June 2011 Archives

I tried clearing up the deal with the compliance form I got from the DC Housing Finance Agency (HFA).  I blogged about the problem a few days ago. Anyway, I called the number on the letter I got and did get a call back, after a couple of messages. My sympathies go out to the woman on the other end. She's trying to get compliance from program participants with apparently little to no enforcement powers. Because HUD requires HFA to send out these letters and forms, I'm gonna get a form, regardless of the fact I did not receive extra funds, outside an awesomely low interest rate loan, nor signed up for 15 years.

Apparently in HFA's system, they are under the impression I got downpayment assistance. Nope. I stated that I looked in the paperwork I kept and I did not see a thing about that, and I did not receive money from DC HFA. She said I was the second person to say that. Um, maybe that's a hint that HFA has some faulty data. I was told to look at my HUD settlement statement. Later that day I did. Under the amounts paid by borrower, yes, I wrote the check for the earnest money deposit and the home inspector out of my own account. I now have to figure out where my bank statements are (if I had not already shredded them) from 10 years ago so I can see the withdrawal from my account for the cashiers check I brought to the closing table.

The woman on the other end did ask very nicely that I comply because it would help the program out. I guess I make for a good data point being I've stayed in my home for 10 years, in a target area. However, on principal I don't want to partake in a lie. I did not take funds from DC HFA. I remember it was hard enough to get the woman who was processing the loan to get a move on, trying to squeeze something extra wouldn't have been worth the headache. If DC HFA has it in their system that people got thousands of dollars, who didn't get thousands of dollars, then they've got a problem.

Stairs in window

On the second floor in the window on the left there are some stairs in the window. Now I figure what will possibly happen is that the window will be bricked off, which will make the front unbalanced and ugly. Or they will keep the window, which over time with use will accumulate dirt and dust bunnies because I don't see how that window will get cleaned.

522 R St NW apparently is being turned into condos. That's what the big red and white sign outside says anyways. This corner building was gutted and the trash tailer that sat on R was there for a while. I wonder what the plans looked like when they were submitted to DCRA, did they factor in the window? 

Making a Deal with the Housing Devil

| No Comments
Hopefully tomorrow this will be straightened out, but in the meantime, I'm mad.

Today I got in the mail a letter from the DC Housing Finance Agency wanting to know if I still occupied my home to make sure I was still complying in regards to my agreement to take H.O.M.E. funds.  I signed those papers 10 years ago and believed my obligation to DC HFA and to stay put ended this year. The letter said my obligation to occupy the home was 15 years. Oh, Hell no!
Also the paper I got, which is a form letter that doesn't even name me, says it is for the $10,000 Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance program. I did not get $10000 in down-payment assistance, nor will I act in any way that says I did.
What I got was a subsidized loan. It had a sweet interest rate. 3.75% which was great back when I bought the house. I got rid of that loan about 2 years ago when I refinanced. And I went into 2011 thinking my ties and obligations would sunset.
DC HFA currently offers a bond mortgage program AND downpayment assistance to qualified borrowers. I do not remember down payment assistance. I do remember saving money for one. I also remember writing the $1000 check out of my own funds for the earnest money deposit. Looking through the paperwork I saved regarding the purchase of my home, I looked for stuff with DC HFA's name on it. I don't see nothing about me being on the hook for 15 years.  It vaguely looks like 10 with some complicated math formula that doesn't seem to make sense regarding the recapure tax that I'd owe if I sold the house after so many years of residing here, which does not go beyond year 9. So I was shocked and pissed when I saw 15 in the letter I got today.
The DC government has a lot of great  1st time homebuyer programs, but several of them come with strings, sticky strings. If you're going for the bond mortgage loan, or the HPAP (which I remember my housing counselor warning me against) read the paperwork carefully. You're making a deal with the housing devil.

Problem Property 1.2 mill

| 2 Comments

Whitewash

This is on the corner of 7th and Q Sts NW. It has been an eyesore for who knows how long.

According to the Long and Foster website it can be yours for $1,200,000 if you have that plus the money to fix it laying about. The Long adn Foster site has a nice drawing of the fictional view of the place. That drawing has glass windows, and no crazy old guys sitting on milk crates. 

