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Surprise! Your House is Becoming Four Condos…

by Prince Of Petworth June 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm 72 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

Coming home from work last night, I saw this huge sign in my neighbor’s yard and nearly had a heart attack.

These two-story row houses on our street are all over 100 years old and lovingly cared for by our neighbors. We know the owners of 913 Quincy St, NW and they’ve lived here for about 10 years– none of us knew that they were going to cash out and sell their house to developers. In fact, the house was never even on the market.

The first thing I did was email my neighbors, who were equally shocked. Then I emailed the owners and asked what was going on. Their response was priceless:

No, we’re not moving and the big sign announcing 4 sparkling new condos is just as big of a surprise for us. Looks like this developer did not proofread the work order for the sign they had made. I think it’s meant for a site on 913 Quincy Street NE.

I’ve left two voicemails on the number listed for someone to rectify this and so far no response.

It turns out that our worst nightmare was… only a nightmare”

  • Anonymous


  • oh thank GOODNESS! i too took a photo last night (though clearly forgot to send it in to PoP) and was so bummed that this was going to happen. so glad to hear it’s a mistake :)

  • I hope the owners took an ax to that sign. I certainly would have done my darnedest to yank the thing out if I came home to that!

    • Yeah, this sign would have lasted less than a minute in my yard had I come home to it.

  • Axe Man Cometh

    We are right around the corner and have an axe… could be a nice neighborhood bonding exercise.

    • Anonymous

      Anyone have a backyard firepit? Might be a nice evening to meet your neighbors :)

      • saf

        I do, and am just down the alley…

        I also have a saw.

  • DC_Chica

    this is hilarious. I feel like it’s something that a local news station would have a field day covering (just for the entertainment value).

  • Anonymous

    913 Qunicy st NW is zoned R-4. Four Condos would require a zoning variance.

    • John

      Just curious – why would they need a zoning variance if it is zoned R-4?

      • Anonymous

        R-4 = residential up to 40fy high front.

        • Anonymous

          True but the real restriction is that you need 900 sq/ft of land area PER unit. So if your lot is 3600 sq/ft you can have a 4-unit building in R4 by right.

    • Dartagnan

      This building is already 4 apartments, and some similar ones in the immediate area have converted into condo’s (at least 2 other buildings). Variance or not, it is likely not a difficult transition.

  • sbc

    That’s pretty funny. I once got notice that my landlord was selling my apartment and I was allowed first right to purchase it. After freaking out, I actually called the landlord who was even more surprised than me! Turns out Office of the Tenant Advocate screwed up and sent one to every unit in the condo building, even though just one person was selling a place he rented out.

    It did end up with my landlord asking if we did want to buy the condo from him, though.

    • Anonymous

      Did you???

      • sbc

        no, we thought about it but he didn’t offer us a particularly great price. We ended up doing a bit of comparison shopping and wound up buying a different place in the neighborhood. It worked out well for him because we found him great new tenants who paid more than we were!

  • tomfiatlux

    I had to seriously resist vandalizing it.

  • it could be worse
    • “reviewing what happened” LOL, city gov’ment.

  • nc3

    I hope they fix the gaping holes in the yard for the homeowners.

  • anon

    but seriously — we see equally nice and even much nicer homes get ruined by greedy developers, then debate the aesthetics on PoP. Your “worst nightmare”? this is happening all over town and ruining block after block, with the rare expection of it being done tastefully with some discretion. I just walked past that atrocity on 2nd and F this morning and it’s even worse than the pictures on the previous post. City government is so completely sold out to developers and incapable to define any vision to antiquated zoning regulations and it’s reflected by the city’s inability and/or unwillingness to reign in the worst actors here. Dream City II – some of this makes Reeves Center look like an architectural gem.

