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Breakfast links: Federal raid roundup


Photo by In Shaw on Flickr.
Feds raid councilmember's house: FBI and IRS agents raided the home of Councilmember Harry Thomas and confiscated his SUV and motorcycle. The investigation is related to allegations that Thomas spent $300,000 of public money on himself. (Post)

Structure sparks conflict in McPherson Sq: Park Police arrested 31 Occupiers yesterday. The standoff started shortly after protestors started constructing a "temporary" wooden structure in McPherson Square. (Post, City Paper)

Group questions NPS contracts: An advocacy group for the Mall has asked the Interior Department's IG to investigate the Park Service. The group alleges NPS unlawfully renewed concession contracts for now-defunct Tourmobile. (City Paper)

Antis get their just desserts: A few residents strongly opposed a mixed-use project at the Friendship Heights Metro. Now the developer has sold the site to Pepco and neighbors will get a power substation instead of restaurants and shops. (Examiner)

Johnson sought quid pro quo: A federal court will sentence disgraced former County Executive Jack Johnson on Tuesday. Prosecutors just revealed that Johnson spent much of his last year in office arranging lucrative contracts and sinecures for himself. (Post)

Parking at all costs: One Manhattan condo tower includes parking spots connected to residences 11 stories in the sky. Residents ride a car elevator to access their sky garages, which are estimated to be worth $800,000 each. (NYT)

Public spaces require good design: Walkable neighborhoods can't happen without successful public spaces that encourage a variety of uses. Even shops and kiosks can enliven a place. Just throwing down a plaza with a few benches isn't enough. (NYT)

And...: A Maryland court ruled that WMATA has sovereign immunity. (Examiner) ... Is our transportation network continually underfunded because of bad PR? (Streetsblog) ... Tolls start today on the $2.5-billion ICC. (Examiner)

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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When are these Occupiers going to realize that their aim should be to win the support of the people in this country ... and not to piss them off by occupying public space ... while the bankers keep laughing all the way to the bank ... ?

Building a structure in a public park? What could have been going through their collective brain?

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 8:36 am • linkreport

"One Manhattan condo tower includes parking spots connected to residences 11 stories in the sky. Residents ride a car elevator to access their sky garages,

This is great! Why can't the architects in this city think of creative solutions like this!? Yes, we're a city, but we're a city in the 21st century ... and that means having to have ready access to your vehicle. Forcing more mass transit on us doesn't do anything except creat a cycle of dependence on someone else getting you where you want to go. Let's work at breaking that cycle!

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 8:43 am • linkreport

@Lance: Winter

by Alan on Dec 5, 2011 8:50 am • linkreport

I welcome Occupy DC but they might have gone a little too far with that one. I have no idea where they could go but maybe its time for Occupy DC and the city to negotiate a new space like they tried to do in LA. The city has been very gracious thus far I'm sure negotiations could be held in good faith.

by x on Dec 5, 2011 9:09 am • linkreport

Good thing that we don't have a height limit in DC that would mean a builder can devote a bunch of square footage to a system that lifts cars to put them as close as possible to their owners. Otherwise that would be wasted space.

by Canaan on Dec 5, 2011 9:16 am • linkreport

laughing here at the antics of the Friendship Neighborhoood Association who fought the mixed-use project in Friendship Heights, only to end up with a planned PEPCO substation. They said that having a 7 story building would "oppress walkability" in the neighborhood? What are they on crack? The most walkable community in the country is arguably Manhattan, with tall buildings right up against the street.

by MrTinDC on Dec 5, 2011 9:20 am • linkreport

@Canaan
I agree. That article looks like it's by the 1 percent for the 1 percent.

by dc denizen on Dec 5, 2011 9:20 am • linkreport

@lance
Because it's completely economically unfeasible, and would only make sense for the richest of the rich?
Because where do all those cars go at the other end of the commute?
Because why shouldwe be even MORE dependent on fossil fuel, much of it coming from overseas?
Because it's an inefficient use of land and resources?

by MrTinDC on Dec 5, 2011 9:22 am • linkreport

RE: Friendship Heights
Well the people who fought the project got what they deserved I guess. Make it too expensive to develop anything worthwhile and companies will go elsewhere. I love this idiotic statement though:
A high-rise would have been too large, creating an "oppressiveness to the walkability of the area with the tall buildings looming over the sidewalk," said Marilyn Simon, a board member of the Friendship Neighborhood Association.

