City Paper is not for tourists
In 2011, neighbors on the eternal D.C. quest to stop new construction perfected a new tool: the past. Get that old building declared a historic treasure, the logic goes, and it’ll effectively kill whatever new plan the NIMBYs don’t like. Alas, D.C.’s historic preservation law is meant to protect especially irreplaceable structures, so the Historic Preservation Review Board nixed efforts by Brooklanders fighting a mixed-use development (they wanted to preserve an otherwise unremarkable Monroe Street NE structure) and Georgia Avenue NW denizens fighting Walmart (they wanted to landmark an old trolley barn). But sometimes, all it takes to stop something new is a simple landmark application filing. In Chevy Chase, when neighbors drew up paperwork to preserve a house that developers wanted to raze, the developers changed their plans to avoid the fight. Either way, it’s not healthy for historic preservation, which risks being seen as a weapon wielded against development, rather than the law that keeps neighborhood fabric from disappearing altogether.