Greater Greater Washington

Development


Montgomery nervous about density around Purple Line stops

This week, the Montgomery County Council reduced planned development in Chevy Chase Lake and recommended the same for Long Branch, both home to future Purple Line stations. Residents say new development will lead to traffic and, in Long Branch, gentrification. But making it harder to build around transit may make those issues worse.


Rendering of the future Chevy Chase Lake from the Chevy Chase Land Company.

Now that Maryland has a new transportation funding source, work on the $2.2 billion Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton could open as early as 2020 if the state can get matching funds from the federal government. Naturally, people will want to locate near the line, so Montgomery County's working on plans for neighborhoods along the corridor to accommodate new residents, businesses, and public amenities.

This week, they passed a plan for Chevy Chase Lake, while the council's Planning, Housing, and Economic Development committee gave recommendations on a draft of the Long Branch Sector Plan, which the council will vote on this fall. Both plans call for turning the neighborhoods' 1950's-era commercial cores into compact, urban neighborhoods, with taller, mixed-use buildings, new public spaces and streets that accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders, not just drivers.

Neighbors in Chevy Chase Lake fought their plan, saying it would exacerbate traffic. In Long Branch, residents worry that redevelopment will push out the area's large immigrant community and destroy local landmarks, like the historic Flower Theatre. So councilmembers have scaled back both plans in the name of reducing traffic and preserving affordable housing.

Council backs down on taller buildings in Chevy Chase Lake

On Tuesday, the County Council voted 8-1 to pass the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, but with much shorter buildings than county planners or developers wanted.


The Planning Board endorsed the Land Company's "compromise" for a handful of buildings around a Purple Line station.

The Chevy Chase Land Company, a major landowner that first developed Chevy Chase Lake over a century ago, originally sought to build nearly 3,000 new homes in buildings up to 200 feet tall, or about 19 stories, around a future station on Connecticut Avenue. Neighbors said it was too much and county planners generally agreed.

The Planning Board offered a compromise, allowing buildings between 100 and 150 feet tall next to the station and buildings no taller than 55 to 80 feet surrounding it, providing a transition to surrounding single-family homes. They also called for staging requirements to ensure that the Purple Line was in place for major redevelopment could occur.

But a group of neighbors called "Don't Flood the Lake" pushed for even less. And the County Council gave in, setting maximum heights of 150 and 120 feet for 2 buildings next to the station, followed by 90 feet for adjacent buildings, and 50 feet in surrounding areas. Still, not everyone was happy. Councilmember Marc Elrich, the only one to vote against the plan, said the Council and Planning Board had "utterly . . . [disregarded] the wishes of the community."

Committee allows new development in some parts of Long Branch, but not others

Councilmembers also decided not to upzone 3 garden apartment complexes in Long Branch for higher-density development, saying it would preserve affordable housing. Groups like CASA de Maryland worry that the Purple Line, which will have 3 stops there, will price out the local immigrant community.


Last May's Long Branch Super Block Party. Councilmembers voted to rezone the shopping center in the background, but not the apartments. Photo by the author.

Today, a 3-bedroom apartment rents rents for $1471 a month, less than the cost of some studios in downtown Silver Spring. But the Planning Board felt that redeveloping the apartments was the best way to preserve affordable housing, both by increasing the overall supply of housing and because the county requires new buildings to set aside units for low-income households.

It's true that new apartments in Long Branch will be more expensive than what's there now. But not building them means that landlords in old buildings will just raise the rent when the Purple Line opens because there will be more demand to live there.

Fortunately, the PHED committee did endorse taller buildings in the Superblock, an area bounded by Flower Avenue, Arliss Street, and Piney Branch Road that's home to 3 strip malls. The Planning Board called for buildings 65 or 75 feet tall, or about 6 to 7 stories, but property owners said that wasn't enough to build an economically feasible project. Instead, the councilmembers recommended buildings up to 120 feet tall.


The Flower Theatre at night. Photo by Chip Py on Flickr.

The committee also voted 2-1 to only designate the facade of the Flower Theatre, a vacant Art Deco movie house, as historic. Preservationists want to preserve the entire building and adjacent strip mall, arguing that new development can work with old construction, like CItyline at Tenley, a condominium built atop a former Sears in Tenleytown.

But Stacy Silber, representing owner Harvey Companies of Bethesda, says that the strip mall's layout and structure can't accommodate future redevelopment, like apartments or structured parking. Councilmembers Leventhal and Nancy Floreen, which voted to save just the facade, agreed.

"If it were financially viable to run a theatre here, there would have been a theatre here a long time ago," said Leventhal. "What is there today is not desirable." But councilmembers did get to look at some proposals for repurposing the theatre from the Flower Theatre Project, a group I co-founded last year, and decided to add language calling for "some kind of performing arts use" there, even if redevelopment occurs.

Doing nothing is not an option

Next up, county planners are working on a plan for Lyttonsville, a historically black neighborhood between Chevy Chase Lake and downtown Silver Spring. The council already approved a plan for Takoma-Langley Crossroads that Montgomery and Prince George's counties worked on together.

The Purple Line will have a huge impact on the communities it serves. Many of them will be positive, but there's also potential for displacement and disruption. However, keeping things as they are isn't an option. Not creating more opportunities for people to live in close-in, transit-served neighborhoods like Chevy Chase Lake or Long Branch will push up housing prices and make traffic worse because more people have to commute from far away.

Even with the DC area's extensive transit network, land near transit stations is a limited and precious resource. We can't afford to waste it.

A planner and architect by training, Dan Reed also writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

Comments

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I want to thank the Council members of MoCo for being so kind as to reduce the economic potential and redevelopment at these locations so that more development will come to Tysons.

Awfully nice of them.

by Tysons Engineer on Aug 1, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

kind of sad

by Richard B on Aug 1, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

Reminds me of an e-mail on the East Silver Spring mailing list after I provoked something of a fight around the Purple Line. I said once again that I'm glad to see as much development as anyone's willing to build in DTSS, since it will mean better shops, services and restaurants for us without threatening many changes in our neighborhood since we're not super close to the metro (but close enough to walk to it, which is why I moved here in the first place). And in response:
. . . [T]he Purple Line is a rezoning scheme. If this were really about transit, MTA would have chosen the option of improving the existing bus systems. . . .
Thousands of trees will be chainsawed if this thing is built. The destruction of homes for the trackbed and other facilities is only the beginning. Just wait for all the special floating and otherwise creative transit-oriented zones the developers will propose and politicians who take their contributions will pursue. People who love their homes and trees and small-scale neighborhoods – like us – will have to fight like barracudas to keep them.
I didn't even know where to start to respond.

by Gray on Aug 1, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

Six to seven stories is an ideal height for an urban street. I don't see the problem with everything not being 14 story towers. Downtown Silver Spring should get the tall buildings while the smaller centers get scaled down. Now 50 years from now, the whole equation might double.

by Thayer-D on Aug 1, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

The Takoma-Langley Crossroads Plan (Montgomery COunty) was approved and adopted in June 2012. I believe the Prince George's County version of the Plan was completed in 2010.

http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/viewer.shtm#http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/takoma_langley_crossroads/documents/takoma_langley_crossroads_sector_plan_adopted_approved_web.pdf

by mvalrie on Aug 1, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D: I know this argument has been hashed out repeatedly in plenty of other posts. But if a building is integrated with the street and has ground-level retail and restaurants, why does it matter whether it's six or ten or fourteen stories?

