Bad neighbors begone!

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Jimbo noted one evening that I no longer write catty blog posts about neighborhood characters anymore. There are reasons for that, a main one being the people with serious problems either don't live here anymore or they are long term neighbors and well I gotta live with them. But fate was kind and removed some characters from the block, who I will call bad neighbors, and so I feel free to express.

Trash on sidewalk
'Cause they moved.

The Evil Landlord and the Stupid Young People deserved each other. After years of crackhead tenants the Evil Landlord put in some lovely students, mistreated them, and replaced them with the Stupid Young People.

The group of roommates got this title this winter when we had the big snowstorm. Our block is an awesome block, neighbors come out and shovel the sidewalks. These guys, did not do such a thing.  I could blame it on them being renters and there are others who aren't community minded. But what earned them the title was they managed to get their hulking SUV out onto the unplowed street, to ride around the block then on other separate trips looking for Red Bull. There was constant going in and out, spinning tires, rocking back and forth over snow/ice banks over and over again. All friggin day.

But what really made me want them out and gone was the fake pot. We have long term neighbors who smoke the skunky real pot and the chemically fake pot. Given a choice, the cheapo skunk pot is preferable. The Stupid Young People smoked the fake stuff, but if that wasn't bad enough, they shared the smell with the rest of the block. They would sit a box fan in the window facing the street and blow the fake pot smell out to the sidewalk.

According to other neighbors they were annoyingly loud in the rear yard. They never cranked up the music, which is bound to have a neighbor call the cops. But they would talk loudly, late at night.

So when we saw them moving furniture out a few of us rejoiced. However the Evil Landlord is bound to get more misfit tenants. Yet over time the tenants have gotten better. About a decade ago there were the crackheads who left their friend for dead on the sidewalk. Then there were the crackhead parents, who were at least trying to do right. For a brief moment there were some normal people, but they were replaced by the Stupid Young People. Since the rental screams crappy cheap rathole, maybe we might get more students or people heading downward on the social ladder. I'm hoping for a loner misanthrope who only smokes Camels.

1420 4th St NW - Don't trust, verify

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First off, I want to write that it is up to the residents of square 553W (1400 blk of NJ, 3rd and 300 block of P & O Streets) to care more about this than me. I don't live on that block, it isn't my rear yard parking that is at risk. And for those of you who have skinny funky alleys that you use regularly use, let this be a cautionary tale.
Behind 1420 3rd St NWAt yesterday's ANC 5E05 meeting at the Dunbar High School, there were a few residents in attendance who, I gather live on square 553W. They were angry and frustrated. A new infill property at 1420 4th St NW was causing problems. The construction is not finished, but they wanted DDOT (the agency at the meeting) to do something about a pole in the alley, but it became clear that the pole was not the worst of the problem. Apparently residents have been trying to deal with the city for 14 months. The DDOT people said something about yards had encroached upon the alley. I, Scott Roberts and Jonathan Rogers have been twittering about the issue since the meeting.

After the meeting Scott and I wandered over to see what the fuss was about. The front just looks like new construction near a super skinny alley, however when you wander down the alley and look in the rear, that's when you see what the big deal is. In short, it's f'ed up, if a car is parked behind 1420 no one else is getting their car down the alley. I'm not totally sure what is wrong. It sort of looks like the property is at 100% FAR (everyone should be at 60%) and the parking pad looks like it juts into the alley.

So today I decided to look into how this came to be. I blogged about this in fill back in April and July of 2012, and even then no one seemed to care. I looked at the video segment of the BZA hearing and related material. I'm not going to say that the photographs and the drawings lie, but they are very inaccurate and they leave important details out. There are also other little easy to miss problems with the application. No one opposed the application, as noted in the BZA video, and the BZA let the lack of real communication with the then ANC slide, so it was approved.

