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“I was a cautiously optimistic supporter of the city’s temporary homeless shelter plan–until I read this article”

by Prince Of Petworth March 17, 2016 at 2:25 pm 93 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user dullshick

“Dear PoPville,

I wanted to draw your attention to this article. I was a cautiously optimistic supporter of the city’s temporary homeless shelter plan–until I read this article. This is completely fiscally irresponsible. Why is the city spending 10 times as much money to rent these facilities rather than just buying them?

“The District would pay at least $4,500 on average per apartment, per month, each year for at least the next 20 years under Bowser’s plan.”

That’s significantly more than my mortgage…on a HOUSE. And most of these apartments won’t even have a bathroom inside. My local elementary school is in complete disrepair (falling ceiling, no windows in many classrooms) and renovation is delayed each year. And now the city plans to throw away funds (some to donors) for decades? This plan STINKS.

Frustrated taxpayer”

  • anon

    I feel exactly the same way. As with so many initiatives in DC, it’s a noble idea for a necessary purpose that is absolutely whacked in its execution.

    • Steve

      Forcing people, through compulsory taxation, to pay for something against their will, is never noble.

      It’s the exact opposite, and necessarily leads to these types of results.

      • CRT

        Dear Ms. Rand,

        That’s the definition of modern society. Perhaps you should consider Somalia or Haiti – I believe you will find their tax and spending plans more in line with your beliefs.

        • Steve

          CRT – the fact that you do not care that people might not consent to pay for such garbage “charity” as profiled in this story tells me a lot about your character. Most people on this thread have rightfully expressed outrage as what the government is doing. But they do not go to the heart of the problem, and attempt to understand the root cause of why such things occur. The problem is their assumption that they can use the coercive power of the government to “do good”. That is a falsehood.

          • dunning-kruger

            I don’t think they were endorsing this particular plan but calling out the absurdity of your meta-statement about taxation on which they were spot on.
            There is no way to have a large diverse society where someone’s taxes don’t go towards something they don’t want to pay for. Some people think they shouldn’t have to pay for anything and some people are too stupid to even know what their taxes pay for.
            It isn’t about the government doing good, it is about the government doing what most of the people want. Which is the whole point of representative government. Your argument is essentially that is one malcontent doesn’t want to pay for something then no one can have it. That is insane, there is always a malcontent who doesn’t want to pay for something. Be it some redneck who doesn’t want to pay for the EPA and is unaware that without their regulations the nearby coal mine would have poisoned his well or some way left hippy who hasn’t figured out that even though he doesn’t use roads his patchouli would be 10x as much without a federally subsidized highway system.
            What I’m saying is your point of view is not rugged individualism, it is juvenile individualism of the ignorant kind.

          • Steve

            Dunning-Kruger – everybody who threatens people to pay for what they think is right, believe they are justified in doing so. They always have an excuse to use force, one that justifies the threats they make against others to themselves. They deploy casuistry, just as you have done. Just like you, they often call those who disagree rubes, morons, unethical, etc… It is always the same “I’m good. Therefore, I’m justified in using threats to get my way.” None of this changes the fact that they impose their will on others by force, dehumanizing themselves and their victims. Just because you are unable to conceptualize a world where such aggression is not tolerated DOES NOT MAKE IT OK. You assume that “representative government” is a common value we share. Your assumption is not correct. Calling my argument “insane” demonstrates the weakness of your position, and is a perfect example of your conceit.

          • dunning-kruger

            Way to avoid all of the substance of my post and instead whine about how I presented it. You win at the internet.
            The point is that an advanced society requires a social contract and taxes to do the kinds of big things that a large first world country needs. There are plenty of failed states you can go to if you hate taxes that much, or you can go off grid, I have a friend who has never paid taxes, you’re all sound no fury.

          • Steve

            You do appreciate that simply stating your conclusion is not an argument, right?

            A brief rebuttal. Please read carefully.

