WTOP Reports: “District resident ordered to remove driveway”

View Larger Map

Since we frequently judge curb cuts I thought this story would be of interest. WTOP’s Mark Segraves reports:

“A homeowner in Northwest D.C. is being ordered to remove his driveway that’s been in front of his house for nearly three years. The reason: the homeowner’s handicapped mother has died.”

The article discusses whether or not DDOT’s letter was rude but I think the more interesting part of the story is that the city can make you remove a driveway (as the driveway was only permitted because of the owner’s handicapped mother in the first place).

35 Comment

  • ah

    1) Regardless of whether the driveway should go, DDOT seems a little harsh with the 90-day deadline. How about reminding after 90 days and providing another 3-6 months?

    2) Nice neighbor who ratted them out. You know DDOT wasn’t that on top of things. Some neighbor who objected years ago probably saw the obit and immediately called DDOT. Classy!

    3) And nice two-face, Mary Cheh. You oppose curb cuts left and right, but then call out DDOT for this? How about being honest about your position?

    4) And why is this house not allowed at least one curb cut, given all the other driveways on the same block?

    Here’s the house (3836 Woodley Rd). Not exactly the most attractive driveway effort:


    • From what I can tell this driveway has been a neighborhood issue for quite a while so it doesn’t sound like it was a secret and in a neighborhood like this I am quite sure that other homeowners are quite zealous about neighborhood issues.

      I do agree about the deadline – it costs the city nothing to give them a bit more time.

  • I don’t quite understand this (I haven’t read the link that might explain). Is that not a garage?

  • Damn, PoP you really need to take down the photo you have on this story or make the caption huge. The driveway you show is awful, but it totally different than what is at 3836 Woodle NW The real one involved in this story is so different, circular driveway that has two curb cuts on the same lot.

    I think neither should have been built, but do not feel it is my or the city’s right to force the land owner to remove them so quickly after they were built. Well unless they did not get the proper permits before building.

  • Yes. Take down that evil photo.

  • Am I missing something here?

  • This is messed up in so many ways.

    1) Why should someone be allowed to build a driveway, and not just any driveway but a U-shaped one, because their mother is handicapped?

    Why should someone get a reserved street parking space because they are handicapped (there are many of these around DC)?

    There are thousands and thousands of elderly, handicapped people, and people with any number of other special needs.

    How fortunate this particular one is to actually have a car; a family to take care of them; and a lovely home in a very nice neighborhood! That is more than 99% of people with the same exact needs have. But what the hell, lets change the law and make special set-asides for people who already have more than almost everyone else in their exact same situation.

    2) Okay, well, since we’ve already gone and done that, why would the city require that the driveway be removed now?

    There are an infinite number of buildings and land uses on residential property that violate current codes. They were built before the codes existed, or they were exceptions granted for special situations such as this one.

    Once the exception has been granted (which I think is stupid from the outset, though), you’re done. How will the city “make” them remove the driveway? It’s on private property. They allowed it to be built.

    Did the initial permit come with a time restriction? I doubt it. Will they make anyone else who has an existing structure that violates present-day codes remove it? I doubt it. That would be a pretty bold precedent.

    I doubt the city has a leg to stand on, legally, for forcing them to remove the driveway since it was constructed legally. As ugly as I think it is, the city never should have allowed it to be built in the first place.

    • ah

      Consider it a “temporary” permit as one might get for a business. It can’t be renewed any longer. They can’t make him remove the driveway itself, but they can require him to remove the part in public space. According to the DDOT letters that was a condition of the permit in the first place.

      I’d rather that DDOT be able to grant temporary permits like this — it means that there should be less of a fight over them if there’s a decent cause (debate whether this was) because it doesn’t last forever.

      I’m wondering how my neighbor has 3, yes 3, curb cuts. One for the garage and 2 for the circular drive. And it’s not on a busy street.

      • Well, I guess the extent of what the city can do is probably replace the curb cuts. It just seems pretty odd application of the law. I mean this isn’t a sidewalk cafe.

