194 Comment

  • It looks fine to me and it’s not even done yet. Does the reader care to explain why this is ridiculous or is that somehow supposed to be self-evident?

    • Ridiculous contrast with the neighbors.

      • My guess is this was provided an exception before the new regulations went into effect? That is clearly more than 10 feet out from the neighboring homes, which would have required an exception I believe? If they applied and received one, I would say this is less ridiculous and likely a smarter use of space directly across from the McMillian Reservoir project than the neighbors.

        • Just providing context. I’m all for capitalistic uses of available space. 🙂

        • The 10ft rule is only if the building was a commercial building. Does not apply to an residential building.

          • Hmmm. I am pretty sure my neighbor was restricted to 10 feet past the end of my house when he built a condo building next door on an empty lot. But perhaps that was some other restriction that kept it limited to 10 feet for some reason (such as occupancy ratios).

          • What a weird restriction. There are very few non-residential to residential conversions in R-4 zones. And assuming you can raze the existing building there’s an obvious workaround

          • You are only allowed to demo X amount of the existing structure. Anything else will need variances.

    • Because it looks like they’re going to end up with a zero-lot-line building, which is completely out of keeping with the rest of the homes on the block? (Also I thought it was against zoning codes, but maybe those are neighborhood-by-neighborhood and it’s okay in this area.)

      • Oh no, not something that isn’t just like the houses next to it!

      • If blocks need to match for whatever reason than I say we should raze the row houses and replace entire blocks of them 10 story apartment buildings.

      • I think the fence is unlikely to be the lot line, though I agree it has more than 80% lot coverage and would also need an exemption from that regulation as well.

      • houseintherear

        Apparently it has an inner courtyard, which makes it legal as far as lot coverage.

        So sick of seeing this crap in Bloomingdale, ugh.

        • I’m sick of seeing homeowners in DC who have seen their property values double in a decade complain that others might want to also have an opportunity to live in Bloomingdale, but cannot exactly afford to pay for a million dollar rowhome, but would pay for a half a million dollar condo in a converted rowhome.

          Just pat yourself on the back for making a smart real estate investment and otherwise move about your business. Be happy knowing when all the crap you’re sick of pushes you out of the neighborhood, you too can sell your home to a developer at top dollar who will convert it into a similar condo building and, VOILA, create more consistency in appearance across the block.

        • I wondered about the lack of windows thing – maybe that is helped with the courtyard.

      • It’s the same across the board. I just got zoning approval and it allows me(which I’m not) to pop back an additional 46ft. doubling the actual footprint of the existing house. I plan to go back 20ft though which will give me an extra 300sqft on each level.

      • The “out of keeping with the rest of the homes on the block” argument only makes sense, to me, in connection with the front appearance of the house. I haven’t seen any photos of the front, but is the fact that the back doesn’t look like the rest of the houses on the block really an issue? You can have other issues with it – lot coverage, blocking light, etc. – but the fact that the back looks different doesn’t move me at all.

      • Re the zero lot line. In this photo, the chain link fence approximates the lot line. It hit the 20 foot rear year requirement (taken up by parking of course)

    • Didn’t look fine to inspectors in September. It failed “building foundation” inspection three times.

  • I mean I wouldn’t be particularly excited to have that next door to me…
    Also I kind of love the one over neighbor’s fence.

  • That block is zoned R4, wonder if they got an exception of if DCRA is asleep at the wheel again.

  • According to the Bloomingdale blog, the alleged permits were approved just before the R-4 restrictions went into effect. Also got a variance for maximum lot coverage. 46 Channing Street NW if you want to look it up on PVIS. Although I’d be annoyed if my adjacent backyard was now bordered by a lovely large wall.

    • There’s no variance but the ZA granted minor flexibility, which isn’t allowed after the R-4 downzoning. And the permits aren’t alleged, they’ve clearly been issued.

    • Think of that large wall as a free movie screen! If I was the neighbor, I’d buy a projector during a WOOT sale and invite my friends over for a proper cinema experience.

      • Actually prefer having my adjacent backyard bordered by the long brick wall of my neighbor’s small apartment building. No worry about next door neighbors noise while in the backyard and yes, it makes for a decent projector screen.

  • Ridiculous and soulless design because you now have an 80′ long rowhouse with windows only at the front and back creating horrible spaces inside, have created a giant wall facing both adjacent neighbors, taken away light and air, and annihilated the scale of the block.

    • I have a home with a neighboring condo building that creates a similar effect. My solution was to build a roof deck and enjoy the shade the neighboring taller building creates on my roof deck. I even project movies on the wall when I have friends over.

      Granted, my block has near zero consistency in appearance from house to house anyway. And Truxton is full of pop-ups because most of the homes are only two stories and it’s a terribly inefficient use of prime real estate in what is becoming a pretty central location in the city within walking distance of downtown.

    • There’s a closed court in the middle of the house, so there’s actually windows on that court. So there’s more windows/light in the building than if it were just a regular 60% lot occupancy row house.

  • justinbc

    If your fence looks like that I believe you can suck it up when it comes to irregularities.

  • The only thing I see here is more housing being built in the City.

  • How do we balance desire for affordable/reasonable housing with no increased density?

    • HaileUnlikely

      I’m not betting on these meeting any non-nonsensical definition of affordable.

      • Accountering

        Yes, yes they do. They are certainly going to be priced cheaper than a fully renovated rowhouse in Bloomindale, which is what this would have become otherwise.
        Whatever qualms you may have about the structure (I agree, it is bad) does not negate the fact that they are creating more units, at a more affordable price point than a single row-house flip.

        • “More affordable than X” does not mean “affordable.”

          • Accountering

            I didn’t say affordable, I said more affordable than it would have been otherwise. With all that said, $600k is relatively affordable in this city for an many professional couples. $1,000,000 starts to get to be tricky.

        • HaileUnlikely

          The conversation about whether a $600K condo is more “affordable” is just a totally different conversation than the conversation about “affordable housing” that is relevant to normal people. Anybody who will be able to buy in here has plenty of options. Stuff like this is of virtually no relevance to any sane conversation about affordable housing.

          • That person may have plenty of options, but the person they may have otherwise outbid in some slightly less desirable neighborhood might not. There’s a cascading effect at play.
            Housing affordability is a broad problem that doesn’t get fixed by inclusionary zoning (or whatever artificial forced affordability you might be envisioning) alone.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Of course it doesn’t. I’m just saying that condos that sell for $600K plus are virtually irrelevant to serious discussions about affordability. If what we’re discussing is the $600K new luxury condo vs. the $1M flipped rowhouse, notions of affordability that are relevant to normal people have long since ended.

          • You keep using words like “normal people” and “non-nonsensical” but I’m thinking you might just be delusional about what is normal in DC. This is what is normal in DC. $600K condos or $1.2 million rowhomes. And while both may seem like a great deal of money to many, they clearly are not for a great many who are paying that every day in DC to live here. And so when you accept that truth, then you can maybe pause and understand the argument that there is a much higher demand for $600K condos than single family homes that cost TWICE that. And that is the demand developers are responding to here. For those that meet that demand, $600K is, in fact, more affordable than $1.2 million.

          • Disagree. Blocking developments like this add up. Plus, there is a world of difference between spending $600k on a place vs. spending $1m. I bought a place for only a little less than $600k and could not possible imagine spending $1m anytime soon, especially if my alternatives to buying at $600k were renting and/or commuting.
            That’s not to say that I’m at risk of any major hardship, but to imply that $600k and $1m are basically the same is mistaken. Especially when the square footage in play here might be fairly comparable, since the new building is so much bigger than the old.

          • Accountering

            It does to me. Affordability matters at all levels of the spectrum. This unit, when split into multiple units, is affordable to a group of people who otherwise would not have been able to afford the full unit.
            The concept of filtering is certainly relevant here as well. The more units available to our hypothetical professional couple at this level, means they wont be taking up slighly lesser units, and so on and so forth down the chain.
            Let’s remember, 600k IS affordable in this city to plenty of “normal” people. Income here for people looking to buy homes is quite high, and there are a TON of people who are looking for something in this range.

