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"Trolleys" are good for Ward 5, if we can get them

A vocal minority in Ward 5 is pushing back against a streetcar maintenance facility at Spingarn High School, and has recently broadened its opposition to the streetcar system as a whole. But while loud, these opponents don't reflect the views of most Ward 5 residents. It's time for Ward 5 residents to speak up in favor of new investments in our ward.


Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

I live in Ward 5 and I support streetcars. Anyone reading the Ward 5 listserv this week would see that it has become quite a contentious topic, and might even think that my opinion is in the minority. But I don't believe that is true.

The debate first arose from the proposed streetcar maintenance facility on part of the Spingarn High School lawn and the outrage that some in the community feel about this proposal. Some residents have taken the opportunity to bash the streetcar system as a whole.

As the discussion evolves away from the location of the car barn to the entire streetcar system and even further into the "bike lanes, dog parks and gentrification" realm, I am left frustrated. I have read countless pros and cons on streetcars and light rails. I have experienced streetcars in many other cities around the world. I want them and everything that comes with them.

I want the increased ridership, permanent tracks and stops, overhead wires and the big, shiny red streetcars traveling down them at regular intervals. Instead of opposing any projects at all costs, we should be lobbying for more of the coming investments to happen in Ward 5, and ensuring that we reap a fair portion of the economic and infrastructure benefits that will come with the new transportation system.

I want the District to take a real interest and invest in Ward 5, helping to fill our empty storefronts and letting our residents travel comfortably around the city.

"Car barn" could improve, not harm, Spingarn and the area.

The proposal for the Springarn maintenace facility, or "car barn," does not bother me. The location is off a major road that will have a streetcar line running down it. The current streetscape in the area could easily accommodate a new building.

If DDOT sites the facility close to Benning Road, which is one of the 2 options, it will leave a large space, partly green and partly tracks, between the car barn and the school, and it will actually replace a grimy, shuttered DC Library mini-branch building.


Potential locations for car barn at Spingarn. Image from DDOT via Frozen Tropics.


Concept sketch for car barn. Image from DDOT.

The car barn will be brand new. We can ensure that it blends in and adds to the area. It could even be designed to match the architecture of the school. Many of DC's historic car barns are beautiful buildings; a new one could be, too.


Historic car barn on Capitol Hill. Photo by NCinDC on Flickr.

Instead of opposing to the car barn, Ward 5 residents should be working with DDOT to ensure it is the best car barn that we can get. We can set an example for the many more similar facilities the District will build as it adds and extends the streetcar lines.

We should make sure that it is a true training facility that ties in and expands the current curriculum at Phelps Vocational Technical Academy and provides strong job training for students and adults alike.

Debate really isn't about the car barn, but the streetcar generally

Sadly, some vocal Ward 5 activists have seized on the Springarn controversy to spread opposition to the entire streetcar system. They've sent press releases, posted messages and issued calls to action. For example:

Premier Community Development Corporation, PCDC, is opposed to the District Government's proposal to spend over 1.5 billion dollars on a trolley car. PCDC also opposes the DC Department of Transportation's ill made decision to build the streetcar barn on the front lawn of Spingarn High School.

PCDC opposes these short cited[sic] decisions in support of the trolley car for the following reason. First, the trolley plan is not well thought out and does not serve the needs of the majority of the residents that elect to use public transportation. The trolley does not connect to any transportation hubs and thus is not a part of a comprehensive city-wide transportation system. Currently, the trolley starts at the foot of the Hopscotch Bridge and ends around 26th and Benning Road. Clearly, the trolley is only intended to ferry bar and restaurant customers from one end of H Street to the other.

The opening lines demonstrate that the Springarn issue has already become secondary. As Rhode Island Ave Insider has written, some members of PCDC are older residents who feel threatened by the engagement and activism of newer, younger residents who want to see a different kind of investment and change. It's not surprising that they've latched onto the term "trolleys" as a derogatory. This fear is so deep-seated that they ignore the fact that their outright opposition just further delays DDOT from connecting the streetcar to transportation hubs, as planned.

Then there are community members who are more concerned with making sure DDOT listens to them than with getting the best investments for Ward 5. Activist Kathy Henderson wrote:

I am glad many of Ward 5's leaders attended the meeting regarding the car barn fiasco. It is really a bad idea to tear up Spingarn's front lawn for an industrial eyesore. I find the entire matter to be very disrespectful to residents, underscoring that DDOT representatives were not chastened by the last meeting on the issue in April; they came back and uttered the same nonsense again. [Emphasis added]
Still others see streetcars as an investment that's not for them, such as LeRoy Hall:
By the way, who are the streetcars for anyway? This reminds me of those red Circulator Buses for people in Georgetown to visit people on Capitol Hill.
It's sad that some people have lost sight of the streetcars as an investment in our communities and in our mobility. That makes it that much more important that the larger community speak out in support.

Streetcars will benefit all residents, include the lower-income residents of Ward 5. About 35% of residents do not own cars, and DC plans to make the streetcar fare the same as the Circulator, which is less today than the bus fare.

Streetcars, much like the Metro, will become a permanent fixture in the community. Ward 5 has the Red Line of the Metro running through it north to south, and is briefly touched by the Yellow and Green Lines at one station, Fort Totten. Many of us define our location by the nearest Metro stop. The planned streetcar lines for Ward 5 would run mostly east to west across the ward, creating new transportation connections and new stops to identify with the community.

The permanent nature of the streetcars with their tracks installed in the ground will develop a confidence in the investment in an area. Adding streetcars and streetscape improvements would enhance the travel, experience and atmosphere of our ward.

Anyone that has walked down Rhode Island Avenue NE can will agree that we still need a lot of infrastructure improvements to ensure it becomes a more vibrant destination, attracting new businesses to empty storefronts and bolstering existing ones. The success of streetcars in spurring economic development is well demonstrated in other cities such as Portland.

Planning in Ward 5 and the rest of the District, especially near streetcar lines, needs to ensure that affordable housing is a priority. The streetcar will make the neighborhoods near it more valuable. That's great for existing homeowners; Ward 5 should discuss how it can do more to ensure that residents on fixed and low incomes are able to stay in their homes if they wish.

Ward 5 should fight to get streetcars early

Ward 5's southern edge will benefit from the first streetcar line, the so-called "One City" line along Benning Road to downtown. In Phase 2 of the streetcar system, Rhode Island Avenue will get a line from Eastern Avenue, past the Metro station, to Florida Avenue where it will connect with the Florida Avenue line. A line in Phase 3 would connect Brookland to Woodley Park and Adams Morgan.

