Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Testimony Given in Person on Nuisance Properties Abatement Reform on May 24

Hi, my name is Ed. I live on 10th Street NW in the Shaw Historic District with my family. Since moving to this address, we noticed several neglected buildings in the 1000 block of M.

The mansion at 1000 M Street has been vacant for decades. You may have seen the house in the 1979 Peter Sellers movie, Being There. It is in the background of one of the most famous scenes looking much like it did when we moved down the street 3 years ago. DCRA first listed the property as vacant on March 23 2002, soon after the class 3 tax was instituted. But 1000 M has never paid the class 3 tax. For years it received the senior citizen homestead deduction despite having no roof. The owners provided Pepco bills to fraudulently claim occupancy; they merely plugged in a lamp. Ownership has changed several times though no sale is recorded. Only after being condemned did the owner slowly start to make improvements. The scaffolding remains today though no work has happened in months.

The building next door, 1002 M St, also has been vacant for years. It too was listed as vacant on March 23 2002. Until recently the owner was paying the class 3 tax but now has an exemption because of a work permit. Not an ounce of work has been done. The Board of Condemnation referred this property to the Housing Code Enforcement Office on March 2 2007 for lack of repairs.

Two doors down, 1006 M Street NW, has been vacant since August 7 2002 when Federal Marshalls evicted the last “occupants”. A developer purchased it in 2005 for $750,000. Then they sat on the property for more than a year before even cleaning it out. Still no exterior improvements have been made.

After many complaints, I received a letter from the former lead inspector for Ward 2, Charles Mason, claiming that these properties were in compliance, despite gross housing code violations observable from the street including bricks falling out, open windows, trees growing from the foundation, etc. Eventually, all 3 properties were condemned but only after I made dozens of calls and sent scads of emails over 2 years. My wife has attended several condemnation board hearings to tell the truth about these buildings even as various “owners’ representatives” have trotted out excuses. … Still all of these vacant properties are today exempt from class 3 tax despite all of our attempts to bring them to the attention of the District.

My wife and I have witnessed people selling drugs in front of these buildings. We have seen vagrants sleeping, drinking, urinating, and even defecating on these properties. This is Broken Windows Theory in action where neglect breeds crime. A neighbor was violently mugged in front of 1000 M St and spent 10 days in the hospital. The MPD crime database lists numerous thefts-from-auto, robberies, and even a car jacking in the 1000 block of M Street. I polled my neighbors and every one who has a car has had it broken into. All this is happening just one block from our Convention Center.

It is my belief that vacant properties reduce the amount of affordable housing. Since there is no incentive for the owners of vacant properties to put them to good use, buildings that could be housing people sit unoccupied instead. Here’s what happens. The government does not enforce the Vacant Building Maintenance Standard and does not levy the class 3 tax. As the buildings deteriorate, assessments decrease, even as taxes skyrocket for occupied properties. The owner/speculator waits—sometimes decades—until a developer comes along that is willing to pay top dollar. That developer then turns a single family home into several luxury condos. Gone is any possibility for a middle class family to buy a fixer-upper downtown.

The same situation is occurring in our business districts. Instead of selling to a small business that would restore and occupy rundown properties, speculators hold out for the big-time developers who are only interested in supplying high-rent space for national chains. The funky, independent stores and restaurants that draw people to the city are left out.

No doubt this new legislation will close several loopholes. But I think it is more important to recognize that there has been little or no enforcement of the present regulations. This legislation is an opportunity to do more than mend buildings; it can help rebuild a neighborhood and, as Broken Windows Theory has taught us, it will reduce crime, too. It is time to finally repair DC’s many broken windows.

testimony given in person on
Bill 17-86, the “Nuisance Properties Abatement Reform
and Real Property Classification Amendment Act of 2007”

Thursday, May 24, 2007
10:00 a.m.
Room 412
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W

Prices on 9th

"How about the guy at 1250 9th? $10,000,000 for that shell?!

Or the vacant building at 1801-1803 9th--$2.2 million.

In other real estate news:

The Queen of Sheba building at 1503 9th is for sale for $2,000,000.

And we have 1913 9th (vacant, as far as I can tell) for $1,998,000; the garage shell at 1321-3 Naylor Court is going for $1,195,000."
modthinglet comments on

When is a Vacant Building Not Vacant?

"Matthew Forman, federal real-estate attorney and vice president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, e-mailed Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, alerting him of the contradiction. “Would you please investigate how, if the owner of 1342 Vermont is claiming the property to be vacant, they were not charged the $5/100 real property tax rate for vacant properties? The property isn’t paying the vacant tax rate and in fact is still receiving the homestead exemption, giving them a further, significant reduction in their property taxes.…In this case, it would appear that the property owner needs to be sent a bill for either the conversion fee or the back taxes - they can’t have it both ways,” he wrote. Besides the City Paper, he cc’ed Eric Goulet in Councilmember Jack Evans’ office and Thomas Branham, the District’s chief assessor."
Washington City Paper: News & Features: Blogs

DCist: Shiloh Properties Update

"As you'll recall, the city condemned four properties on 9th St. NW owned by Shiloh Baptist Church, and ordered them to complete repairs on the buildings by a date certain (we originally estimated the date being May 31, but it turned out they were only counting business days, so the actual deadline was June 5). These properties have been neglected for decades and a source of great frustration for the Shaw neighborhood, due to their unsafe, unsanitary conditions."

Home Again Need Work

"Four Home Again properties in Ward One will finally be renovated after several years of disrepair and neglect...
1915 6th St, NW
902-904 T St, NW
744 Harvard St, NW
1428 Perry Pl, NW
Although I am pleased by the progress, much work needs to be done to improve Home Again."
Councilmember Jim Graham

DC Preservation League

"The mission of the DC Preservation League is to preserve, protect, and enhance the historic and built environment of Washington, DC, through advocacy and education." Their most endangered places list includes Franklin School, DC Public School Buildings, several theaters,...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Life in Mount Vernon Square: Tax Sale List Posted

"Some of our vacant property made DC's annual Tax Sale List.
The tax sale auction begins July 9th & details can be found on the OTR Site and on the list itself. 90% of the taxes usually get paid."
by Si Kalian on Life in Mount Vernon Square

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Testimony: Nuisance Properties Abatement Reform

Bill 17-86, the “Nuisance Properties Abatement Reform
and Real Property Classification Amendment Act of 2007”

Thursday, May 24, 2007
10:00 a.m.
Room 412
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W

Testimony of Stephen Cappello, Supervisory Assessor, Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR)

Testimony of Nick Majett, Deputy Director for Inspections and Compliance, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Success on 9th Street (Treebox Vodka)

"After I posted earlier on the 9th street places, I decided to quit being a complainer on my little soapbox here and get pro-active."

Friday, June 1, 2007

1200 Block of 9th Street .... Still irking me

"These property owners in the 1200 block of 9th street don't care about local rules and regulations to clean and secure their vacant properties. I'm going to contact them all about getting this fixed and will share as I learn more."
Treebox Vodka