First meeting to “present a case for expanding the Capitol Hill Historic District” this Wed.

Map via Capitol Hill Restoration Society

Thanks to Justin for sending:

“Wednesday, November 5

Expansion of the Capitol Hill Historic District: The Capitol Hill Restoration Society will sponsor a series of public meetings to present a case for expanding the Capitol Hill Historic District. The first of these – concerning ANC6A area – will be held from 6:45 – 8:30 pm, Maury Elementary School multipurpose room, 13th and Constitution Avenue, NE. For more information, see here.”

44 Comment

  • I wonder why it doesn’t go straight down 17th St but does that little jog south of Potomac Ave. Anyone know?

  • I wish the historic district covered the whole city. Specially to keep developers (not home owners) from constructing ugly pop-ups. I live in Petworth and I wonder what the requirements are to make it part of the historic district.

    • This sounds like a horribly unconstructive idea…

    • Be careful what you wish for.

      I’ve worked applied for historic permits in the past and it’s a fucking nightmare. It’s a classic case of giving a few opinionated people unchecked power.

      • I agree. We live within the current historic district and when replacing our front door this spring, prior to even selecting a new door we had a woman tell us that there were no such thing as anything other than 4 panel doors before the 1970s so that’s all we could use. Being from the Boston area, I pulled a photo of John Adams’ house…which has a replica of its original 6 panel door. They make up their own rules based on their own preferred tastes, and the approval process is arbitrary at best. I am all for making sure our neighborhoods retain character and don’t become a mess of standard issue Home Depot steel doors and chain link fence, but I can’t see any reason why anyone would want the historic board involved in furtherance of that end. Incidentally, for most small projects people will submit one version of plans to the historic board to get it approved, then do their own thing after, which puts them at odds with the historic folks but in line with having the “construction” (in quotes because this happens only with minor jobs) permitted. There has to be a better way.

        • I have seen many an original old door that wasn’t 4 panel around this hill so that person didn’t actually know what they were talking about.

    • justinbc

      Each neighborhood, that actually has a historic designation, generally has its own historic preservation society / review board / etc name varies. So the first step would be forming such board for Petworth, if you were interested in that area, and then seeking the necessary city approval and whatnot. I can’t imagine it’s an easy task.

      • Actually these get adjucicated by the DCpreservation org which can deliver ridiculous recommendations like colors for replacement windows. OTOH, you have to weigh that agsinst ugly popups and other blight that reflects “the market” (markets being more distorted than free), current fashion, or just general cheapness or stupidity. I’m less concerned, btw, about cyclone fences than cheap ugly modifications like popups.I also think market based arguments are ludicrous because markets are never “free” and the basic assumptions are always violated, esp. in a place like DC (and its burbs) where developers have outsized political influence.

    • Why the difference between developers and homeowners? The ugliest house on our street has been being renovated for 10 years by a homeowner. People have been in there and have said it is being done in a really haphazard way. The entire first floor has been a construction zone since I moved in over 4 years ago. His next door neighbors live in a 4 unit condo that is a really tasteful pop up that you can’t even tell was popped up (helps that it was the shortest building on the block before and now is about the same height as the other homes).

    • If you’re worried about new developments and popups breaking the aesthetic character of a block, then form-based zoning is probably a more appropriate tool than historic designation.

  • Thank goodness my Property just misses this abomination.

    • Thankfully my house misses the old designation by feet but would be included in the new.

      Historic preservation people always minimize the permitting and approval process. They will say people can make changes to the exterior, they just won’t acknowledge how burdensome it actually is. I got new windows and didn’t use wood but did choose a design that replicated what was there originally. In the proposed changes I would have had to go to the board. Now they may have given me the green thumb but the extra time on that would have definitely made me procrastinate and delayed what was an essential change. On top of that, they may have still nixed the choices – not for looks but for materials. Who needs the headache.

      • +1. Wood windows only in the historic district, because that’s what was originally used. Never mind the fact that better products have been created since then which look the same, last longer, do not rot, and cost less to maintain.

  • does living in a historic district add to property values?

      • I’m not sure this is true. It certainly isn’t reflected in any real estate sales data over the last 5 years and some people do not like the idea of not being able to expand their home, vertically or horizontally, or have a panel of unelected retirees arbitrarily tell them what kinds of windows and doors and exterior paint colors they can have.

        • Paint color restrictions aren’t necessarily a part of being in a historic district in DC. The US Commission of Fine Arts does get to weigh in on design matters, including paint colors, in the historic district of Georgetown and a portion of the Capitol Hill historic District, but not in the other historic districts of DC. The District’s Historic Preservation Review Board has no jurisdiction over paint.

