About 10 people picketed the Georgetown residence of Katharine Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Company yesterday, charging that one of the company's subsidiaries was responsible for the eviction of low- and moderate-income tenants at the Hamilton Arms apartment complex.
Most of the picketers were tenants of Hamilton Arms - a collection of buildings at 1220 1/2 to 1236 31st Street NW - who face eviction by early June. The tenants said they objected to the company's renting space in one of the buildings to be used as offices. The tenants said that action will open the rest of the buildings to commercial use at a time when the supply of low- and moderate-income apartments in the city is dwindling.
"We're surprised at The Post because of the sophistication and awareness it has shown in understanding the lack of rental space in the District," said Brooke Higdon, president of the Hamilton Arms tenants association. "If they lease property here, they will encourage the developer to take my apartment (for offices). . . ."
The picketers criticized Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company, for renting commercial property tenants said could be restored to low- and moderate-income apartments.
Although the 14-building complex has been used for apartments for more than 40 years, most of the property is zoned by the city for commercial use only. The property is located about half a block north of M Street NW in Georgetown.
Gordon King, spokesman for Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc. said one of the buildings in the Hamilton Arms complex was offered to the company for lease as office space last year. He said the company was told no tenants were living there.
Post-Newsweek Stations, Inc., has signed a five year lease for the Hamilton Arms building at 1232 31st St. NW, King said.
The building, known as the old Bell Telephone Company exchange building, will be used for corporate offices for a staff of about 20 people.
Richard Stauffer, who owns the complex along with urban planner Alan Voorhees, said, "Post-Newsweek had nothing to do with the evictions, and were in no way involved in any of the evictions."
Tenants said that redevelopment plans for the complex will destroy the "uniqueness" of the Hamilton Arms complex, known for walkways, odd-shaped gardens, handcarved woodwork and hand-made ceramic tiles.
But Stauffer said that efforts will be made to preserve many of the unusual features of the complex, including the old wrought iron fences, ceramic pots, and columns. Many of the buildings are badly damaged by termite infestation and from years of neglect, and will have to be gutted or destroyed, Stauffer said.