Also noticed 1126 9th NW going for 6.8 mill.

Events around a play about gentrification

| No Comments

I got a very long PR email about Woolly Mammoth's programming around their production of Clybourne Park. It's chock full of stuff so I'm pairing the release down to the post play events I find interesting:

( Washington, DC) Last year, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's production of Clybourne Park launched the theatre's connectivity initiative, which aims to bring uniquely designed audiences to each production to expand and deepen the conversation engendered by the play. Events around Clybourne Park included widespread online conversation around the show-- initiated by neighborhood bloggers--as well as Audience Exchanges and Mammoth Forums with DC community members.

 

Following the momentum of last year's intense conversations related to race and gentrification in DC, Woolly has programmed an unprecedented schedule of special guests including journalists, city leaders, artists, professors, and local business owners to spark post-show discussions with audience members. There will be a post-show activity scheduled for every performance during the run of Clybourne Park from July 21 - August 14, 2011. All post-show events are free, and attendance at the performance prior to a post-show activity is not required.

Clybourne Park has received national and international awards recognition, including playwright Bruce Norris' 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as the 2011 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, and the 2011 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Play and Outstanding Director.

 

In the 1950's, a white community in Chicago splinters over the black family about to move into their neighborhood. Fast forward to present day: as we climb through the looking glass of Lorraine Hansberry's classic A Raisin in the Sun, the same house now represents very different demographics. Neighbors pitch a horrifying yet hilarious battle over territory and legacy that reveals how far our ideas about race and gentrification have evolved--or have they?

Post-Show Schedule:

 

·         Thursday, July 21st following the 8pm performance

Audience Exchange featuring David Hilfiker, author of Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen and founder of Joseph's House.

·         Saturday, July 23rd following the 3pm performance

Artistic Forum featuring Danny Harris, writer and photographer, People's District.

·         Sunday, July 24th following the 2pm performance

Audience Exchange featuring Howell S. Baum, professor at the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and author of Brown in Baltimore; School Desegregation and the Limits of Liberalism.

·         Wednesday, July 27th following the 8pm performance

Audience Exchange, featuring Erricka Bridgeford, Director of Training at Community Mediation Maryland.

·         Sunday, July 31st following the 3pm performance

Mammoth Forum "Media as Storyteller" featuring:

o        Lydia DePillis, author of "Housing Complex" blog for the Washington City Paper.

o        Shani Hilton, author of Confessions of a Black Gentrifier.

·         Thursday, August 4th following the 8pm performance

Audience Exchange, featuring Elhae Izadi reporter for WAMU's DCentric.

·         Friday, August 5th following the 8pm performance

Audience Exchange, featuring Sylvia Robinson, General Manager of Emergence Community Arts Collective.

·         Saturday, August 6th following the 3pm performance

Artistic Forum featuring Tendani Mpulubusi, documentary filmmaker (Barry Farm: Past and Present).

·         Sunday, August 7th following the 3pm performance

Mammoth Forum "Gentrification is..." featuring:

o        Justin Maher, PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Maryland .

o        Edward Jones, long-time resident of Bloomingdale neighborhood.

·         Wednesday, August 10th following the 8pm performance

Audience Exchange, featuring Anu Yadev, artist and activist.

·         Sunday, August 14th following the 3pm performance

Mammoth Forum "What do you work for?" featuring:

o        John Chambers, Founder and Chief Executive Gardener of BloomBars.

o        Acacia Salatti, Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

For a full list of events and more information see http://www.woollymammoth.net/performances/show_clybourne_park_2011.php#ev

Marauding hordes of teens

| 2 Comments
This happened while I was at church so it's second hand but I believe the source completely. Yesterday we had our Tater Tots and Mojitos party in the middle of the afternoon, and I left, my husband, "the Help" in charge so the party could go on, even though it was supposed to end, and left for church. When I came back, the party was over and the Help told me of the excitement I missed.
While I was gone, 20 teenagers were in the middle of the road and on the sidewalk, blocking traffic and blowing off firecrackers. A neighbor on that side of the road came out and yelled at them to stop. Then she went back into her house and grabbed her dog. Upon seeing the dog they scattered a bit, running as if the dog frightened them. Then they came on our side of the road and on our sidewalk. The Help was watching them and they continued to horse around. When the horseplay wandered into one of our neighbor's yards, the Help came out yelled at them telling them they should take their firecrackers and leave. He then followed it by saying he was calling the cops and had his cell phone out and pressed some buttons. They then left. At least one teen said, "please don't call the cops."
My only criticism of the Help was that he should have used the house cordless phone, just in case these were the cell phone stealing kind of teens. Also the the house phone is a land line, our address should show up for the dispatcher.
Yes, July 4th is getting nearer.

