City Says No To Treehouse Over Archibald Walk

The treehouse over Archibald Walk will have to Be moved back off public space

The treehouse over Archibald Walk will have to Be moved back off public space

City Says No To Treehouse Over Archibald Walk

Owners Say OK – But There Will Be A Treehouse

by Larry Janezich

The city told the owners of the treehouse over the historic residential alley Archibald Walk that the structure cannot extend into public space over the alley.  The owners – Bing Yee and Ellen Psychas – say they will move it off public space, but the tree house will stay.

The DDOT’s Public Space Committee met Thursday morning to hold a hearing on an apparently inappropriately issued permit authorizing construction of a “balcony” in public space which allowed the treehouse to be constructed.  At today’s hearing, the question was not on the “balcony” permit as such, but on what committee chair Matthew Marcou deemed a request for a permit for playground equipment in public space.

After hearing support for the treehouse from from Yee and opposition from several neighbors, Marcou, made the motion to deny the permit on the basis that the owners admitted they could have built the structure entirely on their property, that the structure extends substantially into a narrow ten foot wide alley, and that the request was not in keeping with previous approvals of playground equipment on public space.  The vote was 4-0-1, with only Chris Bailey – the DCRA’s representative on the committee – abstaining.

The owners of the tree house say they are disappointed and that they have looked at the feasibility of moving the tree house back so that it does not extend over the alley.  They cite offers of help from architects to redesign the treehouse and from neighbors who do not live on Archibald Walk to help with construction.  Psychas said, “The treehouse is going nowhere.  It will be moved.  We have to do it for our daughters.”

The five member Public Space Committee was established by order of the Mayor to regulate the use of public space – usually defined as the city’s green space but extending to streets, sidewalks, and alleys.  (Oddly, there seems to be no public record of the membership of the Committee.)

Public wrangling over the tree house (first reported by CHC here has been on-going since mid-January.  Neighbors objected to the structure because of the precedent it would set and for safety reasons, but seemed most upset at the “overwhelming” visual intrusion at what some of them characterized as a very special historic space.  ANC6B Commissioner James Loots, testifying in opposition on his own behalf and not representing the ANC, told the Committee that the alley was unique and historic and it is the front yard of the residences on Archibald Walk.  He said, “This is public space in the truest sense…and approving the permit would dedicate this public space for exclusively private purposes.”

ANC6B had previously opposed the extension of the structure into public space – all be it in the form of opposing the “balcony” permit – by a vote of 8-0-2.


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7 responses to “City Says No To Treehouse Over Archibald Walk

  1. Tom

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to the pro-tree house argument, but, all in all, the ANC and the city made the right call. The family didn’t go just a few inches over their property line. It was almost two feet. I feel for their neighbors on the opposite side of the alley; presuming reports are true that the tree house is 10 feet away from their windows. That’s a bit in-your-face. We do have to consider the precedent this would have set in terms of encroaching upon public space. And, yes, part of me is put off by the idea of an architect designing and building a tree house. Makes you wonder if the parents were more emotionally invested in this project than the children.

  2. John

    The treehouse owners should have negotiated with the city and offered that any new treehouse developments would include 40% affordable treehouse units.

  3. muskellunge

    Mr Janezich, congratulations for breaking this story. I have seen it everywhere.

    Next stop, a NYT byline!

  4. CapitolHill Babe

    Great an certified architect! Perfect! They will know, as owners should have, that in a National Register Historic District that the permit will have to be reviewed by Historic Preservation Office. Had that been done, none of this would have happened. When Hill residents windows and doors are so carefully reviewed, you think they would approve a plywood tree house?
    “Getting the right permit for a building project is a homeowner’s basic responsibility before starting the work. For work on a historic property or in a historic area, getting a permit also involves making sure that proposed changes are compatible with protected historic and architectural characteristics”

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  6. freshaire

    HURRAY!!!!!!!!!!! In the parent’s own words, ” Psychas said, “The treehouse is going nowhere. It will be moved. We have to do it for our daughters.” ”

    So strong are the parents’ devotion to their daughters that their FIRST choice was to use PUBLIC space for the PRIVATE use by their daughters.