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

“Dear PoP,

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

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


They say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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