“Nightmare on Buchanan Street”


“Dear PoPville,

Or as my neighborhood is dubbing it “Nightmare on Buchanan St”.

On the 1400 block of Buchanan St NW they completely razed a beautiful Wardman rowhome without the proper permissions, causing structural failure to the adjoining homes. DCRA is asking the neighbors, whose houses were damaged, to pay for new firewalls and re-enforcement. This blatant disregard to the neighborhood (and the permitting process) is frightening. If you see what’s been done, it’s absolutely awful. I’ve never seen anything like it in any neighborhood in DC. The one of the house you can see white because there is absolutely nothing but daylight behind the brick. There is nothing in place to even keep the façade standing. It’s a miracle the façade hasn’t crumbled.”


54 Comment

  • That is absolutely outrageous. Unbelievable the adjacent homeowners are expected to pay for major structural damage caused by the developer.

  • janie4

    Wow. Meanwhile, I had to provide proof that I’d served my neighbors with notice of my intent to underpin my new basement. I can’t believe that anyone would do this to someone else.

    DCRA may be telling the other owners that they need a new firewall/reinforcement now to keep the place occupiable, and that DCRA has no ability to shut the project down to force the developer to pay for the firewall/reinforcement at this point. The only recourse may be for the other owners to sue after the fact to get the developer to pay for the repairs.

    But even as someone who agrees that this is criminal, please don’t make it into a reason to block all new development in a neighborhood, rather this one case is a bad contractor/flipper who should be stopped. Pop-ups can help a neighborhood, though I do think people should be financially compensated for their light/air rights if it hurts their back yard.

    • It looks like there’s a stop work order on the door, so it seems weird for DCRA to claim they can’t take enforcement action.

      • janie4

        Maybe the scope of their authority doesn’t extend to forcing developers to pay for damage to other private property. I can’t imagine why not though. I looked at the permit information. They did have permission to demolish the back exterior wall, but not the side walls, where the party wall/fire wall should be. I’m amazed that they tried to do this.

        The agent has an unusual last name, Oteng-Agipong. There’s a former DCRA official, Yaw Oteng Agipong, who was sentenced to jail for corrpution and soliciting a bribe. Maybe he’s back in the real estate game.

  • This is terrible.

  • Time to start naming these developers, so that others can be aware of their crimes in the future.

      • Seems like a simple enough legislative fix. Wonder why we can’t get the council to outlaw this anonymous shell companies.

        I live nearby and next to an empty house being fought over by the family of the elderly woman who owned it before she died. What’s going on in this photo is my greatest fear.

  • time to lawyer up

  • Block all new development!

  • I agree with the other commentors, get a lawyer and find out who the developer is. I’d also look into any possible chance that DCRA’s lack of review / inspections makes them liable (I highly doubt it though). Very sorry for the affected parties.

    This type of response is par for the course with DCRA. An absolutely useless office that lives to bill the heck out of people who actually try and go through the process legally. It took one of my permits over six months to approve because the three reviewing officials could not find a specific drawing … it was on page 2 of the submitted drawings.

    • Make sure to reach out to DCRA’s public liaison. He’s one of the few who actually respond. His name is Matt Orlins and can be reached at 202-442-8945

      • +1 on Matt Orlins

        I worked with him at DCPS a few years back. He was a great colleague – responsive, level-headed, and always resolved issues quickly. Glad to see that he’s still in DC government.

    • This – the bureaucracy is intense, but easily avoided by simply ignoring permit requirements. Or just getting a permit but then doing whatever you want rather than following it.

      • Agreed. DCRA makes life really difficult for home owners who are actually trying to do the right thing, and then they let other people get away with craziness.

    • Yes. Unfortunately, DCRA inspectors like easy jobs. (In all fairness – who doesn’t?) It’s wrong, and I hope we can elect people to change it, but meanwhile citizens need to be aware that any construction that affects their own property needs to be investigated thoroughly. Do not rely on DCRA.

  • Like many things in life, you have to take things like this with a grain of salt. The tone was set when the person writing that notice started off railing against pop-ups, not the issue of 1424 Buchanan.

    Despite what that author claims, yes, they did have “proper permissions”. Anyone can simply look the permitting status up online. The permit application was submitted in December and fully approved 6/19/14.

