City Paper Widget

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

2819 13th Street: How Tall Is It Really?

At its meeting of April 21, the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street delayed a decision on a proposed renovation and enlargement of a single-family house at 2819 13th Street NW, located between Girard and Harvard Street. The request for an endorsement of zoning special exceptions may be considered again at the next meeting of the ANC1B Design Review Committee, scheduled for Monday, May 19, at 6:30pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street).

2819 13th Street
There were a few issues with the proposed renovation. The committee wanted to see letters of support from neighbors. In addition, there was some inconclusive discussion about two other matters. One was if the improvements might cause the building to be taller than envisioned by zoning regulations. The other was whether a proposed penthouse on top of the house might require additional zoning scruntiny, due to height, setback, or both.

Presentation by the architect

Jennifer Fowler of Fowler Architects presented on behalf of the property owner, Robert Copyak. Fowler said the owner will live in the house while the renovation is in progress.

According to documents presented to the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA), the existing third floor of the building will be expanded. There will be a one-story rear addition with a two-story covered porch above it. There will be a new rear deck on the roof and a neighboring enclosed mechanical area. The mechanical area would contain a staircase, a space for mechanical items like air conditioning, a closet, and a wet bar.  

The owner will seek at least two special exceptions at a BZA hearing in June. One is for lot occupancy. According to zoning regulations, the footprint of the house should not cover more than 60 percent of property. The proposed improvements would increase the house's lot occupancy to 66 percent.

The other exception is for the side yard. It is currently 3.5 feet wide. It will not change as a result of the renovation. However, zoning regulations say such a side yard should be at least 10 feet wide. Although it is already "non-conforming", the owner will need a special exception to this rule to go ahead with the renovation.

The owner and architect are looking for a favorable recommendation of the project by the Design Review Committee to the full ANC. The ANC would then consider a resolution to support the project. With the resolution in hand, the owner and architect could then move on to their BZA hearing.

The committee's reaction

The property is located in the ANC district 09, which is represented by ANC1B Chair James Turner. Turner was at the Design Review Committee meeting. He said he had heard from six nearby neighbors and one abutting neighbor, and "the neighborhood is supportive" of the project.

However, the support of the neighbors was not in writing. The Design Review Committee asked Fowler to return with letters of support from the neighbors.

Further zoning exceptions necessary?

The building is now 35 feet tall. If the planned renovations caused the building to exceed 40 feet in height, the owner would need additional permissions from the BZA. Supporting documents claim the renovation will raise the height of the building to 37 feet, 6 inches, but some members of the committee, after examining some of the drawings presented by the architect, said the addition of the structure on the top of the building would put it over 40 feet.

The committee brought up another issue: the setback of the rooftop structure. As currently designed, it goes up to the edge of the property. Zoning regulations say rooftop structures must have a setback equal to their height.

The owner and architect may have to demonstrate they are in compliance with zoning regulations on both height and setback before the Design Review Committee will endorse their request.

On-line information indicates the house was built in 1905 and the current owner and resident bought it in 2003 for $410,000. The owner has also bought at least three other properties in Columbia Heights and Petworth in the last ten years, according to publicly-available information.

This case was the first of two that Fowler presented to the Design Review Committee at its April 21 meeting. The committee was not sympathetic to Fowler's other case either. It voted to oppose her other case -- see SALM blog post of April 25.

The documents relating to this case can be seen by going to the Case Search Tool of Interactive Zoning Information System on the web site of the D.C. Office of Zoning, and entering case number 18774 in the search bar.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

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