Chanting "Homes Not Hotels" and "Boycott the Hilton," 150 residents of Admas-Morgan and community activists from other neighborhoods picketed the Washington Hilton Hotel Saturday to protest the hotel company's attempts to buy three apartment buildings for expansion of its facilities.
The demonstrators tried to post a petition on the door of the hotel, which is at Columbia Road and Connecticut Avenue NW, but were restrained by District police and hotel security guards. The demonstrators carried signs saying, "Defenseless Tenants Prey to Hotel Sprawl," "People in Adams-Morgan, Not Hotels" and "DC for Citizens, Not Transients." The petition, with about 300 signatures, called on the hotel to halt its efforts to expand in the neighborhood.
Mayor Marion Barry, who arrived late in the demonstration, told the protesters, "As a matter of philosophy I am against expansion that would displace residents and disrupt neighborhoods. We're together on this one.
"My planning office has already recommended that there be no such "matter of right" expansion or construction in R-5 (residential) zones without Board of Zoning Adjustment approval...examined on a case-by-case basis."
The demonstration was the culmination of months of activity by residents of several neighborhoods who hope to convince the D.C. Zoning Commission that existing hotels should not be allowed to expand in residential neighborhoods and that new hotels should not be allowed in those areas. The Zoning Commission will rule on the issue at its meeting today.
The three threatened apartment buildings, which have a total of 227 units, are the Wyoming, 2022 Columbia Rd. NW; the Oakland, 2006 Columbia Rd. NW, and the Schuyler Arms, 1954 Columbia Rd. NW.
"More than 350 elderly people live in these apartment buildings," Mary Youry, of the Schuyler Arms, told the crowd at a rally after the march. "We are here to pressure the mayor and the zoning commission to keep hotels out of residential areas."
Youry said the tenants are "not against the landlord. The hotel is our target."
Jonathan Bernstein, of the Schuyler Arms, wore a top hat with a sign reading, "Robber Baron," which he said was a play on the name of Hilton corporation president Barron Hilton.
Bernstein, complaining that the sale of the buildings to the hotel would mean "an absolute subtraction of housing units in the neighborhood," said tenants of the three buildings would not be able to raise enough money to compete with the hotel chain in a purchase offer. Under District law, tenants have the first option to buy an apartment building when it is put on the market.
"Everywhere that there is (residential) zoning, hotels are going to come in," said Ann Hume Loikow, former chairman of the Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commission and a citizen representative on the National Capital Planning Commission. "It's happening in Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Shaw, Dupont Circle and Adams-Morgan."
The Hilton has been negotiating with the owner of the three apartment buildings, the L. Stewart Barr family, to buy the buildings and demolish them for expansion. A spokesman for the Barrs said the family had received other offers in addition to the Hilton's but that the properites "have not been put on the market."
Last February, Earl McDonough, general manager of the Washington Hilton, wrote to Mayor Barry suggesting that the Adams Community School, 19th and California streets NW, be closed so the hotel could obtain the land it occupies for expansion of its facilities. The 1,168-room hotel is in a residential zone on Connecticut Avenue near Columbia Road NW. The letter was among documents the Adams-Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC-1C) said it has filed with the zoning commission.
Amiel Summers, a member of the Adams Community School board, told the crowd Saturday, "It's a sad commentary on our society when hotels want to displace our schools and "Nothing indicates the liberality, prosperity or are in conflict, human rights ought to prevail. We are opposed to hotels encroaching on us."
Mary Carter, a native of Britain and a resident of 2000 Connecticut Ave. NW, across from the Hilton, said she was worried.
"We have no peace of mind. We never know when we'll get a notice to move. This would never happen in Britain. In America, it's money before humanity. It's scandalous." CAPTION: Picture, Residents of three apartment buildings called for Hilton to halt expansion plans. By Vanessa Barnes - The Washington Post