          • “If what we’re discussing is the $600K new luxury condo vs. the $1M flipped rowhouse, notions of affordability that are relevant to normal people have long since ended.”
            Exactly. And that’s the reason why there is so much resentment directed towards truly “affordable” housing. “I had to invest $600K in a condo to live here; why should someone else get a subsidized apartment?”

          • HaileUnlikely

            I’m not talking about blocking anything. I’m just saying that pointing to these as “affordable” is asinine. If these are not marketed as luxury units and priced accordingly I will eat my words.

          • They will definitely call it luxury because they are targeting a market that wants to hear that name, but there is a substantial difference between a Buick and a Bentley. When DC is the best educated metro in the country by % with college degrrees (48%) and has one of the highest incomes per capita, 600k is unfortunately very much normal and affordable.

          • Accountering

            You mentioned “a totally different conversation than the conversation about “affordable housing” that is relevant to normal people” and I couldn’t disagree more strongly.
            I am a normal person. I have friends who tried to buy in this price range (600k) in DC, and were outbid left and right, and after their 5th offer, wound up having to buy in the suburbs. They did not have plenty of options, and more units that were affordable to them, would have meant they could have purchased in the city. You may think the argument about affordable only means how much more regional poverty DC should have to absorb, but affordability matters across the whole spectrum. Your bit about how these things are relevant only to sane people is offensive.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I find pointing to $600K condos as examples of affordable equally offensive. This whole discussion is the 2% conflating itself with the other 98% for the purpose of differentiating itself from the 1%. Yes, a $600K home is more affordable than a $1.2M home to somebody who can afford a $600K home, but most people can’t anywhere near afford a $600K home in the first place. People who are on the market for a renovated rowhouse or condo in DC in 2015 are nothing like a representative sample of the population.

          • HaileUnlikely

            p.s. As a resident of a neighborhood where perfectly good houses go for waaay less than $600K, I also find it pretty offensive that you say your buddies got outbid at $600K had “no other options” massively offensive.

          • Accountering

            Well, thems the breaks, there are plenty of people who can afford 600k houses in DC. I am sorry your reading comprehension is lacking today. $600k is affordable to my friends I mentioned, and there wasn’t a space available for them to buy. Sorry i’m not sorry I care more about my friends who were forced to buy in the suburbs than about your desire for subsidized housing, or whatever it is that you are trying to argue. I really don’t care that your neighborhood costs WAYYYY less than 600k. The reason it costs less is because people don’t want to live there.
            Also, are you really that ignorant to think I am in the 1 or 2% in DC? To be in the top 1% of family income in DC is $555k/year.

          • HaileUnlikely

            It is your friends’ prerogative to move to the suburbs, and I have no issues with their decisions to do so, and I don’t have any ill will toward them, but it is insulting to most of the residents of the city as well as the residents of the suburbs to which they moved to make it out as if a.) everything they could afford was worse, and b.) they only moved where they did because everything they could afford was worse.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Also, why didn’t you tell your friends about the luxury condos that you told tke about in the comment below, which were well within their price range?

          • For a $600K condo at 4% interest with 20% down you need about $150K in household income to be approved for a mortgage. That is the top 20% in household incomes in the District. It’s ridiculous to talk about $600K condos as affordable housing, even though they are obviously affordable to some.
            $600K condos may be what’s normal among your social circle or neighborhood, but it is not what’s normal in DC. 80% of the households in the city can’t afford it.

          • Sure, but how does preventing SFH to condo conversions do anything to benefit that? Less inventory at even higher prices that even less than 20% can afford isn’t exactly a solution. Especially when that only pushes development into the vast majority of the city where those 80% live who don’t make $150K/year (e.g., Northeast, Southeast DC). Fewer condos and high priced SFHs on make it harder for the 80% to stay in DC. It doesn’t make it easier.

            Granted, we don’t live in China and I am unsure why there should be ceilings on what things cost for the benefit of anyone.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Who here said anything about preventing these conversions from being built? I have clearly been the instigator of this specific debate about “is $600K affordable,” and I never expressed any interest in preventing these from being built. My sole contribution to this discussion–if you want to call it a contribution, which some might not–has been to question whether this is affordable in any meaningful way. I’d be happier if these were simply not made to be luxury units (they’re not finished yet, maybe they won’t be luxury units), and offered for lower prices than are being thrown around in the idle speculation by several commenters (including me) above. Of course they’ll get bid up some, but surely not all the way to the prices that I bet these will end up going for. I get that people with more money can always outbid people with less money. I’d just rather we provide more habitable homes that the average person can at least aspire to. If a wealthier buyer wants to buy it and then trick it out for themselves, that’s cool. But instead–developers who are very hard for owner occupants to compete with–almost exclusively service the market who has to have their luxury sh!t right now. Call me a commie, but it just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

          • “but it is insulting to most of the residents of the city as well as the residents of the suburbs to which they moved to make it out as if a.) everything they could afford was worse, and b.) they only moved where they did because everything they could afford was worse.”
            That’s extraordinarily thin-skinned. There are a great many people – most of the folks I have met, in fact – in my close-in suburb who are reluctant transplants from the city. They (and we) moved because everything we could afford was worse (when factoring certainty and school quality into the equation) and we only moved because we couldn’t afford what we were looking for in the city. I would imagine that many others in all suburbs feel the same way. If you feel offended by a great many of the people who moved WoTP and to the suburbs, you must walk around in a state of high dudgeon.

          • Compare: ” I’d just rather we provide more habitable homes that the average person can at least aspire to.”
            with: “As a resident of a neighborhood where perfectly good houses go for waaay less than $600K.”

            You can’t have it both ways. Either there are a surfeit of affordable homes in perfectly good neighborhoods (in which case we don’t need to incentivize more), or we need more affordable homes that “normal people” (whatever that means – you seems to have your own definition that you won’t share with the rest of the class) can afford. Which is it?

          • HaileUnlikely

            dcd: You could probably piece together that Accountering and I were sort of going at it there – my comment was intended to be read in the fairly narrow context of what we were discussing and not more generally. The sole point of that exchange was to express exception to Accountering’s assertion that his buddies “had to” move to the suburbs because they were getting outbid on the $600K homes that they wanted, furthermore in the specific context of the assertion that rowhouse conversions like this one make housing “affordable,” which he provided in the context of my assertion that people who can afford $600K condos have options. They might not love their other options (like my neighborhood, where somebody offering $600K ain’t getting outbid), but they have options well beyond those accessible to the vast majority of households.
            There are lots of perfectly reasonable reasons why somebody might move to the suburbs. But I suspect that most of those reasons are not major motivators for a buyer who is deliberating between moving to the suburbs versus buying one of the units in this specific building on the unit block of Channing St NW. I could be wrong, but I suspect that somebody who is drawn to a $600K luxury condo at this location is not being drawn to it by the low crime rate or the in-boundary DCPS school, thus I suspect that most of the perfectly legitimate reasons why you chose to move to Bethesda–which I definitely sympathize with and quite honestly may follow in a few years–are irrelevant to the present discussion.
            I am not offended in the least by people choosing to move to the suburbs. I am quite honestly offended by the insinuation that a $600K luxury condo in Bloomingdale represents meaningful affordable housing and by people who write off the entire city because they can’t afford to buy a house in a hip neighborhood.

          • west_egg

            “my friends who were forced to buy in the suburbs”
            Boo hoo, your poor friends who had a gun put to their heads and were forced to drop a half million dollars on a home in one of the most desirable communities in the country! What terrible times we live in when people with hundreds of thousands of dollars at their disposal have only two choices: “great” and “also great.”

