Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: What's affordable?


Photo by nertzy on Flickr.
Housing project not-so-affordable for DC: An affordable housing project backed by the city and HUD turned into a fiasco when the non-profit developer bought the properties at inflated prices, took on additional debt to renovate them and eventually went bankrupt. ... This isn't the only HUD funded project with troubles. (Post)

To close a tax loophole?: Mayor Gray proposed closing a tax loophole on corporate earnings estimating it would raise $22M. Jack Evans's finance committee wants to leave it on the books if the CFO revises up his 2012 revenue forecast. (Examiner)

Growing groceries: As the Wisconsin Avenue Giant nears the start of redevelopment, neighbors look back at the decade-long journey leading up to a new grocery. ... Meanwhile, Safeway is responding to positive resident pressure and planning a mixed-use store in Tenleytown. (Post)

Got Metro opinions?: WMATA wants people's opinions about how best to close this year's budget gap. They even have an an online survey! (Dan) ... The DC Bicycle Advisory Council wants to know your thoughts about Metro's bike parking facilities around the District. They will compile comments and submit them to WMATA.

Jury's still out on Sulaimon: After more than a month of investigations and new revelations, it's still unclear whether Mayor Gray's campaign promised Sulaimon Brown a job in his administration in exchange for campaigning against Adrian Fenty. (WAMU)

A greenway isn't enough: Three years after burying a freeway, the parks Boston created are still pretty devoid of people, showing how it takes more than just creating "green space" to make successful urban parks. (Boston Globe)

High(line) aspirations: Planners in Chicago have been inspired by New York's High Line to reimagine the space below one of Chicago's still-operable Els. (RPUS) ... NCPC's Witold Rybczynski says cities may be setting themselves up for failure with attempts to replicate the High Line. (NYT)

Double-edged referendums: While funding referendums and ballot initiatives can often make it harder to get infrastructure projects off the ground, once passed, they can insulate projects from political and economic troubles, ensuring ongoing support and completion. (RPUS)

And...: Jack Evans seems to think that kids can't ride bikes or take Metro. (Georgetown Dish) ... The DC DMV doesn't understand the difference between tickets issued to cyclists and pedestrians, and those issued for the sake of bike and ped safety. (DCBAC) ... Alexandria passed on-street parking restrictions for the neighborhoods surrounding the Mark Center. (WTOP)

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Erik Weber has been living car-free in the District since 2009. Hailing from the home of the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary, Erik has been interested in transit since spending summers in Germany as a kid where he rode as many buses, trains and streetcars as he could find. Views expressed here are Erik's alone. 

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Calling the absence of combined reporting a "loophole" is a highly slanted characterization. A policy for separate reporting is a tax policy decision that has a reasonable basis and benefits, including avoiding taxation of profits that actually occur in another state (which results from the averaging across states of revenues and costs). Indeed, federal tax policy uses separate reporting for international companies with profits overseas.

The point isn't that combined reporting is a worse system, just a different one. But separate reporting is not a "loophole".

by ah on May 16, 2011 9:16 am • linkreport

Is Evan's argument against evening parking fees essentially "my constituents are too stupid to read parking signs to find out when parking fees are in effect?" I really thought he was one of the smart ones in the room too.

As a ward 2 resident, I have never driven to go out to eat in the ward, nor have I ever met anyone resident who has. I'm starting to wonder if Evan's really has my best interests in mind, or just the Chamber of Commerce's.

by DAJ on May 16, 2011 9:29 am • linkreport

Regarding the Tenley Safeway, the horror! A five story building right off of Wisconsin Avenue. What is this, a city?

by Ben on May 16, 2011 9:50 am • linkreport

About every 5-7 years there is a big story / expose about the mountains of wasted HUD money both nationally and locally, and it really is shamefull.

Everyone is to blame. The Fed's are to blame for continually allocating money to jursidictions (The District) who do no more with the money than proverbially pile it up and set it aflame.

The District is really to blame as they hand out these vast sums of money without spending one half second looking into where it is going, or spending a half second periodically checking up on them.

