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Popping Up and Back on Quincy

by Prince Of Petworth November 16, 2015 at 3:45 pm 59 Comments


Thanks to a reader for sending:

“10th & Quincy NW.

I looked up the permit application and found the following comments. #4 is particularly surprising and disappointing–the way I read it, the city is requiring them to shrink the porch and further screw up the continuity on this block simply to satisfy the lot occupancy maximums.

(r-4 zoning district) — zoning approval for conversion of an existing single family row dwelling into a two-family flat with two (2) parking spaces. includes a rear/third floor addition, with rooftop deck and penthouse (stairway). prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy for a flat, a zoning inspection will be required for the following: 1. verify use as a flat; 2. verify installation of two (2) parking spaces; 3. verification that permeable pavers have been installed for the parking pad (to satisfy the requirements of section 412 of dcmr title 11); and 4. verify that the covered section of the front porch has been reduced to nine (9) feet wide to satisfy the maximum lot occupancy requirements for flats in the r-4 zoning district.

(I also learned today that the Shift keys on DCRA’s keyboards are all broken.)”




  • Steve F

    Well, clearly the shift keys still work, but only on the number keys..;)

  • Anonymous

    The address is 3803 10th st nw and zoned R-4. The permit was issued in April of 2015 so it was under the old rules before the downzoning and requirements (the penthouse stairs/wall/deck and alterations to the existing roofline wouldn’t be allowed in the new rules).

    All in all, it’s a reasonably sized addition to an R-4 zone. The front third story windows aren’t terrible. The deck/penthouse is awful. And the front porch has to go, them’s the rules.

    • anonymous

      Don’t think you are correct. The penthouse stairs and deck is permitted under the new rules. Also the ceiling height can’t be over 35ft, but the rooftop deck wall does not fall within the 35ft. You can go up to 40ft including the walls of the roofdeck. The penthouse staircase has to be set back x amount of feet based on either witdth or depth of the home.

      • Anonymous

        It was my impression that 14-13 (which, you’re right, hasn’t even passed the zoning commission yet), basically banned all penthouses in R-4 and below. Though of course I’d love to be wrong.

  • Bring it on

    Love it (other than the porch shrinking). Would love to see more density in Petworth.

    • crin

      If you want density, move to an apartment building.

      • Or anywhere where the zoning laws allow it. Like here.

  • Marty

    it isn’t the most beautiful thing i’ve ever seen, but not horrible. I do fully support more density in our urban areas, and this is sometimes what it takes to get there.

    • crin

      If you want to solve global warming with density, make Fairfax more dense. Don’t worry about making the most dense metro jurisdiction more dense. Low hanging fruit, diminishing returns, etc.

      • The same people who want to live in DC aren’t necessarily the ones who want to live in Fairfax. This is a ridiculous argument.

      • JohnH

        Part of the reason all of the DC metro area is so expensive is because of DC itself. Apartments in Greenbelt on 495 run $1400-1500/month for a 1 bedroom. If you could get an apartment for $1500/month in DC in say Petworth – would you even consider Greenbelt? Probably not. But considering a 1 bedroom there is $1800, it’s a big difference, even in a not super hip area. It’s crazy to me how expensive pretty blah apartments are even in Arlington – not even that close to a Metro stop. These rents are totally influenced by DC’s prices.
        Oh, and adding 1 floor to a row house does pretty much nothing in terms of density folks.

        • Amy

          I pay $1250 for a one bedroom in Petworth. They do exist.

        • jdegg

          I rent out a legal 1-br in petworth for $1200

      • anon

        This is incorrect. The greatest returns to density are in areas closest to the urban core, where people work. A big portion of the gains to density (in terms of pollution and congestion) come from reducing the number of people on the road commuting. It’s way less efficient to increase density in areas that aren’t well-served by public transportation, and where most people commute long distances. The low-hanging fruit is in the city.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I suspect that the developers are not building this, nor are the future buyers buying this, for the sake of combating global warming. The developers are building this to make money, and the buyers will buy it because…nevermind…I do not understand why (but I doubt it will be to combat global warming).

        • anonymous

          Why don’t you understand? And why does it matter? I’m sure there are some who wouldn’t understand why you bought the place you own.. It’s obviously clear that these units would have more square footage than the original home. I don’t see what the hate for the conversion, when if they owner decided they wanted more space- this is probably the scale of work that they would have done regardless.

        • Anon

          It doesn’t matter whether the parties involved have global warming as their primary interest. What matters is that these types of conversions both make economic sense and result in less energy-intensive lifestyles. Unlike just about every other environmentally-beneficial activity, these conversions do not require subsidization.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I don’t care, I was just responding to the comment above.