Not 200 feet from this site there is a 6-story building. The site is less than a quarter-mile from the Metro, what else do people think will be built there?

by MLD on Dec 5, 2011 9:50 am • linkreport

That is really a shame about Friendship Heights. What an absolute waste of space right next to a metro. I imagine the myopic property owners who fought this must be loving news for when it is time to sell,

"Modern two-bedroom condo within walking distance to popular Pepco power substation!"

Unless of course these people were paid to prevent development, so Pepco could come in and buy it cheap...but let us not get into conspiracy theories.

by cmc on Dec 5, 2011 9:56 am • linkreport

the reason Manhattan has garage availability, at 800k a space, for high rise dwellers and DC does not, is obvious: anyone in DC who can afford that can afford a SFH with a "normal" off street parking space, in one of the best, most convenient areas in upper (or maybe even lower) Northwest. No equivalent in Manhattan of (or brooklyn, or even close in NJ) of that. Ergo Manhattan has a class of extremely wealthy apartment dwellers that DC does not have.

One might as well ask why why DC does not have 10 or 12 room apartments with maids quarters, like Park Avenue does.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 5, 2011 9:57 am • linkreport

Because it's completely economically unfeasible, and would only make sense for the richest of the rich?

Sounds like somebody's "irony-meter" is broken! Hah!

Obviously @Lance was engaging in his usual snarky critique. Right, Lance? Ummm.. Right?

Anyway, on the off-chance someone out there seriously thinks we should do more of this, there's nothing really stopping anyone from buying an $800,000 row-house knocking out the back wall, and parking their car in the first floor, is there? Perhaps The Market has considered this, and decided that there are higher uses for the real estate.

by oboe on Dec 5, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

MrtT and MLD beat me to it. I love that quote. And this isn't a quarter mile from the metro, it is virtually on top of the south entrance.

I wonder now, if the same people who opposed the mixed-use retail proposal will now also oppose the substation? After all it is probably matter of right.

I will note that in following some comments on the City Paper coverage of this news, one local activist suggested that local proponents of the project were in fact the NIMBYs because infrastructure is needed in the community.

The faulty logic never gets old.

By the way, it is nice to know that Marilyn Simon is a Board Member of the Friendship Neighborhood Association. In looking at their website (fnadc.org), governance, meetings and membership are at best, nebulous. They certainly do not publicize open and public meetings, as is outlined by the Federation of Community Associations.

by William on Dec 5, 2011 10:05 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity:

One might as well ask why why DC does not have 10 or 12 room apartments with maids quarters, like Park Avenue does.

This is great! Why can't the architects in this city think of creative solutions like this!? Yes, we're a city, but we're a city in the 21st century ... And that means tons of cheap and desperate human labor that's readily available. Forcing our economic overlords into cramped little four bedroom condos with no excess capacity for servants doesn't do anything except shrink the pool of available jobs.

Let's work at breaking that cycle!

by oboe on Dec 5, 2011 10:07 am • linkreport

Manhattan is a playground for the ultra wealthy. You don't actually need high rise parking in that city, but if it costs a lot of money, the ultra wealthy will want to buy it.

by Scoot on Dec 5, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

Though the company has not developed designs for the property, it usually matches substations to the rest of the neighborhood, she said. For example, a substation on Westmoreland Circle resembles "a nice house with landscaping" and a substation at 33rd Street and K Street N.W. in Georgetown resembles the surrounding condo buildings.

A) I had no idea there are substations masquerading as fancy houses out there...fascinating

B) Frankly, some FH residents would probably rather have a nice house with landscaping on that spot than mixed use development, so maybe they'll like this

C) Doesn't the city have to approve this in some way? Seems like the city shouldn't allow such an industrial use on top of a metro station.

by Falls Church on Dec 5, 2011 10:27 am • linkreport

I'd rather have had the elevator than drive up 12 floors the way I did when I lived here (though I only used my car about once a week)

by Kolohe on Dec 5, 2011 11:00 am • linkreport

While it might be a stretch to call the substations community amenities, one can (and tens of thousand do) go right past the one on Westmoreland Circle without even noticing it. That may have been what the neighbors had in mind.

by Crickey7 on Dec 5, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

@Falls Church

The public service commission does have to approve the substation, but I would think PEPCO would likely need zoning approval for a substation. Current zoning would not support that use, unless the public service commission can simply disregard that.

by Adam L on Dec 5, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

@Crickey7

Anything is better than this: http://g.co/maps/us3yj

by Adam L on Dec 5, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

@AWalkerIntheCity

Do you really think DC doesn't have 10- and 12-room apartments with maid's quarters?

Just as in New York, these classic, grand apartments (often coops) represent a relatively small portion of the metro area housing stock, and are found only the most elite, a urban neighborhoods. But they are here.

In fact, DC arguably has the strongest tradition of upscale apartment living of any American city outside New York. I recommend reading the DC real estate classic: "Washington's Best Addresses" I think you'll learn a lot about very fancy buildings hidden in plain view all over town.

Just a few examples of these grand old buildings with 3000-, 4000- and 5,000 sq. foot apartments include 2029 Connecticut Avenue, The Wyoming, and 2101 Connecticut Avenue. Later examples from the mid-century period include Shoreham West on Calvert Street, Harbour Square in Southwest DC, 4000 Massachusetts Ave. and maybe the only example known to the mainstream: The Watergate. And there are relatively recent examples, too, like the Ritz Carlton Residences in Georgetown and in the West End, and among others.

Like many things in DC, these buildings exist "under the radar", but I'm sure many GGW readers would enjoy learning more about this interesting piece of the DC urban fabric.

by dc native on Dec 5, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

@dc navtive "Like many things in DC, these buildings exist "under the radar", but I'm sure many GGW readers would enjoy learning more about this interesting piece of the DC urban fabric."

They might, but then they'll come back with something as myoptic as:

@lance
Because it's completely economically unfeasible, and would only make sense for the richest of the rich? MrTinDC

You see, if it's not within the personal experience of a typical so-called 'smartgrowth' person posting on here, then it's either 'economically unfeasible' or 'only makes sense' for someone else.

As has been noted at infinitum, the greatest weakness in most of the 'pro-growth' arguments we hear out there, is an assumption that 'eveyone is just like me and everyone needs and wants the same things I want'. I'd be a lot more open to hearing their arguments if the arguments took as a fundamental aspect 'different strokes for different folks'. I.e., we're not all the same and don't all want or need the same things ... And if we're going to be an inclusive city for all, that is the first thing we need to recognize. And we need to stop calling those who have different wants or needs NIMBYs. There's a time and place for everything and and recognizing that is what will make our city greater ... and not just advocating for things which only servce one small slice of the demographic pie at one small time period in their lifetimes.

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport

A good example of what I'm alluding to is what happened to Mr. and Mrs. 14th and You ...

Here was a couple who were the typical GGW so-called 'smart'growth people. They advocated for all the things we hear are smart growth and derided those who might have wanted something different as NIMBYs. And they left the city in the end. Why? Parking .... Or rather 'lack thereof' ...

http://14thandyou.blogspot.com

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 12:20 pm • linkreport

ps. Be sure to read the last TWO posts by 14th and You to get the full story ...