The District released a Request For Information this week that would privatize and prioritize 22 miles of the streetcar system to be built over 5-7 years. However, except for the Benning Road segment at the ward's edge, none of the Ward 5 sections were included in this proposal. It is imperative that we push to have the Ward 5 lines included to spur the economic development in our ward, not fight against the streetcars.


22-mile priority streetcar system. Image from DDOT.

I am a Ward 5 resident and I want streetcars. As a vocal minority in my ward spreads fear, uncertainty, and doubt, not to mention false information, opposing the streetcars, it becomes more and more important for those of who do support them to speak up. Who's with me?

Take action

This petition is now closed. Thank you for participating!

Sally Hobaugh runs the blog Life on the Edgewood about the Edgewood neighborhood in Northeast DC, where she lives, works and plays. She is on the board of the Edgewood Civic Association and The Friends of Edgewood Recreation Center. She also runs the Edgewood Neighborhood Monthly Cleanup, which she started in 2008.  

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I live near the Ward 6, 5, and 7 border. I attended the April meeting you noted, and it was a farce. DDOT presented no options, and wanted no actual input (except for the cosmetic exterior of a transformer station at 12th & H) DDOT representatives literally said the car barn was going there at the school, the plans had already been decided.

I fully support the streetcar, I welcome it's effects on the neighborhood, and property values. However, I completely agree with local residents who object to the placement of the facility in front of the school, this isn't NIMBYism, this is demanding DDOT and the Mayor work a little harder to find a better location for it. RFK is an obvious choice and it appears zero effort was put into securing a location there.

DDOT has said they want to work with the community, but I haven't been to a meeting where they actually wanted input, they just want residents to feel like they're being listed to. It's pandering, and it's obvious.

by @SamuelMoore on Jun 28, 2012 2:41 pm • linkreport

As a city council member in Mount Rainier, on the Ward 5 border along Rhode Island Ave, I also want to see the Rhode Island Ave streetcar! The historic turnaround of the old streetcar line was in Mount Rainier (now our traffic circle/bus stop). Retail spaces in the entire Rhode Island Ave corridor were built when the streetcar was running and its return would help revitalize those spaces.

Our communities are bigger than our political boundaries, and our needs are best met by working together. Affordable transportation options are crucial in tough economic times and the cost of fossil fuel is only going to rise over the time it takes to build the streetcar (and then over its service lifetime). But as the writer says, we need to be mindful of affordable housing options and keeping long time residents in their homes as property values rise.

by Brent Bolin on Jun 28, 2012 2:45 pm • linkreport

Great post, Sally. I don't live in Ward 5 (or in DC, for that matter), but I think the streetcar plan will be an asset to the city and the region.

That said, if I was a resident of the neighborhood where the car barn is located and I saw the grey box depicted in that image above, I'd be upset too. The car barn isn't just a place to store and repair streetcars, it's something that everyone in the neighborhood will have to look at and interact with. It should look nice, and if they aren't already, DDOT should be talking to the neighborhood about what the building will look like and how it'll fit into the surroundings.

That means slightly more detailed drawings (though not too detailed, because it'll look like they're going to build it tomorrow) of what the car barn will look like, not just a massing model.

David Adjaye set the bar really high for public buildings in DC with his new libraries. Hopefully that awareness of good design will seep into other departments as well.

by dan reed! on Jun 28, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

I completely agree with local residents who object to the placement of the facility in front of the school, this isn't NIMBYism, this is demanding DDOT and the Mayor work a little harder to find a better location for it.

Yeah! I'm not being a NIMBY, just get this facility out of my backyard and to someplace 'better'!

by Scoot on Jun 28, 2012 3:13 pm • linkreport

Building a street car barn @ Springarn, especially if it is expensive, will further delay extending the H Street line across the river to Marshall Heights. You don't build a terminus, if you're really planning to extend the line in the near term. Until it crosses the river into Ward 7, the H Street trolley is a pointless boondoggle that offers no transit benefit or true unifying potential.

by mtp on Jun 28, 2012 3:42 pm • linkreport

To be clear, a car barn, is not a terminus. Everyone keeps calling it a terminus, it's not.

by @SamuelMoore on Jun 28, 2012 3:43 pm • linkreport

RFK is an obvious choice and it appears zero effort was put into securing a location there.

Why the hell should the District begin what would no doubt be a ridiculously long process with the federal government to acquire a piece of the RFK lot when they already own a perfectly good piece of land a mere 700 feet down the road?

I swear I'm not being NIMBY, I just want you to put it somewhere else!

Do people even understand how planning works? How could anything ever get done if step 1 in the process was not "plan" but "hey let's have a community meeting and ask people to put little dots on the map where our streetcar barn should go"? The district government did its job, which was create a plan and explain the reasoning to the community (we already own the land, it's along the streetcar route, and we can integrate a training program at the school) and then the got their input at the meeting! What exactly do you envision as "working with the community?"

@mtp
When you are starting a rail system sometimes you have to start with a railyard in the middle of the system. See Brentwood rail yard - it was nearly 10 years before another yard was built at Shady Grove. And the car barn will not be a "terminus," the tracks into the barn will split off in the middle of the section of track that has been built - there is still another 900 feet of track to the east.

by MLD on Jun 28, 2012 3:58 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] People have actually made it clear on the listserve that their very vocal opposition in this instance is the location of the streetcar barn. The city is clearly not doing enough to get this project right. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Roman on Jun 28, 2012 4:03 pm • linkreport

Whats the actual objection to locating the barn there? Is it just aesthetics? Or noise? Because, a. those really shouldn't be concerns that veto a project like this and b. will it be all that noisy? especially at night?

I'm not so sure its an egregious breach of the public trust if DDOT isn't particularly concerned that someone down the block things a garage is ugly and doesn't hold hours of public meetings on it.

by drumz on Jun 28, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

I'm not so sure its an egregious breach of the public trust if DDOT isn't particularly concerned that someone down the block things a garage is ugly and doesn't hold hours of public meetings on it.

+1. "Seeking community input" does not necessarily guarantee that everybody will be happy.

DDOT's messed lots of stuff up here, but gosh, they've held TONS of meetings.

by andrew on Jun 28, 2012 4:26 pm • linkreport

Agree with MLD regarding the RFK lots, as they are hundreds of feet from Springarn. Clearly the issue is not with the car barn, but the streetcars in general. The land at RFK is right next to the water, which could be more parkland, housing, or whatever down the road. Dealing with the federal government will hold up the project even longer and waste countless hours of employees time when there is a perfectly good site the District already owns. I don't live in Ward 5 or I'd gladly sign that.

by mike on Jun 28, 2012 4:45 pm • linkreport

We can't do what we want with RFK lots. So lets take that off the table.

