In Face of Opposition, Hispanic Caucus PAC Pulls Application for Office Near the Capitol Building

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus will not be housing its PAC office and event space out of 428 New Jersey Avenue, SE.  The failure to get the zoning adjustment in order to operate in the residential neighborhood will apparently nix the $2 million sale.

In Face of Opposition, Hispanic Caucus Pulls Application for PAC Office Near the Capitol Building

by Larry Janezich

Today, the attorney for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) formally withdrew the group’s application for a zoning adjustment to permit CHC to use a residence in the 400 block of New Jersey Avenue, SE, as their PAC headquarters and event space.  The letter to the BZA withdrawing the application came from attorney Meridith Moldenhauer of Cozen O’Connor, and said in part, “On June 7, 2017, the [BZA] granted a continuance of the hearing to allow the Applicant additional time to further supplement the record.  As a result of further deliberation, the Applicant withdraws the Application.”  The sale of the townhouse to the CHC was apparently contingent on the zoning relief.

At issue was the application to waive DC regulations limiting nonprofit organizations operating in residential neighborhoods to buildings of 10,000 square feet or more.

No reason was given for the action, but neighbors believe that opposition from more than a dozen residential neighbors (who had hired their own attorney), ANC6B, the Capitol Hill Restorations Society, the Office of Planning, and the Architect of the Capitol, left CHC with slim chance of prevailing before the BZA.

One nearby neighbor told Capitol Hill Corner, “We’d certainly like all of the people with property to sell in this neighborhood and the realtors interested in selling those properties to know we are organized and effective.”  DC’s Office of Planning recommended denial of the variance, finding “it could result in a substantial detriment to the public good.”  The Architect of the Capitol found that the zoning change could “adversely harm the area adjacent to the jurisdiction of the US Capitol…and could result in a significant detriment to the character of the residential neighborhood.”

The block is home to several organizations currently operating businesses in a residential zone.  But the city is starting to take a hard look at the erosion of residential neighborhoods near the Capitol.

ANC Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk, in whose single member district the property resides credited the activism of neighbors whose efforts had contributed to shutting three down non-residential “party” houses on nearby D Street, SE.  In addition, as a result of a complaint which Samolyk filed with DCRA, the city has started an official investigation of another business that appears to be operating out of a New Jersey Avenue residence without a certificate of occupancy and in violation of the zoning regulations.

The decision is likely to affect the desirability of other properties on the block in the eyes of non-profit or non-residential users.  Currently there are two adjacent townhouses up for sale on the block, reportedly by a single owner.  433 New Jersey is listed at $1.4 million and its neighbor is listed at $1.77 million.  The real estate listing notes:  “Opportunity Abounds!  Your chance of a lifetime to own not just one, but two adjacent houses on New Jersey Avenue.  You could scarcely get closer to the US Capitol and House Office Buildings, the DNC and the RNC.”  The properties have been on the market since last December.

Asked for reaction, Samolyk told CHC, “If the variance was granted it would have set a precedent having far reaching affects across ANC 6B. Allowing special interest groups, like the Bold PAC, to take over residential homes for event spaces would ruin the unique residential character of Capitol Hill. The residents on New Jersey Avenue took a stand not only for their own street- but for all of Capital Hill and for that I am very grateful.”

CHC reached out to Moldenhauer but has not yet received a response.  CHC will update this post upon receipt.


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12 responses to “In Face of Opposition, Hispanic Caucus PAC Pulls Application for Office Near the Capitol Building

  1. JustWondering

    Does this same argument apply to the proposed MGM party house at 501 C St NE?

  2. anon

    No. MGM site is zoned commercial, as is the entire block on the south side of street.

  3. Peter Rooney

    Great article. This is a huge victory for preserving the character of the residentially zoned sections of Capitol Hill. Big shout out to ANC6B Commissioners Jennifer Samolyk, who represents the immediate neighborhood, Nick Burger, who chairs the Planning and Zoning Committee, and Chander Jayaraman, who chairs ANC6B. Those of us who live on the Hill are grateful to these community leaders who are resisting the scourge of the lobbying/party houses that are invading our neighborhoods.

  4. anon2

    I think you could argue that the MGM lobby shop and large, exclusive hospitality venue could also be seen to “adversely harm the area adjacent to the jurisdiction of the US Capitol…and could result in a significant detriment to the character of the residential neighborhood.” The obligation to “Respect the importance of and provide sufficient controls for the area” still exists for this zoning.

    The MGM property exists as two plats in MU-26 zoning, one facing C St and one facing 5th Street. The purpose of the MU-26 zone is given here:

    Promote and protect the public health, safety, and general welfare of the U.S. Capitol precinct and the area adjacent to this jurisdiction, in a manner consistent with the goals and mandates of the United States Congress in Title V of the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act, 1976 (Master Plan for Future Development of the Capitol Grounds and Related areas), approved July 25, 1975 (Pub. L. No. 94-59, 89 Stat. 288), and in accordance with the plan submitted to the Congress pursuant to the Act;

    Respect the importance of and provide sufficient controls for the area adjacent to the U.S. Capitol;

    Provide particular controls adjacent to properties having a well-recognized general public interest; and

    Restrict some of the permitted uses to reduce the possibility of harming the site, building, or district to be protected.

  5. floyd

    It’s impressive what a community can accomplish when the residents band together to fight for a common cause. Working with our ANC reps (Jennifer Samolyk and Chandler Jayaraman) proved both refreshing and effective. Also thanks to Capitol Hill Corner for the timely reporting as this effort unfolded. I hope this encourages others to remain vigilant and resist attempts that would further deplete an already fragile DC residential housing stock.

  6. Marisa

    Wanted to thank our ANC reps (Jennifer Samolyk, Chander Jayaraman, and Nick Burger) for helping us preserve the residential character of our neighborhood. Another big thank you to Capitol Hill Corner for staying on top of this very important issue. These businesses/PACs/non-profits are slowly moving east and taking up more and more of our precious residential homes. The neighbors of the Capitol South area have organized and formed the Keep Capitol Hill Residential association (website to go live soon). For those of you dealing with this issue on the senate side or if you weren’t aware of the Capitol South neighbors banding together, please reach out. There is force in numbers and we plan to do our best to end this erosion of our beloved Capitol Hill neighborhood.

    • curious george

      If you have any ideas for resisting lobbyist party houses that are in mixed use zones next to residential areas, I would love to hear them.

  7. Carlos

    Thanks to Capitol Hill Corner for covering this vital issue. We are lucky to have committed and knowledgeable community leaders like ANC6B Commissioners Jennifer Samolyk, Chander Jayaraman and Nick Burger working to protect our neighborhoods. This important victory represents a beginning, not an end. The threat of commercial use by lobbyists and advocacy organizations that want to set up party houses will continue to grow. We have to keep working together. We have to fight back.

  8. Carmen E. Wiechmann

    A big Thank You to each and everyone from neighbors, official representatives to decision making bodies and reporters! The law and common sense seem to have prevailed. But the fight for our neighborhood is just beginning. We still do not know what will happen with 428 NJ Ave. SE. The two newly listed properties on our street are clearly pitched for non-residential use. We must remain vigilant and resolved to stay the course.

  9. Maddie

    Thank you for this story. Our neighborhood has been under siege by political groups and lobbyists who buy homes only to use them as meeting and events spaces. I’m heartened to read about the conscientious work of our ANC representatives in turning back this latest assault. Apparently, effective local governance is alive and well on Capitol Hill.

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