Horse’s Ass Award (Reader Nomination)

A reader wrote in suggesting this property in Eckington be nominated for this week’s horse’s ass award. The work this reader put together is incredible. He compiled all of his research in PDF format here:  329 Rhode Island Ave NE

The reader writes:

“My Eckington neighbors and I have been battling the owner of 329 Rhode Island Ave NE (a 6 story boarded up building that has stood vacant for 12+ years). It’s been on a “watchlist” since 2000 (http://www.dcwatch. com/mayor/ 000314.htm). Last year, it magically caught fire a day after it was placed on the tax sale list, and burned for 3 days since the firecrews couldn’t extinguish the tar roof. You also featured video of the blaze on your website… And now the building owner has collected his insurance money, but the building still languishes and the owner gets even more exemptions from vacant and blighted property taxes.

DCRA has been unwavering in their dedication to giving exemption after exemption to the building owner, since he always says he’s trying to renovate it, or sell it. However no work is ever done on the building, and there certainly isn’t any MLS listing the building as “for sale.”

Continues after the jump.

Upon our most recent request to DCRA to take action against the negligent building owner, DCRA Director Linda Argo said the building would not be deemed as “blighted” because it in no way threatens the livelihood or safety of our neighborhood.

My neighbors and I have had it. I put together the attached presentation documenting:

* The criteria published on DCRA’s website to have a building deemed “Blighted”
* Pictures documenting all of the criteria of “blighted” exhibited by 329 RI Ave NE
* DCRA Director Linda Argo’s email, saying that the building would not be labeled “blighted”
* and then further proof from arrest reports, pictures of loitering, etc that counter Director Argo’s claim that the vacant boarded up and blighted building doesn’t affect the livelihood or safety of our neighborhood.

I’ve also put together the attached petition (signed by 80+ neighbors within a 1-2 block radius), that I gave to the Mayor to urge him to get DCRA to classify the building as “blighted” and we’re winning our fight (so far). As a matter of a fact, the building owner has requested a hearing for this Thursday, to request further exemptions but my neighbors and I will be there to give community feedback, and hopefully DCRA will cooperate and levy vacant and blighted building taxes against the owner, so the building may be properly re-habbed and occupied!

The hearing is Thursday morning, and we’ve collected historical info via the Freedom of Information Act, about all of the exemptions granted to the building owner, etc… It should be interesting!

Thanks for your help and for publishing to bring attention to DCRA’s lack of enthusiasm to rid DC of vacant buildings! As a reader resource, if you want to link to DCRA’s website, providing the resource how readers may alert DCRA of other vacant properties in their own neighborhoods, the info is here:,a,1343,q,625194.asp or they can send an email to: [email protected]

39 Comment

  • Way to go! Love active neighbors.

  • I hope that Steve gets this property dealt with appropriately. As an Eckington resident, I appreciate his dedication to getting this property (although he made a few missteps along the way, as a quick perusal of the Eckington listserv archives will tell you).

    Captcha: city grave

  • If this building were directly across the street from Linda Argo’s place, you can bet a bucket of empty booze bottles it would have been listed by now.

    Argo, and her lead inspector, need to go. They keep acting like we are the nuisance to them, instead of understanding that we pay them to deal with–not dodge–situations like the one above.

  • Thanks ElizQueenMama! I was really energized to see so much support contributed by my Eckington neighbors. Sure I made some missteps along the way, but nobody ever said getting municipal government workers to do their job was easy – I view it all as a learning process :). If we get the building owner to sell / rehab and occupy, (anything except the status quo) it will be a win for all of us. Vacant buildings = playground for criminals. Not only would an occupied building make our streets more safe, the building could also be a visually appealing anchor for our community and not an eyesore. The burned out, boarded up pile of bricks looks like it should be in bombed out Baghdad, not less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol. 🙂

    • Its not less than a mile from the capitol.

      • according to google, it’s a total distance of
        2.01002 mi

      • Yes, and foods marked “0 grams Trans Fat” actually contain a minuscule amount of Trans Fat. We know. Thanks for pointing that out to us. You are so helpful.

    • Always getting into other peoples business, aren’t you Mr. Conn? what about the illegal construction that took place at your house over the past few years? did you ever get permits for all of the renovations you did? hmmm. I wonder what the government would think about that?

