ANC6B Votes To Oppose Ebenezer Church’s Mechanical Parking Lift

Some 30 residents in the audience at Tuesday night’s ANC meeting were present to hear representatives of R. McGee Associates – architect for the Ebenezer development – present the church’s parking plan to ANC6B.

ANC6B Votes To Oppose Ebenezer Church’s Mechanical Parking Lift

by Larry Janezich

ANC6B voted to oppose Ebenezer Church’s effort to put a 19 car mechanical parking lift behind the church at 4th and D Streets, SE.  The vote was 4 – 2 with 2 abstentions.  The church is likely to pursue the plan before the Historic Preservation Review Board despite the ANC’s opposition.

The vote came on whether the design of the structure was historically compatible with the neighborhood, but the decision was more about the related questions of preserving interior green space, opposition to a necessary curb cut on 5th Street to permit access to the parking, and the impact on abutting neighbors.

The Capitol Hill Restoration Society weighed in, opposing the project on these these points as well as the precedent the plan would establish regarding a new parking lot inside a square.

Nearby neighbors were divided; some in favor of the parking plan and some opposed.  Residents of D Street welcomed the parking relief the project would bring.  Residents of 5th Street opposed the traffic issues which they see resulting from the curb cut.  Residents with home abutting the church complained about quality of life issues and the potential devaluation of their properties.

Representatives of the architect for the project – R. McGhee and Associates – pushed back, urging the ANC to stick to the historic preservation design issue before them, and deferring consideration of other associated issues until the official request for a curb cut comes back before them.

Commissioners were divided as well.  ANC6B Commissioner James Loots said that there were numerous concerns raised by the parking plan, but he was persuaded by the need to preserve green space in the Historic District, noting that the ANC had recently taken this position on a Historic Preservation Application for a building on 7th Street, SE.  Commissioner Nick Burger supported the parking plan, saying that the design of the structure was ok from a historic compatibility standpoint, and that parking was an issue neighbors raised with every new development that came before the ANC.  Here, he said,  is a project where the developers were trying to do something about parking.  At least one commissioner expressed support for the historic preservation application but announced opposition to the curb cut.

ANC6B Chair Chander Jayaraman said that the Historic Preservation Office knows what the regulations are, and depends on the ANC opinion to provide facts and considerations they don’t know about which are not strictly related to the project.  The issue is not solely one of historic preservation, he said, and rhetorically asked how it made sense to support the Historic Preservation Application and oppose a Public Space Application for a curb cut.

The vote does not necessarily mean that the fight is over.  The church is likely to pursue the parking plan directly in a hearing before the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), which, according to the architect, has previously indicated support for the reduction in street parking the plan would bring.  If HPRB chooses to approve the plan over the opposition of the ANC, it would not be the first time.

Commissioners Jayaraman, Loots, Ridge, and Samolyk voted to oppose the project.  Commissioners Burger and Oldenburg voted to support the project, though Oldenburg announced she was opposed to a curb cut.  Commissioners Krepp and Grace abstained.  Commissioners Hoskins and Hagedorn were absent.

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