        But whatever, as much as I think the homeowners are selfish douchebags for doing this in the first place (especially given the alley that is RIGHT NEXT to their house – see google images!! They could easily have just made a path straight to the alley) I place a lot of blame on the city for ever letting this thing get built.

        So basically the city says, go ahead build a driveway (despite very loud complaints from everyone else, and obviously a broken review process); then 3 years later says go ahead and tear that thing down again?

        This is a building permit. A driveway is pretty permanent. It’s not a sidewalk cafe. It’s absurd to me that anyone would be granted a permit to build a driveway with the expectation that they might just have to remove it anytime in the future.

        When will they be asking me to tear down my front porch? Fence?

        • ah

          It’s actually not a building permit, it’s a permit to occupy public space with a driveway. It was expressly conditioned as temporary. So it is like a sidewalk cafe, where they could not renew the permit to occupy public space.

          This is not DDOT going around to every house with a curb cut and saying “get rid of it.”

          While others can speculate about the owner’s motivations, it is certainly possible to envision someone figuring that DDOT would never get around to requiring removal. Or one can imagine he honestly was willing to spend the money to make things easier for his mom.

    • “How fortunate this particular one is to actually have a car; a family to take care of them; and a lovely home in a very nice neighborhood! That is more than 99% of people with the same exact needs have.”

      You can’t be serious.

      I am not “fortunate” to have a car. I bought that car with money I earned.

      you must be very immature or young to think things are given to you like that.

      • @neener… what on earth are you talking about??

        I am saying that it is offensive to me that the city makes special dispensations for people WHO OWN CARS. You are reading a lot into one word there while ignoring the entire point. Get that chip off your shoulder.

        My point is, car ownership is not a right. As you say, you have to buy them with money that you earn. Absolutely right! They cost lots of money to own, operate, maintain and so on.

        Since there is no right to car ownership AT ALL, quite the opposite, it is a privilege to those who have enough money to afford them, I do not understand why the city would make zoning variances in established neighborhoods to permit special access to a home via car that was built without such access.

  • They had the full story on WTOP yesterday. The guy tried to get a curb cut 3 years ago and was denied because the neighbors objected. That should have been the end of the story, but he appealed based on the fact that his mother was elderly and needed handicapped access. His appeal was accepted and he completed construction.

    However, now that his mother has passed, the reason for the driveway no longer exists and therefore there is no justification for it’s existence.

    In this particular case, I feel like the guy used his mother’s infirmity to get a break. To me, it’s a really slimy move –as bad as using your parent’s handicapped tag to park in a reserved spot when they’re not with you. Now he’s trying to appeal to the media to pressure DCRA and get sympathy for keeping the curb cut.

    So, for me no sympathy on the 90 days.

    • + 1 correct on all of the above

    • Ragged Dog, you explained everything But…

      Why shouldn’t this guy get the driveway he wants on his own property. We all saw it on google maps, it fits with the rest of the neighborhood, it’s not an eyesore, it doesn’t appear to be used to store 5 cars.

      WHY should you or anyone else have a say in someone’s use of their property when it fits in exactly with the character of the community?

      Not long ago a friend of a friend put a brand new garage door on their garage facing an alley. their neighbors didn’t like the door- it wasn’t real wood. Their neighbors successfully got the city to have that door torn down and replaced with a wooden door which experienced rot from the snow.

      Please justify your bizarre views on this property because I cannot fathom why you’d want to steal someone’s happiness.

      • The difference is that by having a driveway it is not only the use of his property, but also the taking of public space, i.e. an extra public parking spot on the street, and the extra use of driving a car on the sidewalk. Just stating the difference.

      • I’m with Ragged Dog – The U shaped driveway is taking up 2 parking spots. Neighbors should have a say in this matter when it impacts them…like taking up more than enough parking spaces.

        • ah

          I wonder why he didn’t build one of the ends of the “circle” onto the adjacent alley. Surely that would at least reduce the objection, given others have a curb cut as well on the block.

