Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Bonded


Photo by In Shaw on Flickr.
Dems make Bonds interim councilmember: DC Democrats selected Anita Bonds to fill the at-large seat vacated by Phil Mendelson's council chair election. The long-time activist and politician will serve through an April 23rd special election. (Post)

Judge blocks Ivy City yard: A judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking DC from putting tour bus parking at the old Crummell School in Ivy City, finding that it didn't follow procedures around ANCs or environmental review (ruling here). Meanwhile, DC won the final eminent domain case for Skyland redevelopment. (City Paper)

Arlington rejects electric taxis: In a narrow vote, Arlington County Board voted down a proposal for an all-electric taxi fleet. Board members expressed doubts about whether they were prepared to add electric vehicle charging infrastructure. (Post)

Bethesda could be better for bikes: WABA made suggestions for adding bike lanes and other changes in Bethesda, such as replacing one driving lane with bike lanes on Arlington Road, but the county DOT seems uninterested. (Patch, Corbin Dallas)

From parking to park: A group has a plan for sports fields, walking paths and more on the 40 acres of "parkland" now covered with RFK's north parking lots. (DCist)

DC still the Corcoran's home: The Corcoran Museum will stay in DC. The art museum had been considering moving to a larger suburban location since June. (Post)

DC one of the choiciest: Brookings ranked DC third in school choice, with 40-45% of DC students in "schools of choice" like magnets and charters. (Post)

Tax land, not buildings?: Minneapolis is looking to reduce surface parking. Should cities tax land for their development potential to encourage higher-value and more intensive uses, and discourage surface parking? (Streets.mn)

And...: MTA has already begun selling MARC tickets for the inauguration. (Post) ... Amtrak set another ridership record, this time for Thanksgiving weekend. (Post) ... This year, DC will likely have fewer than 100 murders for the first time since 1963. (Examiner) ... Bicycle deaths rose 9 percent in 2011. (Atlantic Cities)

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Comments

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While anything that gets rids of surfaace parking lots is good, the suface parking lot tax suggests two potential market failures. In most cities in the US, land isn't' that valuable. More to the point, it is very hard to value since there isn't a liquid market.

Why, for instance, did they have to tear down the Taco Bell in Arlington and replace it with an empty lot for what -- 4 years now? Plenty of other examples. The formerly ubiqutious used car lots are also a great example.

by charlie on Dec 11, 2012 9:30 am • linkreport

Bike Fatalities rose 8% but didn't mention about any increase in cycling as mode share except locally in DC where bike commutes has shot way way up that way outpaces the absolute rise in accidents. So cycling is safer than its ever been.

Re: RFK
the park looks nice but I'd like to see a pipe dream that fills in the rest of the RFK area with a new capitol hill. Better yet, use some of the area closer to Oklahoma avenue for some mixed-use development as well.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

Love the Minneapolis idea of taxing land and not buildings. This is what led to so many unnecessary demolitions in depressed towns across America. When (if) the ecomony comes back, these towns find they've scuandered the recourse of historic fabric to rebuild around.

by Thayer-D on Dec 11, 2012 9:40 am • linkreport

Education is looking promising. Crime is down. City seems to being governed very well.

Seems like an interesting RFK proposal but is this the best we can do w/that vacant land?

Wonder will Anita Bonds end up as another Sekou.

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 9:54 am • linkreport

DC will likely have fewer than 100 murders for the first time since 1963.

Just as a comparison, the Netherlands, a country with 17 million residents (28 times the population of DC) had 159 murders in 2011 (up from 143 in 2007).

by Jasper on Dec 11, 2012 10:08 am • linkreport

The RFK park proposal is pretty weak. A few sports fields and a whole lot of open, unprogrammed space. We already have a lot of open, treeless wastelands in DC and plenty of forested unprogrammed space as well. Seems like this is just destined to be underused. I'm all for sports fields and a smaller waterfront park though.

by MLD on Dec 11, 2012 10:11 am • linkreport

The land idea is terrific. Currently, my property taxes are about $1800/year, of which, about $600 is land value, and $1200 is home value. It makes it such that when my wife and I spent $7,000 to put in a bay window and three brand new windows on the front of our house, and the value goes up, we pay for that, while people who let their house sit with a piece of plywood in the window, dragging down others home values, pay less.