This focus on limiting the height over all else seems misguided to me, since it's likely to yield shorter buildings with fewer residents and fewer services for everyone, instead of taller buildings with more residential development to support more services. Not to mention that people are going to be demanding residences near these stations, raising prices. At least allowing supply to respond to that could help a bit.

But why not focus on making sure the buildings are designed to provide services to the community and integrate into the streets, instead of working hard to get crappy buildings that happen to be a bit shorter?

by Gray on Aug 1, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

so it looks even with a new rail line costing hundreds of millions of dollars, there is a limit to how much new density can be go there.

I guess more height will be needed downtown after all ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 1, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

@mvalrie

My mistake! The correction has been made.

by dan reed! on Aug 1, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

What will it take to get this region to develop enough affordable homes for federal employees near transit?

by Redline SOS on Aug 1, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

@Gray,
I couldn't agree more that what's most important is that "a building (be) integrated with the street and has ground-level retail and restaurants". And I don't object to 14 story buildings in Langly Park, I simply think 6-8 story streets are more attractive, assuming the street isn't super wide. Also, DTSS has room to transition to the surrounding single family neighborhoods where these smaller centers might find a 14 story building up against single family houses.

I'm all for density, but as an architect and urban planner, I've come to certain aesthetic ideas as to what makes for beautiful streets. Maybe naively, but I think the more people advocate for beauty, both in building form and street scape, the nicer our communities will be.

If most people would prefer to live Paris versus Hong Kong, my only objective is to study why. It's not as straight forward as some of the number crunchers would believe, but it's simply striving for the best community one could have.

by Thayer-D on Aug 1, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D

I think everyone loves the look of the 6-7 story buildings with ground level retail and apartments of office above, however it's a matter of finances. After 4-5 stories, you can't do the building in wood framing, you need steel or concrete, both of which greatly increase the cost of a project, both in terms of materials and in construction technique. What has been said multiple times is there is something about 12ish floors (120-130 feet) that makes that type of construction profitable again. There is a darth zone for developers between about 6 and 11 stories that makes it hard to turn a profit unless it's a very affluent high rent area. The new height limits allowed by Council may still pencil out for the Chevy Chase Lake developers, but would likely not be economically viable for Long Branch, as the rents they could charge won't pay back the construction costs.

The discussion over whether preserving the existing 'affordable' housing is better than allowing new higher density development is another discussion that has played out before. Developers have asked for rezoning along Battery Lane in Bethesda where a lot of old 'affordable-ish' apartments currently are, and the Planning Board was concerned about losing that stock. As Dan pointed out, nothing is keeping the property management from just raising rents or doing renovations now, and making you lose all the affordable housing. The new development does require a minimum of 12% affordable units. Of course, to get an equal number of affordable units for what would be lost in redevelopment, you'd have to increase density what, 700% or something crazy? Not likely to happen, and even if you did, the neighborhood would not retain any of the unique local retailers the residents desire.

Seems there's no good way out in Long Branch. Not redeveloping could mean a total loss of affordable housing if the property management made changes, and developing may guarantee some affordable housing, but probably not the same amount as would be lost. There is also a question of how desirable would even the new apartments be in Long Branch if none of the existing ones were raised. The existing retail options don't appeal to a lot of young professionals, and the cost of rent in the new buildings would still be quite high, and not much cheaper than in downtown Silver Spring, simply because the developers need to make their money back. I have similar questions over the progress in Wheaton and whether we'll see much happen after the current round of construction completes.

The Takoma Langley plan allows for a lot of new density, could become the next 'edge city' for the MD suburbs, if the market fundamentals can make it work. The Bethesda CBD is set for a plan update, with the Purple Line Station limited plan a kick off, so hopefully additional density will be granted to Bethesda, although it's not likely to change much given how much of the core is built out already. Silver Spring still has a fair amount of growth potential left in Fenton Village and Ripley District, the final question is what happens in College Park/Riverdale and New Carrollton.

by Gull on Aug 1, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

Paris isn't relevant. There can be no Paris in greater DC without tearing down acres and acres of 2 and 3 story townhouses (or SFHs in the suburbs) to build 6 story buildings. That is not going to happen. (even 5 story as of right pop ups are controversial - and in most suburban areas 5-6 story buildings on former shopping centers are controversial)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 1, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

So, what's the new planning director got to say... anything??

by SilverSpring on Aug 1, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

Gull,
Actually the Baptist Church project at Fenton and Wayne will be 6-7 stories. It's five stories of sticks on 1-2 concrete stories, quite a common type around here. But regardless of what developers say is their sweet spot, I agree with Dan's point that any property owner will jack thier rents up when the Purple Line goes through, so how do we keep some affordable housing?

The answer is to keep providing what the market seems to demand, which is transit oriented development. That's why I'm always boosting the DC street car plan. Yes people will be priced out of Langley, but we've all been priced out of certain neighborhoods, we just need to keep providing more. Look at NYC with transit everywhere, there are still very affordable neighborhoods becasue the market is saturated with TOD.

I'm not saying 14 stories is a crime, I live one block away from a 14 story behemoeth on a single family street. It's just not the most elegant urbanism. But to say Paris isn't relevant when discussing urbanism and density is silly.

When studying how to best build-out cities, form matters and there's a big difference between Houston and Paris urbanism, beyond the final height they allow. If we have 14 stories, ok, but let's zone transitional areas into the single family hoods. Like Bethesda and Silver Spring show, some of the closer in houses will/should get torn down for transitional areas.

by Thayer-D on Aug 1, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

I'm ok with a somewhat incremental approach. 9 stories is conservative but not crazy for TOD. The lower limits are probably excessively cautious. I've always been a fad of the facade method of preserving historic buildings. Unless the interior is actually special, it just seems like nostalgia fetish to me. In terms of acheiving density at lower height, what about mandating a maximum sq footage per bedroom for part of the development. If you say make it 600 sq ft for a one bedroom, 800 2 bed, 1000 3 bed that could control affordability somewhat. I'm a renter and I certainly feel for people that are uprooted, but I'm not sure it's reasonable the never have to consider moving for like 20 years or more which seems to be what people are essentially arguing for. Of course the other thing is just increasing the area zoned multifamily in general not just by the Purple line but around the county. At the end of the day, no change is just not a reasonable position.

by Alan B. on Aug 1, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

"Look at NYC with transit everywhere, there are still very affordable neighborhoods becasue the market is saturated with TOD."

NYC has (heavy rail) transit everywhere because so much was built pre-ww2, when construction was cheaper, when people accepted big light blocking elevateds through residential neighborhoods, when (pre 1920) the auto was a much less viable alternative, or (from 1933 to 1939) the govt was trying to stimulate employment.

