By Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]borderstan.com.
Gun robberies are up, iPhones are still being snatched off Metro but have no fear, your tax dollars are hard at work. Inspectors from the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and a detective from the Metropolitan Police Department are ensuring that anyone selling you second-hand books, clothes or other used items are not skirting the important and oh-so-necessary requirement for a second-hand business license.
Washington City Paper reports that several book stores and record stores last Wednesday faced scrutiny when the city proclaimed that their operations were illegal unless they had a license. What’s the cost of not having a license? A $700 criminal background check, because according to city law, a used book store is the same thing as a pawn shop.
A number of owners report DCRA telling them at some point in the recent past that a general business license was sufficient, as they sold new items along with used items. Of course, DCRA now says “anyone” could read the regulations online and understand the licensing requirements.
Ah, DC regulations… where we expect business owners to ignore what officials tell them, apply for a more expensive and onerous license as a small business and then threaten to close down businesses for doing what another official told them was acceptable last year. Where’s that report that talks about how DC is one of the least hospitable places to open a small business?
From Tom Hay
The DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) recently moved to a new headquarters building at 1100 4th Street SW from North Capitol Street. The new location is right on top of the Waterfront-SEU Metro Station on the Green Line. The agency, which has vast regulatory oversight, moved to the new location in March 2010. An added bonus at the new DCRA location is a new Safeway store in the building.
DCRA is familiar to any homeowner who has applied for a building permit. Permits are needed for home improvement projects such as building a deck or replacing a window to a full scale gut and renovate. (Check out the Washington Business Journal’s profile on DCRA Director Linda Argo.)
The agency also handles administration of certificates of occupancy and business licenses. In DC, any landlord who rents out an apartment or English basement is required to have a basic business license.
With the large number of 19th Century homes and English basement apartments in the Dupont-Logan area, I thought it was worth paying a visit to DCRA and let you know about the recent move and some changes at the agency. The new location is an easy trip from the U Street-Green Line to the Waterfront-SEU stop. I drove and was able to find free, 2-hour on street parking about a block away.
A few changes you will notice:
- Nametags: In order to be more customer friendly all staff now wear nametags.
- Internet Workstations: A wall of walk-up computers with internet access; no printers though.
- A Homeowner Center: For assistance with permits for basic home improvement projects.
- Permit and Licensing Center: The two centers share a clean, spacious and bright location on the 2nd floor.
A few tips before planning a visit:
- Check the DCRA website for forms and instructions since many transactions may completed online.
- DCRA has also created a web site, Rent Your DC Basement Legally, to assist landlords of basement apartments in becoming compliant with local laws and regulations. The site has checklists and advice to guide homeowners through the process.
- Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm; and Thursdays, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (except District Government holidays).
Amanda Hess, “The Sexist” blogger/reporter at the Washington City Paper, attended tonight’s ANC 2F/Logan Circle meeting and has an update on the goings-on at 1618-A 14th Street NW: “Men’s Party” Sex Club Victim May Have Broken Neck.” From her report:
At tonight’s ANC 2F meeting, 3rd District Lieutenant Vanessa Moore provided some details into the police investigation of Sunday’s sex club death at 1618 14th Street NW…. Moore says D.C. police are working with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to attempt to close the club. “I know he does not have any license at that location,” Moore said. “We’re looking for ways to shut him down.” Go to CP article
The Washington Blade posted a story online on Tuesday by reporter Lou Chibbaro Jr.
On our bedtime walk-with-the-dog, we went by 1618-A 14th Street NW, site of the early Sunday morning death of a patron at the location’s private club. The police tape was gone and the gate was unlocked.
After taking a gander at the building’s front, we headed down the 1400-block of Corcoran. There is an iron security gate on the Corcoran side of the building and you can easily look into the back “garden” area of 1618. We heard a door open and saw light coming from the building. A guy stepped into the back area. I asked him if they were open for business. “Yes,” was the response. (more…)
A group of DC preservationists and Dupont-area residents are holding a protest at 7 p.m. Monday in front of 1841 16th Street NW. They are hoping to stop the city from approving the demolition of the house.
You may remember that in June of last year that the residents of the house had to be evacuated when an interior wall collapsed. In fact, residents of adjoining houses had to temporarily evacuate because it was feared the structure would collapse and take neighboring properties with it.
The protest group is concerned that the owner of the building will be allowed to simply demolish it–after years of neglect–instead of repairing the historic structure. Details are below the fold.
A few thoughts about such properties and how we deal with them:
- How many other apartment buildings and group houses in Dupont-Logan are in similarly bad shape and pose a threat to residents and neighboring houses? We live in a condo that is in a converted row house. This makes us very familiar with the problems of adjoining houses that are not up to code and have the potentital to severely damage other properties and put human safety at risk. (Remember that we are talking about roofs and walls touching-adjoining.) Moreover, the DC laws on the books are inadequate to protect the rest of us from these slumlords. We have learned this the hard way over the years.
- Why don’t our local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, ANC 2B and 2F, make this issue a priority? I believe this is an issue that is not well addressed by our local officials–and they ought to be spending more time on this issue as opposed to mirco-managing small businesses. We hear so much about “businesses need to be good neighbors.” True, but the problems we have on our street are related to slumlords and it’s pasttime that the ANCs used some of their time and effort to go after them with the same zeal they pursue small businesses. Collapsing buildings, back yards full of trash and fire hazards are real dangers to our neighborhoods. (more…)
You may have already heard the news, but it’s worth repeating for those in Borderstan who are thinking about renting their home to out-of-towners in January… for the inaugural festivities of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Borderstan is pretty close to ideal for anyone–resident or visitor–who wants to take in some of the January 20 Inauguration festivities. We can walk to the White House and Pennsylvania Avenue… restaurants, clubs and stores are right outside our front doors.
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has pretty much suspended the usual rules regarding permits, sales taxes and such for Washingtonians who want to rent out their homes as hotel rooms next month for the 2009 Inauguration.
The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has even drafted a sample lease to use when renting to guests. You can download the sample lease online (PDF).