Owners of homes and other buildings in the Cleveland Park Historic District share responsibility for helping preserve the historic fabric of the neighborhood – the properties themselves and their relationship to the whole streetscape and natural environment.

This page gives an overview of the process for reviewing exterior alterations to properties in the Cleveland Park Historic District. For meeting procedures for our Architectural Review Committee, visit the ARC page.

—> Are you in the historic district? Check here. <—


The DC Historic Preservation Office works with neighborhood preservation groups to review proposed work on structures in historic districts. Under DC’s Historic Preservation law, work in historic districts that requires a permit must be cleared by the Historic Preservation Office.

The various historic districts in DC have different mechanisms for providing neighborhood-level input to the city on preservation cases. In Cleveland Park, neighborhood input is provided by our Architectural Review Committee and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C.

CPHS is here to help you through the design review process. Email Carin Ruff any time with questions.


Any work affecting the exterior of your home that requires a permit from the DC government also requires clearance from the DC Historic Preservation Office (HPO).

For minor work, that means over-the-counter review and a signoff by HPO staff. For major work, like an addition, review involves having the project approved at the monthly meeting of the DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Projects requiring HPRB approval are also reviewed by our Architectural Review Committee and ANC3C. (See below for more about what kinds of projects require what level of review.)


  • Call or email Frances McMillen, Cleveland Park specialist in the Historic Preservation Office (contact info at left) and describe your project.
  • Does Frances say your project needs Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) approval? If not, follow her directions for getting her approval for a permit.
  • If your project does require HPRB approval, then contact us and ANC Commissioner Nancy MacWood (contacts at left) to have your case placed on the agenda for the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) and ANC meetings early in the month.
  • The ARC and the ANC will review your project and forward recommendations to Frances McMillen at HPO in time for the HPRB meeting at the end of the month.

—> Click here for a detailed description of the Architectural Review Committee process <—


The great majority of work you do to maintain an older home either does not require a permit or can be approved over the counter by HPO staff in one visit to the DCRA Homeowner’s Center. Most major work that needs HPRB review is cleared through the process by staff and the neighborhood groups and goes on the HPRB consent calendar. Only major work on which there is significant disagreement normally results in a case that needs testimony and discussion at an HPRB meeting.

Here are rules of thumb from the city about what kinds of work needs what level of review:

No historic preservation design review required:

  • Interior alterations and non-structural interior demolition
  • Ordinary maintenance
  • Painting and paint color selection (with the exception of landmarks with unpainted masonry)
  • Gutters and downspouts
  • Window attachments (Screens, storm windows, non-commercial awnings, security bars, air conditioners)
  • Window repair (reglazing, caulking, weatherstripping, consolidating deteriorated elements)
  • Landscaping (planting or removing trees and shrubs, but not including paving)
  • Movable site features (outdoor furniture, play equipment, sculpture and ornaments, light fixtures and lamp posts
  • Dumpsters, scaffolding, construction fences, use and occupancy permits
  • Any work not requiring a building permit

Minor and routine work requiring preservation design review that can normally be approved over the counter by HPO staff:

  • Minor repairs and in-kind replacement of deteriorated elements (roofing and flashing; siding, cornices, moldings, shutters, and trim; front steps, walks, fences, and other site elements; masonry repointing or repair that does not require HPO site visit or review of test patch)
  • Front fences up to 42” high and retaining walls less than 12 inches high
  • Alterations and installations clearly not visible from a street (skylights, vents, and chimneys; HVAC equipment and solar panels; satellite dishes and antennae; dormers; opening or blocking up window and door openings on secondary elevations
  • Work in rear and side yards clearly not visible from a street
  • Backyard fences up to seven feet in height
  • Steps, walks, and retaining walls
  • Patios, terraces and first floor decks
  • Garden sheds, gazebos, and trellises
  • Garage door replacement
  • Parking pads on private property accessed from an alley
  • Certifications of designated property for parking and loading waivers; renewal permits Excavation, sheeting & shoring and other underground work for approved construction
  • Unenclosed sidewalk cafes on existing paving with removable furniture
  • Subdivisions involving minor or insignificant lot changes, conversion of assessment and taxation lots to record lots

Work requiring preservation design review that can normally be approved by HPO staff within a few days:

  • Front alterations, and side alterations when prominent from a street (window replacement, consistent with HPRB standards; door replacement; porch reconstruction, replacement of elements, not including porch enclosure)
  • Work in front yards, and side yards when prominent from a street
  • New steps, walks, and paved areas
  • Trellises and landscape structures
  • Major regrading and alteration of topography; retaining walls over 12 inches high
  • New areaways or basement stairs, consistent with HPRB design standards
  • Masonry repointing and replacement requiring HPO site visit or review of test patch
  • Roof decks, penthouses, solar panels and other roof alterations requiring HPO site visit and/or mock-up and determined not visible from street views
  • Minor additions (less than 500 square feet in size) at rear or side of property if not prominently visible from the street
  • Rear decks and balconies extending above the first floor
  • New one-story garages along an alley or not prominently visible from a street
  • Signs, awnings, canopies and marquees, consistent with HPRB standards
  • Projects involving substantial scopes of rehabilitation work, specification or narratives requiring review
  • Work approved in concept by HPRB with final approval delegated to HPO staff

Major Work Requiring HPRB Review (Agenda or Consent Calendar):

  • Demolition of landmarks or contributing buildings in historic districts, substantial or in their entirety, as defined in DCMR 10-C, Section 305
  • New buildings
  • Front and side additions, including new porches (other than reconstruction of missing original porches) and porch enclosures
  • Front alterations, such as new dormers, entrances, and entrance features
  • Substantial rear additions
  • Roof additions or decks visible from a street
  • New two-story garages and garages prominently visible from a street
  • New curb cuts, driveways and parking pads in front or side yards
  • Significant alteration of important architectural features (window or door openings on front facades; removal of special windows, distinctive materials, and decorative architectural features)
  • Subdivisions involving landmarks, significant changes in lot boundaries, or substantial combination/division of lots
  • Work that exceeds HPO delegated authority or determined by HPO to be inconsistent with HPRB standards and practices