Is 469 Luray Place A Sign of Things to Come

Now that 469 Luray Place, NW, is done and having open houses, I thought I would revisit this property and its implications for the neighborhood. Readers will recall that over a year ago the property sold for $251,990 — a price that was just too good to be true for a local developer. The original single family home part of the development is currently on the market for $567,720. Also interesting is a claim that the property may have been purchased fraudulently.

What is sad to me is that despite involving DCRA early in the process and expressing many concerns about lot coverage and how the new structure was being over built — ultimately DCRA sided with the developer and ruled that the entire project was by right and within the rules and regs. The reason being that in an R-4 Zone a building or structure being converted to an apartment building is allowed the “Greater of 60% or the lot occupancy as of the date of conversion.” A Row dwelling, flat, church, or public school in an R-4 Zone is only allowed to cover 60% of the lot. 469 Luray was purported to be converted to a multiple family dwelling.

Now, after visiting the property and talking to the realtor, I have a better sense of how developers swoop in, diminish the character of the neighborhood, get around DCRA, and make a lot of money while leaving a hot mess in the community.

According to the developer’s representative at the open house, they now intend to subdivide the lot into two separate properties — one with the original single family home and one with the new structure as a two-unit condo. Not so bad you say, well consider this. Had the lot been split prior to construction, there most likely would not have been enough land to legally build what was actually constructed (hence building first, dividing later). The implications are huge. Park View has a few key corner lots like this which could be similarly developed leaving uninteresting towering eyesores at the end of several rows dotted throughout the neighborhood.

While not everyone seems to agree that such development is bad for the community — I for one think it is a real eye opener. With little to no protection outside of historic districts — which Park View does not have — the residential section of the neighborhood is vulnerable to unsympathetic pop ups, additions, and tear downs and replacements.

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8 Comments on “Is 469 Luray Place A Sign of Things to Come”

  1. Cliff Says:

    Kent, you are right on the money with this one. Actually, similar situations have already occurred a few times, but this one is the grand prize. They took a house with a ton of character and created an eye sore. In 5 years these places are really going to be an eye sore because the only thing they’ve got going for them now is that they look new. However, I am wondering how much quality work is actually going into them. The orange one on Warder already looks like plywood or something is pealing off the front.

  2. nette Says:

    I just think its terrible for the neighborhood too. I worry about a similar situation that could happen with the corner house at Warder and Manor PL. Could be prime real estate, especially with the driveway and garage.

  3. eb Says:

    Concur, similar zoning cocerns at 527 Irving. The Developer went the “do it illegally, plead ignorance, and beg for fogiveness later” route when he built this 4 story giant.

  4. lanisa Says:

    Apparently this approach applies to residences and businesses alike. Many of the additions to Sweet Mango Cafe, for example, were seedily constructed and then later approved. Rumor has it that the owners of Sweet Mango are now illegally building an American restaurant/tavern directly adjacent to their existing business.

    Around 10pm last night, I saw a man unloading huge saws and drill hammers through the back entrance on Rock Creek Church Road. I took the opportunity to follow him into the building and ask what he was doing. It is very clear that MAJOR construction work is going on inside but there isn’t a permit in sight.

    How can businesses and investors get away with this stuff? Better still, how can neighbors fight harder to prevent these offences?

  5. K Says:

    Same thing is happening at 721-723 Morton Street where they are constructing that monstrosity which has only approval for ‘single’ dwellings each although they are clearly constructing multiple units (8+). DCRA has been notified and deemed their construction compliant. The are using unlicensed contractors out of a pick-up and I guarantee that they will apply for multiple units and get it once (if ever) this eyesore is completed.


  6. This is going to sound sarcastic, but it is meant to be a serious question:

    Why should the city regulate the aesthetics of a neighborhood? I know that doing so is the status quo, but why should we continue it? Calling it an “eye sore” is subjective. Saying it conflicts with the neighborhood character is accurate, but so what? Is there a cost-benefit analysis that shows that the benefits of preserving neighborhood character outweigh the costs?

    I understand that this building may slow the rate at which your property values rise, but I think that creating more housing units in a great neighborhood is good for the city, good for the environment, and good for prospective homebuyers.

    Until recently I lived in an apartment a couple of blocks south of this building, and when my family and I decided to buy our first home, we could not afford anything in the neighborhood. I worry that by placing such great importance on the character of a neighborhood, you don’t allow the housing market to adapt to the demand, which doesn’t necessarily want/need an entire single family lot everywhere there currently is one.

    http://ruseriousingme.blogspot.com/2012/04/how-other-half-lives.html

    • Howard Says:

      R.U. Seriousing Me?, regulating aesthetics is a social mine field no doubt but everyone agrees that this house is ugly and obviously wrong for this location. Not to mention that per sq foot it is raising the cost of the area. The old house that they chopped the bay window off of is now being listed for $567,720 and there is no reason to believe that the other new units will be any more affordable. So if your line of argument is that having no rules on building ugly buildings lowers costs and there for is a social good, you might just be wrong.

  7. Lolly716 Says:

    A hot mess indeed. What can we do? Would more of us complaining to DCRA make a difference? I have mixed feelings about historic status, and we shouldn’t have to go to that extreme to protect our community from illegal development. But then I look at city hall, and I wonder if there is anything we as a community can do as long as corruption is tolerated (even reelected) in our city government.


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