          • “my comment was intended to be read in the fairly narrow context of what we were discussing and not more generally. ”
            I appreciate that you were trying to make a point, but your comment is either true or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then, well, bad on you. If it is true (and I believe it is), and if it is also true in multiple other neighborhoods across the city (and again, I believe it is), it calls into question the sustained outcry for “housing for families” we always hear.
            This isn’t an easy question, and we can go down a lot of rabbit holes. But to your beef with accountering, I think you are off-base. Yes, $600,000 is a lot of money. And yes, the median income of the DC area is $90,000 or so (though I think the DC median HHI is substantially lower than that). But as someone posted elsewhere, assuming a 20% down payment, a family needs an income of $150,000 to purchase a $600,000 home. That’s just not that unusual in large swaths of the city. (I’d wager that is you checked the median income west of the river, it would jump substantially). Two nonprofit workers 5 years out of college would qualify; one 3rd year associate at a law firm would qualify; a couple of government workers or hill staffers in their early 30s would qualify. That $600,000 condo serves a need – a significant need. People with those credentials and income are commonplace in DC. As accountering said, affordability isn’t just about people making minimum wage, or even $50,000 HHI each year. Those condos serve a much more significant portion of the population than a $1 million rowhouse would. Not the entire population, no – but a decent portion of it.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Who of the examples you just gave might plausibly have $140K (20% down plus closing costs) in liquid assets at their disposal? The two non-profit workers five years out of college? I doubt it. The third-year legal associate? Less unlikely but still unlikely. The two government workers in their late thirties – probably the least unlikely of all of these, but that would still be a rather exceptional couple. But really, hardly anybody without equity from a previous home in an area that has seen a big run up in prices has $140K in liquid assets lying around. By the time either a.) $140K in liquid assets, or b.) income needed for a larger loan plus PMI are factored in, the buyer here is somebody in a different stratosphere than a typical person or couple from any of your examples. And that’s all fine and dandy. I still just think it’s absurd to call it “affordable.”

          • west_egg

            @Haile — You’re overlooking one important (and from what I can tell, significant) demographic: the couple with one or two sets of parents with means to kick in for the down payment.

        • I have not seen any “affordable” condo conversions in Petworth these past two-three years. In fact, I think these condos that have increasingly entered the Petworth housing market have contributed to the rising, and to a certain degree inflated SF rowhouse prices. The more money a person pays for a condo, then the more the home owner is going to want or request for the entire building. So it’s the biggest catch 22 for all of you laboring for more density because it goes hand in hand with more $$$$$$$$$$

          • Accountering

            You aren’t looking then. There has been plenty of “luxury” condo conversions in Petworth selling in the 200s, 300s and 400s. When is the last time you saw a full flipped rowhouse selling in the 400s?

          • Agreed — the practice of splitting up houses into luxury condos has been a big driver of skyrocketing prices.

          • There’s plenty of condo conversions for that amount in Petworth ???? (Ga Ave on the West, Kennedy to the North, Rock Creek/North Capitol on the East and Metro Station at the South). Because most of the conversions I’ve seen were in the area of $575K – $750K. . .

          • $750K for a condo in Petworth? Yeah, maybe you can find a couple of examples of that for large, three bedroom condos. But I’m not buying that is a regular occurrence in Petworth. I bought a rowhome for less than that in Truxton Circle. Why in God’s name would I spend more in Petworth for a condo unless it’s actually the size of a single family home?

          • wrong analysis. you’re comparing historical prices to new prices. you need to compare new prices to what the new prices would be in the absence of the increased inventory. that’s a much trickier analysis, but most people would agree that the increased supply reduces the cost of SF rowhouses.

          • There’s a ceiling on all of this – government wages (still the biggest employer in the region) and Fannie-Freddie borrowing limits. Plus, higher interest rates. The first two are not going up. The latter is. The price increases of the last two years are almost solely due to speculation, low interest rates and stock market gains, IMHO.
            It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Everything – IMHO – is pointing to a price correction for gentrifying pockets of the city.

          • There’s a ceiling on all of this – government wages (still the biggest employer in the region) and Fannie-Freddie borrowing limits. Plus, higher interest rates. The first two are not going up. The latter is. The price increases of the last two years are almost solely due to speculation, low interest rates and over-heated stock market gains, IMHO.
            It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Everything – IMHO – is pointing to a price correction for gentrifying pockets of the city.

          • There’s a ceiling on all of this – government wages (still the biggest employer in the region) and Fannie-Freddie borrowing limits. Plus, higher interest rates. The first two are not going up. The latter is. The price increases of the last two years are almost solely due to speculation, low interest rates and over-heated stock market gains, IMHO.
            It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Everything – IMHO – is pointing to a price correction for gentrifying pockets of the city. The biggest story not being told is that the commercial development/lending business is going to have a big contraction when they need to refinance in next few years.

          • west_egg

            “most people would agree that the increased supply reduces the cost of SF rowhouses”
            The factor you’re overlooking is that prices on un-renovated rowhomes are being driven up by the potential to pop & chop. So while it’s true that this phenomenon leads to an increased supply of properties in the $400-600k range, buyers are getting less for their money.

          • not overlooking it. un-renovated rowhomes are being driven up by the demand for living in the city. if people can buy a $600k condo (plus condo fees), they definitely can afford a $600k rowhouse. so that’s still your baseline in most areas, and $400k and $500k rowhouses are a thing of the past (generally, i get it that these still exist in particular areas). then prices will still be going up from there, and you’d have more people bidding for less inventory, so some people who are buying $600k condos would be shut out of the market by people bidding up houses to $700k and $800k.

          • OP anon: federal gov’t workers are getting a modest bump in this. and you’re overlooking a few other considerations, namely rents. if a decent 2br apartment goes for $2800 in the desireable areas of the city, you can basically take out a $600K mortgage on a $660k house/condo and have the same monthly payment (after mortgage interest tax deduction). those numbers change, but not significantly, with the slightly higher interest rates that we can expect eventually. until and unless there’s a correction in rents, there’s no bubble.

      • Its all relative. Single family homes in Bloomingdale have routinely been going for north of $1mm lately.

    • Blithe

      By recognizing that popping up row homes is hardly the only way, or even the most efficient way to increase density.

      • In a neighborhood like Bloomingdale, what would your suggestion be to increasing density? Razing rowhomes to avoid this problem and building condo buildings? No, I’d imagine the “not in my backyard” response is what we’d hear.

      • Nobody’s saying it’s the only way. Or even the most efficient way. That’s for the market to decide. A top-down single-solution approach is not really going to work here.

        • Blithe

          I’m suggesting that leaving it “to the market to decide” is short-sighted, and weighted towards values that I don’t typically share.

          • Textdoc, that “+1” is so incredibly disingenuous given what you’ve said in regard to DC housing that I’m baffled by your genuine/feigned (not sure which) cognitive dissonance. You’ve repeatedly argued for policies that would exclude lower-income housing in your neighborhood and would increase SFH property values by limiting others’ ability to build up. And now you claim that market-driven values aren’t ones you share?

          • I care about historic preservation first and foremost.
            The idea of pop-ups divided into condos being “lower-income housing” is laughable.

          • Historical preservation? Maybe we should demolish everything and prop back up the Nacotchtank settlements that preceded us then? How far are we going to go to preserve a single arbitrary point in history? Who decides which point?

          • As for “who decides,” D.C. has a Historic Preservation Review Board that ensures that changes in historic districts are in keeping with the character of the architecture.
            D.C. has some really nice architectural stock. Unfortunately there’s a lot of nice stock from between circa 1870 and 1920 that’s not currently protected. Developers seeking to make a fast buck are destroying this architecture.

          • I’m okay with preserving a few examples of an era (although I’d rather do it with pictures than with inefficient land use), but we definitely can’t preserve everything. We can’t preserve the past at the expense of the future.

