Not big enough! (Lydia DePillis)

The corner of 29th and Garfield Street NW in Woodley Park is open and green, with a stately Colonial that looks tucked away in a forest. It’s been empty since January, and neighbors didn’t know what would happen to it about a month ago, when a raze permit appeared on the garage.

Shocked, the neighbors investigated. Turns out the lot had been bought for $1,395,000 by local developer Zuckerman Partners, was planning to subdivide the lot, clear the tall trees, level the house, and build two giant single-family homes in their stead.

They’re even on the market already: super-broker Marc Fleischer is listing a 5-bedroom, 4,470 square foot house for $1,995,000, and another, with 7 bedroom and 5,479 square feet, at $2,295,000. 

“I call them the two towers,” says Lisa Mitiguy, who lives next door. “It will completely change the character of the neighborhood.”

The neighbors sprang into action. They researched the local lot density, what permits had been issued and applied for—the Zoning Administrator had approved the minor exception needed for the subdivision back in November. By last week, they had a petition with 56 signatures, a zoning appeal in the works, and the ear of their city councilmember.

At 8:30 on Friday morning, about 30 residents gathered on the corner, some in jogging clothes, others on their way to work.  A few minutes later, Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh strode down the hill towards them, mounted a staircase, and listened carefully as she was briefed on the situation.

“The question I have at this point,” said Cheh, after they’d finished, “is how did it get to this point.” This councilwoman then directed her assistant director of constituent services to contact the Zoning Administrator, a top official at DCRA, the heads of WASA and the District Department of the Environment. “Just to make it look like all of officialdom has been alerted,” she said. Cheh instructed the neighbors to report any more work being done on the site—”they might come back under cover of darkness”—and will meet again this afternoon with neighbors and a representative of DCRA. It’s also on tomorrow’s agenda at ANC 3c.

Seven out of the 12 total bedrooms planned for the site. (marcfleisher.com)

Through their lawyers, Zuckerman Partners refused to comment. The firm is a family operation that has built at least two other homes in the immediate neighborhood.

“We like to say they’re taking the wood out of Woodley Park,” said Mitiguy, who took on the role of spokeswoman. “We knew that he had done it before, so we were able to organize quickly. He looks for corner lots that he then subdivides and then puts enormous structures on these things.”