Housing Complex

Family of Carol Glover Sues Metro for $50 Million

The Jan. 12 Metro incident caused substantial damage to the electrified third rail.

The Jan. 12 Metro incident caused substantial damage to the electrified third rail.

The family of Carol Glover, who died following the Jan. 12 incident that filled a Metro train with smoke, has filed suit against Metro, seeking $50 million in damages.

Glover was among the passengers trapped in a Yellow Line train south of the L'Enfant Plaza station as it filled with smoke. According to a Jan. 17 report from D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services, Glover had a pulse as she was evacuated from the train, but no longer did once she was brought out of the Metro station. The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs Metro, has come under fire in the aftermath of the incident. WMATA was well aware of the problem known as electrical arcing, which is believed to have caused the incident, and FEMS has stated that it warned WMATA prior to the incident that radio communications were not working around L'Enfant Plaza.

"As a direct and proximate result of Defendant WMATA’s negligence, Ms. Glover was trapped, helpless, in Train 302 for nearly forty-five minutes as it filled with smoke," the lawsuit alleges. "During this time she fought, ever more agonizingly, to breathe as the smoke gradually sapped the life from her body."

The lawsuit claims that WMATA breached its responsibilities by failing to inspect and maintain the electrified third rail and ventilation system, fix its faulty radio equipment, and shut off power to the third rail in a timely fashion, among other complaints.

Read more Family of Carol Glover Sues Metro for $50 Million

Morning Links

gatedDespite budget shortfall, Mayor Muriel Bowser plans to push for affordable housing. [Post]

Developer aims to bring the Meatpacking District to Union Market. [WBJ]

Addressing D.C.'s shifting racial landscape through art. [Arts Desk]

D.C.'s on pace to exceed its homeless count from last year. [Post]

The cost of free parking. [Post]

Today on the market: 1BR Washington Highlands condo in a not-really-gated community—$54,900

Library Board Endorses MLK Design Without Three-Story Addition

Don't expect to see this redesign of MLK Library.

Don't expect to see this redesign of MLK Library.

Another day, another vote against a more radical redesign of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. First, it was the Historic Preservation Office that pooh-poohed a proposal for three additional stories atop the city's central library, intended to generate revenue and offset the renovation costs. Now the library's board of directors has done the same.

Last night the board voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that would maintain a standalone library with a fifth-floor addition. The extra three stories, the resolution stated, "will not yield sufficient income to defray project costs." In the absence of a financial upside, there's little reason to undertake the three-story addition, given opposition from certain community members (including Ralph Nader) and from the historic preservationists.

In October, D.C. Public Library concluded that it would need considerably more space than previously anticipated. The expected requirement of 450,000 square feet necessitates use of the entire four-story building, plus a fifth-floor suite.

There are two competing designs that include just the fifth-floor addition:

Read more Library Board Endorses MLK Design Without Three-Story Addition

Five Big Projects in Flux as Bowser Reviews Development Awards

The planned Institute for Contemporary Expression on Franklin Square is threatened by poor fundraising, says the Bowser administration.

The planned Institute for Contemporary Expression on Franklin Square is threatened by poor fundraising, says the Bowser administration.

Five major development projects in the District could undergo substantial changes or be forced to start from scratch as the administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser reviews her predecessor's selection of developers for the projects and new requirements for affordable housing.

Two highly anticipated projects could be under the greatest threat of revocation. A year ago, Mayor Vince Gray chose the Institute for Contemporary Expression to take over the vacant Franklin School building on 13th Street NW, with a promise that the crumbling facility would become an art museum. Now, however, the Bowser administration has pulled the land disposition agreement from the D.C. Council, where it was set to receive a vote, due to concerns over lackluster fundraising for the project. "They are nowhere near their goal," says an administration official, "and there's no reason to think that would change."

The administration is calling for a full do-over for the Shaw project known as Parcel 42, at the corner of 7th Street NW and Rhode Island Avenue. In 2013, the Gray administration awarded the development rights to a team led by the Tensquare Group and Chapman Development. But last fall, Chapman left the team and was replaced by the Bozzuto Group—a change that has prompted the Bowser administration to vacate the award of the project due to "material changes" to the team, say administration officials. Because this is the third time a solicitation has gone out for that long-vacant site, the administration will review the issues with the project and then issue a new solicitation.

