Crime of Opportunity- Just a few seconds

I have a superpower, it is finding money on the ground. I cannot summon money, it would be absolutely awesome if I could. This superpower comes from constantly scanning the ground. I’m looking for poop, so I can avoid stepping in it. And while I’m keeping an eye out for poop, and spit, I’ll see money, or a SmartTrip card with money on it.

I also spot other things.

This weekend I spotted a purse, with a cell phone sticking out sitting on the sidewalk. It was next to an SUV, where a mother was doing something on the opposite side (out of view of her purse) on the 1500 block of 7th St NW. Her husband was about 2 car lengths away for some reason. He showed up when we pointed out to her that her purse was just… sitting there. I spotted the purse ahead as we walked past Compass Coffee. She waved off our concerns. This is why I don’t say things or point things out to people. Y’all obviously don’t care that if I’ve noticed that you left your car keys or house keys in the lock, or your laptop in the backseat (seriously people stop leaving your electronics in your car) or left your bike unlocked (yes, you’re popping in for one second). But if I’ve noticed, someone else who is more willing to walk off with your (keys, laptop, bike) stuff has too.

Yes, you are just leaving it there for a second. But it doesn’t take long for a young pair of legs to run off with it.

The Curse of 1640 4th St NW

1640 4th St NWWhelp, it looks like 1640 4th Street NW has thwarted another owner. The last owner, apparently had contractor problems, as in ran away with money problem. The owner before that, tried her hands at renovating the place and for some reason failed. The owner before that, well, she’s the reason I believe 1640 is cursed.

The 3rd owner back and the neighbor next to 1640 had a toxic relationship. The neighbor claimed the 3rd owner called her the N-word, but even before that, they hated each other. I doubt they ever liked each other. So the neighbor was very antagonistic towards the 3rd owner back…. and the woman who bought it from the 3rd owner…. and the current owner. So whoever buys 1640, know the neighbor will hate your guts and do everything in her power to make things difficult.

The plans the current owner has doesn’t help. In the row of 2 story homes, the plans show a pop up that does not match any of the housing on the row. Now I can already hear Scott Roberts saying, “if you don’t want a pop up you should’ve fought for a historic district.” Yeah, no. I have no problem with the idea of a pop-up, I just have a problem with fugly pop-ups. Non-fugly pop-ups are possible.

This property is a shell. The current owner had the back ripped off (so it’s exposed to the elements) and the owner before that had done some demo. $735K seems to be a lot for a shell in my opinion, however, it isn’t the only shell in Truxton Circle in the $700K range, so what do I know?

So whoever buys 1640, not only do they have to deal with a cantankerous neighbor, they also have a partial shell. This would be for an experienced developer, someone who has developed property in the District. However, at the current price, anyone with more sense than money won’t touch it.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Various reasons for ‘gentrification’ that you don’t want to hear

This is old, but the data I needed was buried in a file. The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity- University of Minnesota Law School put out a study that was reported on by the Washington Post and DCist. The 7-page study is general and I have no beef with it, but its is the interactive map that has me questioning it.

Truxton by the numbers
I might not know the US in general but I sure as heck know Truxton Circle. Let’s look at the study’s numbers for the change from 2000 to 2016 by race:
Asian: 110
Black: -1232
Hispanic: 34
White: 926

Let’s look at my numbers for 1970 to 2010

Year Total Black White Latino/Asian/ Etc
1970 5830 5768 21 41
1980 3349 3249 61 39
1990 3623 3347 189 87
2000 2997 2713 103 181
2010 3028 1964 816 248

The trend since 1970 was downward for everyone, mainly African-Americans since they/we were slowly departing the neighborhood. So the -2,519 of the Black population in Truxton Circle from 1970 to 1980, can we also call that displacement? It’s much bigger than the loss of 1,232 from 2000 to 2016. Now I’ll acknowledge a bump in populace from 1980 to 1990 of almost 300 people, but apparently by 1990 they several hundred said ‘screw this’ (or got shot) and left in droves by 2000. The 00s had numbers so low, I think those numbers hadn’t been seen since the 19th Century when vast swaths of land were undeveloped.

The loss of Afro-American residents from 2000 to 2010 was 749. The study map has it from 2000 to 2016 down by 1232, so an extra 483 left between 2010 and 2016. There is a trend, prior to gentrification of fewer and fewer Black residents.

Whaddya want White Flight. Again?
Let’s expand that table, shall we? Apologies for not having the Black population for 1940.

