Greater Greater Washington

Links


Breakfast links: Metro plan reactions


Photo by add1sun on Flickr.
Can Metro get its billions?: The WMATA board praised the agency's strategic plan, but it's unclear how they would pay for it. Will any area leaders step up to get Metro what it needs, asks Robert McCartney, and does Richard Sarles have the skills to build allies support for his plans? (Post, Examiner)

Build high to dig deep: Since Metro's plan is much more service in downtown DC, why not also allow more building in downtown DC, charge fees to build taller, and use the revenue for Metro expansion? (Slate)

Police harassed sexual assault victims?: An explosive report charges that DC police intimidated sexual assault victims into not filing police reports, reducing crime rate statistics. Chief Lanier denies it; Tommy Wells will hold a hearing. (City Paper)

Alexandria to ax bike registration: Alexandria is considering eliminating its 1963 law requiring all bicycle owners to register their bikes. Even though the registration only costs 25¢, it was still a bad idea. (WAMU, WashCycle)

Cafritz in trouble?: The Cafritz project in Riverdale Park has run into trouble getting permission to build a bridge over the CSX tracks. Cafritz agreed to build it to alleviate some Route 1 traffic, but that requires building on another property whose owner hasn't approved it yet. (Rethink College Park)

Credit card readers delayed: Since the DC Taxi Commission did not have a quorum at their latest meeting, credit card readers won't be required in taxis until April. (Post)

Hill East gets one bid: DC only received one response for the Reservation 13 site. Donatelli Development, the lone bidder, previously worked on mixed-use projects near the Minesota Ave, U Street, Columbia Heights, and Georgia Ave Metros. (Post)

Oregon Avenue won't get bike path: DDOT has bowed to neighborhood opposition and reduced a proposed 10-foot multi-use path to a 6-foot sidewalk along Oregon Avenue, at the edge of Rock Creek Park. (TheWashCycle)

Runaway train never going back: 60 years ago, a runaway train crashed into Union Station. Today, the locomotive is in Baltimore in a state of severe disrepair. (DCist)

And...: Hyattsville may soon get speed cameras. (Gazette) ... 4 Senators introduce a DC statehood bill in the Senate. (Examiner) ... Groups using the Mall will now have to pay for any damage they cause. (Examiner)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

Comments

Add a comment »

The best way to get rid of the Alexandria bicycle registration law is to actually go to the DMV and register a bicycle. After pointing out the law, the blank stares of the workers there should be priceless.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 8:46 am • linkreport

It really needs to be pointed out that WAMU aired and posted a few different versions of that bicycle registration story. WABA's post links to an earlier version than GGW links to. And even that earlier version went through a few edits because it suggested (or flat out said originally) that Alexandria was pursuing a $25 registration fee when that was only the opinion being expressed by a few old town residents (who also want the Mount Vernon trail routed around them). The original story caused quite a stir and did a great disservice to the public by creating a lot if distrust. This is really disappointing because some of us have been working really hard to bridge that distrust. A lot of police officers have been working really hard to find ways to help bicycle owners. They do it sometimes on their own time and with their own funds. They have been really proactive in trying to prevent thefts of what so many people depend on. I've spent Sunday mornings with them where we've promoted VOLUNTARY national bike registration to deter such thefts. They know that the 50 year old requirement for a local registration doesn't work. It's not even clear whether that registration database even exists anymore. WAMU should be more careful about their reporting. And they should be more transparent with their errata. It's the ethical and responsible thing to do.

by Kevin Beekman on Jan 25, 2013 9:00 am • linkreport

So, WMATA wants about a billion a year for the next 25 years.

Off the top of my head, DC pulls in maybe 1 billion in commerical real estate taxes right now. That might be a bit low.

So, you want to have fees to pay for another billion, which is essentialy doubling the tax rate -- and more like 5x it in dense areas where you build up.

Yep, sounds like a winner.

by charlie on Jan 25, 2013 9:06 am • linkreport

After a little digging, I concur with Mr Beekman, that these laws are license for police abuse, and are a serious injustice. There is a lot more here than a chuckle (never write "puff piece", it will get redacted) -- see this http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/special/2005/bikereg090205.html">story.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

@Charlie

The total number works out to about $200/person/year. I know that is a tough climb, but don't see why the region can't get something close to this done. A .10c gas tax gets 1/4 of the way there, and some sort of hotel tax could be another 1/4. Then you need further property tax increases in areas that would benefit, and you are quite close.

All of this would mean that DC, MD, VA would have to work together, and that Annapolis and Richmond couldn't screw it up, so it about a 0% chance of success, but it otherwise COULD be done without that much pain.

by Kyle-W on Jan 25, 2013 9:15 am • linkreport

Police harrassment of RAPE victims story does NOT get commented on because the site's commenters are MORE obsesseed with possible funding for a WMATA pipe dream strategic plan and whether bike registration will be required. Comments reflect what?

by Tom M on Jan 25, 2013 9:19 am • linkreport

Upper NW doesn't want a bikepath??? But I thought they were for rich white people?!

by Alan B. on Jan 25, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

@Kyle-W, we are talking about two different thing. A broad based tax like you suggest -- yep, that would work.

Liminting yourself to fees for height density would make it almost impossible unless you throw up 50 story buildings and tax the hell out of them.

by charlie on Jan 25, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

@charlie

You're speculating. If I can offer some counter-speculation:

I would imagine that any potential fee schedule would be established in a way that doesn't hurt development feasibility. The prospect of being able to build up to even 20 stories would likely be more than made up in increased rental rates and volume vs. construction costs, and would likely have wiggle room for some fee structure. Not sure why you think it would necessarily be double, or even if it is double, why you necessarily think that would make development unfeasible.

by AK on Jan 25, 2013 9:21 am • linkreport

Agree with Kevin Beekman. Have heard several versions of the Alexandria bike registration story. Unfortunately the whole thing is typical Old Town. I know we're not supposed to name names, but a few hyperactive residents are always behind these kinds of non-controversies, and usually the same ones. It is also frustrating that a certain reporter is always very willing to give these people voice, whether on the radio or in print.

by spookiness on Jan 25, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

So much for the idea that removing the height limit means limited new buildings.