Current location is great, and will provide many employment opportunities for neighborhood and city residents. Obvious tie-ins for the vocational program at the school as been discussed.

Let's start construction asap. All recent buildings by the DC government have been very high quality and expensive, there is no reason to believe this will be ugly and cheap.

by H Street Landlord on Jun 28, 2012 5:05 pm • linkreport

Until we find the $2.6 Billion for our current water runoff problem we need to tread cautiously on covering more green spaces with concrete and asphalt.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 28, 2012 5:10 pm • linkreport

@ Tom Coumaris +1 in every instance

by Read Scott Martin on Jun 28, 2012 7:36 pm • linkreport

@ Tom Coumaris,
Building the streetcar is just as much about saving our green space as it is moving people in a sustainable manner. Some of the coming development that could be paving over more acres in the suburbs could be focused on the streetcar lines by rebuilding our low scaled neighborhood centers. Looking at France which is yet another country pivoting full force towards street cars,
http://americancity.org/daily/entry/france-commits-to-tramways-a-possible-model-for-the-future-of-urban-rail
you'd think we would be further along. Unfortunatley, everything becomes political when change is a foot.

by Thayer-D on Jun 28, 2012 8:34 pm • linkreport

Thayer-D--- You indeed would think we'd be further along; the new French streetcars operate in their own right-of-way, operate in grass medians, and don't have overhead wires in historic districts. Of course that's the way the old DC streetcars worked. Ah progress !

As far as trashing the DC environment to save the suburbs, then why are we building a Metro to the cowfields of Loudoun County so they can be made into McMansionvilles?

Green works everywhere and should be used everywhere. And we better learn how to green DC or those $2.6 Billion surface water overflow tunnels will be obsolete by the time they open.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 28, 2012 11:29 pm • linkreport

I live a few blocks away as well and all I've said is "Build the darn thing already." It's been delayed two and a half years, not too many kids are @ Spingarn anyway and that whole north section of Benning Road probably won't be disturbed that much by the streetcars. If anything, maybe it'll add a few jobs to the area by extending the progress on H Street a little farther east to join the two neighborhoods a little better and it could add impetus to open better access to the Arboretum from Benning Road than having to go all the way up Bladensburg.

by John T on Jun 28, 2012 11:32 pm • linkreport

I don't have a problem with this in theory, but I hope the execution is more elegant than the mockups they're presenting.

There are a number of firms wandering around that could probably execute this building with style and within the timeframe, if DC would bother to look outside of DC.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 28, 2012 11:37 pm • linkreport

Tom,
You're right about Loudoun county. As for the Car Barn, if you want to win over the public, I would recommend looking no further than the old car barn on 14th street in Brightwood or the one almost paralel to it on Georgia Ave. No offense to the architectural cognocienti, but looking at the comments on other posts concerning David Adjaye's new Library, it isn't selling well on main street.

by Thayer-D on Jun 29, 2012 6:12 am • linkreport

when we were looking to buy a house, we looked at a couple houses in Brookland. Fortunately they were pretty messed up internally (too many bad renovations) and overpriced (the market was still at peak), because for the moment we had forgotten that the "discourse" political and otherwise in Ward 5 is pretty damn wacked, and I didn't want to have to live in it-through it-with it.

While there are legitimate concerns about car barn location (and note to Thayer D--a similar car barn to the one you're talking about used to be on the 1600 block of Benning Road (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/15327779/) and an extant one, converted to housing is on the 1500 block of East Capitol NE) the way the issue goes beyond to be incredibly reactive against streetcars (similar stuff happened with regard to the Metropolitan Branch Trail--and the idea was originally was conceptualized by a then Brooklander) is another example.

One of my lines about neighborhood decline is that it is not only a function of disinvestment but of backwards looking legacy leadership.

W5 illustrates this point to a "t."

by Richard Layman on Jun 29, 2012 7:09 am • linkreport

"As far as trashing the DC environment to save the suburbs, "

A. If you are referring to densification in general, well I am in near SE every day, and the changes have certainly not trashed this neighborhood. As for taking a tiny bit of grass for a car barn, I don' think that constitutes trashing the DC environment.
B. this isnt to "save the suburbs" its to save the planet. Part of that is preserving rural areas from becoming suburbs

"then why are we building a Metro to the cowfields of Loudoun County so they can be made into McMansionvilles?"

The areas where the proposed stops are are not cowfields they are already built up suburbs. The proposed new developments close to the stations will be relatively high density mixed use. But in any case, the reason we are builind that, is to transform Tysons from an auto centric wasteland into a vibrant urban place.

"Green works everywhere and should be used everywhere. And we better learn how to green DC or those $2.6 Billion surface water overflow tunnels will be obsolete by the time they open."

I have an idea - calculate the amount of pervious area lost to be car barn, take a proportionate share of the tunnel cost, and add that to the cost of the street car project. Of course if the proposed car barn has a green roof, you will need to adjust accordingly. OTOH the increased density on H street will mean more people to share the 2.6 billion cost.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 29, 2012 9:19 am • linkreport

Have you been to the library, Thayer?

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 29, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

Walker- Those Loudoun County stops will have gigantic parking garages for a reason; ie. people will be able to drive from outer Loudoun and further out and take a quick Metro trip in. Areas that are now rural can be developed into exurbs. From the time the Springfield station opened and exurbs exploded in Prince William and Stafford the trend has been the same. Now that the western bypass is on the table again the developers and Loudoun are confused as to which they want priority for.

Density has to do with better utilization of built environment we already have. The waste and under use of buildings in DC is appalling. In any new proposal to cover more permeable surface we have to consider its effect on the ground water runoff problem- that $2.6 Billion is no joke. But we never do. There's all this advocacy to concrete over McMillian Park, concrete over the front lawn of Springarn, build more structures with huge underground garages ad infinitum without any study of how all this new concrete will affect the surface water problem. That is how we got into this problem.

If other urban centers (not just Paris) can stay green while having high density we can too. When "smart growth" becomes just about more and more concrete trashing the environment we've fallen down the rabbit hole.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 29, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

" Those Loudoun County stops will have gigantic parking garages for a reason; ie. people will be able to drive from outer Loudoun and further out and take a quick Metro trip in."

very few people from "outer" ie Western loudoun will use the metro - which is why Western Loudoun mostly opposes it. Most will be from eastern loudoun - sterling, ashburn, etc. They will use it to commute to Tysons mostly - they largely already do, but will now have a tranist option. Less auto use.

"Areas that are now rural can be developed into exurbs."

Not in most of Western Loudoun, where zoning and conservation easements limit development. In those areas where greenfield development is taking place, its enabled by highways, not transit.

" From the time the Springfield station opened and exurbs exploded in Prince William and Stafford the trend has been the same."

