“we’ve raised this banner to push our local leaders and DCRA to do take action”

Kansas house sign

Thanks to all who emailed and tweeted about this sign.

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“Dear PoPville,

We wanted to make you aware that a banner has been placed on our home to protest the deplorable and unsafe condition of the boarded up row house next door and the city’s complete lack of response to complaints for repairs from two families with young children living next door. For seven years, we have contacted Muriel Bowser, DCRA and (now) Brandon Todd to repair the roof, front porch and back porch, all of which are structurally unsound.

This boarded up, blighted home has been a magnet for rodents, burglaries, drug dealing, public fornication and other crime. The entire block is sick of it, yet DCRA refuses to enforce building codes to force the owner to repair it. Moreover, the city collects $19k a year in property taxes at the vacant rate, I believe from the bank trying to foreclose, but refuses to reinvest a dime of the extra tax proceeds in making the property safe.

After countless emails, phone calls and visits to Muriel Bowser’s office to deliver pieces of fallen roofing material as proof of the urgency of the situation, we’ve raised this banner to push our local leaders and DCRA to do take action. We believe DCRA would never permit this level of dilapidation in Georgetown, Cleveland Park or in Muriel’s new digs in Colonial Village. We’re asking for the same standards of enforcement. ”

More photos after the jump.

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68 Comment

  • Because it’s DC, I’m just waiting for the family who posted the sign to get some sort of ticket for violating something (sign regulations, who knows what). You just KNOW that’s going to happen.

  • It sucks when you’re constantly worried about the common wall collapsing and taking your house into a pit with it, but I’m not sure a text-heavy banner obstructing the view from your porch will help. There isn’t really a call to action, as to what I as a passerby could do to help you.
    .
    Have you tried your ANC or civic association meeting? Both usually have reps from the mayor and the council member offices, and city offices can be more responsive to those people advocating on behalf of locals. If the bank is in foreclosure proceedings, I’m not sure that any fines levied by DCRA would actually result in improvements — seems the owners have already walked away. Best hope is that it becomes bank-owned quickly, and a developer buys it.

    • Also, if you’re not getting response from ward 4 councilmember, also consider reaching out to the at-large members. Not Orange, because he just lost the primary, but iirc, Anita Bonds is usually pretty responsive.

    • OP here – going to the 4D ANC meeting tonight, and every month if that’s what it takes.

      • Hello, OP,
        Just wanted to tell you I have seen your post and have sent a link to it to my 5 colleagues on ANC 4D. I look forward to hearing more about it tonight. David Sheon (4D04) has been especially active in agitating for better and more effective monitoring of vacant houses and punishment of scofflaw owners. I hope you know you can reach out to any of us if you don’t manage to catch up with your area representative, to ensure your concerns are heard and dealt with. Our contact info is on the government website at anc.dc.gov. See you this evening.
        Nancy Roth
        ANC 4D01

    • it looks like the front porch and back bumpout are failing, but how would this affect the party wall? it doesn’t seem like the whole house is in risk of falling down.

      • also, this is a genuine question. we live next to a pop up, and they removed the joists on their side, and just built a stick frame building straight up. as this seems to be the standard procedure for these popups, i’ve always wondered if this affects the integrity of the party wall, i.e., do joists provide some structural benefit somehow.

      • uh…we don’t want to wait around to see if our common wall can withstand a collapse of the back bump out. Especially, our daughter sleeps in the little room that shares the common wall. we’ve tried to find another room for her to sleep in, but the little room is safest for a toddler since there’s no furniture she can climb. Frankly, it’s absurd that DCRA’s indifference and negligence is putting us in this position. That agency’s building enforcement division is playing with people’s lives by their apathy. Glad to have met my ANC commissioners last night and that they ARE taking this matter seriously.