      I think you have some explaining to do.

      • Illegal construction? Um, look up the pics of my house in the MLS system and I’ll guarantee you it’s exactly the same today as when I bought it from Tim, the developer who flipped it. Oh, but I did replace the appliances with stainless steel and put in a kitchen island anchored by 3 base cabinets (without electricity)… does that require a permit?

        I bet you’re just a loser DC Government employee who lost your job because you suck, and is all disgruntled now.

        Let me know how the pics look from MLS… and PS, F you.

  • PinkSlipArgo, I couldn’t agree more. DCRA couldn’t even respond to my Freedom of Information Act request within the 15 days promised on the form that I had to fill out. You bet I brought it to the attention of the Mayor, Inspector General and the Council.

    DCRA needs to be led by someone with a passion for DC and our beautiful structures, not by someone with a lackluster track record of non-enforcement.

    The city is in a budget crunch and we’re all paying more and more for metered parking, property taxes, etc yet Argo continues to grant negligent building owners exemption after exemption from increased taxes and fines? Argo sets an awful example for DCRA employees.

  • I actually think DCRA has improved dramatically under Argo. Compared to just a few years ago it has become MUCH easier to get a building permit. The different departments in general seem better organized and more information and applications are online. Also, Argo has made DCRA more transparent with its Twitter and other public outreach.

    I’ll be the first to tell you that I still don’t like dealing with them, but things are better.

    I think she has a tough job, and it is for sure a thankless one.

    Just my 2 cents. Hope you get the building labeled as blighted.

    • ah

      The only reason the permitting has gotten better is because they realized it can make the city money. Enforcement of unpermitted building was so poor and the permitting system so bad, people didn’t bother with permits.

      Agree DCRA is a joke, and Argo doesn’t seem to have done much to fix it, especially the vacant property part.

      • If this is so, hopefully they’ll start to realize that giving tax exemptions to negligent building owners is losing the city money, and thus make some improvements there too.

    • She built a new website weeeeeeeeee.

  • DCRA is awful…Lind Argo should be fired. The only improvement at DCRA has been due to automation not management skill.

  • You have to be a member of the group, but you can see all the messages from the group here:

  • Forget the Horse’s Ass Award, although it’s appropriate. How about the Good Neighbor Award for this guy? If more people did this, we might start seeing a little more accountability from District officials.

    • Or we could elect people who don’t allow this behavior to occur….even when we don’t believe in their national party politics.

  • I just got a building permit in 45min with little or no hassle and I was shepherded through the process by their Homeowners Center Representative. I didn’t have any lines to wait in, everything was straight forward and I can assure you that the $33 I paid for my permit wasn’t covering the cost of manpower that day. It was a pretty amazing experience in terms of efficiency and cordiality.

    Now in terms of getting properties declared nuisance, there are powerful forces at work behind the scenes. It may/may not be a DCRA issue given how the DC Council protects its benefactors. These developers give large amounts of election money to the Council to be protected. The Council has the authority to compel DCRA to declare properties nuisance and to levy the unoccupied tax rate…but they don’t. So where do you think the problem is? Try looking into the campaign finance records of the property owner.

    I definitely applaud the group for making this issue public, because it compels people to do the right thing, but let’s not make personal attacks against non-elected city government workers without acknowledging the full story.

    • Slow clap.

      They’ve finally found a way to take our money and give us our damned permits within a day.

      And we shouldn’t expect regulatory offices to grow a pair when slumlords are doin their thing.

      Civic Self Esteem Awards, we have a winner.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the D.C. Code distinguish between “blight” and “public nuisance?” Many municipalities do. The standard for “public nuisance” is often looser than the standard for “blight.” Plus, “blight” is often tied with the public-use doctrine–eminent domain bad! Public nuisance abatement can be done without initiating eminent domain condemnations, and without compensating the property owners at all. Anyone know how it works in D.C.?

  • the owner is probably waiting for the right materials so they can renovate the building with some character, and not all that stainless and granite tacky looking stuff.

