Update on 3515 Woodley Road: FOIA documents, rebuilding plans, and a covenant on the property

HPRB HEARING: READ OR WATCH OUR TESTIMONY

The DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) considered the rebuilding plans for 3515 Woodley Road at its February 25th meeting. Ralph Cunningham of Cunningham | Quill Architects presented the plans to rebuild, and CPHS and ANC3C testified at the hearing.

You can read our testimony here or watch video of the hearing at here click on the Feb. 25th hearing date and then navigate to the last case on the agenda for the day. Our testimony was informed by the documents we received from DCRA in response to our FOIA request, which document the structural damage that the DCRA inspector found in his October 26th inspection and the apparent contractor negligence that caused the damage. The salient documents — the Notice of Infraction, Stop Work Order, and photographs taken by the inspector — are available to download here. (The file is a 10 MB PDF.)

PROTECTIONS FOR THE REBUILT HOUSE

Because the rebuilt house will be a replica without any of the historic fabric from the 1912 building it replaces, it will be “non-contributing” in the historic district and thus, unless other measures were put place, it would have a lower degree of protection than “contributing” structures. DC Historic Preservation Office staff are characterizing this as a “reconstruction,” rather than new construction, and recommend that any future changes to the house receive a higher level of scrutiny.

For additional assurance that the house will remain as rebuilt, CPHS and ANC3C worked together to secure a covenant on the property requiring that the rebuilt house be treated as if it were a contributing property, with full review for any changes by CPHS and ANC3C. ANC3C made execution of the covenant a condition of their approval of the plans to rebuild. The HPRB voted to approve the rebuilding plans in concept, but directed their staff to withhold final approval until execution of the covenant has been verified. CPHS and ANC3C have now agreed with the owner of the property, Barrett Evans, on the covenant, and we expect it will be signed by all parties this week.

QUESTIONS REMAIN; COLLAPSES CONTINUE

Many questions about how the loss of this house came about remain to be answered, despite the fact that rebuilding is going ahead. The documents received from DCRA include nothing between the October 27th Stop Work order and the day the house was razed ten days later. There is no documentation of the consultation with the Historic Preservation Office which we have been told happened orally, and which is required by the preservation law. There is nothing in writing to substantiate DCRA’s decision to order an emergency raze. CPHS will pursue our FOIA request to attempt to obtain documentation from the missing period, if it exists. We will be following up with the help of HPRB, the DC Council, and the DC Preservation League to seek to put measures in place to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again. It is clear that better enforcement by DC will be necessary, as just in the last few days two more houses have collapsed while undergoing construction elsewhere in the city.