Robert Hannah

| 2 Comments

This blog ate an entry.

I lost an earlier version of this entry so this is the short and skinny.

In 2008 Tony Hunter, a gay man,  died as a result of the beating received from Robert Hannah. Hannah was first charged with voluntary manslaughter, but plead guilty to simple assault with a 180 day max.

He's been arrested again.

Carrots

| No Comments

Carrots

For the first time I've been able to actually grow carrots.

These are baby carrot sized. They were later sacrificed for a chicken dish.

My growing technique this time around was get a huge pot. This is a plastic pot someone discarded that has duct tape holding it together and a black plastic contractor bag lining it. It's filled with a mix of compost, dirt from Home Depot, and old dirt from other pots. Then I threw a boatload of carrot seeds in. When I say threw, I mean threw. The seeds were sold as the easy to grow kind. Since I failed before with carrots and some other root vegetables, I needed easy. Then a covering of mulch to keep the tree of heaven seeds out. I thinned out the seedlings over time by throwing the carrot-tops into salads and as they got bigger, soups and stocks, or if I wasn't in the mood, the compost. I check to see if the carrots left have enough room to grow. These pictured looked like they were crowding out some other carrots and so I pulled them.

In the front yard, I was pretty much fed up with the parsley that went to seed and pulled it out so it can dry and maybe I can get some usable seeds. I also pulled off parts of the seedy parts of sage plant. These things were getting big. Pulled out more pea plants to collect the seed to use next year. I need relatives to come by and pick up some turnip greens, one of the plants near the door keeps hitting my leg, and those leaves are sharp.

The yard is an edible front yard. If you want to see some edible front yards, there will be an edible garden tour, for other people's yards. The thing about an edible yard is you have to eat from it. Herbs flourish the more you take cuttings from them. Thinnings need to happen and it is best if those puttings and thinnings wind up in someone's belly. And then there is trying to get dinner plans in sync with the garden. The garden is saying pick the arugula before it bolts again and the leaves become more stalky. Salad options are limited to purslane and lambs ears as the sweet leaves of early spring salad are hard, tough and bitter, and going to seed.

I meant to take a picture but after dinner I was too tired and too angry and frustrated with a bit of technology (my computer is 5+ years old and showing it's age) to do the post dinner stroll down to the 900-1000 block of Rhode Island Ave NW. A building attached to the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA that has looked vacant and unused since before I lived in Shaw (11 years) has had part of it's front shaved off. This gives me hope as it is one of those buildings that seemed to have resisted any improvement during the housing and development boom years.

UPDATE- Mr. ReNew Shaw has more information and drawings.

Relative crime issue

| 2 Comments
We're back. The Help and I were off in the mountains discovering the joys of a shallow river while my cousin house sat for us. Sadly, my cousin's car got broken into. For some odd reason someone broke into her hoopdie, POS car and stole her crappy nearly non-working radio. We discovered this upon our return because the reception out in the Shenandoah valley was complete crap and she didn't let the incident ruin her enjoyment of hanging out in the city. She normally resides with her parents in a far away suburban place she calls a housing farm. I am having trouble convincing her to file a report. I feel worse about it than she seems to. 

Progress of Gentrification

| 3 Comments

The Editor of the BaancBlog mentioned something interesting:

The gentrification of Logan Circle began in the 70's and the gentrification of the Blagden Alley and Naylor Court environs began in earnest in the early 80's. That doesn't mean population increase, but the renovation of (often abandoned) housing. With the accompanying decline in drug dealing and murder in the territory, it became safe to build the available zoning envelope. That is, a lot of condos and multi-unit rentals. That's the population spike relative to the rest of DC. That's mostly over.