Since 1945 NYC has built precious few new lines. Getting the 2nd avenue subway built has been a 40 year long saga.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 1, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Most Parisians I've met like to complain about how tiny Parisian apartments are. If you mean how many tourists love Paris, well Europeans also love going to New York. Mmost of us love vacationing in pretty/cool places but that doesnt have much to do with height. Hong Kong is and island like Manhattan so that's a bit of a different example as well. I don't think height is irrelevant but we are ignoring so many other factors by making it such a huge issue.

by Alan B. on Aug 1, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

Isn't there already a 16 story building on conn ave 300 feet south of where the station is slated to be anyway?

by Richard B on Aug 1, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

Now that Maryland has a new transportation funding source, work on the $2.2 billion Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton could open as early as 2020 if the state can get matching funds from the federal government.This sentence is confusing. Construction may begin in 2015. The line may open in 2020.

by selxic on Aug 1, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

Actually, NYC grew from street car lines before it vent vertical and upgraded to heavy underground rail as economics dictated. I would love for more metro lines instead of street cars, but where density is today in DC, street cars seem like the right step. As it is the Purple line has been a 20 year saga, so I'll take what we can get becasue the people they are a moving here.

by Thayer-D on Aug 1, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

Now that Maryland has a new transportation funding source, work on the $2.2 billion Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton could open as early as 2020 if the state can get matching funds from the federal government.
Sorry about that last post. I must have messed up my block qoute tags. The sentence is confusing. Construction may begin in 2015. The line may open in 2020.

by selxic on Aug 1, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

Alan,
There are many different height neighborhoods in Manhattan, and with in those ranges, very different quality building stock. Take Soho's 6-9 story building stock vs. the East Side with 10-40 stories on the main streets and 4-10 on the side streets, or the East Village's more village scael. They are all nice in thier own way, but I'd love to see an analysis of which scale/building type most New Yorkers would prefer. That's the kind of study realtors and developers would love also, I would think.

by Thayer-D on Aug 1, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

Downgrading density so early? Sad. Time for some YIMBYers to step up.

by h st ll on Aug 1, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

"Actually, NYC grew from street car lines before it vent vertical and upgraded to heavy underground rail as economics dictated."

Youre missing a step. they went from street car lines (horse drawn before 1880!) to elevateds. Not only the existing ones, but the long gone myrtle ave el in bklyn, the 3rd ave el in the bronx, and in manhattan els on 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 9th.

The pre 1900 els were torn down mostly in the 1930s (but 3rd ave not till the 1950s) 9th and 6th were replaced by the 8th and 6th IND lines in the 1930s. A very unique time.

2nd avenue el was replaced - well its supposed to open soon, right?

The reality is the DC street cars will accommodate some more density, but will certainly not get the transit shares that a street car line in NYC in 1890 got (or that an elevated line got). The strategy of relying on street cars to avoid the hard decisions about the height limit will not work.

I would love for more metro lines instead of street cars, but where density is today in DC, street cars seem like the right step. As it is the Purple line has been a 20 year saga, so I'll take what we can get becasue the people they are a moving here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 1, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

@gull @thayer-d

You guys are fairly spot on about construction but your off a little bit. Most projects you see in this area are going to be one of three types:

Podium and Wood Framing: This is where you have concrete built up to the base of the 2nd floor. From there you'll do would framing of 4-5 stories. 4 to 5 stories is the max that you're going to be able to do with wood where it makes sense. This is pretty much every apartment project on the periphery of the RBC corridor and potomac yards.

HAMBRO: Hambro is the intermediate between wood and a full on concrete system. It's a steel joist system that's more robust than would framing and less than structural CIP conc. This will also be built on top of a concrete podium but allows you to do that extra floor or two (6-8 stories-ish).

Structural Conc: Anything in the 100' range as said above needs to structural concrete. Think most silver spring jobs.

by jj on Aug 1, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

I agree, I've spent a lot of time all over Manhattan and different neighborhoods have their unique charms. When it comes down to it few people can afford to live in Manhattan period. Except for the rich, preferred scale really isn't at play. Extending to the other boroughs and the Jersey side obviously there is a variety of taste. Older buildings are usually shorter largely for historical reasons (stairs, construction technology etc). A lot of the new buildings going up are quite tall.

Markets are segmented. We have a huge supply of attached and detached single family homes under 4 stories in the region. There are quite a bit fewer opportunities to efficiently supply taller buildings. At the end of the day I don't think it matter what the majority want. Giving everyone options is optimal in my book. I personally prefer garden apartments or even row houses, but that doesn't mean I should be telling other people where to live. If it means some single family homes in the area get an extra hour of shade in the morning, I don't think that should be a deal breaker.

by Alan B. on Aug 1, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

I guess I have mixed opinions on this. It is unfortunate that the $2B investment paid for in part by the state of Maryland gas taxes and from grants from the federal government, won't be maximized, with the building heights being limited.

On the other hand, although I haven't visited all of the communities mentioned, this really does seem like a suburban area and new development should be sensitive of that. This isn't Tenley or Friendship Hts, which are on a major corridor and within a suburb, nor is it Silver Spring, Bethesda, or New Carrolton, major activity centers where tall buildings are entirely appropriate.

by 202_cyclist on Aug 1, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

I'd go out on a limb and presume the same people opposing Chevy Chase Lake also opposed the purple line entirely. Because damn it, if they can't stop it, they'll make it as ineffective as possible.

by Distantantennas on Aug 1, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

@jj

to bad we can't add pictures, the Fenwick Station at 2nd and Spring just finished their first floor concrete podium and their starting to cinderblock the stairwells and elevator shafts now. My guess is they want to get that tower crane out quickly and get on to the wooden part.

@Thayer

It would seem like a nice idea to zone for a transition between the CBD's and residential neighborhoods, by making the surrounding neighborhoods the transition, but sadly the opposite has happened. The Metro and the one or two blocks from it get the density, and the rest of the precious CBD land acts as the transition so that not a single NIMBY resident in the surrounding neighborhoods has to deal with a transition. Bethesda has missed out on a ton of density I feel it should have because of this. Silver Spring's commercial core is larger, allowing for a few more blocks of high density before having to step it down.

I'm still not convinced that Long Branch will redevelop that quickly, regardless of the density Council grants it. I just don't see the market fundamentals in that area to justify investment. Just having a new transit line does not guarantee redevelopment, look at PG County. Takoma Langley is no easy sell to me either but I see something happening there first. Neither place will probably show much movement until the purple line is within a year of opening for business.

I really thing PG County is the million dollar wild card for the region. Will the County, or at least parts of it, become attractive enough to spur an urbanization boom near and inside the Beltway, or will it keep building traditional suburban pods outside the Beltway where growth has been over the past 20 years. I'd like to see some new planning thought go into the M and College Park development into making that more of a 'town center' mixed use development rather than a bunch of suburban style office buildings, with the College Park Metro and future Purple line both in play, plus a bridge crossing into the back of the proposed development with a Whole Foods grocer. Thankfully the parcels closest to the Metro have not built yet, so there is still hope.

by Gull on Aug 1, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

Assuming it does indeed get good campus coverage as planned, I'm sure you would see a lot of student/staff activity along the purple line with a couple miles either way. Part of the ridership will probably be mode shift from WMATA/county buses though which they will need to account for. Also considering the ongoing drama with public schools in DC, you might see an increasing shift of families going back to suburbia as long as they still have transit access and break even on rent or even save some money.

by Alan B. on Aug 1, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

Gull,
I think you're hitting on an important point. That of the incredibly underused PG stations. It's as if that part of the region didn't exist, yet the proximity to DC is on par with Moco.

