Greater Greater Washington

Development


Walkability and garage apartments are not just for the young

Will reducing parking minimums and allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in upper Northwest neighborhoods make living more difficult for seniors? That's what a number of people argued at the Ward 3 zoning update meeting, but others cited seniors who will directly benefit from more housing, and more affordable housing, near transit.


Photo by KTesh on Flickr.

Claudia Phelps wrote on the Chevy Chase listserv after the meeting, Tuesday evening in Tenleytown:

I was astounded at how many OP supporters spoke. I believe that every 2nd comment throughout the question period praised OP's work and their ideas! Some people around me suggested that OP had paid them to be at the meeting. (We have just a teensy bit of trust issues, I would say)

Many people at the meeting noticed that the pro-OP/radical change speakers were younger (30ish), and the anti-OP/radical changes were not so young. Apartment dwellers vs homeowners, most likely.

That last sentence evokes many of the anti-renter statements that have circulated throughout the debate, where some people insinuate (or outright claim) that anyone who doesn't own property is less worthy of consideration or will even harm the neighborhood.

One person wrote afterward, "I'm especially concerned about ADUs, and sympathized with the parent who expressed concern for his young children's safety if no controls were instituted on who could occupy such units." Steve Seelig replied, "Personally, I am appalled to hear and read about suggestions that those who would live in ADUs are going to have a greater tendency to endanger the children of our neighborhood."

As for age, I actually didn't perceive much of a difference between people who supported the (very much not radical, indeed quite timid) OP proposal, and those who opposed it. One speaker, Tad Baldwin, has gray hair yet said how important he thinks the proposal to allow accessory dwellings is. Others who appeared to be in their 30s argued against some of the changes.

Still, a pervasive theme throughout the discussion was whether the zoning changes would create problems for seniors. Moira Gillick spoke about the virtues of walkable neighborhoods, and a few people (somewhat rudely) shouted over her that walking didn't work for older residents.

In fact, a lot of pedestrians in Ward 3 are seniors, such as those who live in the assisted living facilities in the area. It's also certainly true that some people face mobility challenges, and need access to a car.

The fallacy in this debate comes when people assume that because one mode doesn't work for them, it won't work for others. One speaker called it ridiculous that people would come live in a building, like the proposed parking-free Babe's apartments in Tenleytown, without cars. Yet two speakers just minutes before had talked about how they live in parts of Ward 3 without cars.

One woman said she's not going to take the bus to Safeway with 5 bags of groceries. Fair enough. She doesn't have to. But on a Metro ride home (from Tenleytown, in fact) the next day, I stood on an escalator behind a man with 4 large bags of groceries. The majority of people in Ward 3 have cars, and that's not going to change if zoning allows a few new housing units marketed to people without cars.

Many seniors will benefit from transit-oriented housing choices

Some of those people will be seniors who can't drive any more. Herb Caudill talked about his parents his wife's parents, who live in suburban New Jersey and are afraid of the day they won't be able to drive any longer. He said when they came to visit his home in Cleveland Park, they were amazed that he could walk to the grocery store, and asked if there was a library as well (there is!)

As a result, Caudill said, his parents are going to sell their house in New Jersey and their 2 cars and move into an apartment on Connecticut Avenue where they can walk to the library and museums. They can live independently even as their ability to drive declines.

(They will also become some of those "renters" that people are impugning on the listserv, or which people fear would come move into basements or converted garages and disrupt the character of the neighborhood.)

There is one obstacle for those like the elder Caudills Caudill's in-laws, he noted: affordability. It's far cheaper to live in most of suburban New Jersey than in Cleveland Park "because the supply of housing is so limited," he said. That's why we need proposals like the accessory dwelling plan. "This housing is not just for young people," he said.

This is why we need proposals like OP's that expand the supply of housing. If anything, this plan does not expand it enough. A property owner who doesn't have an external garage today will be able to still build one as of right once the zoning update proceeds, but won't then be able to rent it out.

Richard Layman argued that at least near transit, zoning should encourage people to add extra housing on large lots with enough space for it. We could help more people like the Caudills Caudill's wife's parents to live the retirement lives they want to have, but anxiety about "renters" and scarce parking has already led OP to water down its plans and lose out on one opportunity to let senior couples (and people of other ages) afford to come to DC.

The Office of Planning is holding their Ward 7 information meeting Saturday, 10 am at the DOES building, 4058 Minnesota Ave. NE, and a Twitter town hall using hashtag #ZRR at noon Monday, and finally the Ward 4 meeting at Takoma Education Campus, 7010 Piney Branch Rd. NW by Takoma Metro at 6:30 on Wednesday, January 16.

Correction: Herb Caudill emailed to clarify that the couple in question is his wife's parents, not his parents. I missed that when he was speaking at the event. Sorry for the error.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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More evidence that many in DC are simply anti-new people more than anything.

