JF Cook slated to close again

Originally uploaded by In Shaw

Bloomingdale (for now) has a nice little map of the schools slated to close. One of them is Cook in the TC on P Street. Now jog my memory wasn’t Cook in danger a few years back of closing because of low enrollment, but was saved?
If the Cook school closes the thing that worries me (since I don’t have kids) is that this will be another DC owned hulk of property that will slowly deteriorate with disuse. The building seems quite fine, but there is a sad looking Langston school building across the street, that needs something before it is too far gone, and the slightly not so bad Slater. Armstrong down the street is in the process of getting fixed, but it has been in the process of getting renovated for years.
Having it remain as a functional school does one thing that I can think of that benefits the neighborhood and that is to keep it from being a nuisance property. There are a ton of other uses the building could serve but knowing how slowly DC government acts on things and occasionally picks things that draw a long torturous fight (social services functions), history isn’t on the side of anything good coming from a closing.

St. George’s on U Street Christmas Bazaar


I’m seeking your support of the Annual Christmas Bazaar being sponsored by the St. George’s Episcopal Church Women. It will be held at the church, 2nd and U Streets, NW between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm on Saturday, December 1st.

I knitted an afghan which will be in the silent auction and I’ve prepared a variety of baked goods which will be for sale…perfect for gifts or to enjoy before the Christmas holiday.

There will be cooked food available and so you can plan to have lunch, an early dinner…or take it home for a later dinner.

Foreclosure, probably not that great of a deal

I live next door to a foreclosed house.
The story, from what I can piece together is that long time ago, say 15-20 years ago, some Ethiopian guy bought the house as an investment property. According to a neighbor on the block, he did rent it out but left it vacant for about 7 years. Then for about a year or two he rented to some Ethiopian sisters, one of whom got married and they all moved away. Then the Ethiopian owner sold it to another Ethiopian for way too much at the top of the market. This new Ethiopian owner rented to an Ethiopian family who stayed for a few months, and then the house sat empty. And then it went into foreclosure and the bank owns it. The bank tried to sell it for close to what the guy paid for it, and it sat. Then about every 1.5 months they would decrease the price. It remains unsold.
A friendly Vietnamese couple looked at the house and were very interested. So much so that one day they brought an inspector with them. I’d like the house to sell, but I also want any future owners to be aware that there are some busted pipes in the house, as the pipes failed last winter sending water into my basement. So the couple took in that information and went around with the inspector. They spent an awful lot of time looking at the rear kitchen portion of the house, which if anything like mine, is structurally crappy. The stucco is cracked and red brick dust seeps through. The layout of the 2nd floor is, challenging. Anyway, they didn’t buy it. I’m sure the numbers just didn’t work out. The amount the house was selling for, plus the amount to fix the busted piping (which would mean taking up portions of the floor and possibly finding mold) just to make it suitable for human habitation, was more than likely far above it’s market value. That’s not even addressing the structural and mechanical issues, nor is the price of making it ‘nice’ as opposed to ‘not condemned’.
Let me throw in some numbers. The house at the time the couple looked at it was $310,000. This is for a townhouse of about 1,000-1,200 sf. nothing fancy, aged AC unit, blown in heat, busted pipes, electrical systems a big unknown, weedy front and back yards, and appliances over 10 years old. Plumbers cost money. So say there isn’t any mold under the house and you just need to fix/ replace the pipes, and it can be done from a crawlspace hatch, so there is no replacing the floor? Well that’s over $3K, based on how much I’ve paid to have a ‘simple’ plumbing job done in an easy to access area. But there could be mold, and the floor might need to be taken up. And while you’re doing that you might as well gut the whole thing. When I asked how much someone, doing it all themselves spent to gut and fix their own house, which is similar in size to mine, the amount was about $60K. I paid well over that, let’s just say my contract had a $80K limit, we hit the limit and there was still stuff (like installing heat and AC) that needed to be done when I ran out of money. That amount doesn’t include the paint, the tub, and other materials I bought myself.
The houses on the block, sans basements, are assessed for around $350K. I’m somewhat doubting that whoever buys the house is willing to put into it more than its market worth. The bank may have to knock the price down to the high to mid $200K range before anyone bites.


One of the things I did, and felt was really important with the renovation was put in some insulation. The house had no insulation. Zip. Nada. None.
What does it mean to have a house with no insulation? Well from my 6 years of living in it, I’ll tell you. For one, you can hear everything that is going on in the streets. Of course, you can blame crappy windows for that too. Second, heat and air escape. I had a tough time getting the house up to 75F during the winter if I wasn’t cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Because I had to balance my desire to walk around the house in flip flops with wanting to conserve energy and not spend too much on heating fuel, I kept most of the house in the high 60s when at home (low 60s when not) and limited my heated paradise to my bedroom. Or, stayed in the kitchen, particularly after the installation of the heated floor.
Now, now I have insulation and it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. The thermostat is timed to go to 71 in the morning, 60 when I leave, and 66 when I return. There were times when I came home and it was 70. The heat stayed in, all due to our friend, insulation.
I have a friend who has an older house too. Not as old as mine a 1930s(?) bungalow. He suspects it has no insulation in the bottom portion. He thinks the attic level bedroom might be insulated as it keeps in heat. But then again, it could be just the heat rising.

Sign your name

Okay people, I’ve been getting a rash of Anonymous comments and they are ticking me off. Sometimes what the anons have to say is worthwhile, which is why it is unfortunate I have to delete them. Dang it people, claim what you write. I don’t need your full name. I’ll take initials, screen names, fake names, your 2nd cousin’s twice removed nickname, but give me something.
My comment rules are simple. No cussing and ID your posts. How friggin hard is that? Heck, I’ll take one initial, something.

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Mouse problems

If stories of mouse death or mouse suffering disturbs you don’t read the following.