Year Total Black White Everyone Else
1940 8244 ….. 1718 ….
1950 7720 6186 1511 23
1960 6789 6716 58 15
1970 5830 5768 21 41
1980 3349 3249 61 39
1990 3623 3347 189 87
2000 2997 2713 103 181
2010 3028 1964 816 248

In 2016 the white population should have crested above one thousand, but still not at 1940s or 1950s levels. So let’s say trends continue and the white population continues to grow, maybe getting back to 1950s levels. You know what happened to DC whites after 1950? They began to leave the city in droves, as did TC whites. So when in complaining about the growing the white population, is it a request for white flight?

Various reasons for demographic changes
Demographic changes, aka gentrification. The narrative is that it is displacement. So I return to my question about the loss of 2519 blacks in 1980, was that displacement? Maybe. Was it gentrification? Probably not. Was it crack? That would explain a loss between 1980 and 1990, but there wasn’t a decline. Thinking of my own block I can think of various reasons for the demographic change between 2000 and 2016.

Fewer Section 8s- Or Housing Choice Vouchers or whatever you want to call it, but aka Section 8. There were a few suspected Section 8 houses around, two on my block owned by one fellow who seemed to have gotten into financial trouble and had to sell them. The new owners did not keep them as Section 8, but lived in them a short while and rented them out at market rate. Fewer landlords are chasing Section 8 renters, when the area attracts market-rate renters. And there are accidental landlords (former resident homeowners) who are not savvy or interested in the voucher program.

Not a one to one exchange- My next door neighbors, 2 white men, bought their house from a black family of 5 (mom, dad, two kids, and grandpa). Units that had larger families got replaced by singles and childless couples.

Not enough middle-class Black people moving in- Think of the population from year to year as a river of water that is fed by tiny little streams. As low-income African Americans moved out they’d be replaced by other low-income AfAms. However, this flow is blocked by the loss of low-income rentals in favor of mixed-income and luxury rentals and for sale housing. The city government is more likely to increase low-income housing in areas where property is cheap, so not here. But if the goal is racial diversity, then middle-class Black families would need to stream in. However, there aren’t enough middle-class Black households interested in moving into the urban core. Also, programming targeted at AfAms are more interested in having low-income Blacks as clients, as opposed to creating strong, independent middle-class Blacks.

I hate brick sidewalks

Puddle in Brick SidewalkMost days brick sidewalks around here are trip hazards.

In Winter they are a pain to shovel.

In Spring, like today, they present a minefield of puddles to be avoided in the rain. By the time I made it home, my socks were wet. I tried to walk around or jump over the mini-lakes between the 7-11 on Rhode Island and BKK on New Jersey Avenue, but it was no use as the wet crept up and got me. I should have just walked in the bike lanes.

I am thankful that the neighbors of today are not clamoring for brick sidewalks like they did in the aughts. “They look more historic,” I remember being told by one long time resident who liked the look of brick sidewalks. If I’ve remembered exactly who this neighbor was, she didn’t shovel her walk, so she was not experienced with one of the challenges of brick sidewalks. Besides these were the days when no one really took the rules about shoveling snow off the sidewalks seriously.

Thankfully, there are plenty of messed up sidewalks around Shaw to disabuse people of romantic notions of brick sidewalks. After a while a new brick sidewalk’s edges get looser and then all the bricks loosen. The ground shifts and then the walk is uneven with dips and bumps. On the plus side, they become deadly for e-scooter riders.

Voting with their feet- please don’t take citizens for granted

My feetsmLet’s take a break from the church histories and look towards the future and present. When I last pondered people voting with their feet it was in regards to DC parents.

I hope the politicians and the city government, in general, does not take its citizens for granted. It’s hard to put my finger on one thing, but I can’t shake this feeling that the city is taking its tax base for granted, like we don’t have the option of moving a couple of miles across the border to Maryland or Virginia. Yes, there are citizens who are stuck, I’m not talking about them. I speak of the professionals, the comfortably retired, the people with options.

When my spouse and I moved to the DC area in the mid 90s*, DC was just freaking depressing. The Downtown was dead after 5pm. It was kind of dead on the weekends too. These were also the days of the Control Board. The city was dealing with a crazy murder rate craptastic schools, the crack epidemic, and a lousy bond rating. These were the bad old days of bad city services when no one would bother answering the phone. The bad old days can return if we aren’t careful and that’s my concern. Maybe housing advocates will get their wish and DC will become affordable because of a slow exodus of the middle class.

Right now, compared to the 90s, DC is awesome. Let’s not take the awesome for granted because it can be less awesome in the future. There are some things DC has that the surrounding counties don’t. But there isn’t that much, except their own stubborn citizenry, that can keep those counties from doing some of the same great things DC government is doing and luring our neighbors away.

