“Eckington Civic Association (ECA) has decided to vote on pursuing historic designation for Eckington”

eckington

“Dear PoPville,

Not sure if you have heard that the Eckington Civic Association (ECA) has decided to vote on pursuing historic designation for Eckington. This is becoming a somewhat heated issue for the neighborhood with people having strong opinions on all sides. Mostly this seems to be an anti-pop up effort by a few people (despite the 35 ft cap that’s already in R4).

They have just announced they are starting with a survey and based on the results of that survey, those who belong to the ECA will get to vote on pursuing historic. There’s not much information being shared on how many people have to respond to the survey, what the survey will actually ask, and what results will allow the ECA to move forward and vote. It’s definitely upsetting to some of us that not all residents can vote, only those who paid to be ECA members vote…

Not to mention, creating a historic district solely to put a stop to pop ups in a neighborhood that clearly has larger issues (side note: I love it here and don’t feel unsafe, but obviously we have bigger issues than pop ups…).

I would be curious what the general thought in DC would be of Eckington declaring itself historic and what those who live in historic districts think of the regulations that are now imposed on them. Particularly residents in newly declared districts (Shaw I believe is recent and Bloomingdale is considering it too).”

146 Comment

  • The Eckington Civic Association (ECA) has held two public community meetings so far to discuss the process and goals of historic designation. I would recommend reaching out to the ECA to find out when the next community meeting will be held so you can raise these questions and hear from other residents living in historic districts.

    • I attended one of these meetings — this was not a meeting focused on discussion but rather on selling the idea of historic designation. Consultants hired by ECA to do research supporting the designation were among the presenters, as was a representative from a historic review board in Southeast. There were no skeptical voices on the panel.

      ECA deserves credit for holding these events, but they are quite one-sided. I’m a member and will be pushing for a suspension of normal membership requirements when this comes to a vote — it would be a real shame to place burdens on residents who didn’t have a voice in that decided on those burdens process.

      We aren’t there yet, however. The survey has not been published yet, and hopefully has not been finalized. Survey design can bias responses considerably — I’m hopeful that ECA will share more details of how the questions are being designed and allow input prior to publication.

      • The ECA is dead set on Historic Designation. It’s run by a realtor who’s singularly interested in increasing his property values by raising the barriers for entry. It’s been used as a very successful tool for pushing out poor minorities (see Georgetown for a recent example). Good luck trying to fight it.

        • The 1930s and 1940s qualify as “recent”?

        • HD would up property value but I’m skeptical about how it’s pushing out poor minorities. Any pop up condos or large condo buildings that are built would not be affordable to anyone in that category.

          • I am skeptical that it holds up property values. It freezes zoning in time and is a drag on values. These houses are stuck at a few stories–they would be much more valuable if the are was upzoned to 10 stories. HD is useful during a period of disinvestment (1954-2000), but it is a drag on progress as we attempt to rebuild the district.

        • “Pushing out poor minorities ” stop it already, so these pop up condos would otherwise be affordable to them?

          • Anon, “someone’s house would be more valuable if upzoned 10 stories” Not true, maybe to a flipper, which doesn’t care about the neighborhood but a homeowner is not building his house up numerous stories

      • For purposes of discussion, can someone elaborate on what the skeptical/anti-HD might be, specifically for existing home owners? I agree, the general message of the ECA seems like a bit of a sales pitch. I’m not sold one way or the other yet, but i would like to hear the other side of the argument with reasonable consideration.

        • I have a few reasons for objecting:

          – Historical designation will make repairs and renovations to increase capacity more expensive. This will increase the value of homeowners’ assets, but will be a hardship for low-income owners and renters.

          – Allowing more housing in the neighborhood means more residents, which often leads to more retail, safer streets and more parental involvement to improve the schools.

          – Historical designation means that many repairs or renovations to your property will have to be approved by a historic review board staffed by nonprofessionals. In some cases you may not be allowed to restore your property to the condition in which you purchased it (at the second ECA meeting a board member laughingly recounted eliminating a neighbor’s non-historic balcony when it needed repairs).

          – Speaking more broadly, there’s a nationwide housing affordability crisis, and well-meaning limits on development of all kinds are strangling cities. San Francisco is the most hyperbolic example, but this is a gigantic and very real cost. My own belief is that it’s unethical for incumbent owners to take these kinds of steps to prevent new residents from joining their neighborhoods. There are some useful links here: http://www.vox.com/2016/4/14/11424532/mark-farrel-housing

          • Only major alterations require actual board approval. The Historic Preservation Office can approve most things pretty simply. For most homeowners, there’s not much impact unless they plan to replace windows or doors on the front of a house.
            .
            Historic preservation isn’t about preventing new residents from joining a neighborhood — it’s about keeping the building exteriors the same. Plenty of rowhouses in Dupont Circle are divided up into apartments.

          • Minor work becomes a huge (yuge!) hassle. Many small jobs typically only require something called a “postcard permit”, which you get easily enough online. Historic addresses are *ineligible* for postcard permits, so every job, no matter how small, requires an in-person visit to DCRA. If you haven’t been to DCRA to get a permit before, that place makes the DMV look like a well-staffed Chipotle.
            .
            If you are the DIY type, historic designation means taking an extra day off of work.

        • As a homeowner (in Eckington) if this is approved, I will no longer be able to do most anything to my house that is visible from the street without getting approval – ie, replace my stairs (which I need to), add solar panels, paint my front door- change my windows etc. And the list goes on and on. My take is- unless the committee would like to pay for these items, then they should have ZERO say in what I do to my house, as long as I have the correct permits etc. This whole process has been frustrating and tiresome and it is no where near done. I also do not want to pay to become a member of the civic association if what they spend their money on is to waste time and hire consultants for stuff like this.

          • You already need a permit to replace windows in Eckington. Thanks to the new Energy conservation code everyone in DC needs a permit to replace windows to make sure they meet energy efficiency standards.

          • There is a world of difference between obtaining a permit from DCRA, which is tasked with making sure your work complies with municipal safety and building codes, and obtaining a permit from HPB, which is tasked with deciding whether your design comports with a barely articulable aesthetic standard. And, let’s be honest, Eckington’s architectural significance is not significant enough to warrant historic designation. It just isn’t.

          • That part about painting your door–not true. Historical designation doesn’t cover paint color (it might in some places, but not DC).

    • Tisha Allen from the DC Preservation League presented at the first ECA meeting. Was that you?

      • On that note, it might also be worthwhile to remind people that Ronald Baker founded the group NADZ (Neighbors Against Downzoning) in Lanier Heights.

    • What actually makes Eckington deserving of the “historical” moniker? Are there even any landmarks within Eckington included on the National Register of Historic Places?

      • There are no registered landmarks within Eckington.

        • The presence or absence of individual historic landmarks doesn’t determine whether the neighborhood is designated a historic district. Landmarks can influence things in that direction, but sometimes a neighborhood as a whole is considered historic.

  • Housing has to go somewhere and, in general, the more of these historical districts we designate, the less housing we’ll have. This is one of those things that many people would love to have, which is why not everyone can/should have it.

    • “This is one of those things that many people would love to have, which is why not everyone can/should have it.” That is not a sound rationale.

      • Of course it is. If everything is historically significant, nothing is. And I agree completely. This is just a self serving act by homeowners to help drive up their property values by removing any options for adding housing in their neighborhood. Why not designate the entire district historic and call it a day.

    • Wow, such an irrational comment. Everyone is not entitled to own property in DC. Which is why prices go up pricing people out of the market because of lack of supply. A city district should not have to ruin it’s landscape so developers can come in and convert houses into two unit condos. Quincy Street currently looks like shit because one developer has popped up 6 houses on the block. I live in Eckington and am all for historical designation. I don’t live on Quincy.

      • No one is entitled to own property but people who do are entitled to tell others who also own property what they can or cannot do with their own property? Uh, what?

        • The desires of the individual shouldn’t trump all else — the community should have some sort of say when it affects their streetscape.

      • Quincy Place 😉

      • Oh, come on… you can’t cite reasonable workings of supply and demand in this case when you’re advocating for artificial limits on growth in the housing stock in the neighborhood.