  • I don’t know exactly which ANC SMD this is in, but other commissioners in 4C have been extremely helpful in these cases and have gotten DCRA to take pretty rapid action. I would assume that they had been contacted before the banner, but just in case…

    • 4D06 – Bill Quirk. He’s never returned or acknowledged my e-mails concerning this home or our bombed-out alley. The alley got repaved after 5 years of campaigning ONLY because an elderly woman had to walk up to Muriel Bowser (who was attending another alley’s ribbon cutting ceremony) and beg her to repave because it hurt her and her husband to walk in the craters in our alley. Its absurd.

      • This is Bill Quirk. While I am aware of this property, I’ve not ever received a call from you about it and I give my cell phone number out at every ANC meeting. I’m happy to speak with you and help with this issue. My number is 202-487-1021.

        • Thanks for meeting with me, Bill. Indeed, I only copied you on an e-mail about the alley. I now know how best to reach you.

  • “We wanted to make you aware that a banner has been placed on our home…”
    .
    Don’t they mean “a banner that we placed on our home”? As it is, is sounds like they woke up one morning to find that someone else hung a banner from their porch.

  • Has the bank been contacted by the neighbors? Would the bank presumably be liable as owners, and therefore maybe receptive to safety concerns? I recall a case where I used to live where a bank that owned a home in foreclosure paid for medical care for a woman who was attacked by a squatter’s dog. Rather than going to court, the bank quickly settled.

    • I guess that would require the bank actually foreclosing, though.

      • It took us YEARS to even get the name of the bank holding the mortgage. Again, DCRA and OTR didn’t lift a finger to help. After 6 years of abandonment, Bank of New York Mellon finally filed for a mortgage foreclosure this past March and the case against the owner won’t even start in DC Court until October. We just can’t wait around for the courts so we’re pressuring DCRA.

  • What’s the story with this house? Was there a flip started an abandoned? Or one of those houses that was owned by someone and that person passed away so it fell into the hands of the younger generations and thus disrepair?

    • The family moved the elderly man out a month after we bought our home. They have visited it once since and walked away. It’s been a nightmare. Otherwise, Petworth has been one of the best communities we’ve ever lived in and lots of people express concern over our plight and our safety.

      • We have had a problem property on our Petworth block, too. The situation is different, but we worked with our ANC (sorry to hear that yours isn’t so great…) and the our PSA lieutenant (Lt. Lamond) to get the process started to get it declared a “nuisance” property. If you have ongoing issues with criminal activity at the house, call 911 every single time and request that they work with DCRA to get it boarded up and condemned by the city. I know that working with DCRA is usually a nightmare, but we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly they worked when MPD was the one making the request. We started out working with Cmdr Manlapaz and he was extremely helpful. Good luck.

  • I am not surprised that DCRA haven’t taken any action regarding this matter because this agency have been troubled for a very long time under Bowser’s administration and previous administration. However, former Ward 4 Councilman and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty would have held DCRA accountable. I agree, if this house was located in Colonial Village, Shepherd Park, Georgetown, or in any upper middle class D.C. neighborhood, action would have been taken rapidly. City elected leadership and MPD responds rapidly to D.C. residents concerns on the Gold Coast upper 16th Street (Shepherd Park, North Portal Estates, Colonial Village) Ward 4.

  • Good luck with that. Brandon Todd is useless. To think that we were so close to getting a new CM breaks my heart.

  • email DCRA director ([email protected]) and copy the mayors office, the attorney general, your council member, anc rep, and consider contacting the press about the issue.

    In my experience you won’t get any action from DCRA unless you get a critical mass of folks kicking and screaming and making a fuss (and potentially embarrassing them).

    Good luck and sorry you have to deal with this.

    • To his credit, Brandon Todd e-mailed Director Bolling directly and we got no response. DCRA thinks it’s above the law and won’t even give us a timeline or the inspection reports.

      • Ding, ding, ding! THIS is the problem. Brandon Todd is trying. Hell, he has made constituent services the cornerstone of his office. However, he can’t deliver results. He is getting screwed over by Bowser and these inept agencies just as bad as we are!

    • I’d also see if they have a public facebook page, and start posting your emails up on them. In my experience, social media tends to be a catalyst for action.

      • yes, twitter is especially good for calling out DCRA (or any gov’t agency).

