Courtney Rubin’s “Stoops to Conquer” (9/19) sums up well the articles appearing in the InTowner that have been documenting the police effort to curb drinking in residential front yards. It irritates me, however, when I see patrol cars whiz by my house near Logan Circle completely ignoring the public “brown bag” drinkers who are actually walking the streets and sitting in the circle, drinking. Many of their used bottles end up in my yard.
However, as one who operates a house-history research firm, I have found that not all homes in the District have their porches or bay windows extending beyond the official building line. If they are, a Special Permit for Projections Beyond the Building Line was required in addition to a Permit to Build when originally constructed. If they are not, most original building permits clearly demarcate the building line (public/private space) and indicate that all bay windows, stoops, or other projections fall within the building line. The houses and their bays and porches along the southern side of the 1700 block of Corcoran Street, for example, including the InTowner offices, appear to be within the building line, and thus private space. Let the chardonnay be poured.
Projection permits were required when an owner desired a bay window, staircase, or stoop, which were originally prohibited in Washington’s building codes, first developed in the 1790s. In 1871, the building regulations were changed, allowing for projecting bays over building lines, which are typically at the base of the building along the street facade. The city retained many yard spaces in the event roads needed widening, as happened to my front yard in 1947, when Vermont Avenue went from two lanes to four.
What this all means today is that residents may want to arm themselves with their original building permit in the event the police come marching up the front steps to arrest you for public drinking. One may simply hold up the permit, and if you are lucky enough to have a bay and porch within the building line, say, “Sorry, Officer Charlie.”
via the Internet