        • Why not, just because it comes down to supply and demand doesn’t mean throw in mass condos and pop ups to right the situation. If you want larger condos go to NoMa where there are tons of taller buildings.

          • And that is the definition of nimbyism: Do it somewhere else, not where I live.

          • Not NIMBYism –it would be putting large buildings in an area that already has lots of large buildings, and where putting large buildings doesn’t require tearing down existing 100-year-old buildings.

      • So, perhaps I missed something, but who decides what “looks like shit?” You? Me? What is infuriating to me is the simplicity of Bdylan89′ view, which is “I don’t think it’s nice looking, therefore it shouldn’t be there and we should ban it”

        I like the houses on that street. That doesn’t mean that my view is “right” and that yours is “wrong,” but it does mean that there are multiple views on aesthetic.

        And it’s very simpleminded, and arrogant to believe your view is the only true one.

        • Nope, Bdylan89 doesn’t decide — the Historic Preservation Review Board does.
          .
          And that’s only in the case of major alterations. For smaller things, the process is (I’m told) more like getting a postcard permit.

          • If you are making changes to the exterior of your building besides windows and doors you also need to get your changes approved by the ANC. In addition, a historic neighborhood can form their own group which gets to weigh in before the ANC.

        • I agree it’s a community decision no one person’s and my point wasn’t advocating that. My point wasnt trying to boil it down to simplicity but I”m sure it’s in the majority. If you took a poll and asked most DC home owner’s “Hey would you be in favor of a developer popping up the house next to you so it ruins the streetscape of your block and shades out your back yard. Owners would not be raising their hands yelling sign me up!! Eckington does have some larger condo buildings which are along Rhode Island and down towards 3rd and 4th which are fine to me. Most residents are mainly concerned about developers popping up houses so they can line their pockets with extra cash. They could just flip the houses maybe add and an addition and people would not be complaining. Of course they don’t want to do that because they chop the house into 2 units and sell each for 650k. The association is not going to care about replacing windows or the color or your house, you can even do an addition in a historic district. As I said people are just concerned about preserving the original character of the neighborhood as developers could care less after they finish.

          • One reason that I, as an Eckington homeowner, am opposed to Historic Designation is that you are dead wrong that my neighbors ‘don’t care about windows and house color and they only care about flippers/developers.’ The debates online have included exhaustive lists of random aesthetic choices that are “ugly” that multiple neighbors want banned via historic designation. Neighbors and historic designation proponents have pushed to use designation to prevent homeowners from installing everything from siding to new windows to solar panels to porches and use language that makes it seem like using newfangled materials to make my old house more energy efficient is a crime against humanity.
            Historic designation empowers a vocal minority to legislate outrageous restrictions on what we can do to our houses. The HPRB legitimizes random whims about what’ surety by empowering local “neighborhood historical societies” to provide guidelines on neighborhood architecture. Homeowners are subject to restrictions too, not just evil developers.

          • This is crazy. Why does the status quo character of one small neighborhood outweigh the needs of the greater community (the entire district)?

      • I know at least twelve people who disagree with you about how ugly those six 2-unit condos are.

      • I live on Quincy _Place_ (not Street) and I actually think the pop-ups here are relatively well done. It makes the block look a little disjointed but the pop-ups replaced houses that were in very poor states of repair (or in one case, a vacant lot) so we traded out derelict houses for piano keys.

        Additionally, there are two non-renovated houses on the end of a set of row houses that are falling apart and have sat vacant for the last 12+ months. If I had to choose between pop-ups and houses that are empty and continuing to deteriorate, I would choose pop-ups.

  • Doesn’t there have to be neighborhood support to create a historic district? How can you prove support if you require people to pay to vote and how well would this vote represent the neighborhood?

    • Seems like people who care about the neighborhood would want to belong to the civic association anyway, regardless of voting about historic districts.
      .
      I don’t know what the terms of the ECA are, but my neighborhood group has only a “suggested donation” for membership. And even that is nominal.

      • “Seems like people who care about the neighborhood would want to belong to the civic association anyway, regardless of voting about historic districts.”
        .
        Whoa whoa whoa, citation needed. I care about my neighborhood and I show it by taking care of my house and being friendly and engaged with my neighbors. That said, I’d rather swallow a porcupine than join a civic association, let alone pay money for the privilege.

