“despite the risk of sounding like a NIMBY, I’d love to hear what type of impact others have had with new developments abutting their properties”

by Prince Of Petworth November 30, 2015 at 2:10 pm 39 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Cheikh.Ra Films

Impact of New 300 Unit Apartment building

“Development is speeding along in DC and despite the risk of sounding like a NIMBY, I’d love to hear what type of impact others have had with new developments abutting their properties. I’ve just read of plans for a seven story 250 – 300 unit building directly behind my home and I do not know what all I should expect. What should I be afraid of other than the obvious loss of privacy in my backyard, increased foot traffic, perhaps decreased street parking not to mention the construction noise. ”

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  • JS

    Increased numbers of rodents finding their way into your house. I’d check for entry points and seal them now, before the excavation and piles of debris start attracting unwanted visitors.

  • The OP Anon

    I’d extensively document the current condition of your foundation and all walls. The pile driving done by the contractors during the building of the new foundation can shift the soil in the surrounding area. I’d inspect your walls and foundation weekly during the building process. Make note of any cracks or fissures that emerge.
    Also, be prepared for utility disruptions.

    • Anon

      +1 . A large apartment development behind my mother’s house completely screwed with the house’s foundation. That is really something to pay attention to.

      • PetworthPanda

        Developers are actually required to deliver plans for any foundation or underpinning changes via certified mail for your review. The rowhouse next door is under renovation and DCRA told us to do the same thing: document everything.

  • Timebomb

    “What should I be afraid of other than the obvious loss of privacy in my backyard, increased foot traffic, perhaps decreased street parking not to mention the construction noise?”
    More neighbors, amenities, and general vibrancy? If you don’t want to be a NIMBY, you could at least acknowledge it’s a net positive.

    • JM

      I always hear this claim about “vibrancy” but what does it actually mean?

      In my neighborhood, more condos just means more people on the sidewalks, none of whom seem to want to interact with me (or my neighbors). I’d probably prefer less “vibrancy” and more good neighbors who are here for the long haul.

      • Timebomb

        Vibrancy means not seeming like a desolate and empty nowhere, i.e. the things I love about living in the city vs. outside of it. To say nothing of how much safer I feel when I’m not the only person on the street in the evening.

      • JC

        Not all condo dwellers intend to leave the neighborhood. I live in a condo and have no intention to leave it for a house. My spouse and I bought a condo because we don’t need more space than a condo provides, and small homes that are similar in price to condos are scare in our neighborhood. I realize that this isn’t the case for many or most condo-dwellers (I do not plan to have children, for one thing), but please don’t paint all of us with a broad brush. There are also some older couples in my condo building who likely do not fit the condo-dweller profile you have in mind.

    • Blithe

      Of course not everyone would view “more neighbors, amenities, and general vibrancy” as being a net positive — at least without a few qualifications. The frequent posts about problems with neighbors, dislike of particular amenities, and personal differences re: the kinds of qualities one likes and doesn’t like as part of the “general vibrancy” suggest that as with many issues, this one is more complex than: more & bigger = better.

    • Smilla

      You are missing the point of the question (and being a jerk about it). He or she asked about disruptions in the neighborhood that will likely result from major construction. Given the number of thoughtful and practical suggestions offered by others, I’d say it was a reasonable question. Yet you criticize the OP, because he or she didn’t “acknowledge it’s a net positive.” Give me a break.

      • Timebomb

        I’ll note the OP specifically noted he/she was at risk of sounding like a NIMBY. I was just suggesting a way to mitigate that, while he/she mitigates all the other stuff.

      • NewToNE

        OP here. Thanks @Smilla & @Blithe. My neighbors below are completely correct and I am on the 1600 Block of Gales. One of the main positives of the block is that the street is generally fairly quiet but “more neighbors, amenities, and general vibrancy” are a quick walk away.

        But, I get that we live in a city and development is great and I should anticipate change – particularly so in a developing/transitional neighborhood. So, yes in the long-term there may be a net positive to the development. (although for a 100% residential building and the reasons above I’m not really quite convinced yet).

        I was simply asking for examples of experiences (+ve and -ve) with high-density development next door. I am really glad that I asked too — the rats response (freaks me out) and the suggestions re. foundation are really very helpful!

  • BostonToShaw

    +1 to the rodents! Its like a mass exodus and gross!

    Also, I just had a hotel built half a block from me and I was prepared for the noise, but not how early it started. Around 4:00am seems to be normal start time which is just absurd! And even if it wasn’t machines, it was all the construction workers walking around and talking.

