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Holy Crap – “Partial house collapse in Truxton Circle”

by Prince Of Petworth February 25, 2016 at 9:45 am 33 Comments

Photo by Billy Andrews

Billy tweets us around 9:45 last night:

“Just watched house across from me partially collapse. Woah. #DC @PoPville unit block of Q St NW”

and another reader sends video via email:

“So this happened on the unit block of Q st nw tonight. There’s construction happening on the lot next to this apartment building and clearly something went wrong while digging the basement. They haven’t worked on the building since Monday.”

Watch video of the collapse after the jump.


  • madmonk28

    I wonder the construction plus all the rain destroyed the foundation?

    • anon

      to be fair, it looks like it’s just the bump out, which wouldn’t have a foundation. i don’t think developers typically underpin bumpouts, as they’re normally not directly on the property line, but maybe dcra should start requiring it, as they’ll necessarily be affected by the dig out.

  • UStreeter

    I hope all people and pets okay. Was it occupied?

  • JS

    Somebody’s getting sued.

    • UStreeter

      BIG TIME

    • textdoc

      I sure hope so.

    • Et


      The PIVS record says the “owners” of the 39 lot are 39 Q STREET NW LLC with a McLean mailing address which is obviously one of those developer LLC to limit personal liability. There was a “Complaint Construction” filed in October but I have no idea what the specifically means. A “Construction/New Building” was issued at the end of January for NEW 3 STORY & CELLAR & ROOF DECK 2 FAMILY FLAT.

    • dc_anon

      The lot was vacant prior to this, so it is new construction. They had just finished the dig, so probably heavy rain undercut the party wall.

  • Bob

    This happened a few months ago in Cleveland Park too. The basement of an old house was being dug out across from the National Cathedral, and it collapsed. Super scary stuff. I guess it pays to hire the best guys to do these types of dig outs.

    • AnonV2

      Actually, in the Cleveland Park case the developer’s crew “accidentally” cut into several of the main support joists in the basement requiring them to demo the whole house instead of just renovating. Right. The listserv drama on that is pure gold.

  • Smittty

    Starting to dig out my basement in March. This makes me uneasy. Hopefully no one was hurt.

    • Anonymous

      Maybe wait for a dryer season?

      • Anon

        Always do major construction in washer season.

  • also anon

    Would love more info on this. How was there a fire crew already there? How did someone know to film it? I assume there were some kind of warning sign? And to be clear, there was no construction being done on the house that partially collapsed- it was caused by the construction in the vacant lot next to it?

    • dc_anon

      The wall looks like it had slumped a bit, that’s what triggered the fire dept, the person filming probably heard popping, etc and turned on their phone

  • Anony

    Serious issues related to shoddy construction will unfortunately be happening more and more given all the shady flipper jobs and DCRA’s lackadaisical approach to enforce rules and safety.

    • The King Ad-Hoc

      “Serious issues related to shoddy construction will unfortunately be happening more and more”

      Your conclusion is not based on actual facts in evidence.

      • Sydney P

        Except that’s exactly what’s going on. But to pretend otherwise, definitely avoid googling “Taja Construction,” for example.

      • ET

        Actually there was a Washington Post series (or was it City Paper) of stories on shoddy flip jobs that were quite expensive and majorly problematic for buyers.

        • It was WAMU series inspired by a “Dear PoPville” https://www.popville.com/2015/05/awful-update-to-lessons-of-a-bad-home-purchase/

        • Rich

          There’s always a realtor/developer bot who tries to say “now/now” even though it’s obvious that we’re well beyond the isolated anecdote mode. DC now reminds of Atlanta in the early ’00s—shoddy flips that all have the same finishes. At least all the brick construction prevents the use of cheap Georgia Pacific products that literally are like cardboard.

          • PCL

            As far as structural risks are concerned, that’s not a source of much comfort. Brick construction is probably the most collapse-prone type known to man. The cardboard boxes we have in the suburbs might allow you to hear your neighbors chewing on their Banquet freeze-dried chicken, but they hardly ever collapse. Even if their foundations crumple out from under them, they just wriggle and groan, though don’t drop a lit cigarette near one of them. Really, some hybrid frame construction with convincing brick cladding to fit in with an urban environment on the outside and enough fireproofing to meet DC code on the inside, would make more sense for these row houses.

      • Anony

        Plenty of examples and articles. DCRA is finally feeling pressure to enforce (i.e. new weekend hours…) but it is too late for what lies behind the walls and beneath the surface of these poorly constructed jobs. Heck Google the history of 723 Morton St NW for example.