        • Well, there are really only two ways of being involved to any extent in neighborhood issues: being involved in your ANC district and being involved in a neighborhood association.
          .
          Why the distaste for civic associations?

          • Perhaps the distaste comes from the knowledge that civic associations inevitably become captive to the most conservative elements in the neighborhood. You know, people who want to have the ultimate decision over what their neighbors can legally do with their own homes.

          • I have only been to one ECA meeting but the sense I get from that meeting and the listserv is that there is a very strong anti-construction, anti-density agenda at play there. The idea that I need to fund that agenda in order to have my voice heard makes me very uncomfortable. I know that’s the way government works, but a civic association isn’t a government body and doesn’t have much, if any, accountability.

          • My distaste is that in my experience they tend to be magnets for self-righteous zealots. YMMV.

          • Community patricipation can’t exist outside involvement with an ANC or civic association? Dear poor people who lack the time, health and/or money to attens meetings: you are not a valuable part of the community. Not surprised at all that you are in favor putting in a historic district.

      • Their website says that they require a $10 member ship in order to vote.

  • There is a story about the HD fight in Lanier Heights from the InTowner newspaper November 2008 edition. Tried to post a link but it did not work.

  • I think a historic district for Eckington would be great, and I’d love for my neighborhood to get historic-district status.
    .
    The 35-foot limit for R-4 doesn’t actually prevent buildings from being built higher than 35 feet — it just means that they can no longer do so “by right” and have to get a variance instead.
    .
    The “we have bigger issues than pop-ups” is a red herring. That’s like saying we shouldn’t worry about theft in D.C., only about shootings and homicides.

    • A variance only gets you five more feet. It’s not a huge different.

      • *Difference* Damn phone.

      • Perhaps not, but it could easily be enough to build a pop-up.

        • This may surprise you, but 35 is already enough to build a pop-up.

          • I believe R-4 is coupled with a two-stories-above-grade maximum, though. I’m assuming that getting a variance for height would also allow a variance in number of stories, but perhaps not.

          • Anyway, all the more reason to create historic districts, given that the R-4 height limit by itself doesn’t guarantee any sort of streetscape continuity/coherence.

          • No, you’re wrong about that. R-4 allows three stories.

          • I stand corrected. http://dcoz.dc.gov/resources/districtsummary.shtm says:
            .
            “a maximum height of three (3) stories/forty (40) feet for new construction of three (3) or more immediately adjoining residential row dwellings built concurrently on separate lots and three (3) stories/thirty-five (35) feet for all other structures (60 feet for churches and schools and 45 feet for public recreation and community centers).”

          • Historic Designation doesn’t prevent popups either. in fact, the HPRB process can be seemingly arbitrary and not always corresponding to by-right or with consideration of existing/adjacent structures. an existing 2 story row home can still be popped up – HPRB will just require it to be set back, so it isn’t visible from the street (often times an arbitrary perspective selected by the developer/HPRB). The result is less density and a set back pop up that is still very visible and not congruous with the original architecture.

          • Even if HPRB sometimes lets incongruous designs slip through, It’s still better to have an HPRB-involved process than to have a process with no oversight at all.

    • I’m able to afford to live in Eckington thanks to the space created by a pop-up renovation. I think it looks nice, and I’m really grateful to have a home in a neighborhood I love. I’m sorry that the sight of it distresses so many people. But I suppose I selfishly think the aesthetic displeasure they feel is less important than providing housing to people like myself. Plus the office of planning has already taken anti-pop-up measures in response to the NIMBY outcry. I hope we don’t wind up signing away our property rights to quell this continued outcry.

      • How much did your unit cost?

        • Why does that matter? I’m guessing it cost significantly less than other options in Eckington.

          • It matters because pop-ups don’t make a neighborhood “affordable” for people — they push up prices.
            .
            Pop-ups generally result in the creation of luxury condos. Luxury condos push the price per square foot up for everyone. A neighbor on my street bought a house for $440K in 2012. Down the street, a developer bought a similar house in 2015 for $510K, popped it up and back, and divided it into condos. In January, one sold for $700K and the other sold for $849K.
            .
            Tell me again how pop-ups make housing “affordable”?

