City Paper Widget

Friday, April 25, 2014

1248 Fairmont Street: One ANC1B Committee for, One Against

When Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street has its regular monthly meeting at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets NW) on Thursday, May 1, at 7:30pm, it will be faced with an unusual situation. Two separate ANC1B committees have considered a request for the same project. One voted to approve it, the other voted to oppose it.

1248 Fairmont Street (Google Street View)
Jennifer Fowler of Fowler Architects and Brian Smith of Coldwell Banker are asking ANC1B to endorse a request for a curb cut on the street next to 1248 Fairmont Street. This is a one-family house on the southeast corner of 13th Street and Fairmont. It is being converted into five units "by right". The curb cut will allow access to the two spaces of enclosed off-street parking the developers are obligated by zoning regulations to provide.

On April 17, ANC1B's Transportation Committee voted to endorse the request -- see SALM blog post for April 21. The vote was 2-0 with one abstention. On April 21, ANC1B's Design Review Committee voted not to support the request. The vote of the Design Review Committee was 7-0 with one abstention.

Fowler presented to the Design Review Committee at the very end of a 3-1/2 hour meeting. She was told there was no community support for the project, only opposition.

ANC Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09) said he had sent an email requesting the developers do outreach to the neighbors about the planned expansion of the house. There had not been any outreach.

"Brian's been doing outreach," Fowler said. Smith was not present, and Fowler didn't know anything about what Smith might or might not have done.

Turner explained that, although the project itself is in the district of Commissioner Sedrick Muhammed (district 03), the neighbors across the street from the project were in Turner's own district. At the April 17 meeting, Smith said he had been in touch with abutting neighbors only -- implying Turner's constituents had not been contacted.

The committee also disputed the contention, made by Smith in his April 17 presentation to the Transportation Committee, that the curb cut would remove only one space from the street. With the addition of a two-car parking garage, this would result in a net gain of one parking space for the area.

The Design Review Committee maintained that, even though the curb cut might be the length of one car, legally-mandated no-parking areas on each side of the cut, plus the inexpert parking methods of the average on-street car parker, would mean that, in practice, two on-street spaces would be lost. On top of that, committee members said, it seemed likely that five units would bring more than two cars into the neighborhood.

Members of the committee further redefined the situation. What the developers were doing, they said, was removing two public parking spaces and making them private.

Fowler said it might be possible to design a garage with three spaces. 

A committee member also noted that the design for the ramp from the street to the enclosed garage included a five-foot-high wall on the property line. This meant that pedestrians and bicyclists coming down Fairmont Street would be invisible to drivers backing out of the planned garage, and visa versa. Fowler suggested the developers could put in a mirror.

A representative of the project may present some new ideas at the next ANC meeting on May 1, when the full ANC may try to reconcile to two conflicting recommendations.

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