      • Just curious – What are the more efficient ways to increase density? I’m not a fan of this design. And luckily for me my block in Park View is zoned in such a way that you can’t capture any of the back lot with a structure. I can’t even build a garage. But if there aren’t a lot of empty pieces of land on which to build multi-unit buildings, how else do you achieve density?

        • You can still achieve density other ways in Park View and other parts of the city. There are SO MANY vacant buildings along Georgia Ave that could be redeveloped into condos or apartments. There is even land in some areas. Some of these have already been developed and others are slated for it. Look at Morton Street Mews…added brand new townhouses and condos to Sherman and Morton.

          • Accountering

            Presumably, if the developer of this condo owned that lot, he would do that. He does not own those lots, and as such has no control over what happens there. I agree, we should see more redevelopment on GA Ave, and I think the city should do more to encourage that (whether carrot or stick)

          • This is not a method of increasing density. You are advocating that they don’t have to build here because they still have space to build elsewhere. This is logic that can only create more sprawl.
            Every ward should have to accommodate more density and a fair share of subsidized housing.

          • Yes anon, that’s why I said “You can still achieve density other ways in Park View and other parts of the city.” I wasn’t talking about Bloomingdale. I was reference Park View and other parts of the city because Anonymous specifically mentioned Park View. There are plenty of popups and popbacks in Park View too.

          • Anon 3:21 is incorrect that what Formerly ParkViewRes advocates would encourage sprawl. What’s she’s advocating is INFILL housing, which is the very opposite of sprawl.

      • binpetworth

        Agreed. I’d be really interested to know whether rowhouse conversions actually increase density that much. In my particular neighborhood, the units seem to be bought predominantly by single people/couples rather that families with children, so a 3-unit conversion really doesn’t house many more people than a rowhouse owned by a family with a kid/two and a basement tenant.

        • Well, you do have to consider demographics when talking about whether a certain type of housing increases density. I believe the number now is just over 40% of DC households are single-member, and that number has been growing for years. Another large chunk of households are couples without children. Considering these trends, the choice is not really between a couple with kids and a basement tenant and several singles, but between a SINGLE single or couple, plus basement tenant, or several singles/couples.
          You also have to consider that the strong majority of people do get married and have children, so most of those singles and couples without children will become couples and/or have children at some point in the future. Many, many people buy homes with the future in mind, buying more than they need as a single or couple without children so that they can grow into a home they own when the next step comes. It’s kind of unrealistic to expect successful people who will likely end up as a part of a couple and with children, but not until their mid-to-late 30’s, to rent the basement until the SO and/or kid comes along, and then come up with over $1M to buy a whole house (which they might not even need if the bedrooms are large enough and they plan to only have 1 or 2 kids).

      • Blithe

        I don’t know Bloomingdale’s street patterns well enough to comment on that neighborhood specifically, , but in terms of the city as a whole, there are lots of major streets such as Georgia Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue…. that were/are designed for mixed use construction that aren’t even close to being fully built out. It’s a lot more efficient and potentially more affordable to build apartment buildings on major streets than it is to pop up individual row houses. As retail spaces get replaced, low rises in many areas can be replaced with taller buildings with retail at street level and residential space on higher floors. I realize that this solution might not satisfy the person who would prefer to live in a pop up than a larger building, or the person who owns the house that’s being popped up — but those issues weren’t part of andy2’s original concern.

        • First, there are a ton of apartment buildings up and down both Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues that meet the maximum height restrictions. And all of those roads are literally bounded on each side by low rise residential neighborhoods. Where there is any room to expand on what is facing those streets, you can’t pretend that developers won’t face similar complaints and problems from the neighboring blocks of rowhome owners who use the same complaints others use now (e.g., more traffic, less parking, ruining the character of the neighborhood). And unlike some of the neighborhoods where you see the pop up debate rage on, the neighboring areas of Conn and Wisc avenues have one advantage to keep that development out. Money. Those are some of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city.

          That development is actually happening as well, by the way, on Georgia Avenue. It isn’t like those thoroughfares are being totally ignored. But it isn’t also like Cleveland Park or Friendship Heights is where most people want to live these days either.

          • Blithe

            How do we balance desire for affordable/reasonable housing with no increased density?

            Duponter, the comment that I’ve responded to was not about “where most people want to live these days” — but rather, a more general one. If your focus is on how to squeeze more of whoever you’re referring to as “most people” into the neighborhoods where your “most people” want to live, then that’s a very different question than the one that was originally asked.

          • Is it? Because it sounds like what is being advocated for is low income housing in places where “most people” want to live. Does it make sense, is it efficient at all, to reserve that high demand, high valued, prime real estate, for “affordable” housing, when you can build affordable housing in the many places in DC where there is room to do so and lower demand, and lower values?

        • I understand that you’re only elaborating on the sentiment and not necessarily advocating for it, but using zoning to guarantee that only large-scale developers can make new housing for themselves/others, and only large-scale developments get built, sounds awful. And I hope we don’t do it.

        • Also Rhode Island Ave. NE. There are so many totally empty lots to develop on there. There are some detached houses too, but I’m not likely to have sympathy for someone with a house on a major corridor like that if buildings get built next door.

          • But people understand why there is higher demand in neighborhoods more proximate to downtown right? I mean there’s plenty of room in Columbia, Maryland too, but that isn’t where people want to live.

          • but cutting a baby in half doesn’t make two babies

      • Accountering

        Agree, getting rid of the height limit, or relaxing it in large parts would be quite effective as well. Seeing as how that is not going to happen, pop-ups and pop-outs are the alternative.

        • Yeah, I think the height limit is a big issue. In Toronto there are tons and tons of high-rise condos. People complain that real estate is so expensive here, but I see lots of affordable condos (at least compared to DC). You can find lots of brand new condos in the 200s. I’ve wondered if that helps keep real estate prices here lower, whereas it really hurts DC because you can’t build up into the sky.

          • The height limit is a federal issue. So, I don’t see any headway being made there.

            And by comparison, NYC and San Francisco do not face that obstacle and pricing is still very high there. Granted, imagine how much higher it would be if all of SF and NYC were built like Bloomingdale?

            It’s funny the answer is erasing the height limit, but the very mention of adding one floor to a rowhome incites such rage in people.

          • Yeah, it would be great to repeal the Height Act, but how often is it the bottleneck? We’d still have a lot of zoning to relax to take advantage of the Height Act’s repeal, if Congress were ever willing to do such a thing (to be fair, it almost sorta was a couple years back, but couldn’t because DC couldn’t even figure out what it’d do with the new power).

          • Agree with the above. The federal height limit affects a very small portion of the city. We’ve zoned away a lot of federally allowable height in the city (especially in the L’Enfant city where most rights of ways are 80-90 feet even if roads are only 30 feet wide). And that’s before even getting into restrictions on land size and number of units

          • @Duponter: SF has some of the most restrictive housing regs in the country and is barely building any net new residential housing. I forget the exact number but something like 10k new residential units have been added to the city over the last 10 years.

  • I am generally indifferent towards pop-ups. I see the pros: encourages developers to invest in a property or area that they might otherwise ignore, accommodates those who like the feel of a house but can’t afford one in DC, and if there is a market for them why not build them. I see the cons: if done poorly can ruin the character of some of the charming neighborhoods that are uniquely DC, increases density which can put a strain on infrastructure and limit parking… to name a few.

    HOWEVER, this project and a couple others like it in the Bloomingdale neighborhood are a bridge too far. The property so clearly dwarfs its neighbors and limits the views of other properties. I visited an open house by what is likely the same developer of a similar project in the neighborhood and can see why the immediate neighbors are pissed (to put it kindly). Developers should give some consideration to the surrounding properties. Capitalism has a place here. The people who buy your units are going to be sad to find that all of their neighbors hate them from day 1. Unhappy clients are unlikely to speak highly of your work going forward… after their hypnosis from granite counters and stainless steel appliances wears off.

