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Dear PoP – “Re-zoning for new Buildings on Harvard between 11 & 13th, NW”

by Prince Of Petworth April 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm 118 Comments

“Dear PoP,

The residents of 13th street between Girard and Harvard just got a letter from the City saying that they are planning on building a 5-story high residential building…they reference “affordable housing”…where the parking lot of the Carlos Rosario school is. They have to re-zone to do so, as it is currently zoned for homes no higher than 3 stories, etc. It hasn’t yet been cleared by the zoning board…but since the city is behind it, it likely will. I’m not exactly sure this neighborhood needs more high rise affordable housing complexes…”

The letter says:

“The public benefits and amenities of the project include, among other things, senior housing, affordable housing, expanded programs of the Carlos Rosario School, which focuses on adult eduction for the immigrant population of the city.

You can read the full letter here – Notice of Intent to File a Zoning Application 4-6.

If movement occurs on this lot – do you think senior and affordable housing would be a good fit?

  • Correction: I’m not exactly sure COLUMBIA HEIGHTS needs more high rise affordable housing complexes…

    Planning Department FAIL.

    Jim Graham, can you stop this? Failure to do so will result in your losing my vote. Hubbard Place was bad enough. Time to build something like this in the Palisades. The community of Girard and Harvard better mobilize against this real fast.

    • skeedattle


  • annon

    I live on 11th and Girard St and I would not have a problem of 3 out of the 4 proposals. One thing that scares me is the affordable housing. I would not be happy having something like 14th and Columbia at 11th and Girard.

  • Columbia

    Seriously, how much more public housing does this neighborhood need? One of the main problems with this area is the concentration of public housing projects within a very limited space. I hope this can be stopped.

  • Tit-for-Tat DC

    When was this issue brought up to the community for discussion or approval? You can’t open up a lemonade stand around here with out ANC community meetings, historic design review boards, etc, etc. When did (will) the residents of the neighborhood get a say in this? There is tons of affordable housing already in the area. Any new affordable housing planned to be built should be matched with an older one torn down and the land sold at market rate (examples: 2900 14th st, the 1460 Euclid, 1329 Euclid etc)

  • annon

    POP, is there a public hearing regarding this? I think the public needs to express its opinion regarding this development? Is there a best way to have our voice heard?

    • Prince Of Petworth

      You can use this space as a forum for your issues/concerns and I’ll make sure that CM Graham is aware that a discussion is taking place here.

      • Comments

        No offense PoP and anyone posting here, but any politicians that take into consideration anonymous comments made on a blog when making serious decisions should probably not be allowed to make those decisions.

        The notice that the original poster is referring to is a notice of intent that an application for a PUD (planned unit development) is going to be filed. The filing of the PUD triggers the ANC process which means ANC1A will officially notified about this and vote on whether or not to support it. That will all take place at public meetings. This is in the very early stages.

        • grumpy

          +1, plus not everyone who comments on this blog lives in this neighborhood or even in the city itself

  • Sam

    POP – thanks for letting us know about this.

    I can’t find any additional information about the project anywhere. There’s nothing on the DC Office of Zoning website (http://dcoz.dc.gov/main.shtm) and no scheduled hearings on the application. I’d like to know more about the project but from what little information is given in the notice this is very concerning. If anyone has additional information on the proposal can you please post here? Thanks!

  • I would prefer to see a market-rate residential building here. Not that I oppose affordable housing or think it isn’t needed, but as others have noted, the area in question already has a huge number of affordable units, and it is bad planning to concentrate it all in one area. Well-meaning project, poor site selection. Put it in Ward 3. And yes, please forward our thoughts to CM Graham.

  • New2CH

    Additional senior housing would be great. MODERATE INCOME housing geared towards folks who are willing to make a down payment and pay for housing, but maybe can’t afford a Kenyon Square type place (like subsidizing housing for true middle-income folks like teachers and so on, two bedrooms in the 250-300 range or something like that) would make sense to me. What would NOT make sense is Section Eight type housing akin to the large, crime-filled developments that already are concentrated in that area like nowhere else in that city. All that would do would be to expand the problems endemic to the Girard and 14th area a few blocks east. So I guess it depends on what they mean by “affordable” housing. Also, mixed-price, mixed-use might make sense. But hopefully the city has learned that concentrating people with no options and no personal stake in maintaining a property into one large building in an area with ample temptations for criminals already, simply does not work.

    • Anonymous

      Nothing doing. CM Graham is all for concentrated warehousing of poor folks (increasing density at Park Morton, et. al.), wiping aside zoning (pick a project), corporate welfare for developers (park place dc, cvs, etc.).

      • Anonymous

        Maybe its time for Graham to go. Funny that this is project is something that William Jordan and Graham agree on!!

    • Bitter Elitist

      I agree. Affordable need not be always be poor. There are some people who don’t want to/can’t spend $400k on a condo.

      There are enough low income buildings in that corridor. ENOUGH.

  • Anonymous

    Christ, just when the neighborhood was getting it’s act together and looking good…the city is going to fsck it over with “affordable housing”? Welcome back, crime!