I’ll stop now. I’m rambling.

*We did not meet until the late 1990s.

Change of heart due to change of neighborhood

I have had a change of heart about Sunset Liquors. The Help still holds feelings of hostility. These feelings are based on my view of this liquor store from the early days of the neighborhood when the last thing we needed were liquor stores.

So jump into my little time machine, and head back to oh, 2005-ish. The perceived to be patrons of the local liquor stores were alcoholics who would then drink around the neighborhood, hang out in parks, relieving themselves in people’s basement wells and alleys. We’d find empty cheap vodka bottles and 40oz cans litteBodegónring tree boxes. It was such a problem there used to be a blog called TreeboxVodka around here.  People still litter Shaw treeboxes, but not as often with Velicoff as they did in the bad old days. BACA would try to close the handful of liquor stores in Truxton Circle, on 4th St, on 1st Street and the two on North Capitol. Those efforts failed.

DC has more liquor stores than all of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In the ‘aughts, that was too many, considering the state of the neighborhood.

So what changed? Several things, not just one thing. The major thing was the demographic change. The population of Truxton Circle was trending down before the gentrification got going. What gentrification brought was an influx of young professionals who did not publicly self-destruct with alcohol. These young professionals would buy 6 packs or cases of beer to take home, or to someone else’s home to enjoy. They were not known to buy 40oz cans of Steel Reserve. Related to this change was a change in what some local liquor stores stocked, less MD 20/20 more merlot. My favorite change was the disappearance of Plexiglas. For my own self-esteem, I avoided shopping in stores where there was bulletproof glass between me and the cashier. I found it insulting, but I understood the reason why. Some stores, not necessarily liquor stores, removed the glass, and then later the store became a victim of armed robbery. The neighborhood wasn’t ‘there’ yet and people were hurt. There are some Shaw and Truxton stores with the glass, but plenty of places where isn’t used. For myself, it is now a tolerable level. In the case of Sunset Liquors, across the street, the Florida Avenue Park was renovated. Prior to the major renovation, the junkies and the alcoholics would hang out in the park, wander over to Sunset, then wander back to the park. Sometimes they would pass out on the play equipment. It was not a park kids could use because of the needles, the glass, and the human waste. Sunset was part of the problem. Then the gates came up and you can only exit on the 1st Street side. Add this with the demographic changes, parents, grandparents, and kids own most of the park, not junkies and bums. Another change, also Sunset specific, was a change in relationship with the neighborhood. Before you walk into Sunset, you are greeted by a blackboard with an affirmation. You can also see inside the store from the outside. In the old days we complained that the windows were covered with beer and cigarette ads. There is still some clutter, but you can see inside. The store is a UPS drop off, and that was the reason I walked in. I found a super helpful employee, my package, and a red zinfandel.

I have yet to make it to the new wine shop at Florida and North Capitol. I blame the weather and my own laziness. I hope it is as nice as the Grand Cata wine shop on 7th Street.

The neighborhood has changed. It is now strong enough to have a few decent liquor stores and maintain its upward trajectory. Of course if you want to go old school, there is always Big Ben.

DCist Pending comment about CaBi usage

I’m only posting this because I see a comment I made on DCist about CaBi usage is pending, and I’m not 100% sure what I wrote that would warrant a flag. Maybe saying race and income doesn’t explain everything but around here (DC) it is used to explain everything. In the case of the Capital Bikeshare race and income aren’t the major reasons in light of other information.

Looking at this image

CaBi bikeshare usage map
Image of CaBi usage and income. Note whiter areas with little to no bike share usage

So there are rich white areas of DC way west of the park where there are 0 ride per hour yellow dots. The DCist story interprets this as Capital Bikeshare failed to be available to all users because there are so few rides in Wards 7 & 8.

There are more stations in “areas with higher shares of white residents, lower poverty rates, higher income, and higher college attainment,” according to the report. CaBi’s user survey, which it undertakes every two years, bears this out. The 2016 survey found that 80 percent of Capital Bikeshare users were white, with Asian and Hispanic/Latino riders both at 7 percent, and African-American riders at 4 percent.

Yes.

As one of the 4% African American CaBi users, I’ll say there are more stations because there is more demand in my now predominately white, formerly predominately black neighborhood. I know there is lots of demand because if the morning weather is nice I need to get my butt out of the house before 7:30 or else all the working bikes nearest me are gone.  And there is lots of demand for slots near where I work, because I will encounter a full dock and try to figure out where is the closest empty dock may be.