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 12:23 pm • linkreport

Lance, DC isn't for everyone. Suburban development patterns are better suited to some people depending on their professions and commutes. The important thing is for DC to optimize around its core competencies and maximize around those rather than trying to be something it's not.

by JustMe on Dec 5, 2011 12:23 pm • linkreport

My solution the the Friendship Heights debacle is eliminate property taxes within one half-mile of a metro station and replace them with one large tax assessment that is divided up into equal portions for every resident in the half-mile radius (IE a capitation, rather than an ad valorem tax on property)Of course, the capitation would be less the more residents lived within the tax zone.

(I suggest eliminating property taxes for the sake of simplicity, though you wouldn't necessarily have to; the objective, of course, is to force people who think a seven-story building is "oppressive" to put their money where their mouth is)

by Steve S. on Dec 5, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

@JustMe ... most of DC IS suburban ... Very little of it is actually urban. Even in its broadest definition, the areas outside of the Old Washington boundary lines (i.e., north of the old Boundary Street, or today's Florida Avenue) are still suburbs in the true sense with a village here and there (e.g. Mount Pleasant or Tenleytown) popping up in the suburban landscape. And I'm not saying that they're suburban simply because these streets and their attendent subdivisions were laid out as such (as evidenced by 'scenes from the past postings we've seen on here) but because they are STILL functioning as suburbs where one doesn't have the mix of residential and commercial that one finds in a real urban environment such as around Chinatown ... or Manhattan ....

These so-called NIMBYs aren't the ones advocating for something that isn't there already. It's the so-called smartgrowthers who operate under some fantasy that DC is entirely an urban area. It's not. And if they're looking for a place that is more urban, why are they looking here. As has been noted previously in this thread, Manhattan (and Brooklyn) and many other places in this country have exactly the kind of urban landscape many seem to be seeking. DC's urban parts are rather limited in the grand scheme, and as such maybe DC really isn't for everyone. But fortunately, it's what most of us living here now DO want. Else we'd have moved to Manhattan or some other urban area instead of good ole small town Washington ... no?

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

"Here was a couple who were the typical GGW so-called 'smart'growth people. They advocated for all the things we hear are smart growth and derided those who might have wanted something different as NIMBYs. And they left the city in the end. Why? Parking .... Or rather 'lack thereof' ..."

I actually followed your link and they did not cite parking as a reason they left. More Lance lies, brought to you courtesy of the Committee of 100.

by Phil on Dec 5, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

. Even in its broadest definition, the areas outside of the Old Washington boundary lines (i.e., north of the old Boundary Street, or today's Florida Avenue) are still suburbs in the true sense

This statement falls into the isn't even wrong category.

by JustMe on Dec 5, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

@Phil ... Did you read their last 2 postings as I said? If you had, you'd understood why they left. Or is it that you only believe what you're told? I.e., Yeah, they're saying it's because they needed more space .... AND the commute was hard on Mrs. 14th and You. Read the prior posting ... which is a rant by Mrs. 14th and You about the lack of parking in the neighborhood (i.e.., the lack for her ... she doesn't go as far as saying we need more parking for everyone, but clearly thinks SHE should get more of what's there) and you'll quickly understand the REAL reason behind their move. (I.e., It's the 'commute' ... more specifically the straw breaking the camel's back part of there not being parking when she gets home.)

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 1:03 pm • linkreport

Yes, small town Washington with a population larger than Denver or Atlanta.

by Canaan on Dec 5, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

Perhaps dc native and Lance could find us a single link to a real estate listing for a 10 or 12 bedroom apartment in DC. Because, to put it mildly, I'm skeptical.