Most of those commuters go by road, and many do not commute anywhere transit accessible.

" Now that the western bypass is on the table again the developers and Loudoun are confused as to which they want priority for. "

The folks against the silver line in LC are against it period. Those for it, want the silver line first (if the support the western bypass at all, which many do not)

"Density has to do with better utilization of built environment we already have. The waste and under use of buildings in DC is appalling."

which is why building new development on old parking lot, or on an old shopping center, adding units and activity without changing impervious area, is good.

"Density has to do with better utilization of built environment we already have. The waste and under use of buildings in DC is appalling. In any new proposal to cover more permeable surface we have to consider its effect on the ground water runoff problem- that $2.6 Billion is no joke."

sure. Add a cost for lost pervious area. A real, but finite, cost.

" But we never do. There's all this advocacy to concrete over McMillian Park"

Then I guess it would make more sense to have more units there in midrises and fewer in townhouses, to conserve pervious area.

"concrete over the front lawn of Springarn,"

Only a part of it, IIUC.

" build more structures with huge underground garages"

same impervious area, so Im still not convinced this adds to the stormwater problem.

"If other urban centers (not just Paris) can stay green while having high density we can too. "

paris has schools with large green lawns near the center of the city?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 29, 2012 10:14 am • linkreport

@Tom
If other urban centers (not just Paris) can stay green while having high density we can too.

It seems to me you assume that every other city in existence has solved the problem of combined sewer systems and has done so just by preserving green space and not by spending hundreds of millions on separation or containment.

This is false. Paris does the same thing we do - dump it when it overflows.

There should be some sort of charge for removing pervious surface, and this charge could be reduced/eliminated if you install mitigating devices like green roofs, connected planter boxes, etc. But you have to propose a reasonable solution and reasonable regulations. "We can't build anything until we figure this out" is unreasonable and unrealistic.

by MLD on Jun 29, 2012 10:32 am • linkreport

I live in Kingman Park, a few short blocks down Benning Road from the car barn site. We're in Ward 7, not Ward 5. I am eager for the streetcars to connect me and my neighbors - many of whom do not have cars for one reason or another - to the rest of Benning Rd. and H Street and Union Station. I understand concerns that the car barn will not fit with the neighborhood, but I am hopeful that it can be done in a way that works well enough for all of us and doesn't slow down the project any more.

by Tamara on Jun 29, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

This is getting way off topic but since you seem to bring this up in any discussion, I feel like I should point you to some of the literature on the CSO topic, Tom:

Compare the tables in these reports:
Page 6 (23 in PDF): http://www.publicpolicy.umd.edu/files.php/faculty/nelson/workshop/REDUCING%20COMBINED%20SEWER%20OVERFLOWS%20TOWARD%20CLEAN%20WATER%20IN%20WASHINGTON.pdf
Page 9 (11 in PDF): http://www.greenroofs.org/resources/greenroofvisionfordc.pdf

If you put a green roof on every building in DC over 10,000SF, you get a reduction of 334MG in overflow. If you implement the storage tunnel plan, the reduction is 2990MG. That is the difference we're talking about.

by MLD on Jun 29, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

@MLD: Why the hell should the District begin what would no doubt be a ridiculously long process with the federal government to acquire a piece of the RFK lot when they already own a perfectly good piece of land a mere 700 feet down the road?

Don't want to disturb a really nice rant, BUT: I live nearby and drive through this area every day. The RFK lot that touches Benning Rd is really the obvious place to put it. It is NEVER used; it is alomost directly across the St from the school; it has a Metro flyover; and it is already paved over. The school grounds are beautiful and this would ruin its frontage. This is an industrial use that has nothing to do with academics.

They delay in obtaining the land from the feds is small price to pay for something that will be there for generations.

And it is mistake to conflate residents' pointing out the obvious error of this siting with general opposition to streetcars.

by goldfish on Jun 29, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

wrt the RFK lot issue, I have argued for many years (since 2003, when I was on the board of H St. Main Street), that it was in the Greater neighborhood's best interest to create a master plan for the RFK site that re-engages the site, converts some to housing, such as along Benning Road, etc.

Some people say, rightly , that since the site abuts the Anacostia, it's worth not developing all of it. Others say it is NPS land and the agreement with NPS is that the site can only be used for "recreational" purposes and I've said that can be changed.

That's true, it can be changed, but DC would have to make a payment to NPS of some sort, not unlike the cost of extinguishing an easement, to be able to convert the use.

Still, this argument is another instance of my general point that we need to do a master planning initiative for this area generally.

- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/03/wanted-comprehensive-plan-for-anacostia.html

It would be possible to put up temporary structures in the interim. Portland for the longest time (and maybe they still do) stored their streetcars under a freeway, basically outside. Although I presume they have an indoor maintenance facility as well.

To be honest, while I don't agree with the general anti-streetcar arguments, I do see an issue with the use of the greenyard in terms of the school's viewshed.

I do think it's crazy that the anti-people denigrate the job development and training aspects, especially wrt Phelps' vocational orientation.

But that's just another element of the general W5 wackiness.

by Richard Layman on Jun 29, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

Any portion of the RFK site would require an act of Congress.

by selxic on Jun 29, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

@selxic: That is why EHN is there, to deal with this sort of problem.

by goldfish on Jun 29, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

@goldfish The delay in obtaining the land from the feds is small price to pay for something that will be there for generations.

I don't think you can say that unless you know how long that delay is. And I'm not even sure there is an amount of time at which I would say the probability of getting the land = 1. You seem very confident that NPS will hand the land over after a small delay. I'm not. So, trying to get it is all cost with a very real chance of no benefit.

And it is mistake to conflate residents' pointing out the obvious error of this siting with general opposition to streetcars.

Really? Because the error is not obvious to me. And I don't believe anyone in the above comments have defined it. Can you tell me what it is?

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 1:56 pm • linkreport

Richard,

Talk of the RFK parking lots brings me back to one of my favorite pipe dreams: Kennedy Brothers National Recreation Area.

Take the whole RFK site and turn into a National Recreation area with sports fields, trails, boat launches, playgrounds, velodrome etc... and possibly a small monument to John, Robert and Ted Kennedy. It would be great if that included covering East Capitol Street and a new Metro Station - but those aren't required

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

MLD- DC keeps trying to get out of the tunnel obligation by promising we'll plan better in the future. No one believes DC for good reason. We still don't require environmental impact studies as regards the surface water impact of a new project. I'd personally like to see a requirement that every new project diminish that problem. Certainly at least a requirement that it be neutral.

It isn't just how bad the problem is, it's also whether we are diminishing the problem or making it worse. And we're rapidly making it a lot worse.

