House Touring

Well I decided to try to gain some perspective and instead of just going around Shaw, LeDroit Park and Eckington complaining about open houses, I went around other parts of DC looking at open houses. I decided to look at a few homes in well established, non-gentrifying, been done gentrified decades ago neighborhoods of Historic Capitol Hill (as opposed to that other Capitol Hill that runs all the way to RFK) and Georgetown. I tried looking at homes in the general $600K range that I had seen some Shaw homes advertised for, but with Georgetown, $600K is rock bottom cheap.
First home I looked at was a Georgetown home at 1634 33rd St, which is a 2 bedroom 1.5 bath priced at $799K. I have a 2 bedroom 1.5 bath, I wanted to compare. Nice house and it presented well. It still looked occupied and it was very nicely decorated and very clean. The painted glass was a little cheesy but from a distance looked nice. Screw it, you’re paying to live in Georgetown, close to the expensive stores and cool restaurants. The house was very nice. It looked like a friend’s house. Nothing wrong with it. Nothing glaring. I could imagine it looks much nicer in Spring with the flowers out.
I grabbed the 30something bus and went to Capitol Hill and got off around Eastern Market. That is a nice neighborhood. Now Capitol Hill as I know and remember has some good spots and it has some not so good spots and this can vary from block to block. When I mean not so good in the Historic Capitol Hill area, I’m talking dark streets and blocks that give off a bad vibe, particularly at night. In the day, it is all good. I envied the Hill people for having restaurants, with wait service, and outdoor cafes, parks, argh!!!
Anywho, looked at 540 7th St SE a 3 bedroom 2.5 bath going for $699,900. It had a funky setup with an office like area on the bottom first level and the living quarters upstairs. This house also showed very well. The paint job was new and well done. The fireplaces were going, the house was clean and had a minimal amount of furniture but didn’t look empty. The french doors sparkled, the patio was neat, the various colors of the wall and wainscoting worked well. It was a very nice house. And the location couldn’t be beat being not that far from the metro.
A few steps away at 625 South Carolina Avenue SE I entered the house that time forgot. A house trapped in the past. And that past was the Ford administration. At $659K this 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath with unfinished basement wasn’t a bad house, it showed as well as a house of it’s decor could show and I bet it was a shining jewel back in 1975, but it could use some updating. The addition on the back gave me some ideas and looked okay, but overall, it cried to be updated. In general it looked like a decently maintained house. Like the Georgetown house the main attraction is that you are not far from the Capitol, parks, museums, a bunch of cafes… good stuff.
I came back on the 90 bus and good Lord, I hate the 90 bus. Men drinking malt liquor in brown paper bags, and a guy selling DVDs (yes on the bus) who sat down next to me, pulled out a bunch of pungent smelling BBQ chicken wings and chowed down while mumbling and cursing. I hate the 90 bus.
In Shaw I quickly visited 1726 4th St, NW, a 2 bedroom 2 bath on the corner of 4th and Florida going for $429K. Now with the perspective gained from looking at the other houses I have to say…. still a little bit overpriced. I will say it showed well, like the Georgetown house (not as well as the best Cap Hill house) being clean and accenting the positives of the occupied house. I will cut this house some slack as it has one of those big, almost big enough to be a room, hallways on the second floor, and the agent was kinda guapo and friendly. But location, location, location. This doesn’t have what the other neighborhoods have and that is some sort of stability and services that are in the here and now. Prices here in this part of Shaw are banking on what could be.
So today’s lesson is clean the house top to bottom before selling, making sure all contracting work is done, and if the house is occupied go for the minimalist look. It also helps when the layouts make sense, the bedrooms (or any other rooms in the house) don’t look cramp, and the design and feel is livable.

Thai Food

Well I guess it was good I missed the 90 bus, sort of. Because it gave me a chance to notice this sign on the sidewalk of Florida Avenue (400 or 500 block).
Ohmygawd, ohmygawd, ohmygawd! THAI FOOD! Now they aren’t open. Well they didn’t seem open when I passed.
All I ask for are a few things:

1. Have one good dish, & let it be Pad Thai
2. Be fully running by Easter ’cause I kinda gave up carbs for Lent and it would be so great if I could have almost in Truxton Circle pad thai on Easter
3. Have a veggie version of pad thai and the Shrimp version
4. Post hours of operation and keep to them so I know when it is too late for pad thai

Larb gai would be nice too, but I’d settle for decent pad thai.