    • I am not sure I would put too much weight into the buyers caring that their neighbors were unhappy with a decision the buyers had nothing to do with in the first place. That sounds more like irrational neighbors than anything, which generally speaks to a lot about the pop up debate.

      In my neighborhood, at least on my block, all of the lots are actually two lots (a front and back one). A developer who bought the empty lot next to my house (before I bought my house) capitalized on this and persuaded the prior owner of my house to sell the back lot to him and he acquired it for use for more parking for his development (a condo building). The house I bought takes up roughly 85% of the actual lot on which it sits now and I have zero access to the alley. Obviously I knew this going in, so no real complaints here, other than the developer basically capitalized on a gentrifying neighborhood by offering the prior owner a nice check to basically take half of her yard, just months before she was foreclosed on and lost her house in the first place. And it seems most of the lots on my block have been subdivided in ways where totally random third parties own the back third of lots closest to the alleys while the homeowners have no access to the alley. It’s completely absurd.

      I don’t disagree that there should be some limitations, many in fact. But the regulations have been changed. That this one above is an example of the pre-regulations era isn’t really something worth debating. Today, none of the neighbors could do this without a lot more work getting approval from DCRA. Of course, that begs the question of the whether the regulations then handicap neighbors from making the best use of their own properties in response to this kind of development. If I lived immediately next door, I’d likely have considered adding a third floor or expanding back, or selling to a developer who would pay me good money to get to do the same thing. And now because of the regulations, that isn’t nearly as easy to do. So now these neighbors are stuck with this monstrosity and no recourse for their own properties. Although I would hope DCRA would consider that should a neighbor seek similar approvals in the future.

      I still say quality of construction is an entirely separate issue that should definitely be addressed, but shouldn’t really get tied with the pop-up issue. I’m also not sure what views are obstructed. The view into your neighbor’s yard that is now gone? I might say light and air is a bigger problem with this kind of development.

      I’m all for sensible regulation, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone that in a high demand market, two story rowhomes are not a particularly efficient use of a limited resource – space. Developers are going to take advantage of it.

    • I live on the same row as a building that would be decried in many places. It maxed out lot occupancy. The front facade looks nothing like the rest of the row. The building is 12 feet taller than the rest. It has a rooftop deck that looks right into our backyards. And you know what? The people in all three units are lovely people who have made the neighborhood a better place. I can’t begrudge them for not having the means to buy a full renovated row or the desire/means to go through a renovation themselves.

  • I’m shocked they were able to built that far back. The funny thing is that if the neighbor with a colorful fence tried to build a garage where his car is, he would likely be denied based on lot occupancy rules. I feel really bad for the neighbors. I think there are plenty ways to create more density without going to these extremes.

    • ” I think there are plenty ways to create more density without going to these extremes.”
      Really? What are they?

      • It’s funny b/c the advocates for alternatives seem to argue building large apartment buildings elsewhere in the city as the alternative. But simultaneously decry adding a third floor to a rowhome to do it. Let density be someone else’s problem, apparently.

        • Density doesn’t have to disrupt the architectural coherence of a row of rowhouses. Building a large apartment building on a main street (e.g., Georgia Avenue) is a much more efficient way of adding density.

          • That’s exactly what I was thinking: Georgia Ave. There are ton of spaces that can be turned into condos.

          • I think you confuse aesthetics for efficiency. Or what you desire for efficiency. Or what you find preferable for efficiency.

            Or that building a large condo building on GA Avenue is exclusive of also being able to add a much smaller amount of density to rowhomes that dominate most of these neighborhoods. The two are hardly mutually exclusive. And yes, there is actually a limit on how many condo buildings you can put along GA Avenue before you’re in Brightwood or farther north where the demand is lower because of lack of public transportation to/from downtown. Let’s face it, if people who covet a $500K condo in Bloomingdale or Park View didn’t care about being farther away, they’d buy a $500K house in Brightwood.

            You mistake your own urban planning preferences for a solution. Not everyone who buys a $500K condo in the city wants to live on Georgia Avenue. And we don’t live in Stalingrad where the state tells people exactly where and what to build or where to live.

          • “That’s exactly what I was thinking: Georgia Ave. There are ton of spaces that can be turned into condos.”
            Sure – but many of them aren’t for sale, or the owners want to do something else with them, or any of the hundreds of other reasons those properties aren’t available for development right now. We work with what’s available. And no offense, textdoc, but in my view, historical preservation is just about the worst driver for development policy I can think of. I can see limits and restrictions because of density concerns, impact on city services, impact on neighbors’ enjoyment of their properties – heck, even aesthetics. But I just can’t get behind historic preservation as a criteria for development decisions, much less the primary criteria. Different strokes for different folks.

          • Dcd, consider historic preservation as a proxy for aesthetics. Right now, historic districts are the only way of ensuring some kind of aesthetic review of proposed buildings/additions/etc.

  • Does anyone know how many units this will be? 3 or more will just mean puny rooms.

  • This looks mighty similar to the construction being done on the 400 block of Varnum. The pop-up in the front looks pretty good, but the massive rowhouse addition they built in the back is ridiculous. The house has one of the extra long lots and the pop-back was constructed on the alley end of a row of about 4-5 houses. It’s on the western side so it now blocks the sun for all of the homes on that entire block.

    The infrastructure of DC and these single family home neighborhoods, which Petworth definitely is, weren’t built to accommodate the current trend of transforming a SF rowhouse into a 4-6 family unit. And I seriously doubt the city, while approving the exceptions to the zoning, is addressing the future impact all of these renovations are going to have on electrical, water and gas distribution. And let’s not discuss the parking scenario.

    And I’m really tired of people quoting “your rising property values” Some of us didn’t buy into our neighborhoods because we were trying to make a quick return. Personally, I liked the fact that it was more residential and quieter than some of the busier DC neighborhoods because it had mainly single family homes with a low ratio of apartment buildings. To me, a SF rowhouse converted into a 3+ unit is an apartment building. I’m not against urban density, but some portions of the city were not planned to be that dense.

    And please don’t advise me to move the burbs. Born and raised in Flatbush and Clinton Hills (Brooklyn), DC, in comparison, is way more surburban (in terms of density) . . . which is one of its appeals.

    • I think the rising property values note is more of a consolation prize than anything. No one is saying it replaces the things you liked about your neighborhood when you bought.

      But unless you want DC to become as expensive for people to live in as, say, Brooklyn has become, you’re going to have to stop pretending that you get to decide what the city becomes simply because you were able to buy there first. Yes, you love Petworth and Bloomingdale because they are charming. Now they are million dollar per home charming. That DC is more “suburban” than, say, Brooklyn, is appealing TO YOU. Because you own a house there now. No one is saying move to the burbs, although based on your own logic, I fail to see why that would bother you. What they are saying is that there’s a lot of demand to live downtown in DC, which is currently being met by developers. There can be some balance. And I’m not arguing this particular example above is the right kind of balance. But I also don’t think adding one floor to a house and making it two or three units instead of one actually dramatically reduces the suburban appeal of a neighborhood like Petworth or Bloomingdale. Razing blocks of rowhomes to build 10 story apartment buildings might do that, but unless you can cite some actual evidence that SFH conversions to 3 units means strain on infrastructure, I’m not sure your wishful thinking that it is true means it is.

      • “but unless you can cite some actual evidence that SFH conversions to 3 units means strain on infrastructure”
        The evidence is called math. 3 homes are likely to use more gas, water, electricity than one home. Maybe not 3x as much, but most likely some multiple of what 1 home uses.
        Is that a “strain” on infrastructure? I don’t know for sure. But I tend to agree with the expression of doubt that the City is giving this question any consideration.

        • When a matter-of-right building was being built near us last year we had our water cut off once so the developer and city could put in larger water pipes. Why? Because the development would have put too much a strain on the existing infrastructure. This happens all over the city all the time. And this is the reason DC Water reviews basically every addition or new construction permit. Furthermore, the same permits require to show the electrical and gas connections and capacity. And now the District Department of the Environment is reviewing every permit. Trust me, the city is giving considering to all of this.