    • Anonymous

      yeah, it’s so awful that complete houses that are totally unaffordable for most of the population are broken up into smaller parts to allow single people on middle-class incomes to move into the neighborhood…

      • textdoc

        Increasing density doesn’t have to mean pop-ups. The problem is greedy developers who aren’t content with splitting a house into three units and want to have FOUR. (Or two “duplex” units.)

        • and to add on to that, i imagine that most (me included) aren’t opposed to pop-ups that are tastefully designed and constructed. too often though, they plop an ugly box on top of a lovely home and, imo, totally ruin the aesthetic of the block. i happen to like the relative homogeneity of rowhomes- it’s part of why i bought one.

      • wdc

        When does that ever happen (unaffordable houses becoming affordable condos)??? In my neighborhood, when a 100 year old rowhouse gets bought for $500k, it gets gutted, bumped out, and popped up, and sold as two or three $700k condos.

        • textdoc

          I think the whole “luxury condo” thing also contributes to prices escalating across the neighborhood. So pretty soon condos are selling for what single-family homes used to sell for… meaning that splitting a house into condos doesn’t do much to give people access to buy in neighborhoods they couldn’t afford otherwise.

        • +1

        • Anonymous

          Whatever the price of the renovated condo, it’s less than the entire renovated house…

          • i don’t know if you’re the same anonymous as at 4:52, but i don’t see how a single person on a middle class income is better able to afford a $700k (renovated) condo than a $500k (perfectly liveable) house. the point remains that gutting perfectly liveable houses and turning them into luxury condos in no way “allows middle class incomes to move into the neighborhood”. are there developers out there who are buying rowhomes and turning them into affordable housing???

          • textdoc

            Ditto what epric002 said — just because the $500K house didn’t undergo a luxury renovation doesn’t mean it’s not livable. (Although developers tend to prefer shells to “liveable” houses, because that way they can maximize their profit.)
            I’m seeing luxury condo units in my neighborhood selling for more than what I bought my entire rowhouse for 3.5 years ago. How does that make anything more “affordable”?

          • dcd

            @epric002 – the $500k/$700k situation doesn’t exist. In neighborhoods where luxury condos, where there are two or three in a structure, go for $700,000 each, an entire rowhouse, even if it’s a shell, goes for far more than $500,000. Your overall point, that those properties are beyond the reach of middle class incomes, is perfectly true. But . . . so what? I don’t mean that affordable housing isn’t important – it is, and DC does a piss-poor job of it – but middle-class incomes are completely irrelevant to this discussion. That’s not who is buying the condos, and it’s not who is buying the house.

          • Duponter

            Small lesson on supply/demand. If a developer can sell three units instead of one for more money, than there is more demand for the one house for less money and the price ends up being higher than $500K that the developer paid in a normal market.

            The reality is there are three people wanting a place to live in that neighborhood instead of one. Sooner or later you run out of beautiful old homes if you don’t divide them up and they all get a lot more expensive. And then you have fewer people living in the city, who then instead have to live in the burbs and you see less commercial growth in these neighborhoods.

            I understand the appeal of preserving the beauty of some of these neighborhoods. The issue isn’t the number of condos, it’s the developers who have terrible taste.

          • Duponter

            To follow up, a perfect example of this is Mount Pleasant, which has preserved a lot of its single family homes, that are all worth $1m or more and climbing. Imagine how many more people could move into that neighborhood if there weren’t so many single family homes. I’m not advocating for that, I’m just pointing out the mechanics.

          • Anonymous

            Well, right next door to us, in Shaw, the house sold last year for $350K and was turned into two condos each of which sold for $700Kish.

          • emptynester

            its possible to find a liveable rowhouse in Shaw for 350K? Really? Point me to some, please!

          • anon

            to comment on @Duponter. It’s a piecemeal grab bag approach to development. DC should permit more apartment/condo development so there is less need for the frontier approach to carving out space inappropriately. I have no issue with new or adaptive development, but it should be appropriately scaled for its location. Even a tastefully and restrained pop up isn’t the issue here (even if they’re hard to come by). Of course the zoning process is a clusterf*@! and encourages the worst behavior by bartering easy sign-off on CoO for tax roll bump.

