Housing Complex

Fish Market Tenants Say D.C., Waterfront Developer Are Trying to Destroy Their Businesses

seafood-3As work on The Wharf continues, tenants of the adjacent Maine Avenue Fish Market are claiming they're being forced out.

Last Thursday, a complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for D.C. regarding the $2 billion redevelopment plan for the Southwest Waterfront. Two tenants of the Maine Avenue Fish Market are claiming that the District government and developers of The Wharf—a mixed-use project that will run along the Washington Channel for roughly one mile—“entered into a conspiracy to run the Plaintiffs’ [sic] out of the fish market by destroying Plaintiffs’ businesses.”

Those plaintiffs are Captain White Seafood City and Salt Water Seafood, operators of open-air fish markets and a seafood deli, respectively. They're asking for "just compensation" for the purported damages to their business as well as a declaratory judgment from the court that the developers respect the terms of their leases.

Founded in 1805, the Maine Avenue Fish Market is the oldest continuously operating fish market in the U.S.

Read more Fish Market Tenants Say D.C., Waterfront Developer Are Trying to Destroy Their Businesses

A Man, a Plan, a Canard: Panacea

1500 Block of I Street NW, February 3

In my two and a half years covering housing and development at Washington City Paper, I’ve been (mostly) constrained by the limits of reality. Now that I’m departing, I no longer feel so bound. Here, in my final Housing Complex column, are a few not-so-modest proposals for how to make D.C. better.

Build new Metro lines
The city is growing, physically and demographically, but there are few Metro-accessible areas left to develop. As a result, D.C. is losing people to the suburbs and to more isolated parts of town where they’re reliant on cars, which further clog our roads. Meanwhile, developers are resorting to dirty tricks to kick out low-income tenants in high-demand parts of the District and build more lucrative properties. It’s not sustainable.

Read more A Man, a Plan, a Canard: Panacea

A Note to My Readers

This naive 27-year-old thought he could cover D.C. housing policy.

This naive 27-year-old thought he could cover D.C. housing policy.

Thirty-two months ago to the day, I entered the old Washington City Paper office in Adams Morgan and was handed the proverbial keys to this blog. It was a daunting prospect, as people were not shy about pointing out: When I met then-Councilmember Jim Graham during my first week on the job, he asked me pointedly why I agreed to take this job, given that I couldn't possibly fill the big shoes left by my prodigious predecessor, Lydia DePillis.

Plenty of friendly people offered to help ease me into the challenge. Within a few days of starting at the paper, I'd had coffee with multiple sources who generously shared their wisdom via a blur of acronyms that I dutifully jotted down before returning to the office and looking them up to try to piece together what the hell they'd been talking about. ("The trouble with IZ is that the 80 percent AMI units aren't exactly helping TANF or SSDI recipients...")

Thirty-two months later, I know as much about IZ and AMI as the bounds of human sanity will allow, if not more. I've covered an expansive beat that extended well beyond what the Housing Complex name suggests—development, transportation, education, poverty, demography, and more—before settling back into a focus on housing itself, arguably D.C.'s most pressing issue.

And now, finally, it's time to move on. Today is my final day at City Paper; later this week, I'll be starting a new job as senior editor at Mother Jones magazine. I won't be going far: Mother Jones' D.C. bureau is all of three-and-a-half blocks away from City Paper headquarters. And I do hope to stick with some of the topics I've covered here, so please continue to keep the tips coming.

But before I go, I'd like to offer up some heartfelt thanks to my greatest asset during my time at City Paper: you. Without the constant input from my readers, I couldn't have done a fraction of the work I've undertaken. Thank you for sharing the goings-on in your neighborhoods and at your work. Thanks for all of your persistent pestering, via email and phone and Twitter. Thanks for not letting me get away with a wrong neighborhood name or an incomplete historical context or a sloppy construction. Thanks for the steady stream of story ideas that I struggled every day to keep up with. Thanks even for the vitriolic, name-calling comments, which were so much better informed and more insightful than vitriolic, name-calling comments I've seen anywhere else.