Everything becomes a feint to where even innocuous changes that actually make homeowners more accountable to what they do with their property is seen as a radical step that's never been done before in any city ever.

by drumz on Jan 10, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

I wish I was on that listserv, I bet it is hilarious.

Takoma Park's is boring, everyone just wants to give away their cloth diapers :(

by Steve on Jan 10, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

I love public meetings. I went to one in (an even somewhat urban area of) New Jersey where a resident suggested that apartment buildings could become easy terrorism targets, among other such concerns as traffic. I felt bad for the poor Zoning Board people and Planning staff but it was pretty hilarious.

by Alan B. on Jan 10, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

I will say this again: since when are people in their 30's not full-grown adults who are entitled to a seat at the table? MOST of the people I know in their 30's (myself included) are property owners, not renters. MANY of the people I know in their 30's are married, and have children or plan to have them soon. ALL of the people I know in their 30's are gainfully employed, well educated, and informed, productive, and conscientious members of society. If we want to really "tear it up," we procure some microbrews and roast hot dogs (nitrite free organic chicken for me, no bun, please) on our grill. Look out, we might hurt your child in the process.

The only difference between us and you is that we're not so far removed from a time when we didn't have the money we do now, and were struggling to get by in the city. We REMEMBER deciding between rent, food, and gas, even with a college degree and a "good" job. Personally (and also for many of my friends) we got very lucky in that we exited the rental market riiiiiight around the time that prices started to really take off. I don't know how I'd make it today if I were just starting out. I have friends in this same boat, and it's seriously hampering their retirement savings, THEIR ABILITY TO SAVE A DOWN PAYMENT TO BUY PROPERTY, and their ability to get out from under things like their student loan debt. If they could live in a more affordable apartment, maybe without a car (many choose to live in the suburbs, where they must drive, to qualify for a rental...in the process paying thousands of dollars a year for both car and public transportation they could forgo near transit closer to or in the city), their financial situation would improve dramatically. I remember how hard it was, and know people who have it even harder. You've apparently been living in your grated, white-bread, richy-rich enclave for so long that you don't remember what it's like to not have a Black AmEx.

I'd actually be really glad if you were openly scared of me. It would be the most amusing thing that's ever happened to me. Bogga-bogga, look out for the 30-something yuppie. I might roll over your foot with my super-cute wheeled grocery bag that I use in lieu of a car. I even have friends who aren't white. OH THE HORROR!

by Ms. D on Jan 10, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

Who are these people?
"I'm especially concerned about ADUs, and sympathized with the parent who expressed concern for his young children's safety if no controls were instituted on who could occupy such units." Steve Seelig replied, "Personally, I am appalled to hear and read about suggestions that those who would live in ADUs are going to have a greater tendency to endanger the children of our neighborhood."

ADUS: SOVIET MOLESTER HOUSING!

I fail to understand how you can live in this city and not believe that people can walk to buy groceries, or that old people can walk places (as they do ALL OVER), or that a building without parking specifically appeals to people who do not need parking!

These people obviously all have cars, don't they go ANYWHERE?!

by MLD on Jan 10, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

The fallacy in this debate comes when people assume that because one mode doesn't work for them, it won't work for others.

I think the more harmful fallacy is assuming that because one mode works for you (or for a small number of people), that it will work for anyone. Case in point, parking minimums don't force people to drive, but eliminating them can have the effect of forcing people not to drive.

by Scoot on Jan 10, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

Case in point, parking minimums don't force people to drive,

Incorrect in that they create built environments that are hostile towards other modes. So they do force some people at the margins (those who won't accept a certain walking condition) to drive. It is exactly the same as saying that eliminating parking minimums will force people into other modes. Each pushes a certain number of people at the margin in one way or another.

by MLD on Jan 10, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

..and to piggyback on MLD's comments eliminating minimums doesn't "force people not to drive". It might force them to walk slightly farther from their space to where they're going or to pay more for that spot, but it certainly doesn't preclude driving.

by thump on Jan 10, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

Scoot,
In the case of your parking minimums example there is a tradeoff. To add parking most places in DC requires building an underground garage which is very expensive and ups the price of any unit. In this case, removing the parking minimum doesn't force anyone to do anything but rather give greater freedom to a builder to decide if a building needs parking or not to be viable.

by drumz on Jan 10, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

I was appalled to hear some of the comments on Tuesday as well. In response to the 9,000 new children growth in DC last year (I think that was the statistic mentioned), a speaker mentioned concern over teen pregnancy. For the record, we just had 2 new children last year and we are far removed from being a teenager. It was hard to understand the fear of younger people who didn't own (or rent) a full house on the resident's street being able to move onto their street. Another concern that I heard echoed was that the residents didn't feel that the proposed code was clear enough. I suggested that the concerned person ask their questions on what is not clear. He responded that what officials said at the meeting would not have the legal weight of the document. I responded that the concerned person should make sure what they are concerned about is in writing. He remained unconvinced. Perhaps some sort of a website to show what the changes to the zoning code would mean for a given address or area on a map, would help people understand. I know there are the transit corridor maps, but that's one map and does not provide complete information.

