Greater Greater Washington

Is a walkable neighborhood out of reach for you?

Are you getting priced out of being able to live in the kind of neighborhood you want? Do you wish your neighborhood had more local stores and other amenities in walking distance? Please tell your story below.


Photo by Oliver Sholder Photography on Flickr.

At recent hearings on planning and zoning issues, we've been hearing from a lot of activists who say that everything is just perfect now, so nothing should ever change.

Next week, DC's Zoning Commission will hear testimony on parts of the zoning update including accessory apartments (which would let a homeowner rent out a basement or garage) and corner stores. There will be a lot of people testifying there, too, that their neighborhoods are perfect just the way they are, and zoning needs to block any new people or stores.

But everything is not perfect and we can't simply ignore the skyrocketing costs of housing for people across the income spectrum.

This idea that we should freeze neighborhoods in amber ignores the huge numbers of people who can't afford a place to live in a walkable place near transit, especially not one with enough room to grow a family. Or they can afford an old house in a cheaper neighborhood, but that contributes to displacing long-time residents of those other neighborhoods. And they see not just gentrification's benefits, like safer streets and new shops, but also its harm from higher costs.

Either DC plans a way to keep up with its housing demand (which still outstrips the new units getting built), or it sees the city become out of reach for many people, from young professionals starting their careers to fixed-income retirees and legions of lower-income residents.

Adding housing doesn't have to mean skyscrapers or 6-story density everywhere or anything in particular, but it does mean finding places to put the 122,000 new units DC needs (and the same for walkable places in other inner jurisdictions like Montgomery and Arlington) somewhere, rather than sticking our heads in the sand and thinking that if we don't change a thing, then our current housing problems won't get any worse.

What about you? Are you finding that housing prices keep you from being able to live where you would like to? Or do you wish that you could have more corner stores or other retail walking distance from your home?

I'd like to collect stories about what residents and prospective residents want, beyond just the same voices that show up at hearing after hearing. A lot of you can't go to all of these hearings because you have day jobs, families, and/or things to do. But your experiences matter as well.

Please fill out the form below. I will forward your stories to NCPC and the Zoning Commission. It asks for your real name and address, because these decision-makers want to know the real people sending the opinions. In addition, the text you write will get posted to this article as a comment, but it won't include your real name or your address.

And it's still not too late to sign up to speak at the zoning update hearings next Wednesday on accessory apartments and Thursday on corner stores.

Thanks!

This survey has ended, but you can still participate in the discussion on this issue by posting a comment on this article.
David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

Add a comment »

I live in Southwest DC and would love for there to be more places to shop and eat in my neighborhood. I live decently close to a Metro now and very close to a bus route (that is in danger of being eliminated), but would love to live even closer to the Metro if I could afford it, as I don't own a car. Improvements like the Wharf and possibly the new DC United stadium are coming to my area, so it's quite possible I will be priced out of my neighborhood if more housing doesn't come on the market to meet the increased demand.

by Steven Yates on Nov 1, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

Even though I live near dupont metro and only about a mile or two from my office downtown, I still drive to and from work and park in the garage below the building because it's faster than the metro or walking. I wish the train was more comfortable.

by mrsmithie on Nov 1, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

I'm a young professional, with a decent salary, and I'd like to be able to walk to more things, but the more walkable places in DC are too expensive for me. I fear that even the less walkable areas are quickly becoming too expensive as well. It seems that the DC region is quickly reaching the limit of the number relatively affordable, walkable areas. My neighborhood (Petworth) is decent but not great, and the areas farther from downtown become very suburban and unwalkable very quickly. Grocery stores in my area are a long walk away, and I have to bike to get a lot of places, which is fine but I'd prefer to be able to walk to more. The less expensive, more suburban areas show no signs of densifying as they become more expensive, making them unappealing for me. I don't want the expense or hassle of owning a car, and unless these suburban areas become more walkable, I may be forced to buy one. If I can't afford to live in a walkable area in DC, it is highly likely that I will look to move elsewhere, maybe Baltimore.

by Worried on Nov 1, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

What is funny about that is that there are two real estate assets in DC that are basically overpriced: single family houses and crappy rentals.

the rest are expensive, but this is an expensive area to live. If you don't make 100K -- or plan to in the near future -- you probably shouldn't be living in the Washington DC area. And you defintly should not be buying.

by charlie on Nov 1, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

@mrsmithie

Even though I live near dupont metro and only about a mile or two from my office downtown, I still drive to and from work and park in the garage below the building because it's faster than the metro or walking. I wish the train was more comfortable.

Is your parking at work free?

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

@charlie
I am genuinely mystified as to where you think people who earn less than $100K should live, if not in the 'Washington DC area'.

What you write is nonsense anyway, there are hundreds and probably thousands of homes available in DC proper for <$200K. Ok, they're in areas where people don't want to live right now, but considering Bloomingdale is now hot property, that may change.

by renegade09 on Nov 1, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

Live in NOVA, work in DC, want to live in a WUP closer to work, empty nesters looking for a 2BR, may end up looking in South Arlington or in Alexandria or even Baltimore instead of DC. Anything that works in DC is just a tad too expensive.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 1, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

Ok, they're in areas where people don't want to live right now,

I know where those are. If I tried to move there my wife would divorce me.

If DC wants more households like mine, "go live in Deanwood" is not the answer.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 1, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

@ charlie:If you don't make 100K -- or plan to in the near future -- you probably shouldn't be living in the Washington DC area.

So, where are all the cleaners, clerks, fast-food employees, starting managers, plumbers, nannies, teachers, electricians, sales people, etc, etc, etc supposed to live? Aquia? Hagerstown? La Plata? Charlottesville? And how are we going to get those people to and from the walkable areas where they service those people that make k$100?

But in seriousness, what DC needs to do is just build housing in all price categories. Not just luxury yuppie stuff with some token affordable housing for the very poor. There should be options for those making k$40-k$100 a year. They may not have a yard or a swimming pool, but that is very acceptable to most people.

It will be difficult to do thought, because this means that you have to accept that TOD development is not always hugely profitable.

by Jasper on Nov 1, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

And how exactly do you get people to build "housing in all price categories"?

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

I think one of the biggest issues is that there are few housing options in the middle range in walkable, safe areas. There are occasional condo developments with set asides for people who meet income qualifications, but I make far too much to qualify for those even with my mid-range federal salary...

by Katie H, on Nov 1, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

Market demand drives housing prices, and as long as construction continues at this pace, supply will exceed demand, and prices will come down.

DC's current economic boom will not continue for long, and building booms almost always outlast the economic booms. Once this economic bubble bursts, and it will, DC will have many affordable options, especially for renters.

The only thing that bugs me is the escalating property tax rates that often price out people who already own their homes. For example, my grandfather bought his house in Capitol Hill for $15K, yet his latest tax assessment was about $400K, even though no major improvements have been made to the house in over 40 yrs. Appeals have not done much to significantly lower the rate. That's simply unjust and wrong, and is a slap in the face to all the fixed-income elderly residents whom this largely affects.

@ renegade09

Well, there are at least 300 DC houses and condos on the market sub $200K, a majority of which are move-in ready. Some of them (condos) are available in desirable areas as well.

@ EmptyNesterCouple

That's nonsense too. Arlington and Alexandria have higher avg. home prices than DC, and the inventory is much, much more scant.

by Burd on Nov 1, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

I already live in a wonderful neighborhood. I would like more close retail (which is coming, but not fast enough). Also, the upgrades to the SW waterfront area should benefit all not just a select few.
I also think parking at housing/buildings is somewhat necessary. Until there is a total cultural/generational change and reliable 24 hour affordable public transit appears, cars are still going to be a vital mode of transport (car sharing notwithstanding).

by DCSW on Nov 1, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

@Burd: I'm gonna need to see some evidence of these "condoes for under $200k in desirable areas in DC." I'm assuming they are studios, right?

by dcd on Nov 1, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

I live within easy walking distance of metro, grocery stores and one or two restaurants. We pay a ton in rent but I would only rate our neighborhood as pretty good/OK. Pennsylvania Ave SE near Potomac Ave has potential to be a great neighborhood-serving street but it is still plagued by crime, insufficient pedestrian amenities, and empty spaces.

by jonglix on Nov 1, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

We won't be moving to an average home, we will be looking for a particular home that works for us.

Thats easier to find in South Arlington and Alexandria, in part because there are a fair number of units there built between 1980 and 2000, a period when very few new units were built in DC. There are of course some nice older buildings in the parts of DC that were established before 2000, like DuPont and upper NW, but those neighborhoods are very pricey. The newer neighborhoods have very little product older than 2000 (and no, we will not move to a basement unit)

There are some neighborhoods that are almost competitive. Brookland maybe. But I work in near SE, and Brookland is hardly more convenient than Alexandria or South Arlington, has more crime, and is not as close to our existing social networks.

Southwest waterfront is probably the only viable option. Maybe. But even it is pricey, considering its walkability issues, and the age of the housing stock, and crime issues.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 1, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

"For example, my grandfather bought his house in Capitol Hill for $15K, yet his latest tax assessment was about $400K, even though no major improvements have been made to the house in over 40 "

I am surprised there is a liveable house anywhere on Capitol Hill whose market value is that low.

I checked out one on Hill East that needed some work, and was listed over 500k - it did have a relatively large lawn though (not that I would want that.)

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 1, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

I was forced to move out of the DMV area after graduating from American. Living with 4 other people in a 2 bedroom apartment isn't appealing to anyone I think, and even then I wouldn't be able to afford it. This is disappointing to me because I loved DC, I wanted to stay there, there were job prospects in DC. But because of the cost of housing, I had to move back to NJ and back with my parents.

So much for raising a family in DC.

by RRuszczyk on Nov 1, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

Burd,

Your grandfather doesn't get to take advantage of the homestead act? I thought that's why it was passed to protect homeowners from huge hikes from increased assessments.

by Drumz on Nov 1, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

@EmptyNesterCouple
Southwest waterfront is probably the only viable option. Maybe. But even it is pricey, considering its walkability issues, and the age of the housing stock, and crime issues.

I just moved out of SW (to buy a house in a "scary" neighborhood that's been anything but scary, but that's another story), and while I agree that affordability is an issue--it's why we moved, there's no houses under $300K and we didn't want a condo--I disagree about crime and walkability. The Safeway is centrally located, walkable from almost every corner of SW. It's been slow, but additional retail and dining is being established. All the great amenities of Near SE are a quick walk across S. Capitol. Crime is much lower than people think. People seem to think SW is a warzone, which I just don't get. It's not. I lived there five years without issue, and across from a public housing project, no less. My ground floor apartment was broken into exactly zero times, and I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I forgot to lock the back door (a converted rowhouse).

@Burd
For example, my grandfather bought his house in Capitol Hill for $15K, yet his latest tax assessment was about $400K, even though no major improvements have been made to the house in over 40 yrs. Appeals have not done much to significantly lower the rate. That's simply unjust and wrong, and is a slap in the face to all the fixed-income elderly residents whom this largely affects.
There are numerous programs designed to defer these property tax increases for senior residents. You should look into them. And of course the value of his home has gone up over the last 40 years! Are you suggesting the tax burden should remain fixed at what the purchaser paid for the property?

by Birdie on Nov 1, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

The only thing that bugs me is the escalating property tax rates that often price out people who already own their homes. For example, my grandfather bought his house in Capitol Hill for $15K, yet his latest tax assessment was about $400K, even though no major improvements have been made to the house in over 40 yrs. Appeals have not done much to significantly lower the rate. That's simply unjust and wrong, and is a slap in the face to all the fixed-income elderly residents whom this largely affects.

He has a house that has quintupled in value but can't afford ~$250 a month to live in it? Actually if you get the senior citizen deduction it cuts that in HALF!

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

@mrsmithie

I live three blocks from the Dupont Metro, but have the time and financial "luxury" to drive to my office in Alexandria if I chose to. That said, I might use my car once every few months, and only if I have to move something heavy. Not only do I find a Metro commute less stressful in general, I'm also quite happy not to contribute to the mess on the roads. If you don't enjoy the walkability and accessability of the city, I can't imagine why you'd live in Dupont in the first place.

by sproc on Nov 1, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

I do feel really sorry for the Millennials. It's sometimes hard to afford rent in the cool, vibrant neighborhoods where you want to live, especially when you go out almost every night of the week. Life isn't fair when you have to settle for a share of a group house, a 15-min. walk from the Balston metro.

by Sally on Nov 1, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

"Do you wish your neighborhood had more local stores and other amenities in walking distance?"

Yes! In DC, such a place sounds a lot like Cleveland Park. Yet over on another thread, folks seem hellbent to fix something that works pretty well, that neighborhood's commercial district on Connecticut Avenue. It makes sense if the priority is to force out a number of local stores in favor of more upscale chain restaurants and bars.

by Jasper2 on Nov 1, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

I live in a pretty good neighborhood, but I'd like to have more places to walk to--for instance, a corner convenience store would be really great for when you need the basics quickly. I'd also like to buy, but it's really tough to find an affordable place in an area that's as walkable as I'd like, with good transit access and cool neighborhood amenities. I don't own a car and don't want to pay for parking, so if I can get a cheaper option that doesn't include parking, I'd love it!

by Dan Miller on Nov 1, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz

I think the Homestead Act provides an exemption for only the first $67.5K of the assessment. Yes it helps, but the real problem is that the tax assessment is too high. Just b/c outsiders move in, renovate and sell homes at ridiculous prices shouldn't mean a resident of over 50 years should see his assessment jump so high.

by Burd on Nov 1, 2013 3:08 pm • linkreport

I get the free parking under the building from my firm because they can do it tax free under IRS commuter parking benefits. I guess if I didn't have that I would take the train a few stops.

by mrsmithie on Nov 1, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

@Burd: I think the Homestead Act provides an exemption for only the first $67.5K of the assessment. Yes it helps, but the real problem is that the tax assessment is too high. Just b/c outsiders move in, renovate and sell homes at ridiculous prices shouldn't mean a resident of over 50 years should see his assessment jump so high.

--The Homestead Act does provide an exemption for the first $67.5K of value, but it also prohibits a tax bill increase more than 10% per year. So my next door neighbor's house is assessed at 280K, but only taxed at 190K.

by ZetteZelle on Nov 1, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

Walkable urban centers cover less than 1% of the land area of Greater Washington. Yet those are where everyone wants to be: almost half of new development is squeezing itself onto that 1%. People are voting with their feet, and their wallets, for walkable urbanism, and it's time that our zoning regulations reflect that with new housing options and a broader choice of uses.

I live in Southwest Waterfront and would prefer to have more shops and services near home. Even though my neighborhood is only semi-walkable today, it's what I can afford (walkability commands a tremendous market premium), and I hope that current plans for neighborhood improvements materialize.

by Payton Chung on Nov 1, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

@ MLD:And how exactly do you get people to build "housing in all price categories"?

Euhm, the way you get people to build anything at all: Zoning.

by Jasper on Nov 1, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

I live in a walkable suburban anomaly: Old (OK, "Historic") Greenbelt.

Our goals out here in the burbs are totally different. We're not priced out, we're blocked apart, at least outside of our micro-neighborhoods.

We're trying to reconnect other suburban walkabout mini-nodes (parts of College Park, parts of Hyattsville, parts of Riverdale/Bladensburg area) in a transit grid for non-car users (mostly bike and bus, plus Green Line metro).

Anything GGW can do to help our state and local officials understand both the livability and economic development potential of redeveloping our inner suburbs around bus and bikeability out here in Sprawlville?

by Greenbelt on Nov 1, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

I just moved out of SW (to buy a house in a "scary" neighborhood that's been anything but scary, but that's another story), and while I agree that affordability is an issue--it's why we moved, there's no houses under $300K and we didn't want a condo--I disagree about crime and walkability. The Safeway is centrally located, walkable from almost every corner of SW. It's been slow, but additional retail and dining is being established. All the great amenities of Near SE are a quick walk across S. Capitol.

I didn't mean it's not walkable at all. If it was it wouldn't be on our radar. But I mean enough walkable amenities, and high enough quality walkability, to offset the costs relative to the NoVa WUP's, the distance from our social network, and the relative crime.

BTW I've walked across South Capitol Street. Thats a traffic sewer and a barrier.

Crime is much lower than people think. People seem to think SW is a warzone, which I just don't get. It's not. I lived there five years without issue, and across from a public housing project, no less. My ground floor apartment was broken into exactly zero times, and I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I forgot to lock the back door (a converted rowhouse).

Again if it was a warzone, it wouldn't be on our radar. But when your spouse has been mugged several times before, you are sensitized even to minor crimes, and even to perception. The places we are talking about in NoVa are not close to public housing - well except for Old Town, which has major offsetting advantages, and for places the new afforable housing on Columbia Pike in Arlington, which looks less scary than Greenleaf.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 1, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

Homestead deduction removes ~$67 or $69k from your assessment. If he is a senior citizen there is relief that cuts your property taxes in half. And that stacks with homestead.

Just b/c outsiders move in, renovate and sell homes at ridiculous prices shouldn't mean a resident of over 50 years should see his assessment jump so high.

Why not? The assessment is supposed to measure how much a property is worth!

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Jasper
Euhm, the way you get people to build anything at all: Zoning.

There are places where the zoning requires you to only charge $X in rent? Or not sell for more than $Y? Examples?

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

@MLD:
Yes. Take a look at Montgomery County's MPDU law, for example.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 1, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

I guess I assumed things like MPDU fell under the maligned "token affordable housing" that was being complained about.

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

@ MLD:Examples?

You should be able to just regulate that through average unit areas, or density.

The problem in DC is that the demand for housing is so high that builders can not keep up. Hence, the most profitable projects are that ones that developers are putting their efforts in. There are two ways to mitigate this distortion of the free market: Either increase the amount of available buildable land, or force developers to market to the entire market, not just the most profitable part.

The key here is understanding that the 'free market' can not solve this problem, because the market is constrained, not free. Once you accept that there is no free market, you can try to figure out how to use regulation to make the constrained market more like a free market would.

by Jasper on Nov 1, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

Euhm, the way you get people to build anything at all: Zoning.

Zoning does not 'get' people to build things, it restricts what can be built. It is a constraint, a regulation.

We need more housing in DC, the market demands it. The main constraint is not a lack of demand, but rather a lack of permission.

At a bare minimum, we need to take a few small steps towards liberalizing some of these rules to allow the market to work. As Payton notes, people are already voting with their feet; the market demand for walkable urban places is tremendous, if we can just get (some of our regulations) out of the way.

by Alex B. on Nov 1, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

I live within walking distance to a metro stop; however that's the only really good part about where I live, and it is the only reason I am paying what I am paying. If the metro stop weren't there, no way would the rent be that high. There is not much else around, and it would be nice to have at least a grocery store close enough to walk to.

As far as corner stores, I would do a blanket outlaw of new 7-11s, CVSs, liquor stores, check-cashing places, and cell phone places. I can see two 7-11s from my house for goodness sakes; how many does one area really need.

I'm afraid this town, and even the area, is turning into a place where you have to be rich or poor to live, no in-between. If you're in the middle, you're on your own. Just being in the middle will make you way over-income for any rental/home-buyership assistance. And obviously being in the middle, you will find it very difficult to make good on market rate. And I don't know how to make it better. As much talk there is about building more transit accessible developments and what not, the fact of the matter is there is only a finite amount of land available within walking (1/2 mile?) distance to a metro stop. I think because of that fact, supply will always be limited, and rents will reflect that. Just look at the rents of new places that have been built, or are being built near metro stops. At least in the "desirable" areas. I suppose PG County has many underutilized metro stations, and we could see what rents would be like if/when they ever get developed.

by Nickyp on Nov 1, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

He has a house that has quintupled in value but can't afford ~$250 a month to live in it? Actually if you get the senior citizen deduction it cuts that in HALF!

@MLD: If his property value quintipuled it woudl be worth $75,000. It's worth $400,000, more than $26 times what he purchased it for.

@Burd: You're forgive me if I have a hard time feeling bad about that kind of increase in property value. As other have pointed out, the Homestead deduction and the senior citizen deduction help keep the taxes down. Beyond that, what should be done about this? Should everyone's property values for tax purposes be frozen as of their purchase date? Should he not have to pay property taxes? Neither of those are viable options.

by dcd on Nov 1, 2013 4:11 pm • linkreport

to NCPC and the Zoning Commission -- For several years I have lived in Brookland, a wonderful, long stable and diverse neighborhood currently undergoing significant change. It's deeply important to me the neighborhood evolve in a way that serves not only the longtime residents (ie, my family), but those who want to live in the city and become longtime residents of walkable, sustainable, diverse and affordable communities. As you conduct the public process for this overdue examination of DC's zoning laws, please don't fall prey to reductive, fearful worries that any change whatsoever will lead to a parade of horribles. As the last two years have demonstrated, change is coming to Brookland and to the greater metro area, whether folks like it or not.

by dognbirch on Nov 1, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

If his property value quintipuled it woudl be worth $75,000. It's worth $400,000, more than $26 times what he purchased it for.

I was including inflation in my calculation. Purchase price of $15k 40 years ago is about $85k just from inflation.

by MLD on Nov 1, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

@Greenbelt

If you are interest in Metrobus service improvements to the Route 1 corridor to make the service faster, more reliable, and easier for riders to use, please come to the WMATA public meeting scheduled for Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at the Hyattsville City Hall, Municipal Building (1st Floor Multi-purpose Room), 4310 Gallatin Street, Hyattsville, MD, anytime between 6:00 and 7:30 pm.

At the meeting, potential service improvement options for Metrobus Routes G8, 81, 82, 83, 84, 86 and T18 will be presented to riders for their comments. These improvement options include new limited stop services between College Park Metro, New Carrollton Metro, Rhode Island Avenue Metro and downtown; local service improvements to the Rhode Island Avenue corridor; improved service frequencies on existing routes; and span of service changes.

by Douglas Stallworth on Nov 1, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

Hello all, I think non subsidized reasonably priced housing is alive and well in the greater DMV area. Presumably with a cheap used Toyota car (say maybe $4000 purchase price), you should be able to reasonably commute and work in an area that has 9,331,587 people (making it about the fourth largest population center in the United States) coupled with probably the highest median wages in the country, be that job a highway beggar, garbage man, useless GS-13 paper pusher etc. What does this mean, many jobs, and many opportunities to work through the ranks. My progression was this, having already owned the used toyota. Moved here in spring of 2012, obtained a one bedroom month to month in fredericksburg, commuted to a temp job in Rosslyn, got a more permanent job in downtown fairfax, moved to fairfax, (rent for a craiglist one bedroom increased to $1400), recently moved to a small one bedroom (550 sq feet) english basement($995/month) in unincorporated Montgomery county (now I am a 35-40 minute bike ride to Logan circle, even with full friday night car traffic). With the added benefit of being able to commute anywhere, to Loudoun county, downtown Baltimore, downtown dc, Stafford county, Tyson's Corner, Annapolis, etc.. The only thing that would turn housing on its head is elimination of all municipality, state and federal zoning laws. The dc skyline sucks, lets face it, now maybe if there were a few 1600 footers piercing the sky, you'd have one fantastic skyline. Public housing creates slums, and destroys individuals' lives, therefore it should be eliminated. The Great Society indeed...had exactly the opposite effect LBJ wanted. More private highways like the ICC in northern Maryland, that can charge whatever toll they want, in fact the federal government should sell off the beltway to a private toll operator. I have a dream, that every human can own there own private single family home. Thanks for reading.

by Bill on Nov 1, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

Like Steven Yates, I live in SW DC and would like more non-restaurant stores. We haven't had a bank in several years, and I wish there were a hairdresser and hardware store too. As a new homeowner, we make lots of little trips for things like caulk, flowerpots, a spare key, etc. I don't know if it's that commercial rents are too high for anything other than selling food and drink, or if there are other factors at play.

by sbc on Nov 1, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

If people can only afford a certain size unit in a neighborhood they want to live in, those smaller units should be available. Unfortunately zoning usually blocks that by limiting the # of units in a building to an unreasonable maximum.

