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“This is the story of what happens when development goes wrong and the District is unable to respond”

by Prince Of Petworth May 11, 2016 at 1:00 pm 44 Comments


This is a painful horse’s ass nominee, from ANC Rep Jonah Goodman, with it’s own website:

“Welcome to 414 Shepherd St

This is the story of what happens when development goes wrong and the District of Columbia is unable to respond. This is all happening right now at 414Shepherd Street, NW, Washington DC.

View the full Property Information Verification System Report (PIVS).

The current significant issues are:

Structural damage to both neighboring properties
Erosion under neighboring properties and in neighboring yards due to both lack of foundation and lack of soil retention
Standing water in the basement of the property
Large hole / hazard in the front yard only mitigated by one piece of caution tape
Health issues / concerns to pregant neighbor as children of neighbor
Open property in front and backyard used to dump trash
General neighborhood blight”

Read the full correspondence with DCRA here.

  • Curious George

    This guy Jonah is a saint. Mad props for all this followup. It takes time and determination.

    Much appreciated!

    • jonah

      Thanks. It is unfortunate that I have to do this to try to force some action from DCRA and DC Council’s oversight. I can’t imagine what the neighbors are going through.

      • Ross

        Agreed. ANC 4C10 is truly blessed to have Jonah representing us – he is a rockstar

        • Anon E Mous


    • textdoc

      +1. Props to Jonah and other ANC reps who put in a ton of time and energy on behalf of their constituents — in a job that’s not even paid.

  • K

    After all the rain the past week this property has got to be a noxious soupy mess. I am so sorry that people have to live near that.

    I am curious what the threshold for being considered an imminent threat to health and safety is. And if their is one what the city can do.

    • also anon

      I agree- what happens next? Assuming the developer is going to do nothing does the city fix up the property and sell it?

      • jonah

        DCRA can force the developer to abate certain dangerous elements. If they do not do it in a timely manner DCRA will contract out the fixes and charge the developer double the market rate. They can fix things like structural damage that is causing a hazardous situation, can fix a roof/gutter system that is damaging neighbors property, but not much more. For example DCRA currently has no plans to address the standing water in the basement or erosion. They did put up a fence in the front and backyard to at least keep people out of the property.

  • ANC

    So when are we finally going to declare a winner in the Horses Ass Awards? There are so many deserving nominees, and I’ve got my dress all picked out for the Horsies red carpet!

  • jonah

    OP here. Thanks for sharing. What is really sad about this is how little the District can do to stop this from happening next door to any of us or to force the developer to make it habitable. DCRA has known of the conditions of this property for months and didn’t respond to neighbors reports of violations and adjoining damage. It is up to neighbors to sue the developer, and attempt to find assets, for any compensation.

    • AERzondzinska

      When you say there’s so little DC “can” do, is that because the city lacks the regulations to respond vigorously–or it lacks the will? Or both?

      • textdoc

        I was wondering the same thing.

      • jonah

        Honestly both. DCRA could have stopped this early on by enforcing its multiple stop work orders. DCRA could have abated the lack of fence when they went on the property to board up the basement. There just needs to be balance between supporting communities and smart growth. Beyond that entities like Office of the DC Auditor can provide oversight of how well DCRA is operating (they are currently doing this but the scope of the report is unknown to me). And DC Council and the Mayor’s Office can certainly provide some urgency to either DCRA or other agencies around enforcement. As for lacking the regulations there are a few proposed bills stuck in DC Council committees that could provide relief to future instances. One has 10 of the 13 Councilmembers supporting it so it is perplexing why there are no plans for hearings or votes when it appears it has the votes to pass in some form.

  • anon

    i would hate to be pregnant and live next to a place like this when Zika hits DC in a few months

    • jonah

      This. It is a significant concern. Another family nearby has already had health related issues from the property. I don’t know the extent but I am told the owner had settled with the family over those costs. I also am hearing the owner may be out of money so any future costs to neighbors may be hard to recoup.

  • ET

    What makes the situation so difficult to resolve is the byzantine business structures of real estate LLCs (of course done on purpose). It impacts anyone from DCRA to citizens who need to deal with them (like that collapsed building of a few weeks ago).

  • HaileUnlikely

    Serious question, something I have wondered about for a while: If some faceless, nameless, ostensibly-penniless LLC causes damage to an adjoining property (worst-case scenario – adjacent property gets condemned and city forces its owners, i.e., regular people, to vacate), what happens next? Are the owners personally responsible for the damages? Is this something that a homeowner’s insurance policy would cover and then attempt to subrogate? Does this work differently if the owner has a mortgage and the bank has an interest in not allowing the property used to secure the loan be condemned?

    • 958

      I can think of two legal options: 1) get a judgment against the LLC after proving damages, then record the judgment as a lien with the recorder of deeds (if the LLC is the recorded property owner), then seek to enforce the judgment through a writ of fieri facias – which in this case means sale as there is no homestead exemption or other defense to sale for an investment property; and/or (2) sue the LLC and the human being operating it (if known), during discovery get the name of the insurer, add the insurer to the complaint through amendment (if insurance exists), then seek to enforce against the insurer for provable damages. Two roads to recovery, though both are possibly long and winding. I’ve done both to varying degrees of success.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I gather that this means that one’s own insurance company would not get involved here, and that the homeowners are on their own, correct?

        • LedroitTigah

          Thanks for asking this question, and to 958 for the response.

          This is terrifying. :(

          • textdoc

            Agreed. :(

  • petworthian

    really dc needs a fix before, not after, construction starts. perhaps require developers (or their insurers) to put up a bond which neighbors can then claim against in the event of damage to their property or abandonment of a project. you’d have to sort out the burden of proof and claims process, etc., but to do it after the fact really leaves litigation as the only option, which is cost and time prohibitive for most homeowners in all but the most egregious situations.

    • jonah

      There are some proposed bills like the B21-0689 – Homeowners Protection from Construction Damage Amendment Act of 2016 from CM Vincent Orange that might start addressing things like the bond comment. There is another the B21-0598 – Vacant Property Enforcement Amendment Act of 2016 that could let DC move to declare houses vacant and blighted faster and force more timely results. Both are in committee and under oversight of CM Orange who is the chair. I was told they won’t come up for discussion until June at the earliest if they do and no time table on when it may be voted out of the committee for the full Council to consider.


    • K

      Other jurisdictions have a fund similar to the one you describe. We were the victims of illegal flipping and discovered that if we lived in MD (the Guarantee Fund I believe) we could apply to a fund to help us with fixing the many and very costly problems with our house. Given the cost of buying houses and the shear volume of house flipping happening in the District it would only make sense for DC to have this type of fund. But no.

      • anon

        What is illegal flipping? Do you mean the flipper did shoddy work without the correct permits? Just curious.

  • anon

    Has the councilmember gotten involved? What are proposed solutions to the standing water – is the city short on design skills? Why on earth can they not fix that, it’s a structural deficiency that is leading to the standing water (lack of berm, drainage, etc.).

    • jonah

      CM Todd is aware and has been on email threads with myself and DCRA about this property. As are CM Orange and CM Silverman who have potential legislation to address parts of the underlying issues. CM Silverman’s office has been very responsive. I have not heard from CM Orange’s office since I started my ANC term back in March.

      The standing water I believe is a result of the plumbing being disconnected to lower the foundation in the basement. There are no proposed solutions I am aware of to fix this other than hope the developer finishes the house. It has sat in the current condition for several months and appears that there is no near term attempt to fix this from DCRA or the developer.

      • gotryit

        I think a good submersible pump would at least take out the standing water. Probably a few hundred dollars, but maybe within what a few neighbors could put together?

        • AngelaGirken

          I have one that cost less than $200 at Lowes and it works very well for my purposes. A small pump will take some time to move a large quantity of standing water initially but it is better than nothing and should be adequate for prevention of the problem recurring. In a perfect world the property owner would be responsible for this, but in our inperfect one I still have to think it would be worth it for any of the interested parties to buy a pump before risking a mosquito-born illness.

        • jonah

          The large hole in the front yard that was open to the basement has since been boarded up by DCRA to prevent someone accessing the space. When they boarded up the space they did not abate the standing water issues. If neighbors wanted to install their own pump they could not access the basement area to do so.

          • gotryit

            based on the levels of dysfunction described, I doubt that anyone breaking in to run a pump would be hassled… add a reciprocating saw or pry bar to your shopping list.

          • textdoc

            Gotryit — Yeah, but removing the boarding poses yet another obstacle/hassle for the neighbors, assuming they want to go to the trouble and expense of remediating a problem that the developer ought to have remediated himself.
            Not sure if this is the case here or if it was the case with the similar situation on Quincy, but I feel like I read about at least one case where the neighbors on both (?) sides were elderly and not well-to-do.

          • HaileUnlikely

            If this ever happens anywhere in my part of Takoma (I declare the polygon bounded by Aspen, Georgia, Blair, and Piney Branch “my part of Takoma”), and neighbors want to install a pump, I volunteer to handle the break-in.

          • jonah

            Textdoc that is the Quincy property where one is a senior and not able to do some of the repair or preventative work themselves.

  • DCRowRow

    And has DCRA taking the permit application information system down with no replacement helped this situation any? Would knowing an application was made and who applied for it have helped?


    You might also note that the property’s owner, Compass Solutions LLC and affiliated companies of “Anthony” Onyewuchi has been a DC Government contractor for IT and health care IT. You may want to see whether Compass’ ownership and management of that parcel runs afowl of DC’s “clean hands” policies.

  • If you read the list of “current significant issues” in a poetry slam voice, it makes excellent spoken word material.

    • Emmaleigh504

      What is up with poetry slam voice? Is is a requirement? It grates on my nerves.

  • Jan1234

    DCRA has the ability and authority to stop this type of reckless redevelopment – unfortunately, it takes something like this (bad publicity) to get them to move. This happened to me personally – contractor doing illegal/dangerous structural work next door (party wall). Only after dozens of emails with ccs to “Fox News” did DCRA take action. They were effective when they took action (sending crew of 10 inspectors), but they could have been just as effective if they sent 1 inspector when I started complaining months earlier. I don’t know how they (DCRA) can be forced to be responsive to complaints submitted to them by legitimately concerned DC citizens.

    • ratherbeskiing12

      Could we get in touch with you to learn more about how you got help? I am at 801 971 2836

  • TropicBird

    This is jusy one reason we got a detached house. No parti wall, fewer problems.

  • Tolu2

    DCRA Protection Now meeting Saturday May 14, 2016 at 1:00p.m.at the Northeast Library 330 7th St., N.E. DC20002
    This is a citywide problem that MUST BE CORRECTED BY MS BOWSER AND DCRA
    For more information call 202 331-4418

  • ratherbeskiing12

    A friend just sent me the link to this post because the EXACT SAME conditions are happening to the K&L Development property next door to us. I am pregnant, due in one month, and there’s a dangerous property next door that has:
    -standing water in the basement
    – erosion of our stairs and the neighbor’s lawn due to improper dig out w/o shoring
    – large hole in the front yard next to our stairs
    – loose sheeting and a general eyesore

    Construction is nowhere, due to contractor laziness and two stop work orders that have now been removed but the issues have not been addressed (their plans were approved to block our neighbor’s chimney).

    I want to know how to take legal action to block them from construction while I am on maternity leave. — home with a newborn and as brand new parents and with a dog that’s afraid of noise… — they could have been working on this for the past year and a half but had all these issues and now the noise may hit when we have a newborn. Jonah, can you be in touch? Anyone else? Would LOVE help and I’ll go back and thoroughly read all of your previous comments.


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