And on three other projects, the administration is putting the brakes on development to make sure that the affordable housing components of the projects conform to a new law, spearheaded by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, that requires an affordable component when city land is used for development. The law stipulates that 20 percent of housing units in new projects be set aside for households making under certain income levels, or 30 percent when the projects are near Metro stations or major bus lines—a far higher requirement than the 8 to 10 percent typically required for new projects under the city's inclusionary zoning law. All three of these projects fall under the 30 percent requirement, and because their land disposition agreements have yet to be approved by the Council, the plans need to be reworked to conform to the law.

Read more Five Big Projects in Flux as Bowser Reviews Development Awards

For Volunteers Counting the Homeless, Striking Out Means Success

homelessAfter more than an hour wandering the streets of Capitol Hill, the two volunteers took great interest in a heap of discarded blankets by Eastern Market.

"Hello!" they addressed the heap. "How are you doing tonight?"

There was no response.

"Is there anyone in there? We just want to make sure you're doing OK."

Still nothing.

One of the volunteers knocked on the lamppost near the center of the heap. There was no movement, so they gingerly lifted a couple of the mottled gray blankets, revealing a shoe and an old suitcase, but no humans. They moved on.

All across the country, this scene played out last night in various forms. One night a year, in order to count the number of homeless people in cities and states across the country, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sends out locally organized volunteers to do just that. The annual point-in-time count is an awkward and inefficient system for tabulating homeless populations: Volunteer error is likely high, and cold weather, like last night's, can lead to under-counting as homeless residents seek refuge in hallways, shops, cars, and other hard-to-count spots or sleep on a friend or relative's couch. But with no better way to track homelessness, it's the most effective system we have, and supplies the closest thing to an official national count of homelessness.

Last January's count found a 3.5 percent increase in total homelessness in the D.C. region over the previous year—attributable almost entirely to a 13 percent jump in the District, as most other jurisdictions in the region saw declines. D.C. had 65 percent of the region's homeless population, with 7,748 homeless residents, or 1.2 percent of the city's total population.

This year's numbers won't be compiled and released until the spring, but there's reason to think they could be even higher. The city expected family homelessness—just one component of the total homeless population that also includes homeless individual adults and youth—to rise 16 percent this winter over last winter. Already, the city is well beyond its family shelter capacity, and nearly 400 homeless families are being sheltered at motels for lack of traditional shelter space.

Read more For Volunteers Counting the Homeless, Striking Out Means Success

Morning Links

north capIt's extra-super-duper official now: REI's coming to NoMa. [Post]

At a luxury Georgetown condo, a month yields a $700,000 price bump. [UrbanTurf]

Capitol Gateway takes a step forward. [WBJ]

Union Market project gets a new look. [UrbanTurf]

Visualize the evolution of the world's transit systems. [Alexander Rapp]

Donald Trump says he "beat up" contractors at his D.C. hotel project. [Post]

Today on the market: End-unit rowhouse with a porch overlooking North Capitol Street—$599,500

In Transient D.C., Low-Income Residents Likelier to Leave

A person's chances of leaving the tax rolls between 2004 and 2012, by income quintile.

A person's chances of leaving the tax rolls between 2004 and 2012, by income quintile.

D.C.'s reputation as a transient city is well founded, with low-income residents especially likely to have left the District over the past decade, according to a study released today. Researchers from the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer crunched the numbers on tax filings between 2004 and 2012 and determined that just 23 percent of the 42,257 people who first filed their D.C. taxes in 2004 remained on the tax rolls in 2012. Those numbers come with a substantial caveat: People who changed their status from single to filing jointly disappeared from the tax rolls. And indeed, of the 28,725 first-time single filers in 2004, only two continuously remained single every year through 2012.

Still, the numbers are revealing, particularly when they're broken down by income. Of people who were in the highest income quintile when they arrived in D.C. in 2004, 41 percent were still on the tax rolls in 2012. Compare that to the lowest quintile, where only a quarter remained. This contrast points to the oft-discussed (and oft-rebutted) notion that the city's economic growth and rising costs have pushed out lower-income residents in the past 10 years.

