“They essentially built a second condo in the backyard.”


“Dear PoPville,

How did this Pop-back on Varnum between 4th and Grant Circle get a permit? They essentially built a second condo in the backyard.”

21 Comment

  • Our landlors informed us that they plan to do this to the house with a large backyard (just south of this one, actually) that we currently rent. They said they applied for the permits and are waiting to hear back. We were incredulous the district would ever approve such a thing. Then we walked around the corner, saw this, and now know the end is nigh.

  • god forbid the District expands its tax base.

    • Pop-backs, pop-ups, etc. are hardly the only way for the District to expand its tax base.
      And it’s hardly as though the developer selflessly had the District’s best interest in mind when deciding what to do with this house.

      • And the developers that built the original structures in the neighborhood did? And that’s why they’re perfect just the way the are forever?

    • haha, well said


  • How the heck does this comply with the FAR requirements? Lots of DC home owners can’t even get a garage approved.

  • I know that there are limits in terms of how much of a lot can be occupied by structure(s) and if this is within that and they make it legal otherwise what else can be done.

  • andy

    It’s a deck!

    • Oh, come on–it’s better than a deck. It’s nasty little stick house hidden behind a real brick one.

  • General Grant Circle

    To the poster – Thanks for this! Ive been wondering that everyday while I walk to work and imagining it was ruining someone great view on 4th (The sunsets with the top of the churches poking out must be great).

    At the same time – im glad at least some construction is underway. That building lay with broken windows and busted basement door for over a year

  • I was wondering about this too, but if I’m looking at the right location in Google maps, these lots look much deeper than a typical row house lot in the area. Looks like you could basically double the footprint and not exceed 60% of the lot area.

  • PoP, you need a primer on zoning that you can point to when these questions are asked. Discussing the merits of the actual building and zoning code would be fine, but we all know this is perfectly valid and fine according to the zoning code.

  • You can see the permits for this property here:


    I’m not sure the structure being built is per the permits.

    Feel free to call DCRA and ask an inspector to come by.

  • Please explain exactly how this is negatively impacting your quality of life.

    We have become so overly entitled to tell people (and churches, i.e.: our friend in Church St NW) what they can do on their property, what what they can buy, and where they can/cannot smoke.

    I would LOVE to see these NIMBYs put there efforts into something positive like volunteering or coordinating community outreach programs to help the less-fortunate in our communities. But, no; they will continue to focus on telling neighbots what they can’t do on their property.

    • Usually the NIMBY families are the ones that run all the volunteer projects. That’s true for my community. They’re the retirees who are cleaning the parks, planting in front of the schools, walking through the alleys picking up litter and observing construction, etc.

      • That’s fantastic that your neighborhood has such charitable and good-hearted NIMBYs. Still awaiting a response as to how adding an additional condo to be occupied by another tax-paying resident affect the OP’s comfort.

        • I can mention a couple of things:

          1) That construction will take all the light that the neighbors had in the morning/afternoon . No more sunny backyard. If you used to have a vegetable garden, you will lose sunlight time (depending on the season).
          2) Privacy – you will loose your privacy of having a taller building with windows just behind your property.
          3) Value – as a single home, you will loose property value. Who wants to live next door to that intimidating building? The only option will be to build something similar.
          4) Parking – we will face a similar situation as Columbia Heights were it is almost impossible to find a parking space on the street.
          5) Not affordable single family homes – If the District continue issuing permits to developers to change row houses in condos, you will not find a single family home affordable in the whole District.

  • How is this allowed under zoning — isn’t only 70% lot coverage allowed?

  • I live a couple blocks from this house and walk by it pretty regularly. While on the one hand, it’s great to see new development, on the other hand I feel kind of bad for the next door neighbor of this house. All of a sudden there’s this massive wall that runs the entire length of their back yard that’s going to block all of the sun in the afternoon.

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