The Alley

Last night I heard a ruckus in the alley behind the house. The yelling and loud vocal expressions for a brief moment made me think that prostitution had made its way back into the alley. So I turned on the back porch light and moved upstairs to observe what I could from the 2nd floor window. The noise continued and I could see movement, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Then I saw him. A kid, about 8-12 years old, ran partway up the alley then hid himself in an alcove between the fences holding a fat long stick like a rifle. His further movements reminded me of footage of American soldiers in Iraq fighting in urban settings. Listening a bit more clearly I could hear the voices of another boy. What were they playing? Cops and robbers? GIs and insurgents? Some live action version of one of those shoot em up games? I was happy that it wasn’t what I thought it was, but then, it was late, it was dark, and those kids should be in the house.
The alley behind the house has improved a lot since I moved in. When I first came, there was prostitution (there is no consensus among neighbors if it’s gone or not) and a big dumping problem. HUGE dumping problem. I once caught a guy dumping plumbing pipe in the open yard of a vacant house, and he was so emboldened he gave me attitude. When the owners of vacant property would finally clean their yards, it wouldn’t be too long before something else got dumped in the yard, starting the whole process over again. What didn’t fit in the yard, overflowed into the alley. Old appliances, trash bags of clothes, building materials, you name it was dumped in our alley. Recently, that has all changed. First, it helped that almost everyone now has their backyard fenced in. There are no obvious spaces when dumping. Second, several of the vacant houses are in the process of being fixed up, so their yards aren’t attracting foreign trash, just their own. Then, the trees have been trimmed away making the alley more light and allowing light from the alley light to brighten the alley. Lastly, last year the alley was repaved, so it looks nicer.

Crime and environment

The City Comfort’s Blog has a post or two on crime and neighborhood design. Well that’s how my little non-design brain interpreted the postings. But City Comfort’s posting as well as something briefly mentioned at the Mt. Vernon Square meeting had me thinking about the Shaw envirnonment and crime.
It was such a big help when the city finally got around to trimming the trees on our block. I realized the difference when calling 311 about the everso present gang of kids, who mind you did not live on any of the adjoining blocks. From my 2nd floor window I could only see about a few doors down because of the tree branches, and couldn’t get a description of the hangerouts. After the trimming I could see further down the block and accurately tell the operator what was going on when I called later about a domestic dispute playing itself out.

Mt. Vernon Square Neighborhood Association Meeting

Well last night I went to the Mt. Vernon neighborhood meeting. It is good to see another neighborhood’s meeting. Meetings that only meet for an hour rock. I wish all meetings, not just neighborhood meetings, were just an hour. There was venting and information exchange in 1 hour. Amazing.
Mt. Vernon seems to have different problems than Bates. We both have drug dealing problems, but we have a little less prostitution. Not a major complaint at our meetings, open air drug markets, property getting shot, people getting shot, that’s our thing, I haven’t heard any complaints of prostitution lately (knock on wood). We both have homeless issues, but my sketchy memory tells me that we (Bates/Truxton) have had people working with and talking to the agencies that serve the homeless who come through and hang out. Mt. Vernon might not have volunteer agreements with the businesses that sell alcohol. Y’all need volunteer agreements. The report being passed around about which businesses had licenses, definitions of terms, the ABC process, and what not looked good.
Anyway, 1 hour meetings good.

Kelsey Gardens Update

According to today’s Washington Post… The apartment complex over on 7th between P & Q Sts has been given a stay of execution with a judge ordering the owner to allow the tenants to try to buy the property. I don’t know or remember if the tenants are working with anyone to get financing but time will tell if they can remain in their homes or if they get kicked to the curb to make way for more condos no one can afford.

Please note that the webmistress of InShaw is a prude and she has hairtrigger mood swings when it comes to certain profane words being used in the comments. So I hearby disallow comments on this post, because it’s my friggin blog and I can decide what stays or goes.

Life and veggies

The miracle of life is amazing. I mean I put this seed in this mix of dead sawdust and whatnot and water it, and a few days later, life springs forth!
The life of which I speak is a pea seedlings that because they were outgrowing the seed starting plastic container and have been banished to the great outdoors that is the front yard. I have started some seedlings indoors for the hope of getting some decent veggies this year. Some will be new to me, like squash and peas. Some will be old favorites, thyme, dill, basil, tomatoes, and marigolds. Freaking out because the Old Farmers Almanac advised I plant peas in the 1st week of February, I started pea seedlings. Now I wonder if that wasn’t a mistake and I started too early with the peas.
The other seeds make me wonder if life will spring forth from them as well. Some marigold seeds have sprouted up and are doing their little sunlight dance. Leaning towards the window for the little bit of sun that comes through the window in the day. Then turning towards the grow lamp light that I bought for a picky and annoyingly expensive lemon meyer dwarf. The other seeds, the tomatoes particularly, have felt no rush to emerge and break the surface.
Last night I finally finished From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, which has been companion reading McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Container. Today, and this week, I hope to post-it note The Bountiful Container to quickly find the ideas for companion planting and growing advice for the handful of veggies and edible flowers I plan to grow this year. I’m excited.


Roses are red
Violets are blue
I like Shaw
How ’bout you?

