. In C100’s view, the same criticism can be levied against OP’s proposal. Our comment stated that we were “surprised by how little planning is reflected in [OP’s] proposal. The proposal represents a significant shift in priorities, yet there is no discussion of key considerations. We all support a vibrant, livable downtown, but more than just bedrooms is needed. Where is the discussion of the need for services, like schools, parks and social services, to support the new residents? What about essential retail, like grocery stores? These services will not appear automatically; planning is needed.” In conclusion, C100 stated that while OP’s proposal opens the door for change, it is incomplete. It should be paired with the proposal introduced by the Office of the Attorney General and accompanied by a serious planning effort.
At its January 13 public meeting, the Zoning Commission “set down” OP’s proposal, and denied the OAG’s request that it take emergency action on its proposal, asking both OP and the OAG for more analysis on the OAG proposal. C100 will continue to press for to inclusion of the downtown area in the Inclusionary Zoning Program.
- C100 Comments Zoning Commission Cases 22-01 And 21-23
- January 12, 2022, Kirby Vining
While the proposal is a step in the right direction, C100 sees a number of issues that need to be addressed as the proposal moves through the review process.