City Paper Widget

Friday, December 5, 2014

1504 Swann Street: Residence Expansion Domino Effect

On December 1st, a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted to support the expansion of 1504 Swann Street NW. Architect Julian Hunt, Founder and Chairman of Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground, is supervising the renovation and expansion of this home, which he has owned since 1998 and lives in. In a publicly-available zoning document, Hunt has said that one of the purposes of the renovation is "to adapt the house by going up to recapture the light and air."

Second floor to go on top of 1504 Swann Street
In the same document explains Hunt and his wife Lucretia Laudi (also an architect) had been living in the house for 14 years when "the adjacent house to the south was sold and an enormous addition (pop-back) was built in 2012 and completely closed off all the air and light..." for Hunt's property. Ironically, this expansion was made possible after the adjoining home had been downzoned, a process that is supposed to make expansion of homes more difficult. However, in this case, Hunt explained, downzoning removed Floor-to-Area Ratio (FAR) restrictions, which enabled the neighbor to expand the footprint of the structure on his property, and, as Hunt put it, erect a "monster" expansion.

The Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee of ANC1B heard the case on December 1. They voted to support both the historic preservation and the zoning aspects of the expansion of the house. I was not present for this portion of the meeting. In an email, ANC2B Chair Noah Smith (also Commissioner for district 09, where this property is located) gave the following reasons for ANC endorsement:
The support is based on the unique circumstances created by a neighbor's previous addition, which eliminated light and air for this property to the south. Swann Street is a beautiful and well-maintained historic street and this project will enhance it while adding an interesting, but not out of place, fa├žade.
The proposed addition will add two additional stories, or about 20 feet, over  the structure in the picture above. On top will be a roof deck. According to drawings submitted to zoning authorities, the completed structure will be roughly as tall and as large as the neighbor's expansion. The new structure will contain a rental apartment, which the owners plan to use for income. This, they said in zoning documents, would allow them to "age in place" with "the security of a small income from the rental".

The expansion requires zoning relief because the building, built around 1870, is not in compliance with 1958 zoning regulations. It covers 100% of its lot, but zoning allows only 60%. In addition, zoning requires a rear yard, which is clearly not possible since the house covers the whole lot.

The historic preservation aspects will have to be reviewed by DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) because the house is located in the U Street Historic District.

Endorsement of historic preservation and zoning aspects of this renovation is on the agenda for the next meeting of the full ANC, scheduled for Wednesday, December 10, at 7pm, at the Brookings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Avenue).

The plans for the expansion of 1504 Swann Street, along with other documents, are available from DC Interactive Zoning Information System here -- put in case number 18897 into the search bar.

Hunt's initial appearance in June before ANC2B in support of this project was the subject of the SALM blog post of July 1.

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