        • Math is clearly not the evidence if you’re still not sure though. The city is replacing infrastructure in quite a few neighborhoods all over the place. I’ve never actually heard a single complaint in this city about lack of water or gas or electricity because of increased density.

          That you conjured up some argument here doesn’t mean it’s valid or supported by any evidence. In fact, I’m fairly certain part of the approval process includes estimates on utility usage and assurances they do not strain available infrastructure.

          • Trust me, I have seen what the increased electrical loads have done – there were no increases due to the increased density, and the aged transformers that used to pop every month or so, leading to multi-hour or sometimes multi-day outages were certainly not part of anyone’s math.

            Neither are the sewage and combined overflow required by the extra density.

            I do not trust the permitting process to take these things into account. Not at all.

            Further, people making points about these being planned, low-density communities are not just nimbys. These pop-ups do affect and change the character of the neighborhood. These condo-conversions are issues in many cities in the states, and can be addressed by the community as well – they can designate as historic, or influence new zoning rules as was recently done with R-4 zones, but you can’t hate on them for not liking or wanting these monstrous buildings on their blocks or damaging their adjoining homes during the typically crap construction practices of the small time carpet baggers building them.

          • Small time carpet baggers. LOL. Who are you, my grandpa?

            No one is hating on someone for noting a different perspective on pop-ups than they are terrible and ruin my neighborhood. Pop ups do affect and change the character of a neighborhood, but to say they are bad for that presumes that everyone agrees that the character of a neighborhood should never change.

            Opposing increased density, which in many, many neighborhoods means either adding space to existing structures or razing them and building something different (both of which have the effect of changing the character of a neighborhood) simply means that existing residents think they are the only ones who should live there and anyone who cannot now afford to pay $1.2 million for a house should go elsewhere. They are certainly entitled to that opinion, but short of them banning development in their neighborhood through, as you note, historic designation (which still does not prevent carving rowhomes into condos) or changing regulations to make it nearly impossible to add any space, there isn’t a whole lot they can do about the dynamics working against them. The vast majority of the rowhomes in Dupont are carved up into condos. No one has suffered for that. If your neighborhood’s character depends on identical rooflines, then you have bigger problems.

      • I mentioned the move to burbs because whenever someone complains about a particular pop-up or pop-back, there is at least one comment advising the person complaining to move to VA.
        Also ,I do not have a problems with conversions–within limits. Until recently, most conversions were 2-3 units, which is very reasonable. But recently, I’ve seen a growing trend to convert to 4-6 units. This is accomplished by digging down, popping WAY up and popping WAY back (or to the side) for those homes with deep back/side yards (covers two lots).

        • In an R-4 district like this the number of units are limited to one unit per 900 square feet of land. Under the old rules this was a matter of right. Under the new rules you need a special exception to go over two units each even number unit after two has to be set to affordable at 80% AMI.

          Can you give an example of conversions to 4-6 units in the R-4 zone that didn’t meet the 900 square feet of land requirement?

          • In my neighborhood, a large number of the homes, including mine which is probably 125 – 150 ft deep from the back of my enclosed sleeping porch to the alley, are on double lots. In these deep yards, one can fit two rowhouses back to back, with space for a small yard/or parking. I, personally, live in a small enclave of R-5, which has even less restrictions, but most of the houses I’m thinking of are likely R-4, but with large lots so the land requirement is not an issue.

          • R-5 is an apartment house zone. So, yeah, those lots should be 4-6+ units. That’s what zoning is for. Short of a text amendment to R-4, what can you do? It’s been zoned this way for 56 years now.
            On those massive R-4 lots, 4-6 unit buildings were effectively downzoned away recently. So you won’t be seeing them any more .

        • I get that. But one is silly to assume the character of the city is going to remain forever what it was when one moved in. With growing population (generally, across the globe), the demand for living in larger urban areas is only going to continue to rise for decades to come. We cannot pretend that two story rowhomes in the heart of DC make any sense now, or in the future.

          • Agreed to an extent. I’ve lived in urban areas my entire life, excluding college and law school, so I see the appeal of living in the city. I have more of a problem with the huge pop backs that basically block the light, air, and interactions with neighbors, as well as the lack of parking. I can see in the future, those unfortunate homeowners who live in the middle of two properties that pop all the way back and their backyard is now a dark alley.

          • Except due to the R-4 downzoning, there won’t be any more huge rear extensions. You seem not to understand that mult-unit R-4 conversions and rear extensions > 10′ past the neighboring buildings were downzoned out of existence.

          • As alluded to above, apparently the 10 foot is only for non-residential to residential conversions. So theoretically large popbacks can still be built matter or right (if they don’t block solar/chimneys, 60% occupancy, 35 feet, 2 units only, etc)

          • I understand that the zoning rules changed earlier in the year. Because it did not affect the particulars of the zoning for my house, I did not read it in-depth. Moreover, I do not go up to every house that I jog by to read the permit and see when they were approved (pre or post zoning change) or go home and google the address to see if the building is in a R4 zone. All I know is that in the past six-eight months, I’ve seen an uptick in the amount of 3+ condo conversions. Maybe they were delayed with the build, but the amount that I’ve seen is concerning.

          • The proverbial owner stuck between two large pop-ups is out of luck if they wanted to live somewhere with a large airy yard. The consolation prize, or hedge against this risk, is that they can cash out since increase demand usually leads to land value appreciation.

    • Well- as more and more families chose to stay in the city- you will see individual homeowners popping up and back to accommodate their needs, whether it be family, entertaining, more wealth and want a home to reflect it etc. Lets ne honest, outside of Capital Hill, Dupont, Logan, Gtown, bloomingdale areas a lot of these rowhomes in other neighborhoods are tiny tiny tiny homes.

      • I think this type of growth is expected. I live in a very small rowhouse and a home addition is a must in the near future. You can find them all over the city as many homeowners over the years have needed to add space. This of course is nothing like taking a row home and creating a 3-4 unit condo buidling but adding home additions (what people on this site call “pop backs”) is nothing new.

    • “The infrastructure of DC and these single family home neighborhoods, which Petworth definitely is, weren’t built to accommodate the current trend of transforming a SF rowhouse into a 4-6 family unit.”.
      The city is over 200 years old. Older than all the infrastructure you mention. You doubt that we can accommodate changes? But then how did we make it so far that you can sit there an pretend (or maybe even believe) electricity, running water, gas lines, and cars have always been? Magic? Some level of competency lost to history, never to be reclaimed?
      Little by little, we’ll figure it all out, with non-theoretical needs to address and new tax revenue to address it with.

      • The city just came in and replaced the water lines in my neighborhood that were nearly a century old. That is how you handle change. It’s possible.

        • And in Bloomingdale they’re currently in the process of a major sewer project; have replaced and are replacing additional water lines, and have recently replaced gas lines.

      • For what it’s worth, my 1400-s.f. “single family” home in Petworth actually housed two families, totaling six people, for several decades. I strongly suspect that this happened in many other houses all over DC, even those houses that now seem very small. The infrastructure has handled more density in the past; I think it can do so in the future.

      • Your snarkiness aside. . Yes, DC is over 200 years old, but a lot of the neighborhoods away from the city’s center are less than a century old. And some of the planning failures to address the city’s growth are self-evident today. I am not saying that it can not ever be done, I am saying that it is highly doubtful that the people passing out permits to increase the density of neighborhoods that were traditionally less populated are considering short or long-term impact. Maybe you reside in a location where this may not impact you, but I see trouble brewing in less than a decade. And that is a concern.

        • They aren’t, but as mentioned, there are entities in DC that are very keenly aware and observing these issues (e.g., DC Water, Dept. of Environment). As noted above, there are myriad projects ongoing in the city to improve infrastructure.

