Prevent a Pop-up

Well we can make this a test case. Can you kill a pop up without one of those pesky historic district doohickies?
Here’s the situation, there is to be a BZA hearing for 1721 4th Street, N.W. It’s the blue house that’s being worked on that’s across the alley from the Fourth Street Cleaners. Anyway, the owner, a nice guy I’m told, has an application #17934, for a variance from the nonconforming structure provisions under subsection 2001.3, to allow a third story addition to an existing flat (two-family dwelling) in the R-4 District. Third story addition, read Pop-up.
Now pop-ups can be cool, or they can be complete pieces of crap. It could be the house near the corner of R & 5th (cool) or the monstrosity on the unit block of P St NE, or the 1/2 done thing on the 300 block of P NW.

TRIVIA- 1721 4th St NW sits on the block that was owned by the Glorius family from the 1880s to the 1900s, which was later sold to Harry Wardman.

** Public Hearing***
Start Time : 7/28/2009 10:00 AM
Case Number : 17934
Case Name : Application of Behzad Hosseinkhani
Case Summary : (Area Variance) pursuant to 11 DCMR ยง 3103.2, for a variance from the nonconforming structure provisions under subsection 2001.3, to allow a third story addition to an existing flat (two-family dwelling) in the R-4 District at premises 1721 4th Street, N.W. (Square 516, Lot 54).
ANC : 5C01
BZA notice

13 thoughts on “Prevent a Pop-up”

  1. i mean, it's possible that this could be done tastefully, but given the strange shape of the house (kind of triangular), i get the feeling that they'd just lop off the turret and build up as much addition as possible…

  2. If the structure meets the test for a special exception/variance, you can only really oppose on light and air etc at BZA- not on aesthetic grounds. This is the sort of situation where being in a historic district can help more.
    Maybe show the builder that tacky structure next to 64 NY Ave NE and point out how no one wants to buy a condo there?

  3. No, Mari, it doesn't. ๐Ÿ™‚
    There are terms and conditions under which occupancy and use variances and special exceptions can be granted.
    The gist is that they have to do with the inability to use the property unless otherwise granted, and the granting of them not harming anyone else. Check the regs for detail- I don't recall specifics at the moment :).

  4. I am confused why a variance is required at all in this case. Generally, three floors are permitted of-right in R-4 zoned districts.

    And, to answer, your question directly, Mari, the only solution to addressing pop-ups using current regulations is via neighborhood historic districts, which I know that you are not a fan of. Cheers!

    — Scott Roberts of Bloomingdale

  5. Yes, I found the need for a variance surprising too, but I am wondering if height is a factor as there is some sort of height limit. Maybe the 3rd story addition goes over the height limit. However, another worrying element is the fact that they've been digging out a basement as well, making me wonder how what is the expected use of this small property. Adding a basement AND a 3rd story addition that seems like an opportunity for overcrowding.

  6. It needn't be a height issue. It could be an FAR issue. Or there may be some other thing… Anyone read the placard?

  7. I can't read the code sections from the photo…
    From what I recall of a use varience, you typically have three potential issues:
    Lot occupancy (what % of land is built on)
    Height (how tall)
    FAR (floor area ratio, a density metric).
    Other detail can enter, but those are the basics. BZA should be able to answer the questions if you place a phone call.

  8. See Case Summary right above the photo for the language, which mentions which cited code.

    The building takes up about 90% of the land. If not more as there really isn't much of a back yard.

  9. From:

    The substance of 2001.3 says:

    Enlargements or additions may be made to the structure; provided:
    (a) The structure shall conform to percentage of lot occupancy requirements;
    (b) The addition or enlargement itself shall:
    (1) Conform to the use and structure requirements; and
    (2) neither increase or extend any existing, nonconforming aspect of the structure; nor create any new nonconformity of structure and addition combined

    To get a zoning variance any applicant must show why the property cannot be practically used under existing without one (financial distress doesn't count!) and that said variance would not hurt anyone else (impact their light, air, etc).
    According to my read of the above section 2001.3 they cannot have one if they do not already conform on lot occupancy (and they don't if they're at 90%+ already) and if any other nonconformity is worsened or if a new one (say, FAR) is created.
    Has anyone applied for party status?

  10. One idea is just accepting that you don't have to personally like or approve the aesthetics of eveyone else's property. Even in DC where every building has some halfass claim to being historic. Some new sstuff will be tasteful and nice, some will be modern and appeal to modernists, and some will be ghetto and pop-uppy. There's a lid for every pot, and one great thing about diversity is that it challenges you to deal with things you don't necessarily like. Historic preservation relies on the absurd peremise that older is better. People should be able to do whatever they want with their property aesthetically. Yes- anything. Just my 2 cents.

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