Office of Planning Rejects Application for ADA-Compliant Alley Flats

by Nena Perry-Brown

Rendering of planned alley flats

Two months ago, UrbanTurf reported on a Capitol Hill couple’s plans to construct a two-unit alleyway flat. They now claim that the Office of Planning (OP) is preventing a plan that was supposed to be made possible by zoning changes approved in 2016.

While the two-level building planned for the rear lot of 205 Third Street SE (map) seemed to follow the spirit of last year’s zoning amendments permitting the construction of more alleyway and accessory dwellings, an OP report explained that the types of relief requested did not meet the required burden of proof.

OP also noted that additional relief would be required in order to make the plans permissible, including a waiver from minimum parking provisions and a waiver to construct more than one unit on the lot. However, the owners of the site believe that OP’s assessment asserts that a single-family home would be the only acceptable use of the lot.

“[OP] said that we had to do a non-ADA accessible single family home or they would reject the entire project,” applicant Brian Wise told UrbanTurf. “They argued that it would increase bulk and density and that was against the interests of the neighborhood.”

On that last point, the local ANC, adjacent neighbors and Capitol Hill Restoration Society all submitted letters of support on the record and the District Department of Transportation stated no objections to the plan.

As drawn by architect Blue Star Design Build, the project would deliver a two-story building containing a pair of single-level units on an alleyway. The ground-floor unit was intended to be ADA-accessible and the applicants would occupy the upper unit.

Wise began filing documents amending the application this week, including the additional areas of relief that OP cited would be necessary to build on the site as designed. There is no indication as to whether the amended application would alter the opinions made on the originally-requested areas of relief, however.

Further, Wise is arguing that OP’s outright rejection of the application runs counter to the principles of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Comprehensive Plan by not supporting the construction of an ADA-accessible housing unit. A letter added to the record by the Equal Rights Center states the following:

It is our hope that the DC Office of Planning will take concrete steps to identify, develop, and reconfigure other residential buildings that could be made accessible. In doing so, the city would affirm its commitment to the human rights and equality of people with disabilities as outlined in the DC Human Rights Act, as well as the DC Office of Planning’s Comprehensive Plan. As the Comprehensive Plan clearly states under the Special Needs Housing section: “A plan for an inclusive city cannot ignore the needs of the homeless, troubled youth, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.”

Furthermore, the plan offers an example of a specific program to create incentives for landlords to create accessible units: “Program H-4.2-A: Incentives for Retrofits: Create financial incentives for landlords to retrofit units to make them accessible to persons with disabilities, and to include units that are accessible in new housing construction.”

While the Board of Zoning Adjustment was scheduled to consider the application today, the chair ruled that the case will have to be postponed until September while the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs reviews the case and considers the merits of the FHA aspect of the plan based on their Reasonable Accommodations policy.

See other articles related to: capitol hill, alleys, alley dwellings, accessory apartments dc

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/office_of_planning_rejects_application_for_ada-compliant_alley_flats/12813

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