Greater Greater Washington

Live chat with Matt Yglesias

Please welcome Matt Yglesias, Slate Moneybox economics blogger, author of The Rent Is Too Damn High, and frequent commentator about how regulations limiting development affect cities.

 Live chat with Matt Yglesias(05/23/2012) 
11:51
David Alpert: 
Welcome to our live chat! We're excited to have Matt Yglesias on today and Miles Grant moderating. We'll get started in just a few minutes.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:51 David Alpert
11:54
Miles Grant: 
Thanks, David! Here's my summary of Matt's book setting up today's chat.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:54 Miles Grant
11:55
David Alpert: 
Matt is now here. Welcome, Matt!
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:55 David Alpert
11:55
Matthew Yglesias: 
So glad to be here. GGW is an amazing site and a great community.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:55 Matthew Yglesias
11:56
David Alpert: 
Thank you so much! Miles is our moderator today, so I'll turn it over to him. Take it away, Miles!
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:56 David Alpert
11:57
Miles Grant: 
Let's start with a few questions that were submitted in advance in the pre-chat post ...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:57 Miles Grant
11:58
[Comment From RobRob: ] 
If we accept the premise that density is desirable, how does building more housing units actually lower rents in practice? Housing is prohibitively expensive in Manhattan and it's also extremely densely populated, for example. Let's say we build more housing in DC's core by removing the height limit and the average rent in the metro area decreases; but rents in the core increase (due to higher demand for density) while the rents on the fringe decrease (due to greater overall supply of housing in the market). Has the policy succeeded because some housing in the overall market is now less expensive? Or has it failed because now the only affordable housing is the housing with the highest transportation cost?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:58 Rob
11:58
Matthew Yglesias: 
I think success and failure are relative concepts...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:58 Matthew Yglesias
11:59
Matthew Yglesias: 
In the scenario you're spelling out, we've hardly solved all of society's problems, but we have created a situation in which more people can afford to live in the region...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:59 Matthew Yglesias
11:59
Matthew Yglesias: 
And even if the cheapest housing continues to be in the places with the highest transportation costs, those costs would still be lower than the current cost of even-further commutes, even-more sprawl, or simply denying people access to the strong labor market and other amenities of greater DC.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 11:59 Matthew Yglesias
12:02
Miles Grant: 

There seems to be an all or nothing sense to some discussions of density - it's either status quo or Manhattan skyscrapers, density solves everything or it solves nothing. How can we defuse some of that tension?

Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:02 Miles Grant
12:02
Matthew Yglesias: 
Right. I try to avoid mentioning New York when talking about other cities, because it's a unique case in so many ways...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:02 Matthew Yglesias
12:03
Matthew Yglesias: 
In terms of Washington, I think it's important to note that the structures in our CBD are really really really short...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:03 Matthew Yglesias
12:03
Matthew Yglesias: 
Not just shorter than the structures in Manhattan, but shorter than the ones in Richmond and Baltimore and Hartford and all kinds of places...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:03 Matthew Yglesias
12:04
Matthew Yglesias: 
More broadly, there's more to density and compactness than building height. I know people point to Paris and its lack of skyscrapers, which is very true, but Paris is a wildly denser city than DC. We're closer to Fargo than Paris.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:04 Matthew Yglesias
12:05
[Comment From VikVik: ] 
Can you tell us why you think an area like the CBD is a better place to lift the height limit than an underdeveloped area, such as Anacostia or Brentwood?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:05 Vik
12:06
Matthew Yglesias: 
There are a few reasons. First is simply that there are no "neighbors" in the CBD to be annoyed by changes to their views or whatnot in the same way that there are in residential areas so it might be more feasible...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:06 Matthew Yglesias
12:07
Matthew Yglesias: 
Second, is that a CBD is a unique areaMetrorail, MARC, VRE, and the buses are already set up to serve the needs of people trying to commute there and it's walkable from parts of the residential city....
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:07 Matthew Yglesias
12:08
Matthew Yglesias: 
Third is that some of our depressed and outlying areas really need some new investments in terms of infrastructure, which is going to cost money, and that money could be most easily raised by allowing more development where the demand is highest and that's downtown.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:08 Matthew Yglesias
12:08
Miles Grant: 
Thanks for the questions & please keep submitting even if you don't see them pop up right away, we'll get to as many as we can! Here's a big picture one ...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:08 Miles Grant
12:08
[Comment From CharlesCharles: ] 
Matt, I was wondering if you could discuss the importance of regional governance and the problems with fragmented local governments. I know you touch on it occasionally but I was hoping to get your thoughts on it.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:08 Charles
12:09
Matthew Yglesias: 
The basic issue is that state borders in the US were drawn a long time ago for reasons that have nothing to do with present-day realities...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:09 Matthew Yglesias
12:10
Matthew Yglesias: 
Alexandria, DC, and Bethesda are all clearly part of a fairly intergrated metropolitan social and economic landscape that has relative little to do with events on the Eastern Shore and basically nothing to do with Norfolk or southwestern virginia...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:10 Matthew Yglesias
12:11
Matthew Yglesias: 
Unfortunately, it's not obvious to me what can be done about this except that local leaders need to actively try to collaborate, and Virginia politicians in particular need to think more seriously about the fact that Northern Virginia is the growth hub of the state....
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:11 Matthew Yglesias
12:11
Matthew Yglesias: 
We could also try things like extending VRE to Richmond and Charlottseville and getting Amtrak service down to the Norfolk area that might produce better real-world integration....
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:11 Matthew Yglesias
12:12
Matthew Yglesias: 
But the fact is that US federalism is just very poorly designed for the northeast's metropolises and I think we're stuck with it.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:12 Matthew Yglesias
12:13
Miles Grant: 
What are the chances of, say, DC, Montgomery, Prince George's, Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church & Fairfax ever deciding to throw out those old boundaries & form their own state? Could discontent ever go that far?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:13 Miles Grant
12:15
Matthew Yglesias: 
It'd be interesting to see them try. It's unconstitutional to split a state up without the consent of the state government so the odds aren't good. But I favor pie-in-the-sky schemes because you never really know. Maybe some unrelated constitutional crisis will emerge that allows for the redrawing of state boundaries, in which case whoever has the maps drawn up will win.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:15 Matthew Yglesias
12:15
[Comment From DavidDavid: ] 
Isn't the clearest answer for why it makes sense to lift the height limit in the CBD be that there is demand for higher buildings there, as expressed through really really high land prices?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:15 David
12:16
Matthew Yglesias: 
Yes, that's the simple reason! But some people feel that stifling CBD development is a good way to "force" development in under-built areas & I'm trying to lay out why I think that's an unnecessarily costly approach.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:16 Matthew Yglesias
12:16
[Comment From HankHank: ] 
You have mentioned before that you thought the streetcar was a bad investment. For someone that usually favors transit, that surprised me - why do you think it's a bad idea?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:16 Hank
12:17
Matthew Yglesias: 
It's not a "bad idea" per se, but H Street is already served by a pretty good bus, the X-2, that has high ridership and one of the highest farebox recovery rates in the whole system...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:17 Matthew Yglesias
12:18
Matthew Yglesias: 
So if you ask, "what could we do to improve transit on that corridor" the clear answer seems to be to take a lane away from cars or parking so the bus can move faster...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:18 Matthew Yglesias
12:18
Matthew Yglesias: 
If you want to go beyond that an upgrade the bus line to light rail, then so much the better...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:18 Matthew Yglesias
12:19
Matthew Yglesias: 
But spending a lot of money to run a train that'll be stuck in the same traffic snarls as the already-popular bus seems a little perverse to me, especially because we didn't get much upzoning of H Street in the bargain.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:19 Matthew Yglesias
12:20
[Comment From SeanSean: ] 
What do you think are the best practices for urban planning and community input and cooperation? So often, great plans are defeated or watered down bc of a very vocal minority.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:20 Sean
12:20
Matthew Yglesias: 
I think it's important for people to think harder about what the point of community input is...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:20 Matthew Yglesias
12:21
Matthew Yglesias: 
Presumably the idea is that you don't want outsiders who may not understand the situation to run roughshod over existing residents like in some of these urban renewal nightmare stories...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:21 Matthew Yglesias
12:21
Matthew Yglesias: 