Back when I was researching buying a house, 10 years ago, I looked at how gentrification moved. I can't remember if it was "Upscaling Downtown: Stalled Gentrification in Washington DC" by Brett Williams or another book (I read a lot) that noted the flows of gentrification and what stalled it. From where I was sitting at the time the flow was going from Dupont, into Logan, and heading east, but how far east, who knew.

Also I realized as, the Editor has pointed out, gentrification can be slow. Logan's gentrification began in the 70s, say late 70s and it's now 30 years past. 30 years, that's older than some of you reading this. 10 years ago when I moved out of my 12th and Rhode Island Ave apartment near Logan Circle, there were only homeless guys hanging out in the circle. That's changed. There is stuff that hasn't changed. That red wood blighted eye-sore on the 1400 blk of 11th was a blighted eye-sore 11 years ago. It survived gentrification, the real estate boom, and unless the city or the owners do something, it may still be a red wood eye-sore in the next 10 years. There are other vacant and abandoned houses just off 9th, which also managed not to get touched during the great housing boom. However, around these eye-sores are some pretty nice houses and businesses that slowly, over the past 30-20-10-5 years have come up. But lower on 9th, near Blagden Alley and Naylor Court the cool businesses are surrounded by vacant store fronts and bordered by a fortress known as the Convention Center. Housing is nice around there though.

The gentrification that is occuring east of 9th is slow. Near the Convention Center I'd say it is about 20, getting to 30 years old. Over here in the TC? I don't know. There was a slow change in the past 10 years. Turnover has favored those who want to be homeowners, and when those homeowners decide to become landlords they tend to rent to people of the same class. There are still plenty of people in the TC who were here over 10-20+ years ago, homeowners, folks in the co-op, and renters with landlords who haven't bothered selling or improving the place enough to justify a price hike. The old-timers.

In the next 10-20 years who knows what will happen in the TC as there is much more room for improvement and change. Maybe something will happen with Slater, Langston, and Cook. Who knows what impact the change with MM Washington into Senior housing will have in the area around S.O.M.E. Maybe commerical pressure from NoMa will leap on to North Cap and it becomes attractive to business, or not. Maybe Joe Mamo will do something with his lot on the corner of FL and N. Cap that the neighborhood approves of, spurring development near by. Maybe something will get built at NJ and P. Maybe, something will happen with various vacant and underused properties in the TC, changing the place for the better.

Gah, it's haawt

| No Comments

I want to garden. I did garden and then I ran back inside the house where I have the A/C going down to 78F. Normally we have it at 80F, but the heat made me crazy and I turned it down. Even with getting the PEPCO bill, which I thought was a little high ($121) I kept the temperature low. I also forgot to call the aunt as we are to check on elderly relatives. She has A/C and cable, she isn't going anywhere, and if she does, her car has A/C.

I'm not too worried about the plants in the ground. The plants in pots need attention. I've got some green tomatoes on some plants, flowers on the beans, flowers on the eggplant, the purslane and lambs quarters are doing fine and then I ran back inside. All the pots, except the window boxes, got water.

Oh summer gardening is gonna be fun.

I forget which local station went a looking for outraged Ward 5 voters and found none, but instead got a wait and see attitude. Also the charges are in a civil suit, not criminal charges so, yeah. So even if found guilty, he isn't going anywhere and there is no point in making enemies in this one party town. To note it was Tim Day (along with the DC GOP), requested the US Attorney investigate CM Harry Thomas Jr back in October. Day ran against Thomas for the Ward 5 seat as a Republican.
Then there is there is 'innocent until proven guilty.' Unfortunately there is a strong culture of sloppy bookkeeping among local DC groups, and hopefully maybe this will inspire scores of DC non-profits that do things for 'our young people' (apparently you're not supposed to look too close if it's for youth) or whatever to clean up their finances.
This is a one party town, it came from a Republican request, and the fact that this is just a civil (not criminal) suit hints at a lack of enthusiasm in pursuing this. Thomas isn't going anywhere, even if the charges are true, and there are still projects and other work to be done in Ward 5, so any moral outrage right now is premature and pointless.
As far as the crayola gang of local political scandal with Barry flava crystals, I am reminded of something said (I think) during the Cromwellian period of England's history, the angels have better things to do than to involve themselves in the affairs of government or politics.

