As the weather (maybe) cools and autumn quickly approaches, here’s a quick roundup of what’s going on at DC’s tiny house community over the next few months—
Six Playwrights. Five Plays. Three Tiny Houses. One Community. Pinky Swear Productions takes over Boneyard Studios this fall with Tiny House Plays.
Pinky Swear Productions is excited to announce a partnership with Boneyard Studios to produce Tiny House Plays, a series of short plays by six talented local playwrights.
Pinky Swear has long discussed the idea of producing site-specific theatre in an alternative space. So when company member and veteran Pinky Swear director Jessica Aimone read an article about Boneyard Studios, she reached out to the tiny home owners. To our delight, they have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to turn their tiny houses into tiny stages—and come fall 2014, audience members will join us on a journey from tiny house to tiny house, watching life unfold inside (and sometimes outside) each space.
For Tiny House Plays, Pinky Swear reached out to several local women playwrights and one brother/sister team to pen short pieces on the theme of community, inspired by Boneyard Studios and the surrounding neighborhood. We are excited and proud to now announce our playwrights for Tiny House Plays: Thembi Duncan, Ann and Shawn Fraistat, Danielle Mohlman, Donna Reinhold, and Laura Zam. Together, they will create a shared world in which the characters’ stories are revealed simultaneously in each space.
Learn more at pinkyswear-productions.com. Tickets not available just yet, but stay tuned!
(As always, Boneyard Studios isn’t making any money from this partnership; we’re just looking to do what we can to promote local arts. To support our mission and our plans to expand to a new location where we can do even wilder and crazier things than bringing five plays to three tiny houses for twenty-five plus performances next month, consider donating here. Thanks!)
Two years ago, three tiny house enthusiasts got together on a crumbling alley lot in Northeast DC and built the first intentional tiny house community in America. Since its humble beginnings in early 2012, Boneyard Studios has grown to more than just a few tiny homes: it has become a showcase, a music venue, a garden, a bike-in movie theater, and much more. Over the past two years, we’ve welcomed nearly 6,000 visitors to our lot for tiny house tours, tiny house concerts, tiny house book readings, and community work days, and we’ve kept them always—and forever—free. We want to keep fostering that community, to keep providing a free place for people to create and share, a place for more tiny houses, a place for local art, agriculture, and architecture. We’re going to need more space.
So this year, the Pera House and the Matchbox (and any other tiny houses interested in coming along for the ride) are hitching up and traveling to lands unknown (somewhere in DC; we’re just not yet sure where) to repurpose another unused urban space, and to make it available for everyone to enjoy. But to make that happen (and to keep things free), we could really use your help. Here’s how:
Donate. Here’s a link. Please—if you’ve ever made it out to Boneyard Studios or if you haven’t and just want to support what we’re doing—consider clicking it and donating whatever you can to help us out. As a token of our appreciation, we’re offering the following to supporters:
- Any amount: tons and tons of love and gratitude
- $25: a personal thank-you card from Lee and Jay
- $50: your name (or message) forever enshrined at our new space
- $100: a personal tour of the houses for you and your friends or family (or both!)
- $200: a night in one of our world-famous tiny houses (the Pera House or the Matchbox)
Help us find land. We’re looking for land within DC to lease or buy under a cooperative or land trust model—community land owned by the community. So please, keep an eye out for empty, unsightly lots that could use a little creative energy, or if you already have one in mind (or if you just so happen to own one), let us know.
Help us find people. If you can’t give money or land or tips about space in the city, maybe you know someone who can. We’d love to borrow your social network—if you wouldn’t mind facebooking, tweeting, or whatever-ing this page to your friends, that’d be awesome. Or if you know someone who might want to be more closely involved in our Boneyard Studios expansion, please put us in touch.
Expect much more in the coming months, and many thanks for two great years of support thus far.
Fine print: Every dollar donated will be spent toward furtherance of DC’s tiny house community, and not a cent will be spent on the tiny houses themselves or kept by the tiny house owners. Instead, we’ll be using the money for things like community-accessible furniture, firepits, tool workshops, art installations, city permits, and—depending on the land we settle on—cooperative land leasing or ownership. For questions about donating, let us know.
This letter is in response to new proposed rules developed by the Office of Planning that will impact microhousing options and appears to target Boneyard Studios and other alley owners. If you are a DC RESIDENT please consider SUBMITTING TESTIMONY to let these good folks know how you feel. (it’s easy!)