How many additional gallons of surface water will this proposal cause to be dumped into the Anacostia over what's on the site? Can this be avoided? Can the project be built so that it actually improves surface water absorption?

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 29, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

Eleanor Holmes Norton has been TRYING to get Congress to move on a redevelopment plan for RFK for years. Nothing has become of it. DC owns the land but cannot develop the property for anything besides another stadium. Until that gets changed, there will be no dense, mixed-used development or car barn or anything else.

And as for community input, I'm pretty sure this wasn't the first and only community meeting about the streetcar or the car barn. Where have all the nimbys been for the last 18 months?

by monkeyrotica on Jun 29, 2012 2:04 pm • linkreport

David C: I don't think you can say that unless you know how long that delay is.

Congress can do what it wants -- hell they can put up the WW2 memorial, despite objections from the planning types and the mall preservation types.

There is the metro flyover. Whatever the problems, they were overcome for that. Why not for this?

I challenge anyone to visit the site. The RFK parking lot is clearly the best place to put it.

by goldfish on Jun 29, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

Yeah I guess the complainers must have missed the meeting in April where they went over this stuff:
http://www.dcstreetcar.com/uploads/6/1/6/2/6162393/meeting_report.pdf
http://www.dcstreetcar.com/4122012.html

by MLD on Jun 29, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

We, NIMBYs, were at the April meeting. I am a Ward 7 resident and have concerns about the streetcar's continuation into the ward. We brought up the questions about the CBT location. It is unfortunate that conversations about concerns devolve into "where were you?" and NIMBYism.

It would have been helpful at the April meeting for DDOT to expressly say that its upcoming RFI includes a commitment (not just studying) the Ward 7 extension, that the car barn shouldn't be considered a terminus but a railyard (although hopefully MLD's comparison with Brentwood won't take 10 years to build the next leg), and what the direct conversations with NPS, EHN, other stakeholders about siting at RFK and Pepco have entailed.

Hopefully, at the next quarterly meeting DDOT will give this information and truly make the community a partner in the return of the streetcar.

by Sylvia C Brown, ANC7C04 on Jun 29, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

goldfish, having a Congress who can fix the problem is a long way from having one that will. What makes you confident that they WILL?

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

The RFK parking lot is clearly the best place to put it.

Because...?

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 3:16 pm • linkreport

@ Sylvia.

I have much stronger concerns for the folks harmed by these needless delay tactics:

The lost employment opportunities for neighborhood and city residents. Not just in the construction of the facility, the operations of the facility and the drivers for the cars, but also resulting retail development hires.

The lost tax monies, which are needed to help our less fortunate or to invest in projects which will grow our tax base.

The lost educational opportunities for the nearby school.

The loss or delay of additional mobility options for neighborhood and city residents.

Furthermore, if we are going to involve neighboring wards in this process I am sure Ward 6 residents will be glad to inundate our city council and mayor with our concerns about the numerous negatives to delaying this. In fact I am going to do that right now and encourage others to do so as well!

by H Street Landlord on Jun 29, 2012 3:29 pm • linkreport

Who was the originator of this boogeyman misinformation that car barn = terminus?

The streetcar plan that DDOT has put together says the streetcar will continue down Benning Road. I'm not sure how that isn't a commitment from DDOT... If that is your only concern then you should be presenting yourself as a champion of the system and pushing to get it built faster - not presenting yourself as a "citizen with concerns about this project." Seems like so many people want a one-on-one sitdown with Terry Bellamy where he assuages whatever worry they have. DDOT has put the plan out. If you help them convince everyone it's a good idea, it will happen faster.

@goldfish
Congress can do what it wants
Oh right, we've seen this deal before. We can change the land use rules and put the streetcar barn on the RFK lot in exchange for the District being mandated to open 10 automatic weapon dispensaries first.

by MLD on Jun 29, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

David C: Because...?

Please see my 11:15 comment in this thread, and here, here, and here in a previous thread.

by goldfish on Jun 29, 2012 3:49 pm • linkreport

@MLD: Oh right, we've seen this deal before. We can change the land use rules and put the streetcar barn on the RFK lot in exchange for the District being mandated to open 10 automatic weapon dispensaries first.

If that is what they are offering, take it!

RFK has been lying fallow for years, and it will not be redeveloped anytime in the next 3 decades.

by goldfish on Jun 29, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

Sylvia: DDOT has always been extremely eager to extend to Ward 7. They even applied for a federal grant for that part; not for continuing the line west, or another line, just for that part. They didn't get it, but I really hope you have never gotten the impression that DDOT isn't into the Ward 7 extension, because they have always been super into it from everything I have seen.

by David Alpert on Jun 29, 2012 4:01 pm • linkreport

@goldfish, so the RFK parking lot is clearly the better location because it is already paved and the school site has grass on it. That's your position in it's entirety? Is grass really THAT valuable?

I'm not sure that makes it "obviously" better in light of the ownership issue.

And I see the Metro rail line overhang as at least as much of an impediment as a benefit. It limits height, and the facility becomes a barrier to eventually burying the line as some have discussed.

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 4:46 pm • linkreport

@David C: sigh. Please review my comments -- I provided more reasons than that.

The school grounds are beautiful; this maintenance shed has nothing to do with academics; that RFK parking lot has not seen a car that close to Benning Rd -- other than those that have been abandoned -- in DECADES.

The existence of the Metro flyover demonstrates that the ownership/recreational use mandate can be overcome.

The powerpoint slides given at the public meeting last spring (thanks to MLD for finding this!) basically confirm that ddot did not seriously consider locating the maintenance shed anywhere else. It looked cheap and easy to them; and it is plain even in their very crude drawing that it would devastate the school frontage on Benning Road. The residents' beef is a bulleye.

I invite you to actually go there and look. It would be a crime to put it on the school grounds.

by goldfish on Jun 29, 2012 5:13 pm • linkreport

Yes they did not consider any other sites as the powerpoint clearly shows. Other than the 8 other sites mentioned in that powerpoint, including the RFK lot.

I mean if you ignore the existence of the training program, and the fact that they considered other sites, and the fact that Metro was built with heavy fed involvement and this isn't, then yes, clearly the RFK site is better.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by MLD on Jun 29, 2012 5:21 pm • linkreport

@goldfish, sigh right back at you:

1. The school grounds are beautiful - this was the point I mentioned. It's basically a lawn, but fine, you think it will negatively effect aesthetics. That's one reason.

2. "this maintenance shed has nothing to do with academics" - that's not a point in favor of the RFK site, nor is it true since they plan to do some vocational training there.

