SB-Urban’s Blagden Alley Project Delayed Again

by Lark Turner

SB-Urban's Blagden Alley Project Delayed Again: Figure 1
Rendering of proposed Blagden Alley development.

SB-Urban has a new challenge to its proposed no-parking micro-unit development on Blagden Alley.

The design, which has cleared hurdles at the Historic Preservation Review Board and seemed poised for a go-ahead on Tuesday, was instead delayed when a group of neighbors showed up to contest the project’s lack of parking in front of the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). BZA Chairman Lloyd Jordan, citing the project’s previous public meetings, initially denied the group’s application for party status and would not allow them to submit supplementary material rebutting SB-Urban’s claims that the project won’t have an impact on parking congestion in Shaw. He relented after angry neighbors spoke passionately about their opposition to the project.

The neighbors said the developers could easily build parking underneath the development. SB-Urban disputes that.

The 121-unit building is proposed for 90 and 91 Blagden Alley (map). Residences would be micro-units split into two buildings connected by an open pedestrian bridge over the alleyway. SB-Urban has changed the project’s address to ensure that the building residents would not be technically eligible for Residential Parking Permits and proposed several methods intended to mitigate residents’ need for a car, including providing free car and bike share memberships and installing a Capital Bikeshare station.

The company is at work on a similar project in the Patterson Mansion on Dupont Circle, also with no parking, and a third with little parking for the Latham Hotel in Georgetown. All three projects will consist exclusively of furnished, rental micro-units.

As we reported in December, the Office of Planning, the District Department of Transportation and ANC 2F have supported the plan, but zoning board members previously seemed concerned that the ANC’s support came in a split 4-3 vote.

Jordan told SB-Urban to submit documents formally refuting the neighbors’ claims in preparation for another hearing about the project.

See other articles related to: zoning, sb-urban, microunits, micro-units, micro units, bza, blagden alley

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/sb-urbans_blagden_alley_project_delayed_again/9455

1 Comment

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 11:22 pm on Tuesday January 27, 2015:
    The BZA has been generally lenient about parking variances for so many years that developers have started to think it’s routine, even if their site doesn’t meet the legal standards. Which, although subject to interpretation, aren’t so complicated. In summary, to be granted a variance, the site must have an “exception condition” from which flows a “practical difficulty” in meeting the “strict application” of the zoning regulations, and granting the variance shall not harm the “public good” nor the “intent of zoning.” The latter standards (public good/intent of zoning) can sometimes be met via the sorts of things SB-Urban is offering (Bikeshare etc.), but the former standards rarely lend themselves to the Let’s-Make-a-Deal approach. In this case, the developers don’t even need to go underground—the existing historically-contributing building was originally automobile use and could easily convert back. It’s visible in the rendering, the one-story portion under the left end of the pedestrian bridge. Its openings, in the rendering, even look like garage doors, which is what they originally were! Doubtless the developer would rather use it for something more income-producing. I might prefer it, too, on the basis on enlivening the alley, but neither of those are valid BZA arguments. Possibly the developer MUST use the space for higher-income purposes, in order for their budget to work. That, in BZA terms, would be a “self-created hardship,” and should be grounds for quick denial. BZA doesn’t exist to fix the financial missteps of developers, especially savvy developers like SB-Urban, who can hire the expertise needed to price their acquisitions correctly. Alternatively, it could be that the developers can afford to provide parking, one way or another, but are hoping for a BZA decision to boost profits. Fair enough for them to try, but much as the BZA doesn’t exist to save developers from their mistakes, it doesn’t exist to boost their profits either. I don’t write this out of any malice to this particular project, which seems pretty great. It looks like it would be an excellent addition to Blagden Alley, filling a couple of holes in the urban fabric with a stylish, well-designed extended-stay hotel. But “pretty great” is not the legal standard for BZA.

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