A Procedural Guide for Homeowners, Architects, and Real Estate Agents
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The Cleveland Park Historic District is governed by the District of Columbia’s 1978 Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act. As in all of the 56 historic districts in DC, building projects in the Cleveland Park historic district are reviewed for their effect on the historic fabric and character of buildings, landscapes, the immediate historic context, and the historic district as a whole.
Are you in the historic district?
The DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and its staff in the DC Historic Preservation Office (HPO) have the authority under the law to review alterations to historic properties. HPRB and HPO seek input from ANCs and from neighborhood historic preservation organizations. In Cleveland Park, the groups that provide input to the city on preservation matters are Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C and the Cleveland Park Historical Society’s Architectural Review Committee (ARC).
This guide explains how preservation review works in Cleveland Park at the city and neighborhood levels. The process can sound complex, especially because there are a lot of acronyms, but the bodies that conduct preservation review aim to help owners and architects move their projects expeditiously through the review process and arrive at design solutions that allow owners to adapt their homes for modern living while preserving their historic character.
This PDF version includes the DC Historic Preservation Office’s guide to review procedures as well as the Cleveland Park-specific material that’s on this page. Realtors and architects: The PDF version is a good thing to keep on hand for reference and to share with your clients.
Who conducts preservation review? What are all those acronyms?
District of Columbia City-Level Bodies:
HPRB, the DC Historic Preservation Review Board
DC’s historic preservation law gives HPRB the authority to review projects affecting historic district properties and historic landmarks, as well as to designate new historic districts and landmarks. HPRB reviews larger projects and nominations at its monthly meeting and delegates review of smaller projects to its staff.
HPO, the DC Historic Preservation Office
The District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office is a division of the DC Office of Planning. HPO staff serve as staff to HPRB, conducting preliminary review of projects and approving many smaller projects under authority delegated to them by HPRB. HPO assigns a staff person to each historic district, and that person is responsible for reviewing projects and advising owners and architects in that district. Read more about HPO, HPRB, and their procedures in the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Process For Property Owners guide from HPO (PDF). Contact HPO by email or phone at (202) 442-7600.
The Cleveland Park Historical Society’s Architectural Review Committee (ARC)
The ARC reviews projects in the Cleveland Park historic district for their preservation impact, and has done so since the creation of the historic district thirty years ago. The ARC makes recommendations to HPO and to HPRB. Those recommendations are advisory. Current members of the ARC are Win Brown, Phil Eagleburger (co-chair), Ana Evans, Stefan Hurray, Christine Hobbs (co-chair), Danny Ince, David Kay, Tina Mead, Ron Ngiam, Lois Orr, and Anne Weir. To contact the ARC, email Carin Ruff.
Download the ARC’s operating guidelines here.
ANC3C, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C
ANC3C reviews projects affecting preservation, zoning, public space, and related matters, and makes recommendations on them to HPO staff and to HPRB. DC government agencies are required to give “great weight” to ANC recommendations. Like the ARC’s opinions, these recommendations are advisory. Note: ANC3C is bigger than the Cleveland Park historic district and has a mandate that includes much more than preservation, so it reviews many projects not reviewed by the other bodies named here. Information about ANC3C preservation and zoning review is at anc3c.org/issues/historic-preservation. To schedule review or for questions about the ANC, email Commissioner Nancy MacWood or phone 202-966-5333.
Note: A small portion of the Cleveland Park Historic District from Sedgwick to Tilden east of Reno Road falls in ANC3F, which does not normally conduct preservation review.
What projects require what level of review?
Projects in historic districts that require a DC permit also require preservation review.
The District of Columbia’s authority to conduct historic preservation review depends on its permitting authority. Therefore, only projects requiring a DC permit require preservation review.
Many projects do not require review at all!
Ordinary repair and maintenance do NOT need preservation review, nor do gutters, downspouts, or storm and screen windows. (However, replacement of windows, doors, roofs, or other architectural elements does require review.) Painting does NOT require review, unless you have a landmark with unpainted masonry that has never been painted. The historic preservation law has NO authority over what you do to the interior of your house, except in the very rare case of a landmarked interior. If your project affects only the building interior, you will need the appropriate DC permits, but preservation review will not be necessary.
Smaller alterations to your property can be reviewed by HPO staff without neighborhood review and without going to HPRB.
Citywide, over 90% of projects are handled at the staff level at HPO. See the The DC Historic Preservation Review Process guide for details, and consult HPO for specifics on your project. (Contacts are in the right sidebar.)
Larger projects require review by HPRB and neighborhood groups (ANC3C and ARC).
What is the process? Where do I start?