          • Demand pushes up prices, not supply.

          • anon 4:46 – When you say “affordable,” do you mean to say “inexpensive?” I don’t think most people claim that pop-ups and other renovations or new construction projects are necessarily affordable for everyone, but certainly more affordable for many.

          • That luxury condo will nevertheless cost significantly less than the luxury full-house flip that would have sold otherwise. The condo is undeniably more affordable than the other possible option – the entire house.
            .
            Given that there’s immense demand for DC real estate and that the prices are largely driven by market economics, there’s very little truly housing in DC that’s affordable to those making significantly less than the area median income. If you want to change that, you’d need to lobby the city government to force developers to build low-income housing for no profit or to pony up the cash themselves. This is hardly the responsibility of the HPRB, one way or the other.

          • When developers swoop in to purchase houses with all-cash offers, most ordinary buyers can’t compete. And they push up the prices — when there are no longer any houses available that are “livable but outdated,” buyers who could have afforded the $510K house but can’t afford the $700K condo or the $849K condo are out of luck.

          • HaileUnlikely

            It’s more complicated than that. Yes, developers who buy houses for the sole purpose of reselling them contribute to supply, but they also contribute to demand. If everybody were buying homes for to live in, and nobody was buying them for the purpose of very short-term investments (i.e., by converting and then reselling), the nature of the demand would be qualitatively different, and prices would not escalate anywhere nearly as quickly as they do. They change the nature of the demand from people who are willing and able to buy a house for $300K and fix it up and make it home, to people who are willing to pay twice or three times as much for something shiny and new. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is in the eye of the beholder, but when a developer outbids a would-be owner-occupant to buy an unrenovated house for $400K and then turns it into luxury units that each sell for much more than that, sure, the final units are less expensive than if the developer had sold it as a luxury renovated single family home, but the number of units available at the price that the house would have gone for if the developer stayed out of it decreases by 1.

          • YES, YES, YES. As an Eckington resident who is in favor of historic designation, this is EXACTLY my argument. Sure, I like the idea of keeping a lovely streetscape and protecting my neighborhood from bad design and eye-sore pop-ups. But…

            The real issue for me is that affordable single-family homes (still available in our neighborhood for $400-600K) are being flipped into cheap, multi-unit, “luxury” condos that are being listed for $700-900K each, sitting on the market for months on end, eventually selling at a much-reduced rate, and driving neighboring property values down. We tried to refinance our mortgage last fall to drop PMI, but couldn’t because our newly-renovated (and historically-preserved, I might add) home didn’t appraise for a high enough value. Why? Because other properties in the neighborhood (even new condos with comparable square footage to my 3BR/2.5BA home) were selling for less than they were probably worth or would have if they were single-family homes.

            With historic designation in effect, the profit margin for cheap flippers just isn’t there, which leaves a greater supply of accessible housing for people who are looking to settle down in DC or continue to call Eckington their life-long home.

          • @Tom C. At least you’re being honest that you want to stop density in the neighborhood to drive up your property values.

          • Profit margin will remain so long that there’s strong continued interest in buying close-in property in DC (Eckington, in this case). The only thing it would do is make it much more expensive to buy in that particular neighborhood.

          • haileunlikely, even in the absence of popups, the fixer upper buyer wouldn’t get the house. a developer could still turn a profit by outbidding someone who would buy it for $300k, flip it (or do the work for someone rich enough to not do it themselves), and sell it for a profit. with or without popups, the fixer uppers are disappearing. the difference is that the developer gets less profit and there are less units on the market, and less people who get to live in the city.

          • HaileUnlikely

            anon – I realize that. I have roughly equal disdain for both. My point is that developers aren’t making anything more affordable than it would be without their kind in the market; they’re just making it less unaffordable than they could make it.