The elephant in the room seems to be nimbyism and how to deal with it. Again, a vision of how the city ought to grow should be made public and presented in a large model form at the Building Museum. I really think one could defuse a lot of the fear and hostility with a plan that is both public and shows an even distribution of growth.

As it is, the discussion sounds like a mini Friendship Heights want's to descend in to every Purple Line stop rather than that growth being a part of an overall vision of how the city should grow.

I agree with most here though that shying away from being controversial won't do, so it becomes a matter of how best to educate the public. Part of that is taking popularity tests as to what people like (if one could chose a growth model) and part is demonstrating that the poorer communities aren't getting the shaft at the expense of the richer communities.

by Thayer-D on Aug 1, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

@ 202_cyclist, I'm not sure if you're refering to Chevy Chase Lake or Long Branch with this:

On the other hand, although I haven't visited all of the communities mentioned, this really does seem like a suburban area and new development should be sensitive of that. This isn't Tenley or Friendship Hts, which are on a major corridor and within a suburb, nor is it Silver Spring, Bethesda, or New Carrolton, major activity centers where tall buildings are entirely appropriate.

Chevy Chase lakes could be a thriving activity center. It's a stone's throw from the beltway on Conn. Ave. There's really no reason that this shouldn't be, except for the "it's always been a suburb and it always will be a suburb!" line of thinking that people have.

Similarly, Long Branch could also be a thriving activity center. it sits at the intersection of two major roads.

Instead, we see dingy, single story strip malls and a lack of community spaces. Worse, we know that communities like that are generally unfriendly to pedestrians, so keeping the status quo likely means keeping people in cars, and for those who cannot afford cars, navigating streets that frequently lack adequate pedestrian facilities.

by Birdie on Aug 1, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

*and within a city (the perils of multi-tasking).

by 202_cyclist on Aug 1, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

Chevy Chase Lakes is also a bit discrete from the surrounding suburban community. It's not like you're gutting the heart of an existing neighborhood.

For the record, I like the new plans.

by Crickey7 on Aug 1, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

@ Birdie who wrote: "This isn't Tenley or Friendship Hts, which are on a major corridor and within a suburb..."

I think this is the essential development flashpoint in Washington, DC. Parts of Tenley or Friednship Heights are on a major corridor, Wisconsin Ave. (like Connecticut Ave. in Chevy Chase). Yet much of these neighborhoods are definitely suburban in character. When you think of it, the old "L'Enfant City" contains the most urban part of Washington, yet other parts of DC were planned and grew up as suburbs. In recent decades, this is what caused them to thrive (and become sought after) as neighborhoods -- inside the Beltway location but relatively quiet, leafy residential areas -- when other parts of Washington lost population starting in the late 1950s. And in recent years, people have paid a premium for semi-suburban living -- think Cleveland Park, Chevy Chase DC or AU Park as other examples just in Upper NW alone. So major development plans that threaten the fundamental character of these neighborhoods engender real push back.

by Jasper on Aug 1, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

I mean I can feel for people in NW that don't want to see their neighborhood change, but if the alternative is essentially no growth in affordable/multifamily housing (or growth so far out that it doesnt work for many people) thats not a place you can negotiate from. Needing to preserve your 10 minute drive to downtown from Adams Morgan (I had a colleague that did that) is not a valid point to start debating from. When easy solutions like allowing accessory dwellings are shot down, then you can't reasonably argue that other places "elsewhere" should be targeted for all the growth.

by Alan B. on Aug 1, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

Don't build up in the dense parts of the city until other areas outside the city are built up because people who live in the dense parts of the city don't want them built up further, but don't build up areas outside the city because people who live there don't want them built up further.

Every backyard has its NIM.

by worthing on Aug 1, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

@gull

You can add pictures to comments; just takes a little bit of html

inside of <>

put img src=" address of the picture "

Bingo bango

by Tysons Engineer on Aug 1, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Don't build up in the dense parts of the city until other areas outside the city are built up because people who live in the dense parts of the city don't want them built up further, but don't build up areas outside the city because people who live there don't want them built up further.

This isnt the city, it isnt the cities money. It's MD and MD's money. The area of MD we are talking about is right between Silver Spring and Bethesda, the densest, most downtowny part of MD outside of Baltimore.

by Richard B on Aug 1, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport

This idiotic move comes as no surprise from the incompotent county council that effectively killed redevelopment in downtown Wheaton (literally on top of the Metro station) and have now watered down two other TOD sites. A 150ft max was a decent compromise and made the most sense. Of course the council isn't entirely to blame though. Chevy Chase (on both sides of the DC/MD border) has one of the most vocal and vociferous NIMBY populations in the entire DC Area.

However, despite Tysons Engineer's claims to the contrary this move won't drive redevelopment 30+ miles away. Instead, currently established and growing urban areas with plenty of room to grow: Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, etc will see even more mixed-use, high density development.

New Carrollton, in particular, should finally begin to develop into a true urban hub. The Metroview development which will have the MD Dept of Housing as a future tenant will eventually have 350ft+ skyscrapers.

by King Terrapin on Aug 1, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

@King Terrapin:

What is the timeline for the Metroview development? There were some massing drawings of this posted on Skyscrapercity the other day.

by 202_cyclist on Aug 1, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport

@King Terrapin - You hope ;) We'll see I guess. I know one thing, Tysons is all YIMBY. Last time a developer came by to talk to my condo building the only questions were, how soon till you will be done, where can I find out info about retail space rates, and have you considered building more and taller.

by Tysons Engineer on Aug 1, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

@202_cyclist

I'm not sure of the timeline of the entire development, but seeing how ambitious it is I would say at least 10 years for full delivery. The contract for the MD Dept. of Housing portion requires groundbreaking groundbreaking no later than 1st Quarter of calendar year 2014 and delivery within 18 months following groundbreaking. I also think there's a requirement for residential development within a specific timeframe after that.

@ Tysons Engineer

CC Lake is very different from Tysons. It's a very old residential community with a wealthy, older population (=perfect formula for NIMBYism). White Flint/North Bethesda is probably the closest analogue to Tysons and they're moving full steam ahead with zero problems issues with NIMBY's.

BF Saul recently proposed four 300ft buildings. This is in addition to JBG's existing 289ft building and it's future 300ft sister (to break ground by the end of the year), plus FRIT's 300ft proposed office building at Pike+Rose.

by King Terrapin on Aug 1, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

@King Terrapin/Dan Reed:

Do you have any renderings/information for BF Saul's White Flint project? I have various reasons to be excited about this. I read the Bethesda Patch article a few weeks ago but couldn't locate info beyond this.

by 202_cyclist on Aug 1, 2013 4:54 pm • linkreport

@202_cyclist

Yes! I wrote a post about the BF Saul project for Friends of White Flint a few weeks ago. And I've been following the construction at Pike + Rose as well.

by dan reed! on Aug 1, 2013 4:57 pm • linkreport

The cold, hard economic reality is that the 'affordable' available housing for single-income federal workforce families, whether single-family or multi-family is likely to be found in Germantown. No amount of upscale densification in Chevy Chase, or raised height limits in DC is going to change that economic reality, as developers of new projects close in, tend to price near the upper end of the market.

by Sally on Aug 1, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

Sigh, not that again. New units are expensive, but building new units is necessary to allow older units to filter down.

