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Ait-Ghezala v. District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

November 10, 2016

Ahmed Ait-Ghezala, et al, Petitioners,
v.
District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment, Respondent, and SB-Urban, LLC, Intervenor.

          Argued September 27, 2016

         Petition for Review of a Decision and Order of the District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment (Order No. 18852/18853)

          Ahmed Ait-Ghezala, with whom Barbara Schauer was on the brief, pro se.

          Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, and James C. McKay, Jr., Senior Assistant Attorney General, filed a statement in lieu of brief for respondent.

          Phil T. Feola argued for intervenor. John T. Epting and Cary R. Kadlecek were on the brief.

          BEFORE: Fisher, Beckwith, and Easterly and Associate Judges.

         JUDGMENT

         This case came to be heard on the administrative record, a certified copy of the agency hearing transcript and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the Board of Zoning Adjustment's ("Board") denial of petitioners' requests for party status is affirmed. The Board's grants of special exception and variance relief are reversed, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings.

          OPINION

          JOHN FISHER, ASSOCIATE JUDGE.

         On September 8, 2015, the Board of Zoning Adjustment ("the Board" or "BZA") granted intervenor SB-Urban, LLC's application for special exception and variance relief permitting the construction of a two-parcel apartment community (the "Project") which will offer no automobile parking.[1] A portion of one parcel (the "M Street Property") currently houses a historic garage onto which SB-Urban intends to build an addition. The other lot (the "9th Street Property") is presently unimproved. The Project will consist entirely of small, fully furnished studio apartments marketed to young professionals who SB-Urban maintains will require neither on-site nor on-street parking.

         Petitioners Ahmed Ait-Ghezala and Barbara Schauer own property within 200 feet of the Project site. They primarily contend that the Board (1) wrongly denied as untimely their requests for party status, (2) erred in determining that SB-Urban was entitled to the parking variance requested for the 9th Street Property, and (3) improperly granted special exception relief from parking requirements for the M Street Property. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand this matter to the BZA for further consideration.

         I. Factual Background

         SB-Urban proposes to build a two-parcel apartment community in the Blagden Alley/Naylor Court Historic District. One parcel, located at 90 Blagden Alley (Square 368, Lot 165), is situated midblock along M Street, Northwest. A one-story garage, which has been declared a contributing building within the historic district, lies at the rear of the M Street lot. Because the garage contributes to the historic district, it must be retained and, under District historic preservation laws, cannot be demolished absent exceptional circumstances. The other parcel, located at 91 Blagden Alley (Square 368, Lot 164), is situated midblock along 9th Street, Northwest. It is presently unimproved. The parcels run perpendicular to each other and are intersected by Blagden Alley. Both are located in the C-2-A Zone District.

         SB-Urban plans to build a large addition to the garage on the M Street Property and to construct a new building on the 9th Street Property. The two buildings will be connected by a pedestrian walkway over Blagden Alley. They will share amenities, a lobby, and common spaces, effectively functioning as one apartment building. The Project will include approximately 123 dwelling units, 79 of which will be in the M Street Building and 44 of which will be in the 9th Street Building. These residential units will consist entirely of small, fully furnished studio apartments. ...


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