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Home​NewsPacci's One Step Closer to Second Floor Expansion

Pacci’s One Step Closer to Second Floor Expansion

Lincoln Park trattoria Pacci’s (106 13th St. SE) is one step closer to opening a second floor dining room. The story was first reported by Capitol Hill Corner.

On March 29, the District Office of Planning (OP) filed a document with the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) that indicates support for the restaurant’s application to approve a use variance, an exception that would allow Pacci’s to use the top floor of the building as a dining room rather than an apartment.

It could save the neighborhood favorite from closing. But the final decision rests in the hands of the BZA Commissioners, who will take a final vote on the case April 10.

Background

Goldiasis bought the building in 2018 and undertook extensive repairs to address structural damage. After a 5-year renovation, the restaurant opened in 2023 with dining on the ground floor and in the cellar. Thus far, it has been well-received; but Goldiasis argues that to be sustainable, the restaurant needs to expand.

The building’s top floor is currently zoned for residential use, although few can remember the last time anyone lived there. Owner Spiro Goldiasis has applied for an adjustment to allow for commercial use – he wants to use the top floor as a 67-seat dining room, bringing his restaurant up to 127 seats total. There are 27 seats on the main floor and 40 in the cellar.

Both the OP and BZA members, the latter deciders in these cases, have said that this is the most difficult zoning change to get. “The intent of the zoning of regulation is generally not to permit an expanded use of a non conforming use,” OP wrote in a report on the case, saying this was to protect residential areas from commercial encroachment.

Those views were critical; a straw poll at a March 6 appeared to indicate the board would deny the application. OP had objected to the expansion, saying they believed the upper floor was usable as a residence without undue hardship to the owner. Pacci’s owner Spiro Goldiasis argued that not only was the top floor unsuitable for a residential space, the conversion would have cost him upwards of $400,0000, probably bankrupting his business.

After the March 6 meeting, many neighbors came out in support of the expansion, with more than 1200 signing on to a letter of support sent to BZA by Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) on March 12. In the face of support, at their March 13 meeting the BZA decided to defer the final vote until Wednesday, April 10, to give the applicant time to submit additional information requested by the board.

OP Convinced

But it appears that OP has been convinced by the information provided by Pacci’s since that meeting. An supplement to the original report accepts “that any residential use of the upper floor of this building was likely sporadic, not permitted, and potentially substandard to the code, and that the recent extensive upgrading of this space, including removal of the vestiges of residential components, by the Applicant was needed to address structural and building deficiencies.”

Letters from both an architect and structural engineer bolster claims that the top floor had to be gutted. Those documents include images of the space at the time Goldiasis bought the property in 2018. Preservation of the space was impossible, attorneys Sullivan & Barris argued in a cover letter, because of the numerous structural inadequacies which had to be addressed.

Image showing notches cut in joists. Image: A & F Engineers. From A & F Engineers, Letter 18 March 2024, Exhibit 177 submitted to BZA. https://app.dcoz.dc.gov/
Image showing crumbled masonry under a roof girder support. Image: A& F Engineers. From A & F Engineers, Letter 18 March 2024, Exhibit 177 submitted to BZA. https://app.dcoz.dc.gov/
Image showing crack in joist. Image: A & F Engineers. From A & F Engineers, Letter 18 March 2024, Exhibit 177 submitted to BZA. https://app.dcoz.dc.gov/
The upper floor of the building was renovated to be a “warm lit shell,” but has no legal use at this time. Image: applicant. Screenshot: BZA Public Meeting of March 6, 2024. https://www.youtube.com/live/DEOrlj_yAKs?si=z0lmbOJlaOcy8LVz

Letters from both an architect and structural engineer that bolster his claim the top floor had to be gutted. Just on the second floor, architect Eric Gronning of Gronning Architects said he immediately noted that the rear masonry wall was ready to collapse and that the floor was not supported. Joins were cracked and had been cut, compromising their integrity; there were also signs of termite damage.

OP also agreed with the applicant argument that there is no Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for the upper floor, meaning it was never inspected for use as a legal apartment. Additional research by OP found a Certificate for Delinquent Costs for Correction of Wrongful Housing was issued in 2003 and released in 2005. Pacci’s argued that according to neighbors the upstairs was also used for some incidental commercial use and therefore has as much of a history of undocumented and unlicensed residential and commercial use, the only C of O on record being for commercial use as a deli in the 1980s.

Cautious Optimism

Nearly five and-a-half years after he purchased the building, Pacci’s owner Spiro Goldiasis is just that much closer to using the entire space as a restaurant. He is cautiously optimistic. “The approval from OP was great news,” he wrote. “[We’re] hoping for the best. We will know Wednesday.”

It’s now up to the the five members of the Zoning Board, who will now have to determine if they agree with OP, or if the application still does not meet what they consider the standard for exception.

The final vote by the BZA takes place at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 10.

Learn more about the Board of Zoning Adjustment and its members by visiting https://dcoz.dc.gov/page/about-board-zoning-adjustment. See the full DC Zoning record here.

Watch the April 10 vote on YouTube here.

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