3. "that RFK parking lot has not seen a car that close to Benning Rd -- other than those that have been abandoned -- in DECADES." - Not sure that is true, and I'd be interested in seeing your records on the subject, but nonetheless it isn't really an argument for RFK. The school grounds are also rarely used for parking.

4. "The existence of the Metro flyover demonstrates that the ownership/recreational use mandate can be overcome." - This is also not an argument in favor of RFK, it is a claim that using the land is possible. It is possible. There is no reason to believe that it is easy.

There is a cost with trying to use the RFK site in delay. And that delay doesn't mean you'll get to use it. And it would be harder to use that site for vocational training. The only benefit you've identified is one of aesthetics that could easily be dealt with. Far easier than getting to use the RFK land.

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 5:30 pm • linkreport

@MLD: the powerpoint shows siting ONLY at the school; the review of the other sites are cursory. For example it dismisses the RFK site based on NPS rules and DC code, without mentioning that a) the code can be changed (and clearly has been to get the metro flyover built), and b) the "recreational use" has not been realized in years. There is an Exxon station that could also serve as a pretty good site, but that was also not considered. And what about the Langston golf course?

No way can you portray this as anything other than ddot taking the easy way out.

by goldfish on Jun 29, 2012 5:32 pm • linkreport

@David C: Again I invite you to go and look. My arguments and prospective is based on daily visits, and I can assure you that the RFK parking lot is a total waste of space. It is NEVER used.

by goldfish on Jun 29, 2012 5:34 pm • linkreport

I've been there. Many times. I live in the area. The parking lot is a waste, but getting the right to do something with it is not easy. As pointed out by others DC has been trying to do that for years. They can't. So holding it out as a solution is kind of pointless.

It is the obvious better choice in the same way that cheap, cold fusion is the obvious better choice for energy production.

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 5:36 pm • linkreport

I like the rec. area idea, but I am tired of memorials. Isn't Kennedy Center enough... Can't they just rename the Greenway in Boston to include John, RObert, and Ted along with their mother Rose?

by Richard Layman on Jun 29, 2012 8:04 pm • linkreport

I'm not married to the name, but with RFK Stadium there, I've heard you'd need to keep something named for him or else insult the family.

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 8:11 pm • linkreport

Reminds me of the plaque I used to have over my desk " Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part."

The biggest argument is that changing the location now could delay the streetcar.

Well kudos to the knucklehead at DDOT who (typically of DDOT) thought putting a streetcar maintenance facility on the front lawn of the campus of an educational institution was better than getting permission for the JFK lot and didn't think anyone would mind.

JFK's parking lot is the obvious choice and if we can't swing this we may as well give up on ever doing anything right.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 29, 2012 9:11 pm • linkreport

I'm not saying there isn't a better location but why is the location of the car barn on the street so horrible? Have we lost any hope that architects could solve this problem with an urbane and handsome solution? It's been done so well in the past that they've been renovated into condos. The rationalist design would be one that drew from the best solutions to all the problems at hand, regardless of provenance. Solve the problem first, worry about your place in architectural history second. We need to get these streetcar lines built.

by Thayer-D on Jun 29, 2012 9:53 pm • linkreport

The biggest argument is that changing the location now could delay the streetcar.

Well, no. It's that trying to put it in the RFK parking lot would delay the streetcar AND raise costs AND might be unsuccessful meaning we're back to the campus lawn with nothing to show for it.

This is not a lack of planning. It's a lack of power over NPS.

by David C on Jun 29, 2012 11:10 pm • linkreport

Why not build the maintenance facilitate near Benning Road station as a means to get them to complete to Benning Road Station as planned.

by kk on Jun 30, 2012 5:13 am • linkreport

@Thayer D:
Take a look.

The school is historical; it would be a crying shame to build something in front of it, however handsome. But maintenance sheds tend to be utilitarian, and I do not have any faith that what they have in mind is anything close to handsome enough to make up for the loss.

Compare that to building something across the street, in an very large, unused parking lot.

by goldfish on Jun 30, 2012 6:41 am • linkreport

@goldfish

The reason the doc only shows a diagram for siting at the school is because obviously all the sites meet the criterion of "has enough room," otherwise they wouldn't even be on the list.

And it seems to me that once you've cleared the hurdle of "big enough space," the biggest obstacle DDOT could possibly face in trying to pick a site is, in fact, "getting congress to change the rules so DC can use the plot." Or is your view that this congress is very good at just sitting down and doing the obvious and coming to logical conclusions, especially when it comes to letting DC decide its own affairs?

And the golf course? Really? In a choice of building over an unprogrammed lawn vs building over recreational infrastructure, you choose the latter?

Agree with you that the RFK lot is never used but that is not the issue. And the fact that you think the Metro flyover is some kind of proof that this could be done means you either don't care about or are willfully ignoring the differences in the project stakeholders and political climate between the streetcar project and Washington Metro in the 70s.

by MLD on Jun 30, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

@Tom C

why are we building a Metro to the cowfields of Loudoun County so they can be made into McMansionvilles?

"We" are not building the Silver Line. VA is building the Silver Line and paying for it entirely. And, the purpose of the line is not to facilitate turning cow fields into suburbs anymore than the purpose of the original metro lines was to do that (although it was an unintended consequence). The purpose is to transform Tysons from a suburban, auto-oriented place into an urban, multi-modal place.

by Falls Church on Jun 30, 2012 9:04 pm • linkreport

I am in the process of buying a house on the 800 block of 20th St. NE. I am excited about the potential that streetcars have to bring improved character, quality of life, and econonic growth to what is soon to be my home. I also support the placement of the car barn at the proposed Springarn location. I look forward to making Ward 5 my home, and I look forward to the continued growth of the area.

by Shaun R on Jun 30, 2012 9:57 pm • linkreport

@MLD: The reason the doc only shows a diagram for siting at the school is because obviously all the sites meet the criterion of "has enough room," otherwise they wouldn't even be on the list.

My other suggestions were facetious, to point out how facetious ddot's other sites were.

In this marble-clad town it is easy to forget that there is almost nothing to be proud of over on Benning Rd, save this school, which is struggling academically. Perhaps its shameful consideration by ddot is a reflection of that. To build something in front of it -- and you can be sure it will be a how-hum, utilitarian building, nothing like the East Capital St carbarn -- is to rape the only beautiful thing in the neighborhood.

...the fact that you think the Metro flyover is some kind of proof that this could be done means you either don't care about or are willfully ignoring the differences in the project stakeholders and political climate between the streetcar project and Washington Metro in the 70s.

I think that the difficulty in getting Congress to move on RFK is because up to now, the reason to do it has not been that compelling. (Come up with a site plan to redevelop RFK? *YAWN*) But in this case otoh, the already-laid streetcar tracks await what NPS no doubt considers to be an insignificant and unused piece of property, that is nevertheless vital to the project. That is a good reason for Congress to move. I am sure our illustrious delegate knows how to get this done.