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 1, 2013 5:06 pm • linkreport

@ ZetteZelle

"The Homestead Act does provide an exemption for the first $67.5K of value, but it also prohibits a tax bill increase more than 10% per year. "

What's your point? My grandfather still pays about $200/mo in property taxes, and the tax assessment is going up by almost 6% next year!

I also own a property outside of DC where that city's mayor has committed to lowering property taxes, and my tax assessment has been CUT by 30% in the last year alone, even though home prices in the neighborhood and citywide have risen on average.

@ MLD

"Why not? The assessment is supposed to measure how much a property is worth"

After 40 years of no major renovations, the building has not really increased that much in value. At this point it would need to be completely gutted and renovated, new appliances, windows and all.

A more fair tax assessment would take the sale price from when the house ($15K) and account for inflation, which would give it a value of about $142K. Even still that would be unfair b/c the house is in such poor condition that no one else would want to live in it without first renovating it.

@dcd

"As other have pointed out, the Homestead deduction and the senior citizen deduction help keep the taxes down. Beyond that, what should be done about this"

The high assessment based on what SOME of the neighbors paid for their homes, is what's wrong. Imagine you and most of your neighbours bought your homes for about $250K, which was well within your means at the time. And within one year, your neighbourhood received publicity and A FEW people began moving in, tearing down homes, and selling them for $5 M. Then let's say you had a bad flood, and now your home has mold throughout, requiring a complete tear-down. I guess you'd be happy to get a new property assessment of $2M for a house you bought for $250K and has been badly damaged, b/c SOME of your neighbours bought their homes for millions, right?

In truth, property taxes are feudalistic in nature, and really represent that you don't really own your land at all, but that you lease it from the government. It is nothing but modern serfdom. Worse, when a government can just raise property taxes without regard for the condition of the property or the inhabitants' income, and then put liens on your property if you can no longer afford to pay the higher tax rate, then it really amounts to government theft and a blatant disregard for property ownership rights.

So unfair assessments is what's driving many away from walkable neighbourhoods in DC.

by Burd on Nov 1, 2013 5:07 pm • linkreport

If you can't affect the supply side of housing why not work the demand side? How about a housing surtax so that everyone has to pay 40% of their take home pay toward housing until nobody does?

by Steve S. on Nov 1, 2013 5:13 pm • linkreport

@DougS Thank you.

by Greenbelt on Nov 1, 2013 5:20 pm • linkreport

We can easily add density to much of the city without changing it's character much at all. Just allow alley housing, as is done in Toronto and Vancouver, and WAS done in DC (with no parking permit allowed for these units). Much of Philly's density was achieved this way. So many garages could be turned into housing for more people. If the demand isn't there, no one will build them, but I'd bet that since people are willing to live is Adams Morgan apartments with only skylights, there are likely significant parts of the city where this would be quite successful, adding significant density and an affordable option for many people. All this without demolishing anything but a few garages.

by TransitSnob on Nov 1, 2013 5:27 pm • linkreport

@ ALex B:Zoning does not 'get' people to build things, it restricts what can be built. It is a constraint, a regulation.

We need more housing in DC, the market demands it. The main constraint is not a lack of demand, but rather a lack of permission.

I must have poorly explained myself. You are almost making my point, but entirely not.

My argument is that the market is constraint by the fact that the demand is wayyyy bigger than supply can possibly meet. If left alone, of course developers will only develop the most profitable projects, i.e. for the very very wealthy. In an unconstraint market, they'd run out of wealthy people to build for, and start building for normal people. Problem solved.

However, because new buildings come up so slow, that will not happen for decades in DC.

So, DC has to make a choice. Will it let a distorted market run free and ignore the middle-class. Or will it use zoning to restrict building for only the wealthy, hence forcing developers also to build for people with a median salary.

I hope this is more clear.

@ NickyP: Exactly.

by Jasper on Nov 1, 2013 6:55 pm • linkreport

Hill East is starved for more retail and services. We benefit from easy access to transit and to jobs and services in other parts of town, but we desperately need more amenities within walking distance.

On a broader scale: we should not ignore that while many of those opposed to change portray themselves as disinterested citizens concerned about aesthetics or the impact of traffic or 'others' on their neighborhood, the reality is that many of them benefit financially from the status quo. Simply put: they have theirs, it is increasing exponentially in value due to the scarcity of similar housing options and they could care less about younger generations and those new to the region. I have lived in the District for 20 years and have personally benefitted from the ridiculous increase in the value of my house. But to oppose new development in order to keep the price of my own house artificially high seems to me like the height of selfishness. The District desperately needs more housing of all types and price levels in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods near transit.

by rg on Nov 1, 2013 7:20 pm • linkreport

I'd love to live in the Marais in Paris, but I can't afford it. So, clearly the authorities should tear down the Place des Vosges and put up a 30 story condo. After all, shouldn't we increase supply until there exists no further demand? Doesn't everyone have a right to affordable housing in the most desirable parts of any city?

by JM on Nov 1, 2013 8:15 pm • linkreport

I live in Southwest as well and would love for more retail, entertainment options, bars, and restaurants to be created in the area. I was at the Southwest community kickoff meeting on September 11 and it was dominated by a group of elderly people admonishing every sort of new redevelopment idea. "We don't need change!" seemed to be the mantra, and that could not be further from the truth for the future of the area and DC as a whole.

by Simit Bhandari on Nov 1, 2013 9:15 pm • linkreport

hey I am a senior at Towson University with graduating in December 2013. I am an intern at GSA and after my graduation, I will converted to a full time employee. I currently live with my parents in Prince George's County, but I would love to be able to move into the city. I have about $10,000 saved up and currently I'm weighing my options between buying and renting. Both are extremely expensive, and I find most of the rent in apartments in the city are too expensive for me to afford on my own. That's basically my housing dilemma in a nutshell.

by Kyle on Nov 2, 2013 12:03 am • linkreport

Jm,

Most here aren't asking for government to make housing cheaper. They'd rather see the market be allowed to work so that private enterprise can provide living spaces to those that want to live in a neighborhood. I mean how much veto power should someone have over someone else's property?

by Drumz on Nov 2, 2013 12:28 am • linkreport

Are you accepting stories from outside of DC as well for people who want to move closer in but are priced out? We have accepted a significant decrease in total available space (from 2300 sqft/3br+den to 1150 sqft/2br, no den) to move to a place which was more transit-accessible. However, the complete unavailability of decently-priced apartments closer in, the closest we can afford is Vienna, where we are spending close to 50 percent of our monthly income to cover living expenses. To add insult to injury, because of the ever-increasing cost of Metro, and the ever-declining service, we are obliged to have a car, at considerable expense, which we use primarily to commute in as even factoring in the cost of gas, parking in DC, and depreciation, for two people it makes far more financial and time sense to drive in. We have seriously looked every year for four springs running now to move closer in to DC, but we have been unable to find a place that is affordable, designed to maximise space (the number of apartments that waste space on diagonal walls is astounding), and in a neighborhood that is safe. I do not want to spend my entire life looking over my shoulder or wearing a bulletproof vest.

by Alternatives on Nov 2, 2013 12:53 am • linkreport

I live in the Fairlawn neighborhood near Pennsylvania Av., SE.between the Sousa Bridge and Minnesota Av. SE. I would like to see more stores East of the River on PA Av SE. We have Anacostia Park which has been recently rehabilitated and is a wonderful place to walk, have a picnic, play team sports, swim, etc.

by Carol Casperson on Nov 2, 2013 7:13 am • linkreport

What kind of damage (i.e. drywall, bathroom tile, etc.) will result from leveling a home? Thanks in advance. You didn't mention how or why the house is out of level. Has the foundation failed? Have the beams or sills rotted? Are the floors sagging or weak? Without those answers, it's pretty hard to give you any specific answers but here http://monolit.webuda.com are a few guidelines. If the whole house is out of level or uneven due to the foundation, you will probably be best served having a house mover pick the whole house up, have the foundation repaired/replaced and then having it reinstalled on the new foundation. If the foundation is OK but the structure of the house is failing, you may be able to have it repaired in place.

by bilaabign on Nov 2, 2013 8:43 am • linkreport

@Burd: I'm not sure where to begin. Your claim that the assessment is “unfair” is completely off-base. You completely ignore the land value component to assessments. Teardowns are sold all the time in this area for $500k, just because the property is worth that much to the buyer. At all but the lowest and highest price points, land value accounts for a significant portion of a property’s assessment. Shrugging that off and saying, “but the house is in bad shape!” neither changes economic realities nor is likely to sway tax assessors. No, tax assessments are not perfect proxies for a home’s actual value (i.e., what he could sell the house for), but there is some relationship. It’s certainly a lot more accurate than the $142k (or less) than you suggest.

I’m not sure what the point of your story about the flood was, but it has nothing to do with your grandfather, who purchased his home 40 years ago and had seen steady appreciation. This is hardly a revolutionary concept. (And as an aside, your hypothesis that a home valued at $250k one year could be assessed at $2M two years later because of a couple of teardowns in the neighborhood is . . . well, let’s just say far fetched. But even if true, it’s not something to get upset about. As I said above, assessments bear a rough relationship to the actual market. The situation you describe is a lot closer to winning the lottery than it is to economic tragedy.

Despite your first comment, you don’t seem to have a problem with the tax rates – it’s the assessment that bugs you. And you admit that renovated properties in the area have sold at much higher prices. So how’s this for a solution? You think a “fair assessment” would be something less than $142k – let’s say $100k for argument’s sake. Fine. You grandfather pays taxes $100k of assessed value. But when your grandfather passes, or decides to move, the house is sold on the open market (no interested party sales), and he (or his estate) keeps $100k, and the rest goes to the city. Sound good?

I didn’t think so.

by dcd on Nov 2, 2013 8:55 am • linkreport

My community is affordable, but it all comes down to amenities are must haves within walking distance. I live in a condo Hillcrest/Fairfax Village. I live within walking distance of a post office, locally-owned pharmacy, convenience store, one of the nicer public libraries, hike/bike trail, and two recreation centers. I do have to travel to another neighborhood for groceries (Safeway near my house is a biohazard), restaurants, bars, and other retail.

The public transportation system here is decent. We have a dedicated bus that serves my community between 15-30 min headways depending on the day and time. We also have 3 rush hour limited stop buses (39, M2, and v5) that have 15 min headways. Thanks to bikeshare we have a 5 min bike ride to access the 30s and 90s buses.

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Nov 2, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

In a couple of months I am moving from an apartment near the Navy Yard metro to a market rate condo in the Sheridan Station development near the Anacostia metro. I would like a grocery store within walking distance of the Anacostia metro, a drug store, a dry cleaners, a sit-down restaurant, etc. As a middle class professional, I will be living in Sheridan Station, but will have to spend my income in other neighborhoods, like the Navy Yard, Barracks Row and Eastern Market.

by Darin on Nov 2, 2013 9:43 am • linkreport

My wife and I wanted to buy our first home in the DC area in a walkable area close to a metro stop to access our jobs downtown. We wanted to be within a mile of the metro. All downtown neighborhoods were essentially out of reach, as we didn't want to share an older 700sqft 1 bedroom condo with massive monthly fees.

So we looked in the eastern red line corridor, and were priced out of Brookland, Rhode Island Avenue, and even Fort Totten. Single family homes and two-bedroom condos within a mile of metro are not affordable for families making under $90k per year except for some areas in PGC.

We ended up getting very lucky with a stretched budget and found a small 2 bedroom house in Takoma Park, just over a mile from the metro. Our area is not truly walkable, but we like it. Housing prices continue to rise, and had we tried to buy this year, we probably wouldn't have found our house or a similar one.

by TakomaParker on Nov 2, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

My partner and I moved here from Atlanta so that she could take a job on the faculty at Gallaudet. Shouldn't being an Assistant Professor at a university earn us enough money to afford to live in the city where she works? Our aim was to buy a modest place and fix it up. We found an old house in need of repair in Kingman Park for $265K -- a neighborhood with little gentrification, but within walking distance of amenities. On the day that we bid, so did 5 other parties. The final offer was accepted for $50K over the asking price and in cash! How could we compete with that? We quickly realized that we, a middle class family, could not afford to buy a place in the city. We now live in Mount Rainier, MD. A nice community, but we use our cars every day. I'd love to live in a dense enough area to walk/use the Metro as my main form of transportation, but in order to do that we'd have to rent (not buy) an apartment and throw away thousands each month in the District.

by Andrea J on Nov 2, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

None of the above apply to me. I live in a wonderful safe, walkable neighborhood, Chevy Chase DC. However, I am retired; and the mortgage on my condo has been paid off. If I were starting from scratch, I could never afford to live in my current home. I think that there are thousands of middle-aged or elderly people in the same situation in all the more affluent neighborhoods in DC. It doesn't seem as if there are reasonably priced starter homes anymore. However, some well paid professional young people can afford
to buy condos.

by Jeff Norman on Nov 2, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

It's bloody insane that the cost of housing in US cities with good employment opportunities (i.e. DC, Bay Area, NYC, etc.) is so high -- especially considering that these cities aren't necessarily truly spectacular places to live. Instead, landlords simply hold tenants hostage by virtue of their desire to find decent employment. When you can live in a truly spectacular place like Barcelona for 1/3 the price of DC, you know there's a lot of greed-related problems at work.

by James on Nov 2, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

Here's how we can help solve this crisis:

1.) Eliminate mortgage interest tax deduction for most individuals (the wealthy don't deserve this for vacation homes, the upper-middle class and middle class can live in slightly smaller homes) --> reinvest that money in public transportation and housing (rental) subsidies.

2.) Enact 21st century rent control -- landlords have no right to excessively profit from the provision of shelter. Paris is doing a great job: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/07/new-rent-laws-aim-keep-paris-becoming-only-rich/6187/

3.) End DC's height restrictions...everywhere. Let's face it: DC is not Paris, it's not Barcelona, it's not even London -- it's a fairly non-beautiful city with some interesting street patterns and monumental buildings. This will help with supply.

4.) Enact congestion charging for downtown DC (as well as SW, the monumental core and parts of Capitol Hill and SE). Use this money to fund public transportation improvements (i.e. increased bus frequency and service as well as advanced build-out of trolley system) so that less desirable parts of DC now have robust bus service. Those individuals contributing to climate change and congestion -- while benefiting from low-cost, giant-sized housing in the suburbs -- should have to pay the costs to society, in terms of environmental damage, imposed by their absurd housing choices.

Don't like these solutions? Fine -- that's your choice. Call me a socialist, call me a jerk. But, these rules -- and choices -- are why Europeans benefit from a host of walkable, pleasant neighborhoods while Americans have two choices: suburban, horizontal slums (e.g. Loudon County's subdivisions) or overpriced housing in the tiny percent of walkable communities with good public transportation.

We can either let 'Loudon County' folks live in their subsidized McMansions forever and ever -- while those living ethical, environmentally-friendly lifestyles in the city suffer -- or just choose to complain about these issues some more on a blog.

by James on Nov 2, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

@JM:I'd love to live in the Marais in Paris, but I can't afford it.

There is plenty of affordable (not cheap) housing in very downtown Paris. A friend of mine who was a government worker, lived with a view on the Centre Pompidou. Another, who worked as an intern for an NGO lived on the banks of the Seine next to the Ile-de-la-Cite. The thing is, these units were small. Very small. One of them was an old maid's room, converted into an mini apartment.

After all, shouldn't we increase supply until there exists no further demand? Doesn't everyone have a right to affordable housing in the most desirable parts of any city?

You ridicule but make no point. Other cities have figured this out. DC can as well.

@ Drumz:how much veto power should someone have over someone else's property?

Considering how DC is organized, you have nothing to say about your own private property. ANCs, C100, historic preservation, etc, all think they can tell you what do to with your property. I'd say get rid of these semi-democratic organizations and let the City Council determine what the this city wants through zoning. This should not be controversial.

by Jasper on Nov 2, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

@ James:Paris is doing a great job: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/07/new-rent-laws-aim-keep-paris-becoming-only-rich/6187/

While this plan will sound horrifying to many (republican) Americans, in France, it might actually work. It sounds pretty pragmatic, and if executed well, it will help. [Cue screams of big government! - Well, it's France, what do you want?]

by Jasper on Nov 2, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

James,

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

[Some folks] parrot this party line about how ending the DC height restriction is THE solution to affordable housing. Some pretty ardent GGW urbanists have laid out pretty detailed explanations as to why it isn't. I suggest you go back and read some of them.

"Enact 21st century rent control -- landlords have no right to excessively profit from the provision of shelter".

[Deleted.] Its my property. If you want to rent it, you will pay the market price to do so. Full stop. Life is a series of choices, and you are not entitled to live in my apartment for less than the market value, because your life has been a series of choices that doesn't provide the income you need to support the life you want to live.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

DC is a competitive place, and only highly prepared and competitive people will thrive here. 48% of the Districts population over 25 has atleast a bachelors degree. 23% have a graduate degree, both the highest ranking in the nation. Do you have a graduate degree? If so, what in?

You seem enthralled with Europe. [Deleted.] Then again with the astronimical unemployment (your fav Barcelona currently enjoys 25% unemployment, DC 5.4%) [Deleted.]

by Cami on Nov 2, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

@James: When you can live in a truly spectacular place like Barcelona for 1/3 the price of DC, you know there's a lot of greed-related problems at work.

I've heard the job market in Spain is awesome right about now.

by dcd on Nov 2, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Cami -- your response to me is rude and unbecoming this respected blog. First of all, I have owned many things in life. And, second, I have a graduate degree, a bachelor's degree, and a post-bac certificate. So, yes, I'm well-educated. Third, have you inspected by bank and investment accounts lately? You sure seem to know a lot about what's in them.

Rent control IS working in Paris (as Jasper notes). Even if only 50% of properties are impacted by rent control, it still puts downward pressure on prices. And, yes, you are entitled to try to get as much money as you want for anything you own, but government is also entitled to nudge you into making smart, ethical choices through taxation and regulation -- income 'earned' from renting an apartment is not the same as income earned by someone actually doing a job -- there's a moral and ethical distinction.

Lastly, Europe is a wonderful place to live, primarily because cities enjoy robust transportation systems which make even the 'suburban' parts of London, Berlin, Rome, Milan or Barcelona appear quite 'urban' to your average American -- pubs, restaurants, shops, cheap and dignified public transportation.

Oh, one more thing, I look forward to the day when DC no longer has any affordable housing -- and so the folks cleaning your toilets and making your coffee can command higher wages, thus increasing the price you pay for things, which in your greed-oriented world will hit you right in the pocket. It's not just the rich that can 'Go Galt', Cami, it's also the poor.

Being able to walk to a store or public transportation is not some 'luxury' for the rich -- only a person who has never lived outside the US and has a twisted conception of reality would think that is true. It's something that everyone, who wants, should have the right to do -- and it's something that will need to happen for more and more people if we are to combat global climate change.

Oh, and unlike most people in DC, I actually do have the right to live anywhere I want in Europe (including Germany with its under-%5 unemployment rate and efficient social welfare system), but instead I prefer to stay here and try to make things better for the victims [deleted for violating the comment policy].

by James on Nov 2, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

@dcd I could make the same argument for Berlin (5.3% unemployment) or countless other cities in Northern Europe full of great, walkable communities that, because of conscious policy decisions, don't command insane premiums -- in housing cost -- for those making the choice to live there.

Yes, hahahaha, let's make fun of Spain's economic crisis, instead of addressing my real point, which as @jasper points out, is as true in Paris as it is in Barcelona.

by James on Nov 2, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

Folks,

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] The past 10 years [have] been nothing but one extended economic boom period.

Until 2000, it was cheap as hell to live in virtually any neighbohood in DC. You could rent large 1 bedroom apartments on Connecticut Ave across from the Zoo for $1K a month. Why? Because DC wasn't the jobs mecca of the universe and there was no demand.

Now it is, and you are competing with everyone in the nation who wants one of those juicy high paying jobs this city is printing.

Someone said above, and it is true. This boom will too pass, tens of thousands of housing units will get caught in the pipeline, the population growth will slow (it already is from its peak in 2011). It isn't like DC is the first place this has ever happened in the nation.

by Perspective on Nov 2, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

Yes, hahahaha, let's make fun of Spain's economic crisis, instead of addressing my real point, which as @jasper points out, is as true in Paris as it is in Barcelona.

Just to be clear, I was making fun of you, not Spain or its economy. If you'd pointed to Berlin instead of Barcelona, it wouldn't have happened. But you gotta admit, the "It's so much cheaper to live in a city with crippling unemployment and numerous economic problems than it is to this shithole called DC. We should model our policies afte theirs!" argument deserves a little snark.

As for Cami's tone, well, if you go back and read the post she responded to (as well as your subsequent ones) with a dispassionate eye, you'll probably realize you brought it on yourself. You get what you give.

by dcd on Nov 2, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

James,

" your response to me is rude and unbecoming this respected blog"

Thats rich, considering you called everyone who happens to live in a SFH "absurd", and everything outside the District line as "slums". Perhaps you should have gotten off your high horse rather than counting your housing choices as superior, and ridiculing the literal 4 million people (of the 6 million in the dc region) who don't think like you.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Your complaints scream "I demand to be able to live above the Metro in Dupont Circle despite the fact that I make substantially less than is needed to support that lifestyle.

"Oh, one more thing, I look forward to the day when DC no longer has any affordable housing -- and so the folks cleaning your toilets and making your coffee can command higher wages".

Weird...where do all the dishwashers in NYC live? I didn't know this problem is unique to only DC in the world. Whatever shall we do?

DC is a tiny place, 12 miles wide at its widest point and there is tons of affordable housing within, let alone within a couple miles of its borders. People will do as I did when I was younger, and what hundreds of thousands do every year in the DC region. They move to where they can afford. [Deleted.] I didn't feel entitled to live in Woodley Park on my (then) miniscule salary.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Cami on Nov 2, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

@Cami and @dcd Fair enough -- I was being a bit snarky, especially in response to your comments.

That said, I think most would agree -- on objective terms -- there are more exciting cities to live in than DC. I live here, I like it here -- I think it's a nice place to live, but it's tough not to feel a bit exploited when you are paying more rent to live in DC than you would to live in Paris.