        I’d recommend you keep emailing them and copy everyone from every agency you can think of and demand a public meeting with all interested parties (have your ANC rep or council member host / propose the meeting) to sort it out to get a face-to-face encounter. Just keep doing it — eventually they will have to respond if you bother them enough. You could also try calling the office of the general counsel. They were helpful for an issue on my block.

  • If they do end up fixing this house, prepare to inherit all of the rodents that live in the abandoned house. I lived next to an abandoned house (1300 block of F street NE) about 5 years ago and once the city started fixing it, we had an unbelievable mouse infestation.

    • I’ll take that over hearing the police yell “freeze” with guns drawn to kick out drug dealing squatters. Bottom line, this push is about keeping my child safe.

      • Was just saying prepare for it, I wasn’t saying that is a reason to keep things as they are.

  • Contact the local news- try ‘seven on your side’. That might be enough to embarrass the city into doing something

    • +1! was going to suggest Fox 5, they are great about holding the Mayor and City accountable on crime and other issues.

    • I did two years ago when we dealt with a rash of break-ins. They never contacted me. This banner a last resort after being ignored by government and media.

  • It looks like DC *is* doing what it can in this situation. The problem is that the current laws have easy-to-avoid parameters and generous deadlines (although I recall hearing that the council was trying to make it much quicker to be able to hold a tax sale on vacant properties that owe back taxes). The owners are being taxed at a ridiculous rate, the property appears to be secured (I guess there could be some more plywood in place), and unless there is an engineer’s report to the contrary it’s not in imminent danger of total collapse. The simple fact is that property rights go both ways. The city can tax and fine the living sh*t out of a property, but if the owner just doesn’t care they can’t force repairs other than sending crews to cut down weeds and put up barriers to entry and bill back to the owners.

    If your property is being physically damaged by neglect to the adjoining property your best recourse is to sue the owner or bank for damages. It sucks, but that’s probably the best way to get somebody to take action. We had a very similar situation when we first moved into our house in NE (thankfully it was bought and flipped after a couple of years). We were looking into suing because of drainage issues with missing gutters and a broken, sunken concrete patio, but it was impossible to track down the owner (an inherited property that was in never-ending probate limbo). We went to every DC agency we could reach, and actually got some helpful responses from the DCRA vacant team, but they bluntly told us that there was only so much they could legally do.

    • They’ve never even returned my e-mails, let alone given me a report stating the property passed a structural inspection. I disagree – they can do a lot more within the law to shore up the property. I’ll have to take time off work, I guess, to get DCRA to do their job. What property rights? the owner hasn’t paid the mortgage in 6 years and the bank refused to foreclose (for whatever reason). It can’t go to a tax sale ’cause the bank, presumably, is paying the property taxes to avoid losing it to another party at a tax auction. BUT it is DCRA’s responsibility to ensure neighbors are safe. Look, there’s 4 children under 10, including my kid, living next to this hellhole and the city could care less ’cause we don’t have $, lawyers or connections.

      • The city does not have permission to just walk into a property that it doesn’t own. I don’t care if there are 4 kids or 400 kids, we have laws in the country that stop the government from unlawfully going into a property where no crime is being committed. I live next to an abandoned house too and I get that it is frustrating but AnonV2 is right. There are laws that the city can’t violate. Work to change the laws and you might get somewhere but you can’t ask DCRA to violate laws if the city doesn’t own the house.

        • “don’t care if they’re are 4 or 400 kids”…are you even a parent? can you relate? yes, government does have a right and duty to intervene. they’ve boarded up the house and cut the grass. cops have been all over this property. there is NO owner as it is in limbo legally. governments can intervene in these situations or what’s the point of them existing. you can hold firm to your ‘limited government’ ideology if you want but i’d hate to see the abandoned house next to yours burn your home down to the ground. but at least you’ll have your principles.

        • HaileUnlikely

          You have lots of valid points here, but ad hominem attacks (“Are you even a parent?”) do not advance your argument.