  • ColorMePetworth

    The amount of affordable housing compacted into Columbia Heights is out of control. This has to stop, and the only way it will is if people start getting involved in the community and speaking up about it. The reason this is happening is because Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue do not have very many folks willing to go to meetings, email councilmembers, or take a stand.

    Afforable housing is not anything to be afraid of unless it is massed all in one area, which is what is happening. You will never get the businesses that the area needs to thrive. It will also forever link the neighborhood to a dependency on the district and federal government. If money runs out then things get really bad.

  • ColorMePetworth

    Tit-fortat DC – there is an ANC meeting Weds night at Tubman Elementary school on 13th. They always allow a few minutes for community comments at the beginnig of the meeting so people should go and try to stop this.

  • Anonymous14

    Is that the highest and best use of the land in that location? I doubt it.

  • DB

    It needs to be said that “affordable housing” is a canard.

    Affordable for who?

    Don’t forget just because this is DC that the annual income necessary to secure a $250,000 mortgage is quite high.

    The only purpose of development is to profit the developer. I will except Manna, Habitat and other non-profit housing folk.

  • Fancypants

    Are you familiar with the plans for the new Park Morton? I don’t see how it could be anything but a vast improvement upon what already exists.

  • DB

    Cosmetically, I do not disagree about Park Morton, but I would suggest that perhaps aethetics (the neighbors view) aren’t the most important consideration.

    DC is spending millions to replace no-equity-accruing living arrangements with denser no-equity-accruing living arrangements. Is that the best bang for buck, or pure pandering (\look, here’s a newer apartment! We love poor folks!\).

    What is being gained? What is the cost per person? What can’t we do because we spent the money? How will this strategy impact the flow of life and interpersonal relations that is a community.

  • CHresident

    Whether affordable or high income apartments, this seems like a bad idea. A five story building in that space will be massive and tower over the many 3 story brownstones in the area. Parking will be a disaster, as will congestion on Harvard street, which is an emergency route.

  • Matt

    I think that Columbia heights is congested enough. There is no need for another highrise in this neighborhood.

  • We Can Do This

    While I agree that more low-income housing in Columbia Heights is an issue, this is not ALL about low-income housing. I attended small gathering of (~ 50) Columbia Heights property owners last night. It was organized by a gentleman who is concerned about this project and it was clear that other attendees were concerned too.
    The meeting was well run, the best neighborhood meeting I have ever attended. Neighbors usually start arguing minor points and become angry with each other; that did not happen once. I believe that is because the two moderators were articulate, open and respectful. Also, the folks in attendance seem to agree that a project like this will have spillover effect on traffic, parking, and (with a significant expansion of the Rosario School) modify the residential feel of the neighborhood to more of a commercial space.
    If the boarder community adopts a perspective similar to what I heard last evening, wow. I would like to see more detail in print from the people managing the project. It feels like the community has asked for similar releases from the School leadership in the past and it has been difficult to get an answer.

  • anon

    DEAR GOD. Just when I thought we were taking the neighborhood back! Can we all come together and propose a new dog park at this location?!

  • Cliff

    Most planners view the 1/3 model as smart development: 1/3 affordable, 1/3 middle income, 1/3 higher income. This allows for jobs, businesses, and socio-economic conditions to support each other. A move in either direction of too much affordable and too much high-income has negative consequences of various sorts.

    Park Morton is supposed to be developed as 1/3 affordable, 1/3 work force (which is a type of afforable), and 1/3 market rate. Not the recommended formula but definately step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the developer in charge of Park Mortan has submitted their phase 1 plan as beeing 100% affordable as well. This means that of 3 new building in the pipeline for Georgia Avenue every one of them is 100% affordable. I do not think this is a sustainable philosophy of development, but there really are not many advocates in this area for market rate development where this is a vocal group for affordable.

  • John

    Can the neighborhood be re-zoned for high income houseing? Can we lobby Donetelli group to build some more Lux condos to go rental and sit empty for years? That is surely a better alternative than helping people obtain affordable housing. I mean we’re all republicans here right?

    • We Can Do This

      The issue with the Girard project which POP has posted is not build Luxury housing or Low-income. Presently the issue is keep the parking (and what should be green space) or build something. When looking at local real estate sales I believe you will find that Luxury homes are sitting on the market for longer, but simple market-rate residences (which are not low-income) are selling nicely.

      Republican or Democrat we should look to what is best for the neighborhoods and the people. Concentrating ANY kind of housing is not a great idea, so where we have an existing high concentration of Low-income housing in Ward One, our leaders should look at that. Likewise where we have a lack of Low-income housing integrated in Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, etc. our leaders should look at that as well.

    • Donatelli is not the problem. Last I checked, his two projects in Columbia Heights were pretty much sold out or rented, with fantastic, appealing ground floor retail to boot. Those projects have totally revitalized the area around the metro, just as much as DCUSA has. As for Petworth, his project is a bit ahead of the curve of what the neighborhood can sustain, but that is not Donatelli’s fault, but rather the fault of the other slow-to-develop / defunct projects as well as the interminable delays in the Georgia Avenue rehabilitation project. Personally, I’d welcome more Donatelli projects in the area …

    • M

      The problem with your Donatelli suggestion, be it real or tongue in cheek, is they seek government subsidy as well. Look at the requests made throughout CH for long term tax abatements because for-profit developers could not make “enough” on deals they had in the pipeline.