Last night I got an email from the BACA prez regarding the redistricting process. BACA (Bates Area Civic Assoc covering northern TC) is in Ward 5, Harry Thomas Jr's ward. Early on I thought that maybe central Shaw (CCCA area) would join the TC to roughly bring more of the historical borders of Shaw together. The email says the following:

Dear Neighbors, during our meeting tonight, we discussed the proposal of the Redistricting Committee to have Shaw come into Ward 5. This action would have huge positive implications to our neighborhood. I encourage you to email the Council Members listed below to have your voices heard. Time is of the essence, as the Council is set to vote on this matter quickly as the final boundaries must be completed by July 14.

I missed the meeting as the Help and I had a social engagement, so I can only imagine how this came about. Seeing the fight the folks west of NJ Ave have had with their Ward 2 CM Jack Evans and the fight to go to Ward 6 and keep the chimney stack (notably the southern part of Truxton, but in the MVSQ Historic District) in Ward 6, um, I'd hate to undermine their efforts. There appears to be a great practical attachment to the idea of going to CM Tommy Wells, and no mention of any thought of going to Ward 5's Harry Thomas.

So I wonder how much dialogue has there been between the persons pushing for the change on either side of the border.

Priced for a quick sale

| No Comments
1622-1624 4thST
This is an old photo as the red house, not for sale, has been painted and the white house, which is for sale, has been painted white. 1622 4th St NW is for sale for the low low friggin low price of $165,000. If the seller isn't aiming for a quick sale I'm not sure what his motivation is. The question is how many days will it stay on the market for before an investor snaps it up.
It says it is livable, but this thing is a gut job. From what little I know, there has been minimal maintenance on the property. The paint job came from a developer of the adjoining house who realized the peeling paint was making his job of selling his house harder. It once had a wood picket fence, but it deteriorated.
Seriously, even for a gut job this is cheap. It is in NW. Within 10-15 minutes walk from a metro. Houses on that side of the block (of similar size but better quality) have sold in the $300-$400K range.

Which address is this?

| 3 Comments

IMG_0590.JPG

I also post ocassionally at the Vacant Properties blog and I thought I captured the house address, but this got cut off. It is on the 1500 block of 3rd Street NW. This is not 1530 3rd Street which has a big open unsecure window and is taxed at the vacant-blighted rate. This is a few doors down and if I'm not mistaken there is one house sandwiched between these two homes. I belive this mystery address is vacant because of the yard. People of 3rd Street, is this vacant or something else? 

Thoughts on Georgetown and student housing

| No Comments

On the surface this falls under none of my business, since it is in another neighborhood and I am no longer landlording in DC. But there are some things that bug me about the city's demands for Georgetown U to house all of its students.

Here's my background, for 4.5 years I was an undergrad (2 of those years in campus dorms, .5 in a off campus co-op dorm) and 4 years as a grad student (2 of those years in dorms). Also for one semester I had a GU grad student as a tenant in my Truxton Circle home. The selling point was the G2 bus stop nearby, which would drop her off at the GU gates, eventhough the house was clearly not in Georgetown. As a person who was a college student for 8.5 years and a person who doesn't care for living in student ghettos, I gotta say people (who just happen to be students) need more options than dorms and student ghettos, which seem to be the only two options.

First, there has to be some accomodation for people whose lives don't fit for dorms. Part-timers, non-traditional aged, people living with relatives, people with children and partners/spouses, and the like just can't be stuffed in dorms. Where do distance learning students fit in this model?

Second, yes, unlike UMCP, American, and Catholic, Georgetown doesn't have a metro stop, but it does have transportation links that should be exploited. I had a student stay with me and she used the G2. The G2 hits Dupont, Shaw/Logan/TC, Bloomingdale and Ledroit and stops right at the gates of Georgetown University. Around 1995, during the brief time my cousin Bry was at Georgetown he lived somewhere in Maryland or Virginia, parked his car at my apartment in Rosslyn and he grabbed a shuttle bus that took him over the bridge to Georgetown. But even good transit doesn't mean peace and quiet as for some UMCP students rioting (not a loud party but a riot) is an option, which sadly taints the whole school. And as I remember there where problems with bad student group houses near Catholic too.

