59 Comment

  • Where are the windows? Surely they can’t only have the ones on the front and rear? I know some parts of the place can’t have them but surely there can be a few others. Right?

    • I believe windows aren’t allowed on walls that are on property lines.
      Those are going to be some dark bowling-alley condos.

    • That’s a good point – if rooms can’t legally be considered a bedroom without windows, that’s a looong living/dining room in the middle of the condo.

      • long and dark! The only way those units will be anything other than terrible, is if they’re three one-bedrooms with a large living space in the front and a large bedroom in the back. I don’t imagine that’ll be the case, though.

      • I rented something like this. It was a two bedroom, one in the front and one in the back. The middle space without windows were dinning room, kitchen, living room, bathrooms. Layout was quite nice to have the bedrooms on opposite ends for roommates or guests.

        • Anonomnom

          When we were looking at buying, we looked at a place that had that exact layout. It was the 2nd story of an H st area townhouse, and the only “windows” in the middle area were on the 1st floor front and back doors at the respective staircases. It was very well done, and made my top 3 list, but in the end I couldn’t buy a place with no windows in the main living space. Felt like a cave. (ironically, bought a basement unit with oversized windows that had double the light. Go figure.)

    • My guess is that rather than having loooong condos, you will have, for example, 3 or 4 2-floor condos, and the building will be divided in half, so that each bedroom and living area will have a big window at one end. This is how the condo conversions near me have worked out the light issue.

    • No side windows because the property next to them can build the same thing. See past post “Unbelievable. Absolutely Unbelievable. “the construction team had built a cinder-block wall blocking my bedroom window”

    • My own question is about the painting or other maintenance of those side walls. They’ll need permission from the neighboring property owners to come onto their property to do any kind of work, and if I were one of the neighbors I wouldn’t be inclined to make it easy for them.

      • i could be wrong amount this, but i believe that is part of the permitting process. also, bear in mind, that not everyone is opposed to popups (as you seem to be), but they are just not as vocal about their support as others are about their opposition. a lot of people appreciate the role that increased density has to play in, e.g., reducing crime, as more foot traffic and and eyes on the road tends to deter thieves from attacking isolated victims or unwatched houses/cars. the increased density also provides a better base for having neighborhood amenities, like a variety of restaurants and stores.

  • Zoning rewrite shouldn’t have come at all. Now the neighbors are doubly screwed. They have to live next to that. but they aren’t allowed to develop theirs in the same way for the same profits.
    I live in a historic district so no dog in this fight. But id be pissed if i lived on a street like this and some developer came in. Did that. made a million bucks. and then the city told me I couldn’t do the same.
    Further. this only looks “bad” when the first couple houses do it. ten years from now the whole row would have been popped up and back. and it would look uniform again for all those who’s senses are assaulted when everything isnt the same size.

    • I thought the decision said that unless the permit was granted by July 2014 the work was considered illegal and had to be torn down? Since this looks like just a shell I imagine it was permitted after July 2014 and thus is now considered illegal?

      • I believe it just said completed application by July 2014. And in any event, I highly doubt anything that was previously properly permitted, but already partially constructed, would be required to be torn down. Who wear bear the cost burden on something like that?

        • I have no idea! That’s why I thought it was odd to backdate the decision like that. Here’s the wording from the Post article. My guess is this building fits in the second category (3 units with a hearing before Feb 1)
          Some developers with pop-ups already in progress are protected from the new rules. They include: pop-ups with three or more units whose applications had been “accepted as complete” by the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs by July 17, 2014; pop-ups of three or more units that have received approvals from or had hearings before the Board of Zoning Adjustment, the Commission of Fine Arts or the Historic Preservation Review Board before Feb. 1; and pop-ups with only two units whose applications by the DCRA had been accepted as recently as Feb. 1.

    • Emmaleigh504

      I agree that in a few years the rest of the block would have popped and it would all blend. I’m prop pop up/out, but I do wish owners/developers would spend more time making them attractive.

      • Which is precisely what the opponents should have focused on – maintaining some architectural consistency. But of course aesthetics is subjective, so just easier to forbid it altogether and assume what exists there now is worth preserving for some reason.

        This is a hot issue on Bates Street in Truxton Circle for some reason I cannot comprehend because while the homes are all consistent down the street, they are pretty ugly. So who cares? There are a few buildings like the one pictured above in Truxton right now too. There is one on the 100 block of P Street that is enormous compared to its neighbors. That said, there are quite a few blocks in Truxton (which is zoned R-4 and subject to these stupid rules) where there is already zero consistency in the homes. Mine for example is nothing like the two on either side, both of which are taller than mine. But now I’m limited in popping mine up if I wanted to (which I do not at the moment). It’s just so stupid. All of this should simply be handled on a case by case basis.

