Battle Lines Drawn on Ebenezer Church Plan for Mechanical Parking Lift

Schematic of proposed parking layout behind the 5 townhouses which will be built next to Ebenezer Church. Above the five parking spaces behind the 2-unit townhouses are the two structures which will enclose lifts which can accommodate 19 cars above and below grade.

Battle Lines Drawn on Ebenezer Church Plan for Mechanical Parking Lift

by Larry Janezich

Ebenezer United Methodist Church, the venerable and historic 179 year old institution at 400 D Street, SE, wants to put a 19 car mechanized lift in the middle of a residential block behind the church.  The parking is intended to accommodate parishioners and perhaps supplement the five residential surface parking spaces behind the five new two-unit townhouses being built by the church on what is currently its playground.  Naturally, some of the neighbors are concerned.

As reported here: the church, struggling to increase its membership, is developing five new townhouses on its property to increase revenues to ensure its survival as a religious institution.

The parking issue came before ANC6B Commissioner Nick Burger’s ANC6B Planning and Zoning Committee Tuesday night in the form of a Historical Preservation Application for construction of a brick structure to enclose the lift.  Since the church is in the Capitol Hill Historic District, the Historic Preservation Review Board has to approve the design of the structure and relies – under city regulations – on the ANC for advice.

Technically, only the design of the structure was before the Committee, but a substantial number of church neighbors were on hand to claim the opportunity to express a broad range of concerns about the overall project.

The ensuing discussion delineated the battle lines drawn between the supporters and opponents of the plan.

  • Some neighbors on D Street support the parking lift, seeing it as a way to relieve the pressure on parking on D Street by church parishioners who attend services and special events at the church.
  • Some neighbors on 5th Street oppose interior parking on the block because it would require a curb cut on C Street for access, eliminating one or two street parking spaces, and – like every curb cut – raises safety issues with 25 cars coming and going on a regular basis, as well as decreasing the walkability of the urban environment.
  • Residents whose backyards back-up to the 13 foot tall structure with a combined length of 60 feet are opposed because of the loss of aesthetics to their backyards.
  • ANC6B Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk: “I’m having a hard time coming to grips with the underlying fact that this is a parking garage in the middle of a residential area. What’s to stop ten other churches on Capitol Hill from doing the same?  This is a bad precedent.”
  • Real estate broker Chuck Burger: “Nineteen additional parking spaces will not make a difference to the survival of the church. I’m concerned about the commercial potential.  The church wants to create event space and a museum and is letting out space to other churches.  This development deflates the value of a number of residential properties…but it increases the market value of the church.  Property appreciation accrues to only one party.  It accelerates the possibility that the church will become condos”.

Well-connected and mild-mannered architect Ronnie McGhee’s response to the points raised by the opponents of the project was simple:  “There are interior parking spaces all over the city and disruption is a common feature.  Historic Preservation supports the lift as a way to increase parking.”

Citing the need for more information regarding potential noise and more detailed elevations, the Committee voted to take “No Position” by a vote of 5 – 0, bucking the question up to the full ANC6 at its January meeting.

Creating a curb cut – especially in a historic district is routinely resisted by the Department of Transportation (DDOT).  Exceptions are made, however, where there is no alternative way to access on-site parking or a loading dock via the alley.  If the structure is approved by Historic Preservation, the church will have to come back to ANC6B with a DDOT Public Space Application for the curb cut and spark a second look by the Historic Preservation Review Board.

The full ANC6B will consider the question during its monthly meeting on January 9, at 7:00pm, at Hill Center.


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6 responses to “Battle Lines Drawn on Ebenezer Church Plan for Mechanical Parking Lift

  1. If my understand is correct, any mechanical parking in DC will not satisfy any zoning ordinance for required parking. So, there is no code requirement for this. Further, and I could be mistaken, zoning in DC use to require a minimum amount of parking spaces for a given project allowed in any zoning catagroy. Now that same requirement is for a maximum number of spaces. By the book, driving is a thing no longer being encouraged in DC I suppose. Finally, if you know the cost of this parking structure, and divide by 19 that will give you the cost per car to park in such a lot. Sounds like a lot of dough. Maybe, the story being told has little to do why the garage is being built.

    • Mary Fraker

      As real estate broker Chuck Burger states in the article:
      ” . . . it increases the market value of the church. . . . It accelerates the possibility that the church will become condos.”
      More $$ to the church when it eventually sells to a developer

  2. mac

    I don’t have a problem with this lift or the curb-cut. The real danger to traffic and pedestrians are the motorists running the stop-sign at 4th and D.

  3. Karl

    The sidewalk where the curb cut would be is heavily traveled by students walking to and from St. Peter School and Brent School. This will impede their transit and increase the likelihood of injury or death.

    • Robbie

      Don’t you think you’re being a little bit dramatic? Likely injury or death by crossing a driveway? There are literally hundreds of crossings on Capitol Hill, including many on the way to and from the schools you mentioned; regardless of direction.