Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Other arguments for mandatory design review

See "Changing matter of right zoning regulations for houses to conform to heights typical within neighborhoods, not the allowable maximum."

Basic colonial revival house, 6400 block of 9th Street NW
Colonial revival house, 6400 block of 9th Street NW

The house being rebuilt at the corner of 9th and Tuckerman Streets NW.  I think I will start calling this a tear up, because it's not a "tear down," which involves demolishing an existing house and building something bigger, usually much bigger, in its place.  Instead this is a partial rebuilding of the house within the original footprint (it's probably easier to get building permits to do this), but in a way that's very much ersatz.  In general the choice of materials and the sizing of architectural elements is off.
"Tear up" of a colonial revival house, 6400 block of 9th Street NW

Side view.  Note that this house's original design was somewhat different from the others because it is on a corner lot and they put in a side entry garage.
"Tear up" of a colonial revival house, 6400 block of 9th Street NW

Use of stone for a building height extension/cornice reconstruction for an 1880s Victorian brick rowhouse on the 800 block of 4th Street NE.  It probably hides a rooftop patio.
A recently constructed facade of stone, on an 1880s/1890s Victorian brick rowhouse, 800 block of H Street NEan 1890s

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At 2:10 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

agreed, and with that roof deck article on GGW, a clear example of why we can't trust private owners to class up a neighboorhood.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Rather than say "can't trust" I prefer to think of design review and technical assistance programs as "providing guidance."

E.g., if you look at the CHRS publications on various elements of houses in that neighborhood, you get a pretty good idea of what's appropriate and what isn't.

Or design guide manuals.

The community design center of PGH used to five two-pagers on doors, walls, windows, roofs, and something else...

I appreciate people's willingness to invest in their neighborhood and their property, but generally they are out of their depth when it comes to design and architecture.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous h st ll said...

As long as they paint the first one I think it looks great. What exactly is the problem with it? The hardi plank on the side? Many detached houses in the city are poorly maintained on the sides (for obvious reasons...) and I don't see the hardi plank as particularly offensive.

The second one doesn't bother me much either. Sure, it somewhat breaks the continuity of the roof lines, but its high up and not a big deal.

There is an inherent problem with your call for these design review committees. You never mention the trade offs - ie it will effect housing affordability and increased supply, which you otherwise call for. And aren't you anti-NIMBY? I guarantee the NIMBYers would have a field day with such a committee and push to greatly expand its powers, making it extremely difficult to alter one's house as one sees fit.

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CHRS has allowed a number of bad pop ups to happen- it seems that someone with deep pockets can get to build anything they want within reason...also- pop ups are not all bad- and people need to live in these places- we are not living in 1890- cities change and people need more room- not everyone can live like a hipster with just a suitcase..

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

A lot of design review can be handled administratively.

Mostly it would trigger review comparable to what is called desk review at something like HPO.

The issue is like to like, quality, etc.

I have nothing against hardie plank as a material, for frame buildings, or when it is used as an element in non-frame buildings.

But this building should have been brick all the way around. If it is so expensive, give them a wee tax credit. I'd argue the public benefit is worth it for design-architectural integrity.

2. Similarly, with the other building the issue is about integrity and quality as it relates to architectural elements, in this case, cornices.

Stone as a material is fine. But it wasn't a material used on these buildings when they were commonly constructed from the 1880s to the 1910s. So don't use it.

3. With bigger projects there should be review as well, that could/would be public. Like new construction.

The thing would be to move DC's overview process to something more like how it is done in other cities.

In other places if you have a historic district, you have a design review committee that is formal (basically like a mini-HPRB), for that district. The committee is made up of people from the district, maybe the city, and has members with knowledge.

There is a set of criteria from which they make decisions.

Basically with the two things pictured in this entry, it's pretty simple, like materials to like materials, integrity of architectural elements appropriate to the building's style.

In DC, we don't have formal committees. ANCs review matters. Historic preservation groups weigh in on decisions.

It's formal, but it's flawed, unless the ANC planning committee commits to learning about historic preservation and other relevant matters and applying criteria.

That's my big problem with the process.

I think the modern ANC6A has worked hard to introduce knowledge into their proceedings. When I was on the ANC6C planning committee, I aimed to do the same, although a lot of the people were resistant to taking the time to learn, and had other concerns (e.g., "the environment").

More importantly, making the right decision could-would blow up at times when the full ANC would vote in the monthly meeting.

(This is a problem in my ANC now. There is an issue I want to get involved in, but as much as I would argue for the right thing, based on objective criteria, I fear they'll just muck it all up when it comes to a formal vote, with spurious criteria, etc.)

Similarly, in cities with design review they have committees with knowledge, and real guidelines. Tom Ludtke of the CFA and Roger Lewis were on Kojo Nnamdi recently, talking about how the CFA works but also the Alexandria design review committee, for which Ludtke was exec. director before his CFA job, and on which Lewis sites. I wasn't expecting something good just hearing their names, I didn't know this part of the their background.

As Lewis answered someone's query wrt Rte. 1 in the Gateway Arts District, "you start with a plan, with design guidelines", making the point that it is a structured project, not arbitrary and capricious.

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather see people buidling additions and new stories on top of their homes than building parking facilities or tearing down the building and building out on the entire property which is now common in Montgomery County Maryland- at least with a pop up you can see what part is historic- but I am all for it when the builder tries to accomplish real quality design- I am there with you on that- we need better quality and many of these pop ups are really badly made out of shit materials that do not match at all or look egregious

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Sorry, it's Tom Luebke, not Ludtke.

And I meant process, not project, in the last sentence.

And I meant that we don't have the right process, not that we don't have a formal process, with the way we weigh in, as citizens, on such matters now.

this is the link to that radio program:

It's worth listening to.

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