Despite complaints from ANC 6A and numerous residents in the Kingman Park neighborhood, there are plans to convert a single-family dwelling at 1511 A Street NE into an 18-unit, multi-family residential development. The planned four-story project would feature rooftop terraces and nine parking spaces. Two existing one-story garages would be removed. The property is on two lots with a combined area of 5,936 square feet.
The single-family home currently on the site dates back to 1923. After the owners’ death in 2004, the property has since been vacant. The developer of the project, 57th Street Mews, LLC, purchased the property in July 9, 2013 for $1.5 million, according to a May 2014 article by Hill Rag.
This project has been in the works since June 12, 2013 when a permit application was filed for the project. Residents in Kingman Park protested the proposed project in 2014, stating that the developers were exploiting a loophole in D.C.'s zoning regulations.
Behind the project is Founder of Bello, Bello, and Associates Toye Bello and developer Taiwo Demuren. Bello is known for serving as D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’s (DCRA) former Zoning Administrator and later losing the position in June 2005 due to complaints from D.C. residents.
One project that both Demuren and Bello have formerly worked on together was at 1231 Morse Street NE, which also received complaints from residents, one of whom claimed witnessing Demuren’s contract workers ripping telephone and cable lines from his house, thereby severely damaging it. According to Hill Rag, Demuren and Bello continued to build the project despite multiple stop work orders from the DCRA.
Brian Alcorn, an appointed representative of ANC 6A for the BZA appeal, told Curbed, “The owner/developer's prior track record with violations and non-compliance on several of his other properties elsewhere in the District have caused additional concern in the community over plans for that site.”
On the proposed project at 1511 A Street NE, Hill Rag further reported:
“Bello told residents that the condos will meet and exceed their zoning limitations. ‘First of all, the property is zoned commercial, C-2-A,’ he explained, meaning that the area permits mixed-used properties, including retail and office spaces. ‘They're generally mapped in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, so it's not an unusual zoning district for where it is located.’ Some residents say this zoning is a hold-over from the past when the nearby Car Barn condos were used to store and repair streetcars. According to the Zoning Code, residential buildings in a C-2-A district can have a maximum lot occupancy of 60 percent and a maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 2.5. However, Bello stated that inclusionary zoning provisions allows developers to gain extra 0.5 FAR for residential buildings with 10 or more units in exchange for setting aside a number of units for affordable housing.
However, some residents feel the project shows how some developers take advantage of older zoning laws. ‘Every house in the area is zoned as R-4 [now RF-1],” said [Kingman Park resident Todd] Sperry. ‘Why is this property still considered to be C-2-A?’”
Curbed reached out to 57th Street Mews, LLC for more details and was told that the project is currently on hold, even though an appeal was filed with the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) this Monday. Curbed was also told that there are no renderings of the project, even though the BZA documents show that there is a rendering available.
In May 2015, the D.C. Zoning Commission rezoned the property from C-1-A to R-4 (now RF-1). On September 7, 2016, the DCRA issued a permit, authorizing the construction of the planned 18-unit project, despite the project violating the R-4/RF-1 zone restrictions and despite it being located in a residential neighborhood that predominantly has two-story single-family homes.
On October 13, 2016, ANC 6A unanimously voted to sponsor an appeal of the following DCRA actions: the issuance of the permit that authorizes the construction of the project and the refusal of the Zoning Administrator and the Code Official at the DCRA.
"ANC 6A, ANC 6C and the neighbors all believe that DCRA erred in the processing of the zoning regulations for this property,” said Alcorn, further adding, “The community's appeal is focused on having the city address a violation of law. It is not a commentary on increased residential or commercial density in the neighborhood.”
When Curbed reached out to 57th Street Mews, LLC for a statement in response to ANC 6A’s efforts to thwart the project, the contact stated, “I don’t have any information for you.” When the contact at 57th Street Mews, LLC was asked what his name was, he further stated, “I don’t have any information for you.”
UPDATE 11/8: Statements from Brian Alcorn, an appointed representative of ANC 6A for the BZA appeal, were added to the article.
• Residents Protest New Development at 1511 A Street NE [Hill Rag]