        • Anonymous

          When an older liveable (but not bowling-alleyed-out) single family home gets gutted and chopped, the resulting condos are rarely if ever affordable, or even priced at market, actually.

          • dcloafer

            I think you misunderstand the term “market.” If they sell, then they are, by definition, priced at or below “market.”

      • Anonymous

        I have yet to see such condos go for an afforable amount for a single person on a middle-class income. 600K+ for one floor of a converted rowhouse? No thanks

        • Duponter

          They sell in days in bidding wars for that. So, they are affordable to some.

          • textdoc

            The claim that epric002, wdc, and I were questioning was that “complete houses that are totally unaffordable for most of the population are broken up into smaller parts to allow single people on middle-class incomes to move into the neighborhood.”

          • textdoc

            And it’s false that “then you have fewer people living in the city, who then instead have to live in the burbs and you see less commercial growth in these neighborhoods.”
            Nobody “has” to live in the ‘burbs. These days, the main reason people choose to live in the ‘burbs isn’t that they were priced out of Mount Pleasant; it’s because of concerns over the quality of the schools in the District — concerns that apply in most places in the District, other than the tonier parts of NW. And even that is changing, as more parents decide to stay put in D.C. and try to improve the schools.
            D.C. has seen a significant increase in population in the last 15 years, and even still it hasn’t reached the number from when the population was at its height in the (IIRC) 1950s.
            When neighborhoods become popular and people seeking houses can’t afford to buy in, say, Mount Pleasant, they don’t move to the suburbs. What happens is that instead they buy in Petworth. Or Brookland. Or Brightwood. And so on and so forth.

          • Anonymous

            Exactly, textdoc. I was renting in Shaw, but by the time I was ready to buy a house there was no way I could have afforded the neighborhood (I couldn’t have even afforded a condo there at the time). I didn’t move to the burbs. I moved to Trinidad, where I could afford a single family home and still have a short commute to work. Since property values shot up, I was able to sell that house and buy on the west end of H which is considerably nicer.

          • emptynester

            “When neighborhoods become popular and people seeking houses can’t afford to buy in, say, Mount Pleasant, they don’t move to the suburbs. What happens is that instead they buy in Petworth. Or Brookland. Or Brightwood. And so on and so forth.”

            where do the people who used to live in Brightwood, brookland, or Petworth move to? (since even in Brookland and Petworth its more people buying old houses than it is new high density development, and IIUC there is no new high density development in Brightwood) if not the suburbs, where? IIUC there really aren’t vacant houses in those neighborhoods.

      • Anonymous

        “yeah, it’s so awful that complete houses that are totally unaffordable for most of the population are broken up into smaller parts to allow single people on middle-class incomes to move into the neighborhood…”

        Well, you hit the nail on the head. A lot of the beautiful old houses in DC were made for families of 5-10 people. Most of the people moving into DC now are households of 1-2 people. There’s no reason why they would need as much space.

      • anonymous

        I guess swapping out 1 member of the 1% for four members of the 2% can be counted as economic progress. But at the end of the day, when complete houses that are totally unaffordable for most of the population get broken up, they become smaller parts that are still totally unaffordable for most of the population. The number of people in the second “most” category may be slightly lower than the number of people in the first “most” category, but in the end most people will not be able to afford the end result.

  • lovefifteen

    Your “worst nightmare”? I can’t imagine anything more devastating that a rowhouse getting converted into condos either. THE HUMANITY!!!

    • AG

      Maybe if it’s your home and no one told you they were doing it.

      • dcd

        Good news! It wasn’t OP’s house. Phew.

      • lovefifteen

        It wasn’t his/her home. It was a neighboring house. OH, THE HUMANITY!!! This poor person is a national hero.