    • “Further. this only looks ‘bad’ when the first couple houses do it. ten years from now the whole row would have been popped up and back. and it would look uniform again for all those who’s senses are assaulted when everything isnt the same size.”
      That would be unlikely unless the pop-ups were all done at the same time by the same developer. Otherwise, there’s zero guarantee that the pop-ups would even be the same height, let alone architecturally coherent with one another.

      • True, but there’s nothing (outside of historical zones) preventing someone from completely changing the architecture of a home so long as it is within the height restrictions here. I would blow out my entire front of my house and make it look totally different on the same footprint basically. If architectural consistency is important, this restriction isn’t guaranteeing preservation of that.

        • The real solution would be historic districts, but D.C. has made historic districts enough of a hassle that people aren’t always eager to embrace the idea. I think they might start to become more popular, though.

          • But I mean, frankly, you can’t designate the entire city historic. And even within some neighborhoods, consistency of houses aren’t consistent from street to street or block to block.

            I just wish the argument here was that developers or homeowners must maintain some level of architectural consistency in certain places. But the reality is people just don’t like having a house a story taller than their own next door. So it doesn’t really matter what it looks like. Adding the floor breaks the consistency people seem to care about.

            I just think it is funny because I’m sure 100 years ago when some developer built a block of rowhomes, they never would have imagined a century later people woudl be so up in arms about preserving it. The consistency was there because it was profitable, not because it really matters at all. My one and only beef is the quality of a pop up, not that it exists. I think they often look trashy and cheap. But if people are buying trashy and cheap, who am I to argue with them?

      • i’m always mystified when people want to freeze the city as is based on “architectural coherence” or “historic preservation.” for the first one, who gets to set the standards on “coherence”? and why limit other people’s options based on your own restrictive views of what the city should look like? i personally like the juxtaposition of modern and older housing. i also like a mix of heights, and somewhat dislike the cookie cutter nature of a lot of areas. it’s almost like a city should grow and develop based on current needs and tastes.

        as to the second one, i’m always curious what that magical point in history is that needs to be preserved? why not the 80’s? i often see historical preservationists fail to defend, say, brutalist architecture, but who’s to say future generations might not value this. both architectural coherence and historical preservation are just codes for imposing your personal preferences on the rest of the city.

      • “That would be unlikely unless the pop-ups were all done at the same time by the same developer. Otherwise, there’s zero guarantee that the pop-ups would even be the same height, let alone architecturally coherent with one another.”

        This always flabbergasts me. This is what anti-pop people want–a coherent community made by one developer that all looks the same. In other words, the suburban developments that they all claim to abhor.

        • Plenty of residential streets in the District were designed by a single architect and meant to have a coherent look. That’s not a suburban phenomenon. If anything, it’s less likely in the suburbs because those tend to be fully detached houses rather than rowhouses.

          • DC neighborhoods we now consider urban, were the streetcar suburbs of a century ago (petworth). Coherent look is just developer babble for cost savings. It is cheaper to design once and repeat. They still build like this today, except affordable rowhouses are now built in car only rockville.

          • +1 to same anon. That is precisely why you have blocks that look the same. It has nothing to do with aesthetics. And while there is some moderate height consistency in Dupont (because of regulations), most of the houses are not architecturally consistent and I find it hard to believe anyone would think that is an issue in Dupont. Why? Because of quality. Two houses next door do not need to look identical to have some beauty.

            We should be focusing on regulations as to quality when houses are popped up and back, not height. But of course we have a city that doesn’t bother to inspect much of anything for quality issues.

    • Johnny: That’s not correct. The new zoning rules would permit the neighbors by right to build a rear addition, limited to 10′ beyond the furthest-back wall. In this case that’s pretty far.

  • As I read some of the comments on other postings about this new zoning change, it seems it doesn’t really apply to monstrosities like this and that it’s actually a barrier for responsible homeowners/developers (in specific neighborhoods) who want to make reasonable (and set back) increases in height– i.e., a few feet, out of sidewalk view.

  • I’m surprised they were able to pop back that far. I thought there were limits to how far back you could expand. Does anyone know if this is within those limits?

    • You can occupy 60% of the lot in R-4. This is probably right at 60%. There are setback requirements, but those wouldn’t come into play here (deep lot).

  • If ALL of the neighbors decided to pop-back at once, I think they could. I believe the new regs just say you can’t go further than 10ft back from the adjacent house. Then again, they may be able to easily get a special exception considering their popped-back neighbor. As for height — I suppose they would be limited to 35 ft (assuming R-4) w/o a special exception.

  • They did a similar thing few houses down where the units just sold for 749k and 649k. There’s another 2-3 houses side by side that are for sale and probably bought by same developer and will probably do the same thing with those as well.

    • 1151 morse is the one recently completed.

    • Except now the developer can’t do this, right?

    • Holy cow, one of those sold for $749k?! There have only been two sales of entire houses that were higher than that in the neighborhood ($755k and $765k).

      • So much for pop-ups making dwellings “affordable.”