      The question seems to be what alternative to building housing will cost the goverment [and us] the least? Whether a property like Park Morton is 33% or 100% afordable, how much is the DC contribution and what is the fee being made by the developer [and all of their affiliates] in the process. A true non profit developer will at least put dollars back into the community.

      Just food for thought and I hope, discussion.

    • elizabeth

      Go to it, John ! You would not want teachers, cops, or seniors to be your neighbors now would you?

      HUD’s philosophy has changed to favor mixed income developments. There is no new concentrated Section 8 housing such as you others fear being built. There are also individual vouchers which in theory allow tenants to live anywhere.

      It is a misunderstanding to equate “Affordable Housing” with public housing. Housing is Affordable according to the government when it costs no more than 30% of the total household income. Government support for housing does come with income limits – in the Washington metropolitan area that is 60% to 80% of the area-wide median income of approx.$105,000, adjusted for household size.

      I guess those who object to this (apparently very preliminary) proposal did not move here because they liked the diversity of the neighborhood. They want a rich ghetto.

  • m/

    As a home-owner on 11th and Fairmont, this is certainly terrible news. Moving forward with these plans would simply destroy the neighborhood.

    As mentioned before, the traffic/parking would become enormously horrendous on the surrounding blocks, not to mention that it would ruin the area’s strong residential feel. There is no need for any more commercial properties or affordable housing here; Columbia Heights is already highly congested with these types of situations. Consolidating into one area is going to have a negative effect on everything, no matter how you look at it.

    There has got to be a better solution for this place, than 5-6 story housing! Why not simply expand the school??

    I will surely be at any community meeting regarding these plans.

  • Anonymous

    5 stories on this block is a terrible idea. The parking lot is wasted space, so I would have no problem with in-fill of 2-3 story houses. Make them affordable for families that have jobs but not high incomes, that’s fine. Cops, firefighters, teachers, bar tenders, daycare workers, love to have any of them as neighbors, and build a place that is big enough for them to have a family. But, in this city, “affordable” means warehousing for unemployed. And, that is something this neighborhood does not need any more of.

    You could probably put 5 3 story row houses in that parking lot. Build them with legal, rental basement units. Make two market rate and three affordable. The basement units will also create affordable housing in the neighborhood. Use the profit from the market rate sales to pay the rent for poor people in existing market rate housing in Columbia heights — they get a nicer place to live, and its probably cheaper then warehousing them in the Faircliff East crime incubator.

    Jim Graham are you listening? Jim Graham’s opponents, are you listening?

    • Delusions of Grandeur

      To you? Probably not.

      • He should.

        I think Graham needs to realize the tide has turned in Columbia Heights/Petworth. It has reached the tipping point (for the better), and we don’t want it to go back. No, we aren’t Republicans, but we aren’t averse to supporting politicians that recognize our growing clout.

        Jim Graham is starting to remind me of Tom Ammiano, the former supervisor of the Mission district in San Francisco. Ammiano was oblivious to the changing demographics in his district and was slow to recognize all the positive improvements the community/new homeowners were making.

        He is not remembered fondly.

    • victoria

      Too smart for government work.

  • Anonymous

    Also, would the folks who already organized a community meeting about this please let POP know about the next one.

  • CHGuy

    More affordable housing in CH?? WTF? Build it in Mary Cheh’s or Phil Mendelson’s hood. I will fight this.

    • Anonymous


  • Mt Pleasant resident

    I wouldn’t want this in my hood.

  • Another Option?

    An alternative to CM Graham. I don’t know much about him or where he stands on these types of housing issues but this might be a good opportunity for him to introduce himself to the community. I have never voted for a republican in my life but we need better than CM Graham-stander. he is so freakin’ corrupt. FWIW, there is only one public housing building in all of ward 3 and its seniors only. CH has the HIGHEST concentration of subsidized housing in the ENTIRE city. All within about 8 blocks. At a minimum we must demand that any affordable units be OWNERSHIP only and NOT section 8. This will absolutely be a bad thing for CH for decades to come. Graham uses his base of low income folks for far too long and ignores other who have made real financial long term investments. Home owners for too long have been dismissed by Graham as being gentrifying interlopers. Nevermind that the City is dependent on our tax base to subsidize the crappy schools etc. Fight back! get over your liberal guilt.

  • NAB

    Don’t like subsidized housing? You’s in the wrooooong city my friends. As long as the area gets more and more desirable, the rents will go up and the “needs” right along with it. Right or wrong, that’s the reality on the ground.

    BTW, I thought everyone on here was moderate-to-far left?

    • Rick

      They are, until it comes to protecting their property values. I get the impression that many of them are 20-somethings from well-to-do families, which means they’ll eventually turn Republican anyway.