But that means you actually want to get a valid sample of the population, not just whichever subset of the population happens to have the time and inclination to come to meetings...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:21 Matthew Yglesias
12:22
Matthew Yglesias: 
And you also have to listen to what people are specifically sayingare they bringing new information to light, or are they simply advancing very narrow interests...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:22 Matthew Yglesias
12:22
Matthew Yglesias: 
It's understandable that people who live near McMillan prefer more parks and less new housing at the margin, but that's a tradeoff between a local community benefit and some broader city-wide objectives. It's good to listen to everyone, but that doesn't mean you have to do what they want.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:22 Matthew Yglesias
12:24
Miles Grant: 
There's an assumption that people that are Democratic/progressive must be more open to urban planning solutions, yet DC's as blue as it gets & has extensive restrictions on development & new housing. What's the disconnect?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:24 Miles Grant
12:25
Matthew Yglesias: 
I think you see these restrictions all over the place, because partisan politics is organized around federal issues rather than local ones...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:25 Matthew Yglesias
12:26
Matthew Yglesias: 
But I find it frustrating in particular when progressives don't see the connection between very localized decisions about building permits and broad concerns about climate change and sustainability...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:26 Matthew Yglesias
12:26
Matthew Yglesias: 
I'm also fairly optimistic, however, that a lot of people simply don't understand the issues correctly and that as we debate them information will improve and things will get better...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:26 Matthew Yglesias
12:27
Matthew Yglesias: 
DC in particular also has what's obviously a big social and economic divide around race that's a little bit masked by the fact that almost all its residents are Democrats regardless of income or ethnic background.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:27 Matthew Yglesias
12:27
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How do you factor geography in your thinking about rent and transportation infrastructure. I live in a large mid-west metro with no geographical barriers to sprawl. How, given the higher unit construction costs of transit in the short term, do you balance the tendency to sprawl with the higher long term costs of that sprawl?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:27 Guest
12:29
Matthew Yglesias: 
Things are different in the midwest, where land is plentiful and sprawl isn't really economically costly...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:29 Matthew Yglesias
12:29
Matthew Yglesias: 
We're talking instead much more about environmental costs that ultimately require national and even global solutions...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:29 Matthew Yglesias
12:30
Matthew Yglesias: 
If we had a reasonable gasoline or carbon tax or cap-and-trade plan or what have you, there'd be much more incentive for midwestern cities to think more seriously about the merits of a more compact urban form.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:30 Matthew Yglesias
12:30
[Comment From Michael PMichael P: ] 
One of the significant criticisms of increasing density is that the increase in population will result in parking or congestion issues. What's a good way to address these concerns?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:30 Michael P
12:32
Matthew Yglesias: 
Well ultimately you need to use pricing to control congestion and parking scarcity issues...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:32 Matthew Yglesias
12:32
Matthew Yglesias: 
But on parking in particular, I think there's a lot of opportunities to just buy off incumbents...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:32 Matthew Yglesias
12:33
Matthew Yglesias: 
We could lock all existing residents in to current parking permit prices, for example, and just mandate a large increase for *future* residents...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:33 Matthew Yglesias
12:33
Miles Grant: 
Buried in today's Post story about improving DC area traffic is that higher gas prices helped cut congestion. What would it take for an increase in the gas tax to overcome political obstacles?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:33 Miles Grant
12:34
Matthew Yglesias: 
I think it would take a change in national fiscal and economic conditions; right now a tax increase could have a really negative short-term impact on employment over and above all the other problems...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:34 Matthew Yglesias
12:34
Matthew Yglesias: 
But at some point we'll either need higher taxes, or big cuts to the kind of Medicare and educational programs that Americans have come to expect and I think the politics of a push for higher gas taxes will improve somewhat.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:34 Matthew Yglesias
12:35
[Comment From Eric H.Eric H.: ] 
Matt, your answers to Michael's questions about parking and traffic misses a point. I NOVA. My neighbors don't want density increases near our neighborhood because they don't want more people speeding through their neighborhoods. How can you buy those people off? It isn't just parking, it is the increase in traffic.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:35 Eric H.
12:36
Matthew Yglesias: 
Right righttraffic on local streets... I think I dodged that one because I don't have a very good answer...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:36 Matthew Yglesias
12:36
Matthew Yglesias: 
It's fundamentally true that denser-build areas have more noise and people and vehicles around and those with strong contrary preferences are going to be annoyed by it....
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:36 Matthew Yglesias
12:36
Matthew Yglesias: 
ultimately as a society we need to balance that against other goals and advantages, but you can't please everyone.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:36 Matthew Yglesias
12:39
[Comment From EricEric: ] 
I really enjoyed the book, Matt. One point I found especially interesting was the idea that typically "liberal" and "conservative" arguments in some ways lead people astray when it comes to urban development issus. To push on this a bit, what kind of strategic advice would you give to advocates of positions aligned with those of GGW? What "sacred cows" of ours should we reconsider? Who are some maybe unlikely allies we might identify and what kinds of arguments are likel to be convincing to them?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:39 Eric
12:39
Matthew Yglesias: 
I think progressives are going to need to learn to love rich greedy real estate developers...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:39 Matthew Yglesias
12:40
Matthew Yglesias: 
Not because rich greedy real estate developers are the greatest people on the planet, but because the fact of the matter is that things get built by businessmen looking to earn a profit...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:40 Matthew Yglesias
12:41
Matthew Yglesias: 
When we want to see more schools built, progressives don't say "well that's just a way for contractors to make more money" but we also recognize that the work is in fact done by contractors who are just looking to make more money...
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:41 Matthew Yglesias
12:41
Miles Grant: 

