Letter to the Editor: Proposed Sunrise project is out of scale with Tenley Circle

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

We respond to the Nov. 8 letter regarding the Sunrise project proposed for 3920 Alton Place NW, the current location of Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church. The Nov. 8 letter by the church’s pastor compared the Sunrise proposal to the American University law school across Tenley Circle. The law school building across Tenley Circle is a historically preserved church convent — quite different from Sunrise, a for-profit enterprise that charges approximately $120,000 per year to seniors for room and board, and only accepts those who can pay can stay.

Also by comparison, American University is a nonprofit university governed by a campus plan, which must be reviewed and renewed by the Zoning Commission on a regular basis. Very significantly, the Washington College of Law and St. Ann’s are not next to family homes. In contrast, the Sunrise-Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church proposal is a few feet from family homes. To cite one aspect, as an example, the proposed development includes a truck ramp descending between 9 and 13 feet immediately next to homes with small children.

Sunrise is asking for an exception to the single-family-detached zoning so that a for-profit senior retirement facility can join the church on a lot zoned for individual homes. Plus they are asking for variances to have increased height, an increase in the number of stories, a waiver of the mandate that half the lot be pervious, a request to eliminate the side-yard setback and a variance for a retaining wall, among other requests. They seek to develop a project that would require 20 trucks a week and a 7-ton shuttle bus when all the streets surrounding the site ban trucks.

As to permanent “landscaping” and maintenance, the National Park Service has not agreed to the Sunrise plan to use federal land as the front lawn for this proposed for-profit facility.

Our earlier letter did not contain “inaccuracies,” as alleged in the Nov. 8 letter. The Sunrise employees who work at Sunrise on Connecticut Avenue NW are not allowed to park in the Sunrise garage. Past is prologue. In addition, there has been no analysis provided to support Sunrise’s request to reduce the required parking spaces from 103 spaces to 53 spaces for the 24/7 operation that is Sunrise and the Baptist church.

We look forward to a continued civil and factual dialogue on the Sunrise project.

Lisa Bhansali, Judy Chesser, Barbara Gunning, Jason Hagy, Genet Haile, Jeanine Hull, Nina Kraut, Ambassador Tom McDonald, Judith Rotman, Gayle Union, Jose Miguel Vivanco and Dan Wilson, Tenleytown