DC Zoning Commission: Anthony J. Hood, Chairman; Marcie Cohen, Vice-Chairman; Robert Miller, District Resident; Michael G. Turnbull, Architect of the Capitol Designee; Peter G. May, National Park Service Designee.
DC Office of Planning: Ms. McCarthy, Director.
Ms. McCarthy and the DC Zoning Commission,
I would like to thank Ms. McCarthy for her recent comments praising Boneyard’s “high-quality” construction and “environmental stewardship.” We have been working tirelessly, with our own savings, for over two years to make Boneyard Studios a beautiful showcase of micro housing, building a wide community of tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters in DC and across America, and developing one AIA award winning design. We also recently hosted 17 representatives from multiple DC agencies to discuss how microhousing can play a role in expanding affordable housing options in the city, and potentially be applied to assist the homeless population.
I would also like to sincerely thank OP and the Zoning Commission for your tireless work on the DC zoning rewrite. This is a critical and often thankless job that could help make our city more sustainable and affordable. I and many Boneyard Studios supporters contributed specific comments on making ADU’s more accessible, and appreciate that OP’s recent revisions took into account many of the recommendations on easing regulations on minimum lot sizes and house areas. However we strongly wish that the ADU rules kept 1602.2, and would allow accessory apartments without going through a costly and time intensive special exemption process. We feel expanding ADU’s is essential to increasing DC’s housing supply, expanding affordable housing, and allowing aging in place for DC residents.
I also write today to clarify a few issues that have arisen out of the recent discussion of micro houses, alleys and the latest zoning language, particularly the ‘Camping in Alleys’ (CIA) language under 1609.2/1005/2 which was just recently proposed:
No camp or any temporary place of abode in any tent, wagon, van, automobile, truck, or trailer of any description shall be permitted on an alley lot unless approved as a special exception subject to the following conditions:
(1) The use shall be located so that it is not likely to become objectionable to adjoining and nearby property because of noise, traffic, parking, lighting, sanitation, or otherwise objectionable conditions.
(2) Open fires shall not be permitted.
(3) The use shall not be approved for more than two consecutive weeks and no more than one month per calendar year.
- Transparency: In the 1100+ comments recently submitted to the Office of Planning regarding the zoning rewrite, we couldn’t find a single one that pertained to residential structures, tiny houses, wagons, trailers, tents or otherwise in alleys. Yet on June 16 OP just added the new proposed text above explicitly prohibiting “alley camping” to the latest round of recommended zoning language. It is unclear where the demand for such language is coming from, but it does not appear to be from the DC public commenting on the zoning rules. Thus it is unclear who we should engage further on this issue, and would be obliged if you could inform us.
- Justification: Ms. McCarthy recently stated that “we need some level of controls so people aren’t setting up squatter camps in alleys”. We are great fans of DC’s alleys, and are unaware of any squatting activity in any alley in DC, but would be interested to learn more about the cases you have found. I would note that squatting is typically defined as “to settle on our occupy property, especially otherwise unoccupied property, without any title, right or payment of rent”. I would like to clarify that I own my private property at Boneyard Studios outright, have full and clear title to it, pay all required property taxes to the District, and permit friends and the community to make use of it on a case by case basis. We support controls on squatting in alleys, if there is justification for it. But we find justification lacking, and the current language imprecise and overexpansive.
- Fairness: We quite enjoy having an overnight campout with friends on my private property once in a while (some pictures attached), and personally don’t see any need to apply for a special exception permit from DCRA for this. However, if OP can make a compelling case to prohibit alley camping on private property, then we recommend that OP explicitly extend the proposed zoning rules fairly, to limit camping to all privately owned DC land — alleys as well as the countless empty DC lots with street frontage, residential front yards and back yards and side yards, rooftops and porches. However, like us, I would expect that many DC residents may take umbrage at having to get a ‘special exception’ DCRA permit to pitch a tent, or have their kids take part in the annual Great American Backyard Campout sponsored by National Wildlife Foundation. Such a permit could take weeks, at considerable expense.
- Consistency: Under DC code 604.1, open fires are already prohibited in DC, but under 604.2 are allowed for “Recreational purposes, including the cooking of food for human consumption on other than commercial premises”. This would remain the case on alley lots, unless (under the draft regs proposed by OP) the lot was temporarily approved ‘by special exception’ for camping, in which case open fires are then prohibited. This does not seem consistent with existing rules under 604.