Growth Machine Activate!

by charlie on Jan 25, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

Growth Machine Activate!

What is that even supposed to mean?

by Alan B. on Jan 25, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

@Charlie

Gotcha. I agree, a tax on new buildings would only do some of the heavy lifting here. How much would a developer pay to be able to build a 100-story building at the FBI site? $200 million up front? Maybe? Perhaps an additional $100 million a year in property tax? That is if we put a 100 story building there, which is certainly never going to happen. I think that could do some of the funding, but to assume you are going to get more than say 10% from a tax on increased height buildings just isn't going to happen.

by Kyle-W on Jan 25, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

Build tall downtown!

Downtown is the only place it makes sense. The current DC downtown is already an urban canyon. The relative heights of the building doesn't really matter once you've built up past 9/10 stories.

No one is proposing towers on the mall or knocking down the library of congress.

We already have an example of a nice outdoor Mall with a focus towards history and civic architecture surrounded by tall buildings. It's called Philadelphia. They can make it work so can we. We don't even need to build anything half as tall as the comcast building.

Eventually we have to make a choice between an aesthetic preference vs economic reality. This does not mean we jump straight into some sort of Corbusian nightmare we just add buildings that are taller and provide contrast to the skyline.

Paris is an awful comparison to DC not the least of which because Paris has literally had riots over the fact that the city is so expensive in part owing to its commitment to an aesthetic value of the skyline.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 9:50 am • linkreport

I'm sure Vince Gray is thrilled that there was only one solicitation for Reservation 13. He and Evans and their cronies have set it up for failure from the beginning due to their idiotic pipedream to get that football team back.

by Joe on Jan 25, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

@Kyle-W; that 10% you speak of is about enough to build the proposed pedestrian tunnels.

@Drumz; for DC, the reasons the height limit/taxation thing is doubly stupid is what you want is new residents -- and the areas you mentioned aren't great for residents.

(you want new residents b/c in DC their income stream is more valuable than the real estate taxes - either commerical or residental. Double that when you can't capture commuter taxes)

Going back to Kyle's point, I think there is real value for inside the beltway people. Again, rough numbers here, but that is about 1.1 million, or more like $1000 per person/year. I am not sure residents of PW county, or even PG county, are going to see many benefits from the increased transit.

by charlie on Jan 25, 2013 10:02 am • linkreport

It was only a matter of time before the 'build taller' mantra would be heard with the proposal for more subways in downtown. As usual, there's no consideration to expanding the downtown core as has happened through out this cities history. Exactly where this magic deliniation of our downtown is never described becasue the 'build taller' crowd knows a second year planning student can immediatly map out how and where it could expand.

Then they try to temper the argument for building taller with the qualification that we don't have to build as tall as (fill in the blank) building, which by definition delineates a final final maximum height limit. Yet they refuse to tell us what that final height limit ought to be becasue they'd have to explaining why another five stories wouldn't be appropriate. What's the criteria?

"Eventually we have to make a choice between an aesthetic preference vs economic reality" is a false choice becasue what's driven our pricing up is the region's economic vitality, not the height limit. What do the build tall crowd think led to the redevelopment of so much of our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods?

"Paris is an awful comparison to DC not the least of which because Paris has literally had riots over the fact that the city is so expensive in part owing to its commitment to an aesthetic value of the skyline." Wrong. The reason they had riots around Paris is becasue of the alienation of the third-world immigrants that French society is having a hard time assimilating. And Paris is so expensive becasue A:It has a relatively robust economy compared to other parts of France similar to DC's government feuled success and secondly, becasue the premium of good urbanism ie, the charming and humane scaled Von Hausman Paris isn't being replicated, rather the lower economic classes are forced to live in "some sort of Corbusian nightmare" becasue thier archtiectural community is still stuck on stupid.

The market place isn't necessarily for any old space stacked ontop of other spaces, it's for beautiful, and humanely designed spaces. "The current DC downtown is already an urban" What's a canyon, a one to one width to height ratio or is it a one to 12 ratio? DC dosen't have canyons becasue of a thoughtfull understanding of a street's width to it's height. And while none of these criteria are god given, and while some variation is actually pleasing when warranted, this blanket raising of the height limit forces the 'build taller' to lay out why the downtown can't be imagined beyond it's current confines and what should the final (promise I won't ask again in 20 years) height limit be, and the rational. Please explain.

by Thayer-D on Jan 25, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

So, this caught my eye in the Northwest Current on Wednesday:

commissioners agreed to convert
a Zoning Commission filing hosted
on the commission’s website from
a searchable PDF into an image.
The filing included a Facebook
page showing American University
students partying in a rented house
in the community, along with their
names. One of the students said the
document was one of the first
search-engine hits for their names.
Although commissioners agreed
to make the change, commissioner
Jonathan Bender called it “a pretty
good lesson” for the students: “If
you don’t do things that you’re not
proud of, they won’t turn up on
Google.

...

commissioners voted unanimously to elect 2013 officers:
Jonathan Bender, chair and secretary; Sam Serebin, vice chair; and
Tom Quinn, treasurer.

Now THAT is what I call serving your constituents. Remember, kids, if you think about engaging in legal, private activities in your residence that some of your neighbors don't like, your elected representative is entitled to take photos of you and post them on a government-funded website in an attempt to damage your professional prospects!

by Dizzy on Jan 25, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

As usual, there's no consideration to expanding the downtown core as has happened through out this cities history.