    Part of the approved scope of work, taken verbatim from the permit is “remove all interior partitions and rear exterior wall.construct new interior partitions and rear three story addition”.

    Row homes built of this period actually have interior partitions separating them from their neighbors. People just generally call the wall separating two town homes a “party wall”, but in reality it is two interior partitions built adjacent.

    The issue here is that you are responsible for your own interior partition. Left alone, there is nothing to be done, but once your partition is exposed (by your neighbor doing work like this) you are required to bring your partition up to code and to ensure it is structurally sound. I know it is easier to blame the “bad developer”, but it isn’t their responsibility to make sure your house is structurally sound or code compliant.

    • So Kelly, are you one of these fly by night flippers? Defending a person who causes structural damage to 2 neighbors…..awesome.

    • In what world do my neighbors get to impose direct and unnecessary financial costs on me without my permission? Your reasoning is absurd.

    • Not listed on their permit, but what they also did is remove the roof and floor systems. Those parts of the structure provide lateral bracing to the party walls (which most certainly are not just “partitions.”) Add to this that they are excavating a deeper basement, also not on their permit, they have a perfect recipe for a collapse of their property and the adjacent properties. When you take away lateral bracing (the floors) and dig under the footers of the party walls, it’s only a matter of time before the remains of the party walls slide down into the hold and drag the neighboring buildings with it. Some people should never be allowed near a building with anything bigger than a pair of scissors.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I was hoping this was going to be about a ghost.

  • I hate hate hate these pop up developers. They only care about making $$$ and completely disregard history of the house and history of the community. I have seen 4 pop ups on my street in the past 2 years and they are awful and have also disrupted the structure of my house as well. The city needs to step up and do something once and for all.

    • A form-based zoning might interest you. Instead of a traditional zoning code that just says what kind of uses belong in a certain area, it also has guidelines on external dimensions and appearance. So you could mandate that new development in neighborhoods with classic rowhouses has to look like the older buildings. That way, you could get the density-related benefits of pop-ups while still maintaining community character.

    • Don’t confuse “old” with “historic”

  • I live two doors down from a dilapidated home that was recently purchased by a developer. My next door neighbor (immediately adjacent to the recently purchased property) told me that he spoke with someone claiming to be the developer. According to my neighbor, the developer indicates that he plans to dig through the foundation to create a basement unit and also to add a “pop up” up top to, in effect, create a 4 story unit. (I’m assuming the developer hopes to turn the existing home into two separate units.) Although I’m not too keen on the idea of a pop up going in, that’s not really what has me worried. I’m concerned about the proposal to dig into foundation to create a new basement. The 3 homes (mine, my neighbor’s, and the recently purchased house) all sit on what appears to be a shared foundation.

    Am I right to be concerned that digging into that foundation could compromise the structural integrity of all of the houses that current sit on it? If so, is there anything I should be doing before the developer begins working? I don’t know who the developer is, and neither does my neighbor. Will they have to announce their plans by posting permit applications on the front of the house?

    I would welcome any and all PoPville advice. Thanks…

    • janie4

      You’re right to be concerned, but this happens in DC. The developer has to get your acknowledgement that the underpinning work is being done. They give you thirty days notice. They ask for permission, at their expense, to enter into your property to take the steps necessary to preserve your foundation from the excavation work. If you don’t let them do it, it’s on your dime.

      The document has who owns the property’s name on it (I’m on the other side on this one, letting my neighbor know about a basement digout). You could probably ask who the contractor is going to be and check them out on Angie’s list.

  • There’s pretty much no chance the city is liable for the damage to the neighbors’ houses, but there is equally the likelihood that the developer will be – assuming he can be found, and has the assets to fix the problem. However, the damage has probably made the neighbors’ houses uninhabitable, so practically speaking the neighbors probably do have to repair their own properties – so they can quickly fix the problem and stay in their own houses – and then sue the developer for that cost and damages. Ironically, although the developer has pulled a BS move and deserves to be punished, if the new construction were allowed to continue it could possibly resolve the neighbors’ issues, but as long as the development remains an empty hole, the neighbors face the chance that their houses will collapse. It’s all an ugly ugly mess with some innocent people facing some hard times; I hope they find some good lawyers very quickly.