This building will be there for many decades. It is important to do this right.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2012 11:14 pm • linkreport

The front of the school is actually 26th Street. And before we talk about "raping" beautiful things in the neighborhood, I'll note that you proposed building it on Langston Golf Course which has historical protection.

This building will be there for many decades. It is important to do this right.

Certainly you aren't proposing that building an ugly building on the south side of Benning Road is doing it "right". Building an attractive structure is doing it right. And since you're only opposition to the building near Spingarn is that it will be ugly, then doing it right would mean doing it on the land DC already owns - Spingarn. I'm glad we all agree.

by David C on Jul 1, 2012 11:27 pm • linkreport

@David C: I'll note that you proposed building it on Langston Golf Course which has historical protection.

But you FAILED to note that I made that proposal facetiously, to point out how ridiculous the ddot's "alternatives" were. DDOT did not make any serious attempt to look elsewhere.

by goldfish on Jul 2, 2012 12:25 am • linkreport

@David C: And since you're only opposition to the building near Spingarn is that it will be ugly, then doing it right would mean doing it on the land DC already owns - Spingarn. I'm glad we all agree.

We do not agree, because My opposition goes much further than aesthetics. as I am sure you know. You do not speak for me, dammit.

by goldfish on Jul 2, 2012 12:35 am • linkreport

But you FAILED to note that I made that proposal facetiously, to point out how ridiculous the ddot's "alternatives" were.

That was in no way clear. [Modified to comply with the comment policy]: Sarcasm doesn't come through the same way in print as it does when spoken. [Please see Homer Simpson's thank you letter to Mr. Burns for more on this]

by David C on Jul 2, 2012 2:38 pm • linkreport

@David C: This is an industrial use that has nothing to do with education.

by goldfish on Jul 3, 2012 9:38 am • linkreport

Sally,

I don't think you got this one right. The people at this meeting were not opposing street cars, they were objecting to the location of the car barn. There were only 2 people who objected to the street car. The vast majority of people want street cars but not "higher property values" so they can still afford their homes. How could you miss that concept. If is easy enough to understand.

by M. Hughes on Jul 3, 2012 11:05 am • linkreport

goldfish, yes it does. They're going to have vocational classes there.

And also, so what if they didn't. That's a statement of fact (that's actually not factual). It's not a reason to oppose it. What is the underlying reason why using surplus education land for transportation is unacceptable?

by David C on Jul 3, 2012 2:52 pm • linkreport

@David C: those classes are window dressing; there will never be enough streetcar maintenance positions to justify an educational program, nor enough to justify this building on an educational campus.

Both public and private industry is responsible for its own training. The public school system has never been, nor never should be, asked to provide facilities (for example) train elevator maintenance technicians -- but I bet there are a lot more elevator technicians than there will be streetcar maintenance technicians.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by goldfish on Jul 5, 2012 8:16 am • linkreport

@goldfish

Why don't you think those skills are valuable/applicable to jobs other than "streetcar maintenance technician"?

by MLD on Jul 5, 2012 8:42 am • linkreport

"Both public and private industry is responsible for its own training. The public school system has never been, nor never should be, asked to provide facilities (for example) train elevator maintenance technicians"

Vocational high schools have historically trained various kinds of technicians.

I may be old, but when I grew up all NYC junior high schools and high schools had shop classes - including metal working, woodworking, jewelry making, etc. NYC had aviation HS, automotive HS, and many other specialized vocational high schools.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 5, 2012 9:11 am • linkreport

@MLD & AWitC: Basically, because there are not enough of them. If DCPS proposed a vo-tech HS to train plumbers, HVAC techs, and the like -- trades with serious numbers -- that would be ok. But streetcar tech, no.

Put into perspective: Metro has around 1000 cars. Does DCPS provide training for their techs?

by goldfish on Jul 5, 2012 10:17 am • linkreport

those classes are window dressing; there will never be enough streetcar maintenance positions to justify an educational program

And there will never be enough historian jobs to justify making every student take history. But the purpose of education is more holistic than this. Vocational students learn how to work with tools, solve problems, demonstrate work ethic and they develop basic engineering skills etc... This isn't workforce education, it is basic high school education. Most school athletes won't play professional sports, but the reason we support these activities is because we believe they learn skills that transfer to other fields. Same thing here.

Besides which, the point is moot. There will be classes there. Window dressing or not, that gives it an educational purpose - at least as valid a one as the educational purpose of a grassy field. Unless you believe that not one of the students who takes these classes will learn anything of value (and none will ever transition into actual streetcar maintenance) you have to concede that it has an educational purpose.

by David C on Jul 5, 2012 11:45 am • linkreport

@David C: If the initiative for this came from DCPS, I would agree that this may be a worthwhile use of academic resources. However, it did not. For the schools' point of view, this sucks: they loose valuable property, and they are forced to provide classes they do not want to teach. And what do they get for their trouble? Nothing that I can see.

Building a streetcar maintenance shed and provided classes is not a worthwhile academic effort -- it is NOT like history or sports, academic pursuits that have wide support and interest. Nor does it have much to do with vo-tech classes, which are designed to have broad application in a number of trades.

I am happy we agree that this is indeed window dressing, and that it is less useful than history and sports.

by goldfish on Jul 6, 2012 7:04 am • linkreport

goldfish and David C: Watching you guys "debate" this is entertaining, at least. I'm going to go way out on a limb and say that neither of you are going to budge an inch...

(For what it's worth, the piece of ground between the school is not 'school' property, so they wouldn't "loose [sic] valuable property," as it isn't "theirs" in the first place. It's all public land - no single agency other than the Department of General Services can really claim some kind of title to it.)

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 6, 2012 8:57 am • linkreport

@GH: possession is what matters.

by goldfish on Jul 6, 2012 9:25 am • linkreport

goldfish: The land is "possessed" by the city, so any city agency could use it.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 6, 2012 9:34 am • linkreport

@GH -- and you are the one saying nobody is going to move on the debate!

Get real. The property is controlled by DCPS.

by goldfish on Jul 6, 2012 9:38 am • linkreport

goldfish: I have "gotten real." Just laying out a fact for you. Please, don't attack the messenger, that's against commenting policy here.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 6, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

For the schools' point of view, this sucks

Is this actually their point of view, or just the fake one that you're projecting onto them?