I only care because a) I feel badly for the residents who now see they have a problem and b) it makes people like me who try to do right and follow the rules feel like suckers. When I had my addition put on, I paid $1,500 for surveyors to come out to survey my property. There is no such certified survey in 1420's BZA application that I can see. Without such a thing, any developer can make up crap, photograph things 'just so',  as long as no one from the neighborhood calls them on it.

The submitted drawings show that the alley from 3rd St is 10 feet wide. I decided to verify that with my little laser measure/ cat toy. The cat toy says it is 9'10" near the front and 9'7" in the rear. Don't trust, verify.
Width of an Alley

Do Not Vote for Thorpe

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Just don't.
I have no idea who else is running in the ANC 6E-02 race on the other side of New Jersey Avenue and I pray that the vote isn't split, but do not vote for that man.

There used to be a site up but now it only lives on's Wayback Machine, here. The last update was sometime in 2010 and the site went down around 2014-2015. It went into more detail of why residents shouldn't vote for him.
Walking around last week I saw a number of new Thorpe signs, so once again he keeps trying to get his old seat back. I'm not too worried. Even if he wins his old seat the demographics have changed enough that I really don't think he'd be able to keep the seat for longer than a term, once the electorate are reminded of what a demagogic, homophobic, misogynistic jerk he is.
So, vote this November 8th for someone who isn't a meanie.

Turrets are cool

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R and 4th NWSo at this week's BACA (almost every 1st Monday of the month at Mt. Sinai) meeting the development team for 319 R St NW came to connect with the community about their project. Good start, maybe it will make up for failing to take care of the weeds that got overgrown on the property while they owned it.

They had diagrams of their plans and maybe those may show up later on the BACA blog should they submit them. They need zoning variances for a few things, such as building a little bit beyond their envelope, a proposed penthouse on top of a 3rd floor addition, and they want to remove the turret.

They had pictures of the 1700 block of 4th Street and the 200 block of R Street to show differences. Yes, the 1700 block of 4th doesn't have turrets. That's probably because it was built in the 19th century and the houses on the 300 block of R are from the early 20th century. Also the houses on the odd side of the 300 block of R Street are Harry Wardman houses. Yes, authentic Wardman houses, look it up. The 200 block of R? I have no idea.

I'd would like it if they kept the turret. Turrets are cool. Truxton Circle doesn't have as many turrets as Bloomingdale, but the ones we do have, I like. The one's Bloomingdale has lost stay ugly. You get used to it, like a blemish, but it is still ugly.

Now I know some of you are saying, "if you were in a historic district...." I spit on your historic districting. I don't care about the kinds of windows or doors they are putting in the places there are spaces for windows and doors. I don't care that they are putting an entrance on 4th St and adding a parking pad (don't know how that will impact access for others into the alley). I don't care about the paint colors or roofing material. I do care about the rooftop deck area with a penthouse as I am concerned about noise. I'm worried about the loss of the turret. More importantly, I'm fearful that breaking it up and adding the ugly by removing the turret would doom the property to the horrid fate of the adjoining vacant buildings, which are defunct condos.

Besides the turret there were a few other things that bugged me. As far as I know the Korean Presbyterians never had hundreds of people lined up outside of their mission house at 319 R. They may have had dozens, at most, and people hanging out, but never hundreds. Even the 7th day Adventists on 4th St with their Sunday soup kitchen never had hundreds. The other thing they mentioned was that they reached out to neighbors. Well the neighbors across the street missed that outreach or it wasn't clear. It isn't entirely clear that the residents who live on the same block and in view of the project were adequately reached.   