            “an advanced society requires”. Ok. Stop right there. An advanced society cannot “require” anything. People require things. Individuals require things. What is required? To find out you must ask an individual, an actual physical person: “What do you require?”

            When you state that “society” requires something, what you are ACTUALLY saying is “I, dunning-kruger, want or require something.” YOU. Not “society”. Just you, and maybe others.

            Your error is that you are anthropomorphizing an imaginary concept. This will get your pronouns and thinking all confused. Next you’ll assert that “we” have consented to pay taxes, despite the fact that I am attesting that I do not.

      • anon


        • Steve

          Your premise that it is a “noble idea” to use the government to force people to contribute to a charity, is not correct. What IS noble is when people voluntarily contribute to charity. When they aren’t forced to do so. Then the charity comes out of the magnanimity of their heart.

          When you use the government to try to accomplish something, it can no longer be called “noble”.

          Think about it.

  • anon

    Taking a page from NYC – which paid owners of crumbling very old hotels huge sums to house the homeless in very squalid living conditions for decades – may still be doing so – haven’t been following it since I moved here.

    • Anon

      We did that with Mayor Barry too. We could have bought all the homeless houses with the money wasted in the 80s and 90s. It’s all outlined in the Dream City book

  • dat

    this makes me furious.

  • Bollocks!

    These leases need to be torn up and renegotiated! This is one of the all-time bad deals.
    Seriously, this is WAY too much money to be paying for apartments that don’t even have private bathrooms. If it walks like corruption, and it quacks like corruption…

    • dcd

      Are the leases executed already? If so, not sure tearing them up is an option . . .

      • wdc

        Article says only one is finalized, I think.

    • charlie

      It gets better.

      The private landlords (Douglas Jemal, Sorg and one other) don’t have to pay property tax on the land for 30 years, while they wait for the properties to appreciate. While collecting $300M in rent.

      • another neighbor

        Every new detail of this makes me so furious.

      • Outrageous

        Outrageous. Where did you see that? This deal is indefensible.

      • jd

        Nobody beats the WIZ!!

  • bll

    yeah, this article put things in a completely different light.

  • Frustrated

    This is likely why Sorg was chosen for the Grienke project despite the fact that the community supported another developer….sad

  • rindupont

    That is an egregious waste of money. It would be cheaper to just subsidize 100% of the rent for homeless families and put them into permanent housing.

  • DC Resident

    I don’t expect anything less from our corrupt city government. Why doesn’t the city just buy the property and build the buildings itself? Then after they are paid for they belong to the people and not just one family will benefit.

    I love how they deflect the criticism by saying it’s just because people don’t want the shelters. I want shelters but I don’t think we should be for palaces when we’re getting apartments. Bowser is a snake and I’m thankful I didn’t vote for her.

    • another neighbor

      Yes, just buy the buildings! Why throw away our money like this?

    • Anonymous

      A sign you (and many other commenters here) don’t understand the deal. The city already owns the properties.

      • Neighbor

        Uh, no they don’t.

      • MoreisMore

        No, they don’t. The city only owns the property for the locations in Wards 7 & 8. All the shelter’s located in the remaining wards will be leased.

  • another neighbor

    What’s even worse–according to a witness who testified at the City Council’s hearing this morning, her calculations show the average cost of the units at $6,000 per month, not $4,500. $4,500 was already obscene. This is insane.

    • MVT

      A 30 year mortgage with $0 down at 3.5% interest rate will get you a $1.3mm house if you pay $6,000 a month……..

      • Eek

        Wow. Wow. Given the choice between buying a $1.3mn home or renting an apartment without a bathroom for the same cost, our city chooses…

  • banananonymous

    I think this may be simplifying it though. Real estate comes with a ton of sunk costs as well. It also comes with reputation risk. Thats why most corporations rent retail spaces instead of buying them. If they rent spaces from independent, DC based companies, the economic ramifications for the small business owners may outweigh the general expense there in. DC may also get something back from these companies, like a promise to create more LMI units. You never know. Over simplifying real estate deals is easy to do, but rarely tells the whole story.