We'll just go for a few more minutes, so submit your final questions now ...

Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:41 Miles Grant
12:41
Matthew Yglesias: 
By the same token, moving to a more efficient, economically sound and environmentally sustainable use of our scarce urban land requires structures to be built by profit-seeking businessmen.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:41 Matthew Yglesias
12:42
Miles Grant: 
I hope our readers say thanks for your time by reading your book and bookmarking your blog. What's the next topic you think deserves a big exploration - what aren't people talking about that they should be?
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:42 Miles Grant
12:43
Matthew Yglesias: 
Thanks! My other passion is monetary policy ... a very different subject, but also one that goes to the core of people's lives in a way that they often don't recognize.
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:43 Matthew Yglesias
12:44
Matthew Yglesias: 
Anyways, this has been fun and I hope if people are interested they'll check out the blog andof coursebuy the book!
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:44 Matthew Yglesias
12:45
Miles Grant: 

Thanks for joining us, Matt - and thanks for all the great questions!

Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:45 Miles Grant
12:46
David Alpert: 
Thanks Matt for joining and Miles for moderating! The archive of the discussion will remain available and please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments!
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:46 David Alpert
12:47
 

 
 
 
Miles Grant grew up in Boston riding the Green Line, and has lived in Northern Virginia riding the Orange Line since 2002. Also blogging at The Green Miles, he believes enhancing smart growth makes the DC area not just more environmentally sustainable, but a healthier and more vibrant place to live, work and play. 

Comments

Add a comment »

I get that there isn't a good answer to the traffic question by Eric H. HOWEVER, the marginal increases development by development won't be the ultimate tipping point.

There is no area in northern va. that is somehow magically free from traffic, if traffic is your number 1 concern then you already messed up by moving here. Moreover, the jurisdicitions in northern Va. have learned their lesson and are clustering taller/denser development around existing transit infrastructure. What you then have to do is explain the benefits of improving density/design. Have a problem with speeding on local streets? That's a design question just as much as it is a density one.

And like Matt said, ultimately its about looking at the larger needs of society and how to best accomodate the region. Which means that various county/city leaders will have to take the gnashing of teeth over traffic increases with a grain of salt.

by X on May 23, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

@X

We also need to adjust our processes. Those opposed to development wouldn't have as many chances to derail things if more development were allowed by right, in accordance with existing plans - or if the opportunities to tweak development were limited to a specific scope of issues (e.g. design) rather than a wholesale rejection of a project.

by Alex B. on May 23, 2012 1:56 pm • linkreport

Outside of the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor and Alexandria, isn't the biggest reason for traffic in NoVA the desire of families to live in SFHs?

by Fitz on May 23, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by selxic on May 23, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

I've seen a statistic on GGW a number of times mentioning that vehicular traffic in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor hasn't increased that much over the last thirty or so years, despite all the new development. I think that could be the case if we were to try and replicate that kind of smart-growth in other areas.

by Vik on May 23, 2012 2:26 pm • linkreport

Fitz, are there mostly SFHs because that's what families desire, or are there mostly SFHs because that's all that's allowed to be built? Reading Dan Reed's post on the saga of one Silver Spring townhome development, I lean towards the latter.

by Miles Grant on May 23, 2012 2:28 pm • linkreport

Miles, perhaps I should have been more clear. I'm saying that the main reason for so much traffic in NoVa is because those individuals who work near the core of the DC area are in families which want to live in SFHs at prices that they believe they can afford. Community preference surveys (linked below) show a strong desire for SFHs within the Smart Growth model.

http://realtorbenefitsprogram.org/wps/wcm/connect/a0806b00465fb7babfd0bfce195c5fb4/smart_growth_comm_survey_results_2011.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=a0806b00465fb7babfd0bfce195c5fb4

I don't think Dan Reed's post applies to NoVa (outside the areas I previously mentioned) because it's a neighborhood right next to a Metro stop. In other words the zoning debate is occurring due to demand at that location.

