District of Columbia Zoning

Zoning regulations are the primary mechanism for enforcing the policies set out in the District Elements of the Comprehensive Plan. Because DC has both federal and local characteristics, the zoning authorities are independent, representing both local and federal interests.

There is no federal zoning body, but NCPC must approve changes to the DC zoning map and regulations to ensure that they are not inconsistent with the federal interest. The policies specified in the Federal Elements of the Comprehensive Plan are also carried out through NCPC’s plan and project review process.

Zoning Commission (ZC)

The Zoning Commission is an independent, quasi-judicial body created by the Zoning Act of 1920. It prepares, adopts, and amends zoning regulations and maps to ensure that they are consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. All text and map amendments (including PUDs) must be referred to NCPC for review. NCPC has 30 days to advise the ZC as to whether the project has an adverse effect on the federal interest.

Its five members represent federal and District authorities. Three are appointed by the Mayor, with confirmation of the City Council. The two federal members are the Architect of the Capitol and the Director of the National Park Service.

Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA)

BZA is an independent, quasi-judicial body created by the Zoning Act of 1938. It grants relief from zoning regulations, approves land use exceptions, and hears zoning appeals. Its 5 members represent District and federal authorities. Three are appointed by the Mayor, with the advice and consent of the City Council. NCPC appoints the federal representative (usually a staff member). In cases pertaining to Foreign Missions and Chanceries, NCPC must be represented by the Executive Director. The fifth member—from the Zoning Commission—rotates on a regular schedule.

The Office of Zoning provides administrative support to the Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Adjustment.