    • anon

      I think your argument assumes that a company seeking such space does not want to be on the hook forever in the event they are not profitable and need to exit the property. OR, they dont have the funds upfront to pay for a building, which is understandable. Thats not the case here. If DC government wants to operate homeless shelters, its in it for the long run – so says their proposal. why not purchase the building outright instead of paying multiples of that upfront cost via rent over many years. Funds are not an issue in this government’s case. Furthermore, when pressed, Bowser’s office did not make any such claim that the deal makes sense because LMI, or other offsets. Their rebuttal implied that the 4500-6000 per month was in line with market prices. Point being their policy agenda seems devoid of financial sense.

      • Shaw

        You’re completely right. It’s not like homelessness is going to magically go away after 25 years nationwide, and as long as we are the only jurisdiction in the nation where you have an actual legal *right* to housing, even IF we managed to eliminate homelessness for all of the city’s current homeless people, we will just get new homeless people from other places. A bus ticket is cheap – why would you sleep on a sewer grate in Baltimore or Philadelphia if you could get a free apartment here just by showing up? It is absolutely stupid to lease these properties. We should ONLY consider options where the city is the owner.

        • banananonymous

          I’m not saying I know why they do it, its just an example of when buying doesn’t make sense. It just seems like all arguments in this strain makes it sound really easy to have this portfolio of real estate, but it is not. Corruption exists, and it may in fact be a good idea to buy, but a ton people screaming “just buy the thing” seem to be overlooking the issues around having another large set of grounds to maintain, employees to pay and other unforeseen issues.

          • CRT

            You seem to completely miss the point that the city is paying MORE MONEY not to buy the property. Further, I’ll guarantee you the city will be responsible for all maintenance and staffing of these buildings they are paying to build, but will not own. This is nothing more than a corrupt give away.

          • Shaw

            @banana – I don’t think you understand how commercial leasing works. In a residential lease (in the US, anyway), you pay for the right to live in the space, but the landlord pays for all the taxes, all the maintenance, and anything that breaks. If your fridge quits running, the landlord has to fix it or buy you a new one.
            In commercial leasing, leases are called “triple net”. The tenant is responsible for paying all the taxes, all the insurance, and all the maintenance. AND paying rent ON TOP of those three things. The landlord literally only cashes your checks. They do absolutely nothing else. Water pipes burst? Tough. YOU deal with it. Roof caves in? That’s sad. Make sure your rent check isn’t late, and call a contractor. And by the way, anything you build on the land belongs to the landlord at the end of the lease as a kind of “free gift with lease”. You don’t get to keep it.
            So, in this case, we are paying millions of dollars to lease the land (since we’re building most of these from the ground up), and *then* we pay millions more to build a building that the landlord gets to keep as a bonus, for free, at the end of the 25 year lease. We are paying to maintain it, just like we would if we owned the land, and we are paying all the staff (a number, by the way, which these figures DO NOT include). There is literally no reason whatsoever to lease the land rather than buy it except that you get to give out bigger presents to your supporters by leasing.

          • wdc

            Triple net is only one way to structure a commercial lease. We could hope (probably in vain) that the city’s proposed plan includes having the owners maintain the properties.

          • Bobby

            @Shaw, commercial leases are private contracts and 100% negotiable between parties. There is no “standard” commercial leases have to follow. Also what you reference is for existing structures. The city will almost certainly maintain the building and all services associated with them. Douglas is not in the business of running homeless shelters, even if the city paid them to. They just get a fat check for letting the city use land they own.

    • CRT

      No, it isn’t. The cities could buy these properties for their market value instead of signing obscene long term leases that inflate the value of the properties 10-30x. It really is just that simple. This is corruption, incompetence, or both.

