A D.C. citizens association filed a suit in federal court this week, in the latest effort to force the Peruvian government to move its naval attache's offices out of a MacArthur Boulevard house.
Residents of the area have been indignant since June, when the Peruvian government bought the house with what it says it believed was the blessing of the State Department. The presence of offices in an area zoned only for single-family homes and alterations to the house lower property values and spoil the ambiance of the neighborhood, said MacArthur Area Citizens Association in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. The association was formed recently to push for eviction of the Peruvians.
The suit asks the court to order the Peruvians out of the house and to require the D.C. government and the State Department to ensure that they move. The court is also asked to order Shannon & Luchs and Laura Astiz, the real estate firm and its agent in the sale, to pay damages that can be used to preserve the beauty of the neighborhood.
Spokesmen for the State Department and the Peruvian government said they could not comment about the case because it is in litigation. D.C. Corporation Counsel Inez Smith Reid said she was not aware of the suit and that her office had not received the court documents.
William Ellis, head of residential sales for Shannon & Luchs, said he could not comment on the suit, but added, "We told the Peruvians they could not go there" with offices because of the residential zoning.
Alterations to the house at 5758 MacArthur Blvd. NW "include such transmogrifications as the bricking up (with poorly matched bricks and mortar) of certain openings of the exterior walls. . . ," the suit said. This and other "exterior modifications have given the dwelling an unbecoming aura of a commercial fortress." High-intensity fluorescent office lights "shine harshly through the bars of the windows so as to rudely shatter the evening time tranquility and ambience of the residential neighborhood . . . ."
The State Department acknowledged that it approved the purchase of the house last spring, but said later that the Peruvians were responsible for ensuring that their use of the house complied with D.C. zoning laws. A Peruvian spokesman countered that his government had been told the department's Foreign Missions Office was "the only channel" to work through regarding property transactions.
When the naval attache moved into the house "Peru was . . . fully aware" that the offices would violate District zoning laws, said the court document filed this week. The suit asks that the Peruvians be ordered to move out immediately and "to remove . . . all the commercial, or military, trappings complained of" by the plaintiffs. The court also is asked to order the State Department to use all its powers to evict the Peruvians and to instruct the D.C. government that the Foreign Missions Act does not preempt city zoning jurisdiction. The District should be instructed to order the Peruvians out of the house and back up the order with a threat to stop all city services, the suit said.
Shannon & Luchs and Astiz knew "long prior to the sale" of the house that the Peruvians planned offices in it, a use that would violate city zoning laws, according to the court document.