My snark and hyperbolic language (horizontal slums) aside, you gave my policy proposals -- ones that have worked in many, many cities (including successful pre-1990s NYC rent control) -- not a modicum of respect. Those are serious proposals, some of which have also been submitted by other very smart people in the region (i.e. Matt Yglesias, etc.).

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by James on Nov 2, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

Also, who said I felt entitled to live in Woodley Park? I have no desire to live there. I said that everyone is entitled to live in a clean, safe community with access to decent public transit.

by James on Nov 2, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

Mid-20s, I choose to live in an efficiency downtown Silver Spring for its walk-ability (and easy access to metro and the beltway). But as someone with an $40K entry level job, who already spends over 50% of his income on housing, I'm afraid that rent will rise much quicker than income. I might have to move back in with the parents when the current lease is up.

by Chkcrpas on Nov 2, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

I live in Brookland. A shortage of retail has always been an issue. Not sure what will happen with the new building on Monroe. What I worry most about is the lack of family housing, too much is oriented toward 1 or 2 bedrooms and that is not viable for most families. If you don't support housing -3 bedroom apartments and row houses that support families you loose retail that supports families. A great row of restaurants and bars a community it does not make.

by DC Parent on Nov 2, 2013 8:40 pm • linkreport

@dcd

"I'm gonna need to see some evidence of these 'condoes for under $200k in desirable areas in DC.' I'm assuming they are studios, right?"

How about doing a simple search for dc condos under $200K on realtor.com. That's where they were found.

"I’m not sure what the point of your story about the flood was"

It was simple: the hypothetical home was bought within your means and was damaged and therefore should not be assessed 700% higher b/c some of the neighbours built better homes and sold them to dopes at a premium.

"Despite your first comment, you don’t seem to have a problem with the tax rates"

Based on my later comment, I obviously have a problem with the whole feudalistic concept of property taxes.

"But when your grandfather passes, or decides to move, the house is sold on the open market...keeps $100k, and the rest goes to the city."

The city doesn't own the house, and so it doesn't deserve anything that it won't already take in taxes. If certain people are willing to pay $400K for his house then that's their prerogative. But my grandfather, who 50+ yrs ago bought a $15K house that was well within his means shouldn't be taxed on a $400K house b/c that is not within his means.

by Burd on Nov 3, 2013 12:22 am • linkreport

I'm really fascinated by some of the comments here: it's as if some folks think you need to 'earn' the right to live in a walkable community with access to dependable public transit, something that should be considered a kind of 'luxury good' for those who have made it in life, at least in terms of income. I really disagree -- walkable communities are good for everyone: for drivers, fewer cars on the road, for our children, less carbon, for our businesses, more economic activity. The problem, though, is that walkable communities in America are so rare -- because home builders, auto manufacturers and silly politicians have pursued policies to make them rare (or illegal) -- that they are misconstrued as a 'luxury good'. In Europe and Latin America, it's different: the folks in poorer Northern England villages aren't occupying a 'luxury good' just because they can walk to the pub or to the train station with ease; the folks in the suburbs of Buenos Aires aren't occupying a luxury good, because they can walk to their town square and enjoy food, drinks, or relaxation, and walk a bit farther to a cheap, subsidized commuter train into the heart of Buenos Aires. It's incredibly problematic that walkable communities with basic needs -- food, shelter, transportation, and entertainment -- are perceived as a kind of privilege...or, at least, that's how some commenters here have tended to portray them. If more people want to live in walkable communities, our politicians have a mandate to discourage sprawl (which I'll distinguish from walkable suburbs like Columbia Heights or Arlington or Cleveland Park) and promote mixed-use, walkable communities close to transit. And, again, folks here can make fun of me for referring to Europe (or Latin America or Japan) and tell me to 'love it or leave it' (in not so many words), but the truth is that other societies on this Earth have figured out how to provide good neighborhoods for almost all of their people, ones in which environmentally- and socially-disastrous personal motoring is not compulsory. We can do that here, too, but things will have to change: the cost of living in Loudon County will have to go up (i.e. congestion charge for driving into the city), and the cost of living in revitalized Anacostia or Capitol Hill neighborhoods will have to go down (i.e. cheaper, better public transportation and gov't subsidies for new construction of high-density housing).

by James on Nov 3, 2013 1:05 am • linkreport

When it comes to rent control in the DC area, people shouldn't fetishize the market. The US government which can, in effect, take money from people at gunpoint in the form of taxes or, failing that, just print it, drops a good deal of it within a 50 mile radius of this city. Given that capital inflow and a housing market constrained, among other things, by the height limit, prices tend to inflate. It's not unreasonable that governments would seek to prevent gouging by those who own real estate for rent, It's not like the federal government was their brilliant idea that they're cashing in on.

by Steve S. on Nov 3, 2013 3:20 am • linkreport

As someone who moved here from Boston, I noticed a huge difference in terms of the costs you pay for a walkable neighborhood in DC. I think it is largely due to the lack of supply. In Boston, virtually every neighborhood has walkable retail, and most of the inner suburbs are extremely walkable as well. Even many of the suburbs have walkable town centers. Around DC, walkable neighborhoods are far more rare, and so the price difference between walkable and not walkable is enormous.

I would love to live in a more walkable area, but I am paying about a third of the rent to live a mile from Ballston than I would in DC. That more than covers additional car costs and leaves me with plenty of more spending money to boot. I simply couldn't justify the expense, especially since I work in Tysons.

by alex on Nov 3, 2013 9:50 am • linkreport

If we were to import the European model I've seen, we wouldn't stop building in Loudoun -- we'd create good commuter rail connections from Loudoun to other job centers. And within Loudoun, we'd have village centers near train stations.

But the other issue is that Americans don't just want to have walking distance access to one pub, one market, a bakery a barber or hairdresser, a dry cleaner, and a post office. They want multiple bars and restaurants and Wegmans(while their next-door neighbors on one side want Whole Foods and the ones on the other side want Trader Joes), etc. It's a whole other level of consumerism, in many cases, and a collective wishlist that's physically/economically impossible.

by BTDT on Nov 3, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

@James- I tend to agree if Americans experienced the European or South American versions of walkable neighborhoods they might have a better sense of what can be done within a realistic cost structure. That said, I have a friend that has lived in Europe for 15 years and she still misses the big box retail and makes annual trips to the US for some items. I don't know that I think these neighborhoods are a lot cheaper for the average family, what I saw when I traveled in southern France was that housing was allowed in buildings that would be zoned out in the US thus allowing a wider income range. I saw very different mix of retail, fewer places to do take out, more sit down. More segregated services such as bakery, vegetable/fruit stand type places. I also saw higher prices, a lot higher. Now there are a lot of issues with "cheap" American food, but that is another conversation. My point being, that walkable entails a lot changes that I don't see in the American retail market and instead see a lot of forces opposing so it is not so odd that people have a hard time imagining this type of neighborhood outside a luxury good.

by DC Parent on Nov 3, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

Grass is always greener for some folks, but the truth is that DC is more walkable and more livable than every city in South America, except for maybe Buenos Aires which was becoming unaffordable too before its economy collapsed from default 13 years ago. (I love BA but would argue that DC is more livable.)

As for Europe, those cities have developed over many hundreds, in some cases, thousands of years, during most of which there were no autos. Of course they're more walkable. Their affordability varies widely though DC would probably sit somewhere in the middle.

It takes time to build walkable communities. It takes a local recession or draconian changes in policies to make them significantly cheaper. I think local policy makers are making progress toward the former and I wouldn't want the latter.

It's not true at all that only rich people can afford to live in DC. Having lived here myself making $40k and having known countless others do the same, it's a question of priorities. Granted, if you have kids perhaps the reprioritization isn't so easy, but I do know a few working class people living happily in the city with their kids. They just don't obsess about the quality of the schools or the size of their yard.

by dno on Nov 3, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

@DCParent -- that is absolutely key! Housing in a wide range of buildings that would be zoned out in the US is crucial to building more supply and lowering prices. Perhaps because of racism or just a lack of historic building types, most US neighborhoods don't have the kind of 'mixed-income housing' that is possible in European cities (even, as well, places like Boston): if we ever want social stability and urban prosperity for all who wish to live in walkable neighborhoods, we need to allow small basement apartments, apartments over the garage, alleyways with housing, micro-studio apartments...all of these things allow for affordable (though not cheap) housing in the center of many European and Latin American cities.

In the US, though, I think we bring a lot of this on ourselves because of subconscious racism and classism. Even in this comment thread, I see individuals bemoaning proximity to 'public housing' -- why? It's not because the buildings themselves are not that high quality -- as I sit in a small apartment in a relatively new building on 14th ST, I note that the building itself is just 'public housing' bones (the quality of the construction) with some fake wood and Ikea fixtures slapped about -- there's nothing that makes this building better than the public housing of old, other than, perhaps, that folks interpret it as a nicer building by virtue of the income and professional levels of those who occupy it, and some plastic finishings.

In short, to tie together my two points, we need not have a city where Dupont Circle or Woodley Park or Georgetown are just neighborhoods for the wealthy -- high-income ghettos. Instead, it is possible to imagine a Georgetown where wealthier folks live in converted row homes, whilst poorer folks live in basement apartments or on tops of garages. Or in Dupont, the corporate lobbyists might occupy the penthouses of buildings, but young professionals can occupy micro-studio apartments. Will this serve everyone who wants to live in Dupont? Of course not! But it's unhealthy -- for a city and society -- not to have a mix of incomes living in most neighborhoods.

by James on Nov 3, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

@dno Sorry, but that's just not true re: South America. There are literally thousands of small cities in Latin America that have better transit (even if it's sometimes crowded buses, but with higher frequency) and more walkability than most American cities, where an obsession with serving private motorists has gutted out most of our urban centers. I'll list some: Oaxaca, Mexico; Antigua, Guatemala; San Jose, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Colombia; Bogota, Colombia; Medellin, Colombia; Cuzco, Peru; Arequipa, Peru; Rio de Janeiro; Sao Paulo; Santiago Chile (puts DC's metro and bus system, both, to shame); Montevideo, Uruguay; Curitiba, Brazil (invented BRT)...and countless smaller cities that retain small plazas and walkable village centers (full of people at night, just like Italy or Spain), that you'd never see in cities of a similar size in the USA.

I don't say this to argue with, @dno, but to make the point that America's broken urbanism (DC, excluded, although DC's bus and metro FREQUENCY -- and frequency IS freedom -- is very poor compared to many developing world cities at this point) is something that really is unique to our country and, to a degree, Canada as well. Many, many other parts of the world (Asia, Latin America, Europe, parts of Africa) retain -- for reasons of poverty (most parts of the world can't afford 3 cars/family) or choice (European environmentalism and aesthetic concerns) -- cities in which it is possible to do everything you need to do -- as well as live a very happy life -- in the absence of a fleet of personal automobiles.

by James on Nov 3, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

James, what you envision is exactly what DC currently offers. Basement apartments that cost less to rent, students living in group homes next to rich folks in Georgetown, young folks in Dupont living in 400 sq foot studios next to high income lobbyists.

by dno on Nov 3, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

@dno True, but supply is woefully inadequate because most of these options are historical quirks, rather than actively encouraged by modern housing policy. That's why the average studio dweller in somewhere as far away from downtown as Columbia Heights (and, don't get me wrong, I love Columbia Heights -- it's my favorite neighborhood in DC) is probably paying more for a studio than someone in the middle of Paris.

These options are present in DC, but they're quirks, and not truly affordable. We need to make these options as widespread as the luxury condos popping up on 14th ST.

by James on Nov 3, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

James, I have been to many of the places you listed. I should have specified large urban centers, not small towns. Of course small towns that resemble Mt. Pleasant Street in size are more walkable. Antigua, Guatemala for example is a beautiful town but it's tiny and according to some Guatemalans a bit disney-fied too. But would you rather stroll through central Guatemala City or central DC? Same for San Jose, CR? Autos, pollution, narrow sidewalks, and crime make the South American cities much less walkable to me.

by dno on Nov 3, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

Yes, I'm saying major urban centers as well (Curitiba, Brazil; Mendoza, Argentina, Cordoba, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; Medellin, Colombia) -- Antigua, Guatemala was one of the lone exceptions in my list, although I would submit that most cities of 50,000-ish in Latin America (i.e. Antigua and environs that are not touristy) are still more walkable than your average American city of 50,000-ish with extreme McDonalds/WalMart/BurgerKing/CVS-ification on six laners Why? They have to be walkable with cheap (albeit below US standards of creature comfort) and frequent public transport, because folks don't own cars and have no other option. Would I prefer to walk in some of these cities versus DC? Actually, yes, because there's often a vibrant street culture present. For example, Mexico City, while a mess in many parts, feels downright Barcelona-ish in the center now, because a strong-willed, Bloomberg-esque mayor closed major streets to cars, risking death threats in the process. Santiago has a metro system that puts DC to shame. Cartagena, Colombia is building a BRT system that will connect its historic, walkable core to its fashionable Miami-like high rise district. That said, of course, I'd prefer to walk around DC rather than, say, San Salvador. I'm not unilaterally dissing DC -- DC is a very pleasant American city (I like it more than NYC) and my point is that DC represents the exception to the American rule. If more American cities were walkable -- and (relatively) safe -- like DC, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Again, the problem is that DC is the exception to the American -- and even the Greater Washington -- rule, and that's why prices are insanely high. Perhaps scarier, though, is that there REALLY ARE cities throughout the so-called 'developing world' (e.g. China, Singapore, Korea, Turkey, Brazil, Chile, Argentina) eclipsing DC and NYC -- our national capitals of govt and finance, the ultimate expressions of our American civilization -- in walkability, public transit and, thus, overall quality of life -- and this is really problematic for a globalizing world where knowledge economy businesses can operate wherever they, and their employees, feel happiest. Walkability and mixed-use neighborhoods with good public transit -- accessible to all -- are expressions of a healthy, democratic society aspiring to equality and shared prosperity. That not only Europe, but also emerging markets are doing this better than we can seem to do at the moment (15 minute headways on Metro during the middle of the day?!) is really problematic for the American project of civilization. I'm loathe to agree with Thomas Friedman, but he does make some good points in his column from this past weekend: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/opinion/sunday/friedman-calling-america-hello-hello-hello-hello.html?ref=thomaslfriedman&_r=0

by James on Nov 3, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

James, I agree with you that we need to figure out a way to diversify the new supply in DC away from being uniformly high end apartments/condos. And there are probably policy options at our disposal to help better integrate affordable options in the core, but they're bound to be messy and loaded with unintended consequences. No doubt we can learn some things from other cities in Europe and South America, but most in South America (including Caracas, where I was born) would actually best serve as cautionary tales for how not to integrate a variety of housing types and people of different socioeconomic classes. In Europe, London and Paris do not serve as beacons to emulate either, no matter what you think you observed while visiting.

by dno on Nov 3, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

Baltimore has a structure and zoning that supports lots of and of different and varied walkable neighborhoods on a much larger scale than is available in DC.

The reason for this is because residents of DC, by and large, are more comfortable with the suburban layout of DC with a strict separation of commercial and residential activity.

This is, generally, the culture of DC residents who have lived here and a large contingent of the people DC attracts. As a consequence, the supply of walkable neighborhoods is very limited and not getting larger.

by Tyro on Nov 3, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

@Tyro Interesting thoughts you submit -- did DC always have a strict separation of commercial and residential activity? Remember that the original DC 'suburbs' were places like Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights, etc. that were -- and still are -- very walkable; just as 'suburban' London (i.e. Clapham) would be considered a walker's paradise. The suburbs that are found in much of the US are a relatively recent form of car-dependent suburbia -- we must be careful how we define 'suburban living'.

Also, are you sure that most DC residents really do prefer car-dependent suburbia (e.g. Fairfax, Montgomery, Loudon, etc.)? Do they prefer this way of living or have they been forced into accepting it by the economic reality of the region's geography? (In other words, the whole point of this blog post about the unmet demand for walkable neighborhoods in the DC region). Surely, if America had promoted walkable, mixed-use, new urbanist-style suburbia for the past 50 years (i.e. Columbia Heights or Bethesda vs. Loudon County), you would probably be saying that DC attracts residents who prefer walkable, mixed-use communities versus suburban tract homes with easy access to McDonald's, WaWa and Home Depot.

Remember, there's a reason that DC walkable neighborhoods cost so much -- it's because they're in incredibly high demand! And there's another reason why car-dependent exurban Virginia and Maryland tract homes cost so little -- it's because supply is huge -- because of government policy favoring their creation -- and demand is quite low compared to demand for Columbia Heights or Capitol Hill.

Many Americans don't have any idea of the walkable communities they would probably prefer to live in given the choice, because they literally -- for economic reasons (too expensive) or geographic reasons (the walkable community doesn't really exist in a place like Phoenix) -- don't have the choice to make between one or the other. In a sense, I am arguing that many Americans don't know what they really would prefer -- or refuse to admit what they would really prefer -- and I'm fairly confident that I'm not being presumptuous in making this statement, but rather quite accurate.

by James on Nov 3, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

I think one thing that has to happen for this town, and area in general, to become fully transit oriented is a change in mindset of basically being a company (federal) town. Because of that mindset, you get metro that is unbearable and useless outside of 7:30-9:30 am or 4:30-7:00 pm Mon-Fri. Outside of those times, and especially on weekends, for many people it makes more sense to drive.

So why would someone want to pay that much money to live a truly car-free, walkable lifestyle, when we have the kind of metro service we have and some of the highest fares in the country for a subway system.

by Nickyp on Nov 3, 2013 5:06 pm • linkreport

Currently live in a community and wish that it had more local stores/restaurants within easy walking distance.

by Thad on Nov 3, 2013 7:30 pm • linkreport

I live in Virginia but I believe the lessons remain applicable and I work (and walk!) in DC most days of the week anyway. Besides, lower housing costs/more walkable neighborhoods in DC can mean lower costs for residents of Virginia and Maryland as well.

My wife and I lived in a one bedroom apartment about a half mile from the Ballston Metro. We saw our rent jump from $1510 to 1600$ in two years for a building built in the 1930s. We decided that was too expensive for what we were getting and looked elsewhere. We moved to Falls Church and we were able to find a two bedroom place in Falls Church. We now have more space (for about $1570/month) but we have definitely traded some of the walkability, bikability, and transit access we really enjoyed in Arlington. I am now a full mile from the East Falls Church Metro and usually take the bus since the walking environment is not as great. We are lucky to live in downtown Falls Church which affords us to still walk to many places but it is in a fairly small area compared to Arlington where it was easier to walk between neighborhoods as well as around one's own neighborhood. The only reason we have what we have is because I am very intentional in looking for places that offer a distinct degree of walkability and transit access. And that's the case for many people, they have to seek out special places where one can simply walk from their home to somewhere else and I think it should be the opposite where realtors don't have to take time to point out that potential tenants or homeowners will be able to walk to things if they choose.

by drumz on Nov 3, 2013 9:00 pm • linkreport

I am a 26 year old Architect who moved to DC from Alexandria after finishing graduate school just over a year ago. I wanted to live in the city near my friends and where I hang out. I was able to find an affordable place in the city, Ward 6 near RFK Stadium. I first want to say that I love living in the city but there are several things that could make it much better. I feel that I have good access to my favorite parts of the city through biking (mostly bikeshare), driving, and taking metro. However, I really wish that there were more amenities within walking distance of my apartment. There is one corner store two blocks away but the limited hours make it inconvenient. I would also love to have restaurants in walking distance. I would certainly move to one of the more lively neighborhoods if there were affordable apartments in them.

I do own a car. For me it is cost effective because I have free parking at my place but I use it so infrequently that I am considering selling it and using zipcar and car2go exclusively. I would certainly trade my free parking space and get rid of my car to live in one of the more lively neighborhoods if it was affordable.

I favor eliminating parking minimums because it would make housing cheaper, particularly in the highly desirable neighborhoods where you don't need one. The parking requirements drive up prices not only because it is expensive for developers to build the parking but also the parking requirements effectively limit the number of units that can be put on some sites. At my job as an architect we have done studies for several projects in the district where the developer decided it was not feasible because the site wasn't good for enough underground parking. I'd imagine eliminating the minimums would spur a lot of development on the most challenging sites.

by chris on Nov 3, 2013 9:19 pm • linkreport

@ Chris,

Would you be willing to covenant in a lease or purchase document that you would not get RPP if you lived in a new parking-less development in a 'highly desirable neigbhorhood"?

by Sally on Nov 3, 2013 10:02 pm • linkreport

I guess I should have clarified.

I moved here from Portland, Oregon, the Pearl District to be precise. My location had a walkscore.com of 100, a transit score of 91, and a bike score of 99. Yes you heard that right a 100,91,99. There is not a single address in the entire Washington–Arlington–Alexandria-Baltimore-Columbia-Towson DC–VA–MD–WV CSA that could trump those scores. Portland, Oregon proper just demolishes Washington DC's bike lanes, Metro, and walkable shops. Hell PDX invented the gourmet food trucks that Washington DC was so quick to emulate. I bet you wonder who is building the streetcars for DC so you can infuse ever more Portland OR feel into DC, that's right Oregon Iron Works, from Portland Oregon. So in case you wonder what all this gloating is about, well here is my take. After having a higher standard of living (according to walkscore) than any human living in Washington, DC, what did I get from it? It's overrated. Walkable neighborhoods are overrated. The petty crime, the mentally ill homeless, the crowds, the traffic, etc. So what do I want out of a neighborhood?

Clean, usable housing. Safe neighborhoods. Access to for-profit privately run transportation be it; fully tolled highways, a for profit railroad, or some other configuration. Where do I want private transit to go?, to jobs and recreation. But I want to pay my fair share, no federally funded interstates, let me buy my gas from whom I want to without additional tacked on fees. Bring on cars manufactured without ridiculous federal regulation. Regulation that clearly has stunted automobile innovation, you all know we would have fusion powered cars by now...or Say, the Tato Nano (which was hoped to cost under $1000); and energy can be free don't you all forget that, perpetual motion machines are still fervently pursued today. Live within walking distance of a grocery store you say?, baaaaa, what do I care, Amazonfresh is coming to DC, I will have my tasty food (whole milk, chicken breasts, and fresh artichokes ready for steaming) waiting right outside my front door....significantly cheaper than your giant/wholefoods/wegmans all while you are still whistling tunes "walking" to your grocery store. How does one socialize with your neighbors? why greenspace, on private land of course. You can keep your tapas restaurants 14th street, I'll drive my used toyota down and park when I'm craving your pizzaz. In the mean time I want value, safety, and peace. The only thing that will right this ship (economic parity) is elimination of all land zoning, respected private land laws and elimination of subsidies to developers and to residents of low/free housing. What say you GGW readers?

by Bill on Nov 3, 2013 10:59 pm • linkreport

What makes a neighborhood walkable? Density is certainly a key component, but just as important is creating a network of dependable transit on which to spread density through-out DC, making many more close in neighborhoods viable candidates for developers to build in rather than just relying on the existing metro system we have.