      • annon

        working hard and saving doesnt mean you come or are well to do. if i was well to do id be living in georgetown or dupont, and i wouldnt have to worry about these issues. living in a safe and peaceful, friendly place should be everyones right.

    • Anon

      Even if you are a proponent of subsidized housing, why is so much of it concentrated in CH? The city as a whole can progress with more lower income housing being added, but it needs to be better integrated. Even the far-left recognize that slapping more of it in CH is a raw deal for the neighborhood and mostly the prospective occupants. Integrate and place the economically disadvantaged on equal footing.

    • me

      see I don’t get this. Cities are expensive. period. If you can’t afford the city, move to the ‘burbs.

      This is a trade that moderate income people have to grapple with. I live in the city. But I don’t have a right to live in the city. No one does. I have to pay a premium to live in the city. That’s the reality.

      Why is it that low income people get to have more of a choice when they’re not the ones paying for that choice anyway?

      It really pisses me off.

      • e

        frankly, lots of poor people priced out of Columbia Heights end up in suburban Maryland (Langley Park area, for example).

  • Anonymous

    There are also democratic challengers to Graham. We might not need to actually vote republican — though I’ll admit this guy looks pretty good.

  • Anonymous

    There is a large need for affordable housing in this city. I applaud Rosario School and whomever else is supporting more affordable housing in Columbia Heights and anywhere else in the city. I shake my head at the many comments here from people with means so strenuously opposed to putting a roof over people’s heads who don’t have means.

    • Anon

      You overlook the fact that packing affordable housing in one geographic area is NOT beneficial for the inhabitants of that housing. Cabrini-Green is an extreme example, but consider it as an example. Historically we see that the more interspersed the affordable housing is the broader people’s networks are, the more varied their experiences and opportunities are and the better the long-term economic result for the inhabitants.

      While you are shaking your head please use it to think through the underlying issues. Use your voice to help the people who will inhabit that housing by placing them in an environment which will increase their chance for success.

  • anon

    I have some general related questions:

    Since I see a ton of “3 months free” or “2 months free” signs in many of the luxury and non-condo places (on the street and on their websites), I wonder what the occupancy rates are in the these buildings.

    From all appearances, it seems like there may be an ‘ancient ocean wide’ hole in the market in CH and Petworth (and environs). Between the super expensive rental and purchasable apartments and the subsidized/ section 8/ low income apartments.

    While I realize that housing markets are not always efficient, why is it that the high income places that are offering 3 months off rent do not simply lower their monthly rate instead of stubbornly holding on to $1700 a month rates and higher vacancy rates?

    More importantly, where is the middle ground here? Where are the middle of the road purchasable or rentable apartments?

    Will the law of supply and demand ever work? Will building a few market rate developments will cause the average rental cost in the area to go down, or will there continue to be what appears to be a segregated, sticky market– one gentrified market that will always be artificially high (with high building vacancies) and one subsidized one (always limited supply and few vacancies).

    Where’s the middle ground, here? To be perfectly blunt, it just seems like DCs housing market is as segregated as its races.

    I would love to hear some perspectives and hopefully some real numbers on this.

    • NAB

      The lack of middle ground has to do with the sky-high development costs. You really can’t do a project without some kind of subsidy unless you can expect lots of money out of your tenants/purchasers.

      Disagree? Great! Try convincing a lender otherwise.

  • CH Family Man

    Stereotype much??? I’m a Latino veteran, civil servant, homeowner, in my late 30s, married with kids, and a life long dem. I don;t oppose “affordable housing” I oppose warehousing the poor in Ward 1 and in my neighborhood.

    And you are a pendejo.

    • Anonymous


    • Bitter Elitist

      exactly. The warehousing to maintain a political base is my concern. It’s not good to concentrate poverty.

  • Col Heigths Dude

    That was for the Rick.

  • Shawn

    To be honest, DC doesn’t build “projects” anymore. That was a universally recognized failed experiment in urban planning and it will never be repeated. This will probably be along the lines of what they are doing to redevelop Park Morton – i.e. a nice, diverse mix.

    • DB

      Delusion. The park Morton plan is not an integrated neighborhood–it is town houses (the upper third), and a denser mid-rise version of what already exists for everybody else.

      We need to unite to stop the pandering, stop the bait-taking, and stop sequestering the poor. How many struggling families should live in the surface area where a single family home once was? One!

  • anon

    As to my racial comments,although I am smart enough to realize that class has a lot more to do with things than race, I think it is pretty naive to ignore racial tensions here in DC.

    Anyways, I thought there was no name calling on this site….

    Anyways, more than anything, I just wanted to hear some vacancy rate info, and get a sense of those and rental price changes..and generally why there is no middle ground. I thought this would be a decent contribution to the discussion, but oh well…

    I won’t take part in name calling over the internet. Sorry. I don’t care that much.

  • LJ

    Affordability issues aside, all of the commenters taking issue with the building being 5 stories are really on to something. Adding capacity for lots of new residents to live in Columbia Heights near transit and retail in a giant towering 5-story building would be insane. Traffic would be terrible since everyone knows you can’t get anywhere in Columbia Heights without driving and most CH residents (esp the ones in subsidized housing) own cars. Instead we need to build more tract housing in Loudon County. That’s much better for the sustainability of the DC metropolitan region and for our climate.

