I saw this on Twitter earlier and do not know who to credit for the heads up. It is a fascinating story of how Ms Yellen’s security detail has upset the fragile equanimity of the community in which she and her husband live.
Via the WSJ:
WASHINGTON—In the Georgetown gated community of Hillandale, residents live in secluded calm governed by some 50 pages of rules banning fences, motorcycles, certain paint colors, tree species and excess dogs and cats (no more than two total per household).
“People come to live in Hillandale because of the quality of our residential community, and that is something that we need to maintain,” says resident Sallie Forman.
Then one of the most powerful economic policy makers in the world moved in and, in the words of some here, ruined the neighborhood.
As neighbors tell it, earlier this year, the security detail protecting new Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen barreled through the cul-de-sac where she lives in oversize vans loaded with guns, cameras and takeout pizza. It established an “armed camp” next door to Ms. Forman’s townhome, according to a written bill of grievances presented by concerned neighbors deeming the uniformed police presence “uncomfortable for residents of various religious persuasions,” such as Quakers.
Security trucks, it continued, “weighing approximately 7,000 pounds each” sit idling on the street for “approximately 22 minutes daily” at each Yellen morning pickup. When Ms. Yellen leaves her home, a second truck then “speedily pulls out of the security driveway…all the while spilling fluid onto the street, which has now left a permanent stain.” Hillandale bylaws expressly prohibit car fluid spills in the common areas.
Neighbors seem especially put off by the aesthetics of the security detail, in particular their blue uniforms and—in the words of one resident—”doughnut bellies.”
Living in the nation’s capital has long involved sacrificing some personal liberties. D.C. residents are used to the overhead whir of helicopters, bag searches at book parties and Secret Service police along their children’s routes to school. But some in Hillandale say the price of security just got too high.
“The government is paying $5,000 or $6,000 a month or more to rent a whole townhouse in Georgetown to put cops in,” says international attorney William Shawn, who lives down the street from the newcomers. Is this really necessary, he wonders, to protect an unarmed economist from Brooklyn?
The Federal Reserve said Ms. Yellen receives the same level of security as her predecessors and didn’t respond to questions about the detail’s cost or eating habits.
Ms. Yellen and her spouse have lived for a couple of years in this small development surrounded by rolling forest. Hillandale, built on an oil heiress’s former estate, features 200-year-old oaks amid houses and dense rows of townhomes. The Fed chairwoman is a friendly member of the community, say neighbors, as is former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, a Hillandale resident who has been a guest at neighborhood block parties.
After Ms. Yellen became the nation’s top banker, her security detail moved into a rented townhome down the block from hers. They mounted on the roof a camera that looked like a streetlight on an interstate and proceeded to monitor—and disgust—the neighbors.
” Bob Mueller, who you would think would have a much more dangerous job dealing with terrorists all over the world, had people who were businesslike, didn’t socialize and waited for him outside the gate,” says one unhappy resident, sitting in a living room decorated in chintz, silk topiary and family silver. “Now we have this group, overweight, wearing the most ridiculous blue uniforms with the most ridiculous blue caps, and they have guns that are visible.” She declined to be named because she is worried about federal-government reprisals.
As the guards watch over Ms. Yellen, locals watch over the guards, saying they have seen them smoking, schlepping fast food and breaking the 15 m.p.h. speed limit.
Mr. Shawn and his family live down the street from the armed newcomers. “Some neighbors say it’s great, all the security that is in the neighborhood,” he says. “But these characters are only here for Janet Yellen. They’re not going to be distracted by robbers, rapists or any other thing. Besides, these guys couldn’t catch a thief if their lives depended on it.”
George Hill also lives nearby, and doesn’t mind the officers. “Very intelligent and articulate and expressive people live in neighborhoods like ours, and I think sometimes they over-articulate and over-express,” he says.
The Hillandale Board and Covenant Committee monitors compliance with strict community rules. Homes can’t house businesses or multiple families. Residents must choose from a list of approved paint colors for doors and trim. Changes to the homes’ exterior, from window boxes to fountains, must be approved by the architectural covenants committee.
The neighbors now want the FBI, an independent consultant, or the Fed’s inspector general to evaluate “what appears to be an excessive level of [Federal Reserve] security” on Ms. Yellen’s street at “enormous government cost to taxpayers.”
The Fed has removed the camera from the townhouse roof. Neighbors say the detail’s leader has offered to dress the force in button-down shirts and chinos, and conceal their weapons and fast-food deliveries. Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith declined to confirm that.
“Because these are law-enforcement issues, we are not in a position to share specifics about those assessments or arrangements. We have worked closely with the homeowners’ association to respond to the concerns of some neighbors and will continue to do so,” she said.
So far the Hillandale board hasn’t sanctioned the Fed. A couple of the complainants suggest that is because board President Cynthia Howar is the real-estate agent who rented the townhome to the police in the first place.
Ms. Howar dismissed that suggestion, saying the Fed came to her as a Realtor, not the board president. “There are a number of people who are upset about it and an equal number who are not,” said Ms. Howar. “It’s not fair to the neighborhood to have this aired about publicly…I’m kind of embarrassed for the neighborhood, quite frankly.”
On June 5, homeowners formed a committee to develop a standardized lease that would bar security operations from renting Hillandale homes. Others argued that too many rules could damage property values in the community, where sale prices can surpass $3 million.
Nonsense, says Mr. Shawn, who is on the new committee. “We need to put in proper safeguards. How are we going to feel if somebody leases to the Taliban?”