For starters, the city needs to enforcing the existing by-right regulations and streamline plan review instead of dragging every project through a time consuming process fraught with unknowns. In short, make working with-in the existing regulations faster and more dependable. Walkability also relies transit, yet the streetcar network seem to be going at a glacial pace. The city should plan for density through out an expanded transit network, not just the existing system. Take NYC with its almost ubiquitous subway, the whole city is littered with walkable neighborhoods of all income levels. And the city needs to draw some clear and compelling massing diagrams of what this growth will look like throughout an expanded transit system, not just in the existing downtown. Planning for more density requires a clear and rational campaign on the city's part to demonstrate why this is necessary and how they plan on accomplishing it.

So wether we end up with five more floors in the current downtown or not, the real work of adding density will have to come from the city's leadership. They need to explain how we are all in this together while respecting the democratic process. And while they have taken many steps to improve DC in the last 20 years, it will take even more vision and courage on thier part to move us towards a more sustainable future, where walkability isn't seen simply as a ammenity, but as viable option for all of its citizens.

by Thayer-D on Nov 4, 2013 7:03 am • linkreport

@EmptyNesterCouple:

If DC wants more households like mine, "go live in Deanwood" is not the answer.

I don't mean this in an insulting way, but I'm not sure DC wants more households like yours. You don't want to live in an up-and-coming neighborhood, you don't want to pay market rate, and you don't want to live in a small condo. There's no shortage of others who have the same preferences as you do. The city wants households that are willing to transform neighborhoods at the margin, or more households who are willing to pay a premium for extreme density in the core.

by oboe on Nov 4, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

Shorter Bill: "Being close to city job centers and entertainment districts is less important to me than a large house on a big lot. Also, I don't like regulation."

You can keep your tapas restaurants 14th street, I'll drive my used toyota down and park when I'm craving your pizzaz.

That's fine. And you'll pay the "congestion tax" of it taking 45 min to get to the neighborhood. And possibly paying a literal congestion tax that we'll be implementing in 5-10 years to increase the cost of driving into the city. There is no free lunch.

by oboe on Nov 4, 2013 10:10 am • linkreport

Reversible rush-hour lanes on Connecticut Avenue are as dangerous in my neighborhood north around the Van Ness/UDC Metro stop as they are in Cleveland Park. We need to end domination of our local streetscapes by rush-hour commuters. My ability to walk to local shops along the Avenue is sharply limited during rush hours because commuters encroach on pedestrian pathways at all intersections, especially by turning right on red directly into the path of pedestrians, and because there is zero enforcement of the speed limit. We need to eliminate the four-lane speedway during rush hour just as much as Cleveland Park does. The current plan to completely close the east sidewalk for three blocks (from Albemarle south to Windom) due to construction of the 4455 Connecticut Avenue condos will both increase threats to pedestrian safety and limit access to retail stores on the east side of the Avenue. The fact that Metro will shut the east side entrance to the Van Ness/UDC stop (for "escalator replacement") for five (5) months at the same time as the 4455 construction will shut the east sidewalk will render the entire area UN-walkable and UN-friendly to pedestrians. Who is the genius who planned this?

by CAPA Volunteer on Nov 4, 2013 10:30 am • linkreport

I don't mean this in an insulting way, but I'm not sure DC wants more households like yours. You don't want to live in an up-and-coming neighborhood, you don't want to pay market rate, and you don't want to live in a small condo. There's no shortage of others who have the same preferences as you do. The city wants households that are willing to transform neighborhoods at the margin, or more households who are willing to pay a premium for extreme density in the core.

We are quite willing to live in an up and coming neighborhood. We would in fact probably prefer Hill East, Columbia Heights, Bloomingdale, or even Petworth, Eckington, or Trinidad over upper NW or DuPont Circle. But we need a competitive price per sq ft for those places. And most of the places that are routinely suggested as affordable on a price per sq ft basis - like EOTR, and the parts of NE that either still present safety issues, or are not particularly walkable, are not good options.

We are quite willing to live in what for us would be a small condo. A 2 BR, or even a relatively large 1 Br plus den. But a 1 BR apartment, or a 2BR with a closet sized 2nd BR won't cut it (especially if we don't get a building with shared spaces that compensate for a smaller unit.)

And we are willing to pay market rate - but the current market rate, as far as I can tell, is inflated by a number of policies that are hostile to development - as well as the simple fact that the gap in development during the Barry years means a lack of more affordable slightly older product. But its the former that its with the power of the District to address.

I responded to the survey, so that if anyone at OP needs support for the idea that added supply and lower prices would bring in new people who are currently priced out, and people who add some diversity (at least in terms of age) to the DC mix, we are out there. The loss of our income and sales taxes, and even our activism (both my wife and I are active in Fairfax County, her in school bd affairs, myself in bike activism) is a cost of excessive historical preservation/the Height Limit/Parking Minimums/NIMBYIST reactions to projects, etc.

That may well be a price the District is willing to pay now.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

I live in Wheaton a mile and half from the Metro. I'm already priced out of a walkable neighborhood with a family of four. Federal workers cannot afford to live anywhere near Metro.

by Redline SOS on Nov 4, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

Yes, it's interesting -- is this truly an issue of limited supply of walkable communities near transit or an issue of US cities -- DC included -- having such weak, bare bones public transit infrastructure that the properties near the limited functional service go for extortionate prices? It will be interesting how prices adjust following completion of the tram scheme.

by James on Nov 4, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

I live on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE. I love my detached home with a yard, but within a few blocks of my house there only low end liquor or groceries. For example, recently I went to the local shop and couldn't even buy Orange Juice; they only carried an Orange drink loaded with corn syrup. This leads to poor health choices for my neighbors who don't have a better transportation access. Luckily, I can afford a car to drive to better shops and work (carpool with my wife), but overall the Metro is a mile from my house and my only access to public transportation is the bus system inconvenient for most trips. I have hopes for a streetcar in the future (if DC doesn't change it's 37 mile plan), but right now my immediate neighborhood has few options.

by George on Nov 4, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

I'm a somewhat young 30ish profesional that makes about 100k per year. My partner does as well. I suppose we could afford a 400k house/condo that could possibly place us in what is currently regarded as a walkable neigborhood, but we chose not to spend that much money though we did find a single family detached home in a neigborhood that is potentially walkable for roughly 200k.

It's interesting the article notes how "hot" neigborhoods perceive their enclave as perfect and not in need of change while outsiders look on believing the opposite to be true hoping even for a change in the law so they can as much as rent a garage in said hot neigborhood. I find that quite humourous.

Instead of bemoaning the priviliged among us who got in early in areas like h st, bloomingdale, or eckington, and earlier than that u st and columbia heights, who wish to not have transient 20 somethings taking up residence in off street parking assemblages consider your own "fixed in amber views" about neigborhoods that are not quite there but have the bare bones for the types of neigborhoods you want to live in, and then realize there is affordable housing in DC.

Crime will be an issue and retail may not be immidiately apparent, but most likely these more affordable neigborhoods will have transportation and some amenities if not access to nearby retail centers.

And who knows? If enough of you move in you too will be on the recieving end of millenial predecessors begging to live in your garage so they can shop and be close to everything without having had the vision, patience, or prudence to invest in such areas when they were not so popular.

Basically, its pretty disingenuous to complain about fixed notions of perfection while having fixed notions of imperfection especially when the former at least earned the right to their opinions and you just want to ride on coattails.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

Oboe,
you grossly misunderstood me.

First go ahead and read my initial post on "Nov 1, 2013 5:03 pm"

Yes I am an ardent libertarian, and only because societies structured that way work. They exhibit fairness, equality, and quality of life when tested time and time again. If your rebuttal involves any quotes from "libertarian" politicians in service today, there are none. There isn't a single pure libertarian in American government today. Yes I support privately funded and maintained roads, as stated in my earlier response. Maryland and Virginia, in conjunction with the federal government should sell off the beltway, to the highest bidder. If the tolls rise to $50 dollars a trip I will glad pay it, But rest assured that another highway, or other transporting device will probably rise up to compete with said new private owner of the beltway.

See what erks me most is that what "urbanists" often fail to disclose are that they, not Howard County, MD residents, are the most heavily subsidized US population strata currently. From the complexity of the dense urban transit systems, to the uneven standardization of living arrangements, to the subsidies, to the increased square foot of lodging building costs, which are not caused by raw land costs, but by the manner in which the space is utilized and appropriated. Keep your Jacobs books' close kiddies, it's that line of thinking that led us to the ever further divided US wages. You reap what you sow. Elimination of land zoning laws will revolution the inequality in this country, as it is the last frontier the "haves" can covet to lord over the "have nots" or as you might call them the 99%. Oh btw, as I said I live inside the beltway, and I have one car, a used toyota that gets 48mpg highway, many bicycles, have six smarTrip cards, have a yearly membership with capital bikeshare, live a 35 minute bike ride from logan circle, pay $995/month(550 sq feet) for a one bedroom in a safe, clean, quiet neighborhood, where apparently my internet works just as well as your "urban paradise" internet. Your comments?

by Bill on Nov 4, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

@Bill There's no form of living more subsidized by the government than American-style suburban/ex-urban living. #Fact

by James on Nov 4, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

Public housing creates slums

The reason public housing exists is because beforehand, there were slums and shantytowns. Have you ever visited a city in a poorer country outside the USA? That's what housing is like for poor people without public housing.

by Tyro on Nov 4, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

@EmptyNesterCouple (AWiTC?) - if you work in Near SE, Anacostia proper seems like an obvious choice. What is the issue (if any?) with that neighborhood?

by h st ll on Nov 4, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

@Bill, the description of the circumstances of where you live and your communte are the description of urban living. I don't understand your expressed disdain for "urbanism". You seem to enjoy it and benefit from it.

(I) have six smarTrip cards..
Why? Unless you have six members of your family including yourself that use them, or frequently entertain 5 out of town guests at once -why would anyone need a surplus of Smarttrip cards?

by Tina on Nov 4, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

I think the phrase "subsidized" is misleading here. It's an element of forced consumption that has an aggregate impact that serves the interests of current residents, to the disadvantage of newer ones. It takes the decisions out of the hands of the potential consumer, whether they might want no front yard, or to live next to a gas station, or to have energy inefficient buildings, or a tiny building, etc., and forces them to purchase an improved product that is more expensive, and that will serve to pump up property values in the immediate vicinity.

We may think all of these elements of forced consumption are each good things (though some are pretty clearly superfluous), but together they are a major and unrecognized cause of housing unaffordability.

by Crickey7 on Nov 4, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

"if you work in Near SE, Anacostia proper seems like an obvious choice. What is the issue (if any?) with that neighborhood? "

the last time I drove around was on a Sunday a couple of years ago. The main drag from the historic section to the metro station seemed to have people hanging around who I beleive my wife would perceive as dangerous. And AFAICT the crime stats for the neighborhood back that up. I fear that living in the historic section of Anacostia, or in unit in the Sheridan would not enable us to live the walkable lifestyle we want - we would end up in our car a much higher part of the time than we want (we are quite willing to live in a place where we are not comfortable walking on side street past 11PM, but to have to fear walking the neighborhood main drag after 7PM would be different)

If we are not going to have a walkable lifestyle, we might as live in a great many places in West Alexandria or in South Arlington. Granted thats a longer commute for me, but if I keep getting more into cycling, its a commute thats not so much of a negative.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

and yes, I had intended to walk around. after glancing around, I decided that the better ability to see what was where, on foot, did not offset the risk to my personal safety which I perceived.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

"There's no form of living more subsidized by the government than American-style suburban/ex-urban living. #Fact
by James on Nov 4, 2013 11:47 am"

@James, care to disclose what subsidies there are other than the possible uneven funding of the interstate system. Which I stated at least twice should be privatized and tolled. Last I checked 14th street was built and maintained by the city of Washington DC, who allows you to drive and walk and bike on it without you properly paying usage fees. I don't really understand how that is different.

@Tyro In the late 19th century, the American government was a pure oligarchy, it took several decades but it manifested itself into hoovervilles. Urbanists are luddites, plain and simple, they got theirs, and have no problem stomping on the 99%, in todays world, it's the poor in India, China, and Latin America that the Urbanists are stomping on now. But sure continue to protect your standard of living in any way possible, be it lies, manipulation, cronyism, etc. Is there any dignity left?

by Bill on Nov 4, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

@Bill Provision of public services (from lights, water, gas to fire and police protection) is more expensive when people live miles away from each other, than when people live close together.

by James on Nov 4, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

And note, were I a single male, and young, I would almost certainly buy in Anacostia (especially in the historic district).

But I am not young, and how I live now is as important to me as possible future appreciation. And being married, any housing decisions I make must be made together with my spouse, who loves walkability, but is quick to judge safety based on her gut reactions - she got nervous about the eastern part of Capitol Hill when we walked there - while I think she would be persuadable about Hill East, Anacostia, unless its changed much in the last couple of years, not so much.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

@Tina,

Can I help it I live in a market rate urban hybrid, non-subsidized unit. I live small, and pay my way, everybody could live my way, but you got the urbanists sapping up wages and the world's wealth. Technology would get us out of this mess (which I stated many, Amazonfresh, fusion cars, possibly teleportation?), but everybody just seems to like the divided status quo if we are to believe the latest presidential election. lol, I have 6 smartrip cards but it's just me, my girl, and my greyhound, I purchased four more because WMATA just recently came out with four Van Gogh picture cards (you get $3 dollars off Philip Collection admission showing them).

by Bill on Nov 4, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

@Bill @James, and schools, trash pick up and disposal, and USPS...etc., so much of our daily lives that we couldn't afford if these things were not funded collectively. Its efficient to fund things collectively. This efficiency from working collaboratively as a group, and the impetus to work collaboratively with others to meet large goals is an evolved aspect of human nature that libertarians like to deny.

by Tina on Nov 4, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

Well said Tina. There's a reason they tell us to play nice together growing up. It has something to do with the fact that as a human race, we've only been able to evolve through cooperation.

by Thayer-D on Nov 4, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

@Bill - Can I help it I live in a market rate urban hybrid, non-subsidized unit..

That sounds like a personal choice based on opportunities afforded you by past circumstances that you may or may not have had control over (where you were born, when you were born, who your parents are, your genetic make-up as well as personal choices along the way that sprang from these circumstances)

I live small, and pay my way, everybody could live my way,

So do I, and I consider myself an urbanist, so I don't know what you mean with your complete dismissal of "urbanists", though I don't know that your definition of "urbanist" and mine concur.

I do know that I recognize that collective efforts, expressed in the form of "government" improve my quality of life and I'm grateful for the benefits I receive from earlier generation's good planning, as well as on-going improvements-what I consider improvements-such as the planned construction on the Trolley Trail to fill gaps in the infrastructure on that facility.

There are many things/issues in which I definitely could be described "libertarian", but that is not in conflict with my appreciation for collective efficiency or recognizing collaboration as innate human behavior.

by Tina on Nov 4, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

Looks like your wife has champagne tastes and beer money. Get ready for a long commute.

As a multi-generational DC resident, I remember relatives moving to places like Silver Spring opting for safety and better schools, when places like pre metro Columbia Heights were available for similar prices.

Of course their kids got good educations and they never were the victims of violent crime in Silver Spring, but those that moved to columbia heights and endured a mugging or two and (still alive no worse for wear) worked to get their kids in magnet programs seem to be doing much better financially.

Columbia heights 10x return while silver spring about 2.5x return.

We make choices in life. It makes sense to me the people that endured more risk in terms of personal safety and uncertain development should reap the rewards of their pioneering. Walkable, convenient neigborhoods is but one benefit.

Wishing for walkable neigborhoods is pointless. Find your tolerance level and make a decision. Simple as that. One can't have it all.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

@Tina, the complexity of the underground washington dc PEPCO electrical grid is probably more complex to service and costs more per population density rather than a straight line 500 feet. Two solutions, have Investor-owned PEPCO charge based on the distance to where the power is produced or allow PEPCO to be challenged by another private power provider, that may have considerably technological advances, such as a fusion power plant. But, lets continue to protect to the 19th century technology.

-Private schools will be built where they are needed.
-Trash generation is caused by subsidizing the service, if it was market rate, and it truly cost to much to pick up, manufacturers would produce products with less waste, and overall waste would go down, but since subsidizes convince humans to devolve and fail to innovate, what you have are these half-wayed attempts to mask the the problem rather than innovate.
-USPS, should be allowed to die, it's served it's purpose.

"work collaboratively with others to meet large goals is an evolved aspect of human nature that libertarians like to deny."
Flat out wrong, read the Tragedy of the Commons, and then read the Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons

by Bill on Nov 4, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

Since I bought my place in Eckington in 20002, the only nearby "corner" store (it was actually in the middle of the block) was converted to ground floor housing. I assume, due to zoning, that it was grandfathered in and thus retail would never be able to again use that space due to current zoning rules. I would like to see more relaxed zoning when it comes to neighborhood serving retail.

by Chris in Eckington on Nov 4, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

@Bill, take an anthropology 101 course; use a road on any day and observe a bunch of people working collaboratively;

-USPS, should be allowed to die, it's served it's purpose.-
I totally disagree. There is no substitute service for what the USPS provides me. I would gladly pay increased postage for the service I receive. I agree about the generation of trash, but not that the solution is to privatize the handling of it. I agree many public services are too cheap.

I totally disagree with your vision of human beings as most successful when working individually at cross purposes with others when the goals of those others are generally the same. e.g. to get where you're going on a road w/o getting into a crash.

by Tina on Nov 4, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

@Bill, allow PEPCO to be challenged by another private power provider
This is already available. Add solar/wind collectors to your small home. If you generate excess power Pepco is required to buy it from you. There are roof sized windmills available.

by Tina on Nov 4, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

I was born and raised in DC and lived in the city for over 30 years. I recently had to move to Maryland, much against my will, because I couldn't find a house in DC within 1 mile of a Metro stop within my budget of $450,000 that wasn't in need of a complete remodeling. I thought my budget was pretty high and I'm willing and able to do quite a bit of DIY on a house - I was just looking for a place with intact hardwood floors and central air. I also didn't need a huge square footage or any yard.

I've spent my whole life building relationships and DC and learning how things worked so that I could be a contributing member of the community. Now I'm starting all over in a new place. While I only moved 3 blocks over the District line, I feel like I've lost a huge amount of social capital.

by Tracy on Nov 4, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

" I agree about the generation of trash, but not that the solution is to privatize the handling of it."

This isn't entirely accuarate. i meant the downstream part that involves environmental protection and water sanitation. I'm totally fine w/ private trash pick up, and in fact use it.

by Tina on Nov 4, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

B.S. I just checked and Pearl District has a total "walk score" of 95, Dupont Circle is 98, West End is 97, Logan Circle 96, and Downtown DC 96.

Seems nowhere in Portland area can touch these more walkable DC 'hoods.

by Burd on Nov 4, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

@Tina,
Read the entire 11 volume set of the Story of Civilization, by Durant, watch Burke's Connections and The Day the Universe Changed, watch Clark's Civilisation. While none of these offer any definitive solution to the fair and just allocation of resources, they give great perspective.

I wager that when you take away incentive, which could be stolen demand, could be money, could be fame, innovation suffers, and that is what you see today. I guess my definition of urbanists are folks who believe they have found the magical formula of living, and will do everything in there power to one, say how just and superior it is, and two, use whatever means necessary to prevent other lessors from enjoying, in doing so becoming the oligarchy. I don't know maybe I'm skewed, I lived in a nice unit in the Pearl District Portland Oregon that makes all the neighborhoods of Washington DC look down right seedy and rural. It is staggering how many folks here, your U streeters and capitol hillers, believe they live truly urban....."they ain't seen nothing yet!!" Point is I'm here to try to spread the wealth, not have people warred up against each other, you ever heard of synergy? If you take the profit incentive away, from anything, innovation suffers, plain and simple. Contrary to popular believe land is not a finite resource, at least not in a number any human could understand. But the more we treat it like such, the worse off we all are.

by Bill on Nov 4, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

"Looks like your wife has champagne tastes and beer money. Get ready for a long commute."

Wanting to be safe is hardly a champagne taste.

And I have a long commute now from Fairfax. If we move to South Arlington or to Alexandria I will have a shorter and/or more pleasant commute.

Of course we will make the choice that works for us from what is available. But the point of this survey is to let the District govt know that there are people who want WUPs in the District, who can't have them in current conditions.

The District may determine thats a rationale for changing policy on zoning, the height limit and/or parking minimums. Or the may not. I understand that. Not all will share the idea that the number of new units should be limited in order to protect the investments of early gentrifiers, or in order to encourage more neighborhoods to be gentrified.

I am asking for no subsidy. I am asking for no sympathy from readers here. I am merely responding to Dave Alpert's attempt to gather information that can be used to inform policy making. I don't understand why that elicits such pushback.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Tracy, with that budget you could have found a house within one mile of the metro.

I understand peoples aversion to crime, but lets not conflate issues. Especially since perception of safety is highly subjective, even if crime stats are not.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

@ Tyro

"Baltimore has a structure and zoning that supports lots of and of different and varied walkable neighborhoods on a much larger scale than is available in DC"

If that statement were true, then Baltimore would be more walkable than DC, but it's not. Walkscore gives Baltimore a 64 and DC a 73.

by Burd on Nov 4, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

@Bill, land is not a finite resource, at least not in a number any human could understand. But the more we treat it like such, the worse off we all are.
I completely agree with about this.

Look, I'm educated too, I have a half a life's worth of experiences too. My knowledge base, conclusions and observations about human beings aren't as cynical as yours. For instance I do not believe that "the profit motive" is the only thing that motivates people. People care about one another, other creatures we share the earth with, natural beauty, social connections, etc. many motivations that aren't coupled with profit. Yes profit is important too. i don't deny that. But there are other motivations that are just as real and strong that "libertarians", and you in this thread, like to deny in others. You however are saying that YOU are interested in the welfare of others--so you are some exception? You don't think other people are also motivated by increasing collective welfare? Thats the problem I have with the type of libertarianism you seem to be expressing.

by Tina on Nov 4, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

@Fixed in Amber, there were houses within 1 mile of the Metro in that price range, but in really bad condition. I couldn't handle doing a total retrofit of a place, I needed somewhere I could move into immediately and work on gradually myself.

I should clarify and say I was looking at 3 bedrooms. This discussion should really just be in price/sqft and not total price. So I paid $220/sqft for the house I ended up buying, which was ready for me to move in to. I couldn't find anything even close to that in DC.

by Tracy on Nov 4, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

Wanting to be safe, no. Wanting to be safe with amenities and convenient modes of non auto transport, in this city?? Is absolutely champagne taste.

You are getting pushback because you want to change the dynamics of the city. For over a hundred years DC has had height restrictions, now because you want to live somewhere that has it all you suggest changing what has always been. Well, DC has plenty of undeveloped areas. To say nothing is affordable and walkable is a mistruth. Plenty is affordable and walkable. Maybe we don't have to change DC to accomadate people who want to benefit from the sweat equity and patience of others. Maybe we can work with the city as is and go from there.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

@tina

The natural end conclusion of my "libertarianism" is what I espouse, a fair, just and equal society for all with financial resources spread as close to parity as possible.

