Citing 300 violations of city housing, fire, zoning and licensing regulations at the Clifton Terrace Apartments, the D.C. corporation counsel's office yesterday filed criminal charges against the executive director of Pride Inc. and the firm she heads, which owns and manages the apartment complex.
Documents filed in D.C. Superior Court yesterday list numerous violations at each of the three buildings in the complex at 14th and Clifton streets NW. At the three buildings, fire inspectors had found fire alarm systems out of order, fire placards and extinguishers missing, and fire doors to exits not fixed. Housing inspector found ill-fitting cabinet drawers, defective electrical wall switches, and apartments infested with roaches, bedbugs, lice, termites, and flies.
The corporation counsel's office also charged P.I. Properties Inc., which has owned Clifton Terrace since 1975 and managed it since 1974, and Mary Treadwell, who is president of the firm, with operating without a certificate of occupancy and without a license to operate.
A judicial summons, signed by D.C. Superior Court Judge Samuel B. Block, was issued yesterday, ordering Treadwell and corporation representatives to appear in court Aug. 22.
If found guilty of not correcting the numerous code violations, Treadwell and P.I. Properties each could receive up to a $300 fine or 10 days in jail for each of the 290 housing code violations cited, up to a $300 fine or 90 days in jail for each of the six fire code violations cited, up to a $300 fine and 90 days in jail for each of three licensing violations, and up to a $100 fine for each of three violations of zoning regulations, according to assistant corporation counsel Howard Horowitz.
Horowitz noted that the city prosecutor's office has begun cracking down on owners of apartment buildings where there are numerous housing and fire code violations. Last May, a special task force was set up to deal with the problem, and Horowitz said the number of charges filed yesterday make Clifton Terrace "one of the larger" of the 15 cases they have handled so far.
Clifton Terrace has been beset by problems for years. Eleven years ago, it was one of the city's most notorious slum properties. Its owner, Sidney J. Brown, was sentenced to 60 days in jail in 1967 - time which he never served - for failing to provide heat for the tenants, and housing inspectors that year found more than 1,200 building code violations.
In 1968, the Housing Development Corp. a nonprofit housing corporation, bought the complex and received a rehabilation loan insured and partly subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But the Corporation ran into financial difficulties and HUD foreclosed in 1973.
P.I. Properties then took over, and by November, 1975, things had improved to the point that city and federal officials were praising Clifton Terrace as a model of how well a community-based minority operation could manage housing for the poor.
But Treadwell's firm soon ran into trouble. At the end of June, HUD, which had insured the mortgage, filed for foreclosure again.
HUD said that P.I. Properties owed more than $300,000 in back mortgage payments, in addition to other unpaid bills, and wanted a new management firm for the 285-unit complex.
Treadwell and P.I. Properties filed suit to stop foreclusure in U.S. District Court last week, however, contending that Clifton Terrace's problems are the fault of HUD. The attorney for Clifton Terrace tenants said that tenants have filed a motion asking to intervene in the suit on behalf of HUD. Tenants, who have complained of mismanagement by P.I. Properties for several years, want the foreclosure to proceed as quickly as possible.
A hearing on the request of P.I. Properties for an injunction to stop the foreclosure sale is scheduled for Aug. 16.
Treadwell said yesterday that she has talked with lawyers in the corporation counsel's office but had not yet received the summons.
"I'm very upset that they (criminal charges) couldn't have been put at the foot of the person where they belong - the secretary of HUD," Treadwell said. She said the code violations and the "crisis situation" at the project arose because her company "has to live under HUD regulations." She said the firm's suit to stop foreclosure "goes to the very problems" outlined in the list of violations.
Treadwell said that she couldn't get the permits and licenses to operate Clifton Terrace as required by law because there were outstanding violations there - violations that she contends were brought about by HUD's past failures to financially support the complex. She also contends that the rehabilitation work penformed at the complex before P.I. Properties acquired it was performed incompetently and fraudulently.