Divided Historic Preservation Board Objects to Ebenezer Church Mechanized Parking Plan
by Larry Janezich
Thursday morning, The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) concluded consideration of a plan for a 16 car mechanized parking unit behind Ebenezer Church at 400 D Street, SE, located within the Capitol Hill Historic District. The proposal failed to get the required majority endorsement on a 3 – 3 vote. But it might not be over.
As previously reported, opposition was largely based on the likely consequences of a proposed curb cut on 5th Street which would allow access to the parking garages. Residents feared that among other effects, traffic would backup on 5th Street, SE, as many vehicles arrive simultaneously for Sunday services. The developer pushed to have the issue of the curb cut passed on to DC Department of Transportation (who has the final say) without input from HPRB, but several of the Board members asserted that the curb cut fell under their province.
Board member Outerbridge Horsey said, “I looked up the definition of compatibility. It means harmony. I see conflict everywhere….it’s incompatible. The whole is worse than sum of its parts….I see issues with timing of cars coming and going out. I see this as within our purview. I’m not saying I could never get on board; I like the structure and it is doing what it needs to. But you need to think through these impacts; I’m not in support as it currently stands, but could be, given more attention to alleviating potential back-ups.”
Opponents of the project presented a petition signed by 70 neighbors who oppose the project; other neighbors presented a letter signed by 16 supporters
It appears that the mechanized parking structures are off the table for now. The proposal could re-emerge in a different form, or the Church could simply seek a curb cut from the DC Department of Transportation – a likely easier hurdle than approval by HPRB – and park as many cars as they can in the 12,000 square foot space.
ANC6B Vice Chair Chander Jayaraman presented the case to HPRB for ANC6B’s opposition to the project. Jayaraman told Capitol Hill Corner: “The split decision in this case by the HPRB is emblematic of the struggle that ANCs representing historic areas of DC face between responsible development and historic preservation. Over the several meetings on the proposed Ebenezer development, it was apparent to me that the community supports Ebenezer Church and recognized the need for the church to develop their underutilized property. However, testing a new mechanical parking garage concept that would serve only the applicant and eliminate all green space was asking too much.
I think that if this parking concept was proposed outside the historic district, I would be more supportive to see if new technologies and more efficient use of space can alleviate the daily parking struggle.”