And I stated three motivators,
1-stolen demand(the act of fixing the injustice, doing it for the good of human kind)
2-fame
3-profit

Oh which the most important is profit. I wager you would see more human interaction,under my idealized society than you see now.

by Bill on Nov 4, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

Tracy, its not true. I can pull up homes in redfin right now, fully renovated, 3-4 bedrooms, with yards, and detached, less than a mile from metro- that go for well under 400k, even 300k.

But you may not feel safe, which is a seperate issue.

This is fine, but instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater as empty nester proposes, ignoring the elements which make walkable neigborhoods unsafe as this article proposes, I think we should address those issues.

I.e. the high unemployment rates and shoddy educational facilities located EOTR that contribute to crime, before we dismiss them in the same breath we complain about being dismissed by others currently in the neigborhoods some posters would like access to.

I'm reading a lot about community in this thread, but I'm only seeing it in as much as there is a personal benefit and does not require much sacrifice.

Sorry to go off Tracy, but to say there are no walkable neigborhoods is only a half truth. By going no deeper and acknowledging they do exist but for safety concerns we never get to the bottom of it and I'm afraid walling ourselves off in rich folks garages or increasing the density to NYC levels is big cop out to me.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

I said nothing about amenities, and if we are not going to get greater convenience to non auto modes of transport, well there's little reason to move to DC.

Changing the height limit (and other limits on development) would change DC. But the rising RE prices and continued gentrification of new areas are also change what "has always been".

And I do not suggest DC change because of what I want. But I think telling my story, and indicating the choice I may make, may be useful to DC residents and policy makers.

As for benefiting from the sweat equity of others, I think you are overestimating the contribution of early gentrifiers to the success of the city. There are many cities that have had people who have rehabbed older homes in central cities - very few have seen the kinds of returns on equity certain parts of DC have. Thats largely a result of broader economic trends that rehabbers did not contribute to.

And allowing more density, while it might reduce prices a bit, will hardly mean those rehabbers will not still keep their massive returns.

But thanks for laying it out clearly. There are certainly many people in DC who rehabbed houses in the 1980s or early 1990s and who see any attempt to make DC more affordable or even to hint that it being so expensive is a bad thing, as an attack on them. They may have a lot of equity now, but they deserve it. And the notion that gentrifying neighborhoods EOTR may not be a good thing, certainly would call into question what they themselves did in areas west of the Anacostia.

Maybe we can work with the city as is and go from there. The city as is includes neighborhoods, including the one you think my wife and I should move to, that are mostly black and low income. For us to move there would make the city different from what it is.

As long as new people are drawn to the city, the city will change. Its a question of what kinds of changes are to take place. Clearly there are some people who want to see some kinds of change and not other kinds.

You don't want the mix of the city fixed in amber, yet you want the physical form fixed in amber. That's a choice, but its not the only choice open to DC.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

This is fine, but instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater as empty nester proposes, ignoring the elements which make walkable neigborhoods unsafe as this article proposes, I think we should address those issues.

Once again, all I did was respond to Dave's survey, and tell my story here. As information. But I guess if you need a foil, I will do.

I.e. the high unemployment rates and shoddy educational facilities located EOTR that contribute to crime, before we dismiss them in the same breath we complain about being dismissed by others currently in the neigborhoods some posters would like access to.

I don't know that anyone here has opposed efforts to improve education or reduce crime. I certainly have not.

I'm reading a lot about community in this thread, but I'm only seeing it in as much as there is a personal benefit and does not require much sacrifice.

When will we require a sacrifice to live an auto centric life? Why should living a walkability focused life require more sacrifice than that? Sacrifice sounds great as a matter of rhetoric, but the question is why should we make it more difficult to live a life thats better than the most common alternative (well at least for those of us not expecting teleportation to overcome the negative externalities of autos.)

I'm afraid walling ourselves off in rich folks garages or increasing the density to NYC levels is big cop out to me. We might well go car free in a suitable neighborhood, so no rich folks garage for us. And it would hardly take Manhattan levels of density (you may not realize that the average density of NYC is much lower than Manhattan's) to add a considerable amount of supply.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

@Bill, it's funny that it seems you think the first your list in human motivations is modern and an idea born of libertarian modern thought. Its ancient. Tikkun Olam. And even older than that.

creating accessible built environments that are safe and convenient for walking and biking is a legitimate expression of tikkun olam sans cynicism and an inflated sense of self.

by Tina on Nov 4, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

Are you saying white people don't live EOTR? Lol

Look, I love DC. I don't equate white people moving to Anacostia any more than I do myself moving to Anacostia. I am a gentrifyer, even if I am black.

Yeah I guess I am against highly concentrated pockets of poverty and highly concentrated areas of wealth. That being said, we are entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts.

To frame this debate as one where it is walkable housing v. no walkable housing is disingenuous!

There is affordable walkable housing in DC, period.

If you want to make a hubbub about changing height restrictions and !subsidize! housing for the middle class by not allowing developers to build luxury properties even if the market supports it, than be honest about the terms of the debate.

The infrastucture for affordable, walkable housing currently exists but certain people do not feel safe enough to invest in those communities.

We can ignore the fact that historically most all of the communities currently deemed hot went through similar growing pains, but lets not ignore the underlying fundamental issues.

Rather than invest in developing areas, there are those among us that would rather fundamentally alter the city into a place that's unrecognizable AND its because they don't feel safe.

Again that caveat is important because to resolve the issue it must be recognized. This article ignores it and the vast majority of comments ignore it until they are pressed.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

If you want to make a hubbub about changing height restrictions and !subsidize! housing for the middle class by not allowing developers to build luxury properties even if the market supports it, than be honest about the terms of the debate.

I do not recall Dave A ever calling for a limit on the construction of luxury properties (or of low amenity properites, including ADUs). Nor have I.

Rather than invest in developing areas, there are those among us that would rather fundamentally alter the city into a place that's unrecognizable AND its because they don't feel safe.

What you continue to ignore, is that gentrifying every area near a metro in DC WOULD be fundamentally altering the city. Its already been altered.

You are trying to preserve only its physical form - and even at that a physical form thats different from what the City was like for most of its history.

And you are dressing that up in rhetoric about sacrifice.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

The person who puts in work rehabbing a home gets their reward through the increased value of their home. They don't get the bonus of then deciding that since they were there earlier they get greater weight in deciding who gets to move in via trying to block developments or zoning changes thr would mean construction or simply adding units. We are thankful for those who put in the work but that doesn't mean it's the only way to do it.

by Drumz on Nov 4, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

If that statement were true, then Baltimore would be more walkable than DC, but it's not. Walkscore gives Baltimore a 64 and DC a 73.

I can see how that might be true in the aggregate, but I can count a lot more Baltimore neighborhoods with local retail and commercial amenities, and this is the TYPICAL pattern of development in Baltimore neighborhoods, while this is not the case in DC.

by Tyro on Nov 4, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

@ Tyro

Well that's your opinion, and I don't agree with it. B'more has lots of suburban 'hoods removed from transit and inner city 'hoods without many amenities and large swaths of vacant buildings. DC's core communities don't have nearly as many vacant units as you'd find in B'more's core communities. Not even close. B'more's registry counts 16,000 vacant units, DC has closer to 1,000.

Plus, using walkscore data, B'more's most walkable 'hoods are far less populated than DC's most walkable 'hoods. For example, DC's most walkable 'hood is Dupont Circle, with 14,443 people, compared to B'more's Federal Hill, with only 2,492.

by Burd on Nov 4, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

Its still routine in Baltimore to have corner stores, and hole in the wall corner bars. OTOH I guess having a drug store or supermarket nearby may be even less common than in DC. So theres a flavor to neighborhoods in Baltimore that may not be picked up in WalkScore. And of course there are some more typically suburban neighborhoods on the periphery of the city (but inside the city limits) that don't have corner stores or corner bars. But working class row house neighborhoods usually do.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 4, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

@Emptynester - I would check out Anacostia again. I agree that it can be a bit sketchy near the metro - more people hanging out, and some of the commercial buildings there are ratty. I think its nicer around the Good Hope/MLK intersection, and that feels like the anchor of the neighborhood anyway. I almost never take the metro there, as the 90/92 are much more convenient for me. I would grab a meal at Uniontown, check out some of the galleries and vintage shops etc. to get a feel for the neighborhood. The Hive 1 and 2 are quite cool, also. You are making some good points overall though.

by h st ll on Nov 4, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Yeah, and DC has "corner stores" (many) and "corner bars" too. Not sure that either makes a "walkable" 'hood without other amenities, transit, etc.

by Burd on Nov 4, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

I've got nothing to lose looking there again, and taking my wife along - if she says no, what have we lost?

If we can't walk to the metro though, thats a mark against the neighborhood, I think.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

Yes I am an ardent libertarian, and only because societies structured that way work. They exhibit fairness, equality, and quality of life when tested time and time again. If your rebuttal involves any quotes from "libertarian" politicians in service today, there are none. There isn't a single pure libertarian in American government today.

You may want to ask yourself why that is. (Though, personally I think you're verging on No True Scotsman territory).

by oboe on Nov 4, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

Why do you keep talking about gentrification? Columbia Heights is still diverse. Just because people come doesn't mean people go, necessarily. Manywalkable neigborhoods have enough room for everyone. Between vacant lots and vacant properties no one has to go.

And that's beside the point, you framing this as a changing the physical form argument vs. shifting demographics argument tells me I'm not the only one dressing arguments up in rhetoric.

The two are not analogous. Georgetown and Anacostia used to be black and white respectively. People will move around and yes the city is in a constant state of flux but taking a city with low slung buildings and adding in skyscrapers is not the same sort of flux.

The permenance of a 20 story building surpasses that of a new hispanic family on the block, to draw one distinction.

As for limiting luxury buildings I'm not sure I attributed that to you but nonetheless it is one of the "solutions" mentioned which ignores the underlying issue of safety, and further the institutional problems which contribute to a lack of the same. So in that sense it all sounds the same to me as long as the rallying cry is there are "no walkable communities", which is patently false.

As far as the gentleman which mentioned early pioneers not having the right to determine who moves in,presumably by zoning laws, I would argue to the extent long time residents are more entrenched, savvy, and more likely to be stakeholders, not to mention voters, in the community - in our democracy it does follow that they likely can and will decide the circumstances people can move into the community short of violating the constitution, and last I checked opening up garages for inhabitants is not a constitutional right.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

@FixedinAmber

Can we avoid using terms like 'early pioneers'? Pioneers to where? The Wild West of DC? The Jungle? People were living in Columbia Heights, Anacostia, H ST, Capitol Hill...all those places, well before 2000, well before 1990, well before 1980. I don't know, I just find it really problematic how sometimes we act as if people never lived in the neighborhoods where prices are now increasing -- of course, people lived there, they lived there ever since those areas were first developed. And we disrespect those individuals if we act like we are civilizing 'pioneers' in purchasing new properties in 2013.

by James on Nov 4, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

"Why do you keep talking about gentrification? Columbia Heights is still diverse.

Market rate housing there is quite expensive. There is of course still guaranteed affordable housing, and there are working class people who bought a long time ago who have not yet left.

Just because people come doesn't mean people go, necessarily. Manywalkable neigborhoods have enough room for everyone. Between vacant lots and vacant properties no one has to go.

but in reality they probably will. Thats the pattern - I mean its possible Anacostia and Deanwood will change in a way thats different from how DC neighborhoods have changed - but in the neighborhoods that you cite (repeatedly) as precedent, people left.

The two are not analogous. Georgetown and Anacostia used to be black and white respectively. People will move around and yes the city is in a constant state of flux but taking a city with low slung buildings and adding in skyscrapers is not the same sort of flux.

DC will have to decide which kind of change is preferable. But arguments that say "we shouldn't change DC for the sake of people who don't want to gentrify EOTR" are misleading.

in that sense it all sounds the same to me

It may sound the same to you, but they are profoundly different policies.

As far as the gentleman which mentioned early pioneers not having the right to determine who moves in,presumably by zoning laws, I would argue to the extent long time residents are more entrenched, savvy, and more likely to be stakeholders, not to mention voters, in the community - in our democracy it does follow that they likely can and will decide the circumstances people can move into the community short of violating the constitution,

Well I think we can all agree that those who do not share the views of those who wish to keep DC as it is physically, at the price of escalating housing costs, will need to make sure to vote - and to exercise savvy. A site like GGW can help them to do that.

and last I checked opening up garages for inhabitants is not a constitutional right.

I don't know what that is in reference to.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

in our democracy it does follow that they likely can and will decide the circumstances people can move into the community short of violating the constitution

of course right now the height limit is in force by act of Congress, which is according to the constitution, but is unique in that the constitution does not grant DC the same right that states have.

If supporters of the height limit were so confident of its local support, they might support a change in federal law that would allow DC to determine it.

by EmptyNesterCouple on Nov 4, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

Yes Columbia Heights is quite expensive. Million plus in fact for one of the row homes. I'm encouraged by the fact there is still some diversity in the neigborhood. H st is also diverse. Hill East is. U St is pretty homogenous these days, which is unfortunate.

I'm sorry "we shouldn't change DC for the benefit of people that don't want to gentrify EOTR" is what you got from my posts here. I wrote a lot though so I won't be too dissapointed. Instead, I'll sum up my argument.

DC has affordable walkable neigborhoods:

To claim otherwise contributes to the ongoing neglect of said neigborhoods in terms of city resources. Its almost as if these areas don't exist to people who make such claims. They do exist and deserve finite city resources rather than short sighted overdevelopment of alternative neigborhoods. You may disagree, but you cannot bypass that debate by ignoring these neigborhoods existence in the first.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 5:45 pm • linkreport

Sorry James but its the reality. For instance, on Maple View SE in Anacostia there are at least 8 blighted properties. Many of which are currently in renovation and will be beautiful when complete. But if you moved in 5 years ago it may be yours was the only inhabited home within a few address numbers. Amidst the blight, you saw opportunity. If you moved in you are a pioneer of sorts. That takes nothing from long time residents who stuck it out and also love their neigborhoods.

Now I bet each of those homes will go for close to 400k fully renovated as they have beautiful views, but if you had vision, like a pioneer, you could have taken advantage and made some money or become part of the community and enjoy all the development which will soon come.

I don't think its dismissive to the people that lived there to say newcomers are pioneers. At some point mayor barry had to almost give away properties on u st, columbia heights, and logan circle through tax and usagw laws as homes rotted after the riots. No one wanted them.

. Entire blocks vacant. People saw opportunities and built a community. Its not insulting at all to the people who were there to call the people who moved in pioneers. They took risk and spent their money and used vision and were a major vanguard in the types of communities we see today.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 6:13 pm • linkreport

I understand why and how people acquire the power to block future residents via zoning. That doesn't make it right or best for the city at large either.

So someone saw an opportunity where others didn't. That's great, but it isn't an argument for prohibiting future growth.

by Drumz on Nov 4, 2013 6:27 pm • linkreport

I'm all for future growth. I think there are walkable communities in DC ripe for future stakeholders. No need to beg people to open up their garages to you. If they want to that is their perogative, but there are other alternatives worth exploring. If not exploring, at least acknowledging.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 6:38 pm • linkreport

You're confusing people looking for housing with people wanting to build or provide housing.

It's fine to expect people to make housing decisions based on the constraints they have. That's what they already do. Empty nester is explaining his constraints. Some of those constraints are entirely artificial and can be changed quite easily.

Like one that would make it legal for most homeowners in te city to legally allow people to rent out their garages like you say. Other times it may include putting in a bigger building than what was there before.

by Drumz on Nov 4, 2013 6:47 pm • linkreport

Oh, I wasn't saying the metro station is unusable. I was just agreeing it has some significant drawbacks at the present. The school right there and Sheridan Station buildings are quite nice (these are kind of tucked away though) and I already listed the negatives (plus its poorly designed for pedestrians and in general).

Anyway, I do hope you and your wife check out the neighborhood and let us know what you think :)

by h st ll on Nov 4, 2013 6:48 pm • linkreport

Yeah drumz. We all have different tolerance levels. I tell you what, if I bought a home in a neigborhoodeveryone called me crazy to move Into and one day I became really really highly valued I would be very cautious about letting people move into neigborhood car parks. I mean, for one, what's going to happen to the parking situation? Double whammy of taking spaces and increasing density. Moreover my gfs mom owns a columbia heights rowhouse and I can say these young professionals living ten deep in these homes are not the best neigbors. To say nothing of taxing the infrastructure in other ways like water and grocery stores and traffic etc. So I don't blame people for feeling how they do about increased density.

But that stuff doesnt concern me. All I'm saying is the entire city should be considered before claiming we do not have walkable neigborhoods near transit with affordable housing.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 7:00 pm • linkreport

Ok, those concerns can always be addressed (or shown that they're overblown)

But I think its better overall when we trust when people say that they can't find affordable housing in neighborhoods that meet certain criteria we should believe them rather than try to "prove" that they're full of it by pointing out all sorts of things that may not have relevance to what they require.

by Drumz on Nov 4, 2013 7:13 pm • linkreport

*its better anyway to fix issues like trash, problem neighbors, etc directly rather than prohibiting the good things that could stem from more permissive zoning as well as the attempt to stop the bad.

by Drumz on Nov 4, 2013 7:17 pm • linkreport

I trust people are full of b.s. when they say there is no affordable walkable housing in dc, much more full of bs when they say there is no affordable housing in dc. Say what you mean.

I often wonder how many people on this site actually live in dc when they make certain remarks. For instance parking is real issue in some of these neigborhoods.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 4, 2013 8:06 pm • linkreport

I trust people are full of b.s. when they say there is no affordable walkable housing in dc

Because you're trying to discount whatever someone says when they outline why that is true for them. People have different requirements when looking for housing and with that there may not be any affordable housing for them on the margins which is what the survey is asking for. People who fall through the cracks so to speak and how zoning changes could help them.

by Drumz on Nov 4, 2013 9:18 pm • linkreport

@Fixed

"Instead of bemoaning the priviliged among us who got in early in areas like h st, bloomingdale, or eckington, and earlier than that u st and columbia heights, who wish to not have transient 20 somethings taking up residence in off street parking assemblages consider your own "fixed in amber views" about neigborhoods that are not quite there but have the bare bones for the types of neigborhoods you want to live in, and then realize there is affordable housing in DC."

Who is bemoaning the privileged? And why should only the privileged be able to walk to the grocery at 9 o'clock without having to worry about being mugged? I think a lot of peoples' preferences for neighborhoods have to do not only with amenities but also things like crime and street harassment. Personal safety shouldn't be an amenity or equitable with "champagne taste".

By the way -- perhaps fewer twentysomethings would be interested in taking up residence in garages if developers were allowed to put more units in a building, thereby making it profitable to market something that isn't "luxury".

by West Egg on Nov 4, 2013 10:17 pm • linkreport

I am a young professional, recent college grad, starting out my career, raised in PG County and am currently living back at home with my parents because its CHEAPER than so many other places, but I'd love to be able to afford to live in apartment closer to mass transit options, so that I wouldn't be so car dependent, and could instead focus on saving enough $ for other things.

I currently commute to Montgomery County for work (via car) because that's the most viable option. There's a serious lack of affordable housing there (in MoCo) and yet also not adequate public transit options to get from where I live to work in under an hour, so driving it is, at least until the Purple Line is built, or I get a better job in the city :)

Hopefully you can understand my frustration...

by WillBThinkin on Nov 4, 2013 10:20 pm • linkreport

@WestEgg

I agree with you 100%.

Also, @Fixed

It's incredibly problematic that anyone has seen the value of their homes rise so much in such a short amount of time -- this is not sustainable, not good housing policy, and not fair for broader society. Housing policy that allows values of homes in neighborhoods across an entire city to rise dramatically over 10 years is housing policy that privileges one generation while leaving the next generation absolutely screwed. DC, of course, is a bit of a unique case, because the city was somewhat of a clusterduck in the 1970s and 1980s, but in normal, healthy cities, housing values should not rise that fast.

Housing today in DC amounts to generational warfare.

by James on Nov 4, 2013 10:28 pm • linkreport

When did walkable become a defining concept? And why do we tolerate it? It's limiting. It requires density, so why not talk about that instead?

I was in Mississippi this weekend, near the coast, in a town called Diamondhead. Not walkable, at least the part of it I was in. But quite a few people owned electric golf carts and would use those, not cars or bikes, to get around. It was golf-cartable, I suppose. Personally, I'm happy with bikeable.

I've been living in a walkable DC neighborhood for years. And, truth be told, you can get sick of it just like everything else. Walkability may be a transient desire. Don't wish too hard for it.

Sometimes I just wished I lived by the ocean. Near the beach, in a place where the dolphins can be seen.

by kob on Nov 4, 2013 10:39 pm • linkreport

When did walkable become a defining concept?

Since the dawn of human civilization? Walking is a pretty fundamental thing. Even fully auto-oriented environments (such as a shopping mall) are completely pedestrian-oriented inside. We walk around the house, we walk inside the office, we walk as we go about our daily business.

Walkability may be a transient desire.

No, it is rather a fundamental element of human civilization. We are natural bipeds, after all.

Now, there are lots of different ways to go about creating and encouraging (and even defining) walkability; but the concept is a fairly fundamental thing.

by Alex B. on Nov 4, 2013 10:52 pm • linkreport

@kob

How is walkability a transient desire? It is how communities have been organized for the rest of Western and 'Oriental' civilization -- as well as indigenous communities in the Americas -- for thousands of years. From ancient China to Marrakech, Morocco to ancient Cairo to ancient Rome to 19th Century France to pre-war England to pre-war NYC and environs...this list could go on forever, because walkability is the dominant way in which communities have been designed throughout history -- why? Because it's sustainable. Before even public transportation, people walked or rode horses.

If anything, automobile dependency -- facilitated by cheap, finite oil -- is the transient fad...and, fortunately, we're already seeing its death in the USA insofar as the demand for walkable communities (as indicated by cost of real estate) is dramatically higher than that for auto-dependent communities.

by James on Nov 4, 2013 10:53 pm • linkreport

Yes, thank you Alex.

by James on Nov 4, 2013 10:53 pm • linkreport

Talking to one another, face-to-face, was the primary means of communication for most of human history. But we're fine with email today.

The limiting issue is transportation. Once we develop ultra-dense, long-life, high capacity energy storage systems, and self-driving systems, new ideas about how to live may take root. The past is not prologue, dawn of civilization or not.

Are we talking about walkability or a reaction to the profoundly negative environmental impacts of the combustion engine?

by kob on Nov 4, 2013 11:05 pm • linkreport

At drumz please don't turn this into an argument about semantics. Its not true, period. If the currently walkable neigborhoods would make your commute too long, or you are scared of the people who currently live there, or you think the schools suck, say so. These are issues which can be incorporated into the conversation and addressed but the first step is acknowledging that yes these neighborhoods currently exist but because of xyz they are insufficient. Personally I think addressing xyz is preferable to radically altering the city with new density regimes but currently my hands are full convincing people these neighborhoods even exist much less putting forward an argument that finite city resources should be directed that a-way rather than building skyscrapers in parts of town already thriving.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 5, 2013 3:03 am • linkreport

At james sometimes fecetiousness does not comeacross in text but I assure you when I brought up priviledged few I was being fecetious. My point is those people who moved in those neighborhoods are just like you. They endured muggings and crime and made their neighborhoods desirable to outsiders. I don't understand why people today are unwilling to make similar investments.