      • So actually, research suggests that over the past 35 years, historic designation has only increased home values in areas where the alternative to convert into multi-unit properties is economically unappealing. In other words, in low-density residential areas. In high-density areas, where the economic forces are driving smaller units and higher density, historic designation lowers property values, because it prevents the type of development with the highest economic value – namely vertical, dense development.

        It’s an interesting dynamic. I live on a block with a few pop-ups, and it’s clear that when people sell, they’ll probably sell to developers, because frankly the pop-ups have made the single-family homes less valuable as single-family homes. (But they haven’t reduced the property values to developers – these homes will sell for a lot of $$; the reason popups are gravitating to my area is because people like to live there.) But within a decade, probably the whole block will be pop-up condos, and the buildings that look pretty bad now – at least from the back – won’t really look out of place anymore. It’s kind of sad, because there are some really good back-yard gardeners on my block, but the new residents will have smaller ecological footprints than their predecessors, and the developments will allow the city to expand by shrinking each individual household’s claim on it.

    • I imagine that this will cause property values to boom. It constricts density, thus heightening demand for a limited supply. And new buildings that go up in the area will need to conform to historic district standards.
      Bad for affordability, but good for aesthetics and keeping equity in the neighborhood (instead of the cash going to a petite bourgeois developer in Potomac or Falls Church).

      • Sure, it may inflate the property values of the people already living there. But in making the city less accessible to other people who want to live here (and who could afford a condo in Hill East but not a full townhome) it means a smaller tax base in the future, more traffic and sprawl, and fewer neighborhood amenities (since there isn’t the density to support them).

        • Actually, what it does is incentivize development in lots of other parts of urban DC that are not as dense or as walkable (yet!) as the Hill. There’s still TONS of infill development that can happen in H Street, Brookland, various areas of Upper NW, Anacostia, Petworth, etc.
          Capitol Hill doesn’t need any more investor dollars. The ‘hood has been a prime destination for decades.

          • So, in other words, working-class residents have to deal with the brunt of new development—and face potential displacement—so we can maintain the current “character” of neighborhoods for rich people.

          • Same as it ever was…..right?
            Historic classifications are not good, if you’re opposed to gentrification or are renting. But it seems that what our politicians, investors/banks, and professional families want.

          • What is this silly notion that people who live in Capitol Hill work any less than you? My time card would beg to differ.

    • It may depend. The Hill is a close-in family friendly neighborhood that has been popular to buyers recently so I think prices are rising for reasons other than “its in the historic district.” Personally I think being in a designated “good” or popular neighborhood has more to do with a good property values than any official historic designation.

      • The historic district was a plus for us, but we chose The Hill mainly for convenience, walkability, affordability (at that time), and future development in the pipeline.

        • Nothing kills “future development in the pipeline” like a historic designation. Exhibit A: the Hine School development in Eastern Market, which is 6 or 7 years in the making to date with zero progress due to hearings, litigation etc. all related to zoning.

          • I’m not sure the Hine holdups have to do with historic designation. I thought they had more to do with immediate neighbors’ concerns regarding parking, building height, taking away space from the weekend flea market, etc.

  • If Capitol Hill runs 19 blocks East of the Capitol, does that work going west? Can you imagine calling everything to Dupont Circle “Capitol Hill”?

    • You mean the part of the city at the base of the hill, plus a part up another hill to the nw of Capitol Hill? No, I can’t really imagine calling that Capitol Hill.

  • Accountering

    I hate to hijack, but can anyone tell me about the Shaw historic district specifically? We are renovating there, and hoping to figure out how difficult it is going to be. We want to replace our windows on the front, and would certainly prefer to not have to spend $2,000/window.

    • Depending on the size of your windows, you shouldn’t have to spend that much. I don’t think there’s anything specific about the Shaw historic district vs. the others that would make Shaw any different re: windows, so count on needing to install ones made of wood since that seems to be the rule in the other districts. The Historic Preservation Office used to have a pdf on its website about window replacement with links to approved manufacturers. It may still be there — I just haven’t looked in a while.

    • tonyr

      Be careful what neighborhood listservs you sign up for. A prime example is if anything is proposed for Blagden Alley they light up like you’re proposing to raze the Taj Mahal.

    • You didn’t research this before buying into a renovation project? That seems imprudent.

  • CHRS tried this in 2010 and met with strong opposition from the neighborhood. Apparently they can’t take “no” for an answer. They are also hoping to capitalize on the opposition to popups and condo conversions in our area, a lot of which are god-awful.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t just about the pop-ups – this group won’t quit until every homeowner in the city has to get their approval to install a new door. And of course, the rotating board members are happy to offer “consulting” services on the side to anyone needing assistance getting through the HPRB review process…

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