" No amount of upscale densification"

No amount? really? There is an infinite supply of rich people who want to live in the region? new hirises spontaneously generate affluent people?

Of course if and when rents do come down, the response will be "see, we don't need more density to bring prices down"

heads I win, tails you lose.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 1, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

the colder harder economic reality is that when you limit the supply of something, you raise the price.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 1, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

Large amounts of "upscale densification in Chevy Chase" will keep well-off folks who want new housing from gentrifying humbler neighborhoods throughout MoCo. You see, we're all in this housing market together.

by Payton on Aug 1, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

Newer things tend to cost more than older things. I don't think anyone has argued otherwise.

by drumz on Aug 1, 2013 5:44 pm • linkreport

"Chevy Chase (on both sides of the DC/MD border) has one of the most vocal and vociferous NIMBY populations in the entire DC Area."

I have to disagree. I would say that the neighbors who stalled the Giant Renovation project on Wisconsin Avenue for more than a decade would easily beat the Chevy Chase NIMBYs hands down. Their bickering and litigation turned the block of Wisconsin Avenue between Newark and Macomb Streets into an eyesore. When that Chinese Restaurant and GC Murphy left that block fell into disrepair. That the new development is finally under construction is a miracle. So I would say that those residents who lived on that stretch of Wisconsin Avenue have those in Chevy Chase beat.

by Rain17 on Aug 1, 2013 9:40 pm • linkreport

I don't know how many times I can post this, bring it up with the planners of the Purple Line etc. I guess logic is not relevant to the discussion.

How many people have been asked if they would ride the light rail Purple Line? Punch line - zero!!

Billions of dollars, already way over budget and zippo research on who will sue it - genius at work!!

by mwesternsr on Aug 1, 2013 9:42 pm • linkreport

I think that the line will probably help PG County and bring in new development. What I always thought was holding the county back from getting the development that went to Fairfax and Montgomery Counties was the lack of decent public transportation. The Bus, PG County's version of Ride-On, doesn't even run on the weekends. The Metrobus service that does exist in PG County runs once an hour and stops running pretty early, especially on the weekend. In the southeastern part of PG County the service is even much more limited. Some buses only run once every four hours on the weekend.

by Rain17 on Aug 1, 2013 9:56 pm • linkreport

@ mwesternsr

Seriously?

Yeah the federal govt is going to through $1 billion at a light rail line without any ridership studies...

FYI the ridership estimate for 2020 is 51,200 daily, which would make it the 10th busiest system in the nation (and twice as busy as Baltimore's current system).

How can the project be "over budget" if construction funds haven't even been allocated yet? As far as I know the EIS and engineering work has been within budget. The total cost estimates keep going up, but that's going to happen to any very large infrastructure project that's been on the back burner for so long.

by King Terrapin on Aug 1, 2013 10:37 pm • linkreport

"It's true that new apartments in Long Branch will be more expensive than what's there now. But not building them means that landlords in old buildings will just raise the rent when the Purple Line opens because there will be more demand to live there. "

Good article, Dan. While the Council's "intent" may be to preserve affordable housing, once the Purple Line comes through, won't the existing buildings simply be remodeled and rents raised, commensurate with proximity to transit (which always costs more). Does anyone think these currently affordable apartments will remain affordable?

by Tina Slater on Aug 2, 2013 8:39 am • linkreport

@Rain 17--

I'd have to disagree about the Wisconsin Ave. Cathedral Commons project being the prime example of NIMBY overreach. I think that there are better examples. The problem with CC is that may turn out to be the cluster@#$% that some of the NIMBYs warned about. DC DDOT told the community and the zoning board, "don't worry, we got this" when it came to traffic impact. Fast forward two years, and new DDOT management is acknowledging that they (or their predecessors) messed up, but project is under permit and underway and DDOT planners are throwing up their hands on how to deal with anticipated traffic impacts. Some of the intersection redesigns are already two years behind schedule. DDOT even goofed on the width of one of the access streets and is now paying to widen it.

by Sally on Aug 2, 2013 9:13 am • linkreport

Sounds like a good effort by those Don't Flood the Lake folks to preserve some of the neighborhood character. I guess sometimes John Q. Public can beat City Hall, at least temporarily.

by Chris S. on Aug 2, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

@Chris S.

One might also argue that the "little guys" in this issue aren't the wealthy, connected homeowners in Chevy Chase Lake (nor the elected officials and landowners, of course), but the people who get priced out of Chevy Chase Lake and eventually Long Branch because the lack of close-in housing options makes the area prohibitively expensive.

by dan reed! on Aug 2, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

@Dan Reed - exactly.

by Ronit on Aug 2, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

@ dan reed: "One might also argue that the "little guys" in this issue aren't the wealthy, connected homeowners in Chevy Chase Lake (nor the elected officials and landowners, of course), but the people who get priced out of Chevy Chase Lake and eventually Long Branch because the lack of close-in housing options makes the area prohibitively expensive."

On any given day, a few suburban moms and dads don't really seem like much of a match for developers and politicians. They caught a break this round. Their buddies at Save the Trail have not been so lucky.

To the pricing issue, if adding transit and dramatically increasing density in the area would cause nearby SFH prices to fall then it is a great plan. But I am guessing SFH prices are more likely to rise, making it even more difficult for families to try to buy close-in SFHs.

by Chris S. on Aug 2, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

Okay, let's get real. The people who participate in the public process represent a very, very small portion of all of the people who actually live in a community, and they're usually the ones who have the time, the wherewithal and the connections to make themselves heard.

Consider that neighborhoods in and around Chevy Chase Lake have a median household income of over $150,000 a year, are 80-90% white, and basically all have bachelor's and master's degrees, it's obvious that we're not talking about Erin Brockovich. This is a small group of affluent, educated, well-connected people within a larger community of affluent, educated, well-connected people. And they're often the only kind of people who get to participate in a public process with politicians and developers.

Frankly, calling these folks John Q. Public is an insult to the amount of privilege and influence they actually have in our community. The vast majority of people in Montgomery County don't participate in discussions like this because they can't due to time constraints (like having to work for a living) or because they don't know/don't care what's going on.

by dan reed! on Aug 2, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

@ dan reed who wrote "The people who participate in the public process represent a very, very small portion of all of the people who actually live in a community, and they're usually the ones who have the time, the wherewithal and the connections to make themselves heard."

Watching the film "Our Nixon" last night was a timely refresher that the "silent majority" argument has always been such crap. And in any event, who's to know which way the silent majority leans?? There are usually activists on all sides of an issue.

by Sally on Aug 2, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

@Sally

You're right, we don't always know how people in the silent majority feel about an issue because they aren't participating, though in Vancouver, city councillors generally estimate that if 30% of speakers at a public hearing support a controversial or emotionally heated issue, it's a sign of broader public support of it.

by dan reed! on Aug 2, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

"And in any event, who's to know which way the silent majority leans?? There are usually activists on all sides of an issue."

except in development issues we can have a pretty good idea. They will often have a (arguably) negative impact on folks who live nearby, while having positive benefits (such as tax revenues) to all residents of a jurisdiction - the folks nearby are more likely to be vocal. The opponents are more often homeowners, who tend to be more heavily represented in community groups (esp in suburban areas(than renters).

As for Nixon, I would say the results of the 1972 election largely showed him to be correct in his evaluation of pre-Watergate public opinion towards him and his policies.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 2, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

@Dan Reed--

Our Neighbors to the North may be a more docile and polite bunch. Washingtonians (or MoCo denizens) tend not to be shy about expressing their views, pro or con. There's a lot about Canadian politics that doesn't translate to the U.S., and vice versa, despite a long, common border.

by Sally on Aug 2, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

@A Walker (in Va, right?)

Depends on the circumstances. If a development project is to be located in an area that has a shortage of retail or that is already dense, the immediate community may support it wholeheartedly. However, if you propose a big project in Chevy Chase or the Palisades, a majority of the community may value quiet and safe streets and neighborhood character over "vibrancy" and $20 designer drink bars. Add to that the fact that in recent local sagas, so-called "astro-turf" (i.e., faux grass roots) groups "seeded" by private interests have begun to spring up, and it gets complicated.

by Sally on Aug 2, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

However, if you propose a big project in Chevy Chase or the Palisades, a majority of the community may value quiet and safe streets and neighborhood character over "vibrancy" and $20 designer drink bars.

It's also hard for supporters to argue against straw-man arguments like these.

by drumz on Aug 2, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

"Depends on the circumstances. If a development project is to be located in an area that has a shortage of retail or that is already dense, the immediate community may support it wholeheartedly. However, if you propose a big project in Chevy Chase or the Palisades, a majority of the community may value quiet and safe streets and neighborhood character"

Im not saying locals always oppose, but that the broader county or city interest is likely to be more positive still.

" over "vibrancy" and $20 designer drink bars."

Where does retail life mean only 20 drink bars? Not even in widely derided Clarendon.

" Add to that the fact that in recent local sagas, so-called "astro-turf" (i.e., faux grass roots) groups "seeded" by private interests have begun to spring up, and it gets complicated."

There is dishonesty to go around - like folks concerned about the impact of development on parking, who claim to be concerned about a bike trail, lets say. I personally am not aware of any developer sponsored astroturf groups.

I am all too aware of astroturf groups supported by the Koch Brothers and other hydrocarbon interests who have distorted our entire national discussion on climate change, transportation, and urbanism.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 2, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

"However, if you propose a big project in Chevy Chase or the Palisades, a majority of the community may value quiet and safe streets and neighborhood character over "vibrancy" and $20 designer drink bars"

chevy chase. Im not sure that a "large" project in CC would make the streets less safe, and from what I can gather Conn Avenue already is less than completely quiet. But this would bring more density to Purple line, close to DC and right between Bethesda and DTSS. It would create more housing, increasing supply in a costly area. It would like mean less sprawl and fewer VMT. Good for MoCo, for the region, and for the planet. While the region and the planet do not get a vote, at least the parts of MoCo not close by should get a say.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 2, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

Dan

"who get priced out of Chevy Chase Lake and eventually Long Branch because the lack of close-in housing options makes the area prohibitively expensive."

no one will get priced out. Supply and price are unrelated.( I think the good folks of MoCo might want to check on the econ thats taught at their community college, because if its like econ taught anywhere else, it says supply and price ARE related, and why should they waste money on falsehood?)

Or alternatively, the folks who get priced out deserve it, because they don't work hard enough or save enough.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 2, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

That's the thing, these debates usually boil down to what a neighborhood "means" and that's a value judgement. So then it's left of officials to look at the facts and then make the best decision. That usually means the TOD gets built with reductions in density as political cover rather than any rational basis.

See also: Portland's re-intro of parking minimums.

by drumz on Aug 2, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

Sally--With all due respect I'm glad that Cathedral Commons is under construction. That block between Macomb and Newark streets on Wisconsin Avenue has long since been an eyesore. Some of the people in that neighborhood just don't want any change. I think that the project will be fine.

by Rain17 on Aug 2, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

The sheer disingenuousness of self-interested NIMBYs hiding behind "what about my property values?!" and then running around and tarring anyone who supports development with "you're Astroturf" boggles my mind.

Weeknight shouting matches make a farce of public participation by empowering only a few strident reactionaries. I would be really hard pressed to think of many TODs where a post-occupancy poll of neighborhood residents would still find a large number of opponents.

by Payton on Aug 2, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

(To put it another way: I don't speak up in favor of development for a cash return. NIMBYs usually speak against development for what they think is a cash return.)

by Payton on Aug 2, 2013 5:12 pm • linkreport

Or the dissonance that building TOD there will raise prices and will drive out the poor while building TOD here will lower prices to the detriment of the neighborhood.

by drumz on Aug 2, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

Payton--

That's largely true in Arlington. Arlington's genius is that if TODs get a parking waiver, the "TODlers" can't park their cars on surrounding streets. So they're basically forced to use transit or Zipcars, and the project sponsors are forced to stand behind their representations to the council or whatever. Parking and even traffic impacts on the neighborhoods are lessened because the TOD is forced to work as a true transit-based development. A number of folks have said DC should follow Arlington's template, but for some reason the Office of Planning doesn't want to commit to Arlington's example.

by Alf on Aug 2, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

I had to chortle when I read Dan's description of the people who live in Chevy Chase Lake. Dare I suggest many of the people who read and comment on this blog probably fit those categories? Lots of degrees? Household income $150K and above? White? Have connections? Not only do these descriptors fit many of GGW's readers and commenters, but they fit the people who work in the development industry itself. ..."they're usually the ones who have the time, the wherewithal and the connections to make themselves heard." Development companies employ PR firms and attorneys, fund smart growth "alliances" and donate generously to political campaigns to peddle that influence. The people in those PR and law firms and others get paid to attend hearings, write letters and talk to decisionmakers, as opposed to residents of a neighborhood that will bear the brunt of proposed development who often use personal funds and limited free time to try and counter the profit motivated influencers.

The fact is, the planning process actually encourages and is supposed to give some weight to the residents of an area that is undergoing master plan review or major development. That is reflected in the notification process, and the greater time allowances for neighbors who testify at various hearings. And the people who are most directly affected by big changes that affect their daily lives - traffic, potential for school crowding, degradation of the environment, etc. - should have a say. This blog hosts lots of self appointed experts who enjoy expressing their opinion, mostly pro-density, on neighborhood development. Who are these self appointed experts to pass judgment on the at-least equally important voices of people who live in areas to be redeveloped?

Companies who are in this game to maximize their profit, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing, need to be balanced by others who have a longer term commitment to the community and to the environment. The profit motive is a strong one. Quality of life and preserving the environment often take a back seat to maximizing profit. I appreciate the efforts of ordinary citizens to modify, mitigate and often improve some of the more "out there" proposals.

by LIDMaryland on Aug 3, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

@LIDMaryland

And that's my point. When it comes to education, access, money, etc., the "ordinary citizens" of Chevy Chase Lake are a lot closer to the developers and elected officials than they give themselves credit for. Just look at how much time and money their next-door neighbors in the Town of Chevy Chase and the Columbia Country Club have spent fighting the Purple Line.

The Don't Flood The Lake folks and "the development community" may have different interests in this case, but this is by no means a David vs. Goliath struggle.

by dan reed! on Aug 3, 2013 6:15 pm • linkreport

"Development companies employ PR firms and attorneys, fund smart growth "alliances" "

CSG is funded, IIUC by the Piedmont Environmental Council, which has opposed development and new highways in rural areas. If its funded by developers, its an odd group of developers.