I have to admit that my wife has a challenge in accepting the need for removal of parking minimums. I do think the the OP failed to address some of the concerns where it was easily possible to. For instance, in response to the development at the old Babe's location without parking, the DDOT rep should have mentioned that these residents can not get RPP stickers. Perhaps OP should create or update a FAQ to address the most common concerns. As for groceries and driving, I understand not everyone can take their groceries on the bus or Metro (though I used to see many old residents in Dupont with their NYC style grocery cart rolling along), what about either taking a taxi or using services like Peapod. There are alternatives to driving to a grocery store without carrying multiple bags.

by GP Steve on Jan 10, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

I think the more harmful fallacy is assuming that because one mode works for you (or for a small number of people), that it will work for anyone.

And that would be a fallacy if anyone had proposed that. No one is proposing that all extant buildings on a property must be converted into an ADU.

by drumz on Jan 10, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

@Scoot

Parking minimums also add a considerable amount to the cost of housing.

by Adam L on Jan 10, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

I would like to see D.C. become the kind of city GGW envisions, but I can't help but think that it is wishful thinking that OP's machinations to reduce parking and, concomitantly, congestion will organically lead to more affordable housing or less congestion. New York City is one of North America's most walkable cities; the rate of car ownership is likely very low; public transit is accessible and efficient . . . And it's one of the most expensive, congested cities on the continent. As Washington becomes more vibrant, it becomes more desirable and more people want to live here--the cost of housing equals what the market will bear.

by Andrea Rosen on Jan 10, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

Back to the ADU debate!

Can we all agree that "ADU's for seniors" isn't a great selling point. A lot of debate over what will likely always be a miniscule number of units.

The arguments against them are nonsensical..especially the "safety" concern.

by HogWash on Jan 10, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

A lot of debate over what will likely always be a miniscule number of units. Yes!!

by Tina on Jan 10, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

@Andrea Rosen

So as much as we can increase supply, the rates could slow their growth. We have a relatively small number of large residential buildings (and oddly many in non-Metro Cathedral Heights and Chevy Chase DC), so there is the possibility for greatly increasing the number of units near Metro. We have to be careful as such a suggestion would be perceived on an attach on the $1M single family houses in the city. Heaven forbid that there were more apartments in the city and less single family houses. Another concern brought up about ADUs was the added load that this would put on the Red Line. I imagine we're not talking thousands of new people with ADUs, at least not in one area.

by GP Steve on Jan 10, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

Incorrect in that they create built environments that are hostile towards other modes.

In the same way that opening a cupcake shop in a neighborhood forces people to gain weight? Sounds rather tenuous.

In DC, even though a lot of buildings have parking minimums (more than you'd think), some new developers are applying for exemptions to the parking minimums because the costs associated with building parking infrastructure within the current built environment are prohibitively high - often requiring strict adherence to a variety of zoning and historic preservation laws. So it really depends on the environment whether parking minimums will "create" built environments or the other way around -- or not at all.

by Scoot on Jan 10, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

Andrea Rosen,
Well ADUs are meant to address the affordability issue rather than any traffic issue. And while personally, I and many other want to see more options as well this is a good step.

Re: congestion and why we shouldn't necessarily fear it.

Well at a certain point walkability, livability and what not become incompatible with congestion. We could certainly speed up traffic by eliminating sidewalks and adding lanes but at a high cost to non-drivers.

So yes in some terms it's just a value judgement but when you look at DC specifically (an already urban place that can't grow in area at all) then its in DCs interest to keep adding to its walkability factor which may increase congestion at the margins but that strategy will pay off better than trying to accomodate more and more cars (see: urban renewal strategies from the mid-20th century).

by drumz on Jan 10, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport

So it really depends on the environment whether parking minimums will "create" built environments or the other way around -- or not at all.

So, what you're saying is, there's no justifiable reason to have parking minimums in the first place.

Works for me!

by Alex B. on Jan 10, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

In the same way that opening a cupcake shop in a neighborhood forces people to gain weight? Sounds rather tenuous.

This doesn't make any sense.

In DC, even though a lot of buildings have parking minimums (more than you'd think), some new developers are applying for exemptions to the parking minimums because the costs associated with building parking infrastructure within the current built environment are prohibitively high - often requiring strict adherence to a variety of zoning and historic preservation laws.

So if lots of developers don't want to build parking, and people won't use the parking (I assume that's what you mean with the cupcake comment), then what is the argument for keeping a regulation that now serves no purpose but to increase permitting hassle and costs for people?

Seems to me you've just argued around me that there's no reason for them in the first place.

by MLD on Jan 10, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

Any studies on what the views are by most seniors in this situation? You will probably find seniors on both sides of the issue those who want walkable and those who don't but without numbers say how many would really benefit or not benefit whats the point of the article.

by kk on Jan 10, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

So, what you're saying is, there's no justifiable reason to have parking minimums in the first place.

