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Breakfast links: Scandalous

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Old money, new tricks: Campaign contributions from a large number of companies and people affiliated with Jeffrey Thompson have long been a staple of political life in DC, but only recently have money orders become a problem. (Post)

Thompson scandal goes to Annapolis: The Thompson scandal has expanded to Maryland: Governor O'Malley received illegal funds from a firm Thompson ran, as and apparently legal funds from another Thompson company. (HuffPo)

Slow walk the red top: The DC Council isn't so keen on the quick rollout of red-top parking meters and may hold the project for evaluation. DDOT insists the old disabled parking practices aren't legal and is simply codifying existing law. (Post)

A concert hall to challenge the Wolf: Southwest redevelopment may include a 5,000-seat rock music hall, which would be DC's largest, not including the Verizon Center. The venue would still need District approval. (Examiner)

Huge income gap brings new problems: DC's massive income gap, the third highest in the country, poses practical problems for health care, education, societal cohesion, and the proper distribution of political power. (Poverty & Policy)

School comes to you: DCPS officials are trying to get further into students' lives by knocking on doors, talking to parents, and being where they are to cut down truancy and increase graduation rates, but sometimes it takes more than a school. (WAMU)

Bad planning knows no bounds: Far beyond urban areas, Tea Partiers are fighting Agenda 21's long arm, pushing against agricultural and green reserves, focused development, and ensuring the march of sprawl will continue. (Bacon's Rebellion)

Building affordably is difficult: Although zoning and land-use regulations do hinder new developments and drive up housing costs as a result, doing away with such restrictions may not produce the affordable housing we seek. (Old Urbanist)

And...: One of 3 lawsuits against Alexandria's waterfront plan has been struck down. (Examiner) ... Don't forget the biking rules of the road as the weather warms. (Patch) ... More apartments could come to U Street, as JBG is exploring converting its hotel development into residences. (City Paper)

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David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast working on his master's in city and regional planning at Cornell University. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin


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in terms of income, that tracks with what I've been saying: if you not making $100K in Washington -- or are a clear track to earn that in a few years -- get out.

(In fact, it is worse than that. The real number is around 200K).

Other factoids: "Theincomeofthetopfive-percentofhouseholdsintheDistrict–$473,000–isthehighest among large cities. This is well above the average of $292,000 among the top five-percent in the large cities in this analysis. The richest 5 percent of DC households have incomes over 50 times those in the bottom 20 percent."

Yep, we need more taxiation of the upper income -- and more importantly more taxiation of wealth, not just income.

by charlie on Mar 20, 2012 8:49 am • linkreport

The teabaggers are a good example of why the effort to "engage" libertarians in smart growth is a waste of time.

by Rich on Mar 20, 2012 8:49 am • linkreport

Yay! Excited about new concert venue on the waterfront. The city really is lacking a mid-sized space. DAR is just awful for concerts.

by Adam L on Mar 20, 2012 8:51 am • linkreport

wrt to what old urbanist says on densification

1. Its a good piece - go read it

2. that does not mean we give up on densification, IMO - but it suggests best bang for the buck approaches - where we have land thats easily capable of redevelopment (think the sands filtration site, navy yards area, or the potomac yards rail yards site, or big old retail sites like springfield and landmark malls, or car lots) we should densify them as much as possible - its the redevelopment of places where parcels are small and opportunity costs higher thats going to be less rewarding, and more difficult and less worthwhile to advance. Ie the focused GGW agenda makes sense - but the Yglesias "solution" is not the solution Yglesias thinks it is.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 9:01 am • linkreport

I'm shocked that more than a century of policies explicitly aimed at keeping the poor segregated within the city limits has lead to disparities of wealth.

The obvious flaw in the linked piece--in my opinion--is that it links income inequality in DC, which is essentially a unique artifact of our region's racist past, with growing income inequality at the national level.

The two have almost nothing in common. DC poverty is about concentration of the desperately poor where there are few opportunities. National income inequality is about well-paying middle-class jobs being replaced with poorly compensated service sector jobs.

They're similar in that they're both "bad things", but that's about it.

by oboe on Mar 20, 2012 9:32 am • linkreport

Construction costs are an issue.

We are seeing this in Arlington. Several 4-5 story developments are coming up, but they are limiting underground parking and building in wood. That has to be far, far cheaper than building a 10 or 15 story building out of concrete and excavating 4-5 floors down for parking.

In fact, that's how I read most of the parking minimum stuff. Developers would love not to include underground parking because of cost issues

by charlie on Mar 20, 2012 9:37 am • linkreport

A letter I wrote to CM Evans this morning, who would apparently like to scrap the new red top meters:

Dear Councilmember Evans,

I believe you have the wrong approach when it comes the District Department of Transportation's new handicap meters. Anyone who looks at this issue can see that allowing individuals with handicap placards to park for an unlimited amount of time without paying is not in the best interest of the city. Such a policy is open to abuse and basically gives free parking to unscrupulous Maryland and Virginia commuters.

Creating dedicated metered spaces for individuals with disabilities is sound policy and similar programs are common in cities across the country. I work for a non-profit organization that relies on volunteers, many of whom are retired, to help us fulfill our mission. Some of those retirees have disability parking permits. Before the installation of the new red-top meter on our block of 800 K Street NW, many of our volunteers with disabilities had great difficulty finding parking and some days simply gave up. Contrary to this new program being a tax on the disabled, many of our volunteers with disabilities welcome paying for street parking now that they can find a space.

