City Paper is not for tourists
For our Best of D.C. issue, out today, I wrote about the “Best Tiny Houses.” It was an easy choice: It went to what, as far as I’m aware, are the city’s only tiny houses, a delightful collection of micro-dwellings on wheels on a small plot of land between alleys in Stronghold.
Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie lives right across one of the alleys from the tiny houses, and in my pick, I wrote that he’s been “generally supportive” of the project. That was based on a conversations I had with him and with one of the tiny house creators in the fall.
Now, McDuffie calls to say that he recalls our conversation differently, and he in fact does not support the project. (My memory of the conversation is still clear, and apparently different from McDuffie’s.)
“As a concept, tiny houses, I don’t have a problem with, but the location has been a huge problem, and there’s been no support from any of the neighbors who reached out to me or my office,” McDuffie says.
He’d like to see a “happy medium,” he says, but “it just doesn’t exist.” The neighbors are universally opposed, and the tiny house folks want to stay, and there’s no simple compromise.
I don’t have a recording of our earlier conversation, so I can’t prove that McDuffie was supportive, but his opposition now is clear. And it’s understandable: If his constituents in the area—-some of whom used to use the space for unofficial parking before it was purchased by one of the tiny house builders and are irked at the takeover of the plot by newcomers with their strange project—-are all against the tiny houses, he has little reason to come out publicly for them.
Still, it’d be a shame to see a project that’s the best in its admittedly small class displaced by political considerations. Here’s hoping that some sort of compromise can still be worked out.
Update: Tiny houses co-creator Brian Levy says he and his collaborators have received support from a number of neighbors, including six or seven who border the property, but that those neighbors aren’t as vocal in reaching out to McDuffie as the opponents. “People who are fearing change are the ones who pick up the phones,” he says.
Still, Levy and co. were surprised to read of McDuffie’s current opposition to the project, given earlier conversations he’d had with them. “We were surprised, given the many supportive neighbors we’ve taked to, that he would oppose this project, which is really meant to be a showcase of affordable housing and sustainable design,” Levy says.
Levy will soon be sending McDuffie a letter highlighting community support for the project. He says his team has knocked on the doors of all 20-some houses bordering the lot at least three times in the past year. Opposition to the project, where it exists, largely centers on the loss of parking.
“Oddly enough, we haven’t had any complaints about noise,” he says. “Obviously we’re working during construction hours and try to be as respectful as possible.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery