“Many of you will remember the community conversation about affordable housing at the redevelopment of the old Hebrew Home last year”

1125 Spring Road, NW

From the Petworth listserv:

“Many of you will remember the community conversation about affordable housing at the redevelopment of the old Hebrew Home (1125 Spring Rd NW) last year. At the time, then-mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser facilitated a series of very public and transparent community meetings revealing an overwhelming consensus in support of affordable housing in the redeveloped property.

The result was a plan for the building to have 90% of its units be affordable, at a range from working class affordability to more middle-class affordable units, including some prioritized for seniors. You can see those plans here. These are units that would house people to work in our neighborhood restaurants, cafes, schools, grocery stores, barber shops, and more – valued members of our community.

Unfortunately, what was once a very transparent and responsive process has, under Councilmember Brandon Todd, become opaque, and may be reneging on the original promise made to our ward and to the city. Word has begun to spread that oversight of the project was moved from the Housing Authority to the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), and that the proportion of units reserved for affordability may drop from 90% to 30%. For over a month, Councilmember Todd’s office has completely ignored calls for transparency from constituents, ANC commissioners, and reporters. Despite a city website naming Todd’s office as the liaison on this issue, his office has refused to respond to numerous inquiries.

In response, a group of neighbors has now written and begun circulating a public letter calling for three basic things. We believe that, in order to ensure fair and transparent development at the Hebrew Home site, Mayor Bowser, Councilmember Todd, and Deputy Mayor Brian Kenner must:

1) Immediately inform members of the community fully about the status of the Hebrew Home development.

2) Hold a public forum to solicit community input on any changes to the plans for the site that deviate from the proposal made last year.

3) Ensure that DMPED’s call for proposals for the site reflects the specific public commitments that were made to affordability at the site.

In just its first few days, the neighbors’ letter collected almost 200 signatures. Please add your voice and sign onto the neighbors’ letter calling for these simple actions.

Our elected officials must bring transparency back to this process, and they must keep their promises on affordable housing. DC’s housing crisis requires nothing less.”

53 Comment

  • What person would be willing to pay market rate in a building when 90% of the units are affordable housing?

    • Well that would be dictated by the market wouldn’t it?
      I think you mean the market price for these 10% would will be substantially lowered by being in a 90% ADU building.

      • “Market rate” typically refers to the amount that the market values something at (like an average or median price), not how much an individual item is worth on the market.
        For example, if you rent an apt in late December you are likely to get it for less than market rate because that is a very slow time for renting and the landlord can reasonably expect vacancy loss over the winter if they don’t get it rented so they will drop below market rate (same thing in new construction that isn’t able to pre-lease all their units). In late spring and early fall you may end up paying more than market rate as this is when most people move so places are easy to rent and vacancy loss is unlikely.
        TLDR: Market rate isn’t what one person pays for something (I just bummed a cigarette so market rate for smokes is FREE!), market rate is the amount you can expect to pay for something (a loosie is 75 cents).

  • Personally, I think its a very good thing if they dropped the number of subsidized housing units down to 30%. Not only does that still provide for a net INCREASE of affordable housing in the area, but it is properly offset by market rate units. Urban planners consider >30% subsidized housing to be a negative for attracting investment, but at 30% its considered a good planning formula to have a well rounded community.

    • I tend to agree with you on the proportions, but the fact that certain promises were made in the light that are now being broken in the dark is not a good look for city government or community engagement. And since community engagement is the city’s proposed solution to all of our problems (police your own block! What could go wrong?), the lack of respect for engaged citizens on this project is discouraging at best.

      • My impression last year was that the city was going to do what it wanted to do with the former Hebrew Home, regardless of what the neighbors thought. It looks like that’s still the case, but now the city is choosing to do something different with the property.
        Neighbors who support the 30%-affordable plan should contact DMPED and Brandon Todd to say so.

      • The writer of this post has a strong tilt towards something that most of those on the surrounding blocks were NOT in favor of. Most of the people in the surrounding two SMDs who would be directly impacted by a 90% ADU (basically, the closest equivalent to public housing) were against it. Public housing advocates who wouldn’t have it in their back yard were showing up in droves to the meetings. I don’t believe that 90% ADU was widely circulated at all, so I’d hardly call it a “promise” to the community. The nearby community will be far better served by 30%. I’d strongly suggest someone write a competing petition to show support for 30%.

      • “certain promises” were also made to the people who live nearby long before a bunch of transplants organized their 20-something friends to swarm the community meetings. For example, we were promised that it would be mostly senior housing and about 100 units. So, get used to having promises broken by DC. Personally, I couldn’t be happer to hear about this change.

  • I am a neighbor and I think 30% is a far more reasonable number. The failed experiment of concentrated poverty in the other public housing developments in Columbia Heights and Park View is a clear indication that 90% affordable does not work.

  • Group of neighbors? Overwhelming consensus? I’m a neighbor and I remember a consensus from people who live on the surrounding blocks on making sure there is sufficient parking — but not on much else. There are still lots of folks on my street hoping for apartments to keep our seniors in the area (which is affordable housing, too). Though I do agree we would like to know what the heck is going on.

    • Agreed. There was hardly a consensus in those meetings last year.

    • +1. I attended every meeting on this project and the last word I’d use to describe them is “consensus.” There’re just as many neighbors who want to see a 70/30 market/subsidized building as there are those who want 90% below market.

    • binpetworth

      Ditto. I was at several of these meetings and don’t recall any overwhelming consensus on the 90% affordable housing thing. I also remember quite clearly one person making the very valid argument that if you want to attract working class families, then you need to create buildings with a greater number of 2- and 3-bedroom units.

  • I think 30% would be much better for the community than 90%.
    Incidentally, the above post from the Petworth Yahoogroup comes from Sam Jewler, a community organizer who campaigned heavily last year for the former Hebrew Home to include a high percentage of affordable housing. I can’t remember from the discussions from last year whether he actually lives in the area.

    • Per Linkedin, Sam graduated from Oberlin 5 years ago. So, we can excuse hilarious pronouncements like this:

      “These are units that would house people to work in our neighborhood restaurants, cafes, schools, grocery stores, barber shops, and more – valued members of our community.”

      On the basis of Sam’s youth and naivete.

    • He rented nearby. Most of the folks he turned out for the meeting did not live in the neighborhood — if we want to start talking about transparency.

    • Unless there’s another activist by the same name, Sam Jewler was also a mouthpiece/figurehead for the Occupy DC shenanigans a few years ago, during which he went on an 11 day hunger strike for some reason (OK, we all know the reason was publicity).

      • Yep — that was mentioned on the Petworth Yahoogroup last summer when Sam Jewler posted to the group saying he wanted to interview people who had been “displaced” from Petworth.

  • I don’t think this petition or the “overwhelming consensus” of neighbors from last year fairly represents the opinion of surrounding residents. This is a targeted, organized campaign by Jews for Justice and I don’t believe the results for a minute. Everyone I talk to–at social gatherings, ANC meetings, MPD meetings, etc– think 90% is a total mistake.
    Why not create, and ENFORCE, a reasonable percentage of affordable housing mixed among market rate units? This way, the market rate units support the buildings facilities and maintenance. NOT TO MENTION those that live in affordable housing live among neighbors of all income classes, instead of being corralled into government-subsidized housing. The practical and social benefits of this type of arrangement has a proven track record. Blocks of mostly affordable housing DO NOT.

  • I asked about why such a high concentration of affordable housing in one development and was accused of hating poor people. I don’t trust this group.

    For the record, I’d be happy to see the additional profit from only having 30% affordable applied to subsidize additional affordable housing units in a part of the city that doesn’t have such a concentration.

  • When our neighborhood was faced with serious traffic safety issues and quality of life concerns, Councilmember Todd’s office responded promptly and took care of our problems. We elected him to make our community better, and he’s doing it!

    Meanwhile, Mr. Jewler wants us to think there is consensus on his plan, but that’s just his “communications” expertise hard at work. A survey of our neighborhood found most folks support an affordable housing component, but a large majority prefers a mix of 10%-50%. Furthermore, Mr. Jewler fails to mention that his plan would require tens of millions of dollars that DC doesn’t have. He calls for transparency but leaves out crucial information about our community!

    He is correct that DC administration was unable to provide anyone (including me) with information about OHH. I was reassured that everyone will have a chance for input when internal deliberations have concluded.

    In the meantime, I trust Councilmember Todd and believe he will continue to provide Ward 4 with the support it asks for. (Councilmember Nadeau, meanwhile, should focus on reducing crime in Ward 1 before she gets her groups to meddle in Ward 4.)