Ok. Which areas are you going to transform? Georgetown? Dupont? Shaw? Capitol Hill? I favor infill in those areas that's denser than the current fabric, but meeting the same kind of supply as new office towers downtown would require whole-sale redevelopment of those areas. Are you in favor of that?

DC dosen't have canyons becasue of a thoughtfull understanding of a street's width to it's height. And while none of these criteria are god given,

Indeed, I think you can easily go 2:1 height to width and have a nice street - and that's the height at the street wall, not the overall height.

Which, of course, is much taller than currently allowed (1:1, +20')

by Alex B. on Jan 25, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

If one is going to make a case for higher buildings in Washington, find a better example than Philadelphia. I was there last week, and the buildings just to the west of the Independence Mall really do detract from it. All of them are undistinghished. As one moves west through Center City, much of it is characterized by what typifies most American cities: blah architecture; windswept open plazas where no one congregates in the cold winter or hot, humid summer; parking lots; and even sky bridges which further deaden the street scape. The feeling on the Parkway is better, but only because it is so open -- much wider than any boulevard in DC. Even the tall buildings that have gone up in Center City in recent years are pretty formulaic and imitative of each other.

by Bob on Jan 25, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

Police harrassment of RAPE victims story does NOT get commented on because the site's commenters are MORE obsesseed with possible funding for a WMATA pipe dream strategic plan and whether bike registration will be required.

Well that's a bit unfair. The are countless stories in the links section that don't get much attention. Doesn't mean people are obsessed with another matter.

by HogWash on Jan 25, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

Joe, what conditions did Gray add to the bidding so there would only be one bid and why is it a failure?

by selxic on Jan 25, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

Eventually we have to make a choice between an aesthetic preference vs economic reality" is a false choice becasue what's driven our pricing up is the region's economic vitality, not the height limit. What do the build tall crowd think led to the redevelopment of so much of our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods?

Of course the DC area is doing well. The height limit is now a confounding factor not a beneficial one.

"Paris is an awful comparison to DC not the least of which because Paris has literally had riots over the fact that the city is so expensive in part owing to its commitment to an aesthetic value of the skyline." Wrong. The reason they had riots around Paris is becasue of the alienation of the third-world immigrants that French society is having a hard time assimilating. And Paris is so expensive becasue A:It has a relatively robust economy compared to other parts of France similar to DC's government feuled success and secondly, becasue the premium of good urbanism ie, the charming and humane scaled Von Hausman Paris isn't being replicated, rather the lower economic classes are forced to live in "some sort of Corbusian nightmare" becasue thier archtiectural community is still stuck on stupid.

Alienation is part of it but you affirmed what I said, people felt stuck in the suburbs and had to deal with that alienation one of the reasons is because Paris is so constrained for space it means that only people with privelege get to live there.

And one can quibble about the design of Philly, its far from perfect but they've apparently figured out how to blend history with the recognition that sometimes you need tall buildings regardless. Moreover, I'm not saying copy them but rather use the city as an example of how to make tall buildings compatible with the monumental spaces of DC.

And personally, I don't think there needs to be a blanket height limit for the city. I can't give you the specific number that you want because I'd like to see the city work it out. I'm not a professional planner but I do think its obvious that there are many workable heights above the current limit.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

@Bob:
. . . much of it is characterized by what typifies most American cities: blah architecture; windswept open plazas where no one congregates in the cold winter or hot, humid summer; parking lots . . .
I sure is a good thing DC has managed to fend off all of these things!

by Gray's in the Fields on Jan 25, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

San Francisco Chicago and New York come to mind as good examples of building tall well. And if you have conditional but not by right height increases, you can use that the extract extra concessions out of developers. Win/win no?

by Alan B. on Jan 25, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

Alan B,

I think the general concensus is that the DC government would never just allow free reign on tall buildings.

However, those concession need to be really really specific as to what's being offered. I'd rather just have developers pay into a pool or something and let the city planners take care of designing new parks or plazas which is what is usually offered up. This could be even easier wrt to transportation improvements.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

@Charlie

I disagree that this only helps inside the beltway. If the full plan is put into place, it include extra stations outside the beltway. It would also include more trains, and more capacity, so more people riding at the margins. For every extra rider on the blue line/orange line, it is one less driver on 95/66.

Don't get me wrong, I am in favor of any and all improvements to metro, and am certainly happy to pay, assuming everyone is kicking in. It is the everyone kicking part that is going to be tough. See VA losing their mind over 300 million, but quickly and quietly approving a $1.4 billion highway to nowhere.

by Kyle-W on Jan 25, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

Joe, what conditions did Gray add to the bidding so there would only be one bid and why is it a failure?

You can't reason with the Birthers so please don't try.

by HogWash on Jan 25, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

@Kylw-W; fair enough. I said "real value" but clearly there are SOME benefit to residents outside the beltway.

In terms of the SW highway deal, you raise an interesting point. I've always suspected that trucking/logistics firms are the ones pushing highways -- we have a highways system meant for trucks, not for people. And we under-invest in people-transport.

by charlie on Jan 25, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

Will the absent members of the DC Taxi Commission be penalized for their absence? I am ignorant on the makeup of the commission, but are they compensated for their service? Can their pay be docked for failure to serve in a vital aspect of their role with this gov't body. Are there actual taxi drivers that sit on this commission? Color me cynical, but I wouldn't be surprised if some members specifically skipped the meeting so that there would be no quorum, and this issue gets punted another month. It's beyond frustrating to read that there is this delay for no other reason than absenteeism.

by Adam on Jan 25, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

Charlie,
You just figured out the transportation philosophy of our governor, Bob McDonnell!

Highways to get a truck to its destination 30 minutes ahead of schedule? Worth it at any cost.