"Anyone" can be a "developer". All you need is a couple hundred bucks to register with the city and "boom", you are a bad-azz Trump in the making. There should be a clear rule that the companies/entities who get this money have a clear proven track record. That you can't give money to someone who was flipping pizza six months ago and is now a "developer". And for dang sure, that you can't give money to people who JUST GOT OUT OF PRISON for defrauding HUD.

What a con though...spend a few hours filling out some forms, collect millions of dollars and walk away.

Seriously, the District folks who signed on the dotted line should also go to jail. Hundreds of millions have been wasted in the District alone the past ~15 years. The city could have built 400-500 hundred pretty swank affordable housing units in the District will all that money.

6 years from now the Post will run another article where "X" District Developer defrauds the city from "X" millions of HUD money.

Rinse...repeat.

by freely on May 16, 2011 10:14 am • linkreport

>> Is Evan's argument against evening parking fees essentially "my constituents are too stupid to read parking signs to find out when parking fees are in effect?"

I don't care too much about the parking one way or another. But the labeling on the meters and signs are atrocious. They often contradict each other. One of the biggest headscratchers is the meter that says "Mon-Fri only" on the side of the meter you feed the money into. But on the other side they'll be a small sticker that says the Saturday hours. Then the street signage says something completely different for that block segment too.

by Paul S on May 16, 2011 10:46 am • linkreport

@Erik,

A couple of your links to the Post today are jumping into the last page of the article. Whenever a post link ends with and underscore and a number before the HTML, it's not the first page.

Example: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/after-10-years-will-northwest-dc-neighborhood-get-a-new-giant/2011/05/10/AFZvJP4G_story_1.html

by Joey on May 16, 2011 10:47 am • linkreport

Why would we assume that non-profits using government money would have been any smarter at development than individuals and businesses using bank loans? I would actually expect the opposite.

Also, please don't let Douglas A. Willinger see that Globe story!

by John on May 16, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

The real shame of the Boston greenway is that it was not used instead for a rail link between North and South Stations, which could have greatly increased convenience for commuters as well as through trains to points north of Boston.

by ah on May 16, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

But the labeling on the meters and signs are atrocious. They often contradict each other. One of the biggest headscratchers is the meter that says "Mon-Fri only" on the side of the meter you feed the money into.

+1. The city didn't think through all the ramifications of the initial change, and then has made piecemeal refinements that have created not only inconsistencies but also confusing statements and traps for the unwary. Of course the city doesn't want to replace all the signs again, but the labels are a terrible solution.

by ah on May 16, 2011 11:14 am • linkreport


An honest view would have us look beyond HUD, DC, non-profits and a few speculators. Clearly, our entire development was based on a bubble economy justified by gentrification is a cure all for the development and social policy in this city. The dynamics of this story were common throughout this city for HUD backed developments, market rate private projects and mixed income public/private projects. Some of the progress we are now attributing to new urbanist policies was really just the results of a bubble, now popped. Slowly more chickens will come home to roust. And now some want to go back to the same failed policies of new urbanist gentrification on steroids. Rather than get serious about developing this city.

by W Jordan on May 16, 2011 11:26 am • linkreport

Man, I'd really like to find something on which I agree with Jack Evans...but I'm not seeing many options. Perhaps puppies? Does he like puppies? Or does he somehow thing that puppies reduce profits and/or infringe on the rights of corporate persons?

by Mister Goat on May 16, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

W Jordan, just out of curiosity, what counts for you as "get[ting] serious about developing this city" but yet at the same time doesn't involve "the same failed policies of new urbanist gentrification"? What would that look like, in Columbia Heights, or anywhere else in the District?

by Matt W on May 16, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

@DAJ As a ward 2 resident, I have never driven to go out to eat in the ward, nor have I ever met anyone resident who has.

Okay, you have now. If you're in Dupont, or Shaw, and you want to go have dinner in Georgetown, chances are you'll be driving. I know I will.

by Lance on May 16, 2011 12:46 pm • linkreport

Lance: Have you ever tried the new Circulator from Dupont to Georgetown? It's great. I've taken it several times to go eat in Georgetown and it's extremely convenient. It's also far cheaper than parking in a garage there and much less hassle than trying to find a street space.

by David Alpert on May 16, 2011 12:52 pm • linkreport

@Ben What is this, a city?

Not all parts of DC are urban. Nor do they need to be. Making the blanket statement "What is this, a city?" is not realistic. People who bought there (and thus invested in our "city") may have a very different idea from you as to what makes up a city. And since they're the ones who spent the money and time making that investment, they're the ones who get to decide. If THEY want to see their area change, then that's fine. If they don't, then you should respect that decision. I always like to ask myself how I would feel being in all the parties shoes. In your case, that means asking yourself how you would feel if these same folks insisted they had a right to come into your dense area and require that buildings be torn down and sidewalks removed and trees planted to make YOUR part of town conform to what THEIR ideals are ... And btw, I DO live in a dense area. So, it's not a matter of my wanting what they have. It's a matter of my realizing we don't all want the same thing, and I have no more right to impose my views on them ... as they do on me. It's just basic respect.

by Lance on May 16, 2011 1:14 pm • linkreport

David, Thanks for the info on the Circulator ... Though since that is supposed to be for visitors (at least that's how it got sold to the Council), should we really be taking up space on it? ... and benefiting from the taxpayer funded subsidy that allows the $1 per ride fare ... for our tourists?

by Lance on May 16, 2011 1:17 pm • linkreport

@Mister Goat Does he like puppies?

If you'd read CM Evan's newest newsletter discussing his milestone of 20 years in office, you'd know he does indeed like puppies ... 2 of which are mentiond in the newsletter:

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs020/1102755758588/archive/1105313680276.html

by Lance on May 16, 2011 1:21 pm • linkreport

Now I'm waiting for Jasper to come on and tell me ... "If we all had the same ideas of what basic respect for others ideas and wants means, there would be no need for laws ... " ;)

by Lance on May 16, 2011 1:28 pm • linkreport

@Lance
Though since that is supposed to be for visitors (at least that's how it got sold to the Council)
Citation please, because it really wasn't sold as "bus just for tourists, not locals!"
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/08/AR2005070801803.html

should we really be taking up space on it?
If the service is running, you aren't doing anything but CONTRIBUTING to the revenue of the agency when you ride the bus. It's not like DDOT has to pay a dollar in "subsidy" every time somebody gets on the bus and they would save money if you didn't.

by MLD on May 16, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

Not all parts of DC are urban.

My friends in Montezuma County, Colorado (13 people per square mile), and Shelby County, Illinois (31 people per square mile), will be very interested to hear this!

by Miriam on May 16, 2011 1:58 pm • linkreport

@Lance:

David, Thanks for the info on the Circulator ... Though since that is supposed to be for visitors (at least that's how it got sold to the Council), should we really be taking up space on it? ... and benefiting from the taxpayer funded subsidy that allows the $1 per ride fare ... for our tourists?

This is why I support legislation that would decree all DC residents must use the city's sewer system to get around the city. There's plenty of untapped capacity down there, and there's simply no reason why they should be allowed to take up precious space needed by folks from MD and VA who commute by car, or tour buses.

Who's with me?

by oboe on May 16, 2011 2:01 pm • linkreport

@Lance

By your definition then, only homeowners in any given neighborhood should have the right to decide what happens in their neighborhood?

by William on May 16, 2011 2:01 pm • linkreport

"loophole"? God bless that completely meaningless but wholly pejorative word. At least they didn't call it a "subsidy".

How many interstate corporations have their HQs in DC? Does DC Council realize the can of worms they're opening with this? I don't see breaking the long-standing agreement with surrounding jurisdictions as worth $22M.

by Andrew in DC on May 16, 2011 2:03 pm • linkreport

I think Lance's point is that we shouldn't always be so willing to impose "our" vision onto others. That the residents of a particularly neighborhood should have a louder voice than the rest of us.

I didn't get that he meant that n'hood residents are the ONLY people who should decide.

by HogWash on May 16, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

@HogWash -- if you read Lance's words, I think he makes it pretty clear.
-- The residents are not the ONLY people who should decide. -- The homeowners are the ONLY people who should decide.

Here's his quote:

"People who bought there (and thus invested in our "city") may have a very different idea from you as to what makes up a city. And since they're the ones who spent the money and time making that investment, they're the ones who get to decide. If THEY want to see their area change, then that's fine. If they don't, then you should respect that decision."

by Jacques on May 16, 2011 2:19 pm • linkreport

Hmm. Dinner for two. $2 each in Circulator, $4 total. Soon to be $9 if GGW types get their fare raise.

How much is parking in Georgetown? Personally, I haven't paid for Georgetown parking in years. The key is just park a few blocks away. Yes, it's a two hour limit but you can almost aways get away with 2.5 hours.

Throw in a kid, or other guest, and public transit looks even worse.

Plenty of free street parking in the West End as well, if you don't mind walking a few blocks.

by charlie on May 16, 2011 2:27 pm • linkreport

@Jacques, maybe I'm giving Lance too much benefit of the doubt in assuming that he wasn't being absolute in his opinion here. That, wouldn't make any sense at all.

He also said. I ask myself how I would feel being in all the parties shoes. That means asking yourself how you would feel if these same folks insisted they had a right to come into your dense area and require that buildings be torn down and sidewalks removed and trees planted to make YOUR part of town conform to what THEIR ideals are."

It adds to why I don't think he was being absolute.

by HogWash on May 16, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

This is why I support legislation that would decree all DC residents must use the city's sewer system to get around the city.

I smell a rat.

by JeffB on May 16, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

@HogWash, Of course you're correct that I wasn't being absolutionist. I think the reactions to my statement tells us lots about the people reacting. It's been my experience in life that learning not to be absolutist and coming to understand that solutions are rarely 'one size fits all' comes with experience, maturity, and yes ... with age ... One theme you'll see throughout many GGW posters postings is the one size fits all solution AND absolutism both in what they believe in and how it should/must be applied. I think that's very telling about the demographics of most of the posters. And I suspect many will look back years from now and cringe at their lack of understanding that nothing is absolute in its application and that there is no one size fits all solution. Of course, by that time many will have moved on ... and out of Washington, and left their damage behind for the rest of us to deal with ...

But yeah, the claims of my being absolutist in this matter ... or any other ... is more indicative of where the posters are coming from, than anything I ever said or espoused. I suspect you've got some maturity on you too?

by Lance on May 16, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

@charlie: dinner for two people who already have monthly passes that cover their commute. $0 on circulator. $0 total.

Fixed.

by Michael Perkins on May 16, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

"If you're in Dupont, or Shaw, and you want to go have dinner in Georgetown, chances are you'll be driving. I know I will."

Hey Lance, I'm assuming you don't drink at dinner when you drive to these fine Georgetown restaurants, right?

by Phil on May 16, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

@MLD

http://replay.web.archive.org/20050714033703/http://www.dccirculator.com/

It does indeed look like from the start the Circulator marketed itself as being for more than the tourists. However, it was based on 'cultural, shopping, dining, and business destinations' which tourists and other visitors would want to go to ... I specifically remember hearing CM Evans says at a meeting that it was designed to help the tourists spend their money in places like Georgetown ... But maybe the market WAS envisioned as broader by the coalition that put it together. However, I still take issue with the fact that if it's intended to do more than stimulate sales in the District, that us taxpayers should be subsidizing it by letting it offer unrealistically low fares. It's one thing for my tax dollars to go toward an expense that pays for itself by bringing in additional tax revenues (i.e., tourists and visitors sales taxes and restaurant taxes) and quite another for my tax dollars to go to subsidize some other resident's 'ride' around town. I mean, for example, why would David need a subsidy in getting from Dupont to Georgetown? Why would most of us?

by Lance on May 16, 2011 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Phil, It's okay to drink when you go to a restaurant and need to drive home from it later ... It's just not okay to 'drink too much' at such restaurant than drive home. And in those cases, you can always let someone else in your party drive home ... or, just take a cab if everyone in the car has over done it. But realistically, how often is that really the case?

by Lance on May 16, 2011 4:23 pm • linkreport

@Lance: It does indeed look like from the start the Circulator marketed itself as being for more than the tourists. [...] I specifically remember hearing CM Evans says at a meeting that it was designed to help the tourists spend their money in places like Georgetown ...

So, Evans was wrong.

I mean, for example, why would David need a subsidy in getting from Dupont to Georgetown?

To get there when it would be easier for anyone to go elsewhere (as the D6 is awful), to go shopping, to go to those "cultural destinations". It's ok to subsidize a tourist, who may spend that money once, but not a resident, who will return multiple times, increasing the revenue?

Not saying we should even subsidize the fares, once the system has been operating long enough to have established itself. Then again, I believe most here want the fares raised... removing the subsidy... so kinda moot point to argue here, yeah?!?

by greent on May 16, 2011 4:37 pm • linkreport

@Lance
It was envisioned as more from the start - the idea for the circulator came from the NCPC's 1997 Legacy Plan here and on page 4 you can see that even in the first stages it was supposed to be for "tourists and commuters."

Everyone's ride around town is subsidized, whether you drive or take transit. The only difference is that the transit subsidy is easy to quantify because the numbers are all in one place, and the driver's subsidy isn't.

by MLD on May 16, 2011 4:41 pm • linkreport

@Lance: you wrote:

"Okay, you have now. If you're in Dupont, or Shaw, and you want to go have dinner in Georgetown, chances are you'll be driving. I know I will."

That's just abject laziness, nothing more or less. I live in Dupont, and each and every time I go out to dinner, a movie or shopping in Georgetown, I walk or take my bike. Driving there is daft: it's a short distance, and I have functional feet and legs. And I'd feel the same way if I lived along U Street, in Logan Circle or Downtown. If it's raining, I'd take a bus if I lived in one of the more distant corners, but really: it's all walkable!

Just my $0.02, and I'm sure your mileage varies. But this shows part of the problem that Evans (and other CMs), as well as the Committee of 100, represent: myopic thinking that won't move DC forward.

by Rudi on May 16, 2011 6:54 pm • linkreport

Circulator was meant for tourists, and it was also meant to be only 50 cents. Things change.

Rudi's comments at 6:54 illustrate Lance's point about the inability of many commentators to think beyond themselves. Sure, I would walk from Dupont to Georgetown as well. I've walked from Rosslyn to the West End almost everyday for 5 years. But that is me. I'm not increasing parking rates is going to help DC when people do want to use that option to drive.

by charlie on May 16, 2011 7:08 pm • linkreport

@Charlie: I can think beyond my own situation, and I know of many people who legitimately need cars to get to certain places where it's not feasible, practical or, in some cases, safe to walk, bike or use public transit. I'm one of these people in certain situations.

But freedom to choose does not exempt people from making smart decisions. And unless you are truly incapable of putting one foot in front of another, it makes zero sense to drive the short distances within Ward 2 unless there is a truly extenuating circumstance (e.g. picking up a big piece of furniture or a load of groceries for a large family, though a bakfeits solves that in the cycling realm). If more people in the Ward got our of their cars and walked, cycled or rode mass transit - especially those with the means to pay parking valets or pay garages on every cross-Ward outing - there would be better understanding.

All I ask is that CM Evans and others, like Lance, try living without their car for trips of 2 miles or less for a month. It's not difficult to do within many parts of the District, and is very, very simple to do in Ward 2.

So, Charlie, that's not an inability to think beyond myself; that's simply asking folks to try a different way of thinking - with no guarantee that the other way will work for all.

by Rudi on May 16, 2011 8:11 pm • linkreport

So, I went to the Metro survey site and took the survey. I'm disappointed that most of what was discussed (altering bus routes) has no budgetary impact. The only items the survey mentions that do have budgetary impact are two different schemes for increasing wait times between trains on the weekends. That's it. Oh, sorry, there's also one for increasing the price to park on the weekends. That's it. Everything designed to drive away patrons. I'm disappointed.

I wish Captcha wouldn't make me have to remember how to make an umlaut.

by ksu499 on May 16, 2011 9:51 pm • linkreport

@ksu499:

I wish Captcha wouldn't make me have to remember how to make an umlaut.

Pro Tip: the verification algorithm is somewhat fuzzy; so usually if you get it "mostly right" Captcha says, "OK".

This is especially helpful when Captcha asks you to enter something like:

...and you don't want to break out your old pirated copy of Mathematica.

by oboe on May 17, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

@Rudi; yes -- just we what we need. Have the government ban all car trips under 2 miles! Hooray!

Lance's point is better. Given how much we are losing on Circulator, I'd rather start banning all circulator trips where people can walk instead. We'd lose less money.

by charlie on May 17, 2011 10:08 am • linkreport

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