By Ian Shapira December 26 at 4:13 PM
The three-story rowhouse near Union Station looks ominous. Windows are boarded up. Orange stop-work orders are tacked on the building. But it’s behind the home near the H Street corridor where neighbors say the real red flag exists: a rear addition slated to expand upward another story, plus a rooftop deck.
The pending construction at 518 Sixth St. NE, a “pop-back,” is sparking the latest housing skirmish in which residents feel helpless against the free-for-all expansions of old rowhouses popping up or back by developers in the hot real estate market.
What makes this battle even more acrimonious is that a member of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, ANC6C, has taken up the residents’ cause. The commissioner, Mark Eckenwiler, a Justice Department attorney, is crusading not just against the developer but also the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
Over the past 10 weeks, Eckenwiler has fired off numerous emails to the DCRA, arguing that the agency should have never given a by-right permit to expand the rowhouse’s pop-back. The rowhouse already sits on more than 60 percent of its lot, the maximum amount allowable for such a permit, according to measurements in the developer’s application.