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Protests Persist as D.C. Moves Forward With Ward 1 Shelter Plan

by Tim Regan April 12, 2016 at 10:45 am 26 Comments

The activists up in arms over the District’s plan to place up to 30 families in transitional housing at 2105-2107 10th St. NW are not getting any quieter.

Members of a protest group in opposition to the shelter spoke out during a design overview meeting at the Reeves Center at 14th and U streets last night. Among the group’s chief concerns were claims that city officials entered into an above-market-rate bid specifically to benefit developer Sorg Architects.

Clutching a banner depicting wads of cash raining down on renderings of the shelter, members of the group shouted down D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development Director Polly Donaldson as she gave a presentation on the shelter design’s current status.

“It appears as if the Mayor’s plan is using the homeless as a vehicle to deliver profits to just certain developers,” one activist said, interrupting Donaldson.

“I would like to ask that you allow the presentation to continue,” Donaldson responded, adding that her remarks would be followed by a presentation from architect Ralph Cunningham and small group discussions where attendees could submit questions on index cards.

But activists responded they wanted a live Q&A session, not the opportunity to write questions down.

“You never give us time to ask questions,” a protestor shouted at Donaldson. “You talk nonstop for two hours and there’s never any time.”

Other activists, who chose to remain anonymous when speaking to the press, said they felt like the meeting failed to adequately address the group’s concerns or take them seriously. Other concerns activists had included a purported lack of transparency in the process, issues with the height and setback of the shelter building and that the city’s call for community input is “just a facade.”

One of the activists, Rich Schiff, said that although some members of his group have been accused of NIMBYism in the past, the term is a “crafted, bogus” label. “The truth is, there are no NIMBYs in our group,” Schiff said.

Schiff added that the group supports the closing of D.C. General and supports, at least in theory, the idea of having a homeless shelter in the neighborhood. Just not this one.

“Our ANC councilwoman suggests that because of government premium, they’re willing to pay almost double the market rate for this property,” Schiff said. “It’s outrageous. 50 percent more folks could have been housed had we not been overpaying.”

Schiff said the group has identified several sites near 10th and V — including 1111 W St. NW and 1410-12 Euclid St. NW — that could have been used to house the shelter at a lower cost than the $23 million the city expects to pay to lease the site over 30 years.

In other words, Schiff said his group’s largest concern is that taxpayers who live nearby are getting a raw deal.

“If you were to come back to us and say we’ve decided to give the landowner architect half the price on the same property, which is what would be around market price for the property, the neighborhood would say fine, put it there,” Schiff said. “But don’t put it there at a premium where the price is doubled.”

After the meeting had ended, a small group of activists walked the banner to the front of the room.

“We are for closing D.C. General,” they said. “Just not like this.”

  • TR

    Hooray for the protesters. The mayor and Nadeau are out of their minds bringing such a costly proposal forward. They are unqualified for their jobs. David Grosso asked for the resumes of Bowser’s staff because they were so unqualified to make such expensive land deals. This is a gift to the developers – and even the homeless advocates know more money could go to their cause if these 90-day temporary housing shelters weren’t so expensive. You GO protesters. We are glad you are vocal.

    • Popeye

      Your “we” in “We are glad you are vocal” does not include me.

      • Scholar

        You always were bad at simple math.

        • Popeye

          Whatever you say, NIMBY.

      • Jimmy

        And it includes me too! No “Cronyism” in my backyard!

        • Popeye

          I’m sure you all would be welcoming the shelter with open arms if it was clearly a great deal for the city.

    • Amy

      Well it includes me!

      • Jimmy

        And it includes me too!

  • Joe

    if you like developers to get $770,000 per year for 30 years for renting the ground, then this deal is for you. But if you think a piece of land presently assessed at $2 million, which was for sale a year ago for $6 million, and for which the City offered $10 million – is worth $23 million to a landowner, you are not among responsible taxpayers or council members who think there are better land deals out there. council Chair Mendelson is correct in stating that he wants to eat three meals a day but doesn’t want to pay $500 for dinner.

  • Mark

    The Mayor’s design meeting was such a joke. It was her way of looking engaged and showing momentum because of all the legitimate objection. They didn’t even know how to hold the meeting. There was no Q&A. They had people sit at tables of 4-6 people to discuss the building design and then the meeting was over. There was no wrap up where one person from each table reported the highlights of the discussion. There was no way to hear what anyone discussed except a few other people at your table. AND we were promised answer to questions we wrote on index cards. It never happened. Mayor Bowser is a joke.

  • The lot is not worth a penny more than $6 million and the city knows it. It’s there JOB to know it! This is a payoff for donors, pure and simple.