      • Kingman Park

        Corruption disguised as incompetence.

  • Eminent Domain

    The city needs to purchase these properties outright using eminent domain, if necessary. If the city is willing to exercise eminent domain for a soccer stadium, then surely it can justify the use of eminent domain to house the homeless. Stop giving my tax money to your corrupt cronies!

    • another neighbor


  • Shaw

    At $4,500 per month, this is $54,000 per year, per unit.
    For less money, you can get fully furnished dormitory style housing IN AN ACTUAL DORMITORY at one of our local universities. And that will also come with a complimentary college education and a meal plan already built into the price, plus free use of university athletic and recreational facilities.
    Seriously. Think about that for a minute.
    GWU – $51,875 per academic year
    Georgetown – $47,944 per academic year
    American – $41,316 per academic year
    Catholic – $54,288 per academic year
    Trinity – $33,864 per academic year
    Gallaudet – $16,901 per academic year

  • ANC

    This is unbelievable. I, too, have been hopeful about this plan but this is blatant cronyism.

  • jim_ed

    Surprise surprise. Muriel giving a giant kickback to her friends under the guise of helping the city’s most vulnerable residents. We could buy these homeless families McMansions in Fairfax County’a best school districts for this kind of price, instead they get shared baths in mainly lousy locations. I seriously hope prosecutors are looking at this for criminal charges.

    • Zora

      jim_ed is totally right. This is a giant money transfer from taxpayers to her major donors, using “housing the homeless” as a cover story. It’s a true corruption scandal. As the details in this piece make clear, there is simply NO credible argument that this is the best deal the city could get for itself.

    • CRT

      Amen. This is criminal. Heads should roll.

      • Philippe Lecheval

        Oh, absolutely they should, but this being DC, absolutely NOTHING will happen. It’s business as usual.

    • dcd

      Yup. This is less than my mortgage for a 4 BR, 3.5 BA SFH in close in Bethesda. Hard to see how that’s reasonable.

      • wdc

        Well, what does it include? If the property owner is going to take care of all maintenance on high-traffic properties, and keep them up to a certain (high) standard, then… Nah, still much too much. An entity like the DC gov’t should be using its negotiating power a lot more effectively.

        • dcd

          “An entity like the DC gov’t should be using its negotiating power a lot more effectively.”
          How Trumpian of you.
          I kid, I kid – and I agree.

  • french streeter

    I feel like this article is part of a slick campaign to paint the NIMBYism of those in Wards 1, 2 and 3 who don’t want the shelters in their neighborhoods as honest taxpayers concerned about the money being spent by the District. The article itself states that what the city would be paying is not much out of line with what would be paid for office space.

    Before we go all knee-jerk oppositionist on this, I’d like to learn more about what other options exist for our most vulnerable — did you all read the article about those families currently living in tiny hotel rooms, isolated from the city? Also not an option.


    • jim_ed

      Comparing the price to office space is an absurd strawman argument. It’d be like the city justifying paying $400,000 for a meter maid’s Honda Civic because a Rolls Royce costs the same. Office real estate is based on location and ameneties, and to compare the cost of class A space (which mind you, almost always comes with significant money from the landlord for buildout, free months rent, and added building amenities like a concierge and gym) on Pennsylvania Ave with the cost of a building on Kennedy St is a totally worthless comparison. There’s just no comparison to be made between the two and doing so is a completely dishonest tactic.

    • CRT

      No, it states that the CITY CLAIMS this is similar to what the CITY pays for office space. Before I bought my house last year, I was living in a luxury apartment building one block from metro with a gym, pool on the roof, outdoor spaces, grills, etc. One bedrooms were 1900-2300. 2 BRs were 2800-3300 (generally). And the city wants to pay 4500-6000 for dorm style housing not convenient to metro. THIS IS INSANE.

    • Got it

      So if you’re a believer in the city being responsible with taxpayers’ money, then you hate the homeless. Got it.

