I live in Columbia Heights and a bunch of my neighbors are struggling with a renovation. There is a home on Kenyon Street that was a single-family home for at least the last 2 decades – and likely more. Many of us old timers in the neighborhood knew the previous owner and had been in the home on multiple occasions.
A developer purchased the property in 2015 for $900,000. It needed to be gutted and completely redone
He submitted drawing/plans to the city shortly after purchasing the home, showing the property was a 4-unit building with kitchens on every floor. These plans were false. Several people have signed affidavits stating that this was a single-family home and we submitted those affidavits to DCRA. One of these people lived there up until shortly before it was sold to the developer. The house was in no way a 4 unit building, but DCRA wrote a determination letter stating that since the property was always 4 units – the developer could rehab and renovate the property as such. (so he essentially lied to get permission to convert a single family home to a 4 unit building) He received permits to do this work in the summer of 2017. The interior of the home was been completely demolished and the back ½ is missing. Now there is no way to tell how many units there were.
As a side note – but deserving of a “bullet point” nonetheless….there is one electric meter, one gas meter and tax records show it was taxed as single family home.
DCRA issued a stop work order on September 17th, 2017 because they learned that the adjoining neighbors on both sides were not served any construction documents along with the neighbor notification form that is required by the city, to give both adjoining neighbors a chance to see the plans and make sure the structural integrity of their own homes are protected.
The crux of the issue lies with an old C of O from 1966 zoning the house as an apartment house. Neighbors want the developer to build 2 units, not 4 as the city granted him, and in January of this past year DCRA retracted their permission for him to build 4, but granted him the right to do 3, even though this is now a zone where a maximum of 2 units can be built. This was their explanation:
The Zoning Administrator still concludes that the property owner would be allowed to have at least three units in the building. Again, this determination is based on the last DCRA recognized and legal use of the building as an apartment house, via certificate of occupancy B52587 that was issued on March 21, 1966. An apartment house, according to the zoning regulations’ definition, is any building or part of a building in which there are three (3) or more apartments, providing accommodation on a monthly or longer basis. The Zoning Administrator considered the information that you and other concerned parties provided that the last use of the property was a single family dwelling; however, absent any building permits or certificates of occupancy to lawfully change the use from an apartment house into a flat (2 units) or single family dwelling (which he did not find during his investigation), he could not reach a different conclusion. As such, the property owner would be allowed to continue/restore the use of the building to the last DCRA recognized and legal use as an apartment house.
Neighbors and the community on both Kenyon and Irving Street, feel that the old C of O from 1966 classifying the home as an apartment home, is no longer valid because it has been over 50 years and the house was not used as an apartment home for 30 years. Neighbors feel that because it was a single family home, the certificate of occupancy expires when a space/structure is altered and/or undergoes a change of use and/or changes ownership.
How do we figure out who is right, without having to pay a lawyer? Neighbors feel that something shady is going on and that DCRA is not being transparent.”