Review the Historic Designation Debate
On September 5, 2018, the BCA Board released the results of its online survey on historic designation, which indicated that the overwhelming majority of respondents opposed it for Burleith. Given this clear result, the Board believes that the matter of historic designation for the neighborhood is closed and does not warrant further discussion by the BCA.
The Historic Designation Committee created this web page to share information about historic designation. It was later updated to include other aspects of "managing change."
DC historic district designation protects neighborhoods of historic, cultural, and aesthetic significance. The designation is made by the DC Historic Preservation Review Board if a district meets one or more of these criteria and the community supports the designation. After an application for historic designation is submitted to the DC Historic Preservation Office, that office determines if the application meets the criteria. Homeowners then have 60 days to comment. A final hearing before the Historic Preservation Review Board allows additional testimony before the HPRB makes a decision.
More than 30 residential and commercial neighborhoods in Washington, DC, have already obtained historic status. Burleith, built primarily in the 1920s–1940s with a distinctive row house style and look, may be a candidate for historic designation.
In early 2016 the BCA formed a committee of Burleith residents to explore the pros and cons of historic designation and gauge the community’s wishes. The Historic Designation Committee organized opportunities for education and dialogue and was awarded (but did not accept) a "seed money" grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for community outreach and the services of a preservation specialist. To help cover historical research and community education expenses as the exploration process proceeded, residents and others were invited to make a tax-deductible donation through the Burleith Community Fund.
In September 2016 after much deliberation and community input, the BCA Board decided to defer exploration of historic designation (HD) until the new year. At the BCA annual meeting in November 2016, several neighbors expressed support for continuing to explore HD; others wanted information about alternatives, including zoning, conservation districts, or "custom zones" (the new term for a zoning overlay). The board agreed to the formation of a new committee (aka Neighborhood Study Group) comprised of homeowners with various perspectives to explore alternatives alongside HD. BCA VP Nan Bell observed committee meetings as a neutral board member and reported back to the board. The board also decided that the HD Committee would continue its hiatus, but that individual committee members of that group were free to express their opinions as Burleith homeowners and advocate for their preferred positions. Since then, the following meetings and advocacy occurred:
In May 2017, the Neighborhood Study Group conducted a survey to help the community decide what, if any, action to take concerning housing development trends in Burleith. The results were publicized in June and were explored along with custom zoning at a "managing change" community meeting on October 25 at Washington International School.
On April 11, 2018, the BCA held a meeting at Duke Ellington School of the Arts that covered the economic ramifications of HD, current housing market conditions and trends in Burleith, and the effects of historic designation on house prices in general and Burleith hypothetically versus the status quo.
On May 3, the final BCA meeting on HD took place at Washington International School. The format consisted of opening pro and con statements by Eric Langenbacher and Walter Hillabrant, respectively, followed by three-minute statements from attendees.
In mid-May, an anti-HD group mailed a petition asking recipients to sign and return it if they oppose historic designation for Burleith.
On May 14, the BCA emailed the membership and listserv announcing that the BCA Board reconsidered its decision to pursue a members-only vote on an application for HD. The board decided to cancel the vote and to instead conduct a community-wide survey where the full community can decide yes or no on for HD for Burleith.
On May 21, the Friends of Burleith, a pro-HD group, organized a meeting at the Georgetown Neighborhood Library on permitting and the costs of doors and windows in historic districts. John Sandor, president of the DC Preservation League, and Paul DonVito of the Foxhall Village historic district spoke and answered questions.
On June 3, the BCA posted an online survey open to Burleith residents and owners on the question "Do you want historic designation for Burleith?" The survey was open from June 3 through September 3.
On September 5, 2018, the BCA released the results of the survey, which indicated clear opposition to HD from its respondents.
Public Meetings and Outreach
Burleith: No to HD, September 5, 2018 web post
Public meeting on permits and costs (May 21, 2018); organized by Friends of Burleith with John Sandor/DC Preservation League and Paul DonVito/Foxhall Village Historic District
HD Survey Flyer, delivered with June 2018 Burleith Bell
Take the HD Survey, June 3, 2018 (original post date) web post
Custom Zoning Town Hall #5 (October 25, 2017); with Neighborhood Study Group, Joel Lawson/DC Office of Planning, Paul Levy/Lanier Heights
Housing Survey Results, June 17, 2017 web post
Burleith picnic information table, June 17, 2017
Community acceptance is required for HD, November 2016 statement
HD + Rear Additions, August 25, 2016 web post
Burleith picnic information table, June 18, 2016
President's Message, March 1, 2016 web post
Town Hall #1, February 25, 2016, with Kim Williams/DC Office of Historic Preservation and Paul DonVito/Foxhall Village Historic District
Burleith Split on Historic Designation, The Georgetowner, July 25, 2018
Burleith residents weigh custom zoning to manage area development, Georgetown Current, November 22, 2017
Burleith puts off landmark request, Georgetown Current, October 5, 2016
Burleith explores historic designation, The Georgetowner, July 27, 2016
Historic district vision faces debate in Burleith, Georgetown Current, June 22, 2016
Burleith to consider historic designation, Georgetown Current, June 15, 2016
Effects of Historic Preservation on Property Values (November 2016) and More Effects (April 2018) by Rich Schmidt