    • ANC

      I can’t speak to the motivations of everyone, but I can say I’m genuinely outraged by what appears to be political favors and outright cronyism. I live down the street from SOME; I’m not worried about homeless people in my neighborhood. The rents proposed are ABSOLUTELY out of line given that a) office space is MUCH more expensive than residential space and b) the district is proposing to pay the equivalent monthly rent of a single-family residence in Shaw, Columbia Heights for families who won’t even have private bathrooms. And then on top of it, the district is going to build structures at our own cost and then hand them over to the landowner at the end of a 30 year lease.

      I like the seven shelters plan, but financed like this? Hell no.

    • But

      Those office spaces are in downtown prime (more expensive) real estate, unlike most of these shelters. In addition, the shelters are all located in the lowest cost places within their respective wards.

    • Mittens

      I live in Truxon Circle so I’m already near a few shelters and don’t mind it–I think we all should be open-minded and accept shelters in our respective wards. However, I’m still outraged by these allegations.

      Perhaps it is YOU who is being slick and deceptive. Office space is much more expensive to rent than residential space–that’s why the comparison is bunk.

    • dcd

      So if you live in Ward 4, you’re clear to be upset by this, but if you live in Ward 1, you have to pass some sort of test to prove you are truly upset because of fiscal reasons? Makes sense.

    • jcm

      Well, it probably is coming from the NIMBYs, but it’s unconscionable no matter the source. I don’t have a problem with the sites that were chosen, but these terms are ridiculous, even by the standards of run-by-developers DC. The council should reject this plan, and tell the mayor to go back to the drawing board.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Agreed. I support having a small family shelter in each ward instead of one big one, and I have no objection to the actual sites that were selected, but paying this much for them is absurd.

    • RL

      I don’t see how anyone other than the developers who are cashing in can be anything other than “knee-jerk oppositionist” on this, because it’s an outrage.
      And for the record, I may live in Ward 2, but I’m far from a NIMBY. The 5th Street NW shelter is AIMBY – Already In My Back Yard – and I have no problem with it.
      I am horrified by the atrocious overspending in this deal not because I’m trying to keep a shelter from going into a building that used to be – of all things – a *shelter* (as the article makes clear). I’m horrified because if the city has that much money to house the homeless, we should be housing a hell of a lot more of them!
      This plan *fails* the homeless in DC by grossly overspending per unit, which obviously means many, many fewer units will be possible. When the city could literally rent or even buy individual housing units of various types in almost any neighborhood at current market rates for less than the per-unit outlay under this plan, something is terribly, apallingly wrong.

  • Ward1neighbor

    I live a block away from the Ward 1 site (10/V St. NW). At first I was apprehensive for NIMBY-ish reasons, but I was getting comfortable with the idea that this would be a smallish shelter for families. But all the financials coming to light makes my blood boil… The staunchest advocates for those experiencing homelessness should be outraged by this plan, and the blatant giveaway to developers (Bowser supporters among them). All this $$$ waste could do so much more for those who need supports!

    There are some folks from Ward 1 who’ve questioned our Council member, Brianne Nadeau, pretty hard about her unquestioning support for this project. She just shrugs and says that governments always pay a premium when negotiating with land owners (although I don’t really see how this necessarily is so, at least if the government is considering multiple sites owned by multiple developers). But even if we must accept this, it’s one thing to overpay a few hundred thousand for a site that was recently on the market for the mid-single digit millions – it’s a whole ‘nother ball game to lease the same parcel for $33 MILLION (770k/year lease with 2% escalator every year and market readjustment every 5 years – $33M doesn’t even account for market adjustment) over 30 years, and probably pay the same landowner (Sorg) to also develop the shelter building (overpaying for this to the tune of millions), which the same landowner/developer will get handed back free and clear (yes, DC will own nothing!) after 30 years!