        • Accountering

          I don’t think anyone is arguing that pop-ups are affordable. What they are arguing (correctly) is that increasing the housing stock by its nature, increases supply, which decreases/slows price increases.
          If they are so ugly, perhaps they will increase supply and decrease demand in that neighborhood, which actually would bring down prices. On this basis, if affordability is your issue, you should be in favor of horrible ugly pop-ups everywhere right? 🙂

          • Affordability isn’t my issue — historic preservation is. It’s just that I feel compelled to argue the point when pro-pop-up folks claim that pop-ups make housing “affordable.”
            It might work that way in theory, but when the reality is that developers building pop-ups turn them into luxury condos (and outbid people looking for single-family homes), pop-up end up accelerating and exacerbating price increases rather than slowing them.

          • “…pop-up end up accelerating and exacerbating price increases rather than slowing them.”
            Which is why Accountering likes them.

          • You seem to fail to understand a basic premise of economics here…if these luxury condos are continuing to sell at record prices, then they are absolutely priced correctly.

            Also, in DC, there is significant more demand for one or two bedroom apartments than for single family homes, at least in these areas that border or near downtown. What has always confused me though, is why people looking for one or two bedroom condos are paying $700K for one designed out of a pop up like this rather than paying less for one of the ones in the many giant condo buildings that are actually downtown like in Mount Vernon or along Mass Ave. Although admittedly, I’d much rather live in Shaw or Truxton or Bloomingdale in a condo than in Mount Vernon.

            I really do not understand the premise that developers have less right to purchase homes than individuals looking for a house. And the anti pop up crowd really seems like people who think because they “got in early” in a neighborhood or could afford a single family home, means they have a right to tell others they have to go live somewhere else because the neighborhood should be condo free.

            I am all for balance, but a little more density and higher prices also comes amenities. I’m sure all the people who bought rowhomes in Shaw 8 years ago are enjoying the many amenities in Shaw that weren’t there until there was more density. I know I am.

          • +! to Truxtoner. I don’t get the greedy developer meme. Greedy developers built the coherent neighborhoods the anti-popites love.
            developers are doing a great service to dc. I will never afford a single family house south of Florida, but I might be able to buy a small condo. The anti-popites already have their piece of the district and want to keep the rest of us out because they don’t like change. They are a disservice to the greater community.

          • @truxtoner the units at 1151 were both 4bdrms/4bths units. They even subdivided the backyard. Question is- were they bought by a family? or by singles? I’ve seen 3 rowhomes recently bought in the area- and they were all purchased by single men. When it comes down to it- its all about who has the $$$ to afford/bid up these places. Will they eventually prevent a single person from buying an entire row house, since their arguments are about preserving homes for families? I myself is a single male- and I have 4bdrm 3.5/bth.

          • textdoc – with all due respect, what about that block of houses is so special and historic that they should be preserved? Is it just that they are old? Are there any neighborhoods in DC where that tag wouldn’t apply?

          • @Truxtoner:

            Agree. I also really like the people who say Paris is a perfect hight controlled city that’s maintained historic character.

            Little do they know those pretty apartments were the result of great public projects that displaced a lot of people. Not that I’d be opposed to the city taking imminent domain to build such apartments in DC…. It would increase density…

          • I think the point is it doesn’t matter who or how many people are buying them. Or how many bedrooms. If a rowhouse is divided into two or three condos, and all two or three sell, then they are affordable to the people who bought them (who might not have otherwise been able to buy the single rowhome undivded and even if one could, the others would then have to look elsewhere for housing). But textdoc is putting the cart before the horse in arguing that the division of rowhomes to condos is driving up prices. The demand for condos in neighborhoods where they are scarce is driving up prices, not the other way around. Developers are answering that demand. It isn’t that developers are creating supply for no reason.

  • Does anyone know the street address of the pop-up/pop-back shown in the photo?

  • This doesn’t seem to meet the new legislation (way too long) ….unless these developers received their permit prior to July 17, 2014, then i would say this is one popup that has to be downsized. So no, it’s not too late for these neighbors. They just need to push it with DCRA and not let them get away with it.

    • Unfortunately, if this is indeed 1151 Morse Street NE, what I saw in PIVS makes it look to me as though it gets in under one of the exceptions described by Anon 4:30 pm.

      • This is not 1151 morse. If you look to the far right on other side of utility pole you can see 1151. Which btw they did a great job in my opinion. And they sold for top dollar. Again the house in the pic is right next to 2-3 other shells that im sure they had intentions on doing the same thing.

  • Even if the application was completed before July of last year I would be surprised if they had gotten all the proper permits and did everything by the books. I think a lot of these big and quick jobs are not rally do e by the books anyways. In some cases the permit process appeared to be appears to have been done by greasing palms – like the house that was permitted to pop up over the city main water pipes. What if permits were not legal in some way – how far back do you have to go to deem a house illegal enough to take down?

  • I’ve nothing against popups in general, but this particular setup isn’t tasteful or respectful of the existing block/neighbors at all. Poor folks in Trinidad.

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