Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: No breaks


Photo by macdon61 on Flickr.
Metro budget details: Richard Sarles presented the Metro budget; you can expect lots of track work but no extra 8-car trains next year. (Post, WAMU)

Cut property taxes on the rich?: Jack Evans wants to give a property tax break to the richest Washingto­nians. But DC's property taxes are actually already relatively low in the region. (City Paper)

Park bustin' loose: In a city full of memorials to national and foreign figures, DC will get a memorial to a local: Chuck Brown. It will be an amphitheater with a bandshell and "timeline tower" in Langdon Park. (Post)

FredCo leader for bikes, smart growth: Frederick County Alderman Karen Young, also this year's Council of Governments head, called for more bike paths and housing near jobs. The discussion was part of a state transportation planning session. (Gazette)

Few houses available to buy: For the first time in almost a decade, the level of for-sale housing inventory in the DC area dropped below 7,000 listings. (UrbanTurf)

That's a lot of cars: Ever wonder what DC would look like without bus service? Well, it happened in 1974 when a strike temporarily halted bus service. (Retronaut)

Parking solves congestion?: A congestion management plan in Yosemite eliminates bicycle rentals, but adds more parking served by shuttle buses. (LA Times, David E.)

And...: Don't be alarmed if you see people on Metro this weekend without pants. (Patch) ... The London Tube turned 150. (Atlantic Cities) ... Boston gives the food truck treatment to city hall services. (Atlantic Cities) ... SW Ecosdistrict gets OK from NCPC. (WTOP)

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Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

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Jack Evans wants to give a property tax break

Evans is on a nice self-serving week. Demands parking privileges, a tax break for himself.

Ever wonder what DC would look like without bus service?

Like any busy rush hour?

A congestion management plan in Yosemite eliminates bicycle rentals, but adds more parking served by shuttle buses.

Of course! The trees need a good source of CO2 to grow from. That's provided by cars, not bikes.

by Jasper on Jan 11, 2013 8:54 am • linkreport

A bit of a mischaracterization of Evans's property tax proposal. You make it sound like it's targeted towards, or would benefit only, the rich. Not true. It's across the board, and applies to all equally. Granted, the benefit may be largest for the rich, as explained in the article (but not necessarily), but it's not a handout only to the rich.

You might also want to cover Muriel Bowser's approach, which would prevent *any* tax increase for homeowners making less than $125k and claiming the homestead deduction for 21 years.

Both policies are misguided, putting aside whether they benefit the rich, the poor, or a bunch of people in between. They lock in lower tax rates for a select group, which is both unfair to others, who must pay higher taxes instead, and they tend to lock people into their current homes, because the exemptions don't apply if you move. The latter is a particular problem because it means that people stay in houses that aren't "right-sized" for them as they age--property taxes might be higher even if one substantially downsizes. This results in ossification of neighborhoods and inefficient use of housing stock.

by ah on Jan 11, 2013 8:54 am • linkreport

Yosemite: Banning rental bikes isn't about congestion, more about crowd control and environmental management (meadow protection). The parking is just at the entrance to the valley, but far from the main attractions, where the main congestion is. So forcing more people to park at the entrance reduces the traffic at Yosemite Village and around the falls. So it does make sense,as it would reduce miles driven in the park. If the park really wants to get serious on crowd control and environmental management they would go to a reservation system, but that will never happen.

by RJ on Jan 11, 2013 9:00 am • linkreport

What the big NYTIME article with the classic D. Alpert quote doesn't make it?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/washingtons-economic-boom-financed-by-you.html?ref=magazine&_r=0

by charlie on Jan 11, 2013 9:15 am • linkreport

I don't remember the bus strike in 1974, but I definitely remember the bus/subway strike in summer 1978.

One scary side-effect - the reversible lanes on Connecticut Avenue were reversed a couple of hours early - due to the confusion, I saw numerous near-head-on collisions due to folks who were driving in the improper lane.

by Frank IBC on Jan 11, 2013 9:22 am • linkreport

Re: Chuck Brown Park

Personally, I could do without the huge billboard part. Keep the time line wall though that's cool.