Nor does it have much to do with vo-tech classes

I tend to believe that teaching and hosting vo-tech classes has a lot to do with vo-tech classes. But maybe I'm alone on that.

by David C on Jul 6, 2012 11:58 am • linkreport

@GH: what is your message -- that government has the power to do what it wants? Sure, they could knock down city hall and convert it into a trash transfer station; or pave over everybody's front yard (actually owned by the city) to widen the roads; or build an interstate through Lincoln Park (as was actually proposed). And government has indeed done such things: in WWI the mall was given over to army barracks. But don't defend the indefensible: the question is, is building a maintenance shed on school property the right thing to do? Is it consistent with school use? How much support does this have from the school and the neighborhood?

@David C: I repeat: how much support does this has from DCPS? Did they send any representatives to the community meetings to say what a good idea this was?

I just drove through this part of town. The RFK parking lot that goes from C St to Benning Rd is entirely paved, and is nearly 1/2 mile wide. It has not been filled since the Redskins played there, nearly 20 years ago. And you think it is better to use school grounds?

by goldfish on Jul 7, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

And you think it is better to use school grounds?

Considering that one piece of land is free and available and the other piece is neither, then yes, I think it is better to use the school grounds just as I think trying to take a cute girl at your high school to the prom makes more sense than trying to take Marilyn Monroe. And the people who studied it think this land is better too. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by David C on Jul 7, 2012 10:50 pm • linkreport

@David C: Considering that one piece of land is free and available and the other piece is neither...

Both pieces of land are being used, and if you consider opportunity cost -- that why I post here, to envision the best for this city -- neither is free. But the parking lot is certainly used less than the school. And comparing this godawful parking lot to Marylin Monroe is perverse in the extreme.

OK, I give up. I only hope that "the easy way out" does not prevail. It must if we are to have genuine improvement in this neighborhood.

by goldfish on Jul 8, 2012 6:44 am • linkreport

Re : Location
Having a car barn near the middle of a streetcar line makes sense because it shortens the start-up / shut-down runs. I live near a city that built a car barn on the east side of town. This got them space for fleet growth and shortened the run out to the terminus in the SE corner of the city. The other streetcar / LRV car barns were in the south-central part of town.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muni_Metro

Re : Voc-tech classes
Streetcar training can lead one to heavy-vehicle maintenance (trucks, subways, etc.) as well as various other trades (painting, flooring, glazing [windows not pottery], etc.).

by Ted K. on Jul 8, 2012 12:27 pm • linkreport

@Ted K: it would be far most effective to just have vocational training for trucks -- there are more of these than streetcars. And if training works one way (streetcars --> trucks), it also works the other way too.

by goldfish on Jul 8, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

and if you consider opportunity cost

OK. What is that opportunity cost? How much would you estimate it is worth - in dollars - to use the RFK lot instead of the school property? If it were $1M more expensive would it be worth it? $1B? $1T? Where would you draw the line?

by David C on Jul 8, 2012 2:29 pm • linkreport

@David C: How much would you estimate it is worth - in dollars - to use the RFK lot instead of the school property?

Vacant, commercial property in DC costs about $26 million/acre. The using the class 2a commercial tax rate of $1.65/$100 valuation, that comes to $429k/acre/year in taxes. The site has 190 acres, most of which is parking. If this were improved, the tax revenues could increase by 10-100 fold. Keeping this land fallow in control of the NPS is lost opportunity is in the billions.

OK, so you say that this use will not yield taxes. Nevertheless, since the maintenance facility is light industrial use, it should be valued accordingly. (I wonder if the "educational use" angle is actually a dodge of real estate taxes.) So assuming a 1-acre site, you could figure at least $1 million/year in lost opportunity real estate taxes.

by goldfish on Jul 8, 2012 3:16 pm • linkreport

So assuming a 1-acre site, you could figure at least $1 million/year in lost opportunity real estate taxes.

So, you'd be willing to pay NPS $1M a year in perpetuity for the right to use the lot? That sounds like a lot of money to me.

And I'm also confused as to what you support. I thought you wanted to leave the lawn a lawn because the school is "beautiful and this would ruin its frontage." I didn't realize the alternative you supported was developing the property. How is building a tax-earning development more education related than the maintenance facility?

And lastly, I question the valuation. If the lawn could be developed and the RFK lot used for the maintenance facility, then couldn't the lawn be used as a maintenance facility an the RFK lot be developed? Those are the two options we're comparing right? So at least some of that tax revenue would be recouped at the RFK site, no?

by David C on Jul 8, 2012 5:56 pm • linkreport

@David C: So, you'd be willing to pay NPS $1M a year in perpetuity for the right to use the lot? That sounds like a lot of money to me.

I am awed by how well and by how much you have distorted what I wrote, Mr. David C. Awed!

Unfortunately, you did NOT point out my failing to complete the comparison: I should have computed the opportunity cost of putting the maintenance facility on school grounds. So here it is:

If the shed is sited on school grounds, then this property will not be used for what was intended for it, namely more school buildings. It will not be possible to expand Spingarn HS, or put a new charter school there; such buildings will have to be built elsewhere. What is the cost of that? Assuming DC buys the property, the same commercial rates apply as for the vacant land ($26 million/acre, taxes, etc). But in this case, we must deduct the land value in its current use, as a school campus. To derive this number I will use the value of vacant property that is zoned residential: here is a listing of a nearby property, 3600 sq ft, $75000, or $16.3 million/acre. Assuming a 1 acre site, $16 million is value of what would be lost from its current use. Since the cost of commercial property is the same for either site, the opportunity cost is the value of the property for its current use: School, $16 million; unused NPS parking lot, zero.

The difference is the fact that the school grounds have already been reserved for education use, which has a great deal of value. The RFK parking lot, otoh, has NO planned future use at this time, and therefore has NO value. Q.E.D.

couldn't the lawn be used as a maintenance facility an the RFK lot be developed?

Yes it could. But since nobody is suggesting that, I do not foresee it coming to pass. Moreover, the campus property is valuable to a school only if it is next tot he school.

by goldfish on Jul 9, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

goldfish,

I certainly wasn't trying to distort what you wrote. I was trying to understand it. That's why it was in the form of a question. I still don't understand what you're trying to say. The question I asked is "How much would you estimate it is worth - in dollars - to use the RFK lot instead of the school property?" and the only thing I saw that looked like an answer was "So assuming a 1-acre site, you could figure at least $1 million/year in lost opportunity real estate taxes." So if that isn't the answer, then what is?

Let me try to be explicit. We have two options:

A. Lawn by Spingarn and facility on RFK lots.

B. Facility by Springarn and RFK lots as they are now

How much more would you pay for A than B?

If the shed is sited on school grounds, then this property will not be used for what was intended for it, namely more school buildings.

Was that or is that the intention? Who intended that and how do you know that was the intention?

by David C on Jul 9, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

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