    • rachel

      +1 I lived right behind the allegro on 14th street when it was being built and WOW they got started early

  • Anonymous

    I have to assume this is the 1603-1625 Benning Rd NE building so this will be a PUD. You’re lucky to be in ANC 6A for this and not across the street and having to deal with 5D.

    We are about a year into the process of a PUD with a similar sized building and I have to admit it’s actually been quite pleasant. The developer has been open to critiques/suggestions about flow/circulation in the alley and incorporated them into successive designs. They’ve met with us or other neighbors at least 8-10 times in the last year. Our ANC has been proactive about the community benefits part of the equation.

    We are nowhere near construction so I’m sure in a couple of years I’ll call myself naive for being so positive about the process. But at least through zoning approval it’s in the developers best interest to get the ANC and 200-footers on board so they don’t oppose the project at the hearing.

  • ExWalbridgeGuy

    I had a (smaller) project built basically right in my backyard — around 80 units, I believe. Despite my fears it caused no significant disruptions. I found that the only really noisy part of the construction was about a two-week period where they were doing some sort of foundation work (perhaps pile driving; I’m sure all the structural engineers at Popville will know). Since I get up in the morning and go to work anyways, this was only a real nuisance for, like, two Saturdays.

    The impacts are spread out over quite a long period. Rodents are displaced early (the project near me had some requirement to provide rodent abatement and it appeared effective), the initial phases are fairly quiet, the construction noise is over long before any sort of new foot traffic arrives, increased foot traffic depends big time on the amount of retail in the project, not the amount of residential. (But good retail is something that you can benefit from too.)

    In short: found it much less worrisome than we had feared.

  • HIll Easter

    If this is in reference to the new building on 1600 Benning…there are no plans for commercial development (it is all residential). I’m planning on a massive parking crunch, along with a lot of traffic on what were quiet (ish) streets. Also planning on an increased ridership on the X2/X9 bus lines.

  • Rosedale

    This sounds like the development that was just announced for the 1600 block of Benning Road NE, so I’m guessing that the OP, like me, lives on the 1600 block of Gales? While I think this will be a net positive for the neighborhood, my biggest long-term concern is definitely for street parking, which has already started to become an issue even without this development. I hadn’t even considered some of the other oh-so-pleasant side effects of demolition and construction that are being pointed out here, so… yay for things I have to look forward to, I guess.

    • Gales St

      I’m sure this is the development in question. I also live on the 1600 block of Gales St and while I also think it’s a “net positive” I’m also wondering what effects this will have in both short and long terms. The initial design probably needs to be revised– no retail on that corner is very short sighted, as is the number of parking spaces. As someone else has pointed out we’re lucky to be in ANC6A, and this should mean there will opportunity for meaningful dialogue with the developer before plans are finalized. Benning Road could benefit a lot from this development– but I hope that it can happen while maintaining the relatively quiet qualities of the surrounding streets.

      • HIll Easter

        Good luck with the quiet streets. I’m very concerned that our relative quiet neighborhood is going to explode with cars, noise, and parking issues. The alley behind 1600 Gales is going to turn into a 2 way street (In practice) with cars entering/exiting the parking structure.

        • Gales St

          That alley (Grace Court) is actually one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood–it’s a key two-way connector between 16th and 17th before the one-way streets of Gales, Kramer and Rosedale. It has no speed bumps and the cars already fly back and forth veering in and out of the McDonald’s parking lot. The developer should have to make a serious case for how the development will affect the alley and avoid it becoming even more of a de facto 2-way street.

          • Anonymous

            In a lot of way you’re better off for this being a PUD instead of a matter-of-right project. In exchange for the added density, the developer will have to offer community benefits. One of those benefits can be a traffic calming study or (hopefully in your case) actual traffic calming measures.

          • Gales St

            @Anonymous thanks for this. Good points.

          • NewToNE

            Ugh the alley – that was my first thought when I first heard of the development. Hi neighbors! but @Anonymous has some good points – traffic calming measures should be high on the list.
            And, @Gales St. speed bumps would make such a difference even now.

  • Rich

    We (I’m on my condo Board) put out traps for the rodents and there weren’t too many complaints once demolition occurred next door, which is when they’ll come out in droves. The contractor for the building did extensive video and photography of adjacent property to see about pre-existing cracks. Even if they do this, you may want to protect yourself with your own survey.

