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An application must be made to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) through the Office of Foreign Missions for a chancery to locate in areas specified in Section 206 (b)(2) of the Foreign Missions Act. The process followed by the BZA is outlined below.


1. Applicants wishing to submit an application to the BZA can proceed in one of two ways:

a. Applicants can choose to have their application reviewed by the Zoning Division, Building and Land Regulation Administration, DCRA. Based on this review, the applicant is told exactly what zoning actions are needed. If BZA action is required, the applicant will be given an official memorandum directing the applicant to the Board. If the applicant disagrees with the Zoning Administrator’s determination(s) concerning any required actions, the applicant may appeal for relief to the Board (see procedures listed under “Appeals to BZA”), or

b. Applicants can choose to forego a review by DCRA and submit their application directly to the DC Office of Zoning (OZ) using BZA form No. 135 (self-certification), which can be downloaded from the OZ website or by clicking on the link above. Applicants are encouraged to solicit the services of a licensed architect or attorney if they wish to self-certify their application.


1. An application to the BZA is made online through Form 121, which can be accessed through the Interactive Zoning Information System (IZIS) website using the link above. The information requested includes: the type of action requested; the sections of the Zoning Regulations permitting such action; street address, lot, and square number of the land in question; present zoning; present and proposed uses of the property; owner(s) of the property; and a brief statement of the reasons for requesting zoning action.

2. Additional required supporting documents:

a. In a chancery case, the application must be accompanied by a letter or other transmittal from the United States Department of State indicating that the Department of State has reviewed the application as required by § 205 of the Foreign Missions Act, D.C. Official Code § 6-1305, and has approved the application for the purposes of filing and processing by the Board.

b. If the owner will be represented by a third party, including the lessor or contract purchaser of the property, a Letter of Authorization signed by the owner authorizing the representative to act on the owner’s behalf with respect to the application, and a Certification signed by the representative that they have read the Board’s Rules of Practice and Procedure (11 DCMR, Subtitle Y) and are able to competently represent the owner.

c. A statement that the Applicant will contact the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), community/civic groups, the Office of Planning (OP), and adjacent property owners to discuss their application. The statement should include a pledge from the Applicant to submit a statement of the efforts made to contact these groups and the results of these efforts no less than fourteen (14) days before the scheduled public hearing/meeting. The contact with these entities should occur at the earliest time practical prior to the scheduled public hearing/meeting.

d. A memorandum from the Zoning Administrator at DCRA directing the applicant to the BZA or Form 135 – Zoning Self-Certification, which requires certification by a licensed architect or attorney.

e. A plat, drawn to scale and certified by a licensed survey engineer or architect or by the Office of the DC Surveyor is needed. The Plat must show the boundaries and dimensions of the existing buildings, and plans or elevations in sufficient detail to clearly illustrate any proposed building to be erected or altered. (All elevation shall refer to the DC Engineers Data).

f. A site plan showing the boundaries and dimensions of the existing and proposed structures and accessory buildings and structures, and, if applicable, any area of relief requested.

g. Architectural plans and elevations in sufficient detail to clearly illustrate any proposed structure to be erected or altered, landscaping and screening, and building materials, and where applicable, parking and loading plans (See Required Specifications for Plats, Plans and Elevations Tutorial – for the required information on these drawings.)

h. In cases involving parking lots or garages, the following plans are required:

  • A site plan, showing the number, dimensions, and location of all parking spaces, as well as the location and width of all driveways and access aisles
  • A landscaping plan showing all existing and proposed landscaping, fences, walls, or other screening materials or devices

i. A detailed statement of existing and intended use of such building is required, including the number of employees the property is designed to accommodate.

j. Three color photographic views are required. They must be of appropriate size, but, cannot exceed 8 1/2” x 11” and must show the pertinent features of the application and the property involved.