Spoiled by DC History- Mari does Baltimore

Baltimore 1901 Vol 1.jpg
So you may have seen my somewhat out of date site where you can find maps of the NW Truxton Circle neighborhood dating back to 1887 and census information for every resident who lived in the TC from 1888 to 1940.
Silly me figured this could be replicated for another large city. I tried doing what I did for the TC to do a house history for a tiny property I bought in Baltimore*. So I headed to the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. They pointed me towards resources they had copies of but I realized the University of Maryland...... College Park back in the DC Metro area had what I needed.
I hoped there would be something on the UMCP Library Catalog. Somethings are digitized, and a lot of stuff isn't. They've got digitized maps, but none of them are the ones I wanted or had the detail I needed. So I had to make a trip up the green line.
Since I have a personal connection at UMCP (got my MLS there) I was able to talk to the librarian who was the architecture/land expert in the Maryland Room. He grabbed a bunch of atlases and we looked for one that captured the street where my property sat, with an outline of my property. We were able to find what I needed in the Sanborn 1901 insurance map atlas.
I was disappointed because the property dated to the 19th Century and I could not find a detailed map going back that far showing my property. If I found detailed maps that outlined buildings, they did not cover my area. When I found my area, it lacked detail.
DC has spoiled me. The DC Public Library and the Library of Congress has free plat maps showing properties. Even map sellers who sell online have their own digital copies of the District going back to the 1870s.
Even looking at the census has been disappointing. I did find residents in 1940. However, looking in previous censuses using Dr. Steven Morse's Census tool for large cities, I haven't found anyone prior to 1940, yet.
It is possible the house was a company property used to house workers. I'll have to dig into the land records to confirm this. The librarian who helped me earlier suggested I do that, but at the time I wanted to concentrate on maps. If it was housing for workers, the interesting story (and easier one) is the relationship the company had with its workers, Baltimore as an industrial city, and not the individuals who happened to rest their head in my house.

*Don't be impressed. You too could buy a property in West Baltimore that needs (lots of) work for a mere $7,500. The cost of fixing it up is way more than the place would be worth.

Florida Market/ Union Market

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Union Terminal Market

So we ventured over to Union Market last weekend. It has been a while since I've spent any quality time at the market, and when I say the market, I mean the raggedy international part, not the clean cool hipster part. I blame my marriage. I no longer harbor the desire to wake up early and bike over to pick up possibly CAFO meat and veggies in various states. When I used it, the market, Florida Market/ Union Market was a treasure. Now I treasure sleeping in with my beloved.

So I hear there are efforts to preserve Union Market, but that's preserving buildings, not history.

I remember the old building, before the fire, that now houses a bunch of eateries, and a butcher or two. The vibe is 180degrees different that what was there before. The clientele is different. The types of shops are different. The building, sort of the same, but with nicer bathrooms. So if that is a guide, even if the buildings are "preserved" and rehabbed to HPRB standards, the new tenants would have to be the kind that can afford that kind of preservation.

And that preservation will have a 21st century accent. Above is a photo is (I'd been searching for it for a while) of an outdoor stand in the Union Market area at Neal Pl & 5th St NE. There are other pictures, I have yet to run those down. That image, is never coming back and never going to get resurrected in any living form. It seems the authorities of that time had a problem with it then. Thing I love about pictures, you can see the trash in the street, the weeds around the abandoned police box, and the shoddiness of the structure. It de-romanticizes the past. Preserved history (if you ignore the brutalist structures) tends to be the pretty stuff or prettied up for the eyes of the people of the present. 

I've mourned the loss already. Sort of like a great-aunt who has dementia and a zillion heath issues. You know the end will come, and the woman you knew is gone, just got to wait on G-d to finish the job.
The picture is of RI Ave NW and 7th Street. You see the large building in the background, then Shaw School, for which the neighborhood is named after, now the Asbury Dwellings. There is an Esso gas station, where now stands a 7-11. There is a traffic island on Rhode Island, and there was a traffic island then. The buildings on RI Ave between 7th and 8th Street look pretty unchanged. Comparing it with Google Streetview, get rid of the Esso sign, add the odd mural, change some paint, and clutter the traffic island with signage, and you have the same scene.IMG_3517.jpg
This week I saw two opposing messages on email lists regarding neighborhoods. On the Historic Washington Yahoo Group "Customized Zoning to Protect Neighborhood Character " vs on several neighborhood Yahoo Groups "Better Planning in DC". The one on customized zoning appears to be an effort on residents of Chevy Chase and similar areas to resist the trend of greater density to keep a vague thing called "character" through zoning. On the other side are a retired dude from the ACLU who I think wants more "affordable" housing and inclusionary residential zoning. The inclusive zoning, calls for affordable housing and the like is a normal thing in Shaw, so I ignored it. But the "Neighborhood Character" thing is bugging the crap out of me.