Seems like it should be $1200 for land, and $600 for a house. That way people are even more encouraged to buy flipped houses, or to renovate their homes. I think Minneapolis is spot on. Whether they can implement is a whole different story though.

by Kyle-W on Dec 11, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

The proposal also discounts RFK or Lot 7 being used as a venue.

by selxic on Dec 11, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

If I have a house that's worth $500,000, and the actual structure would cost about $175,000 to build, shouldn't it be assessed at $175,000 for the building and $325,000 for the land? And shouldn't someone with similar land that is currently zoned to build a similar building be assessed at the same $325,000 for the land?

They don't actually own a building, they just own the land. Tax the value of the land (which includes the value of the right to build a building?)

by Michael Perkins on Dec 11, 2012 10:24 am • linkreport

Taxing land more than buildings is definitely an idea worth strongly considering. However, consider the flip side. An intensely developed land parcel (say a multi-family building) uses a lot more government services than say a parking lot. So, if changing taxation causes parcels to go from net contributors to the treasury to net beneficiaries from the treasury, that will cause a revenue shortfall. Someone would have to study the economics of a change carefully before implementation.

Another thing to consider is that taxing land more than improvements is regressive. A shabby apartment building uses up the same amount of land as a fancy condo building but the condo residents are richer. But, it makes more sense to have a rational tax policy that incents the right behaviors and help poor people in some other way to counterbalance the regressiveness.

by Falls Church on Dec 11, 2012 10:32 am • linkreport

Just as a comparison, the Netherlands, a country with 17 million residents (28 times the population of DC) had 159 murders in 2011 (up from 143 in 2007).

Rather unnecessary comparison. We aren't talking about the Netherlands. We're talking about the good news here in DC...which is where you live and I'm assuming would be most important to you.

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 10:35 am • linkreport

Not sure I even remember correctly, but do DC residents own their land?

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

charlie-It's not a "surface parking lot tax" it's simply taxing the land vs. taxing "improvements" and land equally in this case. I think you argued for the tax in your second paragraph. The precise reason why Taco Bell es no mas is b/c it's cheaper to sit on land w/o improvements.
It makes a lot of sense in dense areas, where land is at a premium, but the farther out on the transect you go, the less it does. It might be a good "stick" in the suburbs/exurbs to encourage density over time.

I wonder how much of the RFK project could be done by hand (vs heavy equipment) by hiring some of the city's low-skill workers. I'm sure there is a massive cost difference, but maybe I'm wrong. Would it be worth it if long-time residents really felt ownership and like the city still valued them? You can also just invite the public out to a massive "depave" day and just hand out pry bars and hammers. It looks like this plan clearly enjoys community support. In the end, it would be great to see that green space extended down to the hospital and Hill East.

by thump on Dec 11, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

Arlington Road is my definition of a bad road for biking--by design. It's two lanes in each direction, hard curb and no parking at any time, with a narrow and often crowded sidewalk. That may have fit the area at one point in time, but it surely does not at present. The road needs redesign, with provision for cyclists.

by Crickey7 on Dec 11, 2012 10:44 am • linkreport

An intensely developed land parcel (say a multi-family building) uses a lot more government services than say a parking lot

The key is that those people aren't as spread out as they were before the parking lot became a multi-family building. As a city you don't need to build and equip another school, firehouse, police station or build and maintain all the other infrastructure needed to service them if they are spread out. It's cheaper for them to be centrally located.

Another thing to consider is that taxing land more than improvements is regressive. A shabby apartment building uses up the same amount of land as a fancy condo building but the condo residents are richer.

No, a land tax incentivizes the owner of the shabby apartment building to improve it so that s/he can charge higher rents and attract the wealth of the higher earning condo owners.

by thump on Dec 11, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

Good thing the RFK site isn't a toxic wasteland, removing layers of paving materials is safe and clean, and that the land is safe and ready for planting.

by selxic on Dec 11, 2012 10:56 am • linkreport

@ HogWash:Rather unnecessary comparison.

Just providing context. 100 down from 300 is good. Just reminding people that 100 is still wayyyyyy too many.

by Jasper on Dec 11, 2012 11:06 am • linkreport

Dubious new flex-fuel push:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/10/oil-prices-climate-change-car

and Hillary supports Keystone pipeline:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/09/hilary-clinton-and-obama-s-dismal-record-on-the-environment.html

$2/gallon gas would be bad for urbanism but I'm not losing any sleep over it.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 11, 2012 11:23 am • linkreport

"Meanwhile, DC won the final eminent domain case for Skyland redevelopment."

