ANC6B Votes to Oppose Tree House Extension in Public Space Over Archibald Walk

ANC6B Votes to Oppose Tree House Extension in Public Space Over Archibald Walk

by Larry Janezich

Last night, ANC6B voted to recommend that DDOT deny the public space permit the agency issued which permits a tree house in Archibald Walk to project some two feet into public space over the narrow pedestrian residential alley.  See CHC post here:

The vote came after considerable hand wringing by some commissioners.  Planning and Zoning Chair Nick Burger said he didn’t see the harm of the projection into public space, “we see bays in public space all time.”  None the less, he said, “the regulations are clear that balconies are not permitted to extend into public space. I don’t support the opponents of the treehouse regarding their objections that the tree house is not in keeping with the historical nature of the alley, but regarding the application for a balcony the rules are clear. I will probably abstain. I don’t see a clear path forward.”

Burger questioned the owner as to why DDOT had classified to structure as a balcony, noting that absent the public space issue, the matter would not be before the ANC.  The owner said he had relied on DDOT’s judgement.

Commissioner Samolyk expressed sympathy for the applicant saying that he was paying the price for a “screw up by DCRA – these people spent money and relied on DCRA’s judgment that they wanted to build would not need a permit.”

Apparently, DCRA has no provision for issuing a permit for the construction of a tree house, and property owners have a right to build whatever they please as a matter of right.

Commissioner Jim Loots, in whose single member district the tree house lies, said, “It seems to me the applicant has been consistently and inappropriately dismissive of the neighbors’ concerns. The opposition of the neighbors is not retaliatory, not anti-child, and not generational as he stated to me today. The question is whether this particular special public space should be used for this purpose.”

Nearby neighbors submitted the names of 11 nearby residents opposing the tree house and provided extensive documentation backing up their claim that the tree house owner had been negligent in informing neighbors of his proposed construction and cited discrepancies in the owner’s written claims to DDOT, particularly his assertion that he had contacted ANC6B during construction, when he had not.  Neighbors claim that permits are supposed to be a matter of public record, available on line, but this permit was not.  They filed a Freedom of Information Request to get the permit and accompanying documentation.

Commissioner Brian Flahaven, who will resign his seat on Friday for family reasons, suggested language to amend the Planning and Zoning Committee’s recommendation that the ANC oppose the public space permit to clarify that the ANC was making the recommendation on the basis that DDOT had classified the structure as a balcony and DC regulations prohibit balconies from projecting into public space.

The Commission voted to approve the language by a vote of 8 ayes, 0 nays, and 2 abstentions – Commissioners Krepp and Samolyk.


Filed under Uncategorized

13 responses to “ANC6B Votes to Oppose Tree House Extension in Public Space Over Archibald Walk

  1. Wonder Woman

    If this had been a tree house built by a developer, our ANC would have been stumbling all over each other to approve it; completely ignoring any neighbors’ concerns.

    • Brian C

      Amen to that. Clearly we need a layer of government that is even closer to actual human beings than the ANC folk.

  2. Dadric

    As if we needed more evidence that ANCs in areas like this have become nothing more than a platform for jumped-up busybodies.

    Can someone please explain what substantive effect this has actually had on any of these neighbors’ lives?

  3. Tina Turner

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Let the kid have the tree house. Worry about yourself.

  4. Toni Engle

    Apparently they don’t actually live there and the children only visit for an hour or two some weekends. Seems bizarre they would build this for a rental and then claim its for their children. The residents get to look at it 24/7.

    • GrumpyDude

      Anyone with a healthy sense of cynicism might conclude that the owners are shameless opportunists with a overblown sense of entitlement.

  5. JHarman

    where oh where is this located, pray tell….???

  6. CapitolHill Babe

    In response to comments above for those who think there is no impact on neighbors, I suggest you take a walk on Archibald Walk a 10 ft wide alley that is the front door for neighbors. It’s an unusual, possibly a one of a kind open space that neighbors share and hang out in. I have a friend who lives there and have followed the Barrack’s Row Heritage Trail that features its unique character. The tree house is 10- 15 ft from neighbors’ bedroom windows. Would you want to get out of the shower and start dressing with kids watching you? Its a public space shared by all. Why should one neighbor have private control of it? Especially, owners that are absentee owners and rent the house out? They come on the weekend to their investment property on Archibald to play in the tree house. The homeowners have to live with it the rest of the time.

    Check it out and see how it impacts the neighbors and the historic character of such a cool space.

    • dlg

      Completely agree. What’s outrageous is that someone would think building a tree house on public land is a good idea. It’s not. If you want a tree house, move to Virginia. If you want to occupy public land, join the idiots in Oregon.

      • Not Ridiculous

        “If you want a tree house, move to Virginia.” You’re exactly why so many people accuse our city of being uppity. And then disparaging people wanting to build their kids a tree houses on a public land as on par with the Oregon folks?

        CHB’s explanation made far more sense and is a rationale argument.

  7. Urban Observer

    If I hear “neighborhood character” one more time I think I’m going to ralph. It sounds whiny, petty, and small-minded.

    “Neighborhood character” has become a catch-all term for something that somebody doesn’t like. The extraordinary elasticity the term gives people a sense of moral authority based on nothing more than a subjective impression; and using it as a criterion for what can be built introduces enormous uncertainty into any effort to improve properties in our neighborhood.

    I agree that the tree house should go because it is an unreasonable imposition by one homeowner into public space actively used by others. But “neighborhood character, whatever that phrase means, does cut much mustard with me.

  8. As a homeowner in VA, I agree that one homeowner should not encroach on a limited shared space, whether for children or not.

  9. Everyone is psychotic on Capitol Hill. Get a life and let these people rent our their Air BnB!