Transportation money and control in densely populated areas to help people get to work easier? Worthless pork that only a liberal could support.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

@ Selznic. I think I have an idea what Joe is talking about. Rather than solicit bids on the entire Reservation 13, the Gray administration decided to only bid out the two small parcels closest to the Metro station purportedly because they felt that trying to bid out the entirety of Res 13 was too ambitious and felt kickstarting the development piecemeal was the way to go. While I don't believe this was some Redskins related conspiracy, I wonder whether the reason for the one bid reflects the distrust of developers that the city will actually make good on their promise to move some of the social service programs currently housed at Res 13 elsewhere.

by I. Rex on Jan 25, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

@ Alex B.
"Ok. Which areas are you going to transform? Georgetown? Dupont? Shaw? Capitol Hill?" Another false choice. How many times does one have to point out all of South West, Foggy bottom, Brentwood, Navy Yard etc.

As for the 2:1 argument, you are conceding that there's a value to a street's proportions. That's a start at least. Let's discuss what that should be, god knows we'll find plenty of precedent on this issue. Maybe it is 3:1, but it needs some empirical study before we willy nilly revoke the current limit, while we factor the wastefulness of re-developing the whole area when we could be expanding the downtown.

@ drumz,
"but you affirmed what I said, people felt stuck in the suburbs " I think you missed my point, which was they ought to build the fabric that's so much in demand in the center, but on the periphery. Much like here, there's a premium for beautiful architecture and urbanism.

"I can't give you the specific number that you want because I'd like to see the city work it out. I'm not a professional planner but I do think its obvious that there are many workable heights above the current limit."
I agree that there could be higher buildings, but we need to have this debate, BEFORE we raise the height limit. We need people who feel qualified to suggest what that limit ought to be, and why, once that number is arrived at, your arguments about raising the limit won't become "a confounding factor not a beneficial one" twenty years after the new build-out.

I'm for this discussion, but let's not throw out what so many on this site see as an asset, and therefore an economic asset, before we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

by Thayer-D on Jan 25, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

I completely agree with building taller downtown. Part of the problems with this discussion is that people either make the scenarios in either/or situations or resort to extremes and hyperbole when attempting to discuss the issue and perhaps propose some changes. I agree with Alex B. There are concessions that will need to be made whether we go taller or not, but IMO the benefits outweigh the costs. What's unfortunate to me is that I see it as inevitable that the height limit is raised and some people will have spent so much time fearmongering and even they will realize that it was displaced and we wasted time.

by Vik on Jan 25, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

The total figure WMATA gives, includes the cost of the extended Orange line in Fairfax. I have no doubt that virginians will consider it appropriate that they pay for the state/local piece of that. How much Fairfax can get the Commonwealth to chip in is of course not possible to say at this time, but given the benefits to folks in western FFX, and in PWC, I think the Comm will be willing. The wrangle about the Silver line $$ was less about the money, than about a power play to give the Gov control of the MWAA board. That will not be an issue for the Orange line.

To convince VA to help with the Rosslyn-Gtown tunnel, they need to be convinced no further radials are possible without it, and that improved service on existing lines in Va is possible with it. This document will help advance that conversation.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 25, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

Thayer-D: at the end of the day, the height limit is arbitrary. Like the strike zone is baseball, which is arbitrary and open to interpretation. But it is still necessary and it must be set somewhere, somehow.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

Thayer-D

Well, we're talking about it at least. I just don't see any sort of future where the height limit remains as-is in DC and we see meaningful improvements to our transportation network. Some may see that as unfortunate but as Vik said, we need to get on board and make it work (and beautiful) before the cat is out of the bag. Meanwhile there isn't much I can do to change the height limit but I doubt the council (or congress or whoever) will rubberstamp any proposal.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

Moreover, I think it's still mainly up to the design rather than the size of the building that will determine the how positive or negative the effects will be.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Another false choice. How many times does one have to point out all of South West, Foggy bottom, Brentwood, Navy Yard etc.

SW and Navy Yard are already on their way to build-out at max height. Foggy Bottom, too, is already built out at max height - the few redevelopment parcels there are small, and not of the scale of what we're talking about with downtown height increases. Brentwood isn't exactly downtown-adjacent - that's a hell of a leapfrog, and not exactly the same location efficiency as Metro Center or Farragut Square.

Don't get me wrong, I support dense development in all of those places - but I don't necessarily agree that development there is a fair trade with more density in the core of the city.

Maybe it is 3:1, but it needs some empirical study before we willy nilly revoke the current limit, while we factor the wastefulness of re-developing the whole area when we could be expanding the downtown.

In the end, I think we will expand downtown - and do it in all directions - outward and upward. We've already gone down (if you've seen how much of some of our structures are below grade, such as the new convention center hotel, you'll know what I mean).

Suggesting that the end result would be willy-nilly repeal is a strawman. For any change, there will be a plan and lots of discussion. Look at how much work has been put into fairly modest changes to our zoning code.

by Alex B. on Jan 25, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D
Then they try to temper the argument for building taller with the qualification that we don't have to build as tall as (fill in the blank) building, which by definition delineates a final final maximum height limit. Yet they refuse to tell us what that final height limit ought to be becasue they'd have to explaining why another five stories wouldn't be appropriate. What's the criteria?

Interesting that this is a criticism of the height limit opponents, but then you turn around and vaguely say that downtown could be expanded but leave out "where." Expanding downtown at this point means tearing down old residential housing stock, which I think most people don't want to do.

The height limit as it currently exists is totally arbitrary - why shouldn't it be 5 stories higher?

by MLD on Jan 25, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

@dizzy Looks like a reprint of a public facebook page with pictures of those paragons of the AU community. http://bit.ly/Y3Vz4Z

Assuming the kids were 21 (probably not a safe assumption), if they put those pictures on the public web, they should be complaining to Darwin instead of the ANC about their fate.

by Lizzy on Jan 25, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

What's so bad about the page anyway? They look like typical college wankers.

by Alan B. on Jan 25, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

I think there can be some expectation that stuff posted on Facebook (not available for index by Google) should not be turned into a searchable PDF and posted/indexed on the web for everyone.