No, that's what you're saying. What I'm saying is that you can't assume that parking minimums will create built environments hostile to other forms of transportation.

I think it depends on circumstances whether parking minimums are justifiable. I'd say generally they are not justified like they used to be.

But some people still need parking. DC has a pretty good transit network (very good by American standards), but transit does not go everywhere, and it cannot serve everyone. However, I think it can serve enough people such that the existing parking minimum ought to be lowered.

by Scoot on Jan 10, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

"In the same way that opening a cupcake shop in a neighborhood forces people to gain weight? Sounds rather tenuous."

if you required me to buy one cupcake every day, whether I wanted to or not, the odds that I would EAT the cupcake (because now the monetary cost, if not the caloric cost, is sunk) and thus gain weight, would increase.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 10, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, are you aware of the parking garage at DCUSA in Columbia Heights?

by Tina on Jan 10, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

What I'm saying is that you can't assume that parking minimums will create built environments hostile to other forms of transportation.

And what I'm saying is that you can't assume that a lack of parking minimums will create built environments hostile to driving.

You keep ignoring the initial point, which is:
1. parking minimums mean more parking spaces
2. more parking spaces encourages more people to drive (because it's more convenient than it was)
3. more cars means that some people at the margin will feel uncomfortable walking and now are "forced" to drive.

In the same way, the obverse is true:
1. Eliminating parking minimums means fewer parking spaces
2. This makes driving less convenient
3. This means some people at the margin won't put up with that inconvenience and are "forced" to find another way to travel

Also depending on the level of parking minimum, the parking puts the entrance to places in a less convenient location for pedestrians or makes them travel further, which has the same "forcing" effect on the margin.

The only difference is you see driving as a "good" thing/the default and therefore people choosing not to drive because it's inconvenient is "forcing" someone to do something, while people choosing to drive rather thank walk/transit because that's inconvenient is just a "choice."

by MLD on Jan 10, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

So if lots of developers don't want to build parking, and people won't use the parking (I assume that's what you mean with the cupcake comment), then what is the argument for keeping a regulation that now serves no purpose but to increase permitting hassle and costs for people?

I never said that there was a good argument for parking minimums. I was simply addressing your argument that parking minimums force people to drive.

That developers are applying for exemptions to parking minimums is not necessarily evidence that people would not use the parking if it were provided for them. It could be, and often is, just evidence that the developer does not want to spend money on expensive parking infrastructure if it doesn't have to, i.e., if it can fill the development with people who don't drive.

by Scoot on Jan 10, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

But some people still need parking. DC has a pretty good transit network (very good by American standards), but transit does not go everywhere, and it cannot serve everyone. However, I think it can serve enough people such that the existing parking minimum ought to be lowered.

I'm still not following that reasoning: Eliminating the minimum parking requirement does not mean that we won't still build parking. We will. I'll bet we'll build lots of it.

The difference is that parking will no longer be a requirement, but rather an option. Each developer will be able to do their own cost/benefit analysis about whether the extra cost (and those extra costs are substantial) is worth it. Each home buyer/renter will do the math on how much they're willing to pay for that parking space.

Eliminating parking minimums means one thing: That the market for parking is better at deciding how much we need than the zoning code is.

by Alex B. on Jan 10, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

Alternatively, if every retail shop was required to sell cupcakes, it's likely that more cupcakes would be consumer citywide (or neighborhood wide).

by Jacques on Jan 10, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

I am on the Chevy Chase listserve, and I responded on it to the post referenced here with the observation that I, a pro-update speaker at the meeting, am over 30 and a homeowner. The person who posted the message referenced in the article decided to contact me off-list about this to try to continue to make the same point she made originally, calling me an "outlier."

I find the notions that there is a minimum age at which one's views on public issues become valid, or that only property owners should have a say in the future of the city, or that neighborhoods should be frozen in amber, bizarre and wrong.

by Linda McIntyre on Jan 10, 2013 4:51 pm • linkreport

I'm still not following that reasoning: Eliminating the minimum parking requirement does not mean that we won't still build parking. We will. I'll bet we'll build lots of it.

Well, I don't have a problem with eliminating the parking minimum city-wide. In fact, I encourage it (I think someone above stated that I see driving as a "good thing", despite the fact that I don't even own a car nor have any desire to own one). But I think you have to be sensitive to the needs of the community instead of a slave to the market. Maybe a good first step to eliminating the parking minimum is lowering it.

by Scoot on Jan 10, 2013 4:54 pm • linkreport

@Scoot-...That developers are applying for exemptions to parking minimums is not necessarily evidence that people would not use the parking if it were provided for them.

