HPA No. 1991-605 (In re. Cafe Paradiso)
- HPA Number: 1991-605
- Building Name: Café Paradiso
- Address: 2649 Connecticut Ave. NW
- Date of Order: 05-Feb-93
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought:</strong> Alteration
- Disposition: Permit Denied
- Date of Case Summary: 7/24/06
Summary of Decision:
Salim W. Zaytoun ("Applicant"), owner of 2649 Connecticut Avenue N.W., out of which the owner's restaurant – Café Paradiso – is operated, sought a permit to replace an existing awning (at the time of the permit application, the replacement awning had already been installed). The Applicant's property is located in the Woodley Park Historic District, a district considered representative of the 1900's – 1920's period. The Applicant argued that the awning was consistent with the purposes of the Act, and that denial of the permit would cause an unreasonable economic hardship. The Mayor's Agent denied issuance of the permit, finding that the awning, characterized as "slick, bright and designed from a different period than the building to which it is attached," was not compatible with the character of the historic district. The Mayor's Agent also rejected Applicant's claim of unreasonable economic hardship, finding that the claim "was not clearly articulated at the hearing" and that no evidence was shown in support thereof. The Mayor's Agent ordered that the awning be removed no later than sixty (60) days of the decision.
Mayor's Agent Procedural:
• At the public hearing before the Mayor's Agent, a proffer was made to qualify an individual as an expert in urban design and the use of awnings. Such proffer was granted and the individual was permitted to testify on behalf of Applicant at the hearing.
Consistent with the Purposes of the Act:
The Mayor's Agent recited the statutory standard for granting alteration permits in historic districts: that such permits be necessary in the public interest, i.e., consistent with the purposes of the Act, or necessary to allow the construction of a project of special merit. He also recited the statutory definition of "Consistent with the Purposes of the Act" i.e., "the proposed alteration must retain and enhance properties which contribute to the character of the historic district, and assure that existing structures are compatible with the character of the historic district." The Mayor's Agent found that the proposed awning was not compatible with the historic district (see discussion below), and therefore concluded the awning was not consistent with the purposes of the Act.
The Applicant argued that the replacement awning meets standards for compatibility described in information from the Preservation Assistance Division of the National Park Service, namely, that a new addition "should make a visual distinction between old and new. Compatibility is described in terms of size, scale, materials, and color…" The Mayor's Agent did not opine as to whether this standard is relevant for purposes of determining compatibility under the Act, but, in any event, determined that the awning did not meet the Preservation Assistance Division compatibility standard because "Applicant failed to show that the awning are (sic) of the same material, color or shape as the original awning for that period would have been." Based on testimony from the Woodley Park Historical Society and the Woodley Park Community Association, the Mayor's Agent also found that the awning style was from the late modern period (1950's) and not the 1900-1920 period, and was thus "out of context with the design [of the Woodley Park Historic District]." The Applicant presented expert witness testimony that the replacement awning exposes the historic façade of the building more than the previous awning, and more than other awnings on the block, but the Mayor's Agent did not find this sufficient to support a holding that the replacement awning contributed to the character of the historic district.
Unreasonable Economic Hardship:
The Mayor's Agent recited the statutory standard for claims of unreasonable economic hardship, i.e., failure to issue the requested permit would amount to a taking without just compensation, or, in the case of low-income owners, such failure would place an onerous and excessive financial burden on such owners. The Mayor's Agent concluded that "[n]o argument was offered as how this fits within the definition of 'unreasonable economic hardship' within the Act," finding that the only argument Applicant made was that if the restaurant did not have an awning, customers would believe his business was closed.
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