Third, the city can do a better job on cracking down on over crowded houses if over crowding is the problem. Stranglely enough we have overcrowded houses over here and the problem people aren't college kids. They are people who come in and out of houses who neighbors know are living there but when they finally get some authority to look into it, no that person isn't living there they are just "visiting". Yes, the citizens of Georgetown should have peace and quiet as the citizens of Shaw or Bloomingdale or anywhere else in the city should have peace and quiet.

TC offends Reston Man

| No Comments
I've had very little contact or experience with the area known as Reston. My last trip there, we got lost, had issues with tolls, and a problem when when we desperately  needed some saline Sunday at 9pm and found the main commercial corridors shut down.  So my experience with Reston is of a spread out, pedestrian unfriendly place that shuts down at 9. I could be wrong. I really don't spend a lot of time on the other side of the Potomac, particularly places beyond metro rail, so what do I know.
This is about the response to the article about the TC (Truxton Circle) in the Where We Live area of the Real estate section. Which from some of the residents seemed positive enough, acknowledging the crime (yes w/ 2 shootings in one week, hard to ignore), but also acknowledging progress.
In the Free For All this morning Mr. Glenn Kamber, a citizen of Reston and a member of the Fairfax-Fall Church Community Services Board, wrote that he found the article disconcerting. He railed against NIMBYism (for us it is NMIMBY- No MORE in my back yard) and the usual gentrification cries of displacement of black people, shorthand for poor black people. And I don't know what he's talking about regarding displaced Latinos in the TC, this isn't Ward 1, African Americans are still the dominant ethnic group in the TC, but you know all those DC urban areas look alike.
In regards to social services, let me illustrate something that you might not get out in Fairfax County. If I step outside onto my top stair landing I can see two places that serve the homeless. One is a church whose aid is most visible on one day, another is run by a suburban Virginia church that serves during the week, sometimes on the weekend. If I step further out about 6 feet from my front door and squint (I need new glasses) I can see another place that I highly suspect is a social service. If I walk about 250 feet from my front door there are a few other properties that are used for temporary housing and services. And I'm in the least problematic area of the TC. Also in the past year we were informed by a study that our commercial strip is pretty much doomed to be a wasteland because of the concentration of social services, which is why the cool stuff like BBC and Beau Thai (and maybe the firehouse) is near the TC but not in the TC.
Okay let's talk race, more accurately ethnicity but according to DC rules, 'race'. In the last census most of the TC was 62% Black, yes this is down from 92% from 2000, but way more diverse than parts of NoVa. Playing with the Post's Census Date Map  I see when I flick around Tyson's Corner the 80some percent of whites went down to 70 and 50 something percent apparently displaced by Asians. The percentage of Latinos in the TC hasn't been high, in the west part of the TC it jumped from 2.8% in 2000 to 6.8% in 2010, eastern sticking around the 8 something percent. And the Latino convert a school into primarily housing project is too complicated with a whole historic narrative to go into here. Just know that adjacent to that project at MM Washington, the plans for low-mid income housing for seniors is chugging along. If the example of Golden Rule Plaza is what we can expect, then that portion of the neighborhood will remain African American as GR seems to lack diversity.

Banana Chips, arugula, purslane, and peas

| No Comments

Banana chipsPeas are done. Done. I pulled up the plants and put some of them in the compost to add some nitrogen. Ones that still had something got blanched and thrown in the freezer.

Last night, I made a salad with some arugula (despite the fact that the Help doesn't like it), lamb's quarters, a small bit of salad greens and purslane. Oh, I love purslane, however there isn't enough growing in my yard. I also gave my neighbor a handful of arugula after I tried to wash most of the slugs and dirt off. My those greens are spicy!

Also last night I took some bananas getting ripe on the counter and threw them in a dehydrator we got. This morning banana chips, 100% banana, no added sugar. They were crispy but not rock hard like the ones you can buy. I threw them in some multigrain hot cereal, yum. Wish I had some honey from my suburban friend's bees to go with it.