Greater Greater Washington

The door opens a crack for taller buildings in DC

DC needs to find a place for substantial new housing and jobs in the future, and federal planners now seem to acknowledge that fact. They're willing to create a process, though an exhaustively long one, by which some future growth could exceed the federal height limit.


La Defense. Photo by Yu on Flickr.

It's a tiny step forward for the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), a very cautious federal agency, but actually a significant one. The blanket height limit made it impossible to even consider creating a skyscraper neighborhood somewhere in the city, perhaps like Poplar Point, or even having an occasional, iconic tower amidst lower buildings.

Last night, NCPC staff published an updated recommendation for changing the federal height limit. They've decided to insist on absolutely no change in the original L'Enfant City (basically everything between Florida Avenue and the rivers), but are willing to open a gate to a very long road for taller buildings elsewhere.

To recap, the federal law, which only Congress can change, limits heights of buildings in DC to the width of the adjacent street plus 20 feet, up to a maximum of 90-130 feet depending on the area. Outside downtown and downtown-ish areas like NoMA and the ballpark, local zoning restricts buildings far more, however.

The local zoning can change if the Zoning Commission, a board with 3 local and 2 federal representatives, agrees, but that board can't pierce the blanket federal height limit. Under NCPC's proposal, that could happen, but DC planners would first have to define the taller-building area in an amendment to the official Comprehensive Plan, a voluminous document updated every 5 years.

The DC Council, which otherwise has no voice in zoning, would have to approve the plan change, and NCPC, the mostly-federal board with representatives from agencies like the Department of Defense and the General Services Administration, would also have to assent. Congress would then have its own chance to overturn the changes if it chose.

But if, and it's a big if, a future plan for some tall buildings somewhere gets enough political support to convince the DC government, the DC Council, and NCPC, it could become a reality.

It's not a bad idea to ask that a taller building area undergo thorough planning and community discussion. Certainly many argue that we should simply have fewer restrictions on buildings. But that isn't a majority view right now. Eventually, however, enough residents may recognize that severe limits on our housing supply push up costs and be willing to explore solutions.

Those solutions could simply entail upzoning many areas around Metro stations and transit corridors (which wouldn't require height limit changes). Or, maybe it means a lot of tall buildings in one small space, like Paris' La Defense. Or each section of the city has an architectural competition for one distinctive and exceptional taller building.

Under this plan, at least we could have that debate. Those alternatives are within the realm of the possible. The city could try to trade extra height for important amenities that residents really want, as Montgomery County is doing with its White Flint plan.

On the other hand, this path certainly means a lot of veto points. And we know that any change engenders strong opposition, almost no matter what the change. It will be mightily difficult to get a plan for taller buildings past all of these boards.

Still, at least NCPC is willing to entertain the notion. The staff recommendation still reserves for NCPC control over any height limit exceptions, but that's a lot different from a Congressional law totally banning it. Which means that if and when DC needs more height, at least there's a way, even if it's a hard way.


Is this flatness necessarily in the federal interest? Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

One change would make a lot of sense at this point: if the process for allowing greater height involves so many steps of local and federal approvals, it now seems silly to completely exempt the L'Enfant City. There are tradeoffs between growing in the center, where it's already busy but there is more infrastructure, and at the edges, where some people crave economic development but taller buildings would stand out more.

NCPC staff argue that the federal interest is greatest in the L'Enfant City, where most federal land is, and lesser outside. Plus, just outside the L'Enfant City in Arlington there are already tall buildings, so it seems silly to insist on such a strict rule outside in other directions.

But it's still unclear that having buildings low, boxy, and boringthe height limit's effect downtownis really in the federal interest, or why an avenue of mid-sized buildings that frames a monument looking tiny in the distance is better than framing the same monument with taller buildings, as many other world capitals do.

A joint local-federal discussion about where to add height should encompass downtown and L'Enfant city neighborhoods as well as outlying areas. Why simply exclude a place like Hill East/RFK stadium from this discusssion? Or NoMA? NCPC can veto a proposal in those areas if it's not on board, but given that it would have to agree to any change, there's no need to exclude whole sections of the city at the same time.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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I'm not nearly as sure that you know what's best for our city, as you seem to be.

by Clinton on Nov 18, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Thayer-D on Nov 18, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

NCPC is basically taking what Larry Beasley said in his 2010 NCPC lecture on building heights (no changes within the L'Enfant City but a strict planning process for areas outside) and making it the law. I'm not exactly against this and such a plan is probably as far as Congress would be willing to approve.

While I still find the proposal totally parochial, it's an update that can likely find broad support. I'd also note that it's funny that they'd want to change the aspects of the law that deal with fire protection, since that was such a major focus when the Height Act was first passed.

P.S. Poplar Point is still within the L'Enfant City so it may not be the best example in the second paragraph.

by Adam Lewis on Nov 18, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

Poplar point is EOTR, you're thinking of Buzzard Point.

No one knows what "best" for the city. No one could know what is best on such a subjective topic. People are offering various arguments to support their vision for future. So fortunately no one is using that phrase here except you.

by BTA on Nov 18, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

@BTA

Yes, of course. My mistake. So many points. :-)

by Adam Lewis on Nov 18, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

It's a pointy city!

by BTA on Nov 18, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

I know it isn't necessary to defend David from shallow criticism but I thought to highlight that the two negative comments are personal in nature and add nothing to the discussion. I've seen comments from Thayer-D before so I know he reads the site. So on behalf of all of us who benefit from the site including Thayer-D, keep up the great work David.

by Harrison Flakker on Nov 18, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

If we really increase the height limit how many buildings will be built that are over the current height limit outside of downtown ?

The only places where they will be built are in Friendship Heights, or along 14th Street, Wisconsin Ave or Conn Ave.

You may get one near the Navy Yard but not anywhere else in the city as there is enough land to build a regular sized building without many issues.

by kk on Nov 18, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

But it's still unclear that having buildings low, boxy, and boring—the height limit's effect downtown—is really in the federal interest . . .
It's actually quite clear that this is not in the federal interest. The height restrictions demonstrably increase office rents. Since the federal government rents a lot of office space in the DC area, the Height Act serves as a transfer of wealth from taxpayers outside of the area to those in the DC metro.

Unfortunately for DC proper, it could be extracting quite a bit more non-DC wealth if not for the Height Act.

One other result is that a good chunk of the Feds' office space gets pushed farther out, contributing to our transportation messes while making it harder for the Feds to attract competent employees.

Of course, other jurisdictions like Arlington and MoCo that are willing to build taller buildings are glad to take those rents if DC doesn't want them. They're the real winners here.

by Gray on Nov 18, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

Gray, I'll add that it raises the cost of hotel rooms. And since many federal employees come here and rent those rooms, that raises costs for the government as well.

by David C on Nov 18, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Your right Harrison. David does great work and I shouldn't have said he didn't understand architecture simply becasue he said...

But it's still unclear that having buildings low, boxy, and boring—the height limit's effect downtown—is really in the federal interest

I thought this point had been thoroughly disproven at this point, so I was surprised to find David championing this. There are countless downtowns around the world that show height dosen't guarantee interest. I apologize David. I should have simply said I disagree.

by Thayer-D on Nov 18, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Allow higher density for Metro Center-downtown core, other metrorail hubs and the universities.

by LoyalColonial on Nov 18, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

There are countless downtowns around the world that show height dosen't guarantee interest.

Indeed, and that's not what he said.

Saying that the height limit produces or encourages low/boxy/boring buildings does not imply that "height guarantees interest" at all.

by MLD on Nov 18, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the DC commercial real estate market continues to weaken...

by charlie on Nov 18, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

@charlie: Exactly! Back in the real world, office rents in DC are well below the national average, showing how little demand there is for commercial space here.

by Gray on Nov 18, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

@charlie
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the DC commercial real estate market continues to weaken...