  • Ouch

    Feel sorry for that neighbor on the end

    • Anonymous

      The one whose backyard is almost half public property?

      • quincy dude

        You should feel sorry for the neighbor. When they did demo to the back of the house and suddenly she could see daylight coming into her room because it was a shared wall. Fun!

        The GC was really terrible to work with and lied repeatedly to the neighbors. While I do think density is needed, I think this will wind up looking like an eyesore – especially when its the only one on the block.

        • Neighbor

          Just to set the record straight, the incident referred to here did not happen to the house on the corner. Also, it happened during the dig out and underpinning, not the demo of the back porches, which were not connected to the other two properties. It resulted in DCRA intervention, shut down, and hiring of new contractors (including a new GC), after which things have progressed smoothly. Not excusing the owners/developers, but they did correct course when informed of what was happening.

  • andy2

    Look at all that wood construction – total crap!

  • Anonymous

    I’m fine with this. It’s tastefully done and kept within the original architecture for the most part.

  • Emmaleigh504

    So far so good.

  • dat

    With respect to the lot occupancy/porch issue, the developer was probably planning to reduce the width of the porch anyway so they could add an entrance to the basement unit.

    • textdoc

      Not necessarily. If the developer is adding one floor and splitting this into two two-floor condos, the front stairs might lead to a hallway with a door to the unit that occupies the first floor and basement and stairs to a door to the unit that occupies the second and third floors.

  • Bet

    I would hate to live next door to this. There are so many vacant spots on Georgia that could be used to increase density that I don’t see the need to do it by popping up and out townhouses and screwing up the neighbors next door.

    • saf

      It’s horrible – no, I live up the block, not next door. But… in the process of digging out the basement, they knocked a large hole through the next house (and didn’t tell the homeowner – what, you think she wasn’t going to notice?)

      They also regularly fail to secure the site nights and weekends.

      They also are extremely sloppy.

      • Neighbor

        I’m also a neighbor, and this did happen. Then they got shut down briefly, fired the GC, and hired a new one who has been super responsive. Could it be prettier? Sure. But all in all, I think it’s turning out ok. I have also been told that they were able to change the design and save the front porch.

    • textdoc

      Agreed with Bet.

    • dcd

      ” There are so many vacant spots on Georgia that could be used to increase density that I don’t see the need to do it by . . . ”
      And if the developer owned one of those, I’m sure that would have been a better option.

    • anon

      The neighbors screwed themselves–they bought into an area where this is permissible via zoning. If they want stagnant architecture they should have bought into a subdivision with an HOA (or a crazy historic zone).

      • HaileUnlikely

        This is literally true but I think it is a bit more nuanced in application. If they bought two years ago, then yeah, pretty much end of story. If they bought 15+ years ago (and even moreso if they bought say 30+ years ago, as many of my neighbors did), I can’t bring myself to fault them for not envisioning that the house next door might get taller or longer (and put holes in their wall in the process), as people just didn’t do these sorts of projects back then.

        • JS

          Believe it or not, but there’s a house near me where the owner-occupants put an 800 sq. foot extension on the back of their house in 1981. It sticks back about 20 feet from the house next door, but doesn’t look out of place because most of the houses along this particular alley have had extensions (really, that’s what we used to call them before ‘pop-back’ became a thing) built. I think this is more of an issue on those blocks that consist of a single housing type. In my area, where the housing stock is more varied, this kind of thing wouldn’t look that out of place.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I believe it alright, but this sort of thing was exceedingly rare until recently. And nobody in 1981 would have envisioned non-occupants who don’t give a f* about the neighbors or the neighborhood buying the house, renovating it sloppily, and damaging the neighbors’ houses in the process, and then selling it for a quick buck.

  • saf

    It’s actually on 10th.

  • crin

    Like your hick cousins who come for Thanksgiving but then never leave.

  • RJS

    I’m not going to weigh in on this particular project, but I will say that I am generally supportive of pop-ups.
    But pop-backs? NO NO NO NO

    • exiledinarlington

      Why not pop-backs? I’m curious.

      We just did one in Arlington on our single family home. To us, one of the advantages was that we preserved the look and character of the house (a fairly small Arts and Crafts home from the early 20th century) from the street while also getting us the extra room that we really needed in the house.

      It was either do a pop-back, do a pop-up, or teardown and rebuild (we didn’t want to move as we are in our dream location). The pop-back had the least effect on the appearance of the house from the street.