Also if you look back at the map, the cluster of yellow is in a highly dense area with lots of retail/ jobs. The yellow along Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues NW into the areas of Upper Caucasia also are in dense-ish areas with retail.  What do we know about Wards 7 & 8? Not enough retail. Not enough grocery stores. Also it lacks density of say Ward 1.

If memory serves me I think I wrote that I would prefer to see an overlay looking at age and retail rather than race.

Why you can’t compare a pre-gentrification house to today

Vacant house on P
214 P St NW with broken windows in 2008.

When I read studies about housing, housing stock and affordable housing, as it applies to areas like Shaw, I can’t help feeling there is a very wrong assumption flowing through them all. I encountered, that feeling when talking to a renter on my street who would love to buy, but was unaware of what some of us did to make affordable homes livable, and once they became livable, unaffordable to people like him. A house that was affordable in Shaw in the 80s or 90s is probably not the same house that stands today.

In the 1940s-50s Shaw was described as a slum. A slum was defined in some writings as an area where a significant number of houses lacked indoor plumbing or interior toilets, thus slummy Shaw. I want you, dear reader, to think about that. Living somewhere, when you have to go, you’ve got to go….. outside. But now there are laws and regulations so when you rent a place, you get that fancy pants indoor bathroom with hot water.

But there are other housing deficiencies that houses in the 90s and early 00s suffered from because of the history of disinvestment in the neighborhood. Disinvestment meaning, landlords and homeowners had no incentive to maintain properties, beyond necessity, with little to no equity gained. Not updating kitchens, or electrical wiring, or plumbing, resulting in cramped little kitchens, wiring that would fry your electronics, and leaky pipes.

Renovation_0045
House under renovation.

Then came the renovations and the gentrification. Some were crappy and cosmetic, like my house when I bought it, and some actually fixed long neglected problems or updated systems. Even crappy renovations cost money and those costs are pushed onto the end user, the home buyer or the renter. Yes, there are places where there has been no, to little reinvestment, and the prices act as if there were.

So next time you read a report that assumes the equity gained due to gentrification is unearned, question if the house that was affordable in year X is of the same quality, with the same features, when it is unaffordable in year Y.

So the Government is Closed- Longterm Plans

Capitol in My HandsThis is a personal blog and I am a federal employee who has found she has more time on her hands. But this is not a woe is me post. Nah, this is my 6th government shutdown. I’d been employed less than a year when I survived the 1995-1996 shutdowns (5 and 21 days) as a GS-5 step 1 temp employee with fresh student loans. The 21 day shutdown between December 5, 1995-January 6, 1996 was bad, but I survived. Somewhere in the archives of the Washington Post, there is a quote of the younger me bitching about it.

Mentally, I’m prepping for a long shutdown and praying for something shorter. Thankfully this time around there is another income to lean on. Typically, although there is no guarantee, we get paid, eventually for those shutdown days. Knowing that the contractors I work with, who do building maintenance, security, and other stuff won’t get paid, at all, makes it really hard for me to feel bad for myself and most other feds.

So in the vein of when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, or lemon tea, or lemon pasta, I’m making the most of it. On the first real day of the shutdown the Help and I went on a day-date and saw a movie. The rest of the week has been mainly about cleaning. Deep cleaning. The kind of cleaning a maid service typically won’t do. We got one of those dinner and a movie gift cards, so we may see another movie. If the shutdown goes past January 3rd, I informed the Help he was going to get a very expensive hausfrau. I may tackle somethings I’ve been avoiding, some sink repair, window cleaning, and bookshelf dusting (requires moving a ton of books and my MILs ashes).

I’ll probably check out some Shaw stuff, but seriously, there are a lot deferred cleaning jobs around the house demanding my attention. And now those unpaid jobs have it.

Silent Night

Street tree with Christmas decorationsA few nights when going to bed I have marveled at how quiet it was, and I fear by mentioning it, I’m going to jinx it.

When lying down in bed I noticed how I heard nothing. My neighbors who will at times blast their music have been really conscientious and turned it off before we head to bed. The Loudmouth Buppy Lawyer is either out of town or deciding it is too cold for a one sided profanity laced cell phone conversation on the street. And by shear fate, there have been no ambulances or cop cars blaring sirens on the major road nearby. Normally the sirens pierce through the house but for a few nights, I’ve heard nothing while lying in bed, closing my eyes and nodding off to sleep.

A city can be loud. Doesn’t mean it has to be all the time. There can be moments when no one is screaming or hollering as they wander down the sidewalk. The sounds of a motorbike without a muffler isn’t heard as it makes its way through the neighborhood. Chatter from someone’s backyard bouncing off the rear walls is non-existent. There are beautiful moments of quiet, silence.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate and Happy Day Off to those who don’t.