Side Yards and Side Views
At Tuesday’s LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting, the Mr. Grant Epstein presented his proposal for 1922 Third Street, the property we have written about before. There appeared to be a mix of opinions at the meeting ranging from support to strong opposition. The most contentious part is by far the proposed townhouse (middle of the picture above). We’ve outlined most of the main objections before (massing, parking, use) so we won’t rehash them here.
Mr. Epstein estimated the renovation of the main house alone to cost $1.5 million and that the entire project would cost $5-6 million. Each unit would average around 800 square feet with the additional space devoted to common areas (halls, stairs, etc.).
There was one interesting matter of zoning that needs clarification. It is currently unknown if the north wall of the existing adjacent townhouse (left, picture above) sits entirely on its own property or if it is a typical party wall with half of the wall on one property and half on the other.
If it is indeed entirely on its own property (abutting, but not crossing, the property line), Mr. Epstein stated that his proposed townhouse would rest on its own wall just up to, and entirely within, his property line.* If this the case, one neighbor told us that such an arrangement might violate the R-4 zone’s side yard requirement of an eight-foot setback from the side property line. Are any zoning experts able to clarify this?
The zoning code appears unclear to us. 11 DC Code § 405.3 states
In R-2, R-3, R-4, and R-5 Districts, when a one-family dwelling, flat, or multiple dwelling is erected that does not share a common division wall with an existing building … it shall have a side yard on each resulting free-standing side.
If the existing side wall of the adjacent property is indeed entirely within its own property (even if abutting the property line), is it considered a “common division wall”? If it can’t be considered such a wall, then this section requires a side yard for the proposed townhouse. But later on down, § 405.6 states
Except as provided in §§ 405.1 and 405.2 [that both relate to single-family dwellings], a side yard shall not be required in an … R-4 … District. However, if the yard is provided, it shall be at lease three inches (3 in.) wide per foot of height of the building, but not less than eight feet (8 ft.) wide.
The determining factor appears to be whether the side yard requirement actually hinges on the placement of the neighbor’s side wall— that is, abutting the property line or straddling the property line.
Anyway, one resident also thought it would be useful to color in the side view of the proposed townhouse. We have replicated his method below (the side of the townhouse is in red, the rear addition in green)
Such extensive construction and renovation in a historic district means that the design and permitting process provide many opportunities for public input. Even if you missed the first three presentations (grayed-out below) you have at least two more public opportunities to comment:
- ANC1B Meeting – Thursday, March 7
- ANC1B Design Committee Meeting – Tuesday, March 16
- LeDroit Park Civic Association – Tuesday, March 23
- ANC1B Meeting – Thursday, April 1 at 7 pm on the second floor of the Reeves Building, 14th & U Streets.
- Historic Preservation Review Board (tentative) – Thursday, April 22 at 10 am at One Judiciary Square (441 Fourth Street NW), Room 220 South.
What do you think? Do you like the plan, oppose the plan, or does your opinion lie somewhere in between? Leave your comments below; I’m quite sure the developer reads this blog and will be interested to know what you think.
* The developer has not actually bought 1922 Third Street yet. He has a contingent contract to buy it.