People should be allowed to make mistakes and not have it become part of a permanent public record.

by MLD on Jan 25, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

re: AU students. Hey but according to the page, "they run this s$#@" so what are they worried about? :-)

by I. Rex on Jan 25, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

WMATA should 4 track the new line. Express trains and real service.

by Redline SOS on Jan 25, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

SW and Navy Yard are already on their way to build-out at max height.

Interesting. I drive this every day and I see vast areas of vacant lots. Of course there is the JDLand blog to track this, and I think she would find quite a lot of vacant and under-built property. Note the nice article about the Capitol power plant, for instance, an excellent example of under-used property.

Do you have something to back this claim up?

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

@Adam, as I recall, Taxi Commission members are compensated per meeting they attend, so if they don't attend their pay is automatically docked. Beyond that, there's no penalty for non-attendance.

Taxi Commission attendance is traditionally horrible, and I suspect the compensation rules haven't helped. Taxi Commissioners have historically been the lowest paid members of any of DC's paid boards and commissions by a substantial margin; a few years ago, a Commissioner testified before the Council that it cost him more to take a cab to and from Commission meetings than he received as compensation for attending the meeting in the first place. What's more, the Commissioners are paid per meeting, but there's an annual ceiling on their compensation that's less than the number of scheduled meetings times their compemsation per meeting, so if they never miss a meeting that means there will be meetings they attend without compensation.

There is one taxicab driver on the Commission, Stanley Tapscott. Other Commissioners are also identified as "industry representatives", but these represent the hospitality industry or the limousine industry.

by cminus on Jan 25, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

A quick look at the JDLand map shows that much of the space in that area is already planned out, not waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it.

by MLD on Jan 25, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

MLD: it does not include the power plant, which is north of the freeway on even more valuable property. I also show nothing east of the 11th street bridge where there is an immense underdeveloped area owned by Pepco.

I think the "downtown is built out" crowd only sees the existing tall buildings, and not the possibilities of adjacent areas.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

@goldfish. The power plant is owned by the Capitol. It's being used, and there's no replacement in sight. Why would you think that's a possibility for development? It's not as if they're moving on the even more (potentially) valuable parking around the Capitol office buildings.

by Tim Krepp on Jan 25, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

We discussed Cap Riverfront a couple of weeks ago. For whatever reasons, locational inefficiency, lack of adequate transit,it is NOT doing nearly as well as downtown. IF it is going to absorb the overflow from downtown, it needs more transit. Yet some vociferous people here opposed the prospect of a new North South LRT to serve the area.

People seem to want to use the downtown adjacent areas as arguments against modifying the height limit - but at the same time they are not interested in the improvements those areas will need to thrive.

by MStreetDenizen on Jan 25, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

I'd double down on doubting that SW is built out. Go on bing maps and fly around for a minuite and you'll see a ton of vavanct or underdeveloped land. In fact it isn't hard to imagine the downtown leap frogging the anacostia.

What's also not being discusses is mixed use versus a monoculture downtown. It's the apartment mix that make many downtown's vibrant, and while there will be areas of single use zoning like the federal triangle, one has to think of the overall mix. Also, the point of a multi-polar downtown like manhattan with it's downtown and mid-town have to be factored into the argument of having necessity immediate adjacency.

Again, the major stubling block is what's the criteria for the new height limit, and why these arguments of economic hardship won't trump that taller limit eventually. If there's an ideal ration, one could come pretty close to empirically determining that based on other cities, but if it's arbitrary, then why not leave it as it is. Afterall, before the advent of skyscrapers, I've never heard of a city suffering economically becasue of masonry's practical limit or even a geographic limit. Somehow, man's always been able to make a buck when there was one to be made, and if one know's their architectural history, there are many examples where one limitation or another resulted in creative and beautiful inovations. Why should this limit be any different?

The city needs to see a McMillan type bird's eye view rendering of how another 1-2 million people could be crammed with-in our city's borders at existing height limits. This would entail building up the arterials along a much more conprehensive metro network with a multi-nodal approach like the garden city idea of multiple centers around the core. Only then can we properly assess the practicality of increasing the height limit. To do this, DC's government needs to take on the city's entitled nimby class which wants the privelage of living in a hamlet surrounded by all their urban amenities. Unfortunatly, they are the wealthiest, and thus the strongest.

by Thayer-D on Jan 25, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

think the "downtown is built out" crowd only sees the existing tall buildings, and not the possibilities of adjacent areas.

Well, no.

There may be piecemeal opportunities here and there as there will always be more or less but the presence of vacant land in other areas of the city (some of which could be called downtown but definitely on the fringe) doesn't mean that it automatically negates the need for more space downtown.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

@Tim Krepp: if the developers were knocking on the door of the architect of the Capitol, as well as pointing out to the business-minded Representatives from nearby Districts the immense waste of opportunity its current use is, you can be sure Congress would authorize the sale expeditiously. Just like the Georgetown heating plant.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

Putting a 10 story office building at the power plant location will solve the issue with stunning finality.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

@goldfish The Georgetown Heating Plant was unused. The Capitol Power Plant is still very functional. To shut down would require a huge cost in replacing it.

Do you honestly think it just a matter of a developer picking up a phone? Like they wouln't have done that already if it was an option?

by Tim Krepp on Jan 25, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

"the presence of vacant land in other areas of the city (some of which could be called downtown but definitely on the fringe) doesn't mean that it automatically negates the need for more space downtown."

This skirt's the issue that downtown's have always grown. Imagine this argument with respect to Manhattan, which by our measure dosen't have a height limit. Why did midtown grow where it did rather have wall street's downtown core grow north into China Town, etc.? Was it the geology that made it prohibitivly expensive to build high? That didn't stop Chigaco's swampy loop whose skyscrapers where build on expanded spread footings. Was it that they built/modernized two large train stations, Penn Station and Grand Central? That would deny the argument of adjacency and call for the building of these new metro lines into south west possibly.