" This blog hosts lots of self appointed experts who enjoy expressing their opinion,"

If their opinions are wrong, disagree. In the blogging world, what matters is your ideas, not whom you represent.

" mostly pro-density, on neighborhood development."

This is a blog largely sympathetic with urbanism, walkable places, etc (which often means density). THere are many voices on the internet in the other direction.

" Who are these self appointed experts to pass judgment on the at-least equally important voices of people who live in areas to be redeveloped?"

They are people expressing their opinion. In the USA one is allowed to pass judgement.

"Companies who are in this game to maximize their profit, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing, need to be balanced by others who have a longer term commitment to the community and to the environment."

except limiting density has consequences for the environment. Limiting density near transit is not a position that deserves to get the right to the proenvironmental lable. PEople protecting their parking by fighting a hi rise near a transit facility may want to feel like some brave person fighting mountain top removal - but thats not the reality.

People are going to live somewhere. If we stop density, it will mean more sprawl.

That may be why the firmest opponents of urbanism at the national level are defenders of sprawl, like Kotkin, Cox, O'Toole, etc. It may not feel comfortable for folks in Chevy Chase to be aligned with the Cato Institute or the Koch Brothers, but there it is.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 5, 2013 9:52 am • linkreport

It's amazing that a big argument presented by urbanites is the huge assumption that sprawl is inevitable. It is not. Sound politicians and residents with a real love for Maryland and long term vision and commitment to her can ensure this ongoing supersaturation ends. Maryland has always been suburban yet multi-residential, mix-use developers have encroached over the DC border for decades leading to the inevitable unsustainability of once beautiful residential areas.
What seems to me more amazing, however, is how loud urbanite transplants recklessly embrace spending billions of our taxes to turn Maryland into another DC or NYC, yet think nothing of using those funds to fix what we already have, like roads, bridges, schools, etc.
Wouldn't it be better if urbanites migrate (back) into DC and reclaim that awesome city?

by OGregory on Aug 8, 2013 6:06 am • linkreport

One the one hand, you have monied self-interest (mostly liberal democrats) who are fighting a mass-transit option. On the other, you have "liberal hipster urbanites" (of which I am not one) who are fighting for more mass-transit and density around existing and planned mass transit.

In this binary discussion, who is more progressive and has the longer view in mind?

I would say "certain" Montgomery County residents are nervous about change, but to label the County with that is a misnomer. The County needs to purple line to better target infill development and to provide a much needed mass-transit option going east west between major suburban centers.

To start with the tin-foil hat conspiracies about developers and funding for organizations like CSG, or the whole trail versus rail is just noise.

by William on Aug 8, 2013 7:17 am • linkreport

Just curious. Where in Landover does anyone desperately need to go...and how will they get anywhere after that. Bus? If the destination is anything like Silver Spring, then $2.2 billion plus millions a year is a whole lot of expensive whinning. Prove that the Purple Line will produce that kind of job creation then we xan start to talk. The best that Maryland Senator Rosapepe could come up with was a stammering "Everyone knows it works in Europe".

by ogregory on Aug 8, 2013 8:42 am • linkreport

Sometimes, a little digging is necessary to tell astroturf from real grass roots. I recommend that you check out the feature article on page 8 in the July/August 2008 issue of Building in Maryland and Washington DC, a publication of the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association. While there are some members of the groups associated with the organization described who are not aware of this background or the source of some of their group’s funding, the individuals that decide what projects to support seem to understand it.

by OtherMike on Aug 8, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

"Maryland has always been suburban "

Maryland used to be rural, with a big city in baltimore, and some small cities like Silver Spring.

MoCo BECAME suburban because people moved from DC.

DC is being reclaimed. But the demand in the region for WUPs is higher than can be met in DC alone. Plus people who work in suburbs and want WUPS dont necessarily want to reverse commute.

and yes, population must go somewhere.

by AWalkerIntheCity on Aug 8, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

What is clear is urbanites can't or won't answer the questions and for good reason. Responses that include a trip down 1800's memory lane or some pro-urbanization article in 2008 (pretty sure the housing market crashed around then) are plainly irrelevant.
The fact remains that this notion of urbanizing suburbs has been been tried several times before, usually at the end of each development cycle. Each time problems that come as a direct result of oversaturated urbanization have been made worse.
The running joke, for instance, has become watching politicians pour billions of tax payer dollars into building mass transportation to solve gridlock only to see overcrowding come back to the same roads and mass transportation a couple of years later, because developers have been effectively allowed to escalate the growth of vertical residences.
"and yes, population must go somewhere"
If DC isn't being reclaimed fast enough, may I suggest telecommuting from say Virginia.

by ogregory on Aug 9, 2013 2:01 am • linkreport

@ogregory

A simple question. How much greenspace is available such that "we" can continue to build an ongoing succession of cul-de-sacs and strip malls to serve the current suburban paradigm?

How many more cars can the roads absorb before they hit total gridlock? How many more lanes can "we" add to existing roads to accommodate single occupancy vehicles?

You write as if there is a never ending supply of land to dedicate to roads, lanes and single family homes. It is really the "experiment" of the post World War 2 era that is the aberration in human history. The movement now is to simply correct the mistakes that accommodated the baby-boomer generation.

That is and was a failed experiment.

by William on Aug 9, 2013 7:15 am • linkreport

William,
"You write as if there is a never ending supply of...". No, I have written about oversaturation due to overdevelopment,
whether it is horizontal or vertical ...yet by some miracle you have managed to argue my point, thank you.

by ogregory on Aug 9, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

@ogregory, The 2008 article in the Building Industry Association (on page 9) describes how a partner at a major law firm, the manager of their land-use practice, formed an group whose main purpose was to obtain zoning approvals for projects that faced local opposition. The law firm partner was the director and this Astroturf organization. The organization testified regularly in support of controversial projects. A number of familiar groups are associated with that organization. You might also be interested in a book called NIMBY Wars, written by consultants who have been hired by a number of Washington area developers. In that book, they describe some of the things they have done on behalf of developers to create the impression of widespread support for their projects, including creating Astroturf groups or taking control over the agenda of existing local groups. Some area projects are described in their case studies. This is a firm that worked both sides of the street. They were also profiled in the Wall Street Journal for “clandestine operations” that they had done on behalf of some supermarket chains to generate opposition to market entry by Walmart.

by OtherMike on Aug 9, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

Well we have local examples where a combo of transit and other planning have led to densification and lower traffic. Arlington especially. Turns out if you plan for walkable places then people start walking to places.

by drumz on Aug 9, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

Most commute FROM virginia?

Right now MoCo folks are commuting more to NoVa, because there aren't enough jobs in MoCo.

MoCo can attempt a no growth policy. Neither densification nor sprawl. That will not stop sprawl in Frederick. Which will congest your roads. Maybe you can get the smart growthers in Annapolis to try to stop that.

Meanwhile your aging housing stock will age more, impacting your tax revenues. Meanwhile Fairfax, which has the successful model of Arlington next door, will keep eating your lunch.

by AWalkerIntheCity on Aug 9, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

@ogregory

I am referring to an ovesaturation of cars, roads and pollution. You seem to be referring to an oversaturation of people.