  • I saw the WJLA news story about this house. A spokesperson said no one can stop this, not the ANCs, etc. Really?? I have seen some of the ANCs such as 4C08 are considering taking resolutions against popups. How much can really be done ? I find it shocking/depressing to think DCRAs stance is that citizens or elected officials can do nothing.

    • Clarification: a DCRA spokesperson. The person interviewed was named Rabbiah S. (did not catch his last name).

    • ANC 4c08 will consider a motion to ban pop-ups at the 9/9 meeting, Petworth Library, 6:30pm

      • As the owner of a Petworth rowhouse, I’m strongly against any legislation that limits my ability as a homeowner to expand my house. (and up is the only way that is currently legal). I fully acknowledge that the majority of popups are for the purpose of multi-unit housing, but not all!

        • There is a huge difference (that DCRA seems totally unaware of) between aesthetic considerations and structural integrity. Also between the legality of allowing homeowners to “pop up” for more family living space versus allowing developers to chop up/pop up to convert single family to 4 tiny condos. Really – it isn’t that hard for intelligent, forward thinking people to figure out.

          • No need for insinuating that people that don’t agree with you are unintelligent or backwards thinking. If you looked on my block, you’d see my house, a pop-up with 4 units. It used to be a 2-story building with tenants and they popped it up to a 3 story and added a basement. Even with that, we’re still the shortest building on our side of the block. It doesn’t even look like the home has been popped up, and was finished in keeping with the other buildings on our block.. Each unit is 1400 square feet, which is easily enough for a family of 3. Hardly tiny. It is the largest home I’ve ever lived in, including the townhouse in the suburbs I sold to move into it.

            Then take our neighbor’s house. He owns the whole thing. But he’s done atrocious things to the facade and it doesn’t look like it was built in the same style as the rest of the block (I don’t personally think this is an issues, but others do). he’s done something to his front porch that makes it look like it is falling down. You can clearly see in his front windows that the entire downstairs is in shambles, and has been since I’ve lived here (over 4 years). But, pursuant to your logic, since my place was done as a pop-up by a developer and his is being done by a homeowner, his should be legal because it should be more structurally sound? How does that even make sense?

            How about we just somehow find a way to pressure DCRA into enforcing the regulations on developers, ensuring that all new development (whether by homeowners or developers) is structurally sound?

  • I pulled this off the DCRA web site (sorry for the wonky formatting). I note that the Structural Review was approved on 6/19. There were three other approval dates (Jan, Mar, May) so this went back and forth with reviewers — not at all unusual. Whether the builder was competent to execute the plan is a different story, and one that seems to have a bright orange sticker in the middle of it.


    ApplicationID Date Filed Full Address Agent Name Phone Number
    B1402680 12/16/2013 1424 BUCHANAN ST NW OTENG-AGIPONG 202-352-5058

    Discipline Review Status Status Date Review Comment
    Zoning Review Zoning Review Approved – WC 05/06/2014 app for 3-story rear addition and conversion from sfd to 3-unit apt blg in r-4 (3102 sf of lot area). 3 parking spaces provided, 1 required.
    Mechanical Review Mechanical Review Approved 05/07/2014 approved for the following scope of work: renovation of a single family dwelling into three dwelling units.remove all interior partitions and rear exterior wall.construct new interior partitions and rear three story addition.install new electrical, new plumbing and new hvac systems as per plans.
    Electrical Review Electrical Review Approved 01/07/2014
    Fire Review Fire Review Approved 03/13/2014
    Structural Review Structural Review Approved 06/19/2014
    DDOE Review DDOE Review Approved 06/19/2014 paying at issuance
    Wall Check Verification Wall Check Pending
    Plumbing Review Plumbing Review Approved 05/07/2014 approved for the following scope of work: renovation of a single family dwelling into three dwelling units.remove all interior partitions and rear exterior wall.construct new interior partitions and rear three story addition.install new electrical, new plumbing and new hvac systems as per plans.
    Issue Permit Permit Issued 06/19/2014

    • I was the originator of this appeal. Thanks monkeydaddy for the DCRA permits. I’m not an expert, but it seems to me that razing a home is completely outside of the scope of these permits. I’ve since noticed that the stop work permit has been removed and there is something protruding from the basement walls on one of the adjoining houses, but I’m not sure what it is and if it’s there for reinforcement. I was shocked to see the stop work permit removed within days. The whole thing reeks of fishiness and calls into question what DCRA and the developer are really up to (and what they may be doing in bed together).