Nothing in the story about how the city is putting down a concert venue where I can see houses in the renderings and any requisite sound management. If I was a neighbor first hearing about this I'd certainly be calling DC Parks and Rec to clarify what the rules would be about performances. I know the city has the ampitheater over by the tennis arena but in there you feel like you're in the wilderness anyway.

by drumz on Jan 11, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

For all the talk about how our Mayor is corrupt, the reality is Jack Evans and Jim Graham are just as bad. DC desperately needs some new leadership across the city instead of these bums.

by Circle Thomas on Jan 11, 2013 9:45 am • linkreport

Fredco? Really?

-_________________-

by Nick on Jan 11, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

Low for the region? Low compared to PG and MoCo you mean. It's already higher than most o(maybe all) of Northern Virginia for residential properties

by Tim on Jan 11, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

The parking is just at the entrance to the valley, but far from the main attractions, where the main congestion is. So forcing more people to park at the entrance reduces the traffic at Yosemite Village and around the falls.

Agreed. I lived/worked at the Grand Canyon for a year. The people who are coming to the park for a day or more are going to park and then take public transportation or walk/ride most of the time. However, the average time spent in the park (GC) then was 3 hours so there were a whole lot of people just driving around. Getting those folks to park outside and use the shuttles/walk is a good idea. I'm not sure why you'd want to lose the bike rentals though...we didn't have them at the GC, but plenty of people, especially Europeans, asked if we did.

If the park really wants to get serious on crowd control and environmental management they would go to a reservation system, but that will never happen.

..and I'm not sure it should. The parks are for the people and I generally don't like the idea of restricting access.

by thump on Jan 11, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

That was an interesting quote, charlie. Thanks.

by selxic on Jan 11, 2013 10:08 am • linkreport

Regardless of the merits of Evans' property tax proposal -- I think it's a bad idea for several reasons, some of which are outlined in comments above -- the end of the article tells you all you need to know about Jack Evans and how out of touch he is with regular Washingtonians. He thinks that $250,000 is not a lot income. The Census Bureau shows that median household income in the District is $61,835. By any measure, a household with an income that is 400 percent of median household income is doing pretty well and should be able to "get pretty far". Interestingly, DCMud just posted an interview with Jack Evans(http://dcmud.blogspot.com/)and it turns out his favorite hangout is Cafe Milano. I suppose if I split my days between Georgetown, the Wilson Building and Cafe Milano, I too would begin to think that an income of $250,000 is not especially high. I'm generally not a class warrior -- I would be a hypocrite if I was plus it's human nature to think what you see everyday is the norm -- but in this case Evans cluelessness is just a bit too much for me to let it go.

by rg on Jan 11, 2013 10:10 am • linkreport

@ah

As a W4 resident and homeowner, I e-mailed Muriel Bowser the evening she proposed that bill, letting her know all of my concerns. I think it is a horrendous idea, and there is absolutely no reason we should be emulating possibly the worst/most destructive idea that California has had in the last 50 years.

by Kyle-W on Jan 11, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

If the park really wants to get serious on crowd control and environmental management they would go to a reservation system, but that will never happen.

There are areas of national parks that work on this basis to keep them wild and uncrowded. For example, if you want to get a camping or rafting permit in the Grand Canyon backcountry, you enter a lottery in February for the following year. It's great they do that for some parts of the park but other parts should be more universally accessible.

Even in the most crowded parks like Yosemite, the crowds only exist in a tiny fraction of the park. It's quite easy to get away from them if you're looking for something more wild. There are also plenty of National Wilderness Areas if you want something even more remote.

by Falls Church on Jan 11, 2013 10:16 am • linkreport

@Tim

The facts disagree with you strongly. In Fairfax County, the tax rate is 1.07 for every hundred in assessed value, with no homestead exemption. In DC, it is .85 for every hundred in assessed value, with a homestead exemption.

For a $500,000 house, that means a $5,350 bill in Fairfax, versus a $3,676.25 bill in the district.