The community preference survey also notes commute time; we like shorter commutes. So what explains people willing to drive in 45 minutes plus of traffic hell? It has to be the given supply of housing at the asking price. GGW has noted in the past that this could be irrational due to transportation costs, but I'm not sure that's a convincing argument due to the given supply of SFHs closer to the core of the DC area and their asking price.

Otherwise I do support denser zoning. I think the entire region could strongly benefit from having zoning which allows more townhomes.

by Fitz on May 23, 2012 4:06 pm • linkreport

Don't those consumer preference surveys also provide wildly contradictory claims, basically that people want to live in compact neighborhoods that are walkable, don't have traffic and the houses are 6000 sf?

Now people may prefer to live in sfh's and thats fine. That in itself isn't the sole problem. A lot of the traffic problems comes from a hierarchal road network and an extreme segregation of uses. Rather than the type of the housing per se.

The question of SFH vs. some other type of housing arrangement comes down to a neighborhood basis.

by X on May 23, 2012 4:22 pm • linkreport

It's not just the type of housing and the neighborhood, it's the prices too.

by Fitz on May 23, 2012 4:34 pm • linkreport

And that's where I'd say a lot of people are failing to consider total cost of ownership. People want a big house and feel like they can get more for their money out in Loudoun or Frederick and then aren't considering the costs associated with that such as increased transportation costs. If that's their preference thats fine but then it leads to people not understanding why people who live in Arlington are averse to adding lanes to 66 or 395 in order to marginally improve commutes.

Plus in the closer in areas, you have to consider the cost of the land vs. the cost of the house. If you take a lot in arlington and replace that single house with 2 or 3 units then you'll still sell those houses because its the land and the location that is valuable. Not the house.

Would some people move out of Arlington/DC if there were no SFH's for some reason*? Sure, but you'd have a lot more people moving into the buildings now occupying that space.

*I'm not advocating this before someone accuses me of wanting to force people into tenements.

by x on May 23, 2012 4:46 pm • linkreport

I think a big point that's overlooked is how stressed our transit system in the CBD already is. Trains, roads, buses are at (if not over) capacity every morning and evening. Scheduling changes aside, I don't see how we're going to make the CBS any more accessible without large amounts of additional transportation funding.

I think part of the argument from people who believe that height/density limits are good in order to spur growth outside the CBD do so because that's where there is excess capacity. Allowing more height/density in order to stuff in more offices for commuters to the CBD to is not an ideal solution. Allowing increased "density" to allow more people live in areas with high office concentrations is a better solution.

by Adam L on May 23, 2012 4:54 pm • linkreport

@Adam L

1. Why do you assume the transportation network would remain as it is? This hypothetical new density will be paying taxes. Some others have proposed auctioning off the rights for additional density - there's your revenue for improved transit capacity.

This isn't new - see private sector contributions for the Noma infill station as an example, or for Metro through Tysons.

2. The denser you get, you can actually remove strain from the transit network, as density brings things closer together, replacing transit trips with walking trips.

by Alex B. on May 23, 2012 5:14 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.

I just don't see the funding coming available for the a new Metro line through downtown. I see even less of a chance of new street/highway capacity, but that's a good thing from my perspective. Yes, there's the streetcar network but that's being constructed to help cope with expected transit growth based on current models of development and density growth.

As for your second point, I agree. But that's why I think it's important that mixed-use properties be given priority instead of just adding more offices as Matt alluded to in the chat.

by Adam L on May 23, 2012 5:27 pm • linkreport

The building height limit has allowed Democrats to keep control of the US Senate. Let's not mess with success. Here's the analysis of why:
www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-rogers/build-a-wall-keep-em-in-v_b_48536.html

by MikeR on May 24, 2012 8:31 am • linkreport

It has to be the given supply of housing at the asking price. GGW has noted in the past that this could be irrational due to transportation costs, but I'm not sure that's a convincing argument due to the given supply of SFHs closer to the core of the DC area and their asking price.

Every time I see this, it becomes obvious that the person writing it has no children.

