Friends of the Archibald Walk Tree House - Why Challenge the January 2016 DC Public Space Committee Decision?
This site was created by a small group of DC residents who believe in this magical fort, and our nation's capitol becoming friendly to backyard tree houses as places of wonder and discovery. Rather than paying lawyers to get the structure torn down in a municipality without a niche for tree houses in its building code, DDOT should work with DCRA and the Historic Preservation Office to update the code to regulate play/tree fort construction.
We object to the way ANC 6B and DC's top zoning authority allowed a group of home owners to harness review of a closed public space construction permit as a tool of revenge in response to DDOT's eviction of an alley forest dating to the 90s. At the conclusion of the PSC hearing, we were troubled by the sight of neighbors who'd testified hugging, cheering and pumping fists in the air. They believed that they'd succeeded in getting the permit revoked, clearing the way for the demolition of a child's fort.
The tree house is a harmless structure which the city should leave alone. If senior public space management official who have been intent on seeing it torn down get their way, DDOT will have wrecked a child's fort for political reasons the public is not privy to. In 2016, the agency went so far as to effect a bogus "permit renewal" process to jeopardize the family's authorization to use 20 inches of alley air space over mulch. Thus, DDOT abused its authority, threatening rights granted to the tree house builders under the law. The family, believing that their treehouse was in compliance with the law, had a "permit party" for local kids. In the years the fort has stood, neighborhood kids have grown attached to the backyard "princess castle." Most of the objecting neighbors appear to have moved on (nobody's heard from them in a long time), and it's time for DDOT to do the same.
The Tree House in Perspective- Why Should it Be Saved?
We ask, how would the early destruction of a tree house be in the public interest in a vibrant neighborhood packed with young families and large trees? Shouldn't the city government strive to strike a balance in meeting the recreational needs of each generation? Without the WaPo's sympathetic coverage of the Psychas-Yee's permitting efforts, DDOT would surely have moved more aggressively in its unlawful campaign to compell the parents to tear a harmless fort down. To what end? So that the fast-changing Capitol Hill Historic District can become a little less child-friendly? So that the kids who play in the castle can spend more time inside? So that litigation can continue throughout the years the Yee girls age out of their play fort?
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 the Psychas-Yee's SE property. Since the city is now in the business of erecting tree houses in public space, why not leave the existing neighborhood structure alone? The fact is, the popularity of urban tree houses has surged in recent years. See slides 20 and 25 of the EMMP plan for visuals of the future tree house: http://easternmarketmetropark.org/2014-06-21_EMMP_Community_Presentation.pdf
Thanks, kind reader, for some castle dreamin' about a back alley
enhanced by a sweet tree house. The Psychas-Yees have worked hard to preserve their play fort on principle, believing the DC consumer has a right to know exactly what they're allowed to build, including where play forts and tree houses
are concerned, and that the rights conferred by a closed construction permit should be respected by city permitting authorities. They have also done their best to give the public access to the tree house under controlled conditions, holding neighborhood
open houses and developing the fort as a bird watching platform for children. So let's celebrate a magical castle appreciated by many Hill residents for as long as the fort lasts, while keeping an eye out for
DDOT's permitting tricks.
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. If you have permitting experiences to share, email email@example.com Photo courtesy of Popville.com.