  • Ever since I’ve been in DC not one promise from a council member, developer, or mayor in regards to affordable housing has been followed through on. Between the collusion of government and developers and the bourgeois colonization of every last affordable neighborhood in DC encouraging this collusion, I can’t see how people can keep on living here and moving here while so many are being displaced and suffering. Its pretty depressing.

    • So we should just subsidize 65% of the housing in the District to make sure people can afford it?

      Mr./Ms. Idaho Ave, how might you suggest we pay for this as well?

      Oh and please refrain from using such inaccurate inflammatory remarks such as “colonization”

    • One of the few reasonable voices in this discussion.

    • Well that’s rich. Someone from Idaho Ave complaining about bourgeois colonization. Limousine liberal at its best.

    • Here’s your problem: there is no such definition as “Affordable housing” therefore your goals will never ever be met

  • I lived about four blocks away. I know all my neighbors and most of the people advocating for 90% affordable housing didn’t live nearby. Some even lived in Maryland! When I got up to speak, I was shouted down by these same people. Others I spoke with felt the same way.
    I strongly support 30% affordable housing. I think that’s a solid number that helps alleviate affordable housing, but also creates enough market rate so the project is sustainable without DC having to invest tens of millions of dollars into it.
    Has anyone asked how much it would cost to have the Housing Authority develop? Without a majority of market rate units, DC taxpayers in ALL EIGHT WARDS would be stuck with the price tag. How is that fair?

  • We should require every apartment building in the entire city to have a percentage of units – maybe 3-5% depending on size – at “working class” rental rates, as well as maybe 1% for supported housing. Then eliminate the concentrated pockets of poverty housing.

  • I’m still frustrated that they won’t use this development to provide replacement units for Park Morton, but they say they can’t move on Park Morton until they locate replacement units. I don’t think DCHA is effective, so I’m happy to hear they’ve moved the project to DMPED.

    • This should definitely be used as part of the Park Morton off site. Makes no sense, which leads me to believe PM redevelopment will never happen

      • I believe they’ve already moved 40% of the residents. It’s crazy because some of the buildings are boarded up/not lived in so it makes PM even worse. FWIW, they do have construction/demo for PM scheduled to start in 2018, but then again I think it was originally supposed to start in 2010!

  • There is not and was not widespread consensus as stated by the listserv poster. This should be a mixed income development to best ensure the dignity in housing all people need. That occurs by having a market-driven property with set-asides (20 to 30 percent) for means-tested vouchers. The market then assures the property is maintained to the level required for market-based rents. The community has the opportunity to get this solution when negotiating requirements as part of the planned unit development (PUD) process. This discussion is about more than just the one building. It is about the whole triangle, including the Robeson School and 1131 Spring. This location would be one of the hottest in DC given its location. That’s why the communicty needs to focus its PUD-related concessions on set-asides for non-market units (again 20 to 30 percent), height limitations (so it blends well with the surrounding buildings), and sufficient parking or transit options to sustain parking availability in the neighborhood. Meetings are inapprorpiate mechanisms for determining wide-spread consensus.

  • The few of us who’ve been paying attention to the disposition of the Hebrew Home over the past year learned about the removal of DCHA some time ago. They came up with a strong program that satisfied some of the public but there were serious financing problems. The Mayor is first and foremost a pragmatist. She clearly wants density at this site and in order to accomplish that she’ll need a new program that will allow the project to be financed. That ultimately explains why this project has shifted to DMPED. I expect the Hebrew Home Wars to commence once again, probably after the first of the year. Mr. Jewler and Jews United for Justice will surely outwork everyone in organizing to show up at a community meeting and whatnot, but a significant weakness those groups face is that they are completely disconnected from those with any power to make a decision here (save CM Nadeau, a former director of JUFJ). They alienated almost everyone who lives within a few blocks of this site. They don’t know councilmembers and they don’t know ANCs. The ones they do know they’ve likely offended and these form letters aren’t going to get it done. After DCHA announced its program, JURFJ et al. desisted on account of thinking they had won. They don’t particularly understand either politics or finance, though, and I suspect that’ll be made apparent once again. As for the ultimate disposition of the site, I’m unsure what will happen but I’d bet that it won’t be any better for the JUFJ’s of the world than the program announced by DCHA last summer.

    • I think it’s particularly important to note Nadeau’s affiliation, especially as she’s floundered in office (see i.e. her reaction to crime and creating a rival “neighborhood watch” reaction.

