Dear PoP – What’s Going on at Webster Gardens? Is the Neighborhood Safe?

“Dear PoP,

Do you know anything about what is going on with the housing project renovation taking place on Webster St, NW right off of Rock Creek Church Road? What is the city planning to do with it and when is it scheduled to be finished? Also, do you have any sense about the quality of life in that general area (Rock Creek Church Rd/Varnum/Upshur/Taylor)? It seems to be quiet neighborhood streets but given that its further away from the metro than other parts of Petworth, I wasn’t sure what the area was like both during the day and at night.”

You can read all about the Webster Gardens Narrative from DC. gov here:


They say:

“Webster Gardens will be developed using Low Income Housing Tax Credits, along with DHCD funding and other sources, ensuring that rents remain affordable for the extended use period. Affordability will be preserved for existing tenants with rent increases of not more than 6% per year up to the tax credit limits. Very low income households (below 30% of AMI) will have the opportunity to benefit from the Local Rent Supplement Program throught the DC Housing Authority that will allow them to pay no more than 30% of their income for rent. With the LIHTC, the redevelopment plan will upgrade the property and add amenities to make it competitive in the market while keeping it affordable to working families. Webster Gardens’ proximity to major employers, i.e., hospitals, higher educational institutions and the retail and professional opportunities along the Georgia Avenue and North Capitol corridors will provide a healthy pool of potential renters who will be tax credit eligible. The redevelopment of Old Soldiers Home will also help to attract more residents to the area.”

Of course since the above was written Old Soldiers Home development has stalled and the project is now slated to finish in 2011.

As for safety, I live nearby and feel quite comfortable. Having said that – it is not all roses. There are cases of crime (including shootings) that mostly involve crew on crew violence. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea. I’ve wondered if I’ve become too dismissive of crew on crew violence but if a shooting occurs a few blocks away it feels like it is miles away from me in terms of my day to day life, as sad as that is to say. It is not a common occurrence but every now then it does happen. Of course it’s still unsettling but this is the reality. As sad as it is to say these incidents do occur from time to time in Petworth, Columbia Heights, Park View, Pleasant Plains, Bloomingdale, Eckington, Brookland, Adams Morgan, Mt. Pleasant, Chinatown, Shaw, U St NW, H St NE, Hill East, Trinidad etc. etc.

It’s very hard to explain crime or safety. Like always, it’s a personal comfort level. I know single women who love it and “tough” guys who don’t. It is not uncommon to see families including young parents with strollers leisurely walking the streets. But honestly, I’ve gotten tired of people who sugarcoat everything:

“‘Insert neighborhood name’ is gorgeous and the curbs are lined with gold and if you say anything bad move back to Idaho”. I also have become exhausted with those on the opposite spectrum. “‘Insert neighborhood name’ is a shithole, you’ll get shot fortnightly and beaten over the head with a brick daily.” Frankly both of these types of people are full of shit. Here’s what I tell people:

It is a mix. It’s based on your own comfort level. In terms of safety no, no it’s not Cleveland Park. But I love it. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 8 years and have never been happier with my choice to live here. Yes, you need street smarts when walking around at night. Yes, the people/neighbors are among the best in the city. Walk around in the day and at night and see how you feel. Talk to neighbors you see out and about. Some streets are better/worse than others. And remember, that the above comments apply to many of DC’s neighborhoods.

40 Comment

  • Admirably said and impeccably correct.

  • This is not entirely related, but I just stumbled across it. If you ask me who I think deserves to win the mayorship in November, you’ll find my answer here.

    • Article is way too long. Why don’t you just tell us.

      • It’s a well-written article, and it details problems with the DC public school system. Yes, it is seven years old, but I am certain that the problems remain the same in many schools.

        I’m not here to proclaim my political sympathies, but I will say that we need a mayor with the stones to shake things up. If you can’t take on the school system, you don’t deserve the job.

        • Warning: this is long!

          I’m a former HS teacher (Chemistry) – not DCPS – and had nearly the same experiences – minus the lawsuit and criminal charges.

          I don’t think your comments make clear who’d you’d vote for: you sound like you’re pro-Rhee(Fenty) when you say, “we need a mayor with the stones to shake things up. If you can’t take on the school system, you don’t deserve the job.”

          I will say this, based on my own experiences and on what I read in the article (which very much rings true): An enormous part of the responsibility for the lousy situation in many “inner city” public schools rests on parents for their utter failure to do their job to teach their children how to behave and to quit trying to put all the responsibility on the schools (while simultaneously trying to make a buck off of them).