          • agreed. i’m usually very civil. i’ll stop. sorry, Colhi

          • ^ I really appreciate the raw, honest emotion here. You seem like a stand up guy. I hope this situation is resolved quickly for you and your family.

        • Explain to me the “laws of our country” that keep the city from remediating a privately owned danger to the public health and safety? The absence of a violation of the criminal code, or probably cause to suspect a violation, is not an absolute shield against government action. You may believe that is the case, but it is not.

  • Mayor’s Office of Community Relations & Services has been pretty responsive in my experience, for enforcement-type things that whatever agency wasn’t taking seriously. They are part of the executive branch and seem to have some teeth for prodding action.
    Find your representative at their website:
    http://mocrs.dc.gov/page/about-mocrs
    .
    DCRA is a force of great evil though. Good luck.

  • I seem to have gotten moderated, so no link this time.
    Google “DC MOCRS”, it’s the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations & Services. Email your ward’s representatives, and they will badger the agency for you. They have been very responsive for me in the past. Good luck!

    • Cities shouldn’t work like this. Agencies should just do their damn jobs. It shouldn’t be a matter of calling in favors or getting elected officials to pester the responsible agencies.

  • You’ll just have to get in line behind all the ribbon cutting ceremonies.

  • Re: Moreover, the city collects $19k a year in property taxes at the vacant rate..
    A property in this condition should almost certainly be taxed at not just the vacant rate of 5 percent, but the “vacant and blighted” tax of 10 percent. Assuming that the current tax rate is 5 percent (and that the tax assessment is $380K and not $190K), you should push for the property to be classified as vacant and blighted. The extra tax might be enough to push the bank to sell the property to someone who will occupy or develop it. Of course, then you’ll need to follow up with DCRA every six months to make sure that they redo the process of classifying the property properly for tax purposes. Then you’ll need to follow up with OTR to make sure that they are enforcing collections and keeping liens on the title. Also, the regulatory processes in this city are so, so broken.

    • I’ve e-mailed OTR and my reps the DC Code (verbatim) showing it meets the statutory criteria for blighted rate. Nothing.

  • Why is there no record for this property in the OTR tax database? How do you know that taxes are being levied against this property, or that taxes are being paid if there is no information available?

    https://www.taxpayerservicecenter.com/RP_Search.jsp?search_type=Assessment

    • did you try looking it up using the square and lot number? Sometimes addresses don’t work for whatever reason…

    • HaileUnlikely

      It is in the OTR database; it appears to be indexed incorrectly. I used DC’s ArcGIS program to find that the property is located on square 3213; lot 101, entered that into the OTR search form instead of the address, and it came up as 4904 Kansas Ave NW. The owner is listed as Troy M. Moore, and Mr. Moore indeed is being taxed at the vacant rate of 5%, and Mr. Moore (or his lender) is indeed keeping current on tax payments. You can verify this by searching for square 3213, lot 101 instead of searching for the address.

  • You might try reaching out to Commissioner David Sheon in 4D04 and just asking for advice. He is doing great things on getting the DC Council to work on fixing vacant property laws.

    To U Neighbor’s reply above, Jasmin Benab is one of the two MOCRS for Ward 4 who I have had success with.

  • Sorry this is happening to you, it sounds terrible, and I hope your and your neighbor’s children don’t get injured due to this neglect.

    My realtor told me a couple years ago that many foreclosures in DC were basically on hold, indefinitely, because during the early 2000s properties were bought and sold so negligently that proper titles were often not filed during property sales. It may not be the case here (based on the OP’s comments, doesn’t seem so), but this story brought it to mind. Does anyone know if that’s true, or have any other info on this situation?

    • my neighbor on the other side of the abandoned home just got interviewed by Fox 5 News. This story is going to run tonight. I also just spoke over the phone to the Ward 4 rep from the Mayor’s Office. This might finally get important people to push DCRA to take action. Mayor’s Office claims they were not aware of the property but we have e-mails going back to 2010 and she (Bowser) listened to my concerns on my porch while campaigning in 2014 and then vanished.