        • It cost a lot! But not as much as a rowhouse (I’m in a duplex). I couldn’t have afforded one of those. If there had been even less supply, maybe I would have only been able to afford an apartment. Which would have meant one less apartment on the market, so now maybe someone else can only afford a studio. And then someone else can’t afford to live in the neighborhood at all…

          Making Eckington a historic district will push prices up, which will be fine for me and other property owners but not so good for renters or people who aspire to live here in the future (as I used to). I understand that some people think forcing people to live elsewhere in the city is a fine outcome. I think that’s a lousy way to approach city life — and unworkable now that basically every desirable neighborhood is trying to do it in their own small corner of the city.

        • Less than an entire row house, which is why pop-ups create cheaper housing options.

  • this is great. more power to them.

  • The dues paid to the Civic Association is used to do projects in the neighborhood. That Eckington sign for example.

    • But should they require dues from residents in order to consider their opinion?

      • Most volunteer-funded organizations require people to be members in order to vote. (Not all volunteer-funded organizations require people to pay to become members, however.)

    • That sign was built due to a concession extracted from a developer. I believe that ECA funds do go to its yearly improvement & maintenance, however.

    • Those dues also funded the one-sided panels at the recent meetings…the very panels who are trying to feed us this whole historic designation load of ….

  • Eckington? That’s a terrible idea. That still has a pretty high concentration of low income residents who will not be able to afford to make repairs to their homes. This makes sense in Dupont, but it’s gross that people in Eckington are effectively trying to force their neighbors from their homes.
    .
    It’s not even a very pretty neighborhood architecturally.

    • Historic districts don’t apply retroactively, so there shouldn’t be much of an effect for low-income residents seeking to “make repairs.” For most homeowners, the chief impact of living in a historic district is that if they replace their windows or doors, there are certain guidelines and it’s likely to be more expensive.

      • Minor repairs on historic homes require an in-person trip to DCRA, whereas non-historic homes only require an online “postcard permit”. Historic homes are simply not eligible for postcard permits. I live in a historic house. It is, in fact, a big hassle for both major and minor repairs, no matter if the work is exterior, interior, or even completely non-cosmetic.

    • “People in Eckington are effectively trying to force their neighbors from their homes.”

      This couldn’t be further from the truth – and is a really unfair accusation. Historic preservation would deter developers looking for a quick-flip/cheap renovation (without pop-ups, they can’t make a viable enough profit) and preying upon elderly (often limited-income) residents who feel like they can’t turn down a half-million dollar cash offer to move out of their home and head to PG County. If you want to talk about “gross,” let’s talk about developers who are exploiting our long-time neighbors – and the character of our community – for a quick buck.

      • Wait so your argument is you are helping old poor people by devaluing their homes?
        .
        The truth is yes: because going condo is more difficult and expensive, gut jobs will sell for less. Renovated single family homes, on the other hand, will be worth more as supply becomes restricted. Additionally, minor repairs become costly and time-consuming. Historic District status is a way of actively pushing low income residents from their home.

  • Ashy Oldlady

    Yeah, at some point you have to stop and question exactly what makes a neighborhood historic. With a little imagination, practically anything could be considered historic.

    • D.C. has some fantastic pre-1930s architecture. It’s a shame that so much of it has already been marred.

    • you don’t see anyone standing up for the brutalist icon that is the fbi building. this is as historic as they come, but doesn’t fit with their desired aesthetic. the lack of support for this building exposes their hypocrisy, and shows that it’s not really about historic preservation.

      • The FBI building is a hell o a lot more recent than Eckington, Bloomingdale, etc. That’s partly why most people aren’t interested in preserving it… and partly it’s because very few people are particularly enthused about brutalist architecture, whereas there IS a significant contingent of people who like Victorian/Edwardian/1920s architecture and want to preserve it.
        .
        The FBI building doesn’t fit particularly well with its surroundings, either. This is the case with a lot of brutalist buildings plunked down among much older buildings.

        • exactly my point. you arbitrarily make a date where everything before is old enough to potentially be historic, then develop criteria for what historic aesthetic you like. this is not historic preservation. this is using that as cover to foist a preferred aesthetic on the rest of the city.

  • Nothings as much fun as giving your property rights to a small, unelected group of NIMBYs! Good luck getting new windows or painting your house.

