The Case for Clear, Homeowner-Friendly Rules, Laws and Good Faith Practices in Construction Permitting in DC

This site was created in early 2016 by a small group of Hill residents who believe in this magical tree house, and our nation's capitol becoming friendly to backyard play areas as places of wonder and discovery.  Rather than paying lawyers to get the structure torn down in a city without a niche for play forts or tree houses in the DCMR, DDOT should work with DCRA and the Historic Preservation Office to update the Code.  Most of the other Metro area municipalities now thoughtfully regulate tree house construction.  

At the conclusion of the January 2016 PSC meeting, we were troubled by the sight of older neighbors who'd testified in favor of the tree house's destruction hugging, cheering and pumping fists in the air, with no objection from PSC members.  They believed that they'd succeeded in getting the family's construction permit revoked, portending the tree house's immediate destruction.  WJLA Channel 7-ABC covered the neighbors' reaction:

The tree house is a harmless structure that City should leave alone to end government waste in the campaign to destroy it.  Because DDOT issued the family with a permit, then unlawfully revoked it, litigation could easily drag on until the Yee girls have outgrown their fort.  It's time for DDOT, perhaps the worst-run of the DC administrative agencies, to move on in favor of working to improve its weak permitting performance.

The Tree House in Perspective- Why Should it Be Saved?

Visitors to this web site and City planners might wish to consider the irony of the newly funded Eastern Market Metro Park (EMMP) plan including a tree house. The structure has been approved for construction in the "Parcel 1 Play Area" of the development, the swathe of the park bounded by D Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE between 8th and 9th.  This site is several blocks northeast of Archibald Walk.  Since the City is now in the business of erecting tree houses in public space, why not leave the existing neighborhood tree house alone.  See slides 20 and 25 of the EMMP plan for visuals:

Thanks, kind reader, for some castle dreamin' about a back alley enhanced by a sweet tree house.  Bing and Ellen have worked to preserve their girls' play fort on principle, believing that the rights conferred by closed construction permits should be respected.  They have also done their best to give the public access to the tree house under controlled conditions, hosting open houses and bird watching events. 

Meet the Other Hill Tree House, Frontier Version:

Dan Silverman, editor of the Popville "It's a Beautiful Life" DC neighborhoods blog, posted this shot of a "sweet tree house" back in 2012.  By his recollection, the "other" Hill tree house was situated somewhere in NE, north of LP.  After the Archibald Walk tree house war broke out, rumors of a "frontier style fort" on the Hill, built some years earlier, were swirling, motivating us to cycle through red brick alleys in search of the structure.  The small tree house was legally built without a permit, because it's platform is less than 50 SQF.  Thank you, readers who sent in tips to help us find it, on the lot of 1246 C Street NE.  We promote the sharing of permitting experiences DC tree builders have had, research to pressure the city bureaucracy to create a niche in the building code for play forts.  Photo courtesy of 

Contacting Bing and Ellen:

Tell Ellen and Bing about your own experiences with play fort permitting in the District.  Ask them to bring Ward 6 Girl or Boy Scouts to the castle for a birding session. Request access to the tree house for a different reason, or ask a general question about the structure. Email