March 28, 2010

Side Yards and Side Views

1922 Third Street concept, east face on Third Street

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)

View from U Street. The proposed townhouse in red and 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:

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.

Categories: 1922 Third Street, Development Projects
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7 Replies

  1. I heard that the developer was going to present a revised version of his plan this week to address the previous comments. Anyone seen it yet?

    Anonymous - March 29, 2010 @ 8:57 am
  2. Its a good project overall. I don’t think the zoning is an issue, but I am no expert on the district’s zoning rules.

    I think it would be good for the neighborhood to have this go forward. I don’t know how anyone else could fix up the place if the house alone is going to take $1.5M. I think you would have a real tough time getting that much money for the house, plus the purchase price. This project becomes viable only with multiple tenants each picking up a piece of the cost. This seems to be the view of many neighbors, that its a single family farm house and so should remain. I think that its important to realize that things change and you need to shape them for the better.

    In my mind its a good project at risk of falling through because its not perfect. There is still some time to get some community input and design changes. I think its important to work with the development team on this. These folks have done good things before, and I think they want to again. Not all developers, in fact probably most, would not be this interested in preserving and working with the existing structure in a historic district. Mr Epstein has come up with a good plan to turn an unused piece of property into a vibrant urban space. Use is always better than disuse and a good project happening is better than scrapping it because it is not perfect. It would be a shame for the place to lie fallow any longer.

    I urge the community to work with Mr Epstein to find a middle ground that the neighbors are happy with and that will allow C3D to have a successful project. I don’t have any connection to C3D other than that I work in construction. I live in Bloomingdale and walk by this house regularly. It would be nice to see some activity.

    dano - March 29, 2010 @ 9:11 am

    eric - March 29, 2010 @ 1:56 pm
  4. Completely agree with Dano – this is a great opportunity for the neighborhood and by all indications the developer does great work and is interested in maintaining as much historic character as possible while still making the project economically viable.

    Casey - March 29, 2010 @ 4:12 pm
  5. love it! hope it gets approval!

    IMGoph - March 29, 2010 @ 9:52 pm
  6. Ditto to all comments, great project and I’m looking forward to seeing it through to fruition.

    If one were to see a side elevation of most 3-story Logan Circle, LeDroit, Bloomingdale, Eckington, etc. rowhouses (and colored them red), they too would look like behemoths. Fortunately, there will be landscaping, tree canopy and a large yard around the detached house to help transition the townhouse to the surrounding development. Let’s not forget that the side elevation will never be seen as pictured. People will see the project from perspective, which will hide great portions of the larger townhouse from sight from most angles.

    bamoll - March 30, 2010 @ 10:54 am
  7. Agree with the posters above. It would be a shame if this project fell through.

    Chris in Eckington - March 30, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

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