          We get mad at schools for acting in “loco parentis” (see discipline) but then expect them to fulfill that role in society. The “problem” with Public education is exactly that: an impossible and self-contradictory task. We expect them to raise our children – we certainly blame them for the failure to produce successful members of society – and yet we tie their hands to a large degree.

          This has a lot to do with the very high attrition rate of new teachers – and a lot of the quality people – TFA or not – who drop out do so because the pay hardly offsets the combat duty and personal risk. Many can find far more lucrative jobs with their skills – something that becomes attractive when the hassle factor is so great that it wipes out the satisfaction of the social rewards. This is another type of adverse selection, and it explains why you get an entrenched collection of mediocre to poor teachers: anyone who can do better gets out!

          It should not be the job of teachers to deliver “punishment” – nor act as social worker, counselor, sex/life teacher, etc. etc., but when nobody else does it we expect them to. When parents fail at discipline, we expect the schools to do it. In the “good old days” (please see the dripping sarcasm) we just expelled or allowed such children to drop out. Kids with legal issues weren’t put into the classroom: just the opposite.

          And this, BTW, is the dirty little secret about Charter Schools – they are “Schools of Choice” which is a bit of clever, Orwellian double-speak: it’s not really about parents choosing the schools – it’s about schools choosing the students! Public schools are the high-risk insurance pool: they are the residue of adverse selection.

          When Rhee (et al) beat up on the Teachers Union – beat up on teachers – as the root cause of the problems with reform, they utterly miss the point. How nice for this idealistic privileged white kid with two doctor parents that his family could afford him the protection of an expensive lawyer.

          If you don’t see that aspect of the article – you utterly miss the point. As far as I know, the only mayoral proxy is that a vote for Fenty is a vote for Rhee. If I misunderstand you to oppose the Rhee/Fenty paring, my apologies.

          I don’t defend all teachers – in DCPS or elsewhere – rubber rooms and the like need to be banished. However, they are hardly the largest part of the problem.

          Ultimately, the Mayor – like the School Board – answers (to some degree) to political forces. Some of that is pressure for a jobs-machine in return for votes (the old dynamic, IMHO), but a lot of that is also parents. I do believe that as the demographics of the city change – more educated, upper-income parents (of all ethnicities) will place a higher premium on quality education versus baby-sitting/warehousing service and jobs.

          • “It should not be the job of teachers to deliver “punishment” – nor act as social worker, counselor, sex/life teacher, etc. etc.”

            Why not? That’s always been part of the job before. You think there was some magic era in the 1800s when getting illiterate farm boys used to wrasslin snakes who were borne of illiterate parents was somehow a cake walk? What about kids of illiterate immigrant factory workers who lived 6 to a room in Brooklyn basements?

            I had a teacher tell me to my face that Mt Pleasant was “the hood” where “most of these kids see their parents weigh out cocaine on the kitchen table where they do their homework.”

            Yes, Mt Pleasant of the $2 million dollar Park Rd house, the group house of PhD educated Ralph Nader employees, the black doctor who bought his house in 1954 after getting his medical degree from Howard and sent off 4 kids and 12 grandkids to HBCUs. Yes, THAT Mt Pleasant. Drug dealers all up in the MTP be buying up the old victorians, installin’ stain glass and flippin’ those mofos drivin’ their subarus and volvos with the NPR on their ghetto blasters.

            I found, after talking to so many over the years, that teachers lie. In DC it’s poor black folks don’t teach their kids manners. In Bethesda it’s “rich white yuppies” only care about themselves and neglect their kids. In Falls Church it’s “Hispanics” don’t have our values. When is it, “I’m not prepared to teach effectively?”

          • Neener, that is absurd.

            First of all, sorry you had a bad experience with one teacher who made an inappropriate comment. You’ve learned that teachers list? Guess what? People lie. It doesn’t matter what their profession is. Of course teaching, like any other profession, is going to have some bad apples. The bottom line is that to be a successful teacher takes more hard work and stamina than most any other profession – not because the work itself is so inherently hard, but because of the obstacles put in your way that are virtually insurmountable.

            Teacher complaints about what happens in the homes of children are valid. You can only do so much for them during the day. While you may be able to teach them some things, your values and general life view come from home. Obviously, teachers should not use this as an excuse to do nothing, but blaming parents is not scapegoating. In many cases, they create huge impediments to their children’s ability to learn and fully function in a school environment.

