Tag Archives: chevy chase

Local

Support the Zoning Rewrite: Accessory Apartments

This Wednesday will be the hearing for the Zoning Rewrite section pertaining to accessory apartments, or accessory dwelling units. This will be the most contentious debates over the changes to the zoning code required to keep DC thriving in the 21st century.

Accessory units give homeowners flexibility in the use of what are often large properties. The extra income is nice to have for some people. For others, it’s a lifejacket. When my class at yale designed and built a house, the client required a rental unit specifically because it added financial stability for the low-income family that bought it. For renters, it could bring a large amount of housing stock to the market with marginal capital costs and a lower profit motive, keeping prices down.

For communities, the economic diversity added to the vast single-family family neighborhoods will bring vitality and justify transportation improvements that all can enjoy. By allowing the elderly to downsize in place, welcoming new families, neighborhood ties stay strong while adding new residents. In most of Northwest, parking remains ample, so  the addition of a few small households will have a very minor impact.

But I don’t want to overstate the effects. For the most part, making them “by right,” will only legalize already existing apartments. Rental units in R-1/2/3 zones are widespread already, despite being illegal. Furthermore, because the regulations were written in 1956, when domestic help was more common, if the renter picks up the paper or waters plants one weekend when the owner is on the Eastern Shore, the apartment is legal. That’s silly.

upper northwest zoning
This is what One-Size-Fits-All looks like.

Now, a significant amount of opposition to the accessory provision has come from Chevy Chase residents, who claim that the provision is forced on them as “once size fits all.” But, in fact, zoning hundreds of acres as single family homes without any community nodes is the essence of “one-sizing.” Permitting a little flexibility allows for fine-grained land use decisions. It’s important to remember that although regulations keep the city safe and clean, but they should be justified. Chevy Chase hasn’t shown why it’s special.

Learn how to testify in person or by mail. The zoning commission is independent of the council and take comments seriously. Your communication with them matters.

BONUS: To share the nature of this opposition, follow the break to read testimony from one of the most outspoken opponents, Linda Schmidt, to see how extreme you have to get to criticize the proposal. Learn why some world-weary advocates call detached accessory apartments “schmitthausen.” These comments are fairly typical from her.

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Architecture Local

North of Tilden: Checking in.

In the intervening years between my departure from DC and the moment that you are reading these words, a number of things have changed in Tenleytown. So it’s worth showing how upper northwest has unfrozen and opened up to a modest amount of growth. Rather than focus on the ongoing political developments, take a look at projects that have finally become buildings.

This is a long post, so click through… read more »

Local

North of Tilden: Construction Phases

It’s spring, and that means it’s construction season. Particularly in Tenleytown, a number of big projects have finally started, some after 6 years of delays. The headlines:

  • Planning: AU presents their twenty-year plan to ANC 3F meeting. Hilarity ensues.
  • Design: Shalom Baranes designing Babes site.
  • Approvals: Chevy Chase Park will gain field lights.
  • Demolition: If the Van Ness Walgreens is coming in, the gas station has got to go.
  • Staging: Fences are up at Wilson.
  • Site Preparation: Janney sets up temporary classrooms.
  • Foundation: A 4-story condo is going up on Harrison street
  • Structure: The Tenley-Friendship Library is no longer a hole.
  • Commissioning: The placeholder building at Tenleytown is complete.
  • Commercial Fit-out: The 4900 block is getting a pizza place.

And the stories below… read more »

Other

Sand Moon

I mentioned Sam West, auteur and gentleman scoundrel, once before. A graduate of the prestigious Janney Elementary School, a couple years back, he produced this film called Sand Moon, which is embedded below.

It’s a sort of tale of karma passed through the lens of Upper Northwest slackers. Produced in 72 hours in 2008, is also a showcase of DC’s highlights, such as the roof of the Tenleytown CVS, truck barrier planters, Mazza Galerie, the Chevy Chase Starbucks, and Potomac Video.

The film runs for 21 minutes and stars Mason Cash (Murch), David Iscoe (Lafayette), Tommy McCarthy (Murch), and the rest of the Cocaine in Motion crew.