The share of the population that stayed on the tax rolls from 2004 to 2012.

The share of the population that stayed on the tax rolls from 2004 to 2012.

Read more In Transient D.C., Low-Income Residents Likelier to Leave

Gap Between D.C.’s Rich and Poor Hits 35-Year High

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.18.43 PM

In one of the starkest illustrations to date of the uneven recovery from the recession, a new study finds that the gap between high and low earners in the District is at its greatest in 35 years.

The report, from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, analyzes Census Bureau data to conclude that hourly wages for low-income workers have been flat since 2007, and some groups have substantially higher rates of unemployment than before the recession. Meanwhile, wages for the top 20 percent of earners have continued their steady climb to reach their highest mark of the past three and a half decades.

The bottom fifth of earners have seen their wages rise by just 7 percent since 1979, while the average worker's wage has grown by 35 percent and the top fifth have gained 55 percent.

"The gap between low- and high-wage earners in the District is the widest it’s been in 35 years,” Ed Lazere, DCFPI's executive director, said in a statement. “As the cost of living in D.C. continues to rise, more must be done to help residents earn a living wage.”

Because the recovery in wages has been so uneven while housing and other costs grow, the recovery years have actually been harmful for many low-income Washingtonians and Americans. Here and elsewhere in the country, family homelessness has spiked during the recovery, as decent jobs for people lacking college degrees are scarce but housing costs rise.

The recovery has also had a disparate impact among racial groups. The overall unemployment rate in the city has declined since the recession, although at 7.6 percent last year, it's still higher than the pre-recession 5.5 percent. But for black Washingtonians, unemployment is far more prevalent—stuck at 16 percent, compared with 10 percent before the recession. That's more than four times the unemployment rate for white residents.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.55.26 PMLikewise, while D.C. residents with a bachelor's degree have fared well throughout the recession and recovery, never even reaching 5 percent unemployment, the unemployment rate for those with just a high school diploma or no diploma at all has hovered near 20 percent. Still, the latter rate has dropped slightly since its peak immediately following the recession.

The D.C. region's economy has been something of an anomaly in the past seven years. The area weathered the recession better than nearly all others, buoyed by steady federal employment. But since the recession ended, D.C.'s economic growth has slipped from the among country's best to its very worst. According to the DCFPI report, private employment provided nearly 35,000 more jobs at the end of 2013 than it did in 2007. But government employment has dropped since 2011, contributing to sluggish growth since that time.

The report praises the ongoing increases to the city's minimum wage as a start to addressing the growing wage gap, but says the new Muriel Bowser administration must do more. Most of the recommendations don't address wages specifically, but instead focus on supports to help disadvantaged residents work, such as job training, child care, and paid family leave. Bowser's already made one move of which Lazere and DCFPI surely approve: She recently tapped Jenny Reed, a former top DCFPI staffer, to be her deputy budget director.

Charts from the report

Morning Links

loganEarly education attendance in D.C. varies widely by demographics. [Urban Institute]

That big drop in traffic camera revenue? It's not just because people were driving better. [Post]

Conversion of Planned Parenthood offices to housing gets the go-ahead. [UrbanTurf]

Examining rent control in light of the Rent Is Too Damn High guy's eviction. [Vox]

"We Are Washington DC" is the new "One City." [LL]

Young city-dwellers secretly yearn for the suburbs. [Atlantic]

Parking-free micro-units on Blagden Alley are a great idea. [GGW]

But the project is on hold. [UrbanTurf]

Today on the market: Logan/Dupont 1BR—$334,000

Morning Links

davisAn interactive map of where cyclists and pedestrians have been struck this year. [City Desk]

Fannie Mae will move to rebuilt Washington Post building. [WBJ]

The housing bust's impact on wealthy black families, as seen in Prince George's County. [Post]

Tracking incomes by Metro line and stop. [You Are Here]

Why the Exelon-Pepco merger is bad news for D.C. ratepayers and renewable energy. [Grist]

WMATA is installing five real-time bus arrival signs per day. [Post]

Today on the market: Semi-detached house in Fort Davis—$245,000