      • Paul S

        Is your arlington house a rowhouse? I would guess probably not. When a neighbors rowhouse pops back you can potentially lose sun and even privacy in your backyard. But given how many rowhouses have backyards that are purely parking pads maybe the average person doesn’t even care…

        • JS

          How could you possibly lose privacy by living next to you’re neighbor’s extension? You can’t put a window on a party wall. If you live in a row house neighborhood I guarantee you your neighbors can already see into your backyard.

          • JS

            *your neighbor’s*

          • ZetteZelle

            I think it’s the difference between my children in the backyard screaming 25 feet away from the back of your house vs. screaming right next to the back of your house, because you popped it back.

          • dunning-kruger

            Most DC rowhouses (the ones with basements, which is most) have a dogleg at the back (some call it a breezeway) so on at least one side the addition will not go to the edge of the lot and therefore isn’t a party wall so it can and probably will have windows. I think we can all agree there is a difference between windows that face back and include a peripheral view of your yard and windows that point directly at your yard from the side. In one your yard is part of the view of your neighbor’s yard when they look out the back of their house, the other your backyard is their view (until you pop back and then they get to stare at a brick wall because your wall on that side will be the party wall).

  • Mark

    Fugly. All that to potentially house two more people? Nah, the real point is to make the property worth 2 million instead of $8-$900 K. The increase in density argument is a sham.
    Crap like this makes me think Petworth needs to expand it’s historic district.

    • Anonymous

      Petworth doesn’t have a historic district.

    • dunning-kruger

      Not people, adults. I live across the street from a two unit condo, it has one more floor than me but since I have kids I have the same number of people in the house in less square ft.
      I think DC is shooting itself in the foot adding all this density; DC clearly has no problem attracting young childless people but has major difficulty keeping families. Clearly the best course of action is to turn all the SFHs into a bunch of condos with small decks and parking pads using cheap laminate materials that can’t survive a 3 year old swinging a nerf bat.

      • Mark

        I agree 100%. No one is going to raise families in those newly-created condos and, chances are, people who start families in them will raise them outside dc. Narcissists, solipsisists, and bean counters might like that. People in favor of an age-friendly living city won’t.

      • OC

        I think the issue of family retention has more to do with school quality. Petworth, including this block of Quincy, is quite literally filled with single family homes. Converting a few into condos won’t change that. Conversions happen for a pretty simple reason: to meet demand.

        • dunning-kruger

          Yeah the demands of a bunch of young childless people who we can be sure won’t age or procreate. /s
          Demand is only half the equation, there is high demand for SFHs too but the profit margins are slimmer. People are paying for location, they’ll happily pay 70-80% of a SFH price for a condo.
          Market forces and neighborhood demographics are driving this, the thing is that once condo conversions are completed in order for them to be reversed the stars have to align just so and even then the person doing it has to basically be made of money (gotta pay ~150% of the SFH value to buy 2 condos and then pay for a gut rehab, it will pretty much never happen).
          Anyway, my opinion is that rather than going nuts and creating historic districts all over the place which have their own issues developers are given some kind of incentive (maybe permit fee refunds? still doesn’t compare to that condo money) for doing historic rehabs and not converting, or doing SFHs with basement units (which if you think about it is the best way to max out density in a SFH shell short of going 4 units).
          I’ve done some developing and when you do the math on certain neighborhoods you are practically obligated to convert to condos, there is just that much more money to be made.

          • mark

            Yup. The profit margin his higher on a subdivide/flip than on a straight out rehab. That’s why my friends who are in the market for SFH’s are outbid on home after home to developers who come in with all cash no contingency offers. Saying it’s demand driven is missing the larger dynamic happening.

          • anon

            Why would these areas ever go back to true SFHs? Why would society want to incentivize developers to keep these as SFHs? Land costs here are enormous. The only way to cheaply build more family sized units is to tear down the shells build denser and higher. That being said, families will always have less disposable income than DINKs. If you want to live in an area popular with DINKs (close to the small plates), you will have to pay more per square foot and deal with developers building smaller units to market to DINKS.

    • OC

      Historic districts should be created to preserve segments of uniquely historically important properties – not to downzone an entire neighborhood. What would be your justification for expanding the Grant Circle historic district to all of Petworth? Would it require everyone to rip off the hideous sleeping porches?

  • Neighborish

    My apartment overlooks the place. I’m not opposed to it, the pictures make it seem worse than it really is.

    However, I do have a problem with the construction vehicles that are constantly blocking the back ally in the morning. One time thing I understand, but it seems to be every single morning.


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