Reno Park Studies Uncategorized

Reno Park Update 091005B: Zoning

So what is the relationship between zoning and buildings? (Again colors are off!)

zoning-building-forms

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Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091005A: Zoning Definitions

So, property and school districts are both legal structures that have strong effects on the perception of space and the organization of social networks. But generally, the legal structure that affects the commercial and economic growth of spaces is zoning.

zoning-property

Zoning, quickly, is a Progressive-era policy from the early 1900s that dictates what uses can or cannot exist on a certain piece of property or in a general area. The Modern Movement picked up the concept as a way of guaranteeing a healthy city, as did the Garden City and Regional Planning movements. Generally, its effects have been good – like keeping smelting plants away from residences. But it’s also led to unhealthy homogeneity and a commuter culture that was less prominent before governments began micromanaging the fabric of cities.

This is one of the wonkier posts, but it’s important to understand what has been planned for the area. read more »

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091004B: Bike Routes

OK, so the color here is seriously off. I may have to redo some of these maps in a RGB color space. For now, enjoy the eye strain!

I haven’t discussed the role of bicycles in the T-T area, but here’s a map of suitability for bike access. Bear in mind that there are no facilities for bikes, only one designated routes.

bike-routes1

Blue is the one designated bike route that passes near Fort Reno Park, and therefore gives bikers a little more respectability. Green is sidewalks and dark gray is alleys, both places where cyclists have to share the road with pedestrians as well as drivers. Light gray paths represent neighborhood streets with little traffic and generally no center dividing lines. Yellow indicates busier, possibly divided streets where bikers might have some problems with the cars. Red streets are arterials where biking is either dangerous or “disruptive” for automobiles.

That’s it for now.

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091004A: Schools

So, in addition to the visible boundaries of the city, there are the invisible ones, ones that are really only legible to a bureaucracy, but have significant effects on the lives of residents. Because it affects individuals so young and even effects the parents, where someone goes to school seriously alters the social geography of cities. They decide where the majority of socialization occurs: in one school, in another school; in private schools, in public schools; in classrooms or in breakfast nooks.

When I was a wee little Flannie, attending Murch and carousing about my block, I had neighbors across the street whom I hardly knew. Why? They went to Janney. We met and played outside occasionally, but by 3rd grade, we both had already formed our social lives, and that was it. Our parents were likewise divided; they knew each other, but that was it. My street was the boundary between two schools and there was a palpable difference between the facing blocks.

In the Reno-Tenleytown-Tobago area, there are seven schools that provide Nursery school through Twelfth Grade education. Obviously, there’s also American University, but that’s not as relevant since its students are not shaped as much by boundaries and divisions. There are also any number of private and parochial schools students could attend, three of which are in the area, but with a minivan or a Volvo, you too can idle your car outside your child’s school. So let’s just do the public schools.   read more »

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091003: Walkspace

Now, the final part of contemporary research: pedestrian areas.

all-pedestrian-ways

There are three kinds of areas: unprogrammed spaces like plazas, sidewalks, and walkways, spaces for programmed activities, and then mixed-traffic areas like alleys.
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Local

The Gizorans of Washington and Other Miscellany

I’ve been visiting the Historical Society of Washington and the Washingtoniana collection at MLK library. While I make more sense of my research, here is a pile of interesting things about Upper Northwest:

Famous people have been through the area. Oliver Wendell Holmes was stationed at Fort Reno and referred to the area as “Ten Alley Town.” Dolley Madison watched DC burn from Tenleytown and may have overnighted here. Edward Braddock and George Washington passed through in 1755 on their way to Fort Cumberland, and further east, military failure.

Wisconsin Avenue, from Georgetown to Tenleytown, has been a city street since 1809. But most of the streets were planned after 1897. Some of these schemes were grandiose. For example, in 1901, the city considered tunneling Rock Creek from Adams Morgan to the C&O Canal and building a “parkway” on top. One of the other tunneling proposals put Foundry Branch in a pipe and ran a road to be named Arizona Ave on top of it.

Idaho Ave was supposed to be a much grander thoroughfare before the 1960s, when they gave up on it. It would have intersected Connecticut at Yuma Street. There was supposed to be a circle at Idaho and Reno, north of Tilden. Most shamefully, they dropped a plan to build Hamilton Circle at Idaho and Mass Aves.

Fort Reno Park should have been more developed than it is now. In addition to a Fort Circle plan, the McMillan Commission planned for another parkway up Soapstone Valley and over to Dalecarlia. Until the 30s, Military Road was called Keokuk St. and Grant Road was called Military Road. There was also a Xenia St.

Much weirder stuff below the fold.

methodist-cem

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