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Nope, Not A Typo - GAR, Not FAR

Have you heard the DC Zoning Commission is looking into adopting a new set of GAR requirements?  No, we're not talking about the kind of fish that eats every other kind of fish it can fit in its mouth, we're talking about Green Area Ratio ("GAR") requirements.  According to the report prepared by DC zoning staff, the GAR concept is not a new concept, but is a Low Impact Development best management practices tool used in major cities in Europe such as Berlin and Malmo.

According to the USGBC, GAR "..is the ratio of the weighted value of specific landscape elements to land area... [and] is determined by calculating the area of specific enumerated landscape elements, multiplied by a factor assigned to each element, which is then divided by the lot area of the project."  According to DC zoning staff, GAR "...is an environmental site sustainability metric intended to set requirements for landscape and site design that meets goals for stormwater runoff, air quality and urban heat island... [based on] allowing a user to pick among optional elements in order to meet an overall [minimum] GAR score."  DC is proposing to include the GAR regulations within Subtitle B and Subtitles D through J with Subtitle B containing an explanation of the GAR system and the other land use subtitles containing zone specific permission, conditions, and requirements.

In a nutshell, what they are talking about doing is requiring property owner to meet a certain weighted score in relation to the amount of land area they have as a requisite to filing for building permits and approval will be a prerequisite to obtaining a certificate of occupancy.  Submission requirements are outlined in proposed Section 1305, and of course you can get a variance if your site is particularly difficult per Section 1306.  If you need to understand the specific details of what is being proposed, the text amendments and staff report are available here for your review, and the hearing is slated for December 20th before the DC Zoning Commission, with the Zoning Review Task Force considering it on November 27.  Here's staff's slide presentation from October if you want a primer before you dive into the details.