    • Nadeau has aggressively pushed her agenda on this especially with regards to citing biased “community surveys”. Many believe she has a conflict of interest given her affiliation. I personally am very disappointed with Nadeau and would much rather prefer she spend her energy on real measures to curb the rampant crime in her Ward.

  • If this is true, this would be a significant improvement. 90% “affordable” especially the mix they suggested, would have been a disaster for the area and the ward, especially considering the mix they were suggesting. It would have driven up violent crime rates significantly, and dragged down the schools. This on the other hand has the potentential to be a positive project with 30% affordable, and a step in the right direction for the community. If you concentrate poverty to much, it really does lead to significant problems, and that was a major problem with the original proposal. This on the other hand would provide some affordable housing, but also provide enough market rate to ensure a far healthier community.

    Also if you paid attention last year, Bowser was very clear that she wanted 30% affordable for this space, and thought the mix Grey administration put forth was far too high. Elections have consequences. It was DC HUD which pushed the higher number out.

    Also there was absolutely no consensus, if I remember right it was rather contentious, with affordable housing advocates from outside ward 4, shouting down people who were from the community who thought that the % of affordable units was far to high. That’s the problem with the meeting as well, outside groups brought in a large number of people who were not from ward 4 to push the affordable housing, and in many ways people from the community were bullied at the meeting.

    It is good to hear that level heads may be prevailing, and the proposal that had the actual support of the community, and not outside “Affordable” housing advocates may be moving forward. This will lead to a healthier Petworth, instead of introducing another troubled public housing project that brings in more violent crime.

  • this was never transparent. And as someone who attended the meetings I can assure the majority of residents of people who actually live in this neigbhorhood were adamantly opposed to 90% low income housing. The survey sent out by DGS was total BS too. The only supporters of this much low income housing were the affrodable housing organizations NOT located in the area, run by people who don’ t live in the area either. Turns out Brianne Nadeau was one of the board members and had to recuse herself once she got called out. Its much better for DMPED to manage this. 30% is good standard and easier to finance with market units in the building. We already have a concentration of affordable units in CoHi and Petworth.

  • PoP, I think you need to add some sort of disclaimer on the above post. Prior summaries of those meetings indicate there was about zero consensus, and indeed, many were quite frustrated that there had been an earlier opaque decision to change the purpose of the building from housing for seniors to affordable housing as described above. While the point on transparency is well-taken, the rest of it is polite deception at best (and amusing given the point on transparency).

  • FYI council member Nadeau is part of the Jews for justice advocating for 90% subsidized housing.

  • I live near this building, and given the apparently deceitful nature of this campaign, you won’t count on my support in any way. Good neighbors don’t lie to each other about the facts or their true intent.

  • This is good news. There was not “widespread concensus” for 90% especially in an area already saturated with public and affordable housing. The polls they used were completely biased towards bringing “affordable” housing only. Happy they have come to their senses.

  • I was one of the women who felt threatened by Jews for Justice last time. I wanted to speak at the meeting, but those near me started verbally bullying me. I know all my neighbors and definitely didn’t recognize the young kids. They had on Jews for Justice pins… I’ve never felt last so weak. I won’t be so lender this time though. Nearly all the people in my neighborhood support the 30% affordable housing percentage. That’s a reasonable, common sense percentage while also having enough market rate units so that it doesn’t cost the District tons of money. Brianne Nadeau needs to concentrate on her own Ward and leave her personal attachments of it. Hasn’t she got enough to worry about?

  • PoP – You definitely need to add an “ed note” at the top based on the comments that you see here to avoid people blindly signing a petition. The opinion of this post is clearly in contrast with the interest of many of those in the surrounding neighborhoods.

  • Sam has been out of college for 5 years and his crap-activism about how cities should behave is intolerable. Sam, I’m tired of the drugs and prostitution problem on 14th & Spring that spans east to Georgia Ave. I’ve got people shitting, prostitutes fucking, and a person occasionally living under my deck. I work days, my wife bar tends nights and we have 2 kids. My oldest goes to public school in the neighborhood. We believe in this city and bought a place here. I bet I’m staked to it more permanently than you are, in fact I’m sure of it. Your arguments are academic and clearly lack context. Northern Columbia Heights has changed for the better over the last several years, and I categorically dismiss your assertion that “200 neighbors” support 90% public housing – that’s 100% contrived… You deserve a goddamn spanking.

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