      • Except they didn’t raze the house and, per PIVS, actually do have a permit (issued 6/19) to demo the back wall and everything inside.

      • If a contractor is doing work on a property with a legitimate permit that affects the party wall he has to alert the owners on either side with a DCRA form where you sign that he is allowed to access your property to keep it safe, otherwise any damage is your responsibility. Did he do this. If not contact Jim Graham ([email protected]). I know some people disliked Graham but he was/is excellent on constituent service.

    • clevelanddave

      Wouldn’t the developer, in order to do this work, have to have insurance- wouldn’t the city and the bank (assuming financed) require it? If so, then the insurance company should pay for firewalls and reinforcement. If they didn’t have it, then wouldn’t the developer be liable- both civil and criminal? I would think that they wouldn’t be able to fully hide behind an LLC (whose only asset presumably is the house). It seems to me that the essence of the problem is insuring against liability, to make these shell companies more transparent, and reducing the shield the LLC’s provide for the owner.

      • The developer definitely SHOULD have insurance but the contractor almost certainly has a policy in place to cover damage related to construction. Not at all sure about criminal liability but there is probably a way to go after the contractor for money and/or force them to remedy the issues.

  • And here is a little gem from the Washington Time 8/30/2007:

    “Yaw Oteng-Agipong was sentenced to 60 days in prison for attempted bribery to lift the stop-work order on the $1.2 million reconstruction project along the 1100 block of Fifth Street Northwest.”

    • If DCRA is doing its job, and DCRA counsel is enforcing the laws/regs on the books, guys like Yaw Oteng-Agipong should lose their business license in the district. Law abiding residents shouldn’t have to put up with bad actors and predatory developers who are convicted of bribes. DCRA do your job and protect residents…enforce the rules on the bad guys. PLEASE!

  • Please please please get back to us with who these developers are. This is insanely dangerous and everyone needs to know what developers to avoid/block in the future.

  • Technically the only thing this builder did outside of their permit is to remove the subfloor & floor framing, since they were only permitted to remove ‘Interior Partitions”. Thats what this stop work order is related to.

    EVERYONE SHOULD BE AWAE that the city requires that you notify your neighbors for work at the property line and to the shared party wall. However, if you don’t respond to that notice & document the existing condition of your house within 30 days, the builder (in the eyes of DCRA) is then not responsible because you can’t prove that the damage wasn’t there before the construction began. Don’t ignore the registered mail receipts you get in the mail…

    In the eyes of the court it could be a completely different outcome.

  • The owner appears to be MUBASHIR KHAN. Per the online D.C. register of deeds the owner is listed as 1424 Buchanan Inc. To find out the real owner: If you Google that company and use Bizapedia (which has worked well for us in our lawsuit to identify the bad flippers, contractors, etc), it says that the registered agent and principal address are/belong to MUBASHIR KHAN. (Usually if someone is listed as the registered agent in the city/state where the company is registered, it means this individual is the owner/developer/flipper). I saw on DCRA’s PIVS site that at first (11/12/2013) the only permit was for “demolition of non-load-bearing walls”, but then on 6/19/2014 they applied for and received a permit to remove the exterior wall (and remove interior partition walls and do some HVAC and other smaller stuff). Note that Mr. Khan also owns a company called 1444 Taylor Inc. Hope the house on Taylor (1444 Taylor) is not also about to collapse.

  • Wait I’m confused.

    So a third party comes into the neighborhood and knocks down a neighbor’s–and the residents whose houses were attached and were damaged now must fund the new firewalls? Not the party that caused the damage?

    This is so perverse I think I must be missing something. Am I?

    • I was thinking the same thing. This is terrifying

    • janie4

      Yeah, that sounds more reasonable to me than the developer not having to repair damage to the firewalls next door. That’s still unpleasant for the homeowners, but slightly saner. If I were the developer, I’d offer to pay at least part of the cost of new firewalls to avoid any bad publicity.

  • +1
    Perfectly said.

  • You should reach out to Muriel Bowser’s office. Her staff will respond quickly and help you to BWAHAHAHAHAHAH…hahaha…aaaah. I almost got through that with a straight face.

  • Love Stuart Crampton’s comment, is Mr Khan the true owner? Ask Duarte Jr who threw his neighbors
    under the bus.

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