1. The first step is always to contact HPO staff.
Call or email HPO. (Contacts are in the right sidebar.) Describe your project. HPO staff will tell you what level of review your project requires and help with the application process. They will work with you on developing your project so it meets historic preservation requirements.
2. If HPO staff say that your project needs HPRB review, then contact the ARC and ANC3C.
Contacts are in the right sidebar.
3. The ARC and ANC3C will review the project in advance of the monthly HPRB meeting.
If your project needs full review, you will present it to the ANC’s preservation committee on the first Monday of the month and meet with the ARC on the second Monday of the month. The case may be discussed at the ANC public meeting the third Monday of the month, or it may go on the ANC’s consent calendar. The ARC and the ANC both submit recommendations to HPO staff before the staff write their report on each case for HPRB.
The review process is explained in more detail in HPO’s guide The DC Historic Preservation Review Process for Property Owners.
Where can I find design guidelines?
Presenting your project to the ARC
When and where does the ARC meet?
The ARC meets the second Monday of every month except August at 7:30 pm at the Cleveland Park Congregational Church, 3400 Lowell Street, NW. The agenda for each meeting is posted a few days before the meeting at the calendar link in the sidebar.
Who should attend ARC meetings?
Homeowners are welcome to attend the meetings where their projects are discussed, but we strongly encourage you to have your architect present the case. The committee will want to discuss aspects of the plans to which a design professional can most readily respond, and if there are changes to be made, it will be easier if the project architect hears them directly.
Neighbors are also welcome to attend the meetings, which are open to the public.
What should applicants bring to the meeting?
Please send plans no later than the Friday before the meeting by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and then bring EIGHT 11” x 17” hard-copy sets of your plans with you to the meeting.
Presentation packets MUST include:
- Existing and proposed plans and elevations of the entire house. Proposed elevations should have “cast shadows” or be otherwise rendered to convey three dimensions.
- Several three-dimensional views of the existing and proposed states are strongly encouraged.
- A site plan that makes it clear how the existing and proposed structures relate to the lot and property lines, and a map showing the relationship of the property to the footprints of nearby buildings.
- Photographs of the house and surrounding context, including photos that demonstrate how any proposed addition will or will not be visible from public space.
Download a sample presentation for a single-family house here or a sample presentation for a complex commercial/multifamily project here. (These are examples of complete and clear submissions to the ARC. Design solutions for your property may be different than those presented here.)
What happens at an ARC meeting?
The committee members sit around a table with the applicants and hear a brief presentation of the plans from the architect. The ARC includes both architects and laypeople, so the explanation of the plans should be pitched accordingly. ARC members may have questions about the plans and may discuss alternatives. They will want to hear about any feedback the applicant has already received from HPO staff, the ANC preservation committee, and neighbors.
Following the presentation and discussion, after all cases have been heard, the ARC goes into closed session to discuss its report. Within 2-3 days following the meeting, the ARC sends its recommendation to the applicants, the ANC, and HPO staff for inclusion in the materials the staff sends to HRPB.
How can neighbors comment on projects?
Neighbors are welcome to attend the ARC meeting to hear the plan presentation, ask questions or give feedback, and are also encouraged to send written comments to email@example.com either before or after the meeting for inclusion in the materials that the ARC forwards to HPO staff. The ARC will report to HPO staff on any neighbor comments it receives and will forward any letters from neighbors along with its own report.
Neighbors may also testify at the monthly ANC meeting and the monthly HPRB meeting. Read more about the public input process at planning.dc.gov/page/historic-preservation-review-board.
Note that the ARC’s mandate is to consider matters directly related to historic fabric, design, and landscapes. Many matters of concern to neighbors—for instance, traffic, parking, noise, and land use zoning issues—are better taken up at the ANC.
Special circumstances: Conservation Easements, Shipstead-Luce Area
A small number of properties in the Cleveland Park historic district have additional restrictions on them that are outside the jurisdiction of DC’s local historic preservation law.
If your house has a conservation easement on it held by the L’Enfant Trust or another easement holder, you must contact the easement holder first to discuss any planned alterations. Easement holders generally have stricter requirements than what is required by DC’s preservation law. If you have an easement, there should be a plaque on your house (not the CPHS date plaque, but one with the easement holder’s seal) and the easement should have been disclosed at purchase. The DC Historic Preservation Office keeps a current list of properties with easements, so check with them if in doubt: 202-442-8800.
The Shipstead-Luce Act, a 1930 federal law, places properties that abut Rock Creek Park under the design review authority of the federal Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). HPO staff will let you know if your property falls under Shipstead-Luce and will help coordinate review. The CFA has information on review for Shipstead-Luce properties at www.cfa.gov/project-review/shipstead-luce.