Thursday, March 18, 2010

unacceptable home "improvements"

Fortunately, a large part of the Anacostia neighborhood is a designated historic district. This means that exterior renovations and new buildings have to follow certain guidelines (e.g. no vinyl windows and siding on visible elevations, no chain link, etc), and designs have to fit within the context of the historic district's "period of significance". For Anacostia, that period is roughly between 1850 and 1930.

Prolem is, not everyone pays attention to the rules. They claim ignorance of its existence (despite that fact being made clear whenever property is purchased), financial hardship, or just recklessly make improvements hoping nobody will notice. (I'll admit, even I used the wrong windows the first time ... still wood, but wrong historic period in the windowpane design)


2024 14th Street SE, with illegal new windows that now must be replaced

So when someone tries to pull a fast one and does all the wrong things, people notice. 2024 14th Street SE is a great example. Owner lets the house go to rot. Doesn't care that his tenants are living in terrible conditions as long as he is getting paid. House catches on fire. Tenants safe, but now house is officially unlivable. Owner starts renovation, but uses standard size vinyl windows and doors. Owner has illegally done this before, too. I call up historic preservation (on speed-dial at this point) and make a report. Stop work order issued.


new windows carelessly fit into old trim and framing

With the stop work order came a letter from the DC Office of Historic Preservation. Excerpts:
...you are required by the DC Preservation Law to replace the pre existing (illegally installed) vinyl windows on your home damaged by your recent fire with 1 over 1 wood windows that are sized to fit the original historic openings. Vinyl replacements are not acceptable or allowable. No reduction in overall size to use standard catalogue windows is acceptable. The windows need to be sized according to the original historic fabric.

...Finally please remember that ANY work done on the exterior of the building MUST be approved by our office as part of your required permits and prior to your implementing the work. Any work implemented on the exterior of the building with-out permits may result in additional fines and penalties. ...
Historic districts exist for a reason. They are like little jewel-boxes of neighborhood and architectural history. The rules are there to make sure that the neighborhood is preserved with integrity, and that the neighbors who do it right aren't brought down by the ones who do it wrong. If you suspect that someone within the district has disregarded the rules, please email me or our Historic Preservation Office representative Michael Beidler (michael.beidler@dc.gov).

I know it can seem cruel, especially in less-rich areas, to enforce these things. But most of the time it's the out-of-town landlords that don't follow the rules. For Anacostia to really become a nice place, everyone needs to value the way it looks and the way it is improved.

11 comments:

IMGoph said...

testing to see if my ability to comment is working correctly.

daplushman said...

good job on blowing the whistle on this clown! Folks with try to get away with anything!!!

Anonymous said...

Gman, you have a link to the Historic district boundaries in SE?

I hear I missed you on your visit to K Street SE this week? Come back soon now that the regular PM is on site, okay?

jeffrey

Anonymous said...

Go to http://propertyquest.dc.gov to see historic district boundaries. Better still, type in any address and it will tell you in the box on the lower left if you're in a historic district or not. You can also get information about ANC, assesment value, owner name, tax rate, etc. Lots of good stuff.

DG-rad said...

here is a map with boundaries: http://planning.dc.gov/planning/lib/planning/preservation/historic_district_maps/anacostia.pdf

lovecompletely said...

I love it. Keep it up :) These slumlords will either shape up and honor Anacostia or... get out!

Anonymous said...

After a few years of reading your blog, I enter in! Simply to say that I am very impressed with the vision you have, for the streets and houses of Anacostia, but for the city at large. Maybe for life at large too. We all learn a lot from you-- and are really glad you are committed as you are, and care as you do. Keep on keeping on.

Paul Wilson said...

On the other hand, there is are trade offs. Obviously, in this case, the property owner erred and will absorb a big financial hit, due to either his ignorance or sheer chutzpah. But let's recognize that historic preservation laws and heavy-handed zoning limitations (read: low density) are two big factors that drive affordable housing out of an area.

風俗 SEO said...

At last the only problem is still one word-- money!

Darrin Davis said...

THANK YOU for helping getting the word out. Whenever I sell a home in the Historic District of Anacostia, I make sure the the new owners are aware of the what they can and cannot do. Thanks for helping make a Realtor's job a little easier.

Frank Richards said...

It is heartbreaking that people selfishly ignore a problem because they are not the ones directly affected. Let's take for example the landlord in your blog. He needs to be a responsible building owner. Using poor quality vinyl windows is not just unpleasant to look at, (it actually fades and stains in extreme weather conditions!), the material also, cannot contain intense heat.

Yesterday, I stopped in a hardware store. The owner told me that I need to be careful in choosing good vinyl windows. Look for the Energy Star label as one indicator. Also, compare the U-value of the vinyl windows. St. Paul, Minnesota is fortunate to have licensed home builders crew to help consumers procure quality materials for their homes at very possibly low rates.