The hated boarding house under construction. (Lydia DePillis)

On Monday, we looked at a spat between two neighbors that the city wouldn’t touch. In Shaw, a case of neighborly discontent has gone even further: 60 people in the vicinity of a former crack house at 605 P Street are up in arms against the building’s conversion into a 9-unit “non-transient boarding house.” On the ad-hoc group’s website, they object to the idea of a boarding house itself, as well as to alleged construction violations ranging from doing work at off hours to stealing water and electricity from neighboring properties.

Recently, the website reached the computer screen of the highest authority on such issues—DCRA director Linda Argo—who said that there appeared to be much “confusion” over the process. She dispatched chief building inspector Don Masoero to last night’s meeting of the Convention Center Community Association, where over the course of a 30-minute sparring session, he firmly told neighbors that the developer was fully within his rights and inspectors had found no problems on the site.

“Everything is in place as it should be,” Masoero assured them, before running through the technical definitions of “raze” and “demolish.” Then, the official looked developer Nazam Yousefi in the eye and told him that it was a $2,000 fine every time he was caught with a noise or construction violation. “The city is in shortfall,” Masoero said. “I’m very anxious to get out there and have him give me some of his money.”

That wasn’t satisfying to Ayeh Bandeh-Ahmadi, who lives right next door. She claimed that Yousefi had earlier told neighbors that he might put in condos—which the zoning actually doesn’t allow—but was planning to do a boarding house the whole time.
“If it’s something to be proud of, why did you have to lie to us?” she asked.

Yousefi protested that his new building would be a good thing for the neighborhood, where he owns several other properties—he’s renting the rooms to corporations and institutions like the World Bank, not low-lifes.

“It’s going to be very luxury. It’s not gonna be crowded,” he said. “Believe me, we know what we are doing. I think you should be so happy that you’re gonna live next door.”