You are right, though. The 80s was horrible for DC. H st, U st., Columbia Heights, even Dupont was somewhat sketch. Logan circle...on and on. Crime is nowhere near as bad today as it once was it doesn't matter where you live in the city. Youre safer in Anacostia today than you were in Columbia Heights 20 years ago. Yet people invested in their communities and built. No one was talking about putting skyscrapers in the few decent areas of the city.

I think nowadays you have so many new residents with no appreciation for the city and no definite intentions to lay roots. They just want convenience and aren't interested in building communities with any continuity.

I could go on about how dunkin donuts and starbucks have sucked the flavor out of places like u st and how transients can't seem to support a restaraunt or lounge for more than five years before a new hot spot replaces it creating an ongoing cycle of vapidness and cultural void, but then I would be greatly digressing.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 5, 2013 3:24 am • linkreport

At westegg

DC is a unique American city in that it was designed to be low density from a very long time ago. Its not a matter of increasing density rules and now problem fixed. Infrastructure would need to be upgraded. Sewage, traffic patterns, and yes, parking are huge issues.

In Columbia Heights pipes are always being worked on. Water gets cut off a couple times a year. Parking sucks. The grocery stores are constantly crowded and out of produce. Talking 30-45 minutes in line (Giant). Getting crosstown driving is a headache. Before you start jamming more people into an already taxed infrastucture its goint to cost public funds.

Before you spend those public funds I think its worth discussing alternate uses. Maybe some of the conditions which lead to crime in some of those walkable areas can be addressed with those public funds. Maybe you disagree, but for the umpteenth time I think it should be part of the discussion rather than everyone going about oblivious to these neighborhoods.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 5, 2013 3:51 am • linkreport

Uh, the whole point of the survey is to figure why people don't live in walkable neighborhoods or what neighborhoods need to be more desireable so I don't know what you're arguing against there. For some it's price, for others it's a perception that an area is unsafe, for others still it's a mixture of both. But price is a big factor or many people, even if you think there are other neighborhoods they should consider.

Besides a: it won't be the city building high rises it'll be private developers, the city just changes the zoning to allow it.

B: where does it say the city was designed to be low density? The original height of buildings act was for light access and fire protection and today the "federal interest" usually just means protecting monumental views. Neither f which mean low density.

by Drumz on Nov 5, 2013 6:35 am • linkreport

This idea that we should freeze neighborhoods in amber ignores the huge numbers of people who can't afford a place to live in a walkable place near transit, especially not one with enough room to grow a family.

Thats not true based on avg income almost all dc people can afford walkable housing, but wait i think the author has an after thought..

Or they can afford an old house in a cheaper neighborhood, but that contributes to displacing long-time residents of those other neighborhoods. And they see not just gentrification's benefits, like safer streets and new shops, but also its harm from higher costs.

There is affordable walkable housing in this city and people not wanting to gentrify and old houses are not the issue with that housing stock.

That paragraph is my problem with this article in particular. Gentrification isn't people moving in. Itsthe result of govt policies. It ddoesn't just happen because people start moving in all of a sudden. It happens through tax incentives, tax penalties, govt neglect, and govt subsidies.

Then theres the laughable brush aside of "older houses in cheaper neigborhoods" when in reality the affordable houses in the city were built later in time with the exception of anacostia which is still not as old as the vast majority of the homes in the neighborhoods bandied about in the thread.

Nice try though, but yeah neighborhoods are currently walkable lets deal with some of the real issues of why people don't want to live in them rather than saying they're old and we don't want to gentrify.

Because lets be honest, that ships sailed. And these new proposals will just further concentrate the same sorts of people in a small spot killing any remaining real diversity if its done without any underlying policy change re: gentrification. So well meaning but misguided bleeding hearts using gentrification theory when deciding to buy their home (to the point these people even exist) shouldn't go patting themselves on the back for moving into indirectly govt subsidized middle class housing skyscrapers should they come to exist. You are still a gentrifyer.

Eliminating height restrictions increases density unless they are luxury units, which does nothing for this poll.. Unless you are tearing down 30 low slung buildings immidiately surrounding it and not replacing them, increasing height without luxury units leads to increased density and thats an immutable fact. Maybe if the govt directly subsidized some luxury units for middle class folks I.e. 2 families a floor this wouldn't lead to increased density. Increased density increases govt services and strain on infrastructure.. DC doesn't have the infrastructure for high density living it will have to build it. I am not talking about original intent I am talking about future public funds being diverted to create an infrastructure that can accomadate a thousand people versus 600 hundred.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 5, 2013 7:57 am • linkreport

by Submit my story on Nov 5, 2013 7:59 am • linkreport

This is what walkable gets me:

-- The constant hum of HVAC systems. If I sleep with a window open at night, it's never quiet. Never. Perfect, soothing silence, is absent.

-- Never seeing the stars.

-- The stress of it. We may toss off the risks of urban life, but you can't deny the stress of it.

-- The tightness of it. Yes, while walkability may mean that a Starbucks is somehow an extension of my apartment, it isn't, not really.

For sure, I enjoy the proximity to culture, and the arts, and the pace and rhythm of urban life and not owning a car. But walkability comes with massive trade-offs. Walkability, whatever it really means, is just one way to live, and on any given day I can live without it.

by kob on Nov 5, 2013 9:03 am • linkreport

kob,

Your issues are apparently with living in a city rather than being a pedestrian. Rather you can have walkable rural communities as well.

But for those who prefer urban living (and suburban) it makes sense to make things safer/easier to walk to places if one wants to do that.

by drumz on Nov 5, 2013 9:13 am • linkreport

Perfect, soothing silence is absent.

For some that's a blessing. For others a curse. As far as "you can't deny the stress of it" I'd be careful of extrapolating your personal tastes to the universe.

In any case, it's all relative. When I moved to my current walkable neighborhood (just north of H Street), I had a hard time sleeping because it was *too* quiet. If it was any less "stressful" I'd go out of my mind.

by oboe on Nov 5, 2013 9:15 am • linkreport

Amber:

While governmental policies may affect gentrification around the margins, it either happens or doesn't primarily as a result of market forces and market players willing to take some financial risk. Like Doug Jemal building on NY Avenue 15-20 years ago.

by Crickey7 on Nov 5, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

@Tina, ""it's funny that it seems you think the first your list in human motivations is modern and an idea born of libertarian modern thought. Its ancient. Tikkun Olam. And even older than that.""
-oh I'm sorry Tina if I wasn't clearer, those are THE motivators of humans since we evolved into sentient beings. It's not connected to any political persuasion.

@Oboe, ""You may want to ask yourself why that is. (Though, personally I think you're verging on No True Scotsman territory).""
-Most critics of Libertarianism always try to pigeonhole us with the famous question, "So your neighbor should be allowed to build a nuclear plant next to your house?" One of my favorite books on the subject is Murray's "What It Means to Be a Libertarian", then in a smaller byline "A personal interpretation". We are the true independents, we don't toe the lines of the right or the left. Sure there is flexibility within the democrats or repubs, but not to the extent you seen within the libertarian umbrella, which isn’t a recognized political party. That's why you have my version of LINOs like Ron Paul who are pro-life, wait what?!! So I guess the answer to your question is two fold Oboe, you can't readily organize so many free minds, and the policies of a true libertarian are unsympathetic to the needs of the rich, and abrasive to the needs of the poor.

@Fixed in Amber""I often wonder how many people on this site actually live in dc when they make certain remarks. For instance parking is real issue in some of these neigborhoods.""
-I live just on the other side of the DC NE border, I have no problems with crime, commuting to any and all interior DC/ and/or metro and beyond and pay less rent than when I lived in Portland, OR. SO I tend to agree with you. That said, people need to learn, learn, and learn some more about the neighborhoods of the DMV. I suspect that some of the renting/buying is done by folks who are probably paid more money than sense and don't care to window shop, even though they could save thousands and thousands of dollars. It took me about 9 months to fully absorb the DC region, thousands of miles of driving, three different living locations, I toured approximately 25 apartments, and also looked at 100s of apartments online and learned about their locations. Using my living matrix, I found precisely what I needed. Funny thing is I now know the region better than some folks that have lived here 45+ years, pick up some maps natives, it's fun, off the beaten path is where it's at. So affordable housing, YES, affordable housing in "societies perception of" desirable neighborhoods, NO, you get it Fixed in Amber.

@Kob, ""I've been living in a walkable DC neighborhood for years. And, truth be told, you can get sick of it just like everything else. Walkability may be a transient desire. Don't wish too hard for it.""
Thanks for your perspective, I tend to think it's a phase too. You think it's a good idea, you move in, live there a couple of years, but then its like everything else. Not everybody likes Fry sauce (a Utah thing), but some love it! But the urbanists will try it just like they will try an Iphone (garbage, NEXUS 5 BABY). The urbanists just try to shove their line of thinking down your throat like they have found the shangri la of living arrangements. You don't get that as much from people living in other environments. It's more like the Mellencamp small town song ”Had myself a ball in a small town, got nothing against a big town”, I have a higher standard of living in unincorporated Montgomery county(well inside the beltway) than any neighborhood in the DMV, of course that is my personal assessment, I enjoy the versatility of living both in/and out of urbanity, depending on definition of course. Does it work for every human?, probably not, is it sustainable?, yes, is it affordable even if I was on minimum wage?, yes.

@Alex B. ‘’’Since the dawn of human civilization? Walking is a pretty fundamental thing. “”

original yes, fundamental NO(would imply it’s a building block holding up the rest) , humankind has always been intuitive in creating and building ever more efficient ways to move people and things WITHOUT walking. , trees dug out to create canoes, more sophisticated water faring vehicles, egyptian greased sleds, invention of the wheel, domestication of horses, elephants, and other creatures, steam engines, internal combustion engines, flight, battery powered machines, hybrids, hydrogen cars (in development) cold fusion cars(in development) . Once again, the urbanists always come off as luddites, no disrespect my good man, I just disagree.

@James “ It is how communities have been organized for the rest of Western and 'Oriental' civilization -- as well as indigenous communities in the Americas -- for thousands of years.”

All of those communities from one of the first in Kerio Valley, Kenya, when humans used the valley rivers to stop being nomadic, the birth of rudimentary agriculture. used only the strongest men to hunt and then come home. Its been that way in all the successive communities, lets say oh 20 millenia have devised ever more efficient ways to move. Walking is useful, not fundamental.

@James”If anything, automobile dependency -- facilitated by cheap, finite oil -- is the transient fad...”

If you are an environmentalist than say so. The sad truth is the only way to prevent further encroachment on Mother Gaia is to kill humans, fast and in abundance, are you going to be the one who helps decide who lives and dies James?

@Kob, “The limiting issue is transportation. Once we develop ultra-dense, long-life, high capacity energy storage systems, and self-driving systems, new ideas about how to live may take root. The past is not prologue, dawn of civilization or not.”

YES, I understand you loud and clear Kob, I don’t fully understand why others don’t get it.

by Bill on Nov 5, 2013 9:52 am • linkreport

@Bill

It's not just the environment that demands walkable neighborhoods. It's our basic need as social beings. Have you ever heard of the "passeggiata" in Italy -- where entire communities go out every evening before dinner, take a walk, have a gelato, meet with friends, enjoy just being outside around other people? That happens because of a basic human need for social interaction, one that suburban tract home developments artificially make impossible. Walkable communities aren't just about the environment -- they're also about what, at the most basic level, is necessary for humans to live happy, healthy and stable lives. The suburbs (again, not the old-fashioned suburbs, the tract housing suburbs of most of America) are alienating places with disastrous consequences for social and civic wellbeing.

by James on Nov 5, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

I don't think we are too far apart Crickey. People have to take financial risk, but the recent pattern inDC is that that risk has been offset by govt subsidies. And on the other end tax penalties. Once momentum is built yes market forces tend totake on a life of their own. That being said, policies which include set asides for mixed income and easing on tax assessments can mitigate gentrification.

There is also a people aspect. I understand the following is highly aspirational but much of gentrification has to do with the prevailing interests of community members, and what demographic controls. Its very basic, but approaching community politics in an us vs them, new vs old, mentality leads to many of the issues with gentrification. Remembering we are neighbors and focusing on points where interests converge and trying to come to a consensus on issues can help. Much easier said than done however.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 5, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

@James
I get it, we probably both want the same end result, but we disagree on how we got here and how we get to the end. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss tract housing, it afforded low middle class the option to live in an upper middle class livestyle, right after the War. There are parks there are back yards, with Weber grills, there is beauty, there are nice neighbors. My observations are that just like every New Yorker you run across the denser communities you are the less likely to know you neighbor. Hence that's why Kob called them transient, because they are.

That's what cool people want to try once in their life, I was one of them. I did it in Portland, an even denser much cooler city than Washington DC. I knew my neighbors to the extent I know you. I lived across from a urban park that was surrounded by 6 story apartment buildings. It had hundreds of people in the summer weekends, yet was just one city block. And Yes, I lived in the most walkable large city in the United States. I live in a hybrid urban community now, I know at least ten neighbors by name, our dogs frequent play in MY backyard, I hosted two barbecues, with many attendees, I've been to the house next door where they project movies onto a white sheet, and drink. This is community, and it is an old suburb, that still looks like an old suburb.

I get what you want though, you want to live next to things you can walk to. In Portland I lived .5 miles from about 10 FULL SERVICE grocery stores, trader joes, fredmeyer, whole foods, two coops, two safeways, a "european" market, many art galleries, literally within a mile or two to 100s of restaurants/bars/nightclubs/stripclubs, a few james beard restaurants, breweries, parks that destroy DCs "circles" in quality and usability. It is overrated. The community was a collection of humans driven to their own internal activities. Sure there were coffee shops, probably 30 within a mile of my apartment. Packed to the gills, but what were most doing eyeballs focused on there mac books, hell I can do that in Wasilla, AK. Never heard of the Italian passeggiata, but I do know the Spaniards take their siesta very seriously. I do immensely enjoy the architecture of Italy having had the privilege to tour the galleria vittorio in Milan, again good shopping density but community, well....

by Bill on Nov 5, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

@Andrea J - Perhaps if you sold one (or both!) of your cars, you could afford to pay for a home?

Also, there are other areas near Gallaudet that are more affordable than Kingman Park, ie Ivy City, Carver Langstson, maybe northern Trinidad.

Mount Rainier is nice, though.

by h st ll on Nov 5, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

I have to agree with Bill, having lived in Columbia Heights. People don't really speak and aren't friendly. There are a million people all engaged in their iphones, ipads etc. Not a real neighborhood feel. I imagine its because there are very few people there who have vested interests in the community. Here today, gone tomorrow. I was the same way pretty much. My new neigborhood which i feel is walkable but not widely regarded as such, everyone speaks and I have been invited to join a few civic organizations and I havent even officially moved in yet. When I went to the local dive I was greeted and included in whatever conversations were taking place. Walkability does not necessarily equate to social health and hardy interactions though it can.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 5, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

Portland wishes it were us.

by Crickey7 on Nov 5, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

I think the article might not be clarifying well enough who is not able to afford housing in some of the walkable neighborhoods because the terminology says one thing but the reality for some is that even when making a six-figure salary, one cannot afford a walkable neighborhood either, especially if wanting to start or grow a family. I think in many realms, a six-figure salary (even on the lowest possible end of six-figures) would hardly constitute low income. However, it may not be enough to buy into a walkable neighborhood, either. I have hear too many people complain about not being able to afford certain neighborhoods, even though they would not qualify as low income.

by DC Anon on Nov 5, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

Never been to Portland but now I am seriously considering a trip. I want to visit this urban oasis!

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 5, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

@Crickey7
"Portland wishes it were us."

LOL, at the risk of sounding like a huge STUMPTOWN (Portland, OR) fanboy, Washington, DC has nothing on PDX, hell it shouldn't even by discussed in the same conversation, it's like comparing Barrow, Alaska to Greenwich Village, NYC. Brooklyn,NYC and Washington DC are trying so so hard to emulate PDX, but they are finding it's most likely unattainable. Let me give you a hint, it's not shiny 8 story buildings built up to the curb (al la 14th street). That really had me laughing, Portland I place where you can alpine ski on July 27, Portland a place where you can tour some of the finest wineries in the world, Portland a place where can expierence some of the finest natural beauty this world has ever created. Sorry Washington DC is nice and I enjoy the high wages but let's be real...

by Bill on Nov 5, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

Believe me, no one in DC is comparing it to Portland. It's just not in the same league economically, culturally. As for access to outdoor activities, we have boating on the Chesapeake, some of the greatest whitewater in the country within a short drive, and we're a national mecca of cycling talent because the riding conditions are great. I can hop on my bike and ride 300 miles on trails to Pittsburgh. Or catch a play in DC, the nation's No. 2 city for live theater. All in an urban environment renowned for being human-scaled. Full of whip-smart, interesting people.

Keep the skiing and the coffee. I'll take DC.

by Crickey7 on Nov 5, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

Portland also has some of those close in outdoor amenities because of a strict urban growth boundary. Not exactly a laissez faire approach to private property.

by drumz on Nov 5, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

@Crikey7

Ok one more about PDX and then I'll "try" to shut up. 50 years ago Oregon was a high income state, yes higher than Maryland and Virginia, the growth of government under Reagan and his successors have funneled the earth's financial capital into DMV making it one of the wealthiest regions in the World. PDX has spectacular white water rafting, deschutes river, PDX has world class windsurfing, Columbia river gorge.
Pacific Northwest, has over 10,000 named waterfalls, of which extremists kayak down. The main waterfall being the over 600 foot Multnomah Falls(nobody has kayaked over that one yet). Plenty of on road bike routes between PDX and Seattle, and PDX and the desert, and PDX and the Pacific Ocean. They also have the PCT, pacific crest trail, longer and more rugged and scenic than AT. Portland popularized commuter bicycling, as well as the green boxes, as well as bioswales.
Have I talked about beer yet? Or fabulous hotels? Or modern streetcars? Or the Aerial Tram? How about scenic views? Or education attainment? Or interesting sophisticated people? Or the oldest art museum on the west coast, when all DC had was a small corcoran gallery? Or the Portland Opera, Symphony, Ballet, all at or better than anything you see at the Kennedy Center? You like karaoke bars? Do you like classical gardens? How about live music, NY times calls it "one of the most exciting music scenes in the country". I said it once and I'll say it again, Portlanders experience the highest standard of living in the world. Washington DC doesn't will never have the natural bones that PDX has, and that's ok, I like it here. But again, lets not confuse the two.

by Bill on Nov 5, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

"Portlanders experience the highest standard of living in the world. Washington DC "

Clearly you're exaggerative, since you wrongly thought your Portland was more walkable than DC (DC has a total walkscore of 73 compared to Portland's 66).

Not that I think DC has the highest standard of living in the world, but neither does Portland. At least DC is ranked highly on Mercer's quality of life rankings while Portland doesn't appear on the list.

Yes, Portland is a nice city indeed with less crime, but if you think it's the world's best, then you need to get out more!

by Burd on Nov 5, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

"I did it in Portland, an even denser much cooler city than Washington DC. "

Portland has less people + larger land area = less dense than DC.

by Burd on Nov 5, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

The Pacific Crest Trail is about as close to Portland as the Appalachian Trail is to DC. That would be the trail that all later long-distance hiking trails in North America copied.

by Crickey7 on Nov 5, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

Like I've said before, I enjoy DC as much as the next person. But, if you're not earning a six-figure salary (and many of the people on this board are lucky to be doing so as they don't hesitate to remind others of their elevated incomes), the value-add of living in DC versus another city just doesn't seem to add up, in my opinion. The summers are brutal (i.e. worse than the Amazon -- yes, I've been there), the people (in my opinion) aren't super friendly, and the architecture (outside the monumental core and the interesting rowhouses) is unexceptional. So, for someone struggling to get by here on 30k/50k/year (which is many individuals both in and out of government), it's tough to pay these prices for urban living when other cities, like Portland or Seattle, offer so much -- and with rents about 1/3 to 1/2 less. The comparison becomes even more stark when you compare DC to a number of great European cities (i.e. Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Rome) -- all of which are just incredible (and well-connected to the rest of Europe by cheap airfares and high-speed rail, which I know is another discussion for us to have here) in terms of public transport, culture, history, and food. Again, while this may ruffle the feathers of some property owners and landlords posting here, DC rents are absurd, because the municipal -- and, in the case of DC, federal as well -- government allows these rents to rise to insane levels without any sort of control, all while artificially restraining supply through minimum parking rules and height limits. Every non-car owning person in a DC rental subsidizes the car owning folks whose need for parking leads to massive, expensive underground garages being built for every new development. In sum, DC is an OK city, but it's only a relatively good urbanist place in the context of the region, rather than other parts of the country, and certainly other parts of the world (e.g. Europe, Asia and small parts of South America.)

by James on Nov 5, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

No one is forcing people to live here. And yet they flock here.

On the one hand you talk about the lower cost of living in regional centers like Portland and Seattle. On the other, you compare DC's architecture and culture to national centers like Paris and Rome (which are extremely expensive places to live). You can't keep selecting different yardsticks; that is, you wouldn't compare Rome and Portland.

Many people like the balance DC offers between cosmopolitan bustle and access to recreational opportunities, and moderate density livability. As for the weather and people, now you're just being petty.

by Crickey7 on Nov 5, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

Oh, come on, maybe the people comment was a bit petty (I'm sorry!), but the weather here is brutal in summer, and that matters :)

That said, Paris and Rome are very expensive places to live, but not more expensive than DC: health care is free, cable and Internet is much cheaper, mobile phone service is much cheaper, robust public transport is much, much cheaper, higher education is cheaper.

This is a distraction from the topic at hand in one sense, but in another, it's not. DC residents are enduring a cost-of-living (housing, especially) that is spiraling out of control, even as the public goods (education, health care, transit) stagnate, or get worse, in terms of quality and/or expense. DC's crisis of affordable housing in sustainable, walkable communities is just another reflection of our broader national crisis of extreme -- and growing -- socio-economic inequality.

by James on Nov 5, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

I bike to work in the summer, 10 miles each way. People pay good money to sweat as much as I do for free. But a cold shower later, it's all good.

by Crickey7 on Nov 5, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

DC's crisis of affordable housing in sustainable, walkable communities...
...is addressed with land use and transportation policies and planning...

by heard enough on Nov 5, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

That's great, Crickey7. Many more DC residents would cycle, too, if we had proper cycling infrastructure. DC roads in downtown are absolutely massive, there's no reason that each road can't have a bi-directional, protected cycle track. Promoting this cycling infrastructure would also help to make other neighborhoods (i.e. parts of Capitol Hill not near Metro) considered more 'walkable' -- or at least competitive.

by James on Nov 5, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

@heard enough

Yes, that's part of the picture, but in a city with lots of employment opportunities, it's also addressed by robust rent regulation. (Not talking about keeping an apartment in Georgetown $2,000/month until 2020, but limiting increases to reasonable, predictable levels.)

by James on Nov 5, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

It's not so much that I can't live in such a place now, but living in the kind of place I want to is killing my budget. I already devote close to half of my take-home pay just to split a one-bedroom basement that's close to the U Street metro stop. But that's worth it to me. I'm saving nothing, and I'll never own a home in DC because it's totally out of reach, but I need to be close to transit and walkable things. The problem isn't affordable housing; it's transit proximity. With such a narrow selection of housing close to transit, it's obvious that the solution is to EXPAND TRANSIT massively in this city, including Metrorail, Metrobus, and proper LIGHT RAIL with DEDICATED LANES.