Real estate choice is driven by schools.

by goldfish on May 24, 2012 8:37 am • linkreport

goldfish, I agree with that too and I should have been more clear about that as well.

by Fitz on May 24, 2012 9:36 am • linkreport

Real estate choice is driven by schools.

For some, yes - but that doesn't exactly exempt those markets from supply and demand, now does it?

DC's already-high prices would be even higher if the schools were better. Yet another reason that the city needs to grow and add more density.

by Alex B. on May 24, 2012 9:44 am • linkreport

@Adam L

There are places where there is excess capacity, but those places outside of the CBD would similarly need a lot of infrastructure upgrades to handle that growth. Also consider whether businesses and some residents would consider going to those places outside the CBD, that are less centralized and have less developed infrastructure, but in the city, over going to the suburbs.

by Vik on May 24, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

DC's already-high prices would be even higher if the schools were better. Yet another reason that the city needs to grow and add more density.

You should look at the real estate in DC EotR. Lower density, depressed estate prices, lower quality schools. If people thought the schools were good, prices and (your beloved) density will follow.

by goldfish on May 24, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

@x:

People want a big house and feel like they can get more for their money out in Loudoun or Frederick and then aren't considering the costs associated with that such as increased transportation costs.

Or the extra 3-4 hours a day that they're "on the clock" while sitting in traffic. It's like getting an unpaid part-time job.

by oboe on May 24, 2012 11:13 am • linkreport

@Vik

Yes, every new area will need some infrastructure improvements, but not nearly as many as would be needed to handle extra people in the current CBD. It's already the third-largest in the country... any larger and we'd have to have Chicago or NYC-style transit infrastructure to handle it. I just don't see that happening.

by Adam L on May 24, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

@Adam L

But, all else being equal, the needs for new infrastructure in dense places will be less than in the outer areas. Density is inherently efficient in that way.

I can understand your skepticism about the chances, but at some point there will not be any other choice.

by Alex B. on May 24, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

As for expanding the CBD Would it be unreasonable to redevelop all the bloated government office buildings in SW like L'Enfant Plaza, Department of Housing, Transortation, Education, etc? I'd go further and say the 1960's housing below that would be primed for 10 story residential too. That would complete the loop around the monumental core hooking up with the Navy Yard office development.

by Thayer-D on May 24, 2012 1:25 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D

There are actually some plans already to do just that. For the federal buildings there is the SW Ecodistrict plan and a little further down there is the Wharf development, among other smaller plans. Now for the rest of Southwest DC, height is so much the problem per se, there are several tall residential buildings there, but they tend to be a bit "towers in the park". But as you can see from the renderings most of the new buildings going in fills up the space more. But we are getting to a point where the easy land will be essentially gone and if you want to add more housing you will have to tear down the housing that's there (essentially either townhouses or highrises, though there are a few garden style buildings). That's not impossible (heck, what we see today is essentially the result of leveling everything 60 years ago), but it is more difficult, particularly since many of the buildings are approaching historic status.

by Steven Yates on May 24, 2012 2:45 pm • linkreport

Agreed. There's certainly some un-built capacity in SW, but a lot of those federal buildings are already fairly dense as it is.

by Alex B. on May 24, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

Yikes, the historic fabric of urban renewal projects!! If a concrete bunker on 16th street get's that much support, I'm affraid to think of the stink our mid-century boys would raise over those junky towns. Given a choice to expand tall CBD buildings north into Dupont, Logan and Shaw vs. urban renewal SW, you'd think that would be a slam dunk, but I'm sure many will fight it tooth and nail.

by Thayer-D on May 24, 2012 7:39 pm • linkreport

@ Alex,
I'm thinking of those 1960 asbestos laden office buildings at 6-8 stories high. the kind that developers think nothing of knocking down along K Street for a new 12 story building. Also, a lot of those beohemoths have those modernist "plazas" that waste space and destroy the building wall. If we spread those bog ofice buildings out beyond the federal core location would help spread developmnet also. Urban monocultures or any monocultures never do well.

by Thayer-D on May 25, 2012 7:21 am • linkreport

Thayer, a lot of those old buildings don't get knocked down, they just get gutted and re-skinned.

And I do think they could easily be redeveloped, but many of them are max height already. Even in filling in some plazas, I don't know that there's a huge net density increase there. Doesn't mean we shouldn't do it for place reasons...

by Alex B. on May 25, 2012 7:26 am • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or