        • mmm

          DCRA finally ordered 723 Morton St to be razed.

  • Shaw

    Oh, somebody is about to get sued *big time*. This is why you should always insist that the construction company doing work attached to your home pay for you to hire a private structural engineer of your own! A quick lawsuit against them to get an injunction until they agree usually gets them to pony up the cash pretty darn quick!

    • eva

      YES! Do not take construction, especially gut type construction in a house attached to yours lightly, ESPECIALLY if it is not supervised by the owner/resident of that house. My former boss had the house next to hers collapse and damage her home during an unpermitted basement dig out and she was left homeless for 8 months (living in a hotel with an infant) while insurance and lawyers tinkered around the edges of solving the problem.

  • Q-Street

    DCRA does nothing to ensure safe construction.
    My neighbor dug beneath my foundation in a permitted excavation. DCRA even inspected their work after they gone below my footer, and didnt flag anything.
    My house would have been on the ground too, except I noticed the problem when dry wall in my house cracked from the foundation shifting. We did an emergency underpinning, which was delayed several days by DCRA permitting, during which we had drenching downpours, putting my house at further risk.
    Learned more about soil types and foundations than I ever thought I would. Also came out of it with a lower opinion of DCRA than I thought I could have.

    • Anon

      I called DCRA recently to point out a “totally renovated” house with zero permits in DC PIVS. After my long explanation, the guy on the other end of the phone said “So what do you want me to do?”

  • Njkmom

    My husband runs a home renovation company and you’d be surprised how often hid clients get upset with him about delays on the start of construction. There’s so much upfront work that needs to be done with planning, drawing and structural. It does take time and should take time to go through proper review well in advance. Then, once breaking ground, you need to know what you’re doing. So many of these remodelers tgat are flipping hire expediters to rush through the review process at dcra. Plus, they don’t have experience working with foundation or concrete. Scary.

    • BT

      Njkmom – would you be willing to share the name of your husband’s company? I am looking to buy a house and have been worried if I would be able to find anyone trustworthy to do quality renovation if the house I purchase needs it.

  • lobbyistandlibationist

    Two of the residents have set up a GoFundMe account. They were left with virtually nothing after this collapse.


  • Another Bloomingdale Neighbor

    First, this is the second relatively recent collapse caused by rain at the foundation level. It is exactly what happened at the house in the 100 block of New York Avenue NW last year, when it’s front wall shifted. The city had police officers stationed at three different locations (two alleys and on Q street itself), and they closed the entire street. They also blocked a view of the area of construction with a truck and set a very large perimeter. Then, workers filled in the foundation dig at the adjacent empty lot which must have caused the wall on the house to implode. Now, much evidence of what the developer did and/or failed to as well as evidence of what DCRA failed to inspect and/or put a stop to is now buried! I cannot help but wonder if the real job of the police was to help the DCRA hide its incompetence, given the impending lawsuits and the city’s potential liability! Still, there are also actually discussions about tearing down the entire house for damage on the party wall. It is insane. Unless, the developer of this empty lot and is also the owner of the adjacent property, I cannot imagine that the developer and DCRA are going to really want to adequately compensate the tenants and/or the owner of the house for full value of his negligence and/or the property. What greedy shortcuts and questionable DCRA oversight cost the innocent is really the issue here? The injured parties here should file lawsuits for several million dollars. They should sue developer and DCRA for so much that the city will actually start rejecting permits for construction projects that they know are risky and dangerous and unlikely to be performed correctly by incompetent and/or greedy individuals.

  • AERzondzinska

    The D.C. Council Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs is holding an oversight hearing on DCRA tomorrow (Monday, Feb. 29), in the afternoon, at the Wilson Building, Rm 500. It would be wonderful for those who are knowledgeable, from first-hand experience or otherwise, about DCRA failures to testify in person at the hearing (individuals are usually accorded 3 minutes; representatives of organizations, 5 minutes). E-mail Committee Director Peter Johnson ([email protected]) to ask to join the list of people speaking. The hearing is likely to last for hours, so if you can only show up after work, it could work out. But if this notice is too short (for which I apologize), the Committee will accept written testimony for two weeks after the hearing, and I urge you to e-mail a statement to Committee Director Peter Johnson ([email protected]), and to the Councilmembers who serve on it: Vincent Orange, Chair ([email protected]); Elissa Silverman ([email protected]); Brianne Nadeau ([email protected]); Charles Allen ([email protected]); and Brandon Todd ([email protected]).


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