    • You don’t need a permit to paint a house in DC, inside or outside a historic district. DCMR 12, Section 105.2.5 (http://dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/RuleHome.aspx?RuleNumber=12-A105) If only there was an organization who could hold meetings on the topic so people could get the right information.

      • Ok, so here’s a non-inclusive list of things you DO need a permit for in the Ickington Imaginary Historic District that you wouldn’t otherwise. (I’m sure 1920s-era wrought iron fences are cheap these days.) This is just another clever way for rich, well-connected white folks to zone the poor out of their neighborhoods. Here’s some things homeowners will need expensive permits + historical society approval for under this new rule: brick pointing, painting exterior masonry surfaces of landmark properties, replacing fences, garden sheds, retaining walls, roofing, gutters, patios, private sidewalks and driveways…. what better way to make the neighbor’s property rights your own?
        .
        if only there was some sort of organization that could explain the costs of zoning rules to people!

  • Completely understand the desire to preserve elements of what make DC neighborhoods unique and beautiful; however, it seems myopic to focus on history at the expense of the city’s current and future needs related to housing and infrastructure and amenities. (And, disclaimer, I don’t know exactly what this status would entail, but I assume it puts the kibosh on any larger residential or commercial projects.) Totally aside, I am very curious to know the background of folks who are part of the ECA — are they longtime Eckington homeowners or have they bought into the neighborhood more recently? Seems like there are a lot of homes in the area that have been neglected for many years without any concern for degradation of historic architecture.

    • “Neglect” is not the same thing as fundamentally altering a building’s structure.

    • I frequently think of the 14th Street Historic District as a perfect example of a neighborhood where historic designation hasn’t hindered growth and development. But it has allowed for protections and oversight so that character-defining structures aren’t destroyed for some trendy new design that we’ll regret in 20 years…

  • Boy, Eckington strikes me as a little young to reach “f all y’all, got mine” status. Setting up “historic districts” because you don’t like the zoning in the neighborhood you moved to is embarrassing and detrimental to the city at large.

    • Yea, these guys are definitely jumping the gun on this process.

    • Yeah, I would not have picked Eckington as the first newly-gentrified neighborhood to go for HP. My money would’ve been on Bloomingdale. I’d bet if this effort succeeds Bloomingdale will follow shortly.

      • The Bloomingdale Civic Association has been looking into HD.

      • Is there some benefit in doing it now, while its still gentrifying rather than waiting a few years and potentially missing the boat? I’m just thinking that some neighborhoods are overly developed, like the U Street corridor, and it would be worthless trying to HD now. I don’t really know Eckington, so can’t speak to how much development is going on now, but I can see the value to getting HD earlier rather than later.

  • Well, this will at least come down to a pretty clear vote over who wants Eckington to stay as is (while probably capturing more home value through limitws construction going forward) vs. more in the way of density/development that would further encourage improved safety, more retail, etc.

    • Staying architecturally as-is doesn’t necessarily mean staying as-is with regard to density and development — it just means that building exteriors (at least on the street-facing side) stay the same.
      .
      Dupont Circle is a historic district that’s fairly dense in population.

  • Most of my feelings on Historic Designation in Eckington have been summed up here already (non-democratic process, other people telling me how to renovate my own home, etc.), but the thing that drives me crazy about historic designation is that it arbitrarily decides that a certain style of house from a certain era is the style worth preserving. I mean, DC was once a swampy field, why not tear everything down and preserve those greener times? Fifty years from now (heck, even thirty years), our desires and our needs will be entirely different from what they are now–adding bureaucratic barriers to addressing those needs simply for nostalgia’s sake is short-sighted.

    • Well said. Cities change and the housing stock of the city needs to change to reflect that. People are demanding more urban housing so DC needs more urban housing. I hate people who want to live in some time capsule and stop development. If you want that, please move yourself to San Francisco and see what you can afford.

  • So the pro-pop-up side would like to stick a pop-up on one of these rowhouses too?
    http://abritandasoutherner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Royal-Crescent.jpg

  • can we do this for the entire city?

  • Not certain Eckington needs the Historic Designation but I do loathe pop ups that aren’t tastefully done and I question their viability long term.