          Considering other areas of the city that have been literally replaced with full block gigantic apartment buildings where rowhomes stood before, it’s obvious that these things are being handled every day.

    • You bought into a neighborhood that was zoned for this type of density. If you wanted to live in an area that had building restrictions, then you should have looked for a historic zone or an HOA controlled subdivision.
      You get no sympathy for your failure to account for publicly available zoning regs.

      • The reality is these people who complain now couldn’t afford to live in those neighborhoods where regulations would have protected their interests (e.g., Dupont, Logan) when they bought. That’s why they went to Bloomingdale in the first place. And now they somehow fail to see that the connection. You couldn’t afford Dupont because these types of regulations exist there and inventory is very limited and highly coveted. And all the single family homes are now $2-3 million. Now they want to do the same thing to Bloomingdale, Petworth, Park View, Edgewood, Eckington, etc. etc.

        • Agreed. If we are not careful this vocal minority will ruin DC. The housing stock will not be able to accommodate demand and only the affluent will live here.

          • I think it’s hilarious that you think DC is not already becoming a place where only the affluent can afford to live. But I guess that goes back to the “is a $600K condo affordable” question. Most people who are renting luxury apartments and buying $500k condos don’t think of themselves as affluent, even though they are in the upper reaches of the income scale.

          • The “more affordable” accommodations aren’t affordable enough, so we should limit supply further by preventing them from being built? What?

          • Thank you Anon @ 5:27. Why don’t we actually drag people out of their million dollar homes by force, raze them, build utilitarian dormitories so everyone has exactly the same?

            I’m all for keeping prices from rising too quickly. But I’m not sure what a 24 year old first year law firm attorney makes, or what two married government workers/college professors/defense contractors/accountants/etc. qualifies as affluent. That’s I suppose a very subjective/relative term as to what people consider affluent. But it takes ~$150K to qualify for a $600K mortgage. That isn’t exactly rich by most standards, particularly if you’re talking about two incomes. Especially for DC, which has some of the most educated people around. I get there are a great deal of people in the DC area who don’t make anywhere near that. But there is also a lot of housing around for less than that as well. Just not in a prime location like Bloomingdale.

          • Was being sarcastic-this is the land of the rich.

  • I wonder if the neighbors got involved in the approval process. If this project did receive a variance (as noted above) then there must have been notification of the neighbors and a hearing of some kind. They may attended – I don’t know – and it is possible the variance was granted even if neighbors spoke against it.
    Still, I think it is in each resident’s best interest to attend those meetings, find out what is being proposed, and to make their feelings known. Also, as these pop-up discussions always remind me, to understand what the zoning is for your property and those immediately around it, and to learn what is allowed in those zones, and how to get involved once a permit is applied for.

    • There was no variance or special exception. The permit appeal time is well past (and wouldn’t have succeeded anyway, this clearly meets the regulations). Assuming there are no reasons for a stop work order what can the neighbors do?

    • Oh, my mistake – I must have misread the earlier post that I thought said this required & received a variance.
      If this is a ‘by right’ project, with all size, height, setback, or lot coverage issues in accordance with existing zoning (at the time of permitting) there is very little the neighbors could have done to prevent the building permits being issued; with no variance or special approvals required, there would have been no public hearing required.
      And, as you say, assuming there are no construction infraction that would prompt a stop-work order, there is really nothing the neighbors can do at this point either.

      So, (a) I should I have read the prior posts more carefully, and (b) this is a good example of the need to understand what is allowed ‘by right’ on the properties adjacent to whatever one owns or occupies, since those are the projects which can happen without hearing or notifications.

      • Yeah, the earlier comments were confusing. And furthermore it’s not by-right after the R-4 downzoning since the ZA no longer has the ability to issue permits for minor flexibility (the permit status implies there was minor flexibility for closed court width and lot occpancy.

  • The notion that there is no affordable housing in DC is complete bunk. On redfin right now there are 318 properties for sale <$300,000. Over 1,000 more in the surrounding counties. Now, they're not necessarily in the hottest neighborhoods, but they're out there. The fact is that plenty of people in DC make enough to afford $600,000 but not $1M, and these rowhouse splits are a godsend for them. They also pay lots of taxes and add stability to a community, so we should be doing everything we can to attract them not drive them away or force developers to convert rowhouses into $1.2M single family showpieces (which is now what's usually happening in Bloomingdale thanks to the new zoning).

  • What do people mean when they say there are tons of people in DC who can afford 600k? I ask because does that mean people who can actually afford that mortgage OR people that are approved for a mortgage up to 600k? We were approved for a mortgage up to 800k and honestly that was insane to me. I was not willing to spend anywhere close to that even though technically we could “afford” the mortgage.

    • I think what it means is that $600K units are selling every day in the city.

      I bought a house for ~$600K (very small rowhome). I could not have gotten a mortgage or paid for a $1.2 million rowhome. Nor would it have made sense for me to buy a 2500 square foot house for one person. For “normal” people like me, it mattered a great deal that inventory around $600K was available instead of $1.2 million.

    • Or that the income here is high enough where that is in range for many people esp. 2 income folks. If I was a couple with double my income, the 600k price point would be easily doable, and my income is right around average for DC.
      I’m about the bang for the buck though, so I’m perfectly fine not buying in hip part of town #1, but I’m on the minority in that thinking, so units like these fit the bill for many ppl.

  • Every time there’s a debate about the societal benefits of pop-ups, there is always a chorus that pop-ups somehow make owning/renting in DC more affordable. I get the logic that more supply should drive down prices but I’m not convinced and I’ve never seen any evidence to prove it. My limited experience is the renovation professionals drive up the price drastically with cash offers because they anticipate breaking the house down into multiple apartments and then “renovating” them, which are later each sold for about the same as the original price of the house. Even in cases where the house is left as a single unit, the renovators throw a couple ten thousand into it and then add on hundreds of thousands to the resell price. This could actually be driving up the cost of row homes because the market is largely driven by the renovators. Given their access to capital and insider knowledge of/connections in the market, one could see their role as a semi-monopolistic middleman. Without the lucrative potential of pop-ups and the renovators that chase them, the price for row houses could actually go down. The one or two bedroom condo market might be better served by focusing on new developments in larger buildings. Thoughts? What happens to the market when the professional renovators are taken out of it? Are there any areas in the city that limit professional renovator ownership that could be a good comparison data set?

    Also, nothing against the concept of pop-ups, but it seems like it could be done much better in DC. There are many ways to increase density without adding something that many (but certainly not all) in the city find to look hideous. Even more than the appearance, my personal complaint, having seen a few built around me and lived in one, is the poor construction. Please, please, please, folks, when you are buying these condos, take a look around. Mold, leaks, falling dry wall, poor grouting, etc are all signs that the renovator went cheap and there could be other things wrong in the guts of the building.

    • +1 to ‘My limited experience is the renovation professionals drive up the price drastically with cash offers because they anticipate breaking the house down into multiple apartments and then “renovating” them, which are later each sold for about the same as the original price of the house.’

      • These bldngs are worth more split into multiple units. If you want to retain a large singlefamily home in an area where smaller condos are worth over 600K, then you have to pay much more for it. It sounds like you want to change the rules to only allow large single family homes everywhere?

      • you’re not comparing the right things. we all know prices have risen, but that’s the correlation, not causation fallacy. the comparison you need to make is what the prices would be in the absence of increased inventory. can you argue that prices would be lower despite the increased demand if all these people buying $600k condos were competing for only rowhouses? clearly only one buyer would win, then the rest would be competing for nearby rowhouses. i’d think this would accelerate price increases more quickly than the popups/increased inventory are.

    • “Even in cases where the house is left as a single unit, the renovators throw a couple ten thousand into it and then add on hundreds of thousands to the resell price.”

      Umm, most developers are not putting a couple ten thousand into a single unit rowhome renovation. A good renovation in a lot of these rowhomes costs roughly $100k. I would say you could MAYBE renovate a whole rowhome for $50k, but it is probably one of the nightmare flips you keep reading about.