It's amazing what can happen when one of the world's largest corporations and a city government can conspire to seize private property per current Kelo rules.

by Kolohe on Dec 11, 2012 11:51 am • linkreport

@Hogwash: "...do DC residents own their land?"

Not sure what you mean by "their land". I own the land my house occupies in the same way I would in most if not all US states ("in fee simple"). As far as I know, the street in front (which technically includes my front yard) and the alley behind are owned by the District government and thus in some sense collectively by DC residents, including you and me, again in the same way Chicago's streets are owned by Chicago's residents via its municipal government.

You may be thinking specifically of the RFK Stadium grounds. That land is owned by the federal government, which has granted control to the District government with restrictions on what can be done there.

by A Streeter on Dec 11, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

It's a shame that with all the effort envisioned for the greenspace on the parking lots, they couldn't widen their scope a little, cross the walk bridges and finish Children's Island.

by Anon202 on Dec 11, 2012 12:36 pm • linkreport

Just providing context. 100 down from 300 is good. Just reminding people that 100 is still wayyyyyy too many.

I got you. Just wanted you to know that the constant "only if we can do it like the Netherlands" responses get tired and old. We don't live in the Netherlands so who cares?

I own the land my house occupies in the same way I would in most if not all US states ("in fee simple").

Admittedly, my claim was a bit iffy. Not sure where or in what context I heard otherwise. Probably a good reason not to mention it tho.

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe

I know... Isn't it terrific? The city is finally going to see progress on that site, and not just let one lady sit on a very good location, demanding absurd amounts of money, and stopping all progress. You are right, this is incredible, and terrific news. One person, who had been stopping progress that will help the whole city was finally defeated. She even got a couple million out of it for her trouble, and the entire city will benefit as a result.

by Kyle-W on Dec 11, 2012 12:53 pm • linkreport

Bond complained that the media questioning her continued links to her construction company employer was "chauvinism" because the media didnt give as hard a time to other council members.

In the last two years, we have two councillors removed for criminal behavior, another council member and the mayor under investigation, and questions being raised all through DC government. Of course there is Marion Barry, whose problems with the law are legendary and long standing, and with whom Ms. Bond started her political career.

I think Ms. Bond's complaints are ridiculous: we need more critical questions, not less. And shame on the Democrats for another smoke filled room appointment. Ms. Bond may be a great person, and squeeky clean, but her opening statements are not a good sign.

by SJE on Dec 11, 2012 1:10 pm • linkreport

We can't say that much about the bike fatalities: more people are riding and the total numbers of deaths are small, so we would expect some uptick just from random variation. That said, it sucks to be the "random variation"

by SJE on Dec 11, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

The key is that those people aren't as spread out as they were before the parking lot became a multi-family building. As a city you don't need to build and equip another school, firehouse, police station or build and maintain all the other infrastructure needed to service them if they are spread out. It's cheaper for them to be centrally located.

If the new multi-family building just moves people from an outlying part of the city to a more central part of the city, what happens to the land those people lived at previously? Does it become uninhabited parking lots?

I think the idea is that the new building will house new residents to the city. In that case you will need new schools and other government services for those new residents. Those residents will pay taxes but their ratio of taxes paid to government services rendered may not be as good as a parking lot's ratio.

No, a land tax incentivizes the owner of the shabby apartment building to improve it so that s/he can charge higher rents and attract the wealth of the higher earning condo owners.

Ok, let's say two landowners improve their land to fancy condos. But, one set of condos is fancier than the other and is bought by richer people. Shouldn't the richer people pay more property taxes in a progressive system?

by Falls Church on Dec 11, 2012 1:28 pm • linkreport

Ms. Bond may be a great person, and squeeky clean, but her opening statements are not a good sign.

I'm not sure in what context Bond made the "chauvinist" statement but pointing out that her employment "connections" are no different than her fellow male CM's doesn't strike me as the best example of a bad opening statement. How exactly is that ridiculous when the facts are indeed on her side? Context is important here because I didn't read anything from her supporting your belief that she wants fewer critical questions.

You've already said she appears squeaky clean and not involved in any of the criminal acts you mentioned above.

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 1:28 pm • linkreport

The outside employment status of other council members has been brought up before. Mary Cheh also has outside employment, and I dont' recall hearing her complain that she was being unfairly singled out for questions because she's a woman.

