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 http://bit.ly/1W7GgGp) 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.