Our House DC – keeping homes black-owned in Wards 7 and 8

Re-posted by The Narrative Matters

Crystal Patterson, 57, was displaced during the pandemic after the home’s ceiling collapsed during the development of an illegally built school. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

In Fairlawn, a new, illegally built school plans for expansion despite homes caving and decreasing property values. A few blocks away a home for returning citizens collapsed. The same day developers ask, “Do you want to sell it to us now?” 

Southeast D.C. homeowners are displaced after developers allegedly built illegally or improperly.

In Fairlawn, Crystal Patterson, 57, was displaced after Eagle Academy illegally built a school without permits adjacent to the home.

“I stepped out of the kitchen and as soon as I did, the whole living room ceiling came falling down, from the front door all the way to the dining room,” says Patterson. “I was displaced for at least six months.”

From December 2020 to June 2021, Patterson lived with family members. Now, she pays $935 for an apartment a couple of blocks away from the home, although the home’s mortgage is paid. She’s disabled, while also managing heart disease, diabetes, uveitis [eye inflammation], and fibromyalgia [muscle pain]. The monthly social security check she receives barely covers rent.

The living room ceiling caved in. (Courtesy of Crystal Patterson)

“I’d probably be dead [if I was in the living room],” says Patterson, who now takes anxiety medication after the incident in addition to already prescribed medications. 

Patterson’s 4-year-old and 9-year-old granddaughters were also in the home. Patterson says the younger granddaughter visits a therapist because she screams incessantly now if there’s a crack in any ceiling.

Since 2017, homeowners surrounding the new school located at 2300 R Street Southeast have protested against the development built without permits, particularly noting there are two elementary schools – Boone and Ketcham – blocks away. Over 30 residents signed a petition to end the construction and organized conversations with local officials. 

“We [the neighbors] had the construction site shut down twice because they were working the whole time without a permit. [It] was supposed to be just an upgrade to the property that was [already] there,” says Patterson.

That existing property was demolished and new infrastructure was built.

DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) issued four “stop work” orders.

In April 2019, DCRA issued a building permit for a new two-story building, but in May the building was nearing completion.

“It is implausible a project of this scope could be near completion within such a short time frame,” Ernest Chrappah, director of DCRA, told WUSA 9.

Unexpectedly, in December 2019, Eagle Academy backed out, sold the Fairlawn development, and settled in a school location in Southwest.  

Now, Lee Montessori, the first full public Montessori school in Southeast, occupies the property. Lee Montessori wants to do more digging to expand the school property “to meet the needs of the children we serve” says Camila Camborda, director of communications. Currently 152 students attend the Pre-3 to 1st grade school, although there are 375 total seats.

Lee Montessori will submit applications for construction permits in 2 to 3 months.

On January 25, Lee Montessori held a “community conversation” about plans for the new construction.

Blueprint of the new proposed addition. (Courtesy of Lee Montessori community meeting)

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