Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ongoing Miller Neighborhood HALA related efforts?

The big question, IMHO, is whether anyone is going to lead the HALA related efforts in our neighborhood that many are eager to help with.

I shared this link recently with the core group of people who organized the neighbors' meeting at Holy Names:

It attract some interest and discussion and I further noted:

I am not aware of any ongoing organizing efforts by the Miller neighborhood group after the Holy Names meeting and the City-run meeting at Miller CC.
I fear that the longer people wait, the harder it will be to maintain any momentum/enthusiasm.

(the following comment was most helpful)

This is the central question as I see it: are the mayor and city council interested in making significant adjustments to the current plan based on resident input. Having read a lot of the material from HALA and attended two of the city’s ‘design workshops,’ I believe the answer is no.  I don’t think just being angry and obstructionist is effective. We need a well-considered alternative. Several of us, Debrah and Lauren particularly, have put significant time and effort into building one, but I don’t think it will be enough. I think this is politics. Developers, with their easy access and deep pockets, have a lopsided political advantage. Until our elected officials believe there is significant political risk in following their current strategy, I don’t believe they will have any appetite for compromise. I agree with Andrew that the longer we wait, the harder it will be to maintain any momentum/enthusiasm. We need structure and leadership to make progress. The leader should be someone who lives in the urban village, someone who will listen, build consensus and keep the process moving forward. That person will have my support.  Sorry, I intended to also make particular mention of  Gayle’s efforts at organization the group’s initial meetings, liaison with Holy Names and all the coordination for the leafleting effort and the community meeting. 

Soon after the HALA meetings at Holy Names and at Miller I suggested a few ideas:

Some thoughts (random order):

1) Core group get-together to decide
2) Request summaries and attendance lists from HALA meeting organizers
3) Surveymonkey survey of attendees to get their impressions (easy to do)
4) Meeting to formalize “Miller Park Neighbors”, elect officers, approve bylaws (eg )
5) Decide on group strategy, flesh it out (sounds like RS/L) and encourage members to lobby City Council.
6) Liase with other HALA neighborhood groups
7) Work with media to publicize our plan

(I and a couple of others can update  this blog. I can arrange access to the listserv for members of the revitalized Miller Neighbors group. I live in the multifamily part of the neighborhood, so this is really not my fight!  Andrew Taylor)

Below is an analysis by neighbor (and architect) Anne Schwab:

March 25, 2017

Re: Proposed up-zoning of Single Family properties on North Capitol Hill

I understand that the city is currently revising the terms (height, yards, units/lot, etc.) of the existing RSL zone. Below, in brief, is an outline of existing RSL requirements and some changes that are being considered. Nancy & Lauren asked me to provide an assessment, and some recommendations, provided below:

RSL ZONE (existing)                                                RSL ZONE (potential changes)                 
Density   1 unit + 1 ADU                                Density   1 unit per 2,000 s.f. of lot (1)        
Lot Area  2,500 s.f. min.                                Lot Area  2,500 s.f. min.
Height  25’ + 5’ for roof slope                                    Height  30’ (+ 5’ for roof slope??)
Sideyard   10’ total, 3’ min.                 Sideyard   5’ (3’ min.??)   
Front/Rear Yards  30’ total, 10’ min.             Front/Rear Yards  10’ min. each
Floor Area Ratio (FAR)  ?                                        Floor Area Ratio (FAR)  .75   


1.         Congregate Housing Potential
The current code allows in one unit:  “Households may include up to eight unrelated persons or any number of related people in a single family zone.” I am aware of houses and townhouse developments that are developed as one house or townhouse “unit” that are actually 8 units with a shared kitchen. Hence, a 4,000 s.f. lot containing 2 “units” could legally house 16 unrelated people.
Should we request that this section of the code NOT apply in our RSL area?

2.         Allowable ADUs (accessory dwelling unit)
Under what conditions are ADUs allowed in RSL zones?
Would each “unit”, however small, be allowed an ADU, resulting in twice as many units on even the smallest lot?
Should we request that ADUs require 2,500 s.f minimum lot size?

3.         Yards (setback requirements)
I recommend 5’ min. side yards, 15’ min. front yard, 15’ min. rear yard.
And, if the rear yard of a property abuts an alley, no setback is required for 50% of lot width, not to exceed 20’.
Side Yard: 3’ side yards are problematic. Egress window wells need be 3’ from the window face. 3’ side yards containing egress window wells allow no passage along the side yard.
Note: basements, where ADUs often occur, require 3’ egress window wells.
Rear Yard:  15’ allows a small car to park in the rear yard off an alley. We need more car storage in the neighborhood.

4.         Height
I recommend no change to the height requirement that currently accommodates 3 stories, the third floor taking advantage of the additional 5’ height allowed for roof slope.
Increasing the allowable height to 30’ will result in 3.5 story high structures. If an additional 5’ is allowed for roof slope, 4 story structures will occur.
If this height increase is non-negotiable, it should require a minimum 60’ lot width.

5.         Floor Area Ratio (FAR)
Floor area ratio is lot area to floor area. The proposed .75 FAR allows a 4,000 s.f lot  3,000 s.f of floor area. Given the small lots in our area, and if yard requirements are reasonable, .75 FAR is OK.

6.         Parking
Our streets are presently inadequate in providing for current commercial, educational, institutional and residential parking needs. NO parking is required in any future development in our Urban Village. The new Meany Middle School opens soon and it has inadequate parking on site parking for faculty, staff and volunteers… Many will be driving to work as they cannot afford to live in the area and public transport connections to their homes may be non-existent or require unrealistic commutes. The new 800-student school and greater density will make street parking beyond difficult for the many residents who lack on-site parking while paying extraordinarily high property taxes.
Is there any way for us to address this?
I suggest that all new development provide one parking space on site for every 2,000 s.f. of lot area.

5.         Details
Sloped Roofs
If neighborhood character is to be maintained, 7/12 minimum slope would be required.  I don’t think there would be any buy into that. If we ask for sloped roofs, we’d get 4/12 slope which is out of character and looks cheap.
I like the idea of requiring porches. 5’ x 8’ minimum, covered?



  1. For me, my hesitation to take a role stems from the fact that it's not clear to me what the impact of an up-zoning will have on my neighborhood. It's not like suddenly, half the neighbors will sell and apartments will be build where their houses sit. Nor will everyone suddenly start building in their own backyards. Change will come as it already has, but it it hard to imagine it happening any faster than it already is.

  2. According to Deborah Walker, a Capitol Hill architect and Madison-Miller resident, zoning goals set by HALA will have already been met by the deadline set, WITHOUT zoning changes. At the neighborhood meeting I was given a handout illustrating this. Could she possibly bring this to the attention of the city council?