Letter to the Editor: Proposed assisted-living center is out of scale with neighborhood

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The proposed Sunrise assisted-living center, shown here from Yuma Street, has drawn concern from nearby residents. (rendering courtesy of Sunrise Senior Living)

We write regarding The Current’s Oct. 18 article concerning the proposed Sunrise Assisted Living-Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church development at 3920 Alton Place NW. Having spoken to a large number of neighbors impacted by the Sunrise project, we are writing to articulate our opposition to this project.

This lot is zoned R-1-B (single-family detached), and it is currently occupied by a small church, surrounded on three sides by single-family homes and on the fourth by National Park Service land.

The proposed development includes a new church and a 97-unit assisted-living center, including an underground parking garage with 57 spaces. The development violates multiple zoning regulations, and developers are seeking seven exceptions from the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

Most concerning to residents are the exceptions for lot occupancy and height. A lot occupancy of 69 percent is proposed on a lot that is currently zoned for 60 percent for churches and 40 percent for entities other than a church. At 65 feet, the proposed height exceeds the limit of 60 feet for churches and 40 feet for other uses. Importantly, the majority of the lot will be occupied by an assisted-living facility, not the church. The church will occupy only a small part of the first and second floors of the proposed four-story building. It is unclear whether there is any precedent where a commercial enterprise has utilized zoning applicable to a church on a lot zoned for single-family homes.

This would drastically change the character of what is a residential neighborhood. Traffic patterns will increase, particularly on Alton Place and Yuma Street, the sites of the proposed entry and exit from the garage, caused by delivery trucks, trash hauling services and visitors. The driveway for the proposed garage would abut a block of single-family homes and require a curb cut for the sidewalks on Alton, which would restrict pedestrian access. We understand that Sunrise employees would be prohibited from using the garage, meaning that those who do not use public transportation would use the street parking that is zoned for residents.

As proposed, the Sunrise-Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church development plan is far too large for this residential lot and would impact the quality of life for the surrounding residents. As proposed, the building would be just a few feet from the homes sharing a property line with the site.

A proposal for a business of this magnitude, in this residential area, is in violation of existing zoning and, as such, should be rejected in its current form.

John Allen-Gifford, Patrice Allen-Gifford, Lisa Bhansali, Michael Donovan, Richard Evans, Sheila Evans, Ashley Harris, Jason Hegy, Nina Kraut, Gohar Sedighi, Gayle Union and Jose Miguel Vivanco, Tenleytown