  • The biggest loophole in the vacant/blighted designation process is whether the owner has a building permit. If they have a building permit, they get off the hook. Even if they’re not doing any work. Once you get a building permit, you have a year to START the work. If you “start” the work on the 364th day, and do only one day of work, you’re off the hook. Then on the 366th day get another permit for the same “work” and start all over again.

    That’s the biggest loophole in the regs. Close it and the vacant/blighted designation process becomes much more logical and fact-based.

  • The owner of this building (Byung Shin) is listed as being in Bladensburg (4115 46th Street). Looking that up on the Maryland real property site: http//
    it’s a commercial building owned by Shin & Shin Property. God only knows how many buildings these people own.

    Also, I love that you used the word “shennanigans” in a formal presentation! Such a great word!

  • So if the building is hit with the super high vacant property tax, then what? Won’t it just be abandoned by the owner? If the guy’s trying to fix the place up, then what’s his motivation if his property tax is going to be more than he can pay? Won’t this just turn into a foreclosure?

    • hopefully it will be abandoned by the boner, I mean owner and then the city will place it on the vacant property tax sale list, and one of the developers of the Rhode Island Metro project (check out would gladly swoop in and buy it. It would be a win win win. The neighborhood would finally get a responsible building owner, the city would get the owed taxes, and the developers would be rewarded for their investment in our community.

      • That’s pretty speculative and best case scenario, isn’t it? I mean, have you seen the kinds of properties that go up for tax sale? They’re usually either total messes or they have a huge amounts of tax liens.

        I had a single family home down the street from me that was apparently bought at a tax sale 2 years ago. It’s still sitting empty. I think you’re being way overly optimistic on how quickly and happily a tax sale would happen.

        • 1) this building is a total mess. It drains DC tax coffers when it caught on fire and contributes nothing (the owner has consistantly gotten exemptions from vacant property taxes, etc).

          Yes, it is the “best case scenario” but any movement is good movement. If my neighbors and I didn’t take action we know for a fact the building would continue to sit there vacant and crumbling. Since we have taken action, we’ve at least increased our chances that it may be bought and re-habbed.

          Maybe it won’t be immediately re-habbed, but at least there’s a chance now.

          • Steven, I wish you and your neighbors the best of luck. But I think you really have no idea how long a building, once its in foreclosure/tax sale purgatory, can sit empty and crumbling, with no one to take care of it.

            My plan of attack would have involved working with the owner and trying to help him get financing to fix the property up, rather than trying to bankrupt him. If the owner’s totally unresponsive, I guess my plan wouldn’t work.

            But I really don’t think you comprehend that putting that property into a tax sale won’t really solve your problem for years.

            And that’s even assuming someone buys the property at tax sale, rather than the city taking it over. Have you seen some of the other disaster properties the city owns from failed tax sales? They’d make the building in the photos above look pristine.

            Good luck!

  • Wow Scott! Thanks for the insights. Are you always this much of a freak for being right, and for having the last word?

  • Who cares what Scott says. I’ve lived behind this mess of a building for years. I’ve tried to get the negligent owner to do something. DCRA has tried to get him to do something. He always comes up with receipts for deposits for new windows, and we back down, and then nothing happens.

    We’ve all tried. We’ve lived behind the building for long enough, and it’s been an eyesore to stare at. So maybe it will get caught up for years in legal battles… it’s been sitting there for years anyway, so what’s a couple of more years in legal battles? At least it’s movement in the right direction, whereas had we not acted, it would sit there and rot anyway… so at least we have a 50/50 chance someone will develop it… and if not, then it sits for a couple of more years vacant.

    Bottom line is any movement is good movement. Letting sit there status quo is not gonna work…

  • Contrary to peoples belief Steven is a pest to the neighborhood. He was only pushing the blighted ruling so the property could be developed so he can sell his home. He is bitter that he made a bad investment when buying his house on a crack infested block. Steven exaggerated his story and pissed of tons of residents just to get his way.

    Now that the building has been ruled blighted he now wants it lifted. Instead of looking at alternative ways to combat this issue he made irrational decisions that just brought us back to square one again.

    Don’t let Steven fool you he is a low income hating, colored hating, bigot.

    • Guessing you’re one of the low-life thugs who used to hang out on his street dealing dope before the cops started camping out?

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