June 2013 Archives

Decade in Review-Gentrification or Turnover

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I realized I haven't reviewed a theme of this blog, gentrification. There are a few ways to define 'gentrification'. One fairly benign definition is that of demographic change, and looking at the history of the Truxton Circle area before the word "gentrification" ever appeared, there was change. Neighborhoods change, there are plenty of places in the US that used to be Italian neighborhoods, Jewish neighborhoods and the like that are no longer. And those places before they became a Irish-Catholic or such neighborhood were something else. Change happens. There is another definition of gentrification as displacement. Displacement is a negative word, with images of people being pushed or pressured out to be replaced (in the case of gentrification) by a higher income, usually called wealthy, set of people. Being in this neighborhood, I favor the first definition, as change, it's just now, we're paying attention.

In 2009 I had two posts, Turnover part 1 and Turnover part 2, looking at sales data from the DC.gov's DC Citizen Atlas. The map I showed looked at sales between 1999 and Nov 16, 2009 on the block represented by red stars, showing a lot of ownership turnover. So I decided to review here.

Atlas Map.jpgThis map shows sales of properties in the north central TC between 2003 and 2013. The red stars are sales between 2.00 and 2 million dollars. The brown dots are non-taxable properties. Blue dots are taxable properties, so under those sold red stars should be a blue dot. The one green dot in this map shows the land is owned by the US Government. On another map, blue dots are DC government properties.

What the stars do not show is resident turnover. If a property is owned by a longtime landlord it does not show the parade of tenants he/she may have had within a ten year period, and renters are more likely to move around. Also it does not show if something was an investment property where the tenants were kept. It does happen. It is a sloppy measure of change, but the best one giving a visual and house by house view.

I decided to also to look at sales from 1999, which I think is the earliest the database goes (I put in 1970 just in case it went back further) to 12/31/2003. This period for me was just when the area, well the Truxton Circle area of Shaw, was begining to see rises, crazy seeming rises in prices. If you told me in 2003 that houses on my side of the block would sell for around 1/2 a million, I would have told you that you were insane. So the higher prices in sales are starting to arrive and with that expections/hopes from owners that rents may follow.

CITIZENMAP12-2003.jpgFor the 1999?-2003 map, here on the right, there are a lot of stars still, but only in certain spots. There are clusters of sales on the 300 block of R St, 1600 block of 4th St and a section of the unit block of P St NW. Yet a problem is this map probably does not show sales during this period that have also been sold in the 2004-2013 period. For example, a house is sold in 2002, and again in 2009 and again in 2012. There is a house on the 1500 block of 3rd Street that had lots of ownership turnover that is not showing up here. So what it is probably showing are those of us who bought between 1999-2003 and not sold.

So with all these properties getting bought and sold over a 10 and 4 year period, does this look like the gentrification ('cause the prices only go up) that is just change or the gentrification that is displacement? I know it is a sloppy tool, but it is what I have.

I had another DiR post about it already but there is new stuff. If I'm learning something from the Decade in Reviews, it is that projects, some projects have years of talk and no action, years, and then the stars align....BOOM cranes! Or a buncha guys in hard hats doin' stuff. So who knows maybe in a few years or another decade Mr. Mamo will actually get something built at Florida and North Capitol NW.

Who knows, there might actually be a real need for retail by the time that actually rolls around. Stuff changes year by year and maybe trends flowing down Florida Avenue from the west and NoMa from the east will meet up at North Capitol. According to the Washington Business Journal, Mamo's development LLC is, "proposing to add residential units, reduce the height of the building, halve the number of parking spaces and possibly convert the retail space to residential 'if it cannot be leased for retail uses.'" I think eliminating ground floor retail is bad for North Capitol Street. And fewer parking spaces is a really, really, really bad idea for everyone around.

Parking was an issue when Mamo first presented the idea to the BACA community around 2005. Now with the popularity of retail along 1st Street, heavier traffic along N. Cap and Florida (not to mention the Dave Thomas Traffic Circle of Hell down the road), and the incease of condos and basement apartments along Quincy, parking should be more of an issue. Yes, there is a metro station a few blocks down the road, however it requires crossing two roads of death, along with an intersection that screams for human blood. And most of the sidewalks from there to there aren't ADA/ general pedestrian friendly, or maybe that's just the unit block of FL Ave. Mamo shouldn't get a pass on parking.

