How many of you are familiar with Walbridge Place? I've had some friends move there and it's really a swell street. Low traffic. Nice and quiet. And the row houses are beautiful.

Beautiful, but steep. We're talking twenty steps just to get to the front door. I mean, no big deal for a strapping 24-year-old such as myself. I doubt I'd have such an easy time if I were a nonagenarian.

Well the family of one such disabled nonagenarian wants to build a ramp for him and his disabled octogenarian wife (way to rob the cradle!). They've lived on the street for 47 years. It's their home. But the city won't let them.

Marc Fisher (h/t to DCist) dives into a story that shows you where DC's priorities really are. Historic preservation is prioritized over the health and well-being of its citizens.

"I read your column and said, 'Something is wrong here, and we've got to do something,' " says [Kim] Kendrick, the assistant secretary for fair housing in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. So she wrote to the District's preservation officials. "Generally in matters like this, people respond with answers promptly. Not the District. In this case, we had to issue subpoenas."

I love that District officials can't even be bothered to deal with two of their oldest citizens suffering needlessly. They needed judicial intervention before even bothering with their obvious violation of the Fair Housing Act.

And speaking of the Fair Housing Act:

What Kendrick eventually learned disturbed her even more. "I was real concerned when I heard one of the District officials say that they don't have to follow the Fair Housing Act," she says.

Well guess what, Mr. Idiot District Official. The city does indeed have to follow the Fair Housing Act. I know the row houses are real pretty on this street and if that's important to neighborhood identity, so be it. But it isn't as important as a neighbor being comfortable in his home. Instead, the District's unbelievably cold-hearted refusal to allow a wheelchair ramp has left the two tenants, Cornelius and Mary Lucas, stranded in the basement of their own home. That's where the city's priorities are. Human pain and suffering and the law can all suck a dick. We have property values to consider.


  1. When you pass a half-century on the block, that's when you get to decide what constitutes historic preservation. Hang in there, Lucases!

  2. How typical. This situation has been widely discussed. Marc Fisher reported on only one side of the story. If you read the discussion in the Mt. Pleasant Forum, you will see that this is far from black and white. Important points:

    "... the ramp was more than four times as steep as the maximum permitted by ADA standards..."

    "At the HPRB hearing, the architect and son expressed that they wanted the Lucas' to remain in the house, specifically move into the basement..."

    "...Historic Mount Pleasant (HMP) was not involved nor did they submit any recommendations because they were never approached by the family"

    "[Marc Fisher] didn't mention that the Board [HRPB] and our staff had discussed several approaches which would have let the Lucases stay in the main part of the house, but that the son, who now owns the house, wanted to rent out the upper floors..."

    "The city cited many safety reasons NOT to do what the son wants but had some suggestions which will allow them to stay, be safe, and have access. BUT....that will cost the son some money to do so."

    As you can see, the story significantly misrepresents the situation. The City worked extensively to accommodate their needs. The were not being "forced" to live in the basement, the WANTED to rent the upper part of the house.

    But feel free to read the discussion and decide if this is a simple matter of historic preservation versus health. Clearly there are self serving interests, and far from being uncompromising, the city appears to have done it's best to meet their needs around the uncompromising stance of the son.

  3. I think the simple fact is that the city has no "needs" when it comes to allowing one access to their own private property. Regardless of the history of the case, if the couple would like to use the upstairs of their home and they need- need in the real sense- a ramp to do so, they have every right to install one on their private property, idiotic regulations and recommendations aside. Ridiculous and very upsetting case.

  4. Andrea, your comment misses all the important points on the other side.

    Contrary to Marc Fisher, Rusty and your own continued misunderstanding, the son, who represented the couple, did not intend for them to access the upstars. His plan was to gut the upstairs and rent it.

    The city had significant safety concerns about the plans the son and architect proposed, and offered alternatives that were both safe, and would permit the couple to remain upstairs.

    There is a system. Every indication is that the city was acting in good faith to provide the family with a solution that would be safe. The son, representing the owners, wanted to proceed with unsafe plans -- and further, had no intention that his parents would continue to reside in the main part of the house.

    It is very easy to take an emotional response to these kinds of situations. But the facts are all that matters, and Marc Fisher's story does not present the story at all accurately.

  5. "His plan was to gut the upstairs and rent it."

    I don't get it. Then why bother to build a ramp? Would it be rented exclusively to the disabled?

  6. I know this is going to come as a complete surprise to you, Rusty:


    Nope. Didn't see that one coming from 100 miles away.

  7. Oh, FFS...here's that link...fucking html...

    This text
    is a link to a page on
    the World Wide Web.

  8. "I don't get it. Then why bother to build a ramp?"

    That's a very good question. And that's exactly why the whole thing is so sketchy. Everyone says this is so bad because the Lucas's are being "forced into their basement" by this process. Too bad that has nothing to do with it - it's their own son forcing them into their basement.

    I don't know what the motives here are, but the fact that the son intended to renovate and rent the upstairs is a matter of record. There are too many questions to take this at face value and pin blame on DC for being bastards. In this case it really sounds like they were the good guys and actually looking out for the safety of the couple.

  9. Jamie, I think you missed the whole point of my comment. I was really only intending to comment on your use of the word "need" in reference to this case. Obviously there are a lot of facts to the case to be considered (remember- both sides), however that doesn't change the fact that there is a serious problem with regards to private vs. public property in this whole historical preservation argument- which I think is more disturbing than the emotional take of a health issue.

  10. That's almost as bad as not allowing a seeing eye dog in an apartment building because of a nopets policy.