    • Col Heigths Dude

      5 stories is towering, when the rest of the immediate area is 3 stories. Large projects like this should be kept on the 14th street corridor, which only a block from me. Why must CH have all the density? Ward 3 needs a little more density.

      • Anonymous

        I am pretty sure the proposed structure is 6 stories, not 5. …and yes either 5 or 6 does tower over the other buildings.

        • LJ

          The proposed building is 60 ft, and existing zoning allows for buildings to be 40 ft tall. I don’t know if it’s 5 or 6 stories but I don’t think it matters. There’s a 5-story condo building on the corner of 11th & Monroe. Nearby are 2 and 3-story rowhouses. The building is taller than the houses, but it does not tower over them. A little diversity in a streetscape is a good thing.

          • LJ

            Sorry, it’s actually 13th & Monroe- the building I was thining of. There’s a vacant building at 11th & Monroe. Point is these types of structures are in no way out of character for the neighborhood.

  • To those suggesting that to oppose this particular project makes one a heartless, fat cat Republican, I can assure you that I’m a Democrat, and have extremely liberal views on social issues like gay marriage, abortion, environemnt, etc. I happen to think it’s more compassionate to low income residents themselves to not jam them together in overcrowded pockets of poverty. From the liberal perspective, I believe that in the big picture, spreading low income housing out among all areas of the city and close-in suburbs is the right thing to do for the entire region. What I’d ideally like to see on the site would be traditional DC rowhouses, with rental unit basement apartments to provide a market rate, but affordable option here.

    • NAB

      “Spreading it out,” while appealing in its fairness, is bad fiscal policy. What do Forest Hills and Kent do for the rest of the city? They pay property taxes. Put low income housing up next to a few $7 mil mansions west of the creek and watch the assessments fall.

      • There are plenty of sites where you could mix in small-medium sized low income projects without hurting the overall value or fabric of the neighborhood. I’m not suggesting putting up housing projects immediately adjacent to $7 million mansions. Example: the Tenleytown library could have had a couple of floors added to the top with affordable housing. Silver Spring has plenty of sites available, even some remaining surface parking lots, where the residents would have good access to Metro and buses. There are large blocks of land by the ballpark where development has fallen through. Any of those sites would be better for low income housing than right on top of several other housing projects. People will still be happy to pay a premium to live in Cleveland Park for a zillion other factors, even if a modest low income apartment building were added somewhere.

      • DB

        You don’t get it–one doesn’t build “low income housing.”. It’s called an apartment. And you ask your citizens to rent one (and only one) on their property.

  • Anonymous

    I’m pretty sure Habitat is not non-profit. Or at least not 100% non-profit.

  • e

    I believe that there is a need for rentals that are affordable to those who can not afford, say, the Allegro or Park Place. I’m talking units affordable to those earning in the 35k-45k range (try finding a 1 bedroom in decent shape for under $1400/month).

    It’s unfortunate that the word “affordable” immediately prompts many to assume “public housing” and assert nimby-esque feelings.

    I think that the scale of this project could be reduced to fit the existing architectural design/urban landscape.

    • anon

      NAB,I understand those development costs and miscellaneous affordable housing incentives that developers get, but I was referring more to the situation with market units long after build (AND in existing buildings) with high vacancy rates.

      I am a fan of increasing supply across the board. Also, I think that is very possible to live in and around CHeights without a car (within a certain radius of a metro stop). Furthermore, I don’t care about keeping the price of my house or condo high (I rent / share a house, so I am biased)
      Personally, I think that this makes me anti-Nimby.

      Increasing supply, theoretically, would lower the average rental costs. Unfortunately, as I alluded to in my above post, places that are offering 3 month off are doing so (stubbornly, I think, given what I hear are high vacancy rates) without lowering their prices.

      Yes, unfortunately, ‘affordable housing’ often does imply subsidized housing. By federal definition, it is about 30% of one’s income . For many, this is a pipe dream, and often the subsidized poor, rather than working/ middle classes are recipients of these subsidized housing units. I am not against some level of subsidy for the poorest, but , to be honest, I would like to see more market rate supply to push overall rates down. Sadly, the market seems to be dysfunctional.

  • Another Option?

    Affordable yes but section 8 no. I am not opposed to increasing opportunities for lower income people. But I live next to a Section 8 property and that is NOT increasing opportunities for people. its the scene of violent crime on my block (including a shoot out in broad daylight a few years ago). Its the go-to place for thuggish teens to stand around and harrass folks and the parking lot if full of nice SUVs. Its a warehouse of poverty and people with no incentive to work and the owner of the property makes money off of our taxes and provides no upkeep to the property. Section 8 is public housing but now private landlords make money being slumlords with our tax dollars. And the 1/3 model a previous poster discussed won’t work anymore. The market is too down now to support the lower income units at just 1/3 of the mix. the best model is no more than 10 % low income and the rest market rate. I don’t care about peoples political affiliations I care about voting for someone with a backbone to get off the politically correct high horse and take a stand.

  • Anonymous

    Market rate is not affordable.

    Spreading low income housing among all areas of a metro area has been proven as a horrible idea. It ends up creating more crime in more areas, spreading law enforcement and other resources thin, with no measurable improvement for the lives of the low income residents.

    Cloaking the desire to protect property values and not have “riff raff” around in terms of compassion for low income residents is as old as dust. Calling oneself liberal or progressive or compassionate or anything else does not make it so.

  • DC

    there goes the neighborhood

  • Another Option?

    anonymous 12:17
    Ok based on what you wrote you eqauted poor with criminal.Stating that \spreading\ it out just spreads the crime. First of all I am certain that is not a single study to support. Crime rises with concentration of poverty and goes down when other economic influences take hold. This is one reason crime is down in DC overall, more people with money and a committment to DC taking a stand and moving into otherwise totally impoverished neighborhoods. Futhermore, one key reason to decontrate poverty out of CH and into, lets say Ward 3, is for the schools. If a good education is the ticket to getting out of poverty then why deny poor kids the the chance to attend the very best elementary schools in the City (Janney, Key, Oyster etc).

  • anon

    nobody would be pitching a fit about this if it was a five story lux condo development with a ground floor trader joes. So lets not pretend this is about building height. I’m thinking this thread reaches 100 comments by 3pm as self proclaimed liberals continue to pitch a fit about lower income people moving into the neighborhood. shame on all of you

    • Anonymous

      homeowners aren’t allowed to want to protect their investment?

    • ShermanAveGuy

      We shouldn’t be artificially concentrating poverty. It foments crime and stunts economic growth.

    • Anonymous

      I live across the street and do no want a 60 foot structure of any kind out my front door. Even if it is a super-sized all-you-can-eat for free IHOP!

      Shame on me? How do you know what I am thinking? Shame on you kiddo.

      • Anonymous

        Deal with it. Economic justice is here. They deserve affordable housing in your neighborhood. And we need to increase taxes to help those less fortunate.

    • CHresident

      Get over yourself “anon.” Clearly a real concern is the five story massive development whether or not it has public housing. Do you know what two extra floors will do to the brownstones on Girard and Harvard between 11th and 13th, and on 11th and 13th between Girard and Harvard? Moreover, there is certainly nothing wrong with “liberals” being concerned about a high-rise low income building. In fact, in my 10 years in DC being very active in federal politics, I don’t know any liberals who think those types of structures are positive. You sound completely obnoxious and self righteous.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    DC and CH in particular is the capital of self proclaimed “liberals” discriminating against the poor. The hypocrisy is palpable.

    • Anonymous

      don’t confuse “liberal” with “thinks concentrating the poor is a good idea”.

      it is not hypocritical to desire a healthy city and to know that corralling the poor like pigs is not the way to go.

      it is not hypocritical to abandoned the failed experiments of the past.

      but it is ignorant to not understand the difference between blindly building as much housing for the poor as possible, and building smartly.

  • Col Heigths Dude

    Apparently it’s also the capitol of self appointed moral authorities and self righteous douche bags.

    • ontarioroader

      Nah, that’s west of the park, which is why they have next to nothing in the way of public/subsidized housing :)

      • anon

        +1 :-)

      • Col Heigths Dude

        Point well made, I concede…

      • CH Family Man

        Nobody forced you to live east of the park. Maybe you should consider going back to Idaho as an option. Respire mis pedos

        • Col Heigths Dude

          Actually, since I could afford west of the park, I was forced into east of the park. And, I’m not from Idaho. So callete puto.

          • Col Heigths Dude


  • Anonymous

    Ha! The entire economic system is designed to concentrate poverty. (and foment crime and stunt economic growth for everyone but those who have already benefited from the set up).

  • Anonymous

    Where is the evidence that spreading low income housing out to all areas of the city increases crime in all areas?

    And, if it does, then basically you are admitting that low income people cause crime, and you just gave me a great excuse to tell my elected officials not to subsidize more crime in my neighborhood. Put is in Mary Cheh’s ward. Fair’s fair. If poor people are bad for the ‘hood, then everybody has to take their fair share of poor people.

  • That Atlantic magazine article has been debunked by several other studies since then. It is well-known to be an outlier.

  • Anonymous

    There are two very important–and separate–issues with this proposed waiver and development. 1) Is this type of development right for this location? 2) Is increasing density and height in this block right for the neighborhood? The proposal doesn’t address either question.

    The proposal in the notice of intent also says nothing about addressing the parking at Carlos Rosario that would be displaced. The only public benefits and amenities enumerated are 1) senior housing, 2) affordable housing, and 3) expanded programs at Carlos Rosario. And there is no indication that any of these public benefits actually accrue to the neighborhood.

    (BTW, check out the definitions of R-4 and R-5-B on the DC zoning website: http://dcoz.dc.gov/info/districts.shtm).