        • Anonymous

          Ok maybe “worst nightmare” is a bit dramatic, but I get it. Maybe you aren’t a home owner, or maybe you are and don’t care about a hideous rectangle of a tower going in next door to your house and potentially decreasing your property value. As a homeowner, I DO care very much about the aesthetic of my block. When we bought, popups weren’t really a thing. Now that it’s becoming more and more popular, I definitely am concerned- especially since my next door neighbors are older and have been talking about how they are having trouble with all the stairs and might sell soon.

  • sproc

    It’s all fun and games until the Vogons show up…

    • bizzinger

      gold star for you.

    • Anonymous

      To be fair, all the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at their local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of their Earth years, so they’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. …

    • Anonymous

      ….time for some poetry.

  • Anonymous

    I live down the block and saw that sign on the way home from the metro — was wondering how they got their zoning variance without notifying the neighbors.

  • I normally don’t encourage litigation, but this is a cut and dry case of trespassing, especially if the homeowner owns the front curtilage (as opposed ot the city). (I’m guessing that is the case since it is Quincy and not a numbered street.) Monetizing the damages might take a bit of creativity, but it is not unreasonable to want the landscaping fixed/improved and the sewer/utility lines checked since they likely didn’t do that before burtying those posts 3 feet into your front yard. Mistake would not be a viable defense. And I believe that DC also has a false advertising statute with private rights of enforcement that might apply. Seriously, if the company hasn’t rectified this already, such a suit is not out of line. And it would serve the developer right.

    • Gladys Cravitz

      Oh my – it was a simple mistake, not worth a lawsuit …..”Monetizing the damages might take a bit of creativity……” don’t you mean calculating the appropriate shake-down will take some creativity??

      should the homeowner add pain and suffering to their list of grievances?

    • anon

      Good lord. Calm down. Someone made a mistake.

      • Anonymous

        If someone made holes in my front yard and didn’t respond to my requests to remedy the problem, I wouldn’t care if it was a mistake or intentional. I put a lot of time and effort into my landscaping. Obviously if they volunteer to pay to fix things that’s great, but so far they aren’t even bothering to return phone calls. I’d be thinking lawsuit too.

        • anon

          You do realize that the fees to even just have a consultation with an attorney about this lawsuit would likely amount to more than whatever it would cost to fix your landscaping.

          • Anonymous

            Small claims court!

      • HaileUnlikely

        If they showed up at a property that in no way resembles theirs, didn’t realize, and put the sign up anyway, who is to say that they wouldn’t begin demo of the wrong house soon? It has happened. I wouldn’t sue them over merely putting the sign up, but if they put the sign up and then don’t return my calls, I would be concerned.

        • Anon

          Your username, your scenario.

    • lovefifteen

      “I normally don’t encourage litigation”, but someone put a sign in your yard so you should sue! You are absurd, greenroofgoddess.

  • dcreal

    These same developers started demo of an existing row house on a home opposite of mine and are converting it into 6 Condos. They start demo and have pretty much abandoned the site for the past couple months.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a shame but not all these great Wardman homes are lovingly cared for… Some owners rent the entire house out and don’t do the simple upkeep (I’m looking at you 3804 Kansas Av!) while others having porches that are rotting through. Quincy seems better but I see it on Kansas Av as I’m walking to the metro.

    • saf

      You know these aren’t Wardmans, right?

  • SexyIda

    We are having the same issue on our block. So far we was able to obtained a Stop Work Order since 4/28/14.

  • Tim

    Make sure the demo/construction contractors know not to go to that house …

  • wpk_dc

    Familiar. I came home from work one day only to find a huge Coldwell Banker For Sale sign staked into my front yard. I called the agent’s number on the sign as my house was NOT for sale. He was truly confused, thinking I was the owner that had listed with him. In fact, the next day he called me and said the sign digger had mistook my 12th Street house with the same house number on 11th Street. The next day the sign was dug up and taken away with but a big hole/divet as a reminder.


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