Are you aware of the parking garage at DCUSA?
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/4811/dc-usa-garage-to-offer-daily-and-monthly-parking/

by Tina on Jan 10, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

"Maybe a good first step to eliminating the parking minimum is lowering it."

or eliminating it only near Metro stations and frequent bus lines, but not elsewhere, which, IIUC, is precisely what OP has proposed doing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 10, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

I lived in a carriage house (that I owned) on Capitol Hill from 1998-2003. The carriage house in many ways resembled what I understand ADUs will look like. I have to say, the opponent's fears are well founded. Since my wife and I bought and moved to a regular, I present no danger to children. But back when I lived in the carriage house, I, and all my carriage house neighbors, were a real threat to children. The seemingly sweet retired couple that lived next door were particularly dangerous: I once saw them beat up a group of kindergarten students. I understand that as part of their punishment, the judge made them move out of their carriage house and into a regular house. The judge was brilliant. They immediately lost their urge to beat up young children. I was not as much of a danger to children as my retired neighbors, but I think it is because I owned my carriage house and they rented theirs. It was clearly the combination of living in a carriage house and renting it that drove them to such extreme violence against children....

by rg on Jan 10, 2013 5:14 pm • linkreport

These are especially funny to me because where I grew up you could always end up living next to rednecks who owned their land for three generations and had cars on blocks, free range dogs, and deer strung up during hunting season. Yet since they owned their land you could complain all you want about property values and be out of luck.

Meanwhile adding equity to your house and renting the space to a recent college grad working for a non profit means that the whole neighborhood is now a war zone.

by Drumz on Jan 10, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

[quote] if zoning allows a few new housing units marketed to people without cars [quote]

Fine if that were true but in fact new people with cars will get RPP stickers and park curbside. OP and DDOT could fix that problem but too much hassle for them.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 10, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

deer strung up during hunting season

Ask for some venison to make up for the loss of the value to your property.

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

Longtime residents trying to keep new residents out of an exclusive and high-priced neighborhood by fighting affordability measures sounds mean-spirited and greedy to me. Then again I do not live in such an exclusive neighborhood.

by teddy on Jan 10, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

1. granny units, which aren't really discussed by the zealots are one way to allow for the kind of living described in the Herb Caudill example.

But I think it's going to be a relatively small proportion of the demand. I just don't see how it makes much difference to the Q of L for seniors not living in ADUs, unless as people like rg get older, they age out and instead of harassing children, they decide to beat up oldsters.

2. Steve, late this year, Takoma Park gets a Jeff Black restaurant! Basically, Old Town Takoma (just across the border in MD) functions as our home commercial district, even though it doesn't for most w4 people.

3. the funny thing about walking/biking to the supermarket, just as discussed in the few months back entry about a comment by the Zoning Commission chair, it just shows how provincial some people are. I can't imagine many people drive to the Safeway on 17th St. in Dupont Circle, and while people do drive to the Giant in Columbia Heights or the Whole Foods on P St., I imagine the majority of customers of those stores walk.

Anyway, I bike with groceries. Probably as I age I will do so less. I do it with multiple bags on my handlebars and stuff in a backpack. I've carried 20 lb watermelons and 25 lb bags of rice for 5 miles, up the Fort Totten Transfer Station hill, in the summer (which btw is really dumb when it's hot). But that's extreme.

It's all a matter of commitment. To someone who doesn't bike, of course, they can't imagine it. To someone who does bike, we can't imagine doing it any other way (although sure, we do it by car sometimes).

Interestingly, grocery shopping by bike saves us hours/week and allows us to not own a car. Not being car-dependent is a plus.

by Richard Layman on Jan 10, 2013 9:06 pm • linkreport

Once in a great while, I stop at the ColHts Giant if I have a car and need something bulky. Few people park there. The P Street Whole Foods has many more drivers---I'm always dodging them when I walk past the garage or pass the elevators. The store has a more affluent and wider draw than other stores. The West End Trader Joe's is pretty similar--I know from having driven there myself, on occasion. I think it depends on who the supers or other merchants serve.

Not mentioned here is the issue of restaurants. They may get a decent walk-in trade, but any table cloth place will have valet parking which sucks the life out of parking for locals and non-swells on nearby blocks.

Beyond the talk here, I haven't seen evidence of a huge demand for ADUs and I suspect they are less attractive when they aren't carriage houses in Capitol Hill or quirky places in Blagden Alley. In other places, they seem most popular with multi-generation families--an argument here, but unfortunately the kind of household that's pretty rare. It's more typical that one's parents or grown children live elsewhere. The grown kids I know who grew-up in the area often can't afford to live here and a pricy carriage house isn't exactly aninducement to come back and raise a family.

by Rich on Jan 10, 2013 9:44 pm • linkreport

Ms. Claudia Phelps, I would kindly point out that "apartment dwellers" (read: renters) have had suffrage and full citizenship in the USA, right alongside "homeowners," 2-3 generations before women had suffrage. Why do so many persist in denigrating one's right to participate in democracy based on an 18th-century conceit that only property owners deserve to be heard? (FWIW, I am also "30ish" and own property.)