    None of the claimed benefits in the notice requires a zoning waiver. Rosario can expand without such a waiver, and eyeballing the lot on Google Maps shows that 12 row houses on Girard St. back up to the footprint of the current parking lot. They can build housing for 50+ residents in that footprint–as long as you don’t mind losing parking for the school (which, to judge from the notice, is the plan in any case).

    As has already been noted, Columbia Heights is in far greater need of additional green space than it is in need of higher density public housing that is 7 minutes’ walk from the nearest Metro. Maybe the housing will be affordable, but it sure won’t be suitable for mobility-challenged seniors.

    Nothing in this letter justifies the zoning change. The zoning change only serves to increase the scale–not the nature–of the project. This isn’t just a zoning question. This land belongs to the citizens of D.C. There is nothing in this letter to justify the reshaping of community density for the purposes laid out in the letter.

    • Anonymous

      Expanded programs at the school would benefit those in the community that use those programs, and there are plenty who do.

      Senior housing and affordable housing would address the long backlist of people requesting and in need of such housing, and there are plenty of them too, in this neighborhood.

      If the land belongs to the citizens of DC, it also belongs to the low income citizens of DC.

      • Anonymous

        @2:26 PM: Expanded programs at Rosario, senior housing, and affordable housing are all possible without a zoning waiver!

        If it is critically important to provide all three functions within close proximity to 1100 Harvard, there are a number of DC-owned vacant properties nearby that would serve those purposes. Keep the current lot dedicated to clearly public use, such as for education (Rosario) and greenspace (a pocket park for people, not for cars). If you want more DC-built and DC-managed senior and affordable housing, then redevelop the properties abandoned by DC in the neighborhood. Average neighborhood density increases the same either way. There’s no justification in the notice for rezoning this block. If there is a good reason, let’s hear it.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you. It’s good to get both sides of the argument. I think it’s safe to say the issue is not settled. The truth is that as a culture and society we haven’t figured out yet how to solve poverty and crime issues. Or we collectively don’t have the will to do so.

  • Jeff

    I just called the architect…tel 301.652.8550

    They are saying that the plans haven’t been finalized yet but it’s probably going to be mixed use with retail on the first floor and NOT 100% affordable housing.

    • Anonymous

      Mixed-use with retail seems like a weird use of that lot. There’s no mention of that in the notice of intent. If the commercial use faced onto 11th, *maybe*, since there is already commercial presence, but it will face onto Harvard, at least 350 feet back from the corner of Harvard and 11th. What retail use would work well there? We’re well-stocked with laundries, corner stores, and restaurants along 11th. Medical offices, maybe, but retail?

  • Affordable Housing

    With all of the talk about conceptual affordable housing and vague references to planning theory, I think it is important to establish some facts.

    First, most if not all affordable housing projects that are built or rehabilitated today employ the “Low Income Housing Tax Credit”. This is both a federal and state/local program, which provides tax credits to low income developers that are then sold to companies. The proceeds of these sales are then used as equity to construct affordable buildings or finance units in a mixed use building.

    In order to qualify for the program the HUD guidelines state that the buildings must have:
    a) 20% of the units in the building available to those making 50% of AMI (area median income)
    b) 40% of the units available to those making 60% of AMI

    (For reference for a 1BR in the District that is $35,950 household income)

    Of that income only 30% may go to pay for all housing costs (rent as well as utilities) that equals $899 a month.

    DC has a similar program local program that provides additional funding to developments, as well as some support for projects with at least some units at 80% AMI.

    Even though Columbia Heights qualifies as a census designated difficult to develop area, thus getting a 130% of the qualifying basis, it is still extremely difficult to develop affordable housing. It is financially impossible to develop a building that only partially qualifies for development (such as mixed-income with market rate housing).

    Because the program is inherently diseconomic, the goal is actually to minimize the income of the building, so as to maximize the passive loss to the limited partners. If this passive loss cannot be achieve then the project will fail to meet investor expectation of IRR and thus would be a failure, endangering the future of affordable tax credit sales. Without these credits not a single project would be built, because the sale provides most of the equity for construction. This is also why mixed income does not work, because in order to get the limited partners the desired return without passive losses the credits would have to be discounted to the point where they would not provided the needed equity for construction.

    I direct you to this website, which gives break-downs of the income levels in all affordable projects in Ward 1: http://www.dhcd.dc.gov/dhcd/cwp/view,a,1242,q,642092,dhcdNav,|32179|.asp

    So the end result of a building that is envisioned as affordable housing in that location will most likely be a spread of 80% AMI down to 40%. But, grand dreams of true mixed income housing will not come to fruition.

    I will not speak to whether I believe affordable housing should be built on the plot, I think it is important to point out that if it is built it won’t be truly mixed income. The only way that would occur would be if it were built as market rate and the inclusionary zoning regulations kicked in requiring 10%.

    In terms of the complaints that the plan would be harkening back to the tragic era of housing projects, both sides have a point.

