District Mayor Marion Barry's administration, which once hoped to make its Bates Street housing development a showcase project in the rundown Shaw area, now is working toward an autumn target date for satisfying the years-old complaints of angry homeowners and getting out of the project for good.
While some Bates Street residents have been pleased with their homes from the start, a number of homeowners contacted recently said they remain dissatisfied with what the city has done toward correcting serious construction flaws in their renovated town houses.
Some settled with the city anyway, saying they were tired of the fight, while others hope to press for more than the District has offered them. And some have hired lawyers to help them with their claims.
"My daughter hollered downstairs last night, 'It's raining in my room again,' " said Fairy Armstrong, one homeowner who said she is taking the city to court rather than continuing with negotiations that had not been successful. "I have been embarrassed. I have been subjected to health hazards. I have no choice" but to sue, she said.
Mary L. Jenkins, another homeowner, said she has settled with the city but that she is not pleased with the resolution or the repair work that was done.
"I'm not really satisfied with it, but it's been over for a few months," said Jenkins, who bought into the first phase of the project in 1980 and moved into her town house in early 1982. "I just got tired."
The development was planned as a mixed-income community, combining programs for first-time home buyers with houses financed at market interest rates and 37 units set aside for low-income housing.
Shirley Diamond, neighborhood improvement administrator in the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, said she expects all grants to be awarded to homeowners and all repairs at the 163-unit development to be completed in the fall.
"We should be out by the end of September or early October. That is our target date," Diamond said.
The city still owns five properties on P Street NW, and it plans to advertise soon for their sale to any developer interested in rehabilitating them, Diamond said. Otherwise they will be demolished, she said. Eighteen properties were sold last year to nonprofit organizations, and six of those still must be rehabilitated and sold, she said.
When those plans are completed and the settlements with the homeowners made, that will be the end of the city's involvement with the Bates Street project, Diamond said.
The city started the massive renovation project in the late 1970s, and it has spent about $13 million on the project. In 1982, the city bought back 58 properties from the Bates Street development partnership, which had run into serious financial difficulties and could not complete the work.
A number of new homeowners at the development found serious construction flaws in their town houses, including leaking roofs, inadequate heating, improperly installed windows and doors, and sagging floors and ceilings.
Several owners started long and frustrating attempts to get the developers, the subcontractors or the city government to take responsibility for making repairs. District officials in 1983 promised to correct all flaws in the original renovation, and some homeowners have been negotiating settlements with the city ever since.
Diamond said that all grants have been made to owners in the first 56-unit phase of the project, and that homeowners in the 48-unit second phase are getting bids from contractors on work to be done. If the low estimate is no more than 15 percent above a city inspector's estimate on the work, the District will pay the low bidder to do the work, she said. But some owners indicated that there are continuing difficulties in getting the city to finance the repairs that they believe are the city's responsibility.
Charles Lewis, who has lived at 135 Bates St. for 5 1/2 years, said that estimates to fix his town house ranged from $4,400 to $10,000 but that the city has offered him $3,037. "They're playing games," he said. "I'm sick of it."
Annette Nicholas said she moved into the second phase of the development 2 1/2 years ago and that her roof still leaks and painting has not been finished. "I'm trying to be patient," she said. "The whole business has been time-consuming."
Still, residents stress that they, too, want to put the troubled past behind them and move on to creating a strong sense of community. In the past year, most of the empty shells that dotted the Bates Street landscape have disappeared.
Neighbors got together last weekend for a brief ceremony starting a flower-planting campaign. Several said they hope to rejuvenate the area. 8-YEAR CHRONOLOGY OF PROJECT
*March 1977: The D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency tentatively chooses Bates Street Associates Inc. to remodel abandoned or run-down houses in the Shaw area. Partners in the firm include George Holmes Jr.
*March 1978: The partnership, now approved for the project, misses the deadline for buying the first 11 houses from the city.
*January 1979: Marion Barry takes office as mayor and makes Bates Street a top priority, with the goal of remodeling 163 units. Three of the original partners are dropped and replaced by Lawrence Brailsford and Jack W. White.
*September 1979: A $2.7 million construction loan from the city begins flowing to the developers. The city later awards a contract for $2.2 million more to improve streets.
*February 1980: The city loans developers another $400,000, raising the District's total loan commitment to more than $3 million.
*September 1980: Brailsford withdraws from the project and is replaced by Prince George's County investors John Haley and Dennis Makielski.
*October 1981: The city agrees to loan developers another $500,000 at no interest. The amount is eventually boosted to $1.24 million.
*April 1982: Developers, far behind schedule, agree to sell back to the city 58 properties on which work was not completed. The city pays three contractors $2.3 million to finish the units.
*August 1982: The D.C. auditor issues a scathing report on the project, saying nearly $4 million in interest-free government loans was not accounted for.
*December 1982: The city pays $2.5 million to satisfy debts to subcontractors and suppliers for work on the project.
*March 1984: The Washington Post publishes a series of stories on problems plaguing the project. A federal grand jury begins an investigation.
*April 1984: Federal officials criticize the city's handling of Bates Street.
*Aug. 1, 1985: Holmes pleads guilty to failing to report $122,000 in income from the project and agrees to cooperate with federal investigators.