Fenty Tours, Vows Change in Deanwood Community

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Residents in the District's Deanwood community were back on the bus Friday, touring houses that are burned-out, illegally constructed or left abandoned -- this time with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). "This is my 10th tour," said Beverly Goode, vice president of the Deanwood Civic Association. "Every mayor comes over here. I get frustrated." Residents in the far Northeast Washington community have long complained that city zoning officials and others have not stopped developers who take advantage of some of the area's affordable properties and build without permits. City officials stopped work on some of those projects, which left the structures half-completed and a blight on the neighborhood. Two years ago, Goode and several determined civic-minded activists toured some of the structures with then-City Administrator Robert C. Bobb, who also viewed a variety of other neighborhood problems. After that tour, some of the drug corners were cleaned up, a four-way traffic stop was placed at 49th and Jay streets NE and a developer who had been fined more than $200,000 for violating the city's housing code was arrested. "Everything is not bad," Muriel Chambers, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, said as she pointed to the stop signs. But many problems remain, they told Fenty and some of his top aides. Alleys need to be paved, sidewalks built and abandoned houses condemned. "You wouldn't think people live like this," Goode said. "There's no quality of life in certain portions of Deanwood." The tour was different from previous ones. The city officials did not just take notes. They responded to the residents' complaints and explained exactly how they plan to attack the problem. Fenty gave dates and a timetable for when the community can expect to see changes.

On the bus, he asked his staff about the process of condemning the burned shell of a house. "If the owner hasn't done something in 30 days, let's take action," he said. "Figure it out." At times, he put his staff on the spot: "No studies," Fenty said to Ali Shakeri, a D.C. Department of Transportation official. "Let's get things done." "Use whatever powers we have," he said. "Rules need to change. Let's make it happen. Very quick." He promised to return Friday at 3 p.m. with even more top aides, including Department of Public Works officials, to take the tour. Fenty also will present a report to the civic association at its Feb. 26 meeting. "Everybody knows that talk is nothing," Fenty said after the tour. "We have to show follow-through, and that's what we're going to do." -- Yolanda Woodlee

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