Antia Bonds is now on twitter. It's amusing. @CMAnitaBonds

by Birdie on Dec 11, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

The property tax as currently constituted is a loose and poor way of reflecting how much costs a parcel imposes. Its even worse at expressing progressivity relative to income.

Whether the impact of a land tax higher than an improvements tax would do more harm (due to failing to charge for the cost impact of population) or more good (by taking away the harmful disincentives to improvement) will probably vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In a place where more improvement means mostly replacing farms and forests with SFHs with multiple public school attending children, that will probably be a negative in many ways. In a place where it means replacing parking lots with high density mixed use - where the actual number of public school attending children is small relative to the property value (both because of heavy non residential use, and because of demographics) it may make more sense.

This is not a proposal to end all taxes on improvements, IIUC. But to shift to get a more optimal approach to incenting improvements.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 11, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

I think that is the issue. This is a tax that shouldn't be as progressive. We want to encourage improvement here. The income tax in DC is plenty progressive. In addition, there is the homestead exemption, which you can tinker with and increase if you are going for progressiveness. I think the key is that there should not be an incentive for allowing land to lay fallow.

by Kyle-W on Dec 11, 2012 1:45 pm • linkreport

I like the NCPC's plans for the the entire RFK area. I too thought that there was too much empty/unprogrammed land in the parks proposal. I imagine if more could be done to active the spaces that are currently left vacant, they would have (dream big, right?) but I imagine there were technical limitations like the overall topography, flood control, and the Metrorail line.

Plus, it's not like the vacant parking lot is "programmed" space, either.

by Adam L on Dec 11, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

This is a tax that shouldn't be as progressive. We want to encourage improvement here.

Fair enough. Not every tax change has to be progressive. But, it's always a good idea to consider all the consequences of a tax change.

by Falls Church on Dec 11, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

Antia Bonds is now on twitter. It's amusing. @CMAnitaBonds

Just noticed: the Twitter account description is "Paving the way to prosperity on the D.C. Council."

This is going to be fun!

by oboe on Dec 11, 2012 3:20 pm • linkreport

Hogwash: Anita Bonds should be welcoming of questions and scrutiny (at least in her public face). The outside business connections of others HAVE been questioned. In many cases, not enough: if the US attorney is already investigating, then the press is a little late to the party.

by SJE on Dec 11, 2012 4:01 pm • linkreport

SJE -- good points. Marion Barry is on record for calling attention to potential conflict of interest wrt David Catania's work for MC Dean, one of the largest contractors to the city.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-wire/post/marion-barry-tries-to-halt-dc-streetcar-work/2012/06/19/gJQAvfbDoV_blog.html

I'm sure he'll be the first to jump up to point out the conflict that Anita Bonds has wrt Fort Myer Construction.

by Richard Layman on Dec 11, 2012 4:05 pm • linkreport

Anita Bonds should be welcoming of questions and scrutiny (at least in her public face). The outside business connections of others HAVE been questioned.

I haven't seen any evidence that she hasn't been welcoming of questions. Have you?

Yes, outside connections have been questioned. Her chauvinist" allegation...the one for which we have absolutely no context, is an entirely different matter and IMO, says nothing about your belief that she may not be a good nor squeaky clean person.

You're making a moral judgement about her w/o any substantive facts and then taking strides to lump her in w/the former criminals on the council. That's my issue.

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 5:31 pm • linkreport

Jasper, Arlington County had 0 in 2011. Does that mean Netherlands has far to go compared to Arlington? Apples and ORANGES, my friend.

by Alan B on Dec 12, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

"You're making a moral judgement about her w/o any substantive facts and then taking strides to lump her in w/the former criminals on the council. That's my issue."

I think your issue is failure to read what I wrote and hear what she said. She complained about people asking too many questions. In the current climate of corruption, we need more questions of everyone on the council, and Ms. Bonds should welcome them to show she has nothing to hide.

by SJE on Dec 12, 2012 11:05 am • linkreport

The DEMS should also be careful. With so many DEMS in trouble, they will damage the image of the party, even in a strong hold like DC. Think it couldnt happen? Look at the unions: Michigan and Wisconsin, historic bastions of union power, are now run entirely by the GOP acting on a platform to limit union power.

by SJE on Dec 12, 2012 3:13 pm • linkreport

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