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, October 15, 2013

There are plenty of lots capable of accessory dwelling units in Upper Northwest

DC needs an alley dwelling open house or Alley-Palooza of its own.  This poster and event is from Seattle.

Much of the most vociferous opposition to the potential for "alley dwellings" on the rear of housing lots in Washington, DC--something that is legal now in certain residential zones, has been grandfathered in for some dwellings/carriage houses that wouldn't be legal now, but for existing buildings, but mostly isn't legal in DC--comes from Wards 3 and 4 in Upper Northwest. 

Yet many of the lots are appropriately sized for such dwellings.

And the likelihood of residents--the proposed changes to the zoning code would only allow accessory dwelling units on owner-occupied lots--renting units to "bad tenants" is extremely unlikely.

See "Will carriage houses destroy city life as we know it?" and discussion on the topic from Greater Greater Washington:

-- Walkability and garage apartments are not just for the young
-- Panic! Your alley could have a cute, clean little brick house!
-- Why the angst over accessory dwellings?

We went to an estate sale on the 4400 block of River Road NW over the weekend, and the block was full of lots with garages, at least one might have been semi-converted into something more, demonstrating the potential of accessory dwelling units here.

The block is 0.46 miles from the Tenleytown Metro Station and 0.59 miles from the Friendship Heights Metro Station.

Personally, I think that ADUs should be prioritized, when they can be easily accommodated, in transit station catchment areas, up to about one mile from the station--easy walking distance is up to a half-mile, and biking distance is up to one mile.

Garages on the 4400 block of River Road NW, Washington, DC

Garages on the 4400 block of River Road NW, Washington, DC

Note the extension on this building.  The plantings obscure the building somewhat.  But if you zoom in, you can see it better.
Expanded garage on the 4400 block of River Road NW, Washington, DC

Garages on the 4400 block of River Road NW, Washington, DC

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At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this Richard. The worst of the opposition seems to come from car-wedded yuppies and old people IMO at least where we live . These people evidently do not see a city which can accomodate easily more people. They only see cars.

At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True on cars. But they also see renters or as Richard Graham of 5333CT Avenue fame called them, "strangers" his children may be subjected to. Sorry to say, there is a subtext here of classism and most likely racism. The sad part is that the NIMBYs are so able to rationalize their views they don't even recognize it.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

"The other" and "Stranger Danger" ...

The funny thing (not that the incident was funny) after the three women were freed in Cleveland, and people were commenting, I made the point that we are hardly in the houses of our neighbors--except our immediate next door neighbors, we've only been in the houses of a couple people over the 5 years we've lived here, and we don't know what happens in other houses... Just because people are renters doesn't make them more dangerous.

David Cranor sent me a link (which I lost) to a journal article studying differences in involvement between renters and owners and it didn't show much of a difference.

The small d "democrat" in me believes that the reason we do often see differences isn't because of ownership per se as a differentiating factor, but because we've built involvement structures that favor owners, that we need to re-consider how we develop such systems and processes for involvement.

I have been reading (well, marking for reading) a bunch of literature from the UK. It happens I read a journal article from the _J of Regeneration and Renewal_ by a prof. in Manchester the same day I saw a presentation about Langley Park and the Hispanic population there, and it brought a lot of this to a head, in terms of having the right array of public-civic assets, spaces, and practice to engage people.


I am over my head in writing for the Europe in Baltimore project now, but I do want to write a piece about this in terms of Langley Park, Hispanic involvement in first generation immigrant cohorts, etc.

... which leads into this other stuff, as well as the paper I want to write about wards 7 and 8.

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the way I see it- we should not just be thinking of "grandfathering" in existing alley garages and carriage houses- but designing all new structures to meet the needs of the growing city. We should allow incresed heights in alley areas above what is allowed even on the street fronting houses- and in effect incentivize alleys as not just rental units but as good alternatives to large street fronting houses. New and beautiful architectural solutions could be had. Spires, towers with distinctive rooflines- why stop at just reusing an existing structure? And lets make it so that an owner can break off his back ADU and sell it off as a separate property. The codes need to encourage and to make innovation more acceptable. But I am afraid that a generation of naysayers is going to have tomove away or to die off before any true change like this can happen . on CH it is very very staid and the NIMBYs are hel fire as evangelists on these issues. Alleys are only for parking parking parking..


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