Of course they need more office space downtown, why they need more federal style townhouses in Georgetown and Dupont Circle. That's why other neighborhoods are being renovated and why mid-town manhattan and Roslyyn, Tysons Corner, and Bethesda are built up. Downtown is not a static area much like you like to point out that cities as a whole aren't static organisms, if your lucky to have an economy.

by Thayer-D on Jan 25, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

@drumz: I can only presume you know what "example" means. The capital power plant is but one of many.

Take a drive in SW near buzzard point. It is quite open; DC still has an impound lot down there, another example of lightly-used property. First St SW and Potomac Ave SW is wide open.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

Tim Krepp: Do you honestly think it just a matter of a developer picking up a phone? Like they wouln't have done that already if it was an option?

Frankly, I doubt that anybody has even tried. If new 10-story office buildings were encroaching and there was a discordant difference in style with the neighboring properties, it would be obvious. But it is not, and that is the point: that this area is not built out and there are many other opportunities for development. That is why nobody has picked up that phone.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

Thayer-D,

But we're not talking about the whole history of the city. Of course everything at point was just nature. Again, I'm not against development in other neighborhoods. It's just not sufficient to mitigate the effects of the current limits. Mainly in regards to transportation and how our metro network is designed. Now I'm all for adding lines but the best way to get the money for those new lines is by letting developers help pay for it by letting them build taller. Looking at this in context its hard to see how expanding downtown outwards would be more meaningful than just letting the buildings be taller.

Goldfish,
Sorry for the snark but its hard to keep up with explaining a general principle and then having to repeat it over and over again as soon as someone discovers an unbuilt parcel. Similar to how when a new residential building is built and people take the high rent number as proof that building more housing helps with overall affordability.

Anyway, Buzzard point is like what, a mile from the nearest green line station? And then a couple stops from a transfer? Why is it better for the city to encourage office buildings a mile from transit when instead you could build a taller building in an area that already has multiple metro lines that means a greater mode share of transit for the workers in that building? That doesn't just apply to Buzzard Point but suggestions like Poplar Point or NE or Virginia or where have you.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

@goldfish: as a resident of SW, I can attest that most of the vacant parcels here -- like those surrounding the Waterfront Metro, the heart of Buzzard Point, the Wharf, and the EcoDistrict -- also have active development proposals already. And, in case you hadn't noticed, there's already one of the densest residential areas in the city here. There is indeed extensive scope for new development, but it's not going to absorb a decade's worth of CBD expansion.

Plus, Buzzard Point is a mile walk from a single Metro line. It's not going to match Metro Center for accessibility anytime soon.

by Payton on Jan 25, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

Drumz

there you go trying to force us out of our cars and onto your crowded smelly subway again. You must be one of those commies who supports the free market.

by teapartier on Jan 25, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

@drumz: Buzzard point is like what, a mile from the nearest green line station?

By my eye, more like half a mile to the Waterfront station, depending. Just about the same distance as all those proposed 10-story buildings along Maine Ave SW.

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

Ok, I've never argued that we shouldn't develop buzzard point and such.

HOWEVER, I don't think it will do as much to mitigate the effects of the height limit as hoped. Even when combined with other developments in other periphery areas. Because eventually this will be built out and we'll be trying to figure out what's next.

So yes, lets encourage development near downtown DC and in downtown by raising or removing the height limit.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

"Because eventually this will be built out and we'll be trying to figure out what's next."

This could be said about whatever new height limit you say you're unqualified to name. We need to see a plan first.

by Thayer-D on Jan 25, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

@goldfish: Sorry, coming in late, but east of the 11th Street Bridge, there are plans for an 815,000-sq-ft mized-use project. Just not on my development map because I didn't have room. :)

http://www.jdland.com/dc/eastm.cfm
(scroll down a bit)
No timeline on this, but it's definitely not purely unclaimed/unplanned land. (It's old Washington Gas land, not Pepco)

by JD on Jan 25, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

Since we seem to have yearly multi hundred million dollar surpluses (DC gov that is) that could easily start the work on the DC part of the separated blue line. $400 million this year alone! Put it in escrow and let's start the engineering!

by H Street LL on Jan 25, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

@JD, I have seen that but forgotten about it, thanks for the reminder. However, I have my doubt whether it will come to fruition as the drawings are nice but (as you nicely show) "no timeline has been announced." In particular, has there been any deal signed with Washington Gas?

by goldfish on Jan 25, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

@goldfish, Washington Gas doesn't own that land anymore, Cohen does own it (well, 1333 M LLC owns it).

by JD on Jan 25, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

@selxic, I rex covered most of it. For those that have been following Res 13 for a while, the Gray administration has consistently made it as unattractive as possible to potential developers, reducing the size to the two tiny parcels and basically saying that developers are on their own in terms of any infrastructure improvements (although Evans constantly promises those to the football team). In the community meetings with Gray and/or Hoskins, it is clear that they have no interest in using Res 13 for development, they want to put a new football stadium (or until they decided to stay in Ashburn, a training facility) there. They have made the process extremely difficult and convoluted, re-starting and re-arranging the process multiple times.

And them wanting the football team there, no matter what, is not exactly a conspiracy theory. When Gray, Evans, Alexander and Michael Brown had the community meeting at the Armory a year or so ago, that was literally all they talked about. They were completely clueless to the overwhelming community opposition. All they could talk about was bringing the football team there, even against the chorus of boos and anger. GGW covered it pretty extensively.

by Joe on Jan 25, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

As far as areas for commercial business district expansion are concerned, don't forget much of New York Ave. NE, particularly in the light industrial areas and along the rail yards. This area has a lot of potential for development and is more conveniently accessed from the Beltway, Rt. 50 and the B-W Parkway than "traditional" downtown Washington. It also could be better served by public transit, in the stretch between the NY Ave Metro stop and Cheverly stop.

by Bob on Jan 25, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

Thayer-D,

Yes, lets see a plan. Letting buildings be taller seems eminently more simple than trying to figure out where to fit the expansion of downtown in order to avoid doing the obvious.