    The noisiest parts will be the pile driving–expect a week or more of this for the usual new building. There will be inevitable days when workers do work past legal hours and they can legally work Saturdays. You also may get the occasional Sunday, illegal work. Even with a large-ish developer lot of work is done by contractors who may/may not be aware of or care about DC law. Also, some things like laying concrete don’t always happen on schedule–know when to complain and what you have to live with.

    Identify a contact at the developer–they will appreciate this if you’re a condo/coop/rental building. They won’t want to be communicating with multiple people. They will prefer that there person talk with your person, although you may still get some would-be community activists in your building.

    Keep an eye on drainage and how construction effects it on your alley, catch basins, etc.

  • GabeYo

    Less parking higher property values.

  • Karin

    I live at 3rd and H, NE since 1992, and have tried to push back against development on my square and the surrounding areas. It has been extremely hard to get anything scaled back and the developers always seem to win out.

    We had a vocal group of very informed and concerned neighbors, but in the end, the Capitol Hill Restoration Society conceded to the demolition of 14 historic structures (they were a block and half outside of the historic district) and the arrogance and momentum of the developer quashed any opposition. The council member at the time orchestrated special legislation for the developer allowing for the height to be measured from the bridge and not from the ground on 2nd Street, NE, so no support there. Basically, money and campaign contributions work in the developers’ favor.

    The large development which is 7 stories above the highest house on our block shares our square and is a monstrosity. During the initial development and meetings on the project, I repeatedly asked for an example where 120 year old 2 and 3 story townhouses shared a square with a large apartment and retail building towering over them and was never given specifics of a similar situation anywhere in DC. Only 7 stories sounds good to me!

    • jdre

      I was about to say something slightly snarky, along the lines of “it seems like the time to think of this would have been during the planning/zoning/development stages,” but then I remembered this is DC, and that doesn’t matter.

    • ExWalbridgeGuy

      You bought a home at 3rd and H NE in 1992? Your financial interests as a homeowner have probably been pretty well protected seeing as homes in this area are now worth like 20 times as much as they were back then.

  • kittycatbob

    Document all damage to your property immediately and report it to the developer in writing so you can start a record for court (if it should come to that).

  • Caroline

    I live on the block adjacent to the former Hine School, where the Trader Joe’s is going to be, and the impacts have been minimal so far. I haven’t heard any construction related noise (although they tend to do the work when I’m not home) and haven’t seen any rodents. I feel a lot safer walking by the site than I used to because they installed some very bright lighting in the construction walkway.
    We have some NIMBYs who have been on the construction crew’s case about every little infraction, so that probably helps.
    My only concern about the development is that it could impact street parking, which I rely on. Hopefully people will use the garage, or if that doesn’t work the city will make our block residential only. I’m not terribly concerned and will be happy to have the increased density in the neighborhood!

    • anon

      really? I know of at least two families who moved rather than deal with the onslaught of construction noise.

      • Caroline

        Who moved? I had no idea.

        • ihm

          I, too, live nearby. Nobody moved due to an onslaught of construction noise, because there is no onslaught of construction noise. We’re probably reading a post from one of the last vestiges of the much-ridiculed unmitigated neighborhood failure formerly known as the Hine Coalition.

          • Caroline

            252 8th Street sold earlier this month, but who knows if it was related to the construction. That seems awfully short-sighted of the owners if true.

          • ihm

            Yes, the house on the corner of 8th and C (the south side of C) also sold pretty recently. Correlation does not equal causation, unless they were both part of the group who loudly opposed the project. There were only 9 of them, though.

      • I call BS

        There are people who would sacrifice their home equity just because they can’t tolerate a year of construction noise?

  • petworther

    As many of the posts above indicate, the best strategy is clearly to cooperate with developments to ease the process. The fact of the matter is that much of the district could be more dense. We need more housing and apartment buildings are the best way to add density. Especially along commercial corridors.
    Dealing with a conflict with the ANC is a hassle for developers, so most would rather cooperate with neighbors. Ultimately if the ANC is completely intransigent there can be costly delays, but development typically happens in any case though. The best strategy is for ANCs to leverage this power and make sure they can get the marginal concessions that ensure development happens in a way that is good for the neighborhood: Will there be first floor retail? Where will the entrance to the garage be located? Will there be improvements made to adjoining spaces? etc. Looks at the plans, figure out want you want and go to them. ANCs that just oppose development have gotten none of these sort of concessions and projects were built anyways (I’m looking at you 4C).

    • petworther

      Also, given the size of those lots on Gales I’d expect some massive pop-ups/backs coming your way (as there rightly should be).


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