Lastly, whenever the financing and other stars align and ground breaks, where the heck will the staging be? My commute to work has me going by several construction projects that have eaten up sidewalks and removed bus stops. I find it hard to imagine such a project, given the proposed size, not taking away the sidewalks along Florida and North Cap, even if DC Goverment let contruction crews take over the lot across the street. Whenever, if ever, this thing gets going residents and community leaders need to stay on top of this because there is so much that could go bad in the short and long term.

HT- Bloomingdale Blog


Decade in Review- O Street Progress

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In 2007 I wrote this about the Howard Theatre and the O Street Market:

Sadly, the Howard Theater is one of many projects I have heard plans for years ago. At least 2-3 years have passed since I've heard from the last person with plans. There were plans for the O Street Market back when it had a roof. There are plans for the Armstrong School over here in the TC and still nada. I know it takes time for these things to come to be and there are setbacks, but after hearing about plan after plan, I get jaded. I lose the faith and become a Doubting Thomas. I will not believe till I see scaffolding, construction crews working regularly, trucks blocking alleys, and other signs of the resurrection of place.
I know. Stuff happens, money needs to be raised, costs go up, permits are hard to come by, community groups must be met with, markets change and agreements must be had. However, after a certain amount of time, with very little visible progress, it is hard to keep believing and taking things on faith.

Well the Howard is now up and running with overpriced crab cakes (yes, I'm not letting that go) and the O Street Market is chugging along, due to be completed in November. But in 2007 I had heard about the plans and saw little action and was jaded about anything ever getting done. At the time the roof of the O Street Market had been blown off and it was this horrid looking shell next to a parking lot for a mediocre Giant where people with nothing else to do hung out. Now the people have moved on, possibly to the laundromat on 7th. The City Market at O blog, promises that we'll see more of the yoga woman and the soulful dog, I gather in place of the old wornout crowd that used to hang about.

Decade in Review: Flower Power

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Flower Power is this weekend.

As long as I can remember there has been a Flower Power and some years I volunteered to help. Each year seems to operate differently as a new set of neighbors, with a few maybe from previous FPs, plan and execute a Summer day where neighbors and other interested parties walk around and see the variety of gardens and spaces in the Bates Area (northern Truxton Circle). Some years, depending on if it was an election year, local VIPs show up and it is an opportunity to point out the good and bad (requesting assistance to address the bad) to the VIPs.

Hopefully if I'm well enough, I'll be able to do part of the walk. The only problem is this is a big neighborhood, when you're walking slowly with a crowd. And there are usually a lot of yards, with lots of categories for fairness. There are usually size categories, and so it gives you an opportunity and inspiration to look at other yards and get ideas, regardless of the size you might have.

When I first heard that former DC Councilman Micheal A. Brown was going to plead guilty for corruption I was home sick with a "mystery virus". It made a horrible day brighter, for me.

I never, ever, ever liked Michael A. Brown. Let's see with 2008 posts like "Michael Brown, I hate you," and "Michael A. Brown, G-damned Ahole" I haven't been shy about my feelings about him. In 2006, when I gather he (or possibly another Mike Brown) was going to suck up to the MD Sunday church parking vote, I really didn't have any feelings. But when he ran as a fake Independent, undermining the spirit of the law for non-Democrats, making robo-calls, littering the neighborhood, feelings, deep negative feelings welled up inside. If Councilman Marion Barry's constant re-elections made me shake my head, Brown's winning made me continue to shake. Thankfully, Brown wasn't re-elected.

I can't wait to see who else Ron Machen catches in his net of Justice.


Disclosure- I sit on a Federal Grand Jury, and if this did come before me, (which it did not) I would have recused myself.