      • It certainly depends on what they do. I’ve renovated and built several houses, including a pop-back. If they aren’t adding new finished living space (ie, pop-up or pop-back) and they have either their own workers or a sweat-heart deal with a contractor, then they aren’t spending all that much. For instance, the first place I renovated we redid every single floor, ceiling, wall, and the kitchen in a 2200 sq/ft house for less than $30k.

      • Totally agree. Just our kitchen renovation cost $50K (due to structural issues- not because we went super high end). So far we have spent $160K to renovate our falling apart row home. Of course, we are homeowners, not developers, but I DOUBT even a developer could renovate a 2500 sqft row home for only $50K (unless it was extremely poorly done).

        • Please remember that a developer has established relationships with freelance workers, contractors, and wholesale suppliers. s/he’s not paying close to what you are paying for materials and, even more important, labor.

          • Even so, 20k (and yes that is what a couple ten thousand means) would mean some paint, refinishing floors, and a minor kitchen reno. It doesn’t account for the many real issues developers can run into: structural, all new electrical, wood rot, and the list goes on and on.

          • That’s why I acknowledged we are homeowners and obviously can’t get as good a deal as a developer. However, I have an extremely hard time believing even a developer could renovate a large row home like ours that had severe structural issues throughout for a measly $20K…or even $50K for that matter (and end up with a result as highly customized and beautiful as what we did- not cheap Home Depot specials).

    • Pop-ups divide houses into multiple units. Each unit in a renovated condo is cheaper than the cost of a renovated townhouse. There is not enough demand for renovated large rowhouses in many DC neighborhoods, they are worth more divided up.

      • That’s not necessarily true. In neighborhoods like Park View and Petworth, renovated rowhouses are often snapped up before they make it to the market. There is plenty of demand
        It’s more accurate to say that divided up rowhouses are worth more to developers because the acquisition cost is so high that it makes more sense to redevelop the property into multiple units, each of which sells for 70-80% of what a renovated rowhouse would sell for.

    • I have a hard time taking any of what you say seriously if you think all it takes to renovate a decrepit DC rowhouse is $20,000.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Pretty sure it was hyperbole, but also, realize that not all houses bought by developers are in dire need of significant renovation. I have seen several flips in my neighborhood where developers did some or all of: cleaned, painted, refinished the floors, replaced the kitchen cabinets, and replaced the bathroom fixture, yet made zero structural changes, zero changes to layout, zero replacements or upgrades to roof, plumbing (excluding fixtures), electrical, or mechanical systems. I.e., renovations an owner-occupant can pull off for $30K, which a developer can do for even less, and then sell for $200K+ more than they just bought it for a month ago.

      • I never said $20,000, the statement was intended to differentiate the scales between what they are spending and what they are asking as a profit for that work. When I did renovation and building, after our own salaries, the owner generally sought a 100% profit as his cut.

    • You need to think of the “but for” world. But for the carving up of rowhomes into condos throughout the city, condos would cost more than $400K because there are fewer of them and generally the same demand. It is completely illogical to argue that adding more inventory drives up pricing.

      • My question is whether the distribution of condos between pop-ups and new, larger developments would affect prices on row homes, not an assertion that prices should go down as inventory goes down.

        “The one or two bedroom condo market might be better served by focusing on new developments in larger buildings.”

        • Except that is an entirely different product. I’m sorry, but there are a great deal of open and available condos in large buildings throughout the city sitting empty at the moment. The reality is that some people do not view the value of those the same as the value of a condo in a two or three unit building.

          If the solution was simply to build more gigantic boxes with cookie cutter condos in them, I’d say the demand has already been met. But that people are paying $100K premium to not live in those means they view those products differently. So when I say “adding inventory,” I don’t just mean any two bedroom condo anywhere in the city. DC isn’t one uniform homogenous market.

          • Absolutely agree that they are different products. What are the differences in occupancy rates between condos in high-rises and smaller row homes? Is there a statistical difference in price between these types of properties in similar neighborhoods?

          • I think Logan would be a neighborhood where you might be able to track pricing variances. I don’t know what they are offhand, but my guess is similarly sized condos in a converted rowhome are higher than those in a larger building. Granted, you do not have the pop-up issue there that you have in, say, Bloomingdale.

            My point is simply that adding a few larger condo buildings in, say, Bloomingdale (assuming you can even find the space for that) is unlikely to temper demand for SFH to condo conversions. And that you can build larger apartment buildings in other neighborhoods (e.g., Mount Vernon, Navy Yard) certainly does not. So arguing that Georgia Avenue is “ripe” for condo development as some have assumes the person shopping for a condo in Petworth would instead choose one along Georgia Avenue were it available. If they would, developers would be taking care of that already. It’s not like there’s this magical untapped market that somehow developers in DC have missed.

            I will say a problem we see in DC that I think the city could make efforts to curb are larger developers buying empty lots in soon to be or quickly becoming desirable neighborhoods and sitting on them. That would certainly help some of the density issue. Take Truxton Circle/Eckington. There are empty lots up and down North Capitol or along New York/Florida Avenues that are not being built on. While I think SFH to condo conversions are inevitable, satisfy demand in a particular market, and make more sense than single family homes in many downtown areas, I fully support encouraging the development of the neighboring empty lots that are not being used at all if that helps slow home pricing growth and meets more demand for those who want to live downtown. I’m not afraid of the density even as a homeowner in Truxton. Build it! I know that means safer, cleaner streets, more amenities, more focus on transportation efficiency, etc. In the meantime, I also support the conversion of homes to condos which also leads to some of those things as well.

          • @Truxton: you may be correct that list prices of converted condos are higher, but I suspect much of that is due to lower condo fees. Smaller buildings just don’t have the expenses of larger buildings. I live in DuPont in a large building and the units in small buildings around us, generally 3-4 units, are usually under $300, less than half what I pay in fees.

    • Condo prices are interesting. My opinion is that prices are too high. The apartment marketplace is oversaturated. As interest rates rise and the market adjusts, these apartments will be converted into condos and sold off. The developers and contractors (often the same parent company) already got paid. They only need a small rent roll to make the note. They will sell off the units at a tidy profit and they will go into the business of managing the building. DC is viewed by the world as a cash register and real estate is no different. Especially for wealthy Marylanders and Virginians. The flippers, contractors, developers, CEO’s of the REITs and so forth – vast majority of these people do not live in DC. Why are you paying so much and who are you paying it too?

      • That is not how the market works, but okay. Time and time again articles have been written on this subject. Over the last few years, the real estate market in the city has been dominated by stories of bidding wars, escalation clauses, and the like. Developers do not create demand. It is there or it is not there. Prices are high because it has become incredibly difficult to buy a single family home or condo conversion in a rowhouse in DC because of lack of inventory. This is true even in neighborhoods with no development (e.g., Chevy Chase), where it currently costs $800K or higher to buy a home.

        Who did I pay the $600K to for my house? A developer who flipped it (not a condo conversion – still a single family home). And there were two other offers on it. Had there not been the demand at that price, the developer would have had to sell it for less. If anything, blame the mortgage industry that is likely still approving people for ridiculous mortgage amounts in DC because they assume the bubble is not going to burst. And honestly, with the new regulations in R-4 zones, they are probably right. No new inventory that isn’t large box, cookie cutter condos is only going to ensure pricing stays high.

        I do think you have a point specifically for those big box buildings in DC along Mass Ave, in Mount Vernon, NOMA and elsewhere. But I don’t think any of those really impact the SFH or small condo building pricing dramatically in traditional neighborhoods like Shaw, Bloomingdale, Park View, Petworth, etc.

  • By the way, the next door fence is awesome. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate.

  • per DCMR 11-412, 30% of an R4 property must be pervious surface — which means that it cannot be covered without a special exception to the zoning regulations in place. It sure looks like the property is pushing that limit…

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