Awful green barricade: the answer
Yesterday, I posted about this horrendous project that would create a blank-wall type building at 11th and U with a big green barricade a few feet high.
Why would they elevate the lawn, further reducing its usefulness as a potential public space? The answer is on the architect's project page, which is unavailable (maybe they are cowering from the bad press of this blog?) but still available in Google cache:
By raising the level of the front yard, an English basement level was created allowing for additional levels above.Here's what I think is going on: there's a loophole in the height rules for zoning. The height of a building is measured from the "natural grade", but in some situations, artificially built-up land around a building may allow it to measure its height from a higher point. I believe that is what they are trying to do here, raising the yard so that the building could be a little higher and they can fit in another floor. Anyone know more specifics about this quirk in zoning?
Congratulations to inlogan who came pretty close to guessing the reason.
As part of the Zoning Update process, the Office of Planning is clarifying the rules around height. Their draft recommendations are more specific about where buildings measure their height (the midpoint of the building's frontage) and require that it use the same street for the height measurement that it uses for the maximum allowable height under the Height Act.
This would particularly affect buildings like Washington Gateway at New York Ave and Florida Ave, which used the curb on the elevated New York Ave for its height measurement to get three more stories than it would normally be allowed.
We should close these loopholes, both because they evade the intent of the zoning regulations, and more importantly, because they lead to anti-urban monstronsities like this. Too many developers build blank walls and landscaped barriers as it is; we don't need to give them a financial incentive to do so.
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