Read more A Note to My Readers

DCPS’ Biggest Challenge, in One Chart


In recent years, some of D.C.'s once-struggling elementary schools have seen a boom in enrollment and prestige. Take Powell Elementary School in Petworth, whose enrollment has climbed from barely 200 in 2009 to 446 this year, prompting a massive expansion of the school building that's currently underway. Similar scenes have played out elsewhere in the city, particularly in Capitol Hill.

But as those students approach middle school, the numbers start to change. Some Capitol Hill elementary schools have fifth-grade populations that are a fraction of the size of their kindergarten and first-grade counterparts. Why? Because families that have bought into the city's elementary schools still don't trust the neighborhood middle schools, so many switch to charters or other options as middle school approaches.

Read more DCPS’ Biggest Challenge, in One Chart

Morning Links

admoOffice-dominated downtown areas like Golden Triangle and L'Enfant need residents. [Post]

Georgetown Day School expansion will include 340 residences. [UrbanTurf]

Developer buys up Georgia Avenue NW block across from Walter Reed. [WBJ]

Six American cities are better than D.C. for cyclists. [Post]

D.C.'s bag fee is working. [GGW]

X2 passengers tussle after knife attack. [Hill Now]

Fool tries to sell Capital Bikeshare bike on Craigslist. [Post]

Today on the market: Adams Morgan 2BR—$595,000

With Crises Looming, New Housing Chief Lays Out Her Strategy

Polly Donaldson and then-Mayor Vince Gray encourage a formerly homeless woman to share her experience with rapid rehousing last April.

Polly Donaldson and then-Mayor Vince Gray encourage a formerly homeless woman to share her story last April.

Of all the crises facing the incoming administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser this year, the direst was homelessness. The spike in family homelessness that took the city by surprise in the winter of 2013-2014 grew even worse this past winter, spurred largely by the vanishing supply of affordable housing in the District. Bowser has won early praise from housing and homeless advocates for her appointment of seasoned deputies to lead the relevant city agencies. Laura Zeilinger, now in charge of the Department of Human Services, was formerly executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. And Polly Donaldson, tapped to head the Department of Housing and Community Development, most recently led the nonprofit Transitional Housing Corporation, which provides housing and services to hundreds of homeless families each year.

DHCD isn't directly responsible for serving homeless residents. But with its affordable-housing duties and Donaldson's homeless-services background, the agency is clearly orienting itself toward tackling the homeless crisis. Two months after she was confirmed as DHCD director by the D.C. Council, I sat down with Donaldson to discuss her strategies for improving D.C.'s housing landscape. (This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.)

You’ve made a big deal of the $100 million that the mayor allocated in her budget proposal for the Housing Production Trust Fund [which funds the creation and preservation of affordable housing]. What do expect that $100 million to accomplish?

I think that’s going to enable us to do both production—meeting the production goals that are outlined in the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force work, which we’re probably going to actually up, because I think the investments in the last few years have helped us; we’ve got 3,400 units in the pipeline right now—and preservation. We need to have a specific target on preservation and the ability to move swiftly and nimbly to meet upcoming preservation issues. Not just doing it when crisis hits, but in a proactive way two or three years out.

Most of the money from the Trust Fund goes to creating and preserving housing for people making under half of area median income. But because those apartments are more expensive to subsidize, most of the units being created through the Trust Fund are actually for people who aren't very poor, those making more than half of AMI.

Right, only a portion of them are at the 30 percent [AMI level]. But what I’m saying is that without the Trust Fund, they wouldn’t be produced at all. And so the more we put in, the more we’ll be able to reach the extremely low-income and very low-income. And that will dovetail with other parts of our public policy. Our resource deceisions have to follow public policy, and they will under this administration.