Even in the area we already pay too much for, we've got plenty of nightlife but retail - e.g. corner shops of any kind - is in short supply (note that this is NOT a call for a moratorium on bars/restaurants of any kind). What we want are places <i>off</i> the main drag, neighborhood places, a hardware store, a corner grocery so we don't have to lug bags of produce from Whole Foods, maybe a proper liquor store without bulletproof glass. Confining shops of all sorts to the main commercial drags is a harsh, inorganic patterning of people's lives, and there's no need to keep ourselves to it.

by MetroDerp on Nov 5, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

Yikes! There has been a lot of talking past each other here. I just saw this and am just chiming in but I think a fundamental misunderstanding here and in general when talking about these issues is this:

The people who respond to calls for more affordable neighborhoods that [fill in the blank] with "well, live within your means" maybe miss the point that, no, we're not talking about making *existing* neighborhoods that X more affordable per se, but providing X to more and more places. X can be better schools, more walkability, better transit access, more SFH etc....whatever the desire is.

This will improve quality of life all around, AND ease up demand on the luxury neighborhoods because a passing school, or a transit hub, or a walkable vibe or [fill in the blank] can be found places other than the luxury neighborhoods. Now of course, you can't expect to replicate, say, Dupont Circle in Brookland, and expect prices to remain flat but it will put downward pressure on *all* desirable neighborhoods (not price drop, but control wild rise) while raising prices in Brookland (good for homeowners). This can't really be a bad thing for anyone (except perhaps real estate speculators in the existing luxury neighborhoods but that is a whole other issue).

Now, if a person wants to preserve the idea that good schools, walkable nighborhoods, transit etc etc ARE luxury items and should not be encouraged in less-than luxury areas, that's one thing. But I don't actually think that's the case for anyone...at least not here.

by Catherine on Nov 5, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Burd

Yes the numbers are skewed because of more traditional housing tracts east of the Willamette river, I lived in the northwest part of the city. It's more walkable, lets just leave it at that. There are many reasons to list, but most urban planners would agree with me. Look a lot of the livability is just in the location, some have even commented on the size of the downtown city blocks (that were platted in the 1860s!), lucky breaks, and enough outside wealth to keep the liberal pet dreams of Portland rolling. Of course me saying it's the greatest is subjective, but, there isn't another freer country on earth, so that crosses anything outside of america off the list, and then you don't look at crap like how many humans can we stack on top of each other( I think having windows on only two sides is weird and claustrophobic, thank you England and DC row homes) , you look at it all, outside, inside, food, weather, cost, and you come to the conclusion, Portland, Oregon has the highest standard of living in the world. The rankings typically are tied to things like free healthcare(hence the Canadian domination), nevermind the fact that there are top world hospitals in Portland, If you think I'm wearing rose colored glasses than I suggest you go check it out yourself. I've been around a "few" countries even grew up in flyover country.

by Bill on Nov 5, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

@MetroDerp ""What we want are places off the main drag, neighborhood places, a hardware store, a corner grocery so we don't have to lug bags of ""

Well eliminating zoning would help solve those problems, but why go to a hardware store when I can get a paintbrush delivered to my house by amazon in one day for significantly cheaper. Sorry brick and mortar retail is dead and it's not coming back.

@Catherine

Yes, I like you clarifying that, the environmentalists won't like it but creating larger cities, with more walkable communities within them is more appropriate. Rather than focusing on trying to add housing to the original walkable neighborhoods.

by Bill on Nov 5, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

The people who respond to calls for more affordable neighborhoods that [fill in the blank] with "well, live within your means" maybe miss the point that, no, we're not talking about making *existing* neighborhoods that X more affordable per se, but providing X to more and more places. X can be better schools, more walkability, better transit access, more SFH etc....whatever the desire is.

Yes, that's a good way of putting it.

Bill,

Why is it bad to put housing in established neighborhoods where people want it?

by drumz on Nov 5, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

I get it--you're biased. We all are to a degree, but I'm trying to be objective here.

To say Portland is more walkable than DC is not being objective since you initially based it on walkscore ratings, which rank a few DC 'hoods higher than anything in Portland.

To say Portland is cheap is also subjective. Its median home price is over $300K, which slightly less than Montreal (350K) but way higher than Baltimore (196K), Philadelphia (160K), Chicago (250K) or Atlanta (250K).

Weather...lol...I mean, I've been to MANY cities that have better weather than Portland. LA, San Diego, San Jose, Cape Town, Lisbon, Rome, etc. But of course, that too is subjective.

And discounting all cities outside of the US b/c you believe it's the freest country on earth is very narrow-minded. Tell that to a Canadian, and Heritage and Fraser/CATO rank Canada ahead of the US by the way...

by Burd on Nov 5, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

@ Bill, not quite what I was meaning but similar.....I mean mostly to say that maybe instead of shoving more and more housing into existing desirable neighborhoods, make more neighborhoods desirable? I mean, yes, more density helps and is not a bad thing to a point but wouldn't it just be easier and better for everyone to extend desirable things elsewhere? Why reserve walkability and transit to a few sacred spots?

by Catherine on Nov 5, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

@Bill:

I live in a city because I like being around and am not afraid of talking to and interacting with people. I like taking a walk. I like popping into a shop. I order a hell of a lot of stuff off the internet too, but there's a quality to real live human interaction that you miss there. About finding the right tool or the right book or an interesting new beer.

And I know you think eliminating zoning would be a panacea to all our problems, but that's in no way what I want or propose. Just a relaxation of the more odious products of the 1950s.

by MetroDerp on Nov 5, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

@Catherine:

Spot on. The reason walkable and transit-accessible neighborhoods are so expensive is because they're in such short supply.

The solution isn't to build a few more housing units in those neighborhoods, though - it's to give more neighborhoods the same qualities that make the others so desirable (e.g. BUILD MORE TRANSIT).

by MetroDerp on Nov 5, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

@Catherine

You really need to do both, otherwise you are just fueling the fire for more gentrification and pushing out of older communities.

by MLD on Nov 5, 2013 5:12 pm • linkreport

@Burd

If you look at the totality of the numbers and the artificial city borders, Portland which has annexed four times the area its original borders consisted of in its 167 year history, and DC which has lost much of it's original 100 square miles in it's history, then yes, the walkscore numbers tend to agree with you. That said, the walkscore is precise to address. Not neigborhoods and cities, so my address was the numbers I gave several comments back, 100,91,99. I walk score of 100, seems I must have hit the sweet spot in the walkscore calculus.

Further there is not a place physically in Washington DC, that you can walk to as many "anything" as you can in the Portland Central Business District. For example, imagine trying to walk to where DC United plays from the West end. Well in Portland you could easily walk to the Portland Symphony, riverfront, Portland Timbers (MLS team), Portland Trail Blazers (NBA team), City Hall, Riverfront, Forest Park (one of the larger urban forests in the country, puts rock creek park to shame), largest bookstore in the world, largest farmers market in the world, most important rose garden in the world...plus all the other stuff I said above like a few james beard restaurants.
There isn't a single address in DC where you can say that. Way too much dead space, hello National Mall, anybody home? Sure DC beats the walkscore system by as walkscore calls it a "patent-pending system" I question the walkscore subjectivity more than what I am describing to you now. Portland is more walkable than San Fran, Seattle, Washington DC, New York city, this is what I do on my vacations I walk cities, others try restaurants, I walk cities and absorb their layouts. If we just went by straight up density than the most walkable city is Manila, Philippines. Walkability is slightly more than that.
Portland Oregon is considerably more walkable than Washington DC. I'm not trying to deflect the difficult question posed above, I'm just clarifying. In many ways I see this whole question as a more broad description of the growing "have nots" and the declining "haves"...the most important issue facing society today.

by Bill on Nov 5, 2013 5:34 pm • linkreport

"In many ways I see this whole question as a more broad description of the growing "have nots" and the declining "haves"...the most important issue facing society today."

Totally agree -- society owes those who can't afford a car -- and associated expenses -- access to walkable neighborhoods with decent food, retail and entertainment, as well as public transport, to facilitate employment.

That people here see walkability -- and access to transit -- as a 'luxury good' says a lot about backwards American notions of social policy and social equity.

by James on Nov 5, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

So let me get this straight. You're discrediting walkscore while at the same time using it to bolster your claim that your 'hood was more walkable than anywhere in DC? There are DC addresses with walkscores of 100 BTW and if you lived in Penn Quarter in downtown DC, then you could walk to the Verizon Center (NBA, NHL, WNBA, college teams), SEVERAL theaters, movies, bowling, restaurants, retail, offices, courthouses, library, subway stations, SEVERAL world-famous museums, I could go on...How could you possibly think Portland's downtown is somehow unique in that respect? I'm starting to suspect you've never been to downtown DC...

"Way too much dead space, hello National Mall, anybody home?"

LOL..the Nat'l Mall dead space...that's a first...it's only the world's largest collection of museums, and has sculpture gardens, a botanical garden, not to mention several memorials, ball fields, a lake, etc.

And if you want to talk about downtowns with dead space, talk about Portland's many open-air parking lots...you'd have a hard time finding any of those in Downtown DC...

by Burd on Nov 5, 2013 6:53 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

"Portland is more walkable than San Fran, Seattle, Washington DC, New York city"

You're joking, right?

by Burd on Nov 5, 2013 6:55 pm • linkreport

@Burd

The combination of outdoor nature and urban amenities is unmatched in such a tiny walkable blueprint in PDX. I'll admit there are a few parking lots(But infill is filling the gaps), just like there are many in Washington DC, and there were many more before the modern urban push, had you seen the City Center site beforehand? I can walk you by a parking lot fronting 14th right now a block from 14th and s.

I live 6.8 miles from the US capitol rotunda, but of course I've never been down there, so I can't have an opinion right? Burd stop being defensive, I can't tell if you are a native to the DMV or what, DC is urban and mostly walkable, but it has a LONG ways to go. I'm not the first to call the green rectangle poorly used space. Smithsonians aside, there could be lots of improvement to that area and the federal buildings just south of the mall. Washington DC also has many dead spaces where 12-story ugly glass boxes just funnel the wind two days a week. I mean if walkability is just some random matrix like proximity to a bar and corner store, than I guess Phoenix is a walkable city. If it's just space for your legs to move then I guess Death Valley is a walkable area too.

by Bill on Nov 5, 2013 7:26 pm • linkreport

@MLD, yes which is why I said density is a good thing to a point. Where that point is is a completely different set of issues but more is necessary and better.

@James...I'm not sure that anyone thinks those things *are* a luxury good, but because of the cost associated with living with/near them, around here they may as well be.

by Catherine on Nov 5, 2013 7:49 pm • linkreport

Agreed -- @Catherine, and that's a major problem in why the USA has gross socio-economic inequality, as Paul Krugman wrote in a recent column, social mobility is much lower in Atlanta than some older cities, because people are trapped in neighborhoods away from jobs, culture and education.

That said, one way to improve the walkability of DC -- with its barebones metro service -- would be to dramatically enhance bus service. Many Americans don't consider a neighborhood only served by buses as 'walkable', when in Brazil or Buenos Aires or Europe or China, the neighborhood served by good bus service is just as 'walkable'. Of course, in the USA, bus service is generally horrid, because it is considered a residual transport mode for the poor, versus rail.

by James on Nov 5, 2013 8:18 pm • linkreport

Ha! Catherine walkable neighborhoods close to transit alreasy exist but like you said they just need more of xyz. Ive been advocating addressing whateber these neighborhoods lack read: not walkability/transit to make them viable options.

Good for you for finding a palatable way to express that: it will make georgetown, u st., and h st cheaper. Ding, ding, ding. Correct answer.

by Fixed in Amber on Nov 6, 2013 7:58 am • linkreport

Amber--Yes, I am very much aware of that fact. But there are other neighborhoods that have xyz that aren't walkable. Why not address both issues? It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition and there doesn't have to be winners or losers. A holistic approach is usually the best idea in any planning situation.

And I don't actually think that the expensive neighborhoods are going to get any cheaper. I specifically used the term "downward pressure" and then clarified that I do not mean a price drop. I think that the rapid rate of increase will slow down or stop. And I think that is a good thing.

The only people that this would negatively effect are the speculators or flippers who bought up houses in these places expecting a 100% ROI in a year. Those are also the very people who have a major hand in driving up prices in the first place.

by Catherine on Nov 6, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

@ Bill
"I'll admit there are a few parking lots... just like there are many in Washington DC"

No, there are many in downtown Portland. There are not many in downtown DC anymore.

" I can walk you by a parking lot fronting 14th right now a block from 14th and s."

That's not "downtown DC."

"Burd stop being defensive"

Lol...you're the one discrediting the data by saying Portland is the most walkable, best place on earth. I never made such a claim about DC. I said DC is more walkable than Portland because it is, and also recognised that there are many cities around the world and even the US that are more walkable and have a higher quality of life than DC.

I get it, you love Portland, but you're in denial.

by Burd on Nov 6, 2013 10:22 am • linkreport

@Burd-- after reading (most of) what he wrote, I'm pretty sure he's trolling or is someone who just really REALLY needs to move back to Portland.

Also something that everyone is guilty of around here (myself included) but we should try to avoid to avoid these...whatever this drawn out thing is--we tend to take the best examples of our own cities or our own neighborhoods and compare them to the other city as a whole---As Bill does by excluding the part of Portland west (?) of the river compared to DC's overall walk score and someone (maybe you? being lazy and not checking) by comparing a specific DC neighborhood to Portland as a whole.

Just something we all need to be mindful of I think. And trust me, I am among the worst offenders sometimes, living in Old Town. It is way too easy for me to forget about most of the rest of Alexandria (except the denser neighborhoods like Rosemont and Del Ray right by Old Town) because we're relatively geographically isolated from the rest of the city and because I just plain ol' don't go there because I don't have to. Anyway, just a thought. And seriously, pretty sure Bill just doesn't like it here and may be lashing out a bit. That was basically my entire existance the first 2 years I lived here (I never wanted to move this far South or to this type of city). I found my niche, learned to not hate the weather and have come to peace with life here.

by Catherine on Nov 6, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

@Burd

Ok Burd, looks like I can't win you with walkability logic, how about we call it LIVABILITY. If you can't see the influences PDX has had on Washington DC's 14 year livability urban push, than you are in denial, not a follower of urban development theory, or have little understanding of the community in which (I presume?) you were born and raised. Have you even been to the West Coast?....

Sorry for hijacking this thread, I won't type another comparison response.(Or will never respond again if IP is blocked) So the question I pose can you LIVE in a Levittown? How about the Upper West Side? So I pose the question "Is a LIVABLE neighborhood out of reach for you?"

The answer for the Washington DC region is a resounding NO, as there are plenty of neighborhoods in WDC and just outside the district lines that provide LIVABLE spaces, even if one were on minimum wage which would be about 1188 dollars/month full time.

@Catherine

I'm no native of the west coast, but would rate my few years in portland the community as 12/10, Washington DC 9/10(up from 8/10 a year ago). And Yes, I'm here for the money, Isn't that true for every transient here, right Catherine?????

by Bill on Nov 6, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

@Bill--transients, sure. Which I think just further ruffles feathers. People swing in for the high pay and plentiful jobs from Elsewhere, which is always, and without fail So Much Better Than DC, show little to no interest in actually living here or understanding the area (you claiming that National Mall is a waste of space is a great example of that. And have you ever actually been to The Dreaded Suburbs or have you just decided what they're like and bash them accordingly?).

If Elsewhere was so great, why bother? Oh, these little things called a job and money. Those don't count for anything?

I've just been to one too many parties where the newly arrived have nothing to do but go on and on and on about how much better the last ciy was and oh by the way here's the 18,000 reasons why, and gee thanks for inviting me over for dinner. It's insufferable at a certain point, particularly from those who display seemingly willful ignorance about this area.

And NO DC is not perfect. Many of us are actively working towards making Greater Washington even greater, in case you've missed that point.

Transplants, less so. I'm not just passing through. I have lived here for 10 years--my entire adulthood-- and consider this my home and where I am "from" (seeing as how where I was raised, I moved away from permanently when I was 17). I will not be moving anytime in the forseeable future. I'm not here for the money, I'm home.

by Catherine on Nov 6, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

Bill:

There's a lot to like about Portland. It's just not comparable to DC. The DC MSA is ranked 7, Portland is 24. Two of the other top 10 MSA's are a pretty short drive away. Even with its larger size, DC has a higher growth rate and saw the nation's largest rise in foreign born population from 2000 to 2010 (22% of the population, compared to Portland at 12.5%). At the same time, it's the nation's third most educated city. Summers are a wee bit hot, but fall lasts and lasts and lasts.

If you don't feel at home here, that is fine. YOu don't need to criticize DC for that.

by Crickey7 on Nov 6, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

"looks like I can't win you with walkability logic, how about we call it LIVABILITY. If you can't see the influences PDX has had on Washington DC's 14 year livability urban push."

If you have a problem with walkscore's methodology, then take it up with walkscore.com, not me. And, this thread is about walkability in the NOW, not years ago, not in the future, and not "livability," whatever that means.

"...have little understanding of the community in which (I presume?) you were born and raised. Have you even been to the West Coast?"

It's irrelevant where I'm from or have been, b/c I'm trying to be OBJECTIVE, which is why I used walkscores, median home price data, Mercer, Heritage, Fraser/CATO studies, facts about population density, etc. to refute the misguided claims you keep making.

Are there walkable places in DC that are affordable for me is the real question being posed in this article, and the answer is yes b/c I live in one.

@Catherine

I think he just loves Portland so much that he's completely close-minded about the fact that other cities are more affordable, safe, and walkable than Portland. I have a favourite city too, but I'm not going to make bogus claims to convince anyone to like it as much as I.

by Burd on Nov 6, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

@Catherine

I'm home too (of course I rent), but I know the area quite well, and while I've been here two years to your ten years, I have already made my community better, by participating in creek sweeps and going to local city council meetings, and of course dutifully reading Greatergreater Washington to see what's up. Tell me how many gardens/collections are at the National Arboretum? Ever walked up the Spanish Steps? Ever toured the USS Barry? How about taken pictures in front of the North Boundary stone? Considering I'm engaged to a girl I met in DC, I think I will be here I while. Just don't pigeonhole me with the ivies/trust funders that live in the luxury apartments in Logan circle and truly are here to check something off their life list. I started in Fredericksburg(lived in an apartment block that was worse than the crap I lived in Central Florida) and commuted to Rosslyn, so I methodically worked myself to living within 7 miles of the capitol rotunda.
But lets not kid ourselves, 2007 brought great financial heartache for many, and BUSH/Obama have made sure that the Greater DC region has the LOWEST unemployment rates and the HIGHEST paid jobs in the United States. That's a recipe for a mass influx of hungry folks. Particular your millennials, which include me.

by Bill on Nov 6, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

You're the one who said transient, not me. Transient connotes in and out, short stay, no ties. And I rent too.

I love the quiz, that's just the perfect touch to the caricature you're creating. Why would you think I haven't done such things? Or why do you think they're so uncommon to make them some quintessential DC experience?

I'm not pigeonholing you anywhere (though did have you pictured as much older than a millenial). The dinner party host-bashers have come in all stripes, and from all areas of the country and have all sorts of gripes, usually conflicting with each other. And for the most part, the trust funders generally *want* to be here (even though Elsewhere is still better-), because they can take the fund anywhere.

It's the ones who don't want to be here and cannot shut up about how much better Elsewhere is, except for that pesky job issue. Employment is a big big deal when you factor livability of an area. Spain seems like a nice place to live but.....You see? I can't even touch your political conspiracy theory/ serious misunderstanding of economics, except to say that you are wrong and that you have to look no farther back than 5 weeks ago to see how much the federal government actually cares about the employment of DC area.

by Catherine on Nov 6, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

"But lets not kid ourselves, 2007 brought great financial heartache for many, and BUSH/Obama have made sure that the Greater DC region has the LOWEST unemployment rates and the HIGHEST paid jobs in the United States."

The DC area was hard hit too, and there are many metro areas with lower unemployment rates like Austin, Des Moines, Honolulu, and Salt Lake City. DC area is ranked #59 by BLS.

Plus the area's median household income ranks behind NYC and Bay Area, and behind Bay Area in PCI. But these are also the most expensive places to live, and so a higher income might also mean less discretionary spending than people lower earners in lower cost metro areas.

And DC area's high-paying jobs are not all fed'l gov't bureaucrats. It has more science and engineering jobs than any other metro area.

by Burd on Nov 6, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

@Bill:

Yes the numbers are skewed because of more traditional housing tracts east of the Willamette river, I lived in the northwest part of the city.

Translation: It's totally more walkable if you don't count the parts of the city that are not walkable! Compelling argument.

Portland a place where you can tour some of the finest wineries in the world

Stop. Just stop. You're starting to embarass yourself.

by dcd on Nov 7, 2013 8:20 am • linkreport

@Catherine
Or why do you think they're so uncommon to make them some quintessential DC experience?
There must be some way to measure personal interest in a region. Then we can sort who deserves to live here. LOL.

that you have to look no farther back than 5 weeks ago to see how much the federal government actually cares about the employment of DC area.
Yeah, the 2.5 week paid vacation was really hard on the feds.

@Burd
and there are many metro areas with lower unemployment rates like Austin, Des Moines, Honolulu, and Salt Lake City. DC area is ranked #59 by BLS.
In late 2011, of substantial metro areas, the DC CSA had the lowest unemployment rates.
And on the money WOW!, open your eyes man,
-Maryland has the highest median income of the states in the USA
-Bethesda is the highest household income city in the USA
-Most census statisticians that study US wealth distribution would say that NOVA is the most affluent region in the USA
-8 of the top 15 wealthiest counties by median household income are in the DC CSA.
Yes, we don't have the abundance of BILLIONAIRES that the NYC region does, by our PCI is leaps and bounds above the NYC CSA(although today as of late 2013 we may have fallen to #2 behind Silicon Valley wages).
It has more science and engineering jobs than any other metro area
Yes we have the highest ABSOLUTE number of lawyers and lobbyists(duh) in the USA. We also have the federally funded NIH, which just so happens to be the "largest biomedical research institution on Earth". In addition we have the most important defense contractors headquartered here, with 2 of the top 5 world's largest headquartered right here! But sure they are private companies.

