Small Preservation Win — Restoration of Historic Preservation Office Review of Charter School Projects in District Owned School Buildings

Cesar Chavez Prep's new gymnasium -- Kenyon Street facade.

Cesar Chavez Prep’s new gymnasium — Kenyon Street facade.

Often times at the Advisory Neighborhood Commission level, resolutions are passed but no one knows if anything comes of them or not. Well, last week witnessed a change in District Law that began as an ANC 1A resolution back on June 12, 2013. The issue was identified during the onset of construction for the new gymnasium at Cesar Chavez Prep School located at 770 Kenyon Street, NW. The gymnasium was designed as an addition to the 1898 Bruce School building. The building was considered to have historic merit — though not officially a landmark structure — and as such, everyone expected that the addition to the District owned property would be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Office. However, unknown to the school or the community, a recent interpretation of the District Preservation law had determined that the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 did not apply to Charter Schools within District owned buildings because their construction projects were not considered to be “District of Columbia undertakings.” All-in-all, this interpretation seemed to be at odds with what was common practice prior to the interpretation and, for that matter, the whole reason for the District retaining ownership of the school properties to begin with.

With this in mind, I introduced a resolution urging that the DC Council revisit the law to ensure that construction projects involving District owned school properties in use by Charter Schools again be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Office in June 2013. The resolution was turned into a bill titled the “PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL HISTORIC PRESERVATION AMENDMENT ACT OF 2013″ and introduced on June 26, 2013. The first Council vote was on December 13, 2013, the final vote was on January 7, 2014, and Mayor Gray signed it on January 24, 2014. Law L20-0095 became effective on March 14, 2014. You can read a copy of the law’s language here.

Explore posts in the same categories: History, Schools

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3 Comments on “Small Preservation Win — Restoration of Historic Preservation Office Review of Charter School Projects in District Owned School Buildings”

  1. Keefer is king Says:

    Great job! Can we now ask them to tear down this ugly crap building and replace it with something that looks reasonable?

  2. Clayton Says:

    Thanks for the update Kent, and thanks for introducing this. Cesar Chavez completed a beautiful renovation of the historic school building and spoiled it with their gym addition. Hopefully this bill will curb this in the future.

  3. Angry Parakeet Says:

    My polling place is the Chavez gym – it was pretty sad seeing a lovely exterior wall with nice old windows enclosed within this ugly thing.

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