Finding a 10 bedroom apartment in Manhattan took me about 45 seconds: http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/390-W-End-Ave-9ABC-New-York-NY-10024/2128570955_zpid/

Somehow I'm having a hard time finding even *one* in DC. Help a brutha out, here!

by oboe on Dec 5, 2011 1:06 pm • linkreport

Hmm, the National Trust of Historic Preservation Building on Mass Ave would fit your description, oboe:

http://www.preservationnation.org/travel-and-sites/sites/southern-region/1785-massachusetts-avenue.html

Of course, it was converted into offices shortly after World War II, so if you use it as an example your worldview should be framed by the 1950s, not todays. I wonder if there's a commentor on this blog who would fit that description?

by Tim Krepp on Dec 5, 2011 1:15 pm • linkreport

Or, Lance, we could take them at their word and not try to psychoanalyze their motives based on other things they posted about. In any case the way your post was worded was clearly deceptive.

by Phil on Dec 5, 2011 1:16 pm • linkreport

Or, Lance, we could take them at their word and not try to psychoanalyze their motives based on other things they posted about. In any case the way your post was worded was clearly deceptive.

by Phil on Dec 5, 2011 1:17 pm • linkreport

Also, 14th and you moved to be closer to work. Which was(is?) in MoCo. And they moved to a place where they could walk to metro/other places which is generally considered a nice feature of urban areas. And it mentions how the couple wants to move back to the city when they can.

And the parking complaint wasn't about enough parking but rather how the RPP system really only helps during daylight hours.

So no, I don't see how their argument is a ringing defense for the suburban lifestyle. Good thing "Smart Growth" doesn't mean "lets make everyone live in towers and ban cars" but rather looks at how to optimize design/land-use to promote more sustainable living.

by Canaan on Dec 5, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

Or, Lance, we could take them at their word

Interesting concept ... especially here on GGW. So, are you prepared to take the neighbors in Friendship Heights at their word? You're in full agreement that building that 7 story building would harm the walkability

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

I actually followed your link and they did not cite parking as a reason they left.

Ha! Another commenter fails to appreciate the sublime irony of the performance art that is "Lance".

Anyway, for those with a broken irony-meter, here's the reason the blogger gave for leaving:

[W]e moved a) to give Mrs. 14thandyou a break on her hour+ each way commute from central DC to her place of employment in Montgomery County, and b) because we needed more space than we could afford in any DC neighborhood that would help us with point a. Two people and two cats in a cramped 1 BR is fine for awhile, but after 5 years it started to get a bit much.

by oboe on Dec 5, 2011 1:21 pm • linkreport

Hmm, the National Trust of Historic Preservation Building on Mass Ave would fit your description...

Bah!

The typical apartment consisted of a 24x45 foot living room, a dining room, a reception foyer and two flanking foyers, a salon, [b]six bedrooms[/b] adjoining four baths, two coat rooms, a trunk room, cedar closets, five maids' rooms and two maids' baths, a servants dining room, a kitchen, a butler's pantry, more than 18 closets and wardrobes, six fireplaces, a laundry chute connected to individual tenant laundry facilities in the basement, and two guest bathrooms.

How are 21st century Americans supposed to cram themselves into a tiny apartment with only six bedrooms???

We're never going to "break the cycle" while mired in this 20th century mindset.

by oboe on Dec 5, 2011 1:27 pm • linkreport

@Canaan but rather looks at how to optimize design/land-use to promote more sustainable living.

Nice premise, but actually a banal one ... because 'who gets to decide what IS 'sustainable living.'?

Let's see ... is sustainable living the ability to grow all your own food and raise livestock where you live? is it the ability to be able to have enough room in the place that you can have rooms devoted to all your activities ... including the theater video rooms with built in rows of seating we're seeing in today's suburban McMansions? ... is it the right/priviledge to be able to sleep late and not hear buses chugging by in the wee hours of the morning?'

