The Most Peculiar Tool Used to Fight a New Development in 2018

by Nena Perry-Brown

UrbanTurf usually avoids publishing rankings or lists…except at the end of the year, when we look back at what DC’s residential real estate scene had to offer during the previous 12 months. This week, we revisit some of the best, most intriguing and peculiar things we came across over the course of 2018. Enjoy.

As the debate over the future of the former Superfresh site in AU Park stretches on, UrbanTurf remembers when a coalition of neighbors took matters into their own hands — literally.

While the Zoning Commission (ZC) reviewed the design of the mixed-use project proposed for the site, the neighbors employed one of the more interesting tactics UrbanTurf has seen used to oppose a project: a debate over the accuracy of the iPhone camera.

How the iPhone Impacts the Approval of a Contentious New Development in AU Park: Figure 4
Previous rendering of Ladybird as seen down Windom Place, using iPhone 7.

In February, Valor Development and architect Torti Gallas submitted a new suite of renderings of the proposed project, which is slated to deliver 239 residential units and retail that could include a Balducci's to 4330 48th Street NW (map). The group Citizens for Reasonable Development (CRD) countered with photographs and illustrations of their own, asserting that the development team was attempting to deceive the ZC with inaccurate perspectives of the project's appearance and impact.

How the iPhone Impacts the Approval of a Contentious New Development in AU Park: Figure 5
CRD's massing of Ladybird as seen down Windom Place.
How the iPhone Impacts the Approval of a Contentious New Development in AU Park: Figure 6
Response rendering of Ladybird as seen down Windom Place; using iPhone 6.

This debate began at a zoning hearing held the month prior, when CRD members claimed that the previously-submitted renderings, based on photos taken using an iPhone 7, employed a wide-angle lens that misrepresented the pedestrian perspective. Valor conceded this point and offered new renderings based on photos taken with an iPhone 6, asserting that the phone's camera had a standard lens. CRD, however, remained dissatisfied.

How the iPhone Impacts the Approval of a Contentious New Development in AU Park: Figure 7
Previous rendering of Ladybird as seen from Massachusetts Avenue; using iPhone 7
How the iPhone Impacts the Approval of a Contentious New Development in AU Park: Figure 8
CRD's massing of Ladybird as seen from Massachusetts Avenue.
How the iPhone Impacts the Approval of a Contentious New Development in AU Park: Figure 9
Response rendering of Ladybird as seen from Massachusetts Avenue, using iPhone 6

The organization commissioned renderings by Digital Design + Imaging and submitted Visual Impact Studies countering those offered by the development team, painting vastly different interpretations of the appearance of the proposed project. 

"The analysis shows that, through the use of a camera phone’s wide angle lens and image manipulation, the representation of the Ladybird building is distorted, and undersized by at least 19 percent," CRD's study states. 

Same Size, Different Massing: A Fresh Approach for the Superfresh Redevelopment: Figure 2
Newest rendering of the proposed development. Click to enlarge.

Since then, the development team has returned to the community with an appreciably different proposal for the site (and renderings made from 50mm-lens photos). A ZC hearing in January may settle the debate over the site's future.

UrbanTurf's 2018 in Review Articles: 

See other articles related to: best of 2018

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the-most-peculiar-tool-used-to-fight-a-new-development-the-iphone/14787

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