LOL what? By what measure?

by MLD on Nov 18, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the DC commercial real estate market continues to weaken...

Even if that were true, or the only relevant fact, it is unlikely to remain true forever.

I'll ask again height limit supporters, what exactly is the best possible argument for keeping an extraordinarily low height limit enforced by a Congress for which we did not vote?

by David C on Nov 18, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

Again, I stand corrected MLD. I was extrapolating and that was my mistake. What David said was that our low, boxy, and boring buildings are the result of the height limit.

I will grant him that low buildings are indeed a result of the height limit, assuming one thinks of 10-12 story buildings as low. I'm willing to concede that some of the boxiness is due to the height limit, although that one is debatable. But the assertion that I find questionable is that the boring buildings downtown are the result of the height limit.

Personally, I feel this is due to a lack of architectural skill or will as it might be, as there are countless cities posessing attractive buildings that were done with-in height limitations. Furthermore, many of those buildings are nothing more (volumetrically) than boxes like a row of Federal townhouses in Alexandria, or Warehouses in Tribeca. No spires or penthouses or major plane changes, simply a well composed facade to enliven the street, at whatever scale or height.

Eitherway, the idea that a developer who sees no gain in creating an architecturally distinct building will be no more inclined to sacrifice the square footage at the new height limit than they would at the current one, and that's ok as it takes all types to make a street interesting.

One way to accomplishing what I think David is referring to is what they did with the step-back zoning of NYC in 1916. Anotherway, albeit much more controversial, would be to institute a form code to ensure the basic geometry comported with what is generally understood to create a vibrant street. But both of those ideas won't guarantee non-boring design, they simply make it harder for an ill trained archtiect to do a bad job.

by Thayer-D on Nov 18, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

Boxy is the result of the height limit because the land is ultra-valuable/ultra expensive and so you want to squeeze as much FAR as you can out of the regs so you can maximize your return. That's business.

I think step-back zoning combined with an increased height limit is a great idea. Nobody's saying that increasing the height limit means increasing allowed FAR to the max allowed height of the property. It's only that way now because to not do that downtown would be a stupid waste of billions in transit infrastructure capacity.

by MLD on Nov 18, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D: So you would have no objection to this post if not for the word "boring"?

by Gray on Nov 18, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

I'm not an architect but I'm guessing if you have a pretty restrictive height limit on valuable land and you are given an FAR that pretty much allows a box, few commercial clients are going to go with much less than a box. If say you allowed a 20 or 25 storey buildings with an FAR of say 15.0 you might start seeing eye catching architecture. So it's not a guarantee, but it sends something other than a signal of please build more boxes.

by BTA on Nov 18, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

Thayer, why do you think DC's architecture is uniquely boring? Is it just a matter of DC not having good architects? If that's so, why does DC attract/produce such universally mediocre architectural talents?

by carlosthedwarf on Nov 18, 2013 4:11 pm • linkreport

I personally like DC's architecture, but I agree with David's assertion that a lot of the glass boxes that constiture downtown are indeed boring. But I don't think this is unique to DC as I stated earlier. To my mind, we don't train archtiects in the art of architecture they way it was taught before WWII. But there are a great many good designers of all styles in DC, as I've noted also repeatedly. I just don't think you can blame a boring design on a height regulation.

by Thayer-D on Nov 18, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@BTA

From what I understand from my architect-type friends, I think that's right. You want a FAR of 15 within 12 stories, you're going to start off with a cube. What you want to do with that cube is, of course, up to you, but it'll still be a cube.

by Adam Lewis on Nov 18, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

Thank you for the heads up! It is unfortunate that NCPC, does not focus on the opportunity cost in improved expert labor markets, missed real estate tax base, and minimizing city disruption by focusing growth, into their planning, because the opportunity cost for the city and region, are profound. UDC, the best and only Morrill Land Grant College in DC, likely remains easily the weakest such "best" public university in any US State, District, or Territory, in these United States. Part of the problem is that the disenfranchising US Congress, having enacted the Morrill Land Grant College Act in 1862, waited 104 year, until 1966, to establish a 4 year public liberal arts university, for Washington DC. Funding of UDC and all public education K-12, and beyond, remains a major concern, negatives impacting education infrastructure, student teacher ratios, and countless related quality of education factors. Expanding the city drastically upward by adding tallest building in thoughtful smart growth ways, is the quickest way to improve the city's economics, and eventually the tax base used to build and maintain key infrastructure, such as DC's public education.

