Thursday, October 2, 2008

dcexaminer: Frightening but true

She had been a gang member but wants out. He puts her in a witness protection ... for a carload of gang members and forced her to a vacant apartment building. ...

MPD-3D: Report of Suspicious Activity - 911 not helpful

[Trying to catch up on posts. This is about 465 New York Avenue -Ed.]

Hello Commander,

I called 911 last night to report suspicious activity and I received no help since I didn't have an exact street address to give the operator.

There is a vacant building that is being renovated next door to the Yale Steam Laundry building. As I was walking back from Safeway at about 8:45pm last night, I saw two young black males (one with a back-pack) walk into the vacant building. The windows are boarded up and there are no lights on...

Note from DCRA

[I received this some time ago, Aug 14, and missed posting it.-Ed.]

To Ed,

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) launched an aggressive campaign in 2007 to identify all vacant properties in the District and to encourage property owners to return their properties to a good and productive use.

As with any new initiative, there were some bumps in the road.

With the new tax bills hitting property owner’s mailboxes tomorrow, we want to assure you that new quality control measures have been implemented to avoid the same issues that property owners lamented about this past spring.

We have revamped the DCRA Web site to include answers to important and frequently asked questions, an updated list of properties classified as vacant and more accessible information on how to contact us to request an exemption and/or corrections.

You can be assured that it was not our intent to cause undue stress for property owners.

DCRA is working closely with property owners to ensure compliance with the District’s vacant property registration law and to correct any errors that have been made. Property owners who feel their property was incorrectly classified as vacant and recently received a tax bill at the vacant tax rate are encouraged to contact DCRA immediately at (202) 442-4332.

Additional information, vacant property registration forms and the appeal process are available online at under “Vacant Property.”

We hope that you’ll help us communicate this information to your readers. Call me at anytime to chat. We would love to have your support in our efforts.

Michael Rupert
Public Information Officer
Office of the Director

Dept. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
941 North Capitol Street, NE Suite 9500
Washington, DC 20002

Office: (202) 442-4513
Mobile: (202) 437-1024

Fax: (202) 442-9445

Comment to Fifth and Oh: Holding Your Nose

It has been pointed out that Mr. Sendar is still not paying the vacant properties taxes on his long vacant building in Shaw. Why does Mr. Pedro and Mr. Evans demand that variances be given instead of demanding that the correct taxes be paid? Why are they all carrot and no stick? How many other "developers" are getting by without paying the proper rates? Time and again, Mr. Evans is pressing for loopholes and variances, and handouts for developers with threats that progress will bypass the community if such and such isn't done. The Convention Center was supposed to lift up the community; it didn't. In contrast, just look across the river to working class immigrant communities in Arlington. Every single commercial building is being used. Shops are thriving. People are working. They aren't stuggling under high property assessments because some "developer" held out for an unreasonable sum or subsidies, i.e., TIF.

I usually refrain from commentary on this blog and just try to present the facts and information for others to take action. Now that the laws have been changed, there are no more excuses of simple government ineptitude. It is time for a serious criminal investigation into the millions of tax dollars that have gone unpaid.

Below is my comment posted to Fifth and Oh:

Now that DCRA and OTR are finally making vacant property owners pay the higher tax rate, Mr. Sendar gets all concerned about selling the property. This shows that high vacant property taxes, when enforced, do have an effect; something Jack Evans doubted when I testified before the subcommittee last year. It is not holding a grudge to expect a property owner to obey the laws like everyone else. The only thing stopping him from selling the property now at a reasonable price is his greed. In fact, there is no guaranty that he will sell if he gets the variance. His only incentives are the high taxes and perhaps fines for violations of the vacant building maintenance standards (still waiting for enforcement).

Giving a variance now only increases the price of vacant property which in turn stifles small business development. Who can afford to buy this building and rehab it? Since assessments are based in large part on recent sales prices in the neighborhood who can afford to pay the higher property taxes? Granting a variance now to a speculator helps only the speculator and hurts everyone else.