How DC plans to deal with derelict embassies

Dealing with bad neighbors is bad enough, but what happens when that nightmare neighbor has diplomatic protections and international accord to hide behind?

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Derelict embassies: it’s a problem that could only happen in D.C.

And the usual ways the District would deal with vacant buildings, steep taxes and the threat of seizure, don’t apply thanks to diplomatic protocols.

Cindy Babbitt works next door to the Argentinian embassy, which is now abandoned and has been the source of ongoing issues for twenty years.

“There are pigeons that fly in and out of the windows. There are definitely rats. We’ve heard other animal sounds- so who knows who’s living in there," she said. 

RELATED: What can be done about the abandoned embassy next door?

Just last month, a window fell out and crashed into their backyard, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Fortunately, no one was sitting underneath.

“The glass fell down and ripped a hole in the canopy," said Babbitt.

Embassies don’t pay taxes to the city, and the problems are forwarded to the Federal State Department.

Council member Mary Cheh said she’s been getting complaints about the Iraqi embassy in her ward.

“I’m understanding of the State Department’s delicate position again they don’t want to be too aggressive, but on the other hand they do have to act at some point," said Cheh.

The embassy has been given until the end of the month to clean up. Cheh is also introducing a bill that will keep a running list of problem embassies for the State Department .

It creates a sense of pressure I think and attention to the problem, so that’s what we’re hoping, that’s the best we can do," said Cheh.

Many of the worst offenders are in Kalorama, the same neighborhood where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lives himself.

Down the street from the Argentinian embassy, the Pakistan and Serbian embassies also currently sit in disrepair.

As for the canopy, Babbit said she finally reached an Argentinian Major General who promised to pay the costs of getting it fixed.

“Now they’re saying that they can sell the building and they intend to. So we’re hopeful someone will buy it, renovate it, and move in." 

The District’s bill is expected to be up for a vote this Spring.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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