            Teachers have become social workers, life couselors, etc., and you seem fine with that. You realize that in schools districts where parents take a more active role in the lives of the students (meaning the teachers are not required to spend large amounts of classtime filling roles left vacant by the parents), the teachers actually have time to teach things like math, reading, etc (which the students will be tested on and the teacher’s job ultimately depends on).

            I think your comments are pretty off target. If you want our teachers to fill more of those roles, I hope you support an increase in their salaries too.

          • FL, I am a parent and a one-time PTA officer, it is ABSURD of you to falsely claim that I heard this from ONE teacher when I paraphrased comments DC, Bethesda and Falls Church teachers in my very own post! I have several friends from college who are teachers in the surrounding counties. I have been inside school buildings all around the region.

            Off the top of my head I can name about 20+ DCPS teachers that I know and many of whom made outlandish comments. I know a DC Master Teacher who performs teacher evaluations who told me horror stories about teachers who she failed on this year’s IMPACT.

            My kid’s kindergarten teacher who was extremely wealthy and well-educated explained to me that teachers will make up any excuse to take their performance off the hook. She made no excuses for herself, made roughly $100k per year as a teacher at the highest level in DCPS, and made absolutely no excuses for herself. If a kid couldn’t stop fighting it became her problem to fix it, if a kid couldn’t read, it became her problem to fix it, if her room needed painting she organized the parents to help her paint it, if she needed supplies she bought them and asked for money to cover them. No whining, just results. I gave her a check for $150 to cover supplies at the beginning of the year because she had itemized exactly what it all cost.

            Most teachers don’t put in that much effort and conversely they get little results from the kids. We all remember teachers who failed as kids, I had K, 3rd and 4th grade teachers who were sub-par and 2 jr high teachers who were subpar- we’d see what other teachers were doing and just feel like crap because we weren’t putting on a play to learn about western expansion.

            Teachers complaints about what happens in homes are fantasies and lies made up in the minds of the teachers and it’s time that we call a lie a lie and stop letting teachers push the blame onto either minor children or onto parents who they may not know.

            DC teachers get paid more than any other teachers I know. I fully support the significant pay increase that Michelle Rhee pushed through! I do not want teachers to expand their roles but just accept the roles that teachers accepted in the 1960s and 1970s. Does anyone really think that DC drug abusing parents are worse now than they were in 1973? really? The city is much wealthier and the kids are much better behaved. The way these teacher talk you’d think there was still a crack war instead of rampant gentrification.

            Have you ever walked in on a teacher who was doing a WORD FIND in the supermarket word find book while the class had quiet time? I have.

            You have NO IDEA what goes on in DCPS.

          • Why not? That’s always been part of the job before. You think there was some magic era in the 1800s when getting illiterate farm boys used to wrasslin snakes who were borne of illiterate parents was somehow a cake walk? What about kids of illiterate immigrant factory workers who lived 6 to a room in Brooklyn basements?

            Um, in fact: YES.

            As recently as the 70s, when I was a public school student, students were regularly suspended and expelled for misbehavior. The first line of attack on the public schools was to claim they were failing because the drop out rate was too high.


            Children “back in the day” who were “rasslin snakes” and living in tenements were, in fact, subject to corporal punishment by school officials – teachers and administrators. I think you’re engaging in selective memory (well, I doubt you know the history). Take a peek at:

            I don’t advocate a return to the widespread use of corporal punishment

            There are, to be sure, incompetent teachers who are protected by tenure and unions, and they need to go. However, that is only one part of the problem facing education.

            I know a lot of good public school teachers who took pay cuts to get out and go into private education – to get away from discipline and behavior problems. Parents are just as responsible for raising children as teachers are.

            Since this is a matter of simply showing up prepared to teach, and you are clearly able to judge this based on your experience, perhaps you can shift from PTA to being a sub and can try walking the walk.

            I too remember well several incompetent (honestly: less smart than me) teachers of mine. One was a drunk who was finally fired – nearly fifteen years after I had him – but who should never have been allowed in. Several of my “colleagues” were the type to push worksheets and nap – just waiting for retirement. That did not change the reality that I watched a bunch of more competent people – people like me – walk away from the “deal”: constant disciplinary hassles, very little teaching time, for very little money.