  • Brett M

    This is….well…unsurprising. It’s par for the course in Liberalandia. And we got plenty of warnings that Bowser’s administration would be wasteful…you know when she couldn’t balance her first budget despite record revenues? And then when they gave away prime U Street land to a developer for $400K….

    • Anonymous

      I’ll correct you: this what happens when politicians give preferential treatment to donors and business partners, and ignore their duties to their broader constituents. That DC votes Democrat is incidental. I am from a county in a southern state that is very much conservative, and there are shady land deals there too.

  • Derek

    Wonderful. Well DC, this is what you get for electing the same corrupt politicians for mayor and council every damn time. This is the problem of a one party town.

    Streetcar, DC United Stadium, the wasteful spending never ends.

  • ET

    We are talking about properties that are big enough to handle this type of activity and zoned appropriately. So I suspect that almost any major property owner who property was even on the radar for something had given money to some political candidate or other. Not to say this isn’t hinkey but, if this was any of the other candidates that came out with the same or similar list we may still see the same thing.

    • Anonymous

      “properties that are big enough to handle this type of activity and zoned appropriately”

      That certainly isn’t the case for the property in Ward 3, which is zoned for single family detached houses, and the site (a vacant lot with a tax assessment of about $1.7 million and the single family house next door with a tax assessment of about $1.3 million) is not quite large enough to be developed with 4 single family houses. Emergency shelters for five to fifteen persons are allowed only as a special exception in that zone. Presumably, they will be requesting that the land be rezoned.

    • n=1

      Umm, no, we’re not talking about properties “zoned appropriately.” Part of the plan is to have all of the properties rezoned to accommodate the proposed occupancy amounts that grossly exceed the current zoning on those properties.

      I shouldn’t even be responding to this, since this is such a minor point in the grand scheme of the corruption that is this proposal.

  • wdc

    Couple of things:
    1. If the city is paying $47-50 per square foot for office space, they shouldn’t be bragging about it, because whoever negotiated those leases was an idiot. For reference, my office is in a class A building in the heart of downtown and we pay $38 per square foot. Of course, I am an excellent negotiator. Perhaps the DC gov’t doesn’t have access to my kind of skillz. ;)
    2. Comparing the cost of residential space to office space is moronic.
    3. Durable surfaces? We’re going to blame the obviously padded rents on the need for formica??
    4. What can be done? I’ll sign the recall petition. Or something.

    • Anonymous

      True Class A space in DC typically goes for ~$65/square foot. You’re getting a killer deal.

    • AA

      Answer #4) Write your councilmembers. The chairman, the at large. Everyone. Tell them this stinks. Tell them you support shelters (I assume you do).
      The more noise this gets the harder it will be to pass.
      (FWIW I support the shelters, the proposed locations, etc. I DO NOT support the price tag)

  • DCresident99

    And where are our council members who are supposed to scrutinize the mayor’s actions, but instead rubber stamped all this without asking any tough questions. I’m looking at your Brianne Nadeau.

  • tR

    The City Council hearing that began today at 10:30 is still going on at 4pm and will continue for many more hours. It is obvious that we need a housing plan for the homeless. But this is not the right plan. The Mayor was incompetent in developing it in the dark and shoving down the throats of taxpayers. Everyone needs to call their Council member and oppose the cost. Advocate a new plan that uses DC properties and lower cost leases, etc. The Council appears interested in the cost but is feeling pressure to support the plan because advocates are urging approval. Unfortunately the plan need scrutiny and redrafting.

  • PTR

    Members and staff of the DC Council’s office have privately been freaking out about the terrible terms that the Bowser Campaign negotiated. In an attempt to keep the terms quiet and announce all the deals before any public opposition could build, the mayor gave huge concessions to developers. Even the DC Council was unaware of the terms at the announcement. The council had to pressure the Mayors office to release the Letters of Intent details. Now to avoid the public ridicule and backlash from both NIMBY people and budget hawks, the Mayor “submitted legislation to exempt the leases from the safeguards that are typical in city procurement laws. – WaPo 3.15.16”. So in the end, Mayor Bowser is trying to cure government neglect with government overspending. Her politically motivated 8-Ward solution, despite being good publicity, is an unrealistic pipe dream that is going to create an inefficient mess. Yes, by all means we need to close DC General as fast as possible and find a solution for all homeless persons, but supporting corrupt practices and overspending to the tune of tens or hundreds of millions is not the best way to do it.

    • Zora

      OMFG. As others have suggested, it’s a fantastically repugnant combination of corruption and incompetence (though I suspect much more of the former than the latter).

    • WTF?!?!

      Does anyone know the name of the legislation to exempt the leases from procurement safeguards? Is there a way to get a copy? In light of today’s revelations, this looks really, really bad.

  • C_petworth

    Find your council member and send her/ him an email!

  • Ward4

    I live a couple blocks from the proposed Ward 4 shelter and this is so infuriating.

    To make it worse, our councilmember, who is supposed to be advocating for us at the hearing, has spent his day socializing and schmoozing at the White House for St. Patrick’s day.

    People, we have to stop voting for the same corruption, incompetence and cronyism!

  • uglybetty00

    The problem is all the outrage (which i share) is for naught. Even with Mendo timidly concerned about the cost, and Grosso pointing out ward one is ridiculous, the emergency legislation only needs 9 votes, so it is a done deal.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Write to the Attorney General and ask for a full investigation into the lease agreements. If the Council won’t be a good steward of public funds, then perhaps the legal system will be.

  • smn-dc

    Yesterday 90+ people took time off work to go plead with the city on this important issue and the Mayor ‘Bowser (D) made a rare appearance at the hearing to listen to members’ opening remarks, but she showed little reaction and left without speaking. ‘
    Enough said. The plan is moving regardless of what we all think.

  • in-SW

    If you’re concerned, write a short note to your city council… we did (below) and got a response (below).
    Dear Council member Charles Allen,
    As a DC resident and tax payer to the City, we want most for the City to use its resources and money as wisely and be forward thinking/long term as possible. Also as private real estate investors and who’s extended families are also real estate investors, we know the meaning of and value real estate and owning real estate. When the Mayor and the City announce initiative to rent land from developers for the proposed seven shelters thought out the city, we were very surprised as to why the City would LEASE instead of making use of land it currently owns? And after the 15 yrs leases, they City or the owner of the land has the right to back out or continue forward and lease more. It seems very short sighted of the city to make this decision to lease. If you run the numbers of building, and than leasing each of these seven properties, is it really the wisest route for the city to take financially? What is in it for the developers of these land? It seems like they will have the better end of the deal.
    This past Monday March14th evening we attended the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Community Meeting on 4th ST SW. If any of your staff were present, they would have taken away these points as we did: We accept the Mayor’s initiative to build a homeless shelter s in every ward–and that SW was selected as one. No one in the meeting room oppose this very important initiative to help families in need. As SW residents we accept this but want to be in the process and want to make it succeed for the city and for the families who will be living there temporary.
    We wish for you to carry two messages to the Mayor & other higher ups:
    1. At this meeting, other locations in SW currently owned by the city were proposed. We strongly ask the city to look into land it currently owns and look at these alternatives. Leasing is NOT a wise investment for the city.
    2. Another concern many had at the meeting was ensuring the design of the rooms were sufficient and safe for the families who would be living there. We strongly recommend each room/family suite has its own self contained bathrooms.
    As SW residents, we are accepting that a homeless shelter will go in our immediate neighborhood, but let’s make it a wise investment for the city and a most safe environment for these families. Thank you for your attention.
    Very truly,

    ==============Our city council’s quick response to our email on Wed. evening —
    Thanks for your feedback on this proposal. Like you, I have several questions that I’m trying to get answered, and will continue working with our ANC Commissioners and neighbors. I’ve submitted a detailed set of questions to the Mayor’s team about the proposal and the Ward 6 site. We will also be holding a hearing at the Council on Thursday, March 17th to get more information from the Mayor’s team. I imagine we’ll also hear from neighbors both in support and opposition. I’ll also be sure to take your two points below into the questions for the Mayor’s team.
    Thanks for taking the time to let me know your thoughts,
    Charles Allen

  • Sir Spicious

    It is likely impossible for the city to buy any of these properties. It would need to either a)get a huge appropriation from Congress or b)do a bond issuance. Since we’re near our debt cap you can’t do b) and a)won’t happen and even if it could it would take too long, so the City enters into leases.

    Even at that, when you discount the $266M cash flows that the City is going to lay out over 25 years, you get to something in the neighborhood of $150M in present value. Maybe still too much, but much different than the scare tactic headline number.

    • Concerned Citizen

      How about we dip into our $2 billion reserve fund?

    • in-SW

      Why can’t the city just use land it already OWNS? In SW & NE, I know these communities’ already made several new proposed sites in their ward that are OWNED by the CITY. Will the Mayor listen to these alternative suggestions from the community?

    • facts

      actually you don’t discount that amount because the contract includes inflation adjustments. The inflation adjustments mean that you should measure the present value of the cost as the actual dollar amounts currently stated.

  • Brightwoodian

    We have to take this to the next obvious conclusion. And that is, if we can’t trust the districts government to negotiate in our best interests with these leases, how can we trust them to run these shelters effectively? Also at 300 million couldn’t we knock down St Elizabeths and build a first rate shelter there?

  • BrokenRecord

    Broken record: 1) DC General is terrible and needs to be shut down, therefore 2) one shelter in each ward, 3) should they have individual or shared bathrooms, and 4) if you question any of this, your either cruel, NYMBY or both.

    #1 and #4 above provide Bowser with the power to write a blank check with our taxes, work out the details with her richest constituents (and international travel buddies) in a closed room, and demand immediate sign off from us.

    #2 Was the 8-ward concept ever approved? I can find tentative approval for 6 shelters of unknown location in the 2015 discussions, but this 8 ward concept seems like a recent political statement by Bowser and her council members. Paying for one in each ward forces you to help less homeless people, based on cost and availability. A better plan would be to look to the perimeter of the city near metro lines; that would save money and get these families near green space and not so close to bars, strip clubs and concrete.

    #2 is even more stupid in a few years when the ward boundaries will be redrawn (1 to 2 years after Bowser’s shelters are supposed to open); they’re arbitrary geopolitical lines that change with the census.

    #3… I get it. everybody is entitled to their own bathroom. Well… not really! Sometimes in life you don’t get your own bathroom. However, this tickles Bowser’s rich developer friends, who are psyched to build condo style units with individual bathrooms, because Bowser plans to give them the buildings and land (f’in6 ridic.), so they’ll be able to sell with greater ease.

    #4 seems to excuse Bowser from considering site selection criteria: proximity to green space? Have we seen any behavioral or livability criteria, specific to homeless families? Oh but wait, Bowser’s rich friends were consulted… They probably all have social science degrees and expert knowledge on behavioral health of homeless people and shelter site selection. And if successful shelters are scattered throughout the city, then everywhere must be okay… no?

    • Anonymous

      Actually, in Ward 3, there are common-use bathrooms and shower facilities on each floor, and also two (shared) family bathrooms with a tub, one on the third floor and one on the fourth.
      Agree, though, with most of these observations.

  • andy2

    So there will be a massive kickback on the front end for developer friends of Muriel, what about the back end?
    I imagine that when DC General is re-developed Douglas Development is going to get a bigger payout in that deal.

    Can we get Anthony Williams back?

    • Brightwoodian

      A little late for a response but +10000000000000000 on Anthony Williams. Heck, I’d settle for Fenty over Bowser….


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