  • There is obviously no problem with neighborhood residents advocating for historic designation. But if one has any sort of moral compass one should consider the fact that every marginal change away from greater density and ease of construction makes housing in DC less affordable for everyone, at every income level. That is a fact.

    Switching to opinion for a sec, I don’t think the building stock in Eckington is anywhere near as nice as that in Bloomingdale, and architecturally it probably doesn’t merit designation. This would be a great place to lose mediocre buildings in favor of higher density.

  • Ask some people in Mount Pleasant what they think of Historic Designation (from the MtP listserv yesterday):

    If all historic preservation did was prevent “pop ups and tear downs”, then there would be no complaint. The problem is that historic preservation, as implemented in the District, goes far beyond that, micromanaging virtually every detail of the visible exterior of your house: your windows, your front door, your front steps, your front walk — all have to be “compatible” in the judgment of the historic preservationists. And if it costs you a bundle to meet their “compatibility” standard, well, too bad, just cough it up, because cost is not a consideration.

    A current issue here is rooftop solar panels. According to historic preservation regulations, nothing on your roof that wasn’t originally there can be allowed to be visible from the street. After all, there weren’t any solar panels here in 1920-odd, so no solar panels are allowed to be seen now. If you can’t hide your solar panels behind rooftop structures, then no solar for you. (HMP has called the solar panels currently installed in Mount Pleasant a “blight”.)

    • “If all historic preservation did was prevent ‘pop ups and tear downs’, then there would be no complaint. The problem is that historic preservation, as implemented in the District, goes far beyond that” — Unfortunately, there is no in-between option in D.C. The only available tool to preserve neighborhood architecture is the historic district. (Some places have “conservation districts,” which apparently are a “lite” version of historic districts.)

  • I am in favor of historic designation because the alternative is doing nothing and allowing these hideous popups to be built. I think the houses on Quincy look like gaudy riverboats and the ones on Third and Second Streets are architectural nightmares. The builders buying them don’t live in them and don’t care a hoot what they look like. The “developers” will all be gone as soon as every square foot of eckington is built out and is the laughing stock of the city. I am embarrassed and frightened by the lack of any kind of applied aesthetic criteria. As a real estate broker, I absolutely believe home values will go down if it continues. No one will want to buy into the area after awhile. The new condos are shiny and trendy now but when the get dated there will be nothing left because the good “bones” of the original building will be distorted and unrecognizable. The only thing remaining will be the very cheap facades.

  • What do the ANC commissioners think? I’m a resident who’s on the fence on designation but I haven’t heard much from their perspective.

    • I emailed to ask and got no response. Our ANC commissioners haven’t said anything publicly really either. Since the ANC takes on an approval role for historic districts, it’s worrisome that we don’t know what even the Eckington ANCs think. That’s not even to mention the ANC commissioners from all the surrounding neighborhoods like Blookingdale and Edgewood that also would got to vote on any Eckington construction or repairs under historic preservation regulations. Yay haggling with rotating casts of ANC commissioners over home alterations for the rest of our lives…

  • Many of the above comments are factually incorrect. It is also clear that there is some confusion about what is regulated by Zoning versus Historic District guidelines. HD does not control density. Plans are currently underway to add 695 units at Eckington Yards and 180 at the Lexicon. A single family rowhouse will still be able to convert to two flats by right. The proposed boundaries for an Eckington HD have not been announced, but they may include more that one Zoning District, and those zones will not change. Eckington has room to grow whether it is designated as an HD or not.

    • The ECA has listed the proposed boundaries for for the HD. It would go from Rhode Island in the North to Florida Ave in the South and North Capital in the West to 4th St NE in the East.

      • Thanks for the info. I do not see that information of the ECA site, just the boundaries for the Civic Association itself. Please share where you found the boundaries for the proposed historic district.

        Thanks.

        • This information has been stated at the two meetings held by the ECA and it is located in the minutes. The ECA has a link to a recording of the entire 2nd meeting online if you would like to torture yourself for an hour and forty minutes.

  • The ECA has ~54 voting members— out of THOUSANDS of residents. And they are NOT elected. They should have ZERO right to say what I can and cannot do with my house.

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