“So, I have the driveway beyond the curb the city put in.”

driveway
Photo by PoPville flickr user Julian Ortiz

“Dear PoPville,

I purchased a home that has a driveway (in SE, where people have driveways), well, partial driveway. It looks like a driveway used to be there, but when the city was redoing the street or DC water was redoing plumbing lines, or whoever, they curbed the end of the driveway, making it unaccessible. Strange, I know. So, I have the driveway beyond the curb the city put in.

I found older pictures of the home, and neighbors have confirmed this to be true. Now, if I want it to turn it back to a driveway, I will have to pay thousands of dollars for drawings, permits, etc. This is something the city did when the house was abandoned so clearly no one stopped them or said something.

Any recourse I can do? Where do I even begin here?”

29 Comment

  • Recourse? Maybe in a normal city where the rule of law prevailed, but you have a better chance winning Powerball than getting DC to pay for its mistakes. Good luck anyway!

    • While this may be true in many cases, I disagree here. If OP had owned the house when the curb was replaced, s/he’d have a strong argument. But here, it sounds like s/he bought the place with no curb cut, and thinks that s/he is owed one, at no cost, because at some unspecified time in the past there was one there. The city doesn’t owe one.

  • Have you tried asking the city to fix it? They did this when they fixed a curb to block a friend’s driveway in NE last, year, and when she called, and told them they blocked her drive, they fixed it relatively quickly. I’m not sure it should matter if the house was not lived in when they did this, if you can show that the driveway way there then. Good luck.

    An aside – how stupid is the city or whomever fixes curbs to do this in the first place when there is obviously a drive and a curb cut there already?

    • I don’t even know where to begin with reaching out to the city to fix it. Do you know where/who she called?

    • Just because a drive appears to be there, doesn’t mean that it was actually supposed to be there. Just the opposite happened near me recently. (NE). A house created a driveway and just drove up over the curb to get to their driveway. The city did some work on the street, saw what appeared to be a driveway, and created a curb cut. Now the driveway has been made accessible when it never should have been. It is DC….nothing surprises me.

      • There are tons of unused driveways throughout the city. People have walled off their garages and the driveways are too short to fit a car on. Of course the city will still give you parking tickets for blocking an unused driveway.

        I’d be quite happy if I learned that the city was curbing over unused driveways. Stop driving your car across my sidewalk!

  • Home Depot rents concrete saws. Just saying.

  • You might follow what Anonymous says and, at the same time, use the homeowners’ center at DCRA:

    http://dcra.dc.gov/service/homeowners-center

    They are very helpful, and it may not cost as much as you think.

  • D.I.Y. You’re looking at a sledgehammer and some concrete.

  • I lived in Cathedral Heights a while back and there was a big to-do about one house that installed a driveway with new curb cuts. I think neighbors were annoyed since it took away street parking, but I believe the residents got special permission since one resident was disabled and they needed to be able to pull the car closer to the front door. If I recall correctly, the special permission for curb cuts would expire as soon as this particular resident (ahem) expired. Anyway, this is anecdotal, but I think it is possible that just because there was a curb cut once that there should be one forever.

    • Did you mean to say that just because there was a curb cut once, that there wouldn’t necessarily be one forever? That’s a reasonable conclusion. Nothing about our built environment should be considered permanent forever; we have a long future history ahead of us.

      • Yes, that is indeed what I meant to say. Apparently I tuned out towards the end there… But I actually meant it legally, although I also agree philosophically. I believe in the case that I’m thinking of, the legal permission for the curb cuts only applied as long as that particular resident was living there. If the house was sold, the new owners would not be automatically entitled to the curb cuts.

  • Happens all the time in DC: a developer puts in an illegal curb cut, with no request to the the ANC, no permits, and no regard for trees or pedestrians. DDoT and DCRA pretty much don’t care, judging by their responses.

  • If you look at the plat you should have gotten when you closed, it should show the driveway, if it was legal. Sounds to me, though, like a prior owner may have just installed one without a curb cut permit, and when the city repaired the road, there was no permit on file showing a curb cut there so they did not put one back. If that’s the case, you may have to apply for a permit and pay to have the curb cut installed 🙁

  • You bought what you bought and the city doesn’t actually owe you anything here. I wouldn’t blame you for trying to maximize your investment (I probably would give it a light try as well), but the city granting you this curb cut (whether as an expensive new permitting process or as a quick “correction” to work done before you purchased the house) would be a bonus acquisition of wealth for you, not a matter of making you whole again. People get so weird and entitled about car-related things; it’s important to keep that perspective.

  • Curb cuts are a right in dc. You shouldn’t have an issue doing it. Cover your bases but the paperwork should be minimal.

    • Curb cuts are a right in DC? Do you have a source for that? I’m sure that’s not true across all zones without any other further considerations or limitations.

    • A right? Where are your sources? To add a curb cut needs approval from your ANC.

    • A quick glance shows at least one big limitation:
      .
      6. If you want to construct a new curb cut and driveway:
      a. Off-street parking must be accessed from a public alley, unless applicant proves that the property
      does not have alley access or alley access is not practical and would cause undue hardship to the
      applicant. Shared driveways are encouraged.
      .
      So it should be hard to get a curb cut from the street if the house has alley access (as very much should be the case). It appears you literally just imagined a “right” out of thin air (see my above comment about people being weird and entitled about car-related things).

      • Hard to tell from the original post. If this is a true suburban detached house across the river, than it very well might not have alley access.

  • Comment Artist

    I have no problem with a driveway here or there, but some streets in neighborhoods like Dupont have a ridiculous number of curb cuts. Some streets seem to have more driveways than street parking.

  • My neighbour doesn’t have a curb cut and can’t because there is a DC Water catch basin there. So they paved a driveway down the side of the house and just drive over it. Their Nissan Leaf and Toyota Sienna both have the clearance to make it over the curb, though the catch basin is beginning to crumble.

    • What do they do if someone blocks them in/out by street-parking in front of the driveway? It doesn’t sound like they should have any legal recourse in that case, but I bet they act like they do anyway (or maybe there’s not yet enough development in your part of town for it to come up as a frequent problem yet).

      • Our street is mostly SFHs and they are the last house on that side of the street, and then there is 100+ meters of park. The other side of the street across from the park has 3 houses on it. It’s usually only their customers that park there, as none of the neighbours need to park there.

        NE living can have it’s advantages.

  • If you have to prove there was a legal driveway, you might see if there is an existing permit (Pre 1950 permits are at the MLK library, after 1950 check with DCRA) or if it is included in the original permit to build. You can also check the plat maps at MLK library.

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