Despite engaging in numerous and potentially illegal tactics to circumvent the TOPA rights of existing tenants at Congress Heights, and despite violating an existing court order, Geoff Griffis, through his company "City Partners LLC," is touting an imaginary development proposal to build luxury apartments over top the Congress Heights metro. Previously, Sanford Capital also promoted luxury redevelopment plans at Congress Heights, and have since shut down their website due to their ongoing legal issues as the most notorious slumlords in Washington, DC. Their slumlord activities have been widely reported, including by the City Paper and the Washington Post.
In order for Geoff Griffis's company, "City Partners LLC," to move forward with his luxury redevelopment that would price out and displace current residents at Congress Heights, he would need the following:
- For the existing tenants to leave the property without exercising their TOPA rights, which the Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition have made clear they will not do, as evidenced by the fact that they have led and continue to lead this fight for the last five years.
- To have legal control over the properties, which is currently being challenged by the Attorney General's office, and under review by the tenants legal team, which includes Arnold & Porter and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.
- To have control over the long-vacant building at 3200 13th St SE, which is under the control of the District government and also tied up in litigation.
- To have control over the WMATA parcel of land, for which Griffis currently does not have.
Strangely, Griffis continues with what Ruth Barnwell, president of the Alabama Ave/13th Street Tenant Coalition recently referred to as an "obsession" with gaining control over this valuable land over top the Congress Heights metro, by forcing existing residents out. The tactics remain the same: forced displacement through slum conditions. As we previously reported, the recent and possibly illegal land transfer from slumlord Sanford Capital to Geoff Griffis not only circumvents tenant TOPA rights, but also forces tenants to continue living in slum conditions by interfering with a court-ordered receivership.
Tenants have been clear that despite Griffis's attempts to force them into agreeing to buyouts or forced relocations, that they will continue to fight to exercise their TOPA rights in order to move forward with their plan to work with premier non-profit developer NHT (National Housing Trust) to build 200 units of high quality, affordable housing in the midst of an affordable housing crisis in the nation's capital.
Earlier this afternoon, on the WPFW 89.3 FM show "Taking Action," hosted by Empower DC's Parisa Norouzi, featuring Congress Heights tenant Robert Green, we gave an overview and update of the ongoing tenant-led struggle at Congress Heights. Click here to listen.
Join us this Saturday, February 10th, as we take the fight for affordable housing directly to slumlord Geoff Griffis's doorstep, and stand in solidarity with the tenants of Congress Heights. RSVP here.
To learn more about the tenant-led struggle at Congress Heights, including a full history, visit the Justice First website at www.justicefirst.org.
For the latest Congress Heights updates on the ONE DC website, check out www.onedconline.org/congress_heights.
Yasmina Mrabet, Housing Organizer