Yoga Exemption Brings Zoning Bliss

By Frank Fortino

Over the years our industry has trended towards a healthy, greener environment. Eco friendly materials have been matched with requirements for more green space, tree plantings, bike lanes and pedestrian walkways. Now, with an update to the Zoning Code, the DOB is taking the next step of improving the spiritual well-being of New Yorkers as well.

Released last summer, Buildings Bulletin 2013-010 addresses the zoning requirements for Yoga Studios. These studios historically presented a bit of a paradox. On one hand, Yoga was considered an physical activity, and on the other, it was positioned as more of a spiritual activity.

The DOB has reviewed and defined Yoga as “a series of postures and breathing exercises, which are practiced to achieve control of the body and mind, tranquility, or similar.” Defined this way, a Yoga Studio would fall more in line with something like a dance studio, and less like a gym or health club.

With this definition, the DOB has allowed for the classification of a Yoga studio under zoning UG 6C “Retail/Service Establishment” or UG 9A  “Retail Establishment Studio, art, music, dancing or theatrical. There are conditions:

– Each studio may only have one student instructional area, with an open floor plan not to exceed 1500 square feet.

– Each studio owner may only own one yoga studio in any given building.

– The maximum occupancy of any yoga studio, including staff and instructors, may not exceed 74 people at one time.

– There may be no showers or bathtubs in the space, nor any showers or tubs in the building that are accessible to students or staff.

– The yoga studio must be a stand – alone entity, not an accessory to a health club or gym in the building requiring a BSA permit.

The importance of tis zoning update is two-fold. First, it changes the way that we file for these specific projects. Second, and perhaps more relevant, is that this provides proof that the DOB is aware that “one size fits all” zoning doesn’t work. With this update, the DOB has proven its ability to listen to the facts, and consider carefully the need for exceptions.

To shift gears, I’d like to also highlight a very important change in procedure which will keep projects on track and help us avoid delays. All requests for waivers of Site Safety Managers, Site Coordinators and for Site Safety Plans must come from the applicant of record on their letterhead. The letter must have the following statement:

“As per the requirement of BC 3310 quote the section that waiver is being requested from i.e., the exterior of the building is unaffected by the work proposed under this application, and or no mechanical equipment will be used in the renovation proposed under this application.”

The letter must state the scope of work as it appears on the PW1 or as shown on the plans, and a description of the request should be waived.