For one what the heck is neighborhood character and why should the government preserve it? If I were of a certain mind, I'd think some people believe the character they are trying to preserve is that of older upper income white people. I know that's a demographic, not a zoning thing. But make new buildings and the repair of old buildings expensive you can exclude the poor by making residences unaffordable. You can continue to make them unaffordable by limiting density, making every square foot more precious. I totally get why present day residents want to keep out possible future residents. No one wants to have a tall apartment or condo building spring up on their block so new tenants can gaze down into their backyard. A thriving city needs a lot of things people don't want to live near and it is unfair to force poorer and middle class neighborhoods to bear those burdens.

But I digress.

Let's return the the 700 block of Rhode Island Ave NW. It is in the Shaw Historic District and I guess the only character preserved are the buildings, as the block shown here, possibly circa 1968 is not the same as the 700 blk of RI Ave NW 2016. The demographics have changed. The rents have changed. The amenities have changed. The crime has changed. The housing quality has changed. City services have changed. Traffic has changed. Parking, despite various churches, has and is changing. Those houses are probably less dense with DINKs and singletons, replacing the Greatest Generation families and their Baby Boomer kids. The school that inadequately educated those kids (Shameful Shaw) now house them as senior citizens. The buildings have remained the same but the character has definitely changed.

Going on a anti-Maryland rant

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John Cook School Girl doorI have a problem with Maryland (and Virginia) residents using DC resources that are meant for DC residents, particularly schools. So it warmed my little heart when a few weeks ago when I read that the Attorney General Karl Racine's office fined a Maryland couple over $500K for having their kids in DCPS (DC Public Schools). I was so happy to see that I sent his office a letter thanking them and saying it is a good start as there are many more people doing the same. I have witnessed way too many Maryland license plates dropping off kids at KIPP to believe there aren't hundreds of more Maryland kids denying DC kids spots at DC Public and Charter schools. Before the Washington Post story another news outlet actually followed parents back to Maryland, proving what I suspected.

There is this attitude of Marylanders regarding DC which grates at me. There are Marylanders who used to live in DC and now live in Maryland and people who do things in DC (go to church, work, etc) and live in Maryland who have certain attitudes towards DC and her CURRENT residents. One is parking. Marylanders, including the ones I'm related to and love, believe they should have free parking, because they always had free parking and plenty of it. Other problem are city services meant for DC residents, this ranges from schools to homeless and other services. A while back the Washington Post ran a feature on some families at DC General. One of those families was living in Maryland before landing at DC General. If your last residence was in Maryland, then maybe Maryland should help you. I have been around long enough and met enough of the right people to believe that there are people collecting DC welfare payments while actually living in Maryland.

Part of DC government shares the blame. But what should I expect when a lot of people who operate DC government, the workers who do the business of the government that is supposed to serve DC, live in Maryland? I get that people move around and qualified applicants are more likely found outside DC. Fine but something needs to balance out the non-DC resident nature of DC government or else you'll have weird stuff like what happened less than a decade ago when a job fair sponsored by DC government  (DOES) was held in a Maryland suburb.

Maybe my problem is Marylanders', particularly those in PG County, sense of entitlement to DC. Once I was chatting with a friend who lives in PG and he mentioned, "Our mayor." I thought he was talking about the mayor of his itty bitty suburban town, but no he was talking about the Mayor of Washington, DC. I went to 'gently' correct him.

