Tree House Backlash Continues

Neighbors Battle Over Alley Structure at the ANC 6B Meeting

The castle-like tree house in Archibald Walk, an alley between G and E streets SE. (Photo by Christine Rushton)

Capitol Hill residents Ellen Psychas and Bing Yee never thought that the tree housethey built for their two young daughters would turned into a battle of property and permit rights between neighbors in the Archibald Walk alley near G and Sixth streets SE. The purple and gray “princess” tree house, which extends about 20 inches into the public alley way, cost the owners about $300.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted on Jan. 12 to retroactively support a denial of Psychas’ and Yee’s permit to build that tree house based on DC Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) classification of the structure as a balcony. Balconies cannot jut out into public spaces, according to DC regulations. Eleven neighboring residents submitted complaints at the meeting.

A public hearing at the city level for the tree house owners is set for Jan. 28.

Commissioner Jim Loots commented at the meeting and said that despite Psychas’ and Yee’s claims that their neighbors express anti-child sentiments on a regular basis, he didn’t think that the issue was unfounded.

“The opposition of the neighbors is not retaliatory, not anti-child, and not generational,” Loots said.

However, ANC 6B Chairwoman Kristen Oldenburg said she thought the castle-like house looked cute.

The commissioners agreed that the application process to gain permits and DDOT’s classification of the structure as a balcony reflect recent and ongoing problems with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

ANC 6C also expressed concern for the DCRA policy enforcement practices at its monthly meeting on Jan. 13. 

The issue went viral on the Internet during the last week, with the Washington Post picking it up as an example of neighbors dividing over a seemingly small concern. Several commenter’s on the Post’s article said the neighbors surrounding the tree house overreacted to the structure.

Capitol Hill Corner’s Larry Janezich first reported on the tree controversy on Jan. 11. 

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