I'm of the mind that we can eventually out a number between "unlimited" to "no change" while you need a concrete number to say whether its even worth talking about or not.

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

Does everybody understand the difference between building height and density? That Rosslyn, in which the maximum building height is 300', has a maximum FAR (floor area ratio) of 10, while the FAR in downtown DC is 12? And that therefore downtown DC is more densely developed than Rosslyn? Why the insistence on tall buildings? Why would we want to be Rosslyn, or Tysons, or Bethesda? Why couldn't we have greater density without skyscrapers?

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

Because we're approaching max density anyway and the only meaningful way to add that is by height?

by drumz on Jan 25, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

I'm asking how people would feel about a modification to the Height Act that allowed increased density but still kept the city's horizontal quality. So, for example, what if we had city with a lot of 160-foot (or 180, or whatever) buildings rather than a city with a handful of 300-foot buildings, assuming the overall amount of development was the same.

by Christine on Jan 25, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

When Gray, Evans, Alexander and Michael Brown had the community meeting at the Armory a year or so ago, that was literally all they talked about. They were completely clueless to the overwhelming community opposition. All they could talk about was bringing the football team there, even against the chorus of boos and ange

The operative phrase here is "a year ago." The opposition was over the top in the first place wrt to a plan that never was. Now the conspiracy theorists are suggesting that their secret plan to bring the stadium back meant that they purposely made the process difficult. Doesn't matter that it's 100% speculative. This is just what the conspiracy theorists believe...despite any evidence to the contrary. Obama shows his birth certificate and he's still a foreigner.

HogWash

by HogWash on Jan 25, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

Christine,

That's what we have now. I'm not sure how your proposal is different than what exists.

by Drumz on Jan 25, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

Drumz:

I don't understand why people think we need tall buildings. There's more than one way to skin a cat. We aren't New York or Chicago. We don't have the population they do. Most cities our size that have tall buildings are actually LESS densely developed than we are. If what we need is more density, why does it need to come in the form of tall buildings? Personally, I don't want to see commercial office buildings dominating the skyline of my nation's capital, and I have yet to see a rational argument for it.

by Christine on Jan 25, 2013 5:58 pm • linkreport

@Christine:
I don't understand why people think we need tall buildings.
I'm not sure why it matters if we need them. We probably don't need tall buildings any more than we need DC at all. But what if we think about it this way: Do people value living in DC? Therefore those people at least want it. Though maybe it doesn't ride to the level of need.

The same principle is at work here. Would people be interested in building taller buildings if that were allowed? Would those buildings be occupied, resulting in tax revenues and greater economic activity?

If the answer is yes, then it sounds like they're wanted and valued.

There's more than one way to skin a cat.
Seems relevant.
We aren't New York or Chicago.
Seems relevant.
We don't have the population they do.
Oh, I see. Only cities with at least the population of New York or Chicago should have tall buildings, right? I'm sure that's reflected in reality.
Most cities our size that have tall buildings are actually LESS densely developed than we are.
So, we should probably work to avoid that. Are you saying you're okay with tall buildings if we avoid this problem?
If what we need is more density, why does it need to come in the form of tall buildings?
I think the basic answer here is: math.
Personally, I don't want to see commercial office buildings dominating the skyline of my nation's capital, and I have yet to see a rational argument for it.
Why do you demand a rational argument to counteract your argument, which seems to be based on your feelings?

by Gray on Jan 25, 2013 6:11 pm • linkreport

Well,
A. Again unless you're talking about covering a significant portion of the city with buildings around 8-10 stories then you're basically for the status quo. If the former is what you're talking about then that's fine but that means really changing what most of the city looks like vs. changing it a smaller area.

B. there are economic reasons to build taller downtown. It's where demand is, it's where you find the greatest number of people taking transit, it's where you see the greatest agglomeration benefits.

C. It's not only NYC and Chicago that have tall buildings. There is pretty much every other city in America we can also compare to. Richmond has a third of the population of DC and yet finds it necessary to have some tall buildings. I'm not even saying the buildings have to be as tall as Richmonds either.

D. Even if you leveled every building within a 5 mile radius of the capital you'd still have lobbyists. They'd just be at a new spot. It's nice to think that somehow we can keep government pure by keeping buildings short but that's not the case. As it is those shorter buildings pretty much mean its harder for any business but lobbyists and law firms to locate in downtown DC.

E. raising or eliminating the height means in no way that one doesn't want to see density increase in other DC neighborhoods.

Surely that's at least 5 rational reasons?

by Drumz on Jan 25, 2013 6:19 pm • linkreport

Joe, what significant infrastructure improvements are needed for the area? Those that have been following Res 13 for a while know the difference between Reservation 13 and the RFK site.

by selxic on Jan 25, 2013 7:03 pm • linkreport

"while you need a concrete number to say whether its even worth talking about or not."

Except we are talking about it.

"Because eventually this will be built out and we'll be trying to figure out what's next."

Give me a rational reason why your own statement isn't also applicable to whatever new height limit you would propose?

Please?

by Thayer-D on Jan 25, 2013 8:07 pm • linkreport

@thayer

as we have discussed before, above some height (40 - 60 stories?) the issues of elevators, their costs and footprint, other systems, etc become so high, that taller buildings are not cost effective even at very high costs of land. buildings taller than that are built only for reason of prestige. The economic reasons for raising the height limit at that point would be more limited.