Folks at Boneyard Studios look forward to using the lot daily as we have been for the past two years: hosting hundreds of enthusiastic visitors each month at our micro house showcase events, growing a showcase garden and orchard, undertaking projects in the wood/metal workshop, holding community events, and working on other art/music/work in the micro houses during the day. In the interest of expanding affordable housing in DC, we strongly encourage OP to support micro housing units of all forms, be it multifamily apartments, connected or detached ADU’s, or trailer based micro homes.
Brian Levy and the Boneyard Studios community
Thanks for your interest in submitting testimony on this important topic.
DC Zoning will only consider comments on ADU’s (accessory dwelling units), camping in alleys and other topics by submissions uploaded through their official channel. To do this:
a) The online IZIS system. In IZIS click on ‘Set up an account’, and register. Then login, and then click on “Submit Comments in a Case”. Search for ‘08-06A‘. Click on ‘Select Case’. Type in text from the letter template below. or
b) A PDF letter. At the IZIS site select “File Documents in an Existing Case” and upload your PDF letter, using text from template below.
c) Mail a letter to 441 4th Street, NW, Ste. 200-S, Washington, DC 20001.
NOTE: make sure when you submit comments you include the Case Number (08-06A – Alternative Text)
Office of Zoning, Case Number 08-06A-Alternative Text
I am a District resident in Ward __, and would like to sincerely thank OP and the Zoning Commission for your tireless work on the DC zoning rewrite. However, as the rules are finalized, I would ask you to please consider:
a) Eliminating the proposed CIA (Camping in Alleys) zoning rule introduced by the Office of Planning. It appears this rule was made in an untransparent fashion, appears unjustified, unequally restricts private property in the District, and is inconsistent with existing code. More importantly, it eliminates a potential source of affordable micro housing in DC we should be working to develop further.
b) Supporting stronger language that allow the widespread development of ADU’s. Specifically, the latest zoning rules on ADU’s should keep 1602.2, so residents can develop accessory apartments without going through a costly and time intensive special exemption process. I feel that expanding ADU (accessory dwelling units) is essential to increasing DC’s housing supply, expanding affordable housing, and allowing aging in place for DC residents.
DC’s zoning has not been comprehensively updated since 1958. After 6 years of drafting and public input, the Office of Planning is about to finalize a new set of zoning regulations that could transform the city by allowing accessory dwelling units (ADU’s- carriage houses and microhomes behind an existing house, or basement apartments), as well as development of residential structures on alley lots. If done correctly, this would be a huge boon for affordable housing in DC, and allow smaller housing units across town.
BUT! While the current draft is ok, it could be even better. There are conservative forces that would love to do away with any new affordable accessory dwelling units in the city, and the current rules are rather restrictive. So DC Residents, we need your help, this week! Once these final comments are in, the Zoning Commission will vote on the final package. Please help by:
B: Submitting written testimony to advocate for specific changes we need. Here is an easy testimony template with specific language changes we need (note these are my (Brian’s) views on ADU’s and alley lots). Zoning Commission will only accept emailed comments in PDF format, which must include your signature. Email signed PDF to: firstname.lastname@example.org . Subject line of email must include the case number (08-06A) and the subtitle or subtitles that your testimony refers to (Subtitle D).
C: Testify at the Wards 1-8 public meetings around town this coming week. It’s easy, and the Coalition folks can support you.
Thanks- zoning is the DNA of a city, and it’s a rare moment when we can act to positively affect the character of our city for years to come! With thousands of us connected through Boneyard Studios, we can really make a difference.
It’s been a pleasure having Elaine’s house on the lot for so long, allowing us to show yet another tiny house design to the many folks who have toured the site during our regular open houses. But last week, the Lusby hit the road once again for a new adventure, leaving our tiny house showcase with the remaining three models: the Pera House, the Matchbox, and Minim House.
More change is coming to the lot soon, of course—we recently announced our plans for a communal studio shed to replace our rented shipping container, and we’re currently exploring options to put the space between the Matchbox and the Pera House to good, creative use (suggestions welcome—or if you think you could personally use the space, get in touch with us with your ideas). More to come soon! In the meantime, farewell to the Lusby, and many thanks to Elaine for her wonderful contribution to the Boneyard Studios project this past year.