    The building would be a large single block development that would concentrate affordable/ workforce housing. It would rise significantly higher than existing housing and concentrate “poverty”. However, given the new understandings of planning and architecture, it is unlikely that there would be the same neo-modern, brutalism that characterized the 1960s. To some extent it would be a set back and be creating the housing units, which HOPE VI has sought to eliminate. And the assertion is right that this overly dense development will eventually be a breeding ground for crime. To anyone who disagrees with the assertion that despite all good intention and effective policing, concentrated “workforce” housing blocks eventually breed crime, please research Desire Projects in New Orleans and Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago.

    Now on the other side, affordable housing projects do not by their very nature breed crime. Well built and well designed projects offer housing to those that need it and have no other means of getting it. If this project were to be in a different form of townhouses or multiple low-rise buildings, they would be great homes for people. Now, home ownership opportunities are not strictly speaking the silver bullet, just look at the buildings on W west of 14th. The best plan is to developing housing that fits with the community and does not in some way overly concentrate or make residents feel inferior. Good developments can be great assets.

    I hope I am able to provide a little bit of context.

    • anon

      Thank you. Well-rounded post.

    • Anonymous

      “the desired return” the problem is that developer’s desired return is way out of whack with good sense and reason. greed, pure and simple.

      also, 5 floors is not a high rise. a row house with a pop up is 4 floors. come on now.

      • Bitter Elitist

        I THINK 5-8 is a mid-rise.

        Thanks Affordable Housing

  • DCster

    Thank you for your post and link, Affordable Housing. Ward 1 is indicated to have more DHCD funded affordable housing projects than all but Wards 7 and 8. Some projects on the list seem better than others. I support mid-rise development, especially located as this would be only 2 blocks from public transportation (considering that, I don’t understand the greater traffic concerns mentioned in some comments). I also doubt it would be put to better use as a parking lot, and don’t think it realistically would end up being made a park. And just because Cleveland Park, say, doesn’t have enough of this type of housing doesn’t seem to me a good reason why CH shouldn’t have it. However, based on your comments it does look like this would probably exclude market rate units (and rather be low/mid income, 60% AMI). I don’t necessarily see this as an automatic source of crime (if indeed there is a mix of elderly housing), but there is enough evidence to the contrary to be weary so I don’t think concerns about how it would be run are unreasonable either. Is there any reason why it couldn’t be made into three-story rowhouses?

  • Parking Anyone?

    While I love the low income debate, let’s not forget that the other part of the proposal is to …double the size of the School. This will have ripple effects on parking for blocks, the current parking situation already does.

    The current Staff lot at Rosario is triple parked during the day and I assume they will hire more staff/teachers. Now, double the student population on top of that! I hope all you residents have off-street parking. I also hope you do not fund your mortgage like me, with the help of a tenant who pays more to live in this neighborhood because presently we do not have Georgetown-like parking.

  • Anonymous

    There is something very fishy about this project. Why is a public charter school proposing a low income housing project on a land that belongs to the D.C. government? Why is the D.C. government going along with it — esp. given, as previously noted, the large amount of already build vacant D.C. owned land in the immediate area.

    If that land is not properly used as a parking lot (which I do think is a total waste of land, who is parking there? Students, Teachers? Let them use the metro) then the D.C. government should follow its own rules and make that land available to another Charter School that needs space — Yu Ying?? Capitol City?

  • m/

    Anon @ 5:04 — I agree with you. It does seem fishy.

    The more I think about this, the more my head hurts.

    Why would a public charter school need to build “housing”? Rosario isn’t a boarding school, is it? And didn’t they just finish massive renovations on that school a few years ago? Also, how would retail options do well on that block? It is an east-bound ONE-WAY street, as well as an emergency route. Does Rosario not have a cafeteria? Are the staff members in need more lunch options b/c they don’t want to eat DC Public School Lunches, or walk 7 minutes to PotBelly’s?

    What is going on here?

    If the student body has increased, than expanding the size of the school, and incorporating underground parking for the staff seems reasonable, and respectful to the neighborhood.

    Otherwise, none of this proposal makes any sense.

  • Anon

    I am OK with whatever they do so long as they do not change/modify zoning. I want to live in a neighborhood, with neighbors. Not in a high-traffic area where the passer’s by have no stake in the area.

    The more I hear, the more it stinks! Oh Councilman Graham a faithful supporter wavering in the balance here.

    • Anonymous

      If the new building is used for affordable housing, the residents there will be your neighbors, in the neighborhood, with a lot of the same stake in the area you have.

  • Anonymous

    Is Sinclair Skinner involved in this????

  • To me it reeks of unnecessary development project resulting from corrupt contract award.

  • artist

    From the Nancy Hanks lecture I head last Monday night at the Kennedy Center by John Riley, 9x mayor of Charleston, cities should be just comfottable for the homeless person sipping coffee on a park bench as well as for the person indoors in his chair sipping coffee while looking out the window. Two 60-foot high apartment buildings, side by side on narrow Harvard Street, are not going to invite anyone to slow down as they move either on the sidewalk or on the street. A faceless slab of concrete about a city block in length is only to make people want to run. Today, the Harvard Development townhouses on one side of the street attract people to slow down and enjoy the flowers and differing architectural styles. We should not erect an eyesore.


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