July 01, 2010 - 9:39 am

Douglas, Catania, and Howard, Oh My!

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of HappinesWe know we’re a tad late in posting this, but the monthly meeting of ANC1B takes place tonight at 7pm on the second floor of the Reeves Building at Fourteenth and U Streets NW.

Here are some of the highlights planned for tonight:

  • Councilmember David Catania (I – at large)
  • Howard Theatre Restoration, Inc., presumably will discuss the much-delayed restoration of the Howard Theatre
  • Douglas Development, one of the city’s largest developers
  • American Ice Company (917 V Street), new liquor license application
  • Bella (900 Florida Avenue), new liquor license

The commission will also discuss two zoning variance making their way through the system, eventually to the Board of Zoning Adjustments, which is obliged to consider, but not necessary follow, the opinion of the relevant ANC.

The two variances, both of which we have researched, are modest changes for two existing properties.

The applicant for 928 Euclid Street NW bought a parking lot that used to be the site of a rowhouse many decades ago.  Though the lot is shaped like a house lot and though what the applicant proposes to build is similar in massing and lot coverage to all the neighboring row houses, our zoning code currently— and wrongheadedly, in our opinion— declares such a new structure illegal.

Thus to build what what was there before and what will match the adjacent structures in massing and use will require a zoning adjustment.*  The ANC’s Design Review Committee, a committee for which your author is a member, will recommend that the ANC support the application.

* * *

The applicant for 1201 S Street NW seeks a variance solely on account of use, not physical form.  The building used to be a small corner store, but the applicant proposes turning it into a deli with seating for twelve patrons.  The deli will be managed by a non-profit that will train students, presumably in food preparation.

This application will be a bit more controversial since the applicant, Mr. Charles Emor, has already earned a conspiracy conviction in his other “educational” endeavors and some neighbors doubt his sincerity in keeping the property as a proper deli.

Neighbors are welcome to question the commission and applicant, if he appears, at tonight’s meeting.

* Much of DC, including some of the city’s most charming and desired neighborhoods, including much of LeDroit Park, would be illegal to build under today’s zoning.  This is an issue we hope the current zoning re-write will resolve.

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April 05, 2010 - 12:58 am

1922 Third Street Inches Forward, ANC Notwithstanding

On Thursday evening, Mr. Grant Epstein of Community Three Development presented his latest revision for his concept for 1922 Third Street.  Some of the more notable changes include the reduction of the rear addition (above), the reconstruction of a demolished fence wall beside the carriage house (above), and a reduction of the massing of the side townhouse (below).

ANC1B’s Design Review Committee— of which I am a member— carefully reviewed the original concept and recommended several specific design revisions to the developer to reconcile the needs of historic preservation with the economic viability of redevelopment.  After the committee drafted its recommendations, Mr. Epstein alerted the committee and ANC of his latest revision, which the committee found satisfactorily addressed the historic context concerns.

Despite the committee’s recommendation for approval of the latest concept, ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (1B01 – LeDroit Park) said that she wholeheartedly applauded Mr. Epstein’s diligence, but would withhold her support because the design was “not totally there.”  Specifically Ms. Moss wanted to know about a rear-yard zoning issue and how the proposed side townhouse would obstruct the view from the indented side window of the adjacent Thompson property.

Mr. Epstein seemed frustrated and one of the other commissioners asked whether it was appropriate for the ANC to consider any matter beyond historic preservation.  The ANC voted to take no further action and to let its existing opposition stand.

In an email to us, Mr. Epstein wrote

We found it very odd that the Commission chose to oppose the ANC Design Committee’s recommendation of approval, especially when the resultant collaborative effort provided a holistic resolution to a very complicated set of constraints on this specific site. In our experience, the Historic Preservation Review Board is looking for the ANC to comment about conceptual historic compatibility and the remaining issues raised by the assenting Commissioners seemed very detail-oriented. There are typically thousands of detailed issues that arise when renovating a historic structure, some we know about at this stage, yet many that don’t surface until later stages in the project. This is specifically why the process is designed as such – concept review first, then detail refinement.

Despite the ANC’s official opposition, the Historic Preservation Review Board will hear the concept proposal on Thursday, April 22 at 10 am at One Judiciary Square (441 Fourth Street NW), Room 220 South and will decide whether the concept is historically acceptable.

In the meantime, browse the concept floor plans: