City Paper Widget

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

CORRECTED: 2724 11th Street: "It's Children Living Next to Rat Traps"

CORRECTION: An email from a neighbor of 2724 11th Street notes: "The owner's hardship petition has been default approved until the appeal process gets before a judge, so the 31.5% rent increase went into effect on Sept. 1, 2014." I was unaware the higher rents were already in effect. Apologies for the error.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street spent about an hour of its October 2 meeting listening to tenants and neighbors of 2724 11th Street NW tell of how the building is unpleasant to live near and nightmarish to live in. On October 5, tenants and neighbors had a well-attended event at the property to bring attention to their situation.

From the Twitter feed of Brianne Nadeau on October 5
The ANC voted unanimously to send a letter objecting to a proposed 31% rent increase for this rent-controlled building. Those asking for the rent increase have allowed the building to fall into an advanced state of disrepair during a half century of ownership. They have recently received approval of a "hardship petition" that would allows them to raise rents by 31 percent. This would may force many of the tenants out of the building. The approval is being appealed.

The ANC voted unanimously to send a letter to the body hearing the appeal, noting that the ANC objects to the rent increase.

Change of heart on the zoning variance

A vote to endorse a zoning variance for the same building was originally on the agenda for the meeting, but it was removed at the last minute when the owners did not produce revised plans it had promised in a timely manner. The zoning variance, if approved, will allow the owners to turn unoccupied basement space into new apartments, the rents of which will start at least at near-market rates. The proposed renovation would also compel current tenants above the basement level either to leave the property temporarily or deal with even more unpleasant conditions.

The Design Review Committee of ANC1B narrowly endorsed a request for zoning relief for 2724 11th Street at its September 15 meeting -- see SALM blog post of September 17. The approval was on the condition that the applicants provide revised drawings to the full ANC at the October 2 meeting.

It was reported that two of the committee members found out about conditions in the building after the vote and wished to rescind their approval. ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09), while sympathetic to the desire to express disapproval of the conditions of the building, said: "They can't do that."

However, ANC1B Design Review Committee chair Leila Winston, who had reluctantly voted to endorse the voting request at the Design Review Committee meeting, urged the committee not to ratify the committee's endorsement

ANC hears about the building conditions

The ANC listened to tenants of the buildings. All of the tenants who testified were immigrants.

"It's like a slum," said one tenant, telling of chronic rat problems and unresponsive service. "Yesterday I had to kill a rat with a trap."

Several testifying tenants felt more comfortable in Spanish. They brought a translator to make their statements, but ended up answering questions posed directly by Spanish-speaking Commissioners -- Ricardo Reinoso (district 05), Juan Lopez (07), and Marc Ranslem (08).

One Spanish speaker reported living on the property since 1996. The conditions had recently gotten worse, the tenant reported, after the landlord had started, and then abandoned, unauthorized and unlicensed renovations to the basement of the building.

Another Spanish-speaker said: "They have been ordered to do repairs but haven't."

Several neighbors also testified. One testified she had lived in the neighborhood for years but first visited 2724 11th Street 6 or 7 months ago. She reported that children lived in terrible conditions there, and tenants had to buy new mattresses every three months due to chronic bedbug infestation.

"It's not just the financial immorality," she said. "It's children living next to rat traps."

Another neighbor said the building was "breeding rats and dead bugs" and called upon the ANC to reject the zoning request.

"This request is symptomatic of the management's desire to skirt the law," the neighbor said.

Yet another neighbor reported fly-covered dead rats caused at least in part by the owners' inability to maintain adequate trash collection. The DC health department gave the management company violations, the neighbor said, which led to the placement of some rat traps. The same neighbor reported a fire department inspection that turned up "seven to nine" violations, including missing or non-working smoke detectors. There also had been a leaking fuel tank in the basement.

Sunday rally at the property

Bishop Budde addresses the tenants
At the October 2 meeting, tenants and neighbors invited Commissioners to a Sunday afternoon barbeque at the property on October 5. I was unable to attend but an organizer says that 70 people attended the event, including Bishop Marian Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington attended. She was given a tour of the building and spoke in support of the tenants.

ANC1B Commissioners Lopez, Turner, and E. Gail Anderson Holness (district 11) attended the event. The property is in Turner's ANC district.

Brianne Nadeau, Democratic Nominee for the Ward 1 Seat on the DC City Council, and Khalid Pitts, Candidate for DC City Council At Large, attended and posted messages of support for the tenants on Twitter.

Photos of the rally, as well as photo documenting the condition of the building, can be seen at the Facebook page of the group Save 2724 11th Street. The group also has an online petition.

ANC1B's Design Review Committee will probably take up this matter again at its next meeting, scheduled for Monday, October 20, at 6:30pm, at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street). The next scheduled meeting of the full ANC is Thursday, November 6, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets)

(Lower photo credit: Amal Mimish, used with permission)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a great description of the issues at this building and of the two events (ANC meeting and rally/cookout).

    One small correction/addendum--in addition to Khalid Pitts and Brianne Nadeau, some other candidates for Council were there as well. At-large candidate Rev. Graylan Hagler spoke at the beginning of the program and tweeted about the event. At-large candidate Eugene Puryear also attended and tweeted about it. And I'm told that at-large candidate Elissa Silverman attended as well, though I didn't see anything from her on social media about it.