Also, those who insist upon no change -- in the face of a city that will radically change, whether or not it updates its laws -- are proposing some pretty radical changes of their own: more traffic congestion, even more breathtakingly dear housing prices, ever more suburban sprawl and the attendant pollution. Those are radical changes that I oppose, not a few minor tweaks to the zoning code.

by Payton on Jan 10, 2013 10:58 pm • linkreport

If we're talking about renters having a say, let's not forget that renters are the majority in this city. 57.2% of the housing units in DC are rented, 42.8% are owner-occupied.

Let's also take note that the majority of DC housing units are in buildings of more than 5 units - that is, apartment buildings and condos, not single-family homes.

51.4% of the housing units in the city are in structures of 5 units or more.

(hopefully the census bureau maintains this as a permalink)

http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk

by Alex B. on Jan 10, 2013 11:42 pm • linkreport

Payton: haven't you heard? rental costs are projected decline 2% this next year.

by goldfish on Jan 11, 2013 8:29 am • linkreport

My husband and I, now "empty nesters," moved back recently to the DC area after living in another state for two decades. We rented an apartment in Arlington for the first two years before embarking on a home search. The apartment was pricey, but it was close to everything. After that experience, our criteria for a home included walking distance to Metro, shopping, medical care and parks, plus affordability. We looked for four months in the Arlington/Alexandria area and DC for a small house, townhouse or condominium that fit our criteria. Never finding an affordable option, we hopped across the Potomac "ocean," and found a home in Silver Spring that met all criteria except being within walking distance to shopping. It was a great compromise, but we still need to drive to go to the grocery store, entertainment, etc. Also, it's a three-story house. Fine for now, but maybe not when we're elderly. I often wonder what affordable option will be available if we need to live on one level and can no longer drive. Hence, we are an example of a couple (not unlike the one you describe) who may jump at the chance to live in a garage apartment (with a little garden space; something that's not available in a high-rise; gardening is an activity I don't want to give up)in a thriving, urban neighborhood in the district.

by Anne on Jan 11, 2013 9:21 am • linkreport

It always amuses me when people focus on Metrorail congestion (which admittedly is a concern). I doubt any of them would even think of taking the bus. There is really pretty pathetic service in far NW. If you got enough potential transit users that would justify better service down Connecticut, Mass, and Wisconsin which I dunno might mean less people feel the need to drive. I went to AU undergrad and it was a pain to get around back in the day (or would have been without our shuttles). And living in Ward 1 I take a bus rather than metro 4 times out of 5 if I'm staying in town.

by Alan B. on Jan 11, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

What's been left out of the conversation is the cost of RPPs. Why would tenants (no matter the number of parking places in their garage) pay a substantial amount for a garage parking place when they can pay $35 a year for a permit on-street parking permit? The cost doesn't even pay for curb maintenance and hasn't been raised in many years. Also, should every car get a permit? Maybe one per household? I hope DDOT and OP will co-ordinate as parking changes will happen soon.

by GB on Jan 11, 2013 9:30 am • linkreport

What's been left out of the conversation is the cost of RPPs. Why would tenants (no matter the number of parking places in their garage) pay a substantial amount for a garage parking place when they can pay $35 a year for a permit on-street parking permit?

There is too much demand for on-street parking and not "enough" supply. On-street parking is also less secure than garage (or even off-street) parking and not subject to the whims of Parking Enforcement. Those are just a few reasons why people people pay a substantial amount of money for a garage space instead of a street permit.

by Scoot on Jan 11, 2013 10:09 am • linkreport

D.C. desperately needs more apartments to solve its housing woes. Fewer than 10% of households in DC are married couples with children, a share that's continuing to fall, but 1/3 of its housing stock is 3+ bedroom houses. ADUs are one way to add more apartments throughout the city.

@Andrea Rosen: NYC comparisons are fallacious, since correlation is not causation. Montreal actually has higher transit and walk/bike shares than NYC, but the cost of housing is much lower -- and equally importantly, transportation costs are lower because fewer people own cars.

@GP Steve: teen pregnancy?! Wow, their clocks must have stopped back in the 1990s -- the teen birth rate in D.C. has declined about 60% since then.

by Payton on Jan 11, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

The onstreet parking is a nightmare. There is tons of demand and not enough to go around. To me, the cost is worth it.

by Mark on Jan 11, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

@Payton: the housing stock data you allude to is interesting. Got a cite for that? I'd like to look into that further.

by goldfish on Jan 11, 2013 7:27 pm • linkreport

@ Payton

What about people that have children and aren't married ?

Quite frankly I think there are not enough 3 or 4 bedroom apartments. When i was looking at an apartment a few years ago I could not find one 3 bedroom in a new luxury building. I know of no 4 building rooms in any apartments that were built in the past 10 years.

