Bloomingdale houses. Image by Google Maps.

At last month’s Bloomingdale Civic Association meeting, BCA President Teri Janine Quinn revealed the results from the organization’s survey weighing community opinion about the pending historic district application for the neighborhood. With 516 votes counted, the respondents were opposed to designation 282 to 234, a 55-45 percent margin.

The survey comes in the middle of a multi-year debate in the neighborhood over this issue, a debate that has only intensified since last summer when a group of neighbors partnered with the DC Preservation League to formally file an application for historic designation. The applicants have faced pushback in the community for their decision to make that filing prior to determining the opinion of the neighborhood or soliciting the votes of the BCA or Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

The survey was conducted over two weeks in January via a postcard mailed to each of 3,107 property owners in the neighborhood (as determined by DC tax records). It presented recipients with two response options:

  • I would like to pursue historic designation of Bloomingdale
  • I do not support historic designation for Bloomingdale

This is the survey sent out to Bloomingdale residents. Image by Bloomingdale Civic Association.

On the backside, the postcard informed neighbors that an application had been filed and that the results of the survey would be used to inform the BCA’s vote on it, and directed them to the BCA and Historic Preservation Office websites for more information.

The BCA paid for the production and mailing of the survey, though recipients were required to affix their own postage to send it back.

Just like the concerns surrounding the similarly pending historic district application for Kingman Park, this result presents a challenge for the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) as they prepare to weigh in on both neighborhood’s applications. There's no official reaction to the results of the vote as an organization yet, and members seems split on the issue.

As GGWash has covered, the guidelines for historic designation struggle with the issue of community support. While describing such support as “beneficial,” they ultimately downplay its influence and highlight that “by law, HPRB makes its decision on the basis of the written designation.” This means if the board likes the applications’ arguments, it could very well designate both neighborhoods against the will of their residents.

Traditionally, HPRB has avoided these bad optics by relying on the applicants themselves to withdraw or choose not to file their applications in the first place. If that doesn’t happen here, though, the conflict may be unavoidable. The HPRB hearing has not yet been scheduled.

*An additional 48 votes were received, but postmarked after the voting deadline. BCA members voted to exclude those votes from the total (prior to hearing any survey results) by a vote of 21 to 10.