However I do not read Drumz as saying that build out itself makes raising the limit ipso facto desirable. Rather, it suggests that the costs are real and cannot be dismissed by appealing to vacant land. And yes, that is true at ANY height limit (in theory, if office growth will go on forever) But the costs of raising the height limit are greater at those heights. I mean I think a 70 story building presents more negative externalities than 40 story building does, though some may disagree.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 25, 2013 8:28 pm • linkreport

Well I'm glad we've moved from " keep it where it is" to discussing what would be prudent but my preference would be no limit though I'd probably balk at anything taller than 30 stories or so at the moment.

by Drumz on Jan 25, 2013 8:53 pm • linkreport

There's always room for discussion. What if the Cairo had been 16 stories. Then we might be discussing from that base line. Your preference is 30 stories (lets say), while mine is the current limit, and others would have their own, like WITC at 40 to 60. WITC is basing it on the intersection where current technology meets cost, something bound to change with technologies progress, so in my mind some what arbitrary. Drumz would balk at anything taller than 30+/-, again somewhat of a subjective criteria. I base mine on urban scale, quality of life, and environmental reasons. Let's say we do a city wide vote and it ends up at 20 stories for argument sake.

Wherever it ends up, it's still a finite point, at which one can ask again, what do we do when this is built out? To quote you for the last time, "because eventually this will be built out and we'll be trying to figure out what's next."

My point all along. Wherever the limit is set, we'll need to determine "what's next". I'm trying to do that now rather than re-argue this all over again when we've re-built our downtown at 20 stories. I've proposed several alternatives/possibilities based on historical examples, but it's a question we'll have to answer sooner or later, and all I'm saying is prudent long term planning would favor sooner. We'll have to differ on the exact limit, but until you answer your own question, the rational that it's "seems eminently more simple" to rebuild our downtown taller just dosen't cut it. There are limits, whether from our own bodies or nature, after which we have to learn to live more intelligently. Global warming is the biggest reminder of that.

by Thayer-D on Jan 25, 2013 10:59 pm • linkreport

I am not saying I would pick 50 stories necessarily, just that there are natural limits.

And just as you say building technology may change, so may many other things - including technology for remote work, alt fuels for autos, etc. I do NOT think we need to discuss ultimates in order to decide a policy that will take us to 2050. It seems to me thats leading to illogical notions - "There is some X height we cannot exceed, ergo at some point we will need to accept that downtown is built out, ergo we might as well accept it now" '

That may not be your POV, but it sounds like it. and it does not logically follow,IMO.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 26, 2013 8:49 am • linkreport

@Thayer

If we made it 20 stories, this is likely a non-issue for the next 50 years. That opens up an incredible amount of development, and as far as I am concerned, 50 years is plenty of time for me. We can cross that next bridge when we (our or kids/grandkids) get there.

by Kyle-w on Jan 26, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

I'm still not convinced how the new drumz or WITC won't be making the same arguments about economic hardship 50 years from now, but I'll accept whatever concensus is arrived at on height and keep pushing for better architecture. Having gone to school in NYC, I know how 15 and 20 story streets can still be attractive, if a bit more depressing becasue of the fact that light deprevation is a factor in mental health, albeit more for some (me) than others. No doubt, that's why the lower scaled neighborhoods (4-10 stories)like SOHO, The Village, Chelsea, and the quiet low scaled blocks of the East and West side. Supply is part of it, but quality is the other, and that's the balance I'm trying to ensure, that over supply dosen't destroy quality.

But I respect your opinion that we shouldn't be thinking longer term than 50 years, and we'll have to just disagree on that point.

by Thayer-D on Jan 26, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

Having gone to school in NYC, I know how 15 and 20 story streets can still be attractive, if a bit more depressing becasue of the fact that light deprevation is a factor in mental health, albeit more for some (me) than others. No doubt, that's why the lower scaled neighborhoods (4-10 stories)like SOHO, The Village, Chelsea, and the quiet low scaled blocks of the East and West side.

Height is one thing, but so is street width. Proportion matters.

Manhattan has some very narrow streets. The Avenues are 100 feet wide, as are some of the key cross streets, but most of the cross streets are only 60 feet wide - and streets in Lower Manhattan are often narrower than that.

DC has some very wide streets. I don't think any of the L'Enfant streets are 60', most are much wider.

10 stories on a 50' wide street in SoHo is not necessarily the equivalent of 10 stories on a 90' wide street in DC.

by Alex B. on Jan 26, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

Alex,
A street's proportion is already baked in this cake, if you've been been following the conversation. Thus the whole 1:1 ratio discussion and my reference to urban scale. But there are limit's to even the proportion argument, becasue the most important IMO is the human proportion. Now I don't pretend to have the final word on this subject, but recent findings from the disciplines evolutionary psychology and neuroscience have shed light on the questions of what spaces feel good to us and why, giving us a scientific grounding of what used to be only a matter of intuition. That being said, I'm not interested in the tyrany of science replacing the tyrany of a developer's sweet spot, as variety is truly the spice of life.

I wasn't saying that the 2:1 ratio you point out in Soho is equivalent to a 1:1 ratio in DC, becasue the most important proportion is based on the human, and a 200' wide street would be as blown out as a 200' wall standing next to it. Not good or bad, but rather more comfortable or not, thus the quality of life issue and it's resulting impact on economic activity. Much like it's been shown through research, that a varied smaller grained street wall is more conducive to shoping than a super block street wall, so to is one's relationship to the vertical surface of a building. It might be simpler to build bigger, but is it necessarily better if it detracts from the shoppers experience? If you maintain the 1:1 proportion, does it guarantee "delight" if the street is 400' wide? Some medeveal streets have a 4:1 ratio, yet becasue they are no more than four stories tall, and the architecture is varied, you couldn't chase me out of one. These are the quality of life issues we ought to consider wherever this discussion is ultimatly resolved.

by Thayer-D on Jan 26, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

If you want to avoid a "what's next?" Discussion wouldn't it be more prudent to not have a height limit but rather mandate some sort of design review for any building over X amount of stories?

by Drumz on Jan 26, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

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

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

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

or

Support Us