I think there should be atleast one or two 3 bedroom apartments in a building and maybe one 4 bedroom if its a building with over 500 units.

by kk on Jan 11, 2013 11:08 pm • linkreport

Oh, Drumz, I forgot about my DOG! He's a serious danger to children. While he isn't "free range" as your former neighbors' dogs were, I do take him for walks on public sidewalks and let him run in our fenced yard regularly. In both of those circumstances, he WILL approach young children. Despite his absolute JOY in being the BFF of *my* BFF's 2-year-old whenever he gets the chance (following her around at her command, cuddling with her), he REFUSES to sit on her lap, since she only weighs about twice what he does. Some might see that as a well-trained dog that understands he could hurt the little people, but clearly my dog sitting down and giving me a pensive look when the neighborhood children RUN up to him and hug him around the neck shows a lack of respect for their, um, I dunno, dominance? Clearly, as a childless (not "child free"...don't you know EVERYONE wants offspring) couple, we have simply not trained our dog to function in civil society.

by Ms. D on Jan 12, 2013 12:40 am • linkreport

kk, the need for larger units is something that has been considered in recent developments. Rhode Island Row has a handful of 3-bedrooms, almost all of which are "affordable" under District rules. The problem is that there's little demand for market-rate larger units in "luxury" developments. The developers assume that those who want a place that large, and can afford it, will simply buy a house, and their records support that. If you would prefer a larger, nicer rental, then SPEAK UP. People saying they want that is the only way the perception will change. I'm not singling you out, just saying that developers are catering to those who come banging down their doors. If you, or people you know, want some larger, luxury units, then let that be known, however you can. Personally, I see the need for larger, nice places (rental and owner-occupied but without being single-family), so I think you're right, but it's just not been an issue that's been pressed hard enough.

by Ms. D on Jan 12, 2013 12:59 am • linkreport

Anne, thank you. My mom, bordering on elderly, lives in a big, multi-level suburban home where she must drive to everything right now. So far, she can handle that, and we will keep her in that home for as long as she is able to live there. But we have already decided that, if she can't navigate that environment but doesn't need 24/7 care, she will uproot herself (300 miles from the only town she's ever known) and live in the condo I live in now, the proceeds from the sale of that home she owns outright relocating me and the DH. My place is all one floor, on the first floor, there's a bus line 2 blocks away, Metro 5 blocks away, a grocery store 3 blocks away, parks within a few blocks, and other services readily available. It's an environment that she can live comfortably and independently in for far longer than her current situation. Many people see walkable neighborhoods with good services as trendy things for the young, but they're also very good for people with limitations...whether that be advanced age or some kind of disability that precludes massive amounts of driving for basic needs. If my grandmother and great-grandmother are any indication, this situation will never come to pass (both were fiercely and competently independent until the day of their death in their late 80's), but if it does, I know my mom will have a better life in a nice, convenient condo in the city than some stuffy, expensive retirement community in the 'burbs.

by Ms. D on Jan 12, 2013 1:26 am • linkreport

@ Ms. D

Walkable neighborhoods are not always perfect for the disabled, ones that come to mind would be those in wheelchairs and those blind.

1 Many many buildings throughout the city have steps in front when they don't need to. Many highrises have 3 or 4 steps at the entrance or the ramp is there is one has been built as an after thought and it very inconvenient and takes the person out of their way (this can be seen in many malls, metro stations, Union Station and other buildings)

2 Another is messed up cracked, crooked or generally small sidewalks (U Street)

3 Impatience drivers and pedestrians don't want to wait when someone disabled is trying to cross a street or walk/moving in front of them.

4 Not many apartments built for the disabled with things like rails in bathrooms, lower sinks, kitchen counter-tops, peephole etc

There are also retirement community/buildings in DC that may suit your mom rather than a condo

by kk on Jan 12, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

there are a bunch of 2BR + den units in new buildings. They are fairly expensive, simply because these buildings are expensive per sq ft.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 12, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

Goldfish,

The housing data is available from the census.

http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk

3.8 percent with five or more bedrooms.
7.7 percent four bedrooms
21.2 percent three bedrooms

by Alex B. on Jan 12, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

@Alex B. (& @Payton): interesting and relevant point, that the housing supply does not match the type of households. Does either of you (or anyone else) have a good cite for household statistics?

by goldfish on Jan 12, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

Goldfish,

The same data set (from the Census Bureau's ACS) shows household characteristics.

DC has 42 percent families, 58 percent nonfamily households. Most of those nonfamily households are people living alone, representing 46 percent of households.

Only 17.4 percent of DC households are family households with children under 18.

by Alex B. on Jan 12, 2013 5:45 pm • linkreport

kk, those are all valid concerns, and they should be addressed. But even a few stairs or a couple of impatient drivers are minor inconveniences compared to what my mom - and millions of other Boomer suburbanites (she's slightly pre-Boomer, but same thing) - would be facing should she ever become unable to drive or navigate an entire flight of stairs, in her current situation. I suppose we could find a ranch home for her to move into, but she'd still need to drive for most of her daily needs. Of course, if she were unable to navigate the 5 steps into my home or walk on an okay but certainly not perfect sidewalk, then we'd need to investigate other options (and that's where I'm thankful she has long-term care insurance). But, like I said, given our family's general long-term health and longevity, our big concerns are multiple flights of stairs (like my place, she's got 5 steps up into her current home, but in her home the washer is in the basement and bedrooms upstairs, while the only full bath is on the first floor...in my place those 5 steps are it...everything else is on one floor) and driving.