      • The media coverage sounds promising! Fingers crossed that it embarrasses DCRA enough to get them to do something.

  • This property doesn’t look so bad. 1014 Park rd is WAY worse. Homeless people have created an encampment on the front porch. I have called the police repeatedly but they just keep coming back…the police don’t even make them clean up their cardboard boxes and take their belongings.

  • I’ve been trying to get the city to properly classify vacant and blighted houses along Kennedy Street for years. It’s like pulling teeth. Insun Hofgard owns at least three properties that are all vacant and blighted, with half built pop ups that have been exposed the elements for too many winters. None of these properties are being taxed at an elevated rate. What happens when one of these compromised structures falls over? Should I sue the owner, the city, or both for willfully ignoring the concerns of neighbors?

  • Twitter shame DCRA, the mayor, your commissioner, your SMD rep, and so forth. I’ve found it effective on smaller issues like trash and maintenance.

  • I look forward to meeting you at our ANC meeting tonight. This is absolutely unacceptable, and yes, there is legislation pending – I testified just last week about it – that could go a long way toward fixing this issue. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this.

  • Todd isn’t innocent, but he is just as frustrated as we all are. The Mayor and DCRA (as well as nearly all her agency leadership) are bringing down the rest of the council. DCRA is perhaps the worst. Maybe MPD. Todd’s people are always great at taking calls, but they haven’t been the best at actually getting results.

  • I watched the report on FOX 5 news this evening. Now let’s watch DC government jump on it, as happens often when exposed for failed due diligence. Having lived in Ward 4 for over 20 years, I can honestly and sadly say that I am not surprised by the neglect in following through on escalated complaints. We have been poorly represented by both Bowser and Todd.

  • Nearly every neighborhood has one of these blighted properties. I’ve found DCRA to be very responsive to concerns that myself and neighbors have raised. They can issue fines and other penalties but they cannot force a homeowner to do anything. Also, what we’ve learned through our dealings with DCRA is that they are back logged with a boatload of complaints and nonsense stall tactics from the local nimbys trying to block a building from being built it a restaurant from opening. Our city government could be more efficient if these folks would just accept that their previous air and light is not a reason a vacant lot which is privately owned cannot be developed into housing with some street level retail.

  • Consider as I have getting the Congress and Senate involved since DCRA is not protecting the safety and health of all who visits or live in D.C. which includes them too. You might start with Senator White from PA.

    DCRA PROTECTION NOW ( Tolu2-Founder and Organizer )
    We demand Protection for D.C. Residents from the D.C. Regulatory Agency (DCRA) and Rogue D.C. Residential Developers

    You and your home are under siege by developers who are building out (Popbacks) and up (Popups) beside your property without abiding by the DCRA Construction Codes and Rules. DCRA appears to be in bed with the developers which means DCRA is not willing to go against rogue developers to protect D.C. residents. So if you or someone in your D.C. neighborhood has a developer building next door to your house you must:

    1. Arm yourself with the ill planned residential building facts in D.C.
    2. Fight or Flight from your community (Why should you have to leave your home because DCRA will not protect it and you from rogue developers who do not even live in D.C.?)
    3. Stop voting for elected people who are putting developers interest before yours
    4. Discover what the truth is about all this ill planned residential development in D.C.
    5. Share your stories.

    Contact: Tolu2 (202) 331-4418 [email protected]
    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/dcra-protection-now PLEASE SIGN our petition for, “DCRA Protection Now. “We think this is important to demand that DCRA start protecting D.C. residents and their homes instead of rogue developers. Will you sign it too?” Here’s the link: https://www.change.org/p/tolu2-dcra-protection-now PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION

  • Completely disagree with many of these posts if an elected official says they provide constituent services, they should deliver or stay in your lane and stick to what you were elected for! If the councils Office doesn’t produce results it’s not anyone else’s fault. Stick to policy change so we have a better quality of life, stick to reducing crime so we can walk the streets safe.

    I have had great success with Jasmin Benab from the Mayors office of Community Relations, hopefully someone has reached out to her. If not, she can be reached at 202.340.7059.

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