k. Names and addresses of the owners of all property located within 200 feet in all directions from all boundaries of the subject property must be provided. This information may be obtained from the D.C. Department of Tax and Revenue, Tax Assessors, located at 1101 4th Street, SW – West Building, Washington, D.C. 20024. Also, the name and mailing address of any person who has a lease with the owner for all or part of any building on the property involved in the application is required.

l. Documentation, or a copy of the Certificate of Occupancy, must be provided showing the last authorized use in cases where a change is requested in a non-conforming use.

m. If the application is for a location in a low- to medium-density residence zone, a written statement by the applicant attesting to:

  • A calculation of the land area within the square, or other area determined pursuant to Subtitle X § 201.4, of all low- to medium-density residence zoned lots, identified by lot numbers;
  • For each lot within the square devoted to a use other than a residential use within a low- to medium-density residence zone, the number and date of the certificate of occupancy authorizing the use and the use designation authorized; and
  • A copy of each certificate of occupancy referenced in Subtitle X § 204.6(b).

n. In addition, the applicant must provide any other details plans, or statements pertinent to the application required by the Office of Zoning and by the Supplemental Rules of Practice and Procedures of the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

Please note, that after the electronic filing is submitted, two paper copies of the application with supporting documents, including two (2) sets of self-stick labels of the names and mailing addresses of the owners of the properties must also be submitted.


1. The BZA staff reviews the application for completeness and notifies the applicant if any information is missing. A notice is also sent to the designated representatives of the Secretary of State and the Mayor.

2. After the application is accepted, a notice of filing is published in the DC Register and BZA staff schedules a hearing and refers the application to the DC Office of Planning (DCOP) and other agencies as required, for review.

3. Not less than 55 days before the hearing, the BZA staff publishes a notice of the hearing in the DC Register and sends a notice of the hearing to owners of all property within 200 feet of the involved property and lessees on the subject property, as well as to the appropriate Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs). A notice of proposed rulemaking is also published in the DC Register.

4. At least 15 days before the public hearing, the applicant must post a notice of the hearing on the site. Official notices may be secured from the Office of Zoning.

5. At least five days before the hearing, the applicant must deliver to the Office of Zoning a sworn affidavit, with accompanying photographs, attesting to the posting of the property. The applicant may use the affidavit provided by the Zoning Secretariat.

6. At least 14 days before the hearing, the applicant must file with the BZA a copy of any written documentation, and other tangible matter the applicant may wish to offer as evidence at the hearing. Any maps, plans, or documents that are readily available to the public, need only be fully referenced and the location of the source noted.

Note: Each case requires its own specific documentation, but some examples of exhibits which may be submitted at this point include:

a. Plans of present and proposed land use;
b. Unit floor plans
c. Building elevations
d. Land use maps;
e. Statements by the members of the professional development team;
f. Orders of the BZA concerning development in the area where the board granted similar relief; and
g. Plans of proposed parking provisions and details or traffic circulation.

7. The DCOP receives and reviews comments from other agencies and prepares a report. The DCOP and other public agencies must file their written reports with the BZA at least eight days prior to the hearing.


1. The BZA conducts a public hearing. Chancery cases are conducted as rule-making proceeding rather than as contested cases. There are, therefore, no parties and no cross-examination.

2. Evidence and exhibits may be presented at the hearing.

3. After the hearing has ended, the Board has several options including ruling on the case from the bench, keeping the record open to accept specific information, or scheduling a further hearing.


1. The Board meets to discuss the case. The Board issues a decision in a public meeting. The BZA also may issue a bench decision at the time of the hearing.

2. The BZA staff drafts an order and circulates it to the Board for review and approval. Once approved, a final order is issued

3. The order is sent to the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM). OFM will advise the foreign mission of additional actions that may be required.

4. Upon issuance of the order a Notice of Final Rulemaking and Final Determination is published to the DC Register.

Note: BZA orders are effective for two years. If building permits are not secured or applied for within two years after the effective date of the BZA order, interpreted to be 10 days after the final date of the order, the case must be refilled and reheard

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future