There is a huge difference among the impacts of the two. Quite frankly, an "oversaturation" of people can be a good thing in terms of supporting local retail, mass transit etc. The other simply makes for more and bigger roads and exhaust.

What is your point?

by William on Aug 9, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

OtherMike, thanks I will. It only makes too much sense.
Guys, Arlington is you're example, seriously? The fact is when populations cram into limited land space beyond its ability to sustain it in real terms, it overwhelms and degenerates its infrastructure, land use and resources. The cost to replace infrastructure alone is so high that it overwhelms government budgets which has little choice but raise taxes or ignore repairs. What comes next is the mass exodus of residents and a devaluation of property value and prices. Now, use the same limited amount of land but this time stack the residents on top of each other and see if the outcome is any different.

by ogregory on Aug 9, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

William. Wow!

by ogregory on Aug 9, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

yeah um, none of that has happened and isn't predicted to happen either. Arlington has lower property taxes than Fairfax or Loudoun. And traffic on local streets is lighter than it was in 1980.

http://www.smartergrowth.net/news-parent/news/arlington-is-booming-and-traffic-fantastically-remains-at-1970s-levels/

by Canaan on Aug 9, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Arlington has steadily gained population every decade since 1980... or about the time when Metro went in.

From Wikipedia:
"CNN Money ranked Arlington as the most educated city in 2006 with 35.7% of residents having held graduate degrees. Along with five other counties in Northern Virginia, Arlington ranked among the twenty American counties with the highest median household income in 2006.[39] In August 2011, CNN Money ranked Arlington seventh in the country in its listing of "Best Places for the Rich and Single.""

Not exactly a place facing a death spiral.

by Alan B. on Aug 9, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

"The cost to replace infrastructure alone is so high that it overwhelms government budgets which has little choice but raise taxes or ignore repairs"

actually the cost per person for building and maintaining infrastructure is LOWER in denser places. There are economies of scale in providing infrastructure. Note we are comparing someplace like Arlington or Bethesda with someplace like Clarksburg or Ashburn. The low infrastructure costs associated with pre-industrial rural areas are not relevant here.

by AWalkerIntheCity on Aug 9, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

@Canaan, Have you seen any studies that actually compare traffic on local streets today with traffic in 1970 or 1980? The link that you provided doesn’t really do that, and to the extent that it included links to real data, there was no comparison with past traffic, but it did link to a survey showing, for example, that 62% of business leaders in Arlington drive alone to work, and 55% of all workers in Arlington drive alone to work. To support your claim, you need traffic counts for the streets through those Arlington neighborhoods as well as traffic counts for the parallel streets which cars might use as an alternative if, for example, Wilson is too congested.

by OtherMike on Aug 9, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

Othermike

rte 50 IS where traffic would divert to from Wilson. There arent neighborhood streets other than the arterials studied (those and clarendon/Ffx blvs) that are parallel - ArlCo isnt that complete a grid. The side streets are not continous enough mostly.

and why would anyone divert to them when the arterials aren't that crowded?

You should actually come to arlington and spend some time there. You will understand it better then.

by AWalkerIntheCity on Aug 9, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

You'll be hard pressed to find one road that travels through the all of the same areas wilson does. You've got 66 and 50. Wilson is the local alternative to those roads. Otherwise you're dealing with a lot of turns and dead ends.

Anyway, pages 15-16 show that the population along the R-B corridor has doubled while traffic on wilson basically remained flat (going down on other roads). http://www.datatrans.org/9-28-05DATATOD.pdf

Or here by the county that shows lower counts through several intersections couple with explosive growth in transit usage (not just metro but buses as well).
https://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/Commissions/CrystalCityCRC/Documents/Presentations/file81922.pdf

by Canaan on Aug 9, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

And in comparison to many other jurisdictions the fact that over a third of "business leaders" (and about half of everybody else) arriving at via anything other than driving themselves is a huge difference.

The EPA is estimating that half of arlington workers take transit to work. With 73% of of transit users walking to stations.

http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/pdf/phoenix-sgia-case-studies.pdf

When the county is growing anyway, you mitigate traffic impacts and the per capita cost of upgrading/expanding infrastructure is lower. If the county doesn't grow it'll be growing somewhere else. People are having more children than there are people dying off. They're all going to live somewhere.

by Canaan on Aug 9, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

@AWITC, I used to go to Clarendon in the 1980s when it was an interesting, walkable area, but I have been back a few times more recently and the interesting, unique destinations were gone, replaced with generic stores and restaurants. They seemed like the type of businesses one would frequent if you lived or worked in the area, but nothing worth making a special trip for.

@Canaan. Thanks for the links. I had seen the claim on traffic made frequently, but had never seen any data. The second link has useful traffic counts, but I might have missed the footnotes indicating the dates and the source.

I found the information on household travel from the Arlington presentation interesting, with households on the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor averaging 2.7 weekday auto driver trips with an average of 17.4 driver auto miles travelled per week, which was lower than some areas, but not DC. And 45% of household trips are made as a car-driver, with another 13.4% as a car passenger. With a Metro station in each neighborhood and neighborhood serving retail, entertainment and restaurants, I would have expected the car trips to be a smaller percentage of the total. To me, it still seems to indicate that the area has a way to go before it can claim to be supporting a largely car-free or car-light lifestyle.

by OtherMike on Aug 9, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

Well it can always be better. But that's the thing, it's been getting better year after year. That's why it's celebrated.

And you can dislike the stores that have gone in but it remains a very active neighborhood at all reasonable hours. It's popularity often leads to generic-ness. Government's focus should be neighborhoods walkability,use and transit so that people don't have to drive whether its to Applebee's or some cool, unique place.

by Canaan on Aug 9, 2013 5:51 pm • linkreport

"@AWITC, I used to go to Clarendon in the 1980s when it was an interesting, walkable area, but I have been back a few times more recently and the interesting, unique destinations were gone, replaced with generic stores and restaurants. They seemed like the type of businesses one would frequent if you lived or worked in the area, but nothing worth making a special trip for."

actually there are quite a few places worth making a special trip for - at least from places like Annandale or Falls Church. Maybe not all the way from MoCo. And yes, the Viet Namese community has moved on. Immigrant communities often do that.

The point is that from a design and transportation perspective it works.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 9, 2013 7:51 pm • linkreport

Once you got to Clarendon, it was a walkable place. But you had to drive to get there. That's the problem, 99% of trips were in cars. 45% would seem to be less than half of that.

by Neil Flanagan on Aug 9, 2013 8:15 pm • linkreport

@ogregory

We aren't talking about favalas here, which is the type of hyperbole many opponents of change seem to express ("Don't flood the lake" as but one example). You seem to imply that there will be an overdensification of people. I don't agree.

It is better to concentrate development where infrastructure already exists, rather than paving over new arable green space. Adding new people supports placemaking, retail and walkability. It also expands the tax base with a much smaller environmental impact.

While Purple Line opponents don't see it now, proximity to the Purple Line will actually increase their house values as many transportation investments have done in the past.

Just look at the neighborhoods clamoring for Citibike and Capital Bikeshare, after fighting docks initially as an example.

by William on Aug 10, 2013 7:10 am • linkreport

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