@rg

Totally agree with you. This $250,000 is not that much nonsense gets old quickly. My wife and I are a bit north of $100,000, and we feel incredibly blessed.

by Kyle-W on Jan 11, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

In 2007, David Alpert, a former Google employee, and his wife, a lawyer, decided to move to the District rather than staying in the New York area. “When I first moved here,” Alpert, the proprietor of the yuppie urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington, told me, “complaining about how terrible D.C. was was something everybody did. You’d move here for some government job and then talk about how it’s a terrible place. I think that has changed. Maybe it’s that I’m six years older, and my friends are six years older, and people have been here longer. But I don’t think it’s so common to come in and say, ‘Everything sucks.’ ”
Seriously, NYT? "Yuppie"?

by andrew on Jan 11, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

Re: Property Taxes

What's interesting is that the more liberal areas of NOVA have lower rates than the more conservative areas. Loudoun's rate is 1.235 per $100 assessed while Arlington is 0.971.

DC's property tax rate is definitely the lowest in the region but their income tax rate is higher for the upper middle class and above.

by Falls Church on Jan 11, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

Kyle W: "I think it is a horrendous idea, and there is absolutely no reason we should be emulating possibly the worst/most destructive idea that California has had in the last 50 years."

It's not quite the same, but, yes, the general problem is.

I think the current approach is about right -- it softens massive swings, although we haven't had those in recent years (it really was effective only from 2001-2007 or so), but generally requires people to pay close to their fair share of the assessed value over the long run. Otherwise, the idea that anyone is entitled to continue to pay taxes on their house at the same or nearly same level for perpetuity is ridiculous.

If there's a concern that income doesn't fluctuate with housing prices, then we should eliminate the property tax altogether. Alternatively, home buyers should be expected to recognize that property taxes may go up even though their income does not.

Finally, if there is a serious believe that people should not be "forced" out of their homes by property taxes, then DC should implement a program whereby certain homeowners (e.g., seniors below a certain income threshold with long-term residence in a given house) may convert their property taxes to a lien on the house so that when it is sold the city collects its taxes.

by ah on Jan 11, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

For example, if you want to get a camping or rafting permit in the Grand Canyon backcountry, you enter a lottery in February for the following year.

This wasn't the case when I lived there (2000-2001), or maybe just not for employees. I got a permit every time I wanted to go down into the Canyon the day before or day of.

Even in the most crowded parks like Yosemite, the crowds only exist in a tiny fraction of the park.

Agreed, but the most crowded parts take a serious beating so anytime you can mitigate that I think it's good. Counts at Yosemite are 4+Million, 5M at the GC.

by thump on Jan 11, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

But Abdo has built his business in the unstylish land of think tanks and tepid salmon lunches and boxy women’s suits.

The intellectual capital and seafood entrees and women's businesswear are sooooooo much better in New York!

by Dizzy on Jan 11, 2013 10:28 am • linkreport

"DC's property tax rate is definitely the lowest in the region but their income tax rate is higher for the upper middle class and above."

you'd almost think that DC has a large block of voters who have relatively modest incomes, but live in and own what are now fairly expensive properties (or at least significantly more expensive than when they purchased them), and who have deep stakes in the community and strong ties with local politicians.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 11, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

I like how every article about DC's new prosperity assumes it must be because of increased gov't spending rather than government actually becoming more sophisticated and requiring a better class of worker to handle the technology used in doing government. The growth in government spending hasn't really as big an increase in government employment as it would have in the past precisely because of new efficiencies in tech. Combine that with a general desire for urban living and DC having good infrastructure for that (metro, dense neighborhoods) then you see the same increase in desirability as you've seen in similar cities. The effect appears greater in DC because DC has fewer urban neighborhoods than NYC or Philly or SF.

by drumz on Jan 11, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

Most of the comments after the Property Tax article on the CP website are horrible. The award goes to the person who said that someone who disagrees is (non-ironically) "a poor".

by Watcher on Jan 11, 2013 10:56 am • linkreport

"The growth in government spending hasn't really as big an increase in government employment as it would have in the past precisely because of new efficiencies in tech."

I assume you are talking about contractors.