Thank you again for your attention to this issue.


Adam L

by Adam L on Mar 20, 2012 9:44 am • linkreport

@ oboe; not really. DC is tracking national norms. They measured against top 50 cities, so your urban poor argument applies but to a lesser degree. Bottom 40% is about the same --enuemployment and high school level jobs. The difference in DC is on the top end.

Given that this is Fiscal Policy Insitute, I'm be suspicious of their numbers. We do need higher taxation on the top end, but they have a long history of slanting numbers.

by charlie on Mar 20, 2012 9:44 am • linkreport

Also, framing it in such a way (e.g. "two cities", "some left behind while others prosper") absolves everyone outside of DC of culpability. If we're going to disclaim responsibility for one another across arbitrary political lines, what responsibility do Montgomery County residents have towards PG County residents? Or states like Maryland and Massachussetts towards residents of Mississippi or Alabama? Or Ward 3 towards Ward 8 for that matter?

by oboe on Mar 20, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

@ oboe; umm, income stabalizers?

For the working poor, I'd guess a majority are federal, not state. Very little you can do on a local or county level; homeless shelters are a good example of your case.

by charlie on Mar 20, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport

"The first of those lawsuits was dismissed Friday after a circuit court judge ruled that the court could not legally force the city to accept the petition."

Actually, an earlier lawsuit was dismissed in February:

by Kevin Beekman on Mar 20, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

No way they could combine the outdoor concert venue with a stadium/arena for DC United or the Washington Kastles?

by Shipsa01 on Mar 20, 2012 10:54 am • linkreport

re: Red Tops
San Francisco has a similar program as part of its performance parking plan. Previously, iirc, handicapped faced essentially no parking restrictions and were squatting on the most valuable and useful spots in the city. In an odd role reversal, the able-bodied couldn't find anywhere convenient to park because of the disabled.

I'd hate to see a similar situation develop in DC, and the red-top meter seem to be a good starting point. My concern: 1 in 10? Seems like a helluva lot more parking spots than disabled drivers.

by OctaviusIII on Mar 20, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

@charlie, it's also obvious that our parking regulations and expectations are seriously outdated. How many times have we heard about how empty the parking lot at DCUSA is? Even in my little building, we have 11 residents, 5 cars, and 6 parking spots, and I imagine we'll have fewer cars still when one of the multi-car households hightails it for the 'burbs (they are planning on doing this, probably this summer). Most of the 1:1 multi-unit buildings in my neighborhood are the same: their parking lots are half-empty because car ownership:residential units in my neighborhood is less than 1:1.

Still, you're right, there is a cost incentive for developers to fight parking minimums. A good policy will promote the *right* number of parking spots, which is probably less than currently mandated, but would still prevent many developments from having *no* or *too little* parking. And it will make the minimums more flexible, allowing them to reflect characteristics of the neighborhood or even specific building rather than a blanket idea about how many cars/people/guests with cars a household in any type of building anywhere in the city has, and how much off-street parking is required to accommodate those residents/guests. And, as you mentioned, building underground parking (or even a parking garage) is expensive business. By forcing developers to build too much parking, we're forcing them to build more expensive developments.

by Ms. D on Mar 20, 2012 11:25 am • linkreport

...but would still prevent many developments from having *no* or *too little* parking.

What's wrong with having no parking?

The fundamental problem is that the zoning code (or any regulatory code) isn't very good at determining where that line is (how little is too little?), but the market is pretty good at it. The developers need to be able to sell/lease that space.

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

You've got to break it into a commerical side, residental side and retail side.

On the retail side, I'd agree with Ms.D; the DCUSA is a great example of mandating too many spots.

On the residental side, that is very very different.

Commerical is inbtween. Incentives can work better here, other options are available. However, most big building are throwing in parking garages. On a smaller side maybe. What is the parking minimum for a 3-4 office building?

by charlie on Mar 20, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

On the residental side, that is very very different.

Is it? Donatelli says they overbuilt parking in Columbia Heights.

Chris Donatelli found this out when he built the first phase of the Highland Park a few years ago: He built 1.5 spaces per occupant, but later figured the right number was around half a space.

"We just didn’t fully appreciate the power of being on top of the Metro, and the reliance the residents would have on Metro...and their willingness to abandon cars altogether," he told the Zoning Commission, in seeking permission to build less parking for the second phase of the project.

The challenge is that even if .5 spaces per unit is the 'right' ratio in that space, what if you want to build a small apt building on a small lot, where building even .5 spaces per unit isn't realistically possible without large underground excavation that will dramatically increase costs and essentially make the development financially impossible?

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 12:15 pm • linkreport

as with most things, the regulatory process is too inflexible, and the free market neglects externalities. I think the best answer, which is where Mrs D seems to be going, is to appropriately reduce parking minimums, and to provide a fairly straightforward process for exceptions, grouping parking, substituting a transit proffer, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

as with most things, the regulatory process is too inflexible, and the free market neglects externalities.

True, but to the extent we're talking about parking, then the regulations should be parking regs, not zoning regs.

For example, harassing developers over parking requirements without touching RPP (which is the real source of much of the on-street parking headache) or on-street pricing is missing the point.

So, by all means, regulate parking to help manage those externalities - but you've got a long way to go in order to convince me that the zoning code is the proper mechanism to regulate parking.

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

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