@Crikey7
The DC MSA is ranked 7, Portland is 24.
Sure if we were comparing absolute population numbers, I was comparing walkability of specific neighborhoods, furthermore, the Portland CSA is ranked 22th by population (not bad for a small state) and the Washington DC CSA is ranked 4th(just about 400,000 people shy of the much slower growing Chicago CSA, so in a few decades if the current growth rates stay steady, we will be the THIRD largest CSA in the United States, WOO HOO).
If you don't feel at home here, that is fine. YOu don't need to criticize DC for that.
I LOVE IT HERE, I wouldn't have moved here with no job yet and no home yet had I not wanted to be here. This whole comparison started because I wanted to describe the world's ideal urban walkable area, which is in Portland, OR not in Washington DC, is this a subjective statement, not within the realms of urban development theory. As the dragnet guy says "Just the facts, ma'am."
@dcd
Translation: It's totally more walkable if you don't count the parts of the city that are not walkable! Compelling argument.
We were comparing neighborhoods not arbitrary bureaucratically drawn city border lines.
Stop. Just stop. You're starting to embarass yourself.
Read up buddy, the Willamette Valley AVA soil quality is unrivaled, easily the second most important AVA. Several Pinot noirs' have won the top wine awards in recent years. Master Sommeliers from Europe have gone on record praising Willamette AVA Pinot Noirs'. You remind me of the snobs in France in the late 60s who would talk the talk critizing the then preceived inferior Napa wines, then came an event in 1976 called the 'Judgment of Paris' wine. It was a blind taste test, almost all the judges were French Sommeliers, and what do you know Napa wines whipped the French wines butts, tasting on Parisian soil no less. If you don't like wine, fine, I don't either, but try to stick to the facts, thanks.

by Bill on Nov 7, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Ohhh some people don't deserve to live here? Please, please do enlighten us! And it is still utterly laughable that you think that this type of very basic, if you've lived here for any measurable amount of time, unless you do nothing but sit around your house, you've most definitely done them things are any measure of anything, let alone "desert".

As for the shutdown: Yes, you're soooo right. That is EXCACTLY what the point of the shutdown was! Congress wanted to give everyone a paid vacation! That'll show Obama! No. Regardless of the end result (which yes, will be repayment for time off, effectively making it a "vacation", but not so much a vacation when you've got no cash coming in and may not for the foreseeable future), Congress (or at least a majority faction of it) was willing to put hundreds of thousands of people out of work indefinitely, and with no promise of repayment to...what? Make a point, I suppose, because it achieved exactly nothing. Your minimization of this issue belies a real lack of understanding of how the economy of this area operates (daycare operators suffered and won't be paid back, general contractors had jobs canceled and checks bounced on them, restaurants had fewer patrons etc etc etc), and a total disrespect for your friends and neighbors. And before you leap to any more conclusions, no I am not a federal worker.

Also, remember the feds haven't been paid back yet, and during the time it was not known if they would or wouldn't be AND if many of the members had their way, they would not be paid back ever. Also, contractors exist, too, as you are so quick to remember when it suits your point. And the shutdown resulted in furloughs (which are unpaid and will not be repaid) and layoffs. Finally, it is the stated goal of the Republican party to shrink the size of the federal government (aka reduce the number of federal workers), and has been for at least the last 30 years.

And generally, here's a little primer on how Congress works because you very clearly do not understand: they exist to serve their constituents only. They could not possibly care one iota less about the employment rate in the area in and surrounding DC, unless they happen to represent one of the areas. In fact, many of them go back to their home districts, promising to get rid of tons of these jobs pointing at the unemployment rate here for their proof, much like you are.

As for the walkability? You used your neighborhood/exact address as an example of all of Portland, and compared it to all of DC. Then when questioned, threw out the parts of Portland that were not convenient to your narrative, still comparing it to all of DC. Whether in your own mind you meant to compare neighborhoods to neighborhoods, that is definitely not what you communicated, and is in fact quite the opposite.

by Catherine on Nov 7, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

@Catherine

No need to belittle me Catherine, I did my PoliSci time. I'm no preeminent local microeconomist, but your description is mostly accurate. But judging by the vehement response, you were financially effected by the shutdown, and for that I am sorry. I was mostly hoping it would show the world that the US Federal government is mostly useless and a waste of the world's human and financial capital. But that's a discussion for another time.

by Bill on Nov 7, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

I can buy that wine right here. Mmm, tasty. Goes great with a Ben's Chili half smoke.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

Is a neighborhood that has almost nothing but bars and cafes (but hundreds of those) "walkable".

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 7, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

Is a neighborhood that has almost nothing but bars and cafes (but hundreds of those) "walkable".

Yes? Where are these places anyway? The most bar heavy neighborhoods I can think of in DC also have pretty close access to other types of retail as well.

by drumz on Nov 7, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

NO, that's the whole point Tom Coumaris, walkability is something a lot more than that, but these DC boosters are up in arms over a widely agreed upon definition of walkability. It's about attractive and sustainable uses. Building luxury condo/apartment towers with land gathered through cronyism and tax subsidies to boot is not sustainable and will not lead to walkable neighborhoods, in fact, given enough time will eventually fold in on itself.

by Bill on Nov 7, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

Wow, apparently I didn't give enough personal information to keep you from leaping to conclusions to match your pre-woven narrative.

Nope, I was not financially effected whatsoever. I was lucky enough to happen to have had a vacation planned for what turned out to be the majority of the shutdown, and I therefore spent it sitting on a beach in Central America. So...not really too much suffering on my end. The worst thing that happened to me is my roommate's rent check bounced because a client's (a federal worker whose paycheck didn't show up one Friday) bounced on him. We sorted it out in 20 minutes, and the banking industry made something like $200 off of the three of us.

The vacation, to prevent any further false assumptions, was planned months previous and was scheduled at that time to coincide with the federal fiscal year and the due dates of various deliverables. But even if it hadn't worked out this way, I would have still been just fine. The company I work for didn't have to furlough or dismiss a single person and those effected by the shutdown were largely given temporary reassignments and thus were only on a paid vacation if they, like me, actually took vacation time, because its scope is significantly larger than just federal work.

Any vehemence you may detect has nothing to do with me looking out for myself or my interests. I actually care about my friends and neighbors, not only those directly or tangentially employed by the government, but everyone who participates in this local economy. It's a reaction to the sheer shock at your strong, and frankly offensive, attitude about things that you clearly know very little about.

If you think the US Government is such a waste...why'd you move here from precious Portland? A job, right? The low employment rates (which is what you have repetedly said)? That are low because of the existance of the US Government (which we can all largely agree on)? So, it is a waste for everyone who is not you?

by Catherine on Nov 7, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

I am quite sure there are libertarians who think DC sucks and is bad and unsustainable simply because its the seat of the federal govt. I think thats a better argument for somewhere else though - I dont think thats what OP or other local govt decision makers are looking for in determining if there is a problem withe availability and cost of housing in WUPS in DC.

I could be wrong of course.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 7, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

I buy the wine. I don't buy the whine.

by Crickey7 on Nov 7, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

I live in Southwest DC, which is fairly affordable area, but unfortunately lacks the amenities of many other areas in DC. I would love to see the development come to the area as I know it will bring the vitality to the area that it needs. I'm unsure if more development will raise prices or not, actually.

I know by supply and demand that further development should help loosen the prices of rent. I haven't seen this happening in DC, and it only makes me think that it must be because so many people would rather live here than in Virginia or Maryland.

What frustrates me is that many zoning laws actively obscure the housing market, choking off the amount of development that could take place. Renters outnumber homeowners in DC, and until that balance is restored we should engage in policies that encourage development.

What can we, as voters, do to encourage this direction? What politicians are most likely to hear our voices in upcoming elections?

by Sam on Nov 7, 2013 2:23 pm • linkreport

@Sam
Lord you have Arena Stage, Wharf DC development (which will eclipse National Harbor in Sq footage after full buildout). The tax funded MLS stadium coming soon, the soon to be leveled and repaired south capitol street(with future monuments). The randall school redevelopment(with art museum), the new safeway, the im pei buildings renovations, Fort McNair war college building. If it weren't for the proliferation of low-income housing projects, you would have one of the better quadrants.
I disagree with your assertion that people want to live in DC rather than Virginia/Maryland. ~9,331,587 people live in the Washington CSA, minus ~632,323 dc population and ~621,342 population in Baltimore, that leaves ~8,077,922 or ~ 87% living suburban. And housing is noticeably more expensive in Arlington county, VA. I don't know the growth numbers off the top of my head, but I would assert that suburban dc has gained per capita more population than DC proper. I could be wrong though.

Yes, it is the zoning laws/regulations/misappropriations of land(low-income housing) that make housing/rental prices rise, that's sound economic principles. It's why you have things like the Rental Housing Act of 1985, and folks who rather have cobwebs in their basement then have to deal with District of Columbia Housing Code. Even more galling is the city of DC has money generators like the Certificate of Occupancy permits that landlords must purchase.

by Bill on Nov 7, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

First you wrongly said "DC region" has the country's lowest unemployment rate, but now you say "DC CSA" has the lowest rate, which again is wrong. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos CSA, Des Moines-Newton-Pella CSA, Salt Lake City-Ogden CSA, etc. all have lower unemployment rates than the DC-Baltimore CSA.

"Maryland has the highest median income of the states in the USA...Bethesda is the highest household income city in the USA"

Yet Maryland ranks #22 in unemployment and DC ranks #44. Bethesda is neither a city nor does it have the highest median household income. Atherton, CA's, and Pepper Pike, OH's, for example, are higher.

by Burd on Nov 7, 2013 5:45 pm • linkreport

@Burd

You got me, how about we call it one of the lowest unemployment rates currently. And I thought I made it clear I was implying two years back, when I moved here. "DC region" = "DC CSA" .

If you don't see wealth here either you grew up in Monaco or you are so filthy rich you can't see past your nose.
I flubbed I guess I meant town
CNNmoney top earning town in the USA
Yet Maryland ranks #22 in unemployment
Yes, liberal economic policies rarely help the common man.

How about you challenge me on my strongest assertion, that a free-market(elimination of zoning and regulations) approach to Washington DC real estate would send residential prices downward, therefore more affordable.

by Bill on Nov 7, 2013 9:20 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

"If you don't see wealth here either you grew up in Monaco or you are so filthy rich you can't see past your nose."

It's not about the presence of wealth here, as even the poorest countries on earth have wealthy individuals. Like everywhere else, the DC area has a wide disparity but unlike other places, a very high cost of living. It's not accurate to say that everyone here is wealthy or works in the federal gov't like you continuously imply, or that the fed'l gov't has made everyone here a beneficiary. Keep in mind that California has more federal gov't (civilian) jobs than DC, MD and VA.

If anything, DC itself is the most screwed by the fed'l gov't b/c DC residents have a high tax burden but doesn't get a vote on how its federal tax dollars are spent. Worse, DC can't even completely govern its own local affairs.

"I flubbed I guess I meant town CNNmoney top earning town in the USA"

Regardless what CNNMoney says, the US Census, the agency that actually compiles the real data, says Bethesda CDP has a median household income of $136,513, which admittedly is high, but NOT the highest in the US. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/24/2407125.html

There are many CDPs, towns and cities that rank higher, including Atherton, CA - $250,001 and Pepper Pike, OH - $141,250

"How about you challenge me on my strongest assertion, that a free-market(elimination of zoning and regulations) approach to Washington DC real estate would send residential prices downward, therefore more affordable."

Well I agree fully with that assertion. And to add to that: a competitive tax rate, a vote in Congress, and less regulation on business, etc.

by Burd on Nov 8, 2013 10:09 am • linkreport

@Burd

You keep bringing up Atherton, CA, which has a whooping population of 6,914 amongst the greater San Fran CSA of 8,370,967...pretty small sample size wouldn't you say. At least I'm attempting to use a multi faceted approach to labeling the Washington DC region the most wealthy in the country. With a discussion of counties, regions, towns and other data. How about wealthiest zip codes?, potomac MD(20854) is high on the list. At least when I was labeling counties (previous response), they aren't made up statistical insignificance numbers like 6,914 people. The richest United States counties, according to the US census data, are:
#1-Loudoun-pop-333,253-median household income-$117,876
#2-Howard County-pop-287,085-median household income-$108,844
#3-Fairfax County-pop-1,118,602-median household income-$107,096
#5-Arlington County-pop-221,045-median household income-$100,474
#6-Stafford County-pop-132,791-median household income-$97,606
#11-Montgomery County-pop-1,004,709-median household income-$94,965
#12-Prince William County-pop-421,164-median household income-$93,744
#15-Charles County-pop-146,551-median household income-$90,880
#18-Anne Arundel County-pop-537,656-median household income-$89,179
#19-Calvert County-pop-88,737-median household income-$87,449
#21-St. Mary's County-pop-105,151-median household income-105,151

That's a pretty large sample size. Boy I sure am glad I read 'How to Lie with Statistics', by Huff.
I'll state it again, by PER CAPITA measures, the Washington DC region is the wealthiest in the United States and one of the wealthiest regions in the world. The strong federal government seat of the wealthiest nation on earth helps more than most would care to claim or recognize.

And to add to that: a competitive tax rate, a vote in Congress, and less regulation on business, etc.
I agree with all but even more to the extreme.

by Bill on Nov 8, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

@ Bill

"You keep bringing up Atherton, CA, which has a whooping population of 6,914"

You keep bringing up Bethesda with a whopping population of 60,858. Why not talk about DC, population 632,633, $43,993 PCI, 18% poverty level, 8.7% unemployment rate.

"I'll state it again, by PER CAPITA measures, the Washington DC region is the wealthiest in the United States "

I'll say it again, you are wrong, and glad you mentioned the Bay area, b/c it has a higher per capita income than the DC area.

And why say the DC area is the wealthiest "by per capita measures" and then provide a list of counties by "Median Household Income?" That's lying with statistics.

I'm fully aware of that list, but as I stated, it is not very telling b/c the cost of living here is among the highest in the country! That's why BLS measures Regional Price Parities, and DC is #3 and Maryland is #5 most expensive in the US. Of all large metro areas, the DC area is the most expensive after only the Bay Area, NYC and Honolulu.

by Burd on Nov 8, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

@Burd

House affordability wasn't in our discussion of wealth so it shouldn't be included.(personal anecdote, my rent is about 10% cheaper here than Portland, Oregon was.) I'd say "median household income" provides a fairer measure of wealth, per census.gov definition, "The median household income is the amount which divides households into two equal groups, one having incomes above that amount and the other having incomes below that amount." , whereas "per capita income" COULD provide a skewed measure of wealth or could be 100% accurate. Per investopedia.com example of "per capita income" "if there is an area where 50 people are making $1 million per year and 1,000 people making $100 per year the per capita income is $47,714" .

Regardless, it is very hard to prove my assertion conclusively(although I have shown supportive evidence), unless we personally interview all 9,331,587 people (which we would also have to follow with personal interviews of all Americans), and determine their financial income(both legal and illegal). I was using the word "per capita income" as in per 1000 people, to differentiate between absolute and average,... some might believe that I'm stating that Washington DC region has THE MOST money, it does not; which on further research is not a proper definition "per capita" in this context.

Maybe we have a different definition of wealthiest. My take is if you are a human that lives within the region, you have the best odds of being highly paid(in anything), therefore making it the wealthiest region. Again we are not talking in ABSOLUTE numbers, New York City, Los Angeles, has a considerably larger wad of cash, just it's funneled more unequally to fewer billionaires. Even so our ABSOLUTE Gross Metropolitan Product is at 606 billion, which is #3 behind New York's and Los Angeles. But my assertion which I did say was, adding the necessary specifics, is, If you lived in the Washington DC region, which includes Baltimore, you are on average most likely to be paid more salary than any other region in the United States. Therefore you are MOST LIKELY going to have personal wealth higher living in Washington DC metro than the average Joe living in San Fran, Los Angeles, New York, what every United States urban agglomeration you can name. .........>>>>>>>>

BREAKING NEWS September 19, 2013,
Washington, D.C., Metro Area's Household Income at $88,233 in 2012, American Community Survey Shows

for comparison
San Francisco Metro Area's Household Income at $74,922 in 2012, American Community Survey Shows
New York Metro Area's Household Income at $63,982 in 2012, American Community Survey Shows

by Bill on Nov 8, 2013 5:28 pm • linkreport

I live in SE DC (congress heights area) and I bought my own home. I love my location and that I was able to buy but I long for eateries and stores but all I see are food marts and liquor stores. I would like a walkable neighborhood as well.

by ETB on Nov 8, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

@ Bill

"House affordability wasn't in our discussion of wealth so it shouldn't be included."

It's a key topic of this thread and has been in our discussion, and so it should be included.

"personal anecdote, my rent is about 10% cheaper here than Portland"

Good for you, but DC area's average rent is more than 100% higher than Portland's, yet DC area's median household income is only 57% higher. Therefore Portlanders could, on average, have higher discretionary spending than metro Washingtonians.

I'll repeat: we are all fully aware that DC's suburbs generally have the country's highest median household income, as the DC area has higher than average college graduates, and lower than average manufacturing/industrial jobs. But again, the cost of living here is among the country's highest.

by Burd on Nov 9, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

by insuffsitty on Nov 13, 2013 7:08 am • linkreport

If I had not been helped by family I would still be dealing with landlords who raise the rent every year and having to shell out money to move to find a more affordable place. My status of living has been going down ever since I graduated college. I am a planner who has had to become a legal secretary to be able to afford to live in this area. I was priced out of Fairfax County in 1996 and have moved to Woodbridge where I bought a house for $215,000 and spend 3 hours in my car commuting every day. My goal is to be able to buy commuter VRE ticket and leave car at home. This VRE ticket is $300 a month which is a lot of money to me when my mortgage is $1400 and I am not subsidized for transportation. I dream of leaving this area but it is where I was raised but I don't see much future in staying here and its too crowded to enjoy life. It seems like it just keeps getting harder to live here as a singleton.

by lc on Nov 13, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

the influx of people to this area has really reduced quality of life. There is inadequate infrastructure and transportation for such a dense population. Unfettered development. Do we really need more office buildings. We have a new office building that is empty sitting on top of the Occoquan River in Route 1, a scenic area that should have been reserved for park and rec.. where birds of prey used to sit where is the planning and the forethought?

by lc on Nov 13, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

To lc, I'm not sure if the influx of people to this area has reduced quality of life - this statement could be debated pretty easily. There are a lot of major cities with a lot of people and all those people make the city and the surrounding areas lively and dynamic and interesting. I understand and probably agree on several instances that not every piece of nature needs to be turned into office buildings and condos but those office buildings and condos that house more people could add to the appeal and energy of an area.

Washington, DC is an expensive city. I think it's more expensive in some ways than other expensive cities and I'm pretty shocked at the prices I see (from restaurants to shops) and wonder who is paying these prices, but I guess some people must be. For example, people think NYC is really expensive and in ways it is. There are a lot of rich people who live there. However, if you are not of those means, you can still find places that aren't totally ridiculous pricewise. NYC recently topped the nation for cheapest takeout.

by DC Anon on Nov 13, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

@lc, you can buy a house in Hyattsville for that price and be 1.5 miles from the DC boundary, within a mile of the green line, mere blocks from a bus that takes you to Rhode Is Ave metro in <15mins, be in an old street car suburb that is walkable and bikeable (albeit not like Shaw), has beautiful old houses and mature trees.

by Tina on Nov 13, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

@ lc

"There is inadequate infrastructure and transportation for such a dense population. "

You're right, the region has not kept up with population growth over the years. And, for example, you can't get the fastest growing places in the metro area to support new roads, bridges or mass transit. VA's fastest growing county (Loudoun) to its neighbour, Maryland's most populous county? Zero. And how many bridges go from VA's 2nd fastest growing county (PW Co) to its neighbour, MD's 2nd fastest growing (Charles)? None.

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 3:08 pm • linkreport

a new bridge from LoCo to MoCo would not address the principle infra needs in the region and would not improve quality of life even for most residents of MoCo and LoCo.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

The only supporters for another crossing live nowhere near the river. Also, in Montgomery County, you'd have to punch a hole through the Ag Preserve so big you could drive 6 18-wheelers abreast through.

T'aint happening.

by Crickey7 on Nov 20, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport


@ Awalkerinthecity
"a new bridge from LoCo to MoCo would not address the principle infra needs in the region "

But it would help reduce the travel time for the many MoCo residents and companies that travel to Dulles Airport and/or conduct business in the Dulles corridor.

@crickey7

You characterise my point exactly. We can't get support for any new infrastructure projects in this region despite the dramatic population growth.

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

Thats one of its benefits (though we could reduce that travel time, esp for folks from lower MoCo, by addressing the beltway crossing instead), against many offsetting costs. I do not think the case can be made that its an example of needed infra not being built.

"We can't get support for any new infrastructure projects in this region "

except for the 11th street bridge, the S capital street bridge, the beltway express lanes, the I95 express lanes, the I66 spot improvements, multiple interchanges on rte 7 in loudoun, the widening of rte 28, the improvements on Seminary, the Wilson Bridge, the improvements around Ft Belvoir, - and to get beyond highways - the Silver Line, the purple line, the DC street cars, the MoCo BRT, the CCPY transitway. and sidewalk and bike improvements around the region. So other than those, yeah.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

@ Awalkerinthecity

"Thats one of its benefits "

It's a pretty big benefit considering 18% of Dulles users are from Montco (2nd only to Fairfax), and the amount workers who travel daily from one side of the river to the other.

"though we could reduce that travel time, esp for folks from lower MoCo, by addressing the beltway crossing instead"

You can "address the beltway crossing" until the cows come home, but the shortest distance between two points is a straight line or as close to straight as possible. It makes no sense that Gaithersburgers have to use the AL bridge to drive to Dulles.

"except for the 11th street bridge, the S capital street bridge..."

Your list is mostly needed replacements and improvements on existing infrastructure, with the exception of the Silver Line and I'll add to your list the ICC, which both took forever to build. DC's short streetcar line on H St will not do much to solve transportation problems. If anything, it'll make things worse.

How about new (i.e., not replacement) Potomac crossings? How about new Anacostia crossings? New pedestrian bridges? New highways in the exurbs? How about new underground Metrorail lines in DC and a new Potomac tunnel to alleviate the blue/orange line mess?

You're right that saying "any new infrastructure" was very exaggerative of me, but it has not been nearly enough to keep up with population growth we've experienced.

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 6:49 pm • linkreport

Yes, housing is a public good (before it's something for rich people to use for speculation and insane profit) and, yes, rent control can work in the 21st century in cities with strong labor markets and strong demand for housing: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/11/has-germany-figured-out-way-keep-rents-affordable/7639/

by James on Nov 20, 2013 7:22 pm • linkreport

I would like to live in a safe, walkable neighborhood with amenities, but can't seem to afford it. I am a single mother, earning $80k a year, however, even with my moderate income, I cannot afford to live in such an area. I currently live at Fort Totten, but long to have a walkable neighborhood where I can walk to the grocery store, dry cleaners, restaurants, and parks with a bike path. However, due to zoning, I cannot. When I come home for work, I have to get back in the car to do all of these things or I am relegated to shopping at 7 Eleven, which is unhealthy and I refuse to do. When I drive outside of my neighborhood, I am often envious of how the "other half" lives and wish I too can find a way to have a better quality of life. I've tried looking into either renting or purchasing a home in a better neighborhood, but I simply can't afford those units. I feel defeated. If new zoning will alleviate this problem, I would feel less apathetic and more hopeful of staying in the city.

by Micki Williams on Nov 21, 2013 2:09 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