            So yes, keep it up, you will get more of what you already have: a larger and larger pool of dead wood passing out worksheets (or showing videos) and warehousing kids while they wait for retirement.

  • I live right near here. My answer as to safety – it’s DC. Shit goes down everywhere. No matter how nice the neighborhood. In general, I feel safer here than I did in the years I lived in CH. That was until 4 people were shot right around the corner on Friday night.

  • 1. sh*t does not go down everywhere, particularly west of the park. I know people who haven’t seen a public drug deal or shooting their whole lives in DC and they live near Reno Rd east of Wisconsin Ave. Ditto with Palisades.
    2. the piece author said that SHOOTINGS are not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Whose cup of tea are they? Who here wants to live around filthy perverts who shoot people? I’m curious because someone’s not calling 911.

    • My buddy got robbed at gunpoint a few years ago half a block away from Reno rd. Shit can and does go down anywhere. This is a city; in general if you use common sense you’ll be fine.

      • it is not about the possibility that a crime can happen. it is the frequency that makes an area safe or unsafe.
        violent crime is not frequent west of the park. and some neighborhoods are simply safer than others.
        your anecdote does not change that.
        go ask a cop if you can’t grasp that fact.

  • first time I walked through Petworth, people said Hi.

    I didn’t have people say hello to me for years living in Glover Park.

    • First time I ever walked through Petworth, I got mugged. Can’t say the same thing about my years in Glover Park.

      • I have a friend who got mugged with a knife to the throat in Glover Park. It was a long time ago, but still.

        • Both of these comments are useless. People get mugged everywhere. If one person can come on here and say they got mugged in Georgetown, does that make Georgetown as dangerous as Trinidad? Obviously not. Yes, don’t be stupid because crime can happen anywhere, but you have to be less stupid if you are going to live in certain neighborhoods.

          I think the bottom line here is that people are trying to show that areas like Petworth and Bloomingdale are not the war zones that the people who live west of Rock Creek and never venture much beyond believe them to be.

          • ah yes, so I bought my house thinking that I was cooler than people west of the park until I realized that Petworth is still in 2010 a war zone and people who claim it isn’t are too naive to spot who the drug dealers are or how a street beef in Columbia Heights could turn into a shooting outside a club in Northeast until you see the name of the victim from around the way and the photo of the shooter who you totally know.

  • Up in the hills of Petworth, you’ve got lil punk kids like who behave poorly sometimes like kids everywhere in this city. If you are not a person of color (aka Genrry), you will likely get some black-on-white racist comments thrown your way once in a blue moon (or at least that puzzled look like what were you thinking moving here and walking around at 10 at night white boy). You also risk being scared to death a few times a year by the senseless gun violence, but overall, the neighborhood is filled with kind and gentle people of high civility. Just drive around the neighborhood on a sunday morning and you’ll see.

  • Yes! Well put, I live in one of these neighborhoods mentioned and I agree 100%.

  • If we’re going to start talking about FREQUENCY of crimes, then I hope no one in CH, U Street, Adams Morgan, parts of Dupont, parts of Capitol Hill and other places do not throw the “high crime” flag at Petworth.

    Check the crime stats – there are areas of many parts of the high priced areas of this city that have 3-4 times the crime rate of Petworth.

    Sweet, we can point to areas west of the park, but thats hardly a “city”. They’re beautiful areas – but they arent urban and they dont have the same problems that densely populated, mixed income, urban areas have – crime included. Comparing Spring Valley to Petworth is a ridiculous comparison – they only thing they share are a common city government. The End.

    • so now we’re trying to say that west of the park isnt even dc?
      all these justifications so people don’t have to admit that some places have more crime than others. its bizarre.
      why are people so scared to admit that their neighborhood is crime ridden?

      • Friendship Heights is very dense and urban with low violent crime.

        Not that I would ever want to live there.

        But I see your point, all those areas have high crime too, (except dupont) but they don’t complain about crime nearly as much there.

        • saf

          I dunno, have you been to their ANC meetings? I have, and boy, do they complain about crime.

        • Friendship Heights has less violent crime, but lots more property crime. Dupont has lots of both. Here’s the numbers year to date, taken from DC Crime Map:

          All within 1000 ft:

          Georgia and Kansas: 26 violent 40 property
          Grant Circle: 18 violent 17 property
          Wisconsin and Jenifer: 4 violent 114 property
          Dupont: 24 violent 167 property

      • because then it would fall upon them to end crime in their neighborhood.