The two most important places for tallest possible (safe) height buildings are L'Enfant Plaza and DC Union Station / NOMA. These two subway and commuter rail hubs, and Amtrak corridor, offer the best chance to build a truly regional downtown.

Extending all MARC commuter rail trains to L'Enfant Plaza would be essential, requiring serious new heavy rail tunnel infrastructure, and expanded L'Enfant Plaza heavy rail station, to serve both rail hubs, but it would make both hubs, as competitive as possible for unifying the region.

Union Station's 3 MARC commuter rail and Red Line access, and relevant Green line connection to the Red Line at Ft. Totten, make this hub the best long term hub for DC and Maryland, where the most multimodal options to integrate the region, such as walking, buses, rail, bikes, and so on create the best urban densities. The roll of Amtrak and New York City strongly suggest that DC Union Station / NOMA must strongly include and focus financial services in the DC region, such as Federal Reserve and US Treasury annexes, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, Sallie Mae, Farmer Mac, and similar financial services. This would best connect the expert labor markets of DC and NYC, and similar east coast financial centers, as well as DC to Chicago, all destinations served by single seat rides from Union Station.

Union Station / NOMA would have to be far larger than just financial services, including walkable hotel ball rooms, for rail riders, and considerable hotel rooms, focused on one night events, somewhat different than the DC Convention Center, and areas such as Woodley Park hotels, focused on multiday conferences, and further from Union Station, so likely to charge somewhat lower room prices.

Union Station / NOMA would have to include major office space for large law firms and large lobbyist, major government contractors such as the defense, energy, and education sectors, and non-profit associations and organizations (e.g. AAA, NARP, AARP, etc). Perhaps the most valuable shared use of the NOMA development is a a large number of small downtown branch office and/or "hideaways", for lobbyists, to prep and plan events and meetings near the Capital Complex, because there are literally hundreds of organizations which would want permanent branch offices, and thousands more which would pay for temporary "hotel" offices, to execute an organizing effort to shape US Federal legislation. These same temporary "hotel" office be rented as campaign HQ's for Congressmen and Senators, to do fund raising and similar work, outside of the Capital Complex, but close by.

The L'Enfant Plaza hub has two subway corridors (meaning twice the trains of the Red line per hour), with 5 colors of service (Green/Yellow, Orange/Blue, and eventually Silver), and VRE Commuter Rails two services, making it the single most important Metro hub in the City.

Connecting both rail hubs L'Enfant Plaza and Union Station / NOMA, with a streetcar line, overground would also be essential to assure predictable access between hubs, even if tunnels were closed for any temporary reason. Adding a direct

Ideally a new subway line would connect both hubs directly, but this requires massive investment and planning. The direct subway line would likely have to be extended to at a minimum Crystal City from L'Enfant, and New Carrolton from Union Station, all intercity (Amtrak) and commuter rail stops, to assure these stops have both high frequency Metro, and commuter rail, and some Amtrak services.

These two hubs would be best done simultaneously, one building at a time, and to tallest heights, to avoid counterproductive incrementalism, requiring lower building removal, such as only permitting 40 story towers and later permitting 80 story towers, requiring expensive removal of the 40 story tower to upgrade.

These hubs would slash car dependency into the downtown, using rail and fall back buses and express buses.

Once these two best rail hubs are built out, with all the above rail improvements, and with many such tallest buildings in the closest walking radius of the trains stations, to minimize total commