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Weekend links: Long-term thinking

Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.
DC must plant trees and add green roofs: DC's new permit from EPA requires planting 4,150 trees annually and adding 350,000 sq. ft. of green roofs to city buildings. The aim is to reduce overflows from the combined sewer system. (Post)

Liberal professor opposes pro-Democrat gerrymandering: A St. Mary's College professor argues that though the proposed gerrymandering in Maryland would further his political beliefs, the ends don't justify the means. (FreeStater Blog)

Civil rights activists wrote their own restaurant reviews: Until 1953, many restaurants and stores in DC refused to serve black patrons. A local minister produced a list of integrated restaurants and urged his white congregants to boycott the others. (Post)

Free parking drives driving: After moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a writer notes that the free parking spot he now gets everywhere determines his new car-dependent driving habits. (KQED, Michael P)

NY seeks neighborhood approval for bike stations: New York is taking suggestions for bike sharing locations. However, to build community support, it will seek approval from neighborhood community boards before the final deployment. (Atlantic Cities)

California parking reduction meets opposition: A bill would lower parking requirements, typically 2 spaces per unit, for infill projects near transit. Some housing advocates say it will reduce an existing affordable housing incentives. (CP&DR)

And...: Urban trees bring a lot of environmental, health, and economic benefits. (The Dirt) ... Good transit planning and walkability attract residents to Arlington. (Examiner) ... David Catania says the District stacks the deck against its small businesses. (Examiner) ... Paris has a "deputy mayor of the night." (Polis, Stephen Miller)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 


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Re: the first item, the tree planting and green roof requirements are contained in DC's *separate* sewer permit. That has nothing to do with the problem of *combined* sewer overflows. DC has a combined sewer in 1/3 of the District and a separate sewer in the other 2/3. The permit requirements only apply to the 2/3 of the District where there are separate sewers. The problem they're seeking to solve isn't combined sewer overflows, but (non-sewage) pollution carried through the stormwater pipes of the separate sewer into the city's rivers every time it rains -- stuff like trash, oil and grease from cars, dirt, pet waste, fertilizer, and basically every other nasty substance on the ground.

by Becky on Oct 9, 2011 9:57 am • linkreport

...and hot water. Rain water lands on hot pavement causing unnaturally hot water to flow into creeks making the environment even more hostile for anything living there.

RE: Segregated restaurants. Granted I didn't read the article, but how do you boycott a restaurant if the proprietor already legally bars you from being served/spending your money there?

Re: Trees -maybe the EPA edict can stimulate State to pressure bad actors like the Congo embassy to respect trees and permeable surfaces...

by Tina on Oct 9, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

Tina: Re: segregated restaurants. There are at least two ways: 1. A lot of the "restaurants" on the list were really just lunch counters at 5&10s, so black residents could boycott the rest of the store, and 2. You could be white.

by TM on Oct 9, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport


The minister here was A. Powell Davies, a minister at All Souls Church:

He was white, as were most of his congregants.

by Alex B. on Oct 9, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

I requested a tree to replace the stump between the street and sidewalk outside my house like two months ago and they still haven't put one in.

It says "urged his white congregants to boycott". Of course that raises the issue of he probably doesn't have any white congregants cus nothing is more segregated than churches.

by Doug on Oct 9, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

Doug, fall & winter is the best time to plant, so be patient. If they had planted in July or August when you requested it, then that would just be money flushed down the toilet because trees planted then stand a very high change of dying.

by spookiness on Oct 9, 2011 12:58 pm • linkreport

A St. Mary's College professor argues that though the proposed gerrymandering in Maryland would further his political beliefs, the ends don't justify the means.

Difficult question. Do you keep your beliefs even when it will cost you? Republicans never doubt. Democrats do.

by Jasper on Oct 9, 2011 1:08 pm • linkreport

Republicans never doubt. Democrats do.

Speak for yourself. If this gets 2 more Democrats in Congress, the ends do justify the means. It's a shame the Democrats just can't seem to avoid the circular firing squad.

by WRD on Oct 9, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

@ WRD: Speak for yourself.

I posed a question. I did not answer it. That's easy for me because I don't get to vote anyway.

You clearly chose. That means you lost your right to complain about gerrymandering in Texas. Which will net way more Republicans. Let alone gerrymandering in all other states.

As far as I'm concerned, districts are abandoned for proportional voting, and if you need to have districts, you can let a computer draw the lines. You give the computer geographical census tracts and tell it to draw the districts in such a way that the total border length is minimized. Problem solved. The code could be open source and pretty short.

To keep elections exciting, you could also require that every ten years it draws considerably different districts.

by Jasper on Oct 9, 2011 6:07 pm • linkreport

Mayor of the Night

Now that's a title!

by ChrisB on Oct 9, 2011 6:11 pm • linkreport


Yes. This is my fantasy map-drawing process, too. I'm a Democrat, too, but I just think it would set a bar for others to follow as far as party-blind district-setting goes. The question of party versus electoral map goals is just a question of which is your higher principle. For some it's party, for some it's process.

by jnb on Oct 9, 2011 9:09 pm • linkreport


Of course that raises the issue of he probably doesn't have any white congregants cus nothing is more segregated than churches.

This isn't likely true. The minister in question is a Unitarian Universalist. All Souls Church (and UU churches in general) have always been open and welcoming (this was also the location for the signing ceremony of DC's gay marriage law, for example) and back in this era, it was indeed a predominantly white congregation - which was the whole point of The List - that the white congregants shouldn't support businesses that openly discriminate.

I think the larger point about bringing up The List is that The List isn't really that old.

by Alex B. on Oct 9, 2011 9:25 pm • linkreport

I've often thought the same thing but it's just way to technologically advanced for politicians to understand.

@Alex B.
No, the point of bringing up the list was that white people alone were solely responsible for ending segregation. We realized it was kind of unfair so we choose to stop it because we are a deeply moral race of people. Marvin Luther Whatshisface gets a big fancy statue but everyone forgets how it was really all about Minister Davies. I'm glad to see GGW is not afraid to put the truth out there though.

Oh well, god knows the DC gov has wasted my tax dollars on dumber thing. I say just plant it and roll the dice. There is some chance it will survive.

by Doug on Oct 9, 2011 10:05 pm • linkreport


I'm not sure it's just a matter of higher principles. In this case I don't think unilateral disarmament is principled.

(And one result of such a gerrymandered map would be that just about every district would be ***more*** competitive, not less).

@ Doug

Having trouble seeing where you're coming from. We are not supposed to honor white folks who worked to improve civil rights for African-Americans? Why not?

by DavidDuck on Oct 10, 2011 1:10 am • linkreport

Which will net way more Republicans

Actually, gerrymandering benefits Republicans way more than Democrats. Democratic votes tend to be concentrated and "easier" to gerrymander. Second, many minority-majority districts are Democratic and it's difficult to spread the "extra" votes to swing districts.

Overall, the real question to Maryland Dems is: do we want more Democrats in Congress or not? It's a chance to pick up two Republican seats. That's the end of the debate for me. Our gerrymandering won't affect Texas's or Illinois's or any other state's.

by WRD on Oct 10, 2011 6:04 am • linkreport

@ Doug: I've often thought the same thing but it's just way to technologically advanced for politicians to understand.

Given an handy way to handle the census data, smart high school students could write the code for dividing a random area in X parts with the smallest possible total border length.

It's not too complex for politicians. There simply is no reason not to gerrymander to their benefit.

I don't like constitutional amendments, but I think if you want to get rid of gerrymandering, you should just get a referendum on a constitutional amendment stating that redistricting will be done solely by an impartial computers based on population census data solely, specifically excluding political preference information and with the goal of yielding districts with the shortest total border length. In fact, if the code is short enough, you could add the actual logical code in the constitution.

by Jasper on Oct 10, 2011 8:29 am • linkreport

It's not too complex for politicians. There simply is no reason not to gerrymander to their benefit.

I'd replace "incentive" for "reason."

by Fitz on Oct 10, 2011 9:33 am • linkreport

@ Fitz:I'd replace "incentive" for "reason."

True. The words 'reason' and 'politics' have nothing in common.

by Jasper on Oct 10, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

The end to all Congressional gerrymandering can be enacted by Congress.

Legislation has been introduced in the current Congress that would end partisan redistricting. The proposed legislation, requires "redistricting to be conducted through a plan developed by the independent redistricting commission established in the state, or if such plan is not enacted into law, the redistricting plan selected by the state's highest court or developed by a U.S. district court."

Want to make sure that this is the last cycle subject to partisan redistricting? Call your member of Congress and demand action on The John Tanner Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act (H.R. 453).

by Todd Eberly on Oct 10, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

How will this EPA thing be maintained over the long term? Will our water or sewer rates go up?

by Jazzy on Oct 10, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

No links (or other postings) for today? Is it being treated like a holiday by GGW? (Yeah, I know federal workers get today off.)

by Lance on Oct 10, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

I'm not too familiar with this, but could somebody explain to me the stormwater discharge process. Do these 4,150 trees have to be planted near the river or anywhere in the District?

by RD on Oct 10, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

I'm in CD 6 and don't want to lose Roscoe Bartlett. But that's the way it goes... 2012 will be another terrible year for Democrats despite Maryland.

by Kaleel on Oct 10, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

The trees will probably go wherever the contractor that the local DC agency hires, in conjunction with EPA and other random forces, decide they go and do the green justification afterwards. I'll sing a different tune just as soon as I can be assured this will be implemented competently. Experience with EPA mandates in DC has left me wary. Sewer projects are to be approached with especial skepticism and heightened questioning.

How much will it cost?

by Jazzy on Oct 10, 2011 7:09 pm • linkreport

The trees can be planted anywhere in the 2/3 of the District that has combined sewers. (There's a map of that area on the DC Water website if you're interested.) When it rains, water runs off of impervious surfaces like streets, parking lots, and roofs into the separate sewer drains, carrying gross stuff like trash, dirt, oil/grease, fertilizer, etc. with it. From there it gets dumped directly in the rivers with no treatment. The idea behind the trees (and green roofs) is that they soak up lots of water and prevent runoff from happening in the first place, thereby keeping pollution from being washed into the pipes. That's why they can be planted anywhere in the separate sewer area.

I think all of the activities under this permit are being funded by customers' stormwater fees, not water/sewer rates. The stormwater fees are based on how much impervious surface is on your property, since that's what determines how much runoff your property generates. I think they're getting ready to institute a rebate program so people who install runoff-prevention practices like rain gardens, rain barrels, etc. can get a discount off their stormwater fee.

by Becky on Oct 11, 2011 8:33 am • linkreport

Yes, I am sure there are plans, the key question is, will they be followed. These projects have a way of becoming last-minute debacles where stuff is jammed in and rushed through.

Becky, I am not sure if you are the same Becky that was corresponding with Calvin Gurley in the comments section of the Washington Post article cited here or not, so I apologize if not.

But if so, in response to one of Mr Gurley's comments you said:

Hi Calvin,

Actually, the old combined sewer system that DC Water (WASA) is obligated to spend several billion dollars on is not just the old system under the Capitol, nor does it serve only Congress. Rather, the combined sewer system serves a full 1/3 of the District's land area, including all of downtown and many privately owned areas. You can see a map of the combined sewer area on DC Water's website here:

That's why the sewer improvements are not entirely paid for out of federal funds. Much of the funding is obtained from ratepayers because the improvements will benefit private citizens.

I don't understand how that last paragraph squares up with yur comment above: "think all of the activities under this permit are being funded by customers' stormwater fees, not water/sewer rates."

by Jazzy on Oct 11, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

Yep, one and the same! :) I work on these issues all day long, and I know they're kind of confusing, so I thought it might be helpful to try to answer some people's questions.

One aspect of confusion here might be that even though this permit, and the article about it, have to do with the District's separate sewer system, this other commenter Calvin was asking some questions about the District's combined sewer system, and that's what I was responding to in the bit you quoted. They're totally separate sewer systems, serving different areas of the District, and are regulated separately.

The combined sewer system is administered by DC Water, and they're under a court order to spend a couple billion dollars digging some tunnels to prevent sewer overflows. By contrast, the permit we're talking about here -- the one for the separate sewer system, which requires tree plantings, green roofs, etc. -- is issued to DDOE.

The two programs are separately funded. However, both are paid for by ratepayers in the form of stormwater fees calculated based on impervious area. One fee is collected by DC Water for the combined sewer improvements. The other fee is collected by DDOE to administer the separate sewer permit.

If you look on your water/sewer bill, I think you will see the two fees as separate line items on there. The DC Water fee is called the "Impervious Area Charge" and the DDOE fee is just called the "stormwater fee." Both are separate from the rates you pay for water and sewer.

by Becky on Oct 11, 2011 9:57 am • linkreport

I will try to wrap my head around this, Becky. Thanks for responding. Meantime, how is the work going to be funded initially? (If there is a place where I can go one stop shopping on this, feel free to point it out so you don't have to keep repeating yourself.) Bonds?

by Jazzy on Oct 11, 2011 10:08 am • linkreport

"The trees can be planted anywhere in the 2/3 of the District that has combined sewers. (There's a map of that area on the DC Water website if you're interested.)"

Thanks, Becky. I just checked the map out. Are there any particular areas that are better suited to trees than others within this area?

Could you put in perspective for us how much 4,150 trees is in a city the size of DC? Doesn't the city regularly plant thousands of trees per years as replacements for dead or damaged trees anyway?

by RD on Oct 11, 2011 10:18 am • linkreport

All activities under this permit are funded by the collection of stormwater fees. The fee is pretty small for residential customers, but it's more substantial for commercial properties with more impervious area. I don't think DDOE plans to use bonds. (That may not be the case for DC Water, whose projects are much more expensive. Not totally sure on that one.)

DDOE has a pretty good presentation that explains some of this stuff in more detail: (sorry for the insanely long URL)

It's pretty wonky -- lots of acronyms ("CSO" = combined sewer overflows, "MS4" = separate sewer system). But it might be able to answer some of your questions.

by Becky on Oct 11, 2011 10:28 am • linkreport

@RD: Whoops! Just realized in the comment you quoted, I said "combined" sewers when I meant "separate" sewers. The permit is for the 2/3 of the District that has separate sewers. Can't believe I did that after yelling at the GGW folks for mixing the two up :)

I don't know specifically which areas of the District are best for tree planting, but generally speaking, it's useful to plant trees near areas with lots of impervious surface. That way the trees are more effective at stopping runoff.

The 4,150 trees requirement is a net increase requirement. That means there have to be 4,150 new trees added to the District each year, taking into account the fact that trees are also removed as they died. So DC will have to actually plant more than 4,150 trees to get the annual 4,150 net increase. The ultimate goal is to increase DC's tree canopy to cover 40% of the city.

If you're interested in the technical or geographic details of the tree planting requirement, a great resource is a group called Casey Trees. They're committed to increasing the tree canopy in the District and are experts on the issue.

by Becky on Oct 11, 2011 10:35 am • linkreport

Thanks Becky. It's easy in just this back and forth to get confused about which is separate and which is combined, and for all of us to work from an assumption that we know (!), which may or may not be the case. I hope I'm correct in assuming htat the combined sewer is the one regulated by DC water and the one that is digging the tunnels.

For now, that is my focus. But especially the financing of it. I think we need to be very very cautious and for all of us residents to know what we are getting in to.

Is there a place that talks about the financing?

Thanks for your help.

by Jazzy on Oct 11, 2011 10:37 am • linkreport

Unfortunately it's all too easy to get mixed up since this issue is so complicated! You are correct that the combined sewer is regulated by DC Water, and they are digging very large tunnels to stop combined sewer overflows, as required by a court order. That project is expensive (much more so than DDOE's separate sewer programs), to the tune of $2.6 billion over 20 years. DC Water refers to this project as the "Clean Rivers Project" and has a bunch of info on their website here: The document called the "Long Term Control Plan" has the most information; section 12 of that document discusses the financial aspects in a lot of detail.

by Becky on Oct 11, 2011 10:44 am • linkreport

Yes, I understand that the tunnels project is the biggie. No information is available at that site,at lest none that I could find. I used google and came up with one group looking for bids for this project.

Our Group is currently pursuing bid for the building of the DC WASA Blue Plains Tunnel Project. The project is estimated at $300,000,000.00. We are trying to find initial funding in the amount of $20,000,000.00 for the start of the project. It will be constructed in phases. The portion we are currently trying to bid is Phase 2. We will also pursue Phases 3 & 4 as they come up for bid. Below is a description of the project.

You would think that the media stories would touch upon something so major as financing of a $20 billion project.

If you know of the specific link on that site you referred to, please let me know. The PDF documents are just basic.

by Jazzy on Oct 11, 2011 8:17 pm • linkreport

Sorry! $2 billion.

by Jazzy on Oct 11, 2011 8:27 pm • linkreport

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