Got those priorities

Residents in the "Borderstan" neighborhood (that sliver of disputed territory between MPDC PSA's 307 and 208) held a protest outside 1841 16th St, NW Monday night.

Sadly this report would be more interesting (though completely irrelevant to this site) if the house in question was a crackhouse. Or a brothel. Or the house where Robert Wone was murdered (though now owned by someone else).

No, residents and preservationists gathered together to demonstrate against the demolition of the house. You see, the house is falling apart. It's a late 19th Century home. It has no particular historical significance beyond it looks like most of the other houses on the block. It is awfully nice looking, I'll give it that--except for the fact it's been condemned and is on the verge of collapse.

The house is owned by a George Washington University professor, and apparently was run as an apartment house for many years. Until it was judged to be unsafe for occupancy. According to a DC Preservation League press release, the owner of the home did not have a license from DCRA to rent the property.

OK, I'll give them a few points here. 1) Regulation is important to protect tenants, and 2) Slumlords are bad and can put people's lives in danger.

That all being said, however, I have a few questions.
  1. Why are they not protesting outside of the owner's current residence? This address was published in the press release about the protest.
  2. Why is the main thrust of this protest to protect the "historical" property, and not to focus on the real dangers that can happen when people rent out unsafe properties?
  3. Why not protest outside DCRA?
  4. Have you tweeted to @DCRA about this?
I've discussed here before that people can and do actually die because landlords rent out properties that are unsafe death traps.

So here we're going to have a bunch of stuffy "preservationists" strap themselves to a house to block the bulldozers. I wonder how many of the people at the protest illegally rent out their English Basement apartments?

I saw the group of people while I was waiting for a bus at 16th and U tonight. I didn't happen to see if they had any clever signs. Maybe "honk if you're horny for historical houses."


  1. AnonymousJune 16, 2009

    Regarding question 2, please see what I wrote... the questions I raised at the bottom of the posting:

  2. This is lame. So, you hate DC because people are actually taking an interest in their neighborhood, in upholding the laws, and in keeping one of the few parts of DC that doesn't look like a shitty corner of Detroit looking nice?

    When they tear it down and replace it with some atrocious modern crappy construction that doesn't fit the block at all, or alternatively, leave a smoldering pile of rubble for 10 years as the construction permits get worked out, you'll be bitching about how ugly that block looks.

    Why don't you go take a drive around some of the choicer parts of Columbia Heights where there is no protection and some blocks of rowhouses have empty lots, awful 70's construction mixed in with the original, houses with 3rd floors added, or front additions built out to the sidewalk and tell me what you think. I bet you'll hate that as much as you hate people giving a shit, maybe even more.

    Everyone thinks they should be able to do anything they want with "their" land. At least, until their next-door neighbor wants to do whatever they want with "their" land. This isn't West Virginia. Get over it.

  3. To answer your question regarding priorities: Are you one of those people who thinks that as long as there's a single homicide in this town, we shouldn't bother with any lesser crimes?

    Sure, the tenant safety issue is important. And there are entire organizations and web sites dedicated to this fact. And further, as you note, this house is hardly unique in being an unsafe shithole that was rented.

    It is, however, fairly unique in being a corner house on an historically significant row of houses, and who's removal would devastate that corner. I see no hypocrisy in this. If people didn't work to save this stuff, DC would look like much more of a shithole than it is. In turn this would make it a less desirable place to live, and property values would be lower, and there would be more crime, and then you'd be bitching about that instead. Or more.

  4. @Jamie,

    Perhaps. However, where are the protests on T Street between 14th and 13th where multiple homicides have happened in the last year.

    I have no problem with people taking an interest in preserving historical houses. But this is what makes people take to the streets? Really? Borderstan people get riled up about all sorts of things, homelessness, crime, etc. and this is what makes them protest?

  5. "and in keeping one of the few parts of DC that doesn't look like a shitty corner of Detroit looking nice?"

    Have you been to Detroit? There is nowhere in Northwest that looks like "a shitty part of Detroit."

  6. Maybe I exaggerated just a little bit on the Detroit comparison. But everyone has their issue. I see no hypocrisy in taking a stand about something important, just because there's something else that you see as more important. There are countless special interest groups and citizens working on their own issues, any of which it could be argued is less important than some other.

    All these issues need attention. Besides, what good does protesting a homicide do? Or rallying against homelessness? It's not like the guy who kills the next person will care. It's a gesture. There are organizations that work on an ongoing basis to help with these problems, and I am sure many people who live there contribute to such organizations.

    These people are trying to save a house. This is very specific, and these actions might actually change the outcome of this situation. If it gets the wrecking ball it's gone forever.

  7. AnonymousJune 16, 2009


    You said the removal of the house would "devastate the corner." From the looks of your personal blog (http://www.farmfreshmeat.com/2009/06/memories-of-16th-t.html), it would be more accurate to say its removal would devastate you.

    Don't worry, buddy. Your argument is still credible.

  8. Well that too. And I am a little torn up inside, because I personally contributed to the decay of that house. On the other hand, it was a shithole in 1991. I can only imagine what 18 years of group house living and apparently no maintenance did to that place.

  9. AnonymousJune 16, 2009

    maybe we shouldn't be razzing Borderstan and these morons who want to save a house. this is probably the only thing that makes them feel civically active and relevant to the neighborhood, however misguided.

    because it's easier to "protest" the demolition of a house than it is to acknowledge that you live in a crime-ridden, rat infested strip of 16th street that just happens to look a little leafy and pretty despite being unsafe past midnight.

  10. CaseythekidJune 16, 2009

    can't we just burn it down?

    any hey "blog author", if you hate DC, fucking move already! we don't want you here anyway.