14 Apr 2017


Construction Woes: What Can You Do?

Photo by @avanmny on Twitter

Construction projects are a way of life on Capitol Hill: From H Street to the heart of Eastern Market and down to the waterfront, construction crews work continuously so we can all be blessed with MORE CONDOS.

However, projects seem to take a horrifying life all their own all too often. They disrupt parking; tear open our streets; regale us with the joyous strains of jackhammering, whether in the morning or early on weekends; and they kick up enough dust to coat everything in a Pompeiian shroud. Most people are willing to put up with the disruptions, but we reach our breaking point when our sleep and/or sanity are disrupted. Back in January, a reader reached out to us with some construction woes of her own. You can read that post by clicking here. Even though the DC Register, Rule 20, section 2803, states very clearly that,

2803.2    No noise from construction, excluding minor home repairs, shall be permitted within a residential, special purpose, or waterfront zone on any Sunday or legal holiday, or after 7:00 p.m. and before 7:00 a.m. on any weekday.

… as it turns out, there are exceptions to this seemingly hard-and-fast rule. The rest of the rule states the following:

2803.3    The limitation of § 2803.2 shall not apply to the following:

(a)    Portable power tools used for minor improvement of real and personal residential property otherwise allowable under this section;

(b)    Work performed by public utilities as defined in the Act approved March 4, 1913 (37 Stat. 974; D.C. Code § 43-103 (1990 Repl. Vol.));

(c)    Work performed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as defined in D.C. Code §§ 1-1410 et seq. (1992 Repl. Vol.); or

(d)    Work performed by the subcontractors of public utilities and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as provided in §§ 2803.3(b) and 2803.3(c).

In the case of the construction on H Street, the need for utility lines to be connected at two new construction sites– first at 309 H Street NE and now at 311 H Street NE– has meant that the crews have been forced to work at night, as the connection has to happen underneath DC Streetcar tracks. Since the streetcar starts operating at 6 a.m. on weekdays, construction has to occur before then. There will be a major disruption in the early hours of this weekend as

There will be a major disruption in the early hours of this weekend as well, when construction crews will be carrying out a concrete slab pour. Per DDOT instructions, this pour –which will be carried out in three phases– must take place around the DC Streetcar schedule: this means between midnight and 8 a.m., the starting time for the streetcar on weekends.

So, what can you do if construction crews are seriously disrupting your life, or if you feel the crews are not following the law?

Here are a few things you can do that we hope can help you:

  1. Become familiar with the rules and regulations of the District of Columbia, which you can find here. Once you learn to navigate DC.gov, it’s actually oddly pleasant– kind of like eating lentils: chewy, heavy, but good for you. The only annoying thing about the rules and register is having to access each rule individually and opening each document separately. You can even subscribe to participate in rule-making or get any changes to the register emailed to you. (However, as you can see above, the DC Regulations allow for exceptions such as this one.)
  2. Get to know the ANC commissioners in your area. Here at The Hill is Home we don’t get tired of singing the praises of these dedicated volunteers who advise the DC government on local issues (even if some people think this is not always great). ANC commissioners are a great resource to help you know your rights and are an excellent liaison between the government and the community, generally speaking. Mark Eckenwiler, the commissioner for 6C04, was extremely forthcoming with the situation on H Street, and with helping me understand why certain projects need to work after hours. Thank you, Mark! If you don’t know who your ANC commissioner is, check out this link.
  3. If you disagree with the law on a particular point, you can request a hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings. You can learn more about OAH by going to this link: https://oah.dc.gov/
  4. Know that all DC residents are welcome and encouraged to contact their ward Councilmembers. Charles Allen, our Ward 6 Councilmember, regularly holds Community Office Hours in different parts of the Ward. Check out his calendar of events, or fill out a request form either to get your question answered or to meet directly with him.

Finally, know that even though we are an all-volunteer corps here at THIH, we are always happy to answer your questions or try to point you in the right direction, especially on Twitter (https://twitter.com/thehillishome).

Thank you to all the neighbors who send us tips, information or questions: We love helping our neighbors.

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