Housing Complex

This is What Democracy Looks Like: Woodley Parkers Take Protest of New Mansions to the Top

2910-garfield-streetA few weeks ago, several dozen Woodley Park residents sicced Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh on the subdivision of a corner lot on Garfield Street NW, where the Zuckerman Partners were planning to build two gigantic houses on spec. Since then, they’ve gotten the support of five more councilmembers, who all signed a letter asking Mayor Fenty himself to put the project on hold.

To bring you up to speed: Soon after their rally on the corner of 29th and Garfield, ANC 3C unanimously voted to oppose the building project and to join an appeal to the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Last Friday, the neighbors met with officials from the Mayor’s office, DCRA, the Urban Forestry Administration, the Office of Planning, and Councilmember Phil Mendelson to try to sort things out, and learned more about how the Zoning Administrator had done little or nothing to evaluate the potential effect of upscaling the woodsy corner.

On Monday, however, the neighbors were dealt a disappointment: DCRA Director Linda Argo said that the Zoning Administrator’s decision to use his “minor flexibility discretion” in subdividing the lot for two homes was “appropriate and correct.” Still, Argo said that the permits would be reviewed by all relevant agencies, including DDOT, WASA, and the Department of the Environment. DCRA will also be meeting personally with the developer to ensure compliance with all regulations.

The Woodley Parkers sent their letter to Mayor Fenty the same day, asking basically the same thing—a stay on all construction until the BZA appeal had been heard. The letter was signed by Councilmembers Cheh, Mendelson, David Catania, Michael Brown, Kwame Brown, and chairman Vince Gray.

“It’s going to be a long, hot summer,” neighborhood spokeswoman Lisa Mitiguy says.

  • John

    I don't like Nimbys anymore than the next guy. And certainly Woodley Park Nimbys will be a force to be reckoned with, but in this case I'll have to say Thank God. I'm opposed to McMansions just about anywhere but certainly within a 5 minute walk to the metro. Better use could be made of the land if they are going to develop it from scratch. How bout a small 3 story 12 unit garden apartment building facing 28th street. It wouldn't dominate the landscape anymore than 2 McMansions and it makes sense from a smart growth perspective.
    But what gets me most about this is that residents in Woodley Park have to jump through about a million hoops just to get approval to put a deck off the back of their house. Literally, I know people there who tried and gave up. But apparently demolishing a house. subdividing a lot. And erecting 2 hideous McMansions in it's place (I'm assuming with a new curb cut as well) moves along with such quiet ease that the first the neighbors even got wind of it was when the construction crews showed up to start work. Greased Palms as they say. Greased Palms indeed.

    On another note. Is there any word on the Condo Building the Marriot was going to build on their land? Are they having trouble getting financing? Was there ever a rendering?

  • JMG

    @John -- JBG got the permits to build the condo building a couple of years ago, but the project is on hold (presumably because of financing). Renderings are available on the Woodley Park Community Ass'n website, http://www.wpcaonline.org/jbg/.

  • Jeff

    I do not know what they are building on this site, but it has to be an improvement over the hideous 1960's-1970's homes that are in that neightborhood. I don't understand why you can't build what you want on your property as long as the city approves. It sounds more like a shakedown to me.

  • ah

    @John - This is the non-historic section of Woodley Park. The deck permit hoops I believe are for the part with the Wardman-style townhouses.