Roundtable on Congress Heights Development and Tenants


CHAIRMAN PHIL MENDELSON COUNCILMEMBER ANITA BONDS
ANNOUNCE A JOINT PUBLIC ROUNDTABLE

Protecting the Rights of Tenants at the Congress Heights Metro Station Development Project

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Anita Bonds announce a joint public roundtable before the Committee of the Whole and the Committee on Housing and Community Development on protecting the rights of tenants at the Congress Heights Metro Station development project. The hearing will be held at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 4, 2016 in the Council Chamber of the John A. Wilson Building.

The purpose of this roundtable is to provide a forum for the public and District government to discuss the actions of a politically-connected developer over the last year to remove low income tenants from apartment units in Congress Heights in order to make way for a new development. All of the buildings are rent-controlled and continue to house a handful of tenants each. These include: 1309 Alabama Avenue, S.E.; 1331 and 1333 Alabama Avenue, S.E.; and 3210 13th Street, S.E. A fifth building included in the developer’s plans is located at 3200 13th Street, S.E. and is encumbered by financial obligation owed to the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development. The planned redevelopment requires demolition of all five existing buildings and construction of a 446,000 square foot mixed-use project with office buildings, apartments, and ground floor retail.

The partnership owning the properties has allowed the premises to deteriorate substantially. In response to this neglect, the Office of the Attorney General recently filed a lawsuit against Sanford Capital and its affilates. According to the complaint, Sanford Capital and its affiliates engaged in “repeated neglect, delayed response, or toal inaction” in response to reported violations of the District housing code, and this pattern of neglect “poses a serious threat to the health, safety, or security of the tenants” (p.3). Specific allegations include inoperable fire extinguishers and fire alarms, improperly maintained exit/emergency lights, broken doors, rodents, bedbug infestations, improperly maintained plumbing facilities, lack of heat, lack of hot water, defective electrical outlets, and, in at least one case, a structurally unsound ceiling that collapsed on tenants.

The Committees are concerned about Sanford Capital’s dangerous disregard for the basic welfare of its tenants demonstrated in this instance. On a broader level, this hearing is intended to explore the implications of economic development at the St. Elizabeths campus and in the Congress Heights area on vulnerable low-income populations. Sanford Capital, a development company based in Bethesda, Maryland, owns the four occupied apartment buildings located in the vicinity of the Congress Heights Metro Station in Ward 8 where the proposed entertainment venue and the Wizards practice facility is to be built.

Those who wish to testify are asked to email the Committee of the Whole at cow@dccouncil.us, or call Cynthia LeFevre, Legislative Counsel, at (202) 724-8196, and to provide your name, address, telephone number, organizational affiliation and title (if any) by close of business Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Persons wishing to testify are encouraged, but not required, to submit 15 copies of written testimony. If submitted by the close of business on Feb. 2, 2016, the testimony will be distributed to Councilmembers before the roundtable. Witnesses should limit their testimony to five minutes; less time will be allowed if there are a large number of witnesses.

If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Written statements should be submitted to the Committee of the Whole, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 410 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004. The record will close at 5:00 p.m. on February 18, 2016.