And yes,you're right you have to seperate DC vs the region. However, in the region it is still all about the goverment and federal spending. Ten years of cost of living increases -- when the rest of got nothing in the bush years -- eventualy pays off.

by charlie on Jan 11, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

Charlie,

I don't know if anyone has studied but you'd have to assume that contractors benefit from the same efficiencies from technology that Feds do. Meaning that without the tech. you'd need even more contractors. And while the whole "make everyone a contractor!" attitude needs serious examining that's a different story compared to the question of why DC is so hot right now.

by drumz on Jan 11, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

@Thump

The February lottery is for rafting. For camping, one applies exactly 4 months prior. It must be different for employees because I've heard you need good luck to get a permit during many times of year even when you apply 4 months in advance.

by Falls Church on Jan 11, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

@Drumz; yep, actually we are agreeing. most of the "higher efficient/higher paid" has gone into contracting, not tradiditional federal employment.

Also, double whammy on black people b/c what used to support the alleged "black middle class" was a lot of the secretarial level white collar jobs now being moved out. Why hire a paralegal when you can hire a lawyer?

Hazard pay for certain fed (military/IC/state) has also really boosted the income level. I can't count the number of state dept folks I know that bought very nice houses after 1-2 years overseas.

Ironically the real "high-end' which is private sector lawers will continue to do well even in the event of federal slowdown. Well, most of them.

So the real story isn't DC getting richer, it is the rich in DC getting richer, just more so than medium-rich elsewhere.

by charlie on Jan 11, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

Did anyone notice that Evans didn't answer the question of why he was targeting DC's residential property taxes (which are low for the region) rather than its income taxes (which are not)?
"Frankly, the city doesn’t need the money. [...] We don’t need to be gouging our residential homeowners when we’re spending more [money] than at any time in the history of the city. Every aspect of our government has more money today than they’ve ever had before."
A reasonable position -- but totally irrelevant to the question at hand! If the goal is to downsize the District government, it doesn't matter whether the government is foregoing income from residential property taxes or income taxes. He was asked why he chose to cut property taxes rather than income taxes, and he dodged the question.

Because, I suspect, he knows he doesn't have a good answer.

by cminus on Jan 11, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

@ cminus:Frankly, the city doesn’t need the money. [...] We don’t need to be gouging our residential homeowners when we’re spending more [money] than at any time in the history of the city. Every aspect of our government has more money today than they’ve ever had before

And Evans calls himself a Democrat? Seriously, the DC Council is full of DINOs.

@ Falls Church:Even in the most crowded parks like Yosemite, the crowds only exist in a tiny fraction of the park. It's quite easy to get away from them if you're looking for something more wild.

This goes for most National Parks. Great Falls can feel like the Mall on 7/4 when the weather is nice. Walk 10 minutes on any trail and you're virtually alone. Same on the Skyline Drive. Get in through Front Royal on a fall day, and you think you're in line for a Disney attraction. Get in at Thornton Gap, drive 15 minutes, hike 10 and you're nearly alone again. And I've had the same experience in Haleakala, Hawaii Volcano and Yellowstone. In fact, if you just get your ass out of your car for more than 10 minutes, you can do pretty well in any park.

The problem is that NPS tends to build large parkings near entrances and that many people never (dare to) venture beyond that.

by Jasper on Jan 11, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

@drumz, this amphitheater isn't far from the current one (you can see the tennis courts in some of the renderings) and faces towards the rest of the park (across the street towards the rec center, skate bowl, and dog park). In some of the renderings, you can see the large mound the seats will be placed in, which will act as a natural dampener to the sound. It also appears that they plan to use tree walls (including many types of trees with low/ground-level branches) to minimize the sound impacts. Bandshells, when properly constructed, do an excellent job of pointing sound in the right direction and limiting the noise where it's not supposed to go. I'd imagine the city would not permit noisy/amplified events to go late (maybe 8, maybe 9 on summer weekends). I use that park all the time (despite it being "too far from my house to walk" as a few people have bandied about on the various posts on this), and I'm very excited. I'd be even more excited if I lived closer. The earlier, more modest proposals were okay, but I feel like this is something that will get a good bit more use and liven up a lovely, but VERY underused park.

by Ms. D on Jan 11, 2013 5:37 pm • linkreport

@Kyle-W For a $500,000 house, that means a $5,350 bill in Fairfax, versus a $3,676.25 bill in the district.

$3,676.25 is about what you pay on a house worth $260,000 in Prince Georges County. And the income tax rate in Maryland is higher than for DC except in the $40,000-150,000 range (about the same for $125-150K).

by JimT on Jan 11, 2013 7:43 pm • linkreport

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