Read more With Crises Looming, New Housing Chief Lays Out Her Strategy

Morning Links

eastAAA tries to get on cyclists' good side with roadside service. [WBJ]

MARC train hits a person north of Union Station, suspending some service. [AP]

And CSX train hits a person by the Anacostia River. [Post]

New hybrid Circulator buses will have USB ports. [Express]

Metro's finances are now slightly less dire. [Post]

D.C. has better preschool access than any state. [Washington Times]

An FBI headquarters in Greenbelt could make the Anacostia River cleaner. [Post]

Why cities built destructive urban freeways. [Vox]

Today on the market: House in D.C.'s far eastern corner—$375,000

Morning Links

lanieMetro ridership patterns, in interactive form. [PlanItMetro]

D.C. tries to lure confused tourists with a #WeGotThis hashtag. [DCist]

Millennials confound stereotypers, live places other than downtown. [Post]

Council committee urges Housing Finance Agency to leave hideous but valuable headquarters. [WBJ]

Last month saw a record number of million-dollar homes hit the D.C.-area market. [UrbanTurf]

Panoramic views from atop the building that spawned the Height Act. [GGW]

Truxton Circle stables project gets tweaked. [UrbanTurf]

Today on the market: Lanier Heights studio—$160,000

Human Services Chief: “I Don’t Think We Can Celebrate That Homelessness Is Down 6 Percent”

Zeilinger_PhotoD.C.'s homeless population may have dropped over the past year, but you won't find Laura Zeilinger celebrating.

The results of the annual point-in-time count, released today, show that the number of homeless residents in the District is down 6 percent from a year ago. That includes an 8 percent decline in family homelessness, a crisis-level problem in the District for the past two winters, after the number of homeless families had jumped by 20 percent between 2013 and 2014.

But the point-in-time count can be less than reliable, since it depends on volunteers physically counting homeless residents on a single night whose weather can skew the results. Zeilinger, the director of D.C.'s Department of Human Services, also believes that it's too soon to declare any sort of victory, given that D.C. still has an unacceptably high number of homeless residents: 7,298, according to the count.

"I don’t think we can celebrate that homelessness is down 6 percent in a point-in-time, because there are still far too many people," she says.

Still, Zeilinger does think there are lessons to be drawn from the report. "What I make of this is that given how challenging the situation here is with affordable housing, the fact that the numbers are fairly flat but a little bit in the right direction means we need to continue to make the right investment in things that work," she says.

The spike in family homelessness stems in part from the city's struggle to move families out of shelter and into housing. Data from DHS indicate that the number of shelter exits has shot up in recent months, but Zeilinger says that a count today would probably yield similar numbers to the one conducted on Jan. 28, given that the number of entries also increased in the late winter.

Read more Human Services Chief: “I Don’t Think We Can Celebrate That Homelessness Is Down 6 Percent”

D.C.’s Homeless Population Dips, but Crisis Is Far From Over

homelessFollowing years of rising homelessness in the District, the city's homeless population took a welcome dip in 2015, according to an annual homelessness count released today.

On the night of Jan. 28, volunteers in the city and the region struck out to canvass every street and alley and count all the homeless residents, in addition to those in shelters. They counted 7,298 homeless residents in the District. That's 63 percent of the total homeless population in the region, which stretches as far as Prince William County, Va., and Frederick County, Md. But it represents a 6 percent drop from last year's figure for the District, after the city had experienced a 13 percent increase from the previous year.

The region as a whole also saw a decline in homelessness, albeit a smaller one. There were 323 fewer homeless residents in the D.C. area this January than the previous year, marking a 2.7 percent drop.

Still, homelessness in the District, which has reached crisis proportions for the past two winters, remains stubbornly high. Despite this year's decline, total homelessness in the city is still 12 percent higher than it was in 2011. That's due almost entirely to the spike in the number of homeless families, a product of the recession and the subsequent jump in housing costs in the District. Even though the number of homeless residents in families declined by 8.4 percent between 2014 and 2015, it's still 29 percent higher than it was in 2011.

Read more D.C.’s Homeless Population Dips, but Crisis Is Far From Over