Sustainable living ... nice buzword. But who gets to define what it means? Are we back to the point where I need to again point out (infinitum) that the biggest failing of the so-called smart growthers is their apparent inability to understand we don't all have the same needs, desires, and resources?

by Lance on Dec 5, 2011 1:28 pm • linkreport

@oboe, you have to count the maid's rooms as well. Counting the five maid's bedrooms, we're up to 11!

by Tim Krepp on Dec 5, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

Even in its broadest definition, the areas outside of the Old Washington boundary lines (i.e., north of the old Boundary Street, or today's Florida Avenue) are still suburbs in the true sense

By this logic, anything north of 14th street in Manhattan is a suburb in the "true sense," by virtue of being outside the original New York City boundary lines.

by Scoot on Dec 5, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

Because smart growth specifically talks about creating Urban/suburban areas that are MORE (it is foolish to assume that there is an abolute level of sustainibility out there) sustainable than their current counterparts. It's not an end, it is a means.

And its disingenous to claim that "sustainability" could mean anything when you know that on a blog devoted to urban/transportation issues that sustainibility could mean everything and nothing.

by Canaan on Dec 5, 2011 1:36 pm • linkreport

Silly oboe, clearly her rant about RPP was the main driver for their moving to MoCo!

RPP haters: complaining about all the "Maryland and Virginia" cars parked in "your neighborhood" at night is pointless. They all belong to people who live there. Of course, if we had nighttime RPP then the District would actually get some car tag revenue from those people instead of just giving it away to MD/VA.

by MLD on Dec 5, 2011 1:39 pm • linkreport

True, parking was the real issue: she wanted to park her car 20 minutes from her job each night instead of an hour and 20 minutes away. The real question is how can we get DDOT to understand the importance of putting more Ward 1 curbside parking in Gaithersburg?

by oboe on Dec 5, 2011 1:56 pm • linkreport

is sustainable living the ability to grow all your own food and raise livestock where you live? is it the ability to be able to have enough room in the place that you can have rooms devoted to all your activities ... including the theater video rooms with built in rows of seating we're seeing in today's suburban McMansions? ... is it the right/priviledge to be able to sleep late and not hear buses chugging by in the wee hours of the morning?'

Vote Livable Communities: An ostrich in every pot, and a 1,500 seat theater in every home!

by oboe on Dec 5, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

It rarely takes me more than 60 seconds to post a reply. In the time it takes you to sit around thinking about your next task, at work, chances are I've already finished mine and moved on to the next one.
by Lance on Dec 7, 2010 1:26 am

It shows, Lance. It shows.

by dcd on Dec 5, 2011 2:09 pm • linkreport

The market will always clear.

There are more people who want to live in denser communities (with less emphasis on the automobile) then there are places to live in said communities, hence the high price of living in the city.

The market will always clear.

The problem today is there are myopic people with money and loud voices who believe no can live a life worth living without a car and immediate, unfettered access to a four-lane highway, no traffic, and plenty of parking. Of course, if everyone in a community lived like that, the sheer lack of density will prevent most businesses from surviving.

No one says you cannot build your house with a car elevator in a dense neighborhood, with shops, restaurants, and museums within walking distance, just be prepared to pay the market cost.

The market will always clear.

The sustainable/smart growth sees the value in more choice and more options and can forsee the damage that the overbuilding of automobile infrastructure can do the vitality of a neighborhood.

by cmc on Dec 5, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

It's late in the day and somewhat off-topic, but when a friend alerted me that the 14th & Yous were being spoken about on GGW, I had to check out the context. Just to be clear, we're now in the White Flint area and excited by the increasingly dense transit-oriented growth happening here -- even the new high rises. In fact, if that apartment building had been put up in Friendship Heights, it would have been about the perfect place for us to live given our commutes(assuming it would have met our other needs).

Lance, after 4 years of blogging, I'm certainly used to my concerns being labeled petty. However, even I am no so petty as to spend time, money and energy on a move primarily intended to make it easier to park. We just don't tend to blog our personal conversations about finances, relationships, stress, and career plans.

by Mrs. 14th & You on Dec 12, 2011 10:48 pm • linkreport

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