I came home this weekend after a quick 24hr trip to NC, to find one dead mouse in the kitchen. I was happy because that little bastard has been difficult to catch. Sadly, he might not be the only one. So I’ll still be watching the kitchen entryway, where I have occasionally spotted him or his family members scampering across.
I have a contract with a pest control company. They come out and have bait stations in the rear and front of the house as well as various spots inside. They also have glue traps around and about, and the glue traps so far have been my best bet. The thing with the traps is that they have to be in the right spot and somewhat unnoticeable to the mice, because the mice are smart.
I have seen mice go out of their way, to avoid the glue trap. I have noticed them change course from scampering along the baseboard to expose themselves to open space just to avoid the trap along their path. How do they know to avoid the glue trap? I have no clue. Anyway with steel wool, masking tape and a hidden glue trap I managed to capture this one. I hope the rest ate poison.


According to Channel 7 two employees of the Kennedy Rec Center were scared out of their wits at gunpoint by a gang of police at gunpoint in unmarked cars. I can totally believe that some cops were laughing, because of an incident I witnessed sometime ago at Union Station. Dudes, if you’re going to be insensitive jackasses, please go back to your car and be a stupid jerk there.
This story undermines trust. MPD (or whatever para-police force running round being stupid) needs to do some explaining.

Degentrification, gentrification and something to think about

Frozen Tropics pointed it out and Richard Layman did too, the NY Mag article about a neighborhood that seemed as if it was going to get gentrified, but is now heading in the opposite direction. I enjoyed reading the article as well as the comments at the Curbed blog that shed some light on the Red Hook neighborhood.
I can’t really talk about a neighborhood I know nothing about, but the idea of de-gentrification is curious. Of course, the question is has gentrification occurred in the case of Red Hook, or was it really strong wishful thinking? And if a neighborhood is gentrifying and then the process is stalled indefinitely, is that de-gentrification, or does it only count if the neighborhood reached a gentrfied point? To me degentrification seems to hint at disinvestment, but reading the NY Magazine article, they appear to define it as something else.
Today I got an email from the folks over at Neighbors Project with their 7 Rules for Talking About Gentrification and they make some excellent points. I especially like #2. Get your history right. I’ll call Shaw an historically Black neighborhood, mainly because it a) in it’s most recent history been predominately African American, and b) the history bonus points of notables come from the Black History basket. Yet I will totally acknowledge that once you go further back than 1930, Shaw is mixed, if not white.
Flipping around on their site I found a link to some Instructable guides they produced. Some are so simple that it should be like ‘duh’, such as “How to Pick Up Trash In Front of Your Home.” But I guess if you lived somewhere where this was never an issue, then a how-to is in order. (My excuse for not cleaning up in front of my house, I’m just lazy) They have some other guides like “How to be a trick-or-treat stop for apartment-dwellers“; “How to Shop at a Downtown Farmers Market”; and “How to say hi to a stranger on the street“. These guides, though a little dorky, can help people integrate into the neighborhood and foster neighborly-ness.
Check out their 7 Rules, what do you think?

Road to Hell: DCs renter protection laws

I’ve been meaning to post something about the problem with nuisance renters, the neighbors who have to put up with them, and the landlords who can’t get rid of them. And then I spot this on the 5D listserv:

I live in a privately-owned 2-story (total of 4 units) apartment building in Ward 5. It is a relatively quiet block. However, one of the residents has blatantly moved in other people, and refuses to pay rent (not since July). That is not my battle to fight (NOTE: The property owner, a federal government retiree/widow, recently went to court to get an eviction order); however, there is constant ‘traffic’ in and out the building at night…for quite a while now. Often, the exterior (front and rear) security doors are left unlocked – an obvious security issue/violation. We suspect that the rear exterior door lock has been ‘jimmied’ to allow ‘anytime’ access. Do I suspect illegal (drugs?) activity? I don’t know what to suspect anymore. I know that it’s not NORMAL to see someone (female) walk out of the building at 1:30am to an awaiting car, stand at the driver’s side window and talk for 2-3 minutes, get into the car, and 20 minutes later, she is being dropped off. YES..I stayed up that late to observe that happen. In particular, there are at least two cars (a dark green Cadillac-MD tags driven by a black man with thick long braids) that come and go as much as the building residents. This would not be a problem except that at one point, he obviously had his own set of building keys. I understand that he has a lengthy criminal record – as well as some as the others that come in as late as 11:30pm and may not leave until 5 or 6am. The building owner has expressed her frustration at not being able to legally remove this resident (who, incidentally, moved a girlfriend in, but denies this fact when confronted about it, and has refused to have her name added to his lease). She/property owner has been told that the Marshall service will not be able to serve the eviction order sooner than 60-90 days. Keep in mind that she has not seen any rent from this tenant since June. I’ve often heard how difficult it is for landlords to evict tenants; therefore, tenants can ‘live for free’ for months at a time….until they are forced to move on and inflict the same thing on another unsuspecting landlord.

[SNIP]Our sense of safe and security is gone. We don’t know WHO and WHAT is living around us anymore…and for those of us not yet retired, heaven only knows what goes on in the building while we are at work.

At the last BACA meeting the DC Attorney General (I think that was her title) for 5D mentioned that dealing with nuisance renters who endanger the safety of neighbors is ‘challenging’.
I am not attacking the good intentions and the desire to save DC renters from unscrupulous landlords. However, the neighbors who get terrorized by bad renters have little recourse it seems. I know of a situation where crackhead renter blasts music so loud that it shakes the neighbor’s wall among other things. The neighbor has been told that landlord is sort of making the attempt (maybe, this was mentioned a good while ago), but in the meantime there is calling 311 or 911, police maybe showing up to quiet things down, and repeat.