I can’t come to say I love Shaw. Still so not happy about having crackheads on the block who leave their buddies out on the sidewalk with big bloody gashes in their heads.
And it is not as if I actually live in the chichi part of Shaw where I could casually wander over to the Starbucks or Caribou coffee or Sparky’s for hot water and a tea bag (I don’t drink coffee) to people watch on a Sunday morning before or after services. No I live in Truxton Circle and it comes with big pluses and minuses that take away from any love I have for the area, so that all I have is intense and meaningful ‘like’.
Off and on I love my block. I love the fact we have a handyman on the block and he is affordable. Not so happy that my jobs are an afterthought to his higher paying ones, but hey. Love that I have great neighbors. Not so happy with the other ones who decide to be the most ghetto a$$ negroes they can be. Sorta not so happy with Anglo neighbors who fortress themselves behind their doors and hardly wave hello, but I hardly see them so they are almost nonexistent…. Yes you Mr.SUV-don’t- speak to -no-one. Gad, would it kill you to wave hello back?
Location wise I really like my part of Shaw. It is on the green line so I can get to work. I can walk to the grocery store, unlike some people in Capitol Hill, poor babies. It is right on Route 1 and Rt 50 so I can get back and forth from the College Park, MD area and its surrounds real easy to see or be seen by friends and relatives. During certain parts of the day there is plenty of parking for those friends to leave their cars near my house. I have walked from Gallery Place/fake Chinatown and it’s many diversions on a bright sunny day. I have biked from my hood to Dupont and other parts of Downtown DC in 15 minutes or so. It is a good central location.
There have been brief flashes of love for my hood. Mainly when I lose things. Like my wallet and my Palm. They were returned to me by good people who found them on the street. But later something happens and I fall out of love with the area and settle into like.
It doesn’t help that I have flashes of jealousy concerning friends’ neighborhoods in other parts of town. I like some parts of College Park, MD. I also like parts of Alexandria and I miss North Arlington. Silver Spring has taken off lately and seems like a great neighborhood with a few decent grocery stores, bike paths, great public transit, and the AFI theater.
However, Shaw is my best bet. I need a central location. I need to be able to walk to things. I need to have a commute that isn’t bogged down by the red line always breaking down. I like Shaw. It’s good for me.

1611 New Jersey Ave

Price: $675,000
Bedrooms: 3
Bathroom: 2.5
Fireplaces: 4!
Basement: Yes, legal unit

Sorry no pics as the camera feature in the Palm decided that it didn’t want to work.
Well in the group of $600K houses this is the better one, even though it doesn’t have a backyard. I didn’t see any mold in the basement and there were some very neat features with intercoms and such. The thing that I really liked was the kitchen. There were cherry like (could have been real cherry whaddaikno) cabinets, granite countertops and a gas range. It was a thin kitchen but the lights looked really nice. Better yet, similar set up downstairs in the rental unit.
In the past the 1st floor front room might have been two rooms, because the current living space has 2 fireplaces. Corresponding upstairs there are two bedrooms with fireplaces as well. Fireplaces for everybody! Ok, well not the person who gets the back bedroom.
It was the back bedroom that really sucked. I went down this thin hallway the bedroom has expecting it to open out into this large master bedroom. Nope. It was a small bedroom with an ity bitty window. It left me asking, how the heck you get furniture back here? Does anyone ever ask that question when they remodel? Modern furniture big, no likey likey teeny tiny hallways. The same thing for the rental unit, with the sucky tiny 2.5 foot wide hallway leading back to the bedroom. A fair number of tight corners, but it’s a 19th century house and those the breaks.
The workmanship was fair. It wasn’t as bad as somethings I’ve seen but there were some minor faults. Some rested with what original things were kept with the house, and others were simply forgivable and fixable. There looked like an honest effort to make the house aesthetically pleasing, even if the goal wasn’t met.

BZA Application No. 17298 — re. 1507 4th Street, NW

via Jim Berry

Dear Residents of SMD 5C01,

I recently received notice of an application that has been filed before the Board of Zoning Adjustment concerning the above address. Specifically, the applicant wants the following:

“a variance from the lot occupancy requirements under section 403, a variance from the side yard requirements under section 405, a variance from the minimum lot area requirements under section 40l.1, a variance from the off-street parking requirements under sub-section 2101.1, to allow the conversion of an exiting apartment house from four (4) to six (6) units in the R-4 District at premises 1507 4th Street, NW (Square 521, Lot 835).”

In short, the applicant wants to convert this building into six condominium units, but requires a fair amount of consideration from the Board of Zoning Adjustment in order to do this. Like ANC 5C, residents who live within 200 feet of the site are required to receive notice in the mail about this application and are invited to make comments about the proposal, i.e., in support of or in opposition to. I plan to invite the applicant to the next meeting of the Bates Area Civic Association, Inc. (3/7/2005) to present his plans for this proposed development and the information that I receive their will likely best inform the recommendation I make to my colleagues on ANC 5C when the applicant is invited to appear before that body (most likely, on March 15, 2005). The actual BZA hearing of this application will take place on Tuesday, April 5, 2005, in Suite 220, 441 4th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001, between 1:00 p.m. and 6 :00 p.m.

In the meantime, I invite you to share any preliminary thoughts that you might have concerning the proposal for this location — whether it be comments, criticisms, questions or praise. Please know that I am particularly interested in hearing from those of you who live in closest proximity to the site.


Jim Berry