Decade in Review: Neighbors change

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I was looking for another post but found the following posted July 22, 2003:

Pam, my next door neighbor has been saying she's going to sell/rent and move away for a while now. I saw her husband chatting with Sonny (evil, evil, evil African contractor) and I knew, they are serious about selling now. She wants more space, a yard for the kids to run around in, and she wants to get John, who is such a good kid, away from these bad chullun (children) who take advantage of John's goodness. Yup, no doubt, the kids around the neighborhood act like they have had no home training. Kwan, trouble finds that kid. I have had to pull him out of a fight and have observed him doing wrong. When I call him on it, he pulls the angelic act out and claim it wasn't him.

I hope they do not sell to an investor. I surely hope they don't rent it out to Section 8. I hope she doesn't rent it out, and hopefully she won't cause she was going off on Section 8 people, about how Drama Momma only pays $30 for rent, and how the children there misbehave.

Of course, the way things are going if she does sell it, most likely a white couple will move in. We have 6 white households on our side of the street already. One Hispanic family, one Howard University student group house with a range of minority students (if we become a student ghetto, I am soooo outta here), one bi-racial household (friends? Lovers? I have no clue), 1 African/Nigerian household (when he's in the country), and 8-9 African-American household, 2 of which are section 8. I love the diversity.

Pam and her husband did sell their house to my next door neighbors B & IT. I haven't really heard from or about her family since they moved to Maryland. Drama Momma also moved away. Mr. Rahman the Nigerian moved, selling his shell of a house to a developer. Kwan became a better kid, was very happy to go to KIPP. I haven't seen him lately, but his family still lives 'round the corner.

A number of people moved and were replaced by a new crop and some of them moved away, to be replaced by another set of neighbors. The neighbors of African decent have moved for various reason as far as I could tell, and the reasons can't all be pinned on the 'displacement' definition of gentrification. The Evil Landlady's house for many years rented to black families in crisis. Crisis is not known for stabilizing people and keeping them in one place. Crack makes it hard to remember that even though your rent is almost nothing due to subsidies, you still got to pay it. At other houses where I suspected they were Section 8 renters, the landlord had seemingly over extended his credit and lost the houses. Other houses, such as the Howard students, it was just part of people getting in and out of the landlording business, because in the end the property is just an investment. The housing market just made the option of selling what had been a rental, more attractive. Students, group house residents, and Section 8 renters are highly unlikely to buy the house they are renting when the landlord chooses to sell. Renters, and over 10 years most renters have been Afro-American, have little control over the matter of staying. Occupying owners, like Pam, Mr. Rahman, another guy who was a resident Realtor/flipper, and the guy who really lived in Baltimore (semi-occupying) sold when it suit them.

In ten years our side of the block has grown more racially diverse. We include South Asians, Asians, bi-racial group house and couples, a Latino family, black households and white households. Economically, possibly a little less diverse. As far as I can tell there are no more subsidized rentals on my side of the block and possibly none on the other, but not everyone needs to be on some public assistance. Our ranks include a teacher, a deli worker, many government workers, and a slew of people that I'm not sure what the hell they do. For I know them only in their relationship to me as a neighbor and not how much money they make or have in the bank.

Decade in Review: Weddings

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It's June. I know this because the AC is on and we just came back from a wedding. A very nice wedding in NC, and June is that time for weddings. So I'll write about mine.

In August 2010 I announced my engagement to the Help. We had been seriously platonic best friends for over a decade, dated for one year, and got married about 5-6 months later (we have two wedding dates and they are both real if you ask). I think that was this blog's introduction to the Help, even though he'd been in my life as my BFF. I hadn't really blogged about my friends too much, as the focus of the blog was more about the neighborhood and less about the various aspects of my personal life.

I only made a few mentions on the blog about the wedding planning and the DC wedding. If you think finding affordable housing in DC is hard, try affordable venues. I kid, sort of. Then there are all the other things that go with a wedding that are expensive, catering, photographer, clothing, officiant, decor, and extras. And for some odd reason doing it in DC bumps up the price.

We lucked out, not only did we have a DC wedding we had an in Shaw wedding. The ceremony and reception took place in Shaw. I really liked having someone from the neighborhood creating our cakes. I have so many great memories of Shaw, this was just one.