Okay, I've vented. Now I will suggest curing this with love. Lovingly remind people who were born in DC but left in the 80s that they are not guaranteed a parking spot, and parking is not awarded based on seniority. Besides, there is not enough on street parking for current, let alone former residents. Lovingly press the needs of Home Rule and real representation in Congress. With love, remind them that maybe they should take the metro instead of driving and yes, WMATA should have dedicated funding from Maryland. Love. I'll try to remember that the next time I see a vehicle with Maryland tags blow through a red light.

Plans of men

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So this 7-28-16DDOT.JPG
is from a handout given out at the yesterday's special meeting Bradley A Thomas had arranged with DDOT. These are just design proposals. Nothing is happening any time soon, and folks in Eckington might have something to say about the proposals on their side of North Cap.

Anyway, I and later others noticed the part about closing off the ramp/turn off, whatever you call it, that drivers use to peel off from North Capitol coming south to get on to Florida Ave NW going northwest. That corner is owned by Joe Mamo. Joe Mamo has been proposing to do something with that corner, currently an empty lot, for over a decade. If DDOT does close off that bit of roadway and claims the corner lot where the ugly people hangout then I know that screws with whatever plan Mamo had.

I have very little sympathy for Mr. Mamo because he has taken too long to do whatever he plans to do. If he were Jamal Douglas (a big developer in DC) nothing happening would just be Jamal being Jamal and getting to projects when he's good and ready. But Mamo is just slow. Back in 2005 I posted about a project he proposed for his lot. He had a whole development posse with him, with pictures and plans. This meeting was so long ago the people I mentioned in my meeting notes have moved away.

So fast forward to 2011 and on the BACA blog there is a drawing of what the proposed building Joe Mamo wanted to build. There is even a schedule. Construction was supposed to start in 2014.

Most recently in the history of this slowly going nowhere project, someone voted to support extending Mamo's PUD, again.

DDOT's plans may provide an excuse to keep this lot a lot for another decade.

Instead of complaining more, I'm just going to make Joe Mamo jokes because you hear the name and think "Yo Mama".

Joe Mamo so slow watching paint dry was too fast for him.
Joe Mamo so slow he's running to catch the purple line in Maryland.
Joe Mamo so slow he makes dead snails laugh.

If you find a person on the sidewalk, call 911

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So the other week I was heading to work when I spotted a person laying down on the sidewalk. This was unusual because the area was all residential, it was the morning, and people do not lay down in that spot ever.

I wasn't the only one to spot the person to spot the person on the sidewalk. Some youngish dude saw her, and hesitantly halfway crossed the street as I crossed towards the person. We walked over the person and I grumply mumbled something about calling 911. And I called 911.

I explained to the dispatcher there was a person on the sidewalk. The person was unresponsive to verbal and (after a neighbor nudged --gently kicked-- the person's feet) physical cues. I was unsure of the person's gender or their age, I guessed late 40s early 50s..... I dunno.

The dispatcher asked if I wanted the police. NO. If a person is knocked out or out of it, I tend to think it is a health care issue not a law enforcement issue.

At one point there were 4 of us standing around the person, two of my neighbors and the youngish dude. Then as a firetruck was making its way to us, the young guy left, as well as one of my neighbors. I stood around for probably 30 seconds after the EMTs(?) hopped out of the truck and headed to work. The whole thing took 8 minutes of my time and I made it to the metro in time to see the young dude on the platform.

I tend to ignore people on the sidewalk in other places, places where I expect to see homeless or wayward people sleeping in public. I won't ignore them if it looks like they've placed themselves in danger, like laying in the street.

I'm not perfect. There have been times when I second guessed my level of involvement and wondered if someone was worse off if I had not just walked by or if I was just a bit more insistent.

It's a city. You will have many encounters with strangers and many tests to your character.

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