  • Ward One

    Homeless shelters and services are necessary and good. However, the economics of this deal do not make sense. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent over 30 years for a lease (way above market price) and then at the end of 30 years you have nothing.

  • Spike73

    There are many people of goodwill who would otherwise be behind the mayor’s plan if it wasn’t so transparently corrupt. It also scares the crap out of local residents that once the deal is done they won’t know how to manage the facilities based on their current inability to answer basic questions.

    Governing by giveaway, this is worse that the Gray administration and an embarrassment to the city.

  • Thomas

    I thought it was interesting that the protesters targeted both Mayor Bowser and Councilperson Brianne Nadeau. The points the protesters make seem legitimate and the DC officials seem reluctant to answer their questions. Is Nadeau really not voicing her concerns regarding the cost of the homeless shelters?

    Good for the protesters for holding DC government accountable!

  • CC

    I’ve been following this and the finances I’ve learned behind this proposed site are shocking. I agree with these people. I fully support closing DC General, but it matters how we do it as a community and as taxpayers. It is telling when citizens across wards and the press across the political spectrum (Washington Times, Washington Business Journal, Washington Post, WAMU, Daily Caller, etc.) have united and legitimate concerns regarding the details and execution of the proposal. I am also fully supportive of all the thoughtful questions that Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Grosso have been asking too – that is simply good governance.

  • Gally

    The money trail on this deal stinks to high heaven. Sorg has been trying for years to screw over the neighborhood on this project. First she tried to let the historic church fall down, then she forced through a luxury condo that violated the neighborhood height requirements now she has her most profitable project yet leasing the land to the city AND still gets a fully built building at the end of 30 years.

    • It’sNotEntirelyClear

      Historic church? Every church in DC is classed as historic even when its a cardboard box peopled by two tax scammers and their Mercedes.

  • ShiverMeTimbers

    This will definitely be the end of Nadeau. One and done.

    • It’sNotEntirelyClear

      Jim, what are you doing up this late?

  • charlie

    One quick point:

    I think they were trying to say the 1111 w st site sold for $8M, which includes the land and the building, as opposed to paying $35M to lease the 10/v site and then pay $12-$15M to build a condo/shelter then turn over to Sort.

    The other site was a community garden.

    I don’t see why you can’t tear down the DC Housing Finance Agency and build a combined office building/homeless shelter there as Arlington did.

  • Darius Harteood

    Bowser and Nadeau joined at the hip in the effort to screw Ward 1 and all DC taxpayers. Shameful!!!!

  • It’sNotEntirelyClear

    The term NIMBY is “crafted”? Are you kidding me or am I taking crazy pills? It’s too early for me to eye-roll this hard.

    If it walks like a duck and all.

  • Darius Hartwood

    The rent and construction are one ridiculous cost but then add in the operating expense of this shelter. Supposedly it will be $23M per year for all 8 shelters which would be $2.875M per shelter. Since Ward 1 is the smallest, let’s say they only get $1.5M per year. So now let’s do all the math including operations for the cost per unit per month. $770K per year for land, $466k per year in construction cost, most likely higher ($14M over 30 years), and $1.5m operating budget. That is $2,736,000 per year, divided by 12 is $228,000.00 per month, divided by 29 units is $7862.07 PER UNIT/PER MONTH! Might as well rent the Penthouse at the new Atlantic Plumbing for that amount. No information has been provided on how they will run this facility, what are the qualifications for getting a unit, supposedly a max stay of 90 days, and the darkness goes on and on! That is a $2M mortgage payment!! Seriously??????

    • Salzburgyank

      Unreal. Too bad we can’t lodge a vote of “no confidence” and demand new elections. Blatant cronyism.

  • Darius Hartwood

    Oh….and the taxpayers own NOTHING at the end of the lease. It all goes back to Sorg the Bowser Donor!!

  • Darius Hartwood

    Dear Muriel and Brianne,

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for sticking to your guns and dismissing those pesky taxpayers in defending the deal you made with me on our property at 10th & V. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to be rid of that property for the next 30 years. You know, we tried to develop it but those nasty zoning and historic preservation folks would just not cooperate and now fortunately we know you can bulldoze them to get your way on the exceptions required for this “institutional” housing. It is such a blessing that we will make 1000% more money with this deal than if we had sold it and that crappy falling down church for the mere $6M we were
    asking! It was such a great idea to contribute to your campaign….it has really paid off! Oh, and thanks for the exemption on paying property tax on that land now that you are leasing it! It is such a win/win for you and us. It is awesome you have so many loyal minions like Brianne who could give a crap about the cost or her annoying constituents. Stay the path ladies…you will be long gone before DC has to crawl their way out of all this debt you are imposing.
    $uman $org


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