Some egregious examples of popups in DC
(I discussed this last week, but it's an evergreen topic.)
One of the most distinctive elements of DC's architectural identity is defined by the built form of the city's older neighborhoods, primarily those neighborhoods constructed before 1930.
At that time, the organization of residential property construction was much different than today, where subdivisions of more than 1,000 lots are developed by a single firm. Back then, it was typical for a "developer" to construct only a few buildings at a time, on scattered lots.
In neighborhoods like Georgetown, Capitol Hill, or Dupont Circle this resulted in a rich and differentiated ensemble of related but distinct buildings, much different from today's "production" subdivisions constructed with a handful of front elevations and architectural styles. DC's oldest neighborhoods have dozens of differently designed but complementary and "fitting" residences buildings on a single block.
The popup phenomenon is the result of two gaps in DC building regulations:
(1) design review extends only to those neighborhoods that have gone through the process of historic designation. While ore than 20,000 buildings are located in the city's historic districts, a greater number of equally "historic" but undesignated buildings are present in other neighborhoods that haven't gone through the historic designation process.
To solve that problem, I suggest that the entire city should be subject to a basic level of design review, whether or not a building or area is designated as a landmark or a historic district.
(2) the maximum height that is allowable for residential districts according to the zoning code is significantly higher than that which was typical when DC's neighborhoods were first constructed. In undesignated areas, it is a simple matter to get permission to build additions/an additional story on houses and apartment buildings.
Taller buildings, albeit usually executed poorly, can create visual incongruence and diminish the overall aesthetic experience and historical identity of DC's residential blocks and neighborhoods.
Yesterday, we checked out some estate sales in Upper Northwest, which gave us a chance to check out some areas of the city we might not normally get to, and I saw some "interesting" examples that support my thesis.
The mansard roof has been used since the late 1800s to add height to buildings in a stylish manner, but it is fair to say that more modern use of the technique has some problems with execution.
3600 block of S Street NW, no pop up. This block was in fact constructed by one builder. Each side of the block has a repeating, but differentiated set of facades. Each side of the street mirrors the other.
Similar ensemble, with pop up, across the street
End unit pop up, 3600 block of S St. NW
Unmodified end unit across the street.
Popup on a wood frame Italianate rowhouse. It's likely that the house on the right once looked like the house on the left. This is on the 500 block of Jefferson Street NW near where I returned the Zipcar. This block is quite interesting. It has houses dating from the wood frame era--these houses probably date to the 1870s, brick rowhouses dating to the 1880s or 1890s, "Wardman-style" rowhouses from the 1910s-1920s, bungalows, and some infill apartment buildings, some with an art deco style.
Popup on an apartment building on Wisconsin Avenue in Cathedral Heights (by Cafe Deluxe and the new Giant Supermarket). Note that the proposed restrictions on pop ups would have no effect on properties in commercially zoned areas, including the apartment building pictured below, and the "famed" middle finger building on V Street NW ("D.C. developers take rowhouses to new heights," Washington Post).
And buildings next door which show how the pop up building once looked.