        I took responsibility for ending crime in my area. I do not sugarcoat it. 3 muggings in one year is three too many for my surrounding blocks.

  • This is well said. Crime does happen everywhere : there was a carjacking in the middle of the day in Dupont last week. That said, I think in some places crimes stand out more and there might be more effort on the part of local businesses and residents in working with police to find the ones who did it.

    I can’t say if this applies to Petworth.

  • It’s hard to evaluate. There is a higher volume of crime in Adams Morgan/Columbia Heights but there are is also a higher volume of people/targets. I feel safer in Columbia Heights for the most part because it’s better lit and there are more bystanders at night but it might actually be more dangerous. As someone who recently moved to North Petworth from Mt Pleasant I can say that I am not so concerned about the crime as I am about the proximity to grocery stores or even a decent convenience store. Kennedy St is kind of a wasteland unless you’re looking for funeral homes which it has in abundance.

    • Hi there Newby,
      I’ve been living a block off Kennedy for two and a half years now (so slightly longer than you, but I’m still a newbie too, relative to many of my neighbors). And Kennedy is actually not quite a wasteland, thanks mostly to Salva-Mex, the tienda on the corner of 5th and Kennedy. I absolutely LOVE that I can get limes, jalapenos, avocados, onions, garlic, tomatoes, chorizo, queso fresco and tortillas right around the corner. All – save the tomatoes, which are typically plum and a bit underripe – are good quality, and I’ve eaten dinners from these elements many times.
      They’ve also recently gotten some new coolers, and seem to be expanding their inventory of things like hot dogs and Kraft cheese, if that’s more your speed. Either way, I encourage you to check it out. I know this is just one place, but it has improved my quality of life quite a bit.

      • Oops! How presumptuous of me – you didn’t mention how long you’d been there. Sorry about that! Should say *maybe* longer than you.

        • Thanks, that’s good to know. I went there this weekend and got some good avocados but I was amazed that they don’t sell tortilla chips.

          • That IS infuriating, I agree! However, it pushed us to make our own from the tortillas that are available, and while it took an extra 10 minutes and dirtied a pot, the result was so delicious that I couldn’t be upset about it.

            A weird thing about every store on Kennedy I’ve visited is that none of them seem to have “regular” chips – Tostitos, Lays, whatever. It’s always off-brands. I guess it’s a distribution costs thing or something?

  • I think PoP (and everyone else here) is right. I will say that I’ve lived in Columbia Heights for 6 years, never felt unsafe walking around day or night (I am a single, white female who lives alone) and somebody’s gonna say that I’m either lucky or stupid. I realize this isn’t a violent crime but my car has been broken into twice here. Once in Cleveland Park and once on my street in Columbia Heights. So, conclusion: it’s a personal preference. Good advice: go there. Park your car on the street. Get out. Walk around. In the noon sunshine, after dark. If you feel unsafe, think twice about relocating. If you don’t, you don’t.

    Last comment: this is a city. It’s never gonna be 100% crime free. Keep your wits about you, pay attention, and you’re doing the best you can do to keep yourself safe.

    Why is the captcha in greek??

  • Also, I would be willing to bet that the majority of victims of violent crime in this city know their assailants. Since I dont know anyone in the city who is going around committing crimes, I feel safer in marginal areas.

    • This is really interesting. I’d bet the same thing. As a former defense attorney, I can say that most of my clients charged with a crime against a person, as opposed to property, did not randomly targeting victims. Guess maybe the real concern is being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as everyone has said. So, maybe certain areas have more wrong places with a higher frequency of wrong times?

  • Apparently you can catch a bad one anywhere in DC. There is no “safe” neighborhood. You have to be on guard wherever you are in the city.

  • I think when most people “feel” unsafe they are referring to the effect best demonstrated by turning on the DC crime map and turning off every crime except “assaults” and turning on say 3-6 months worth of data. You’ll see crime centralized in trinidad, petworth, columbia heights and anacostia.

    So we can BS all the anecdotal evidence all we want, but either the data from NW isn’t being recorded or these neighborhoods are prone to more personal violence.

    Now, whether that violence is stranger violence or not, is a separate subject. I personally think some is, and some isn’t.

    • thank you.

      I am friends with someone who keeps saying our neighborhood is safe, but then I list the rapes and the shootings and the drug arrests they have excuses why shootings don’t bother them. well they bother me.

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