Driving is a HUGE concern. Many people continue to do it long beyond the time they're capable of doing it safely. There are many people who can safely and comfortably walk a block or two, even with imperfect sidewalks and a few stairs to navigate, who cannot safely drive. Again, given my family's history, she's likely to end up in that category. And even if she had some trouble with those few blocks, we have better services here to help her. Metro Access, grocery delivery, taxi service, etc. Those don't exist in her hometown, but they do here. Stores and transit that are accessible WITHOUT driving, and a home that doesn't require navigating multiple flights of stairs, are why we think she'll have a better life here if she can't keep driving and hiking those stairs. She's not unique, and I'd rather cause her the trauma of moving and changing her lifestyle than have her practically become a shut-in relying on others for every little thing, like my grandmother was for her last few years when she couldn't drive and there was nothing nearby she could get to without driving. At the very least, even if she can't walk far, she could go down to the neighborhood pocket park a block away and pet the neighbors' dogs and chat with them and their kids. At the best, she could use transit, Metro Access, and a little bit of walking to get to tons of stores, restaurants, activities, museums, parks, and all manner of other things she can enjoy.

If she gets to the point she can't drive, she'll get that opportunity because our home is reasonably priced. She could never dream of paying $2K+ for a small place for more than a year or two. We happen to be in possession of a place that can meet her needs for well under half that (so she could afford the mortgage, utilities, and other basic expenses on her Social Security, retirement savings, and pension), and can easily find ourselves another place with the funds from her home, our own savings, and good jobs (and before you complain, if things keep going the way they are, we'd make more selling our place than taking the funds from the sale of her home, and have already agreed with my siblings that we'll take the funds from her house until she passes on, and then sell our place and give them their portion of what her house was sold for). If we can increase the number of units available by allowing "granny units" and some upzoning, more people will be able to afford it. Including young professionals and seniors on limited budgets. It's not the solution for everyone, but it is a reasonable option for many people. But, apparently, seniors and college-educated young professionals with stable jobs are scary people who bring down property values by living in the neighborhood.

by Ms. D on Jan 13, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

With the upcoming meeting, I hope the meeting will consider the older people and those who are renting to the place too. - http://www.archinterimhousing.com/

by Sophia J Smith on Jan 15, 2013 12:42 am • linkreport

kk, I understand some of those concerns highlighted in your last comment, but when it comes to living independently (note: not living or having a caretaker), walkable neighborhoods are at least the answer for blind folks, wheelchair users, and senior citizens.

No blind person who lives by himself/herself could possibly drive alone, which is all I need to make my point on why blind folks need walkable neighborhoods.

Regarding wheelchair users, and as one myself, I hate having to go out of the way to an accessible entrance that's not totally convenient. But you know what I hate far more? Having to take apart my chair and load it into my car. It's an absolute pain and is listed along with death and taxes as necessary evils for me. At least this prevents me from being one of those lazy-asses who would drive to a convenient store rather than walk there.

Also, the one style of new housing construction that the isn't required be at least partially ADA-compliant? Single family homes. The dominant type in postwar suburbia. Not that the expense of making all such homes compliant is worth it (the main floors on all new ones should be made "visitable" IMO), but when the dominant housing type in non-walkable areas does not require accessibility, said places are often not the answer if you have a physical impairment.

Regarding the street crossing issue, that can be fixed with the following:
- Lengthening street crossing time at key signalized intersections
- More and improved signage indicating ped crossings
- Increasing awareness of how it can often be easier (and more importantly, faster!) to maneuver a properly fitted, lightweight wheelchair than do so via a cane or walker (not always nor applicable to everyone), such as the 20 lb titanium chair I use. Of course, there's the extremely high stigma against wheelchair use from the older generation that needs addressing for this to be remotely workable.

Finally, I live in an apartment tower with the general population, not a segregated senior or disabled housing development. And I know plenty of wheelchair users in addition to myself that don't need all the ADA modifications. Some definitely do, but not all. These modifications should be a higher priority, but they don't shut all the disabled out if a building lacks them.

All in all, I'd rather shoot myself than drive instead of live in a boring Sprawlsville no matter how supposedly more "accessible" it is.

by bms on Jan 17, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

Some senior citizens can also do with ADUs as long as there is a system of transit that brings them near their dwelling place. They surely don't want to live in the home for the aged because they want to have control of their lives - independence.

by Sonia Machado on Jan 23, 2013 3:30 am • linkreport

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