          • the fact that he is right next to an alley is what makes this odd. NO curb cut was needed. He could have made a parking space right off the alley to pull into his yard and bring his mother in. But that’s just it isnt it. This has nothing to do with his mom. And everything to do with the status symbol that is a long circular driveway in front of your house and the added value it brings. This guy is a real wanker

      • I dont see a whole lot of driveways on that block. Looks like most do not have off street parking in the front. This matters because if you grant curb cuts to one house on the street then how can you deny it to all the others. The real reason neighbors are against this isn’t that it takes up street parking but that it ruins the look of the neighborhood. Sure this one isn’t that bad but I’m sure there are other houses that wouldn’t mind parking in a driveway out front. Not to mention offstreet parking brings a great return on resale. That driveway likely adds 80k in value to that property and probably cost 10k to put in. Point being. Unregulated this neighborhood would indeed be marred by numerous curb cuts and front driveways because it’s a good investment and convenient. Replacing front gardens with cars is not good policy in my book.

        • I’m not so sure that aesthetics are a universal standard. Go to Boston or San Francisco and Curb cuts are the norm if not the expectation and they don’t look bad to me. However, it does nothing to reduce the number of cars in the city.

          It does create unnecessary battles between neighbors who call the parking police if someone violates the 6″ of space on either side of their “curb cut” to squeeze a car in. People purposely put their curb cuts in so that no cars can park between adjacent houses. It’s total BS to me.

          And while it may increase the value of a house by $80k, it decreases the value of adjacent houses without available parking. What about the house in front of a fire hydrant? What recourse does that homeowner have?

        • ah

          Looks like there are about 3 driveways other than this one on each side of the street for this block. But I realize that’s beside the point, other than it shouldn’t really provide a basis for neighbor objection (I’ve got mine, but you can suck it.).

      • I’m fundamentally opposed to curb cuts. Why shouldn’t I be able to build my back yard deck out over the alley way? Why shouldn’t I be able to put a 9 story lighthouse on top of my roof? Believe me, both of those would make me undeniably happy. Things that make me happy is not a standard for a decision.

        The person who purchased the house did not purchase the right to the parking spot in front of their house, therefore, it’s community property. Community property can be either community shared, or it can be bid on and purchased by the highest bidder.

        Your friend with the door who can obviously afford to purchase a house in a historic district should be able to purchase advice on construction requirements within the historic district. I hate the historic district, but to me, that’s a separate issue because there’s a clear difference between property I own and property that I’ve taken from the city. Taking a communal parking spot off the street is taking from the neighbors right to use that spot.

  • How is this news? Do said neighbors not have anything more important to worry about?

    • ah


      Hell, here we worry about neighbors without electricity. This isn’t that different.

    • to those of us that have interest in the physical form our city takes, this is news.

      also, as a homeowner, i find it news because it has effect on what i can and can’t do with my property.

      should we only carry one concern at a time?

  • This happens a lot. On Woodley PL there is a rowhouse that was granted a temporary permit to excavate the front yard to make room for a wheelchair path to a lift that brings them up to the porch. Once the current owners leave or the person in the wheelchair no longer lives there they need to foot the bill to put everything back the way it was as it’s a historic community. You can see that house here:

  • I always thought the rule on curb cuts was that you had to demonstrate that the driveway would remove more cars parked on the street than the number of lost parking spaces due to the curb cut.

    The reason neighbors protest is the loss of street parking. I can’t tell from the photo if the driveway is actually ugly or excessive or what.

    I’m really glad I live on a street with a decent alley and no curb cuts.

  • Actually, the driveway is only taking up one parking space. The curb cut near the corner is in that huge (unnecessarily, in my view) area before corners that DC prohibits cars from parking in.
    But apart from the loss of his mom, for which I am sorry, it’s hard to have sympathy for this person. He got exactly what he asked for – a temporary driveway to serve a limited purpose. The purpose no longer exists so the driveway has to go. Maybe not yesterday, but within some reasonable period of time.

  • I can’t see why he needed a second cut to start with – the driveway should have at least one access point from the existing alley and the adjacent cut that provides to his house. I also question how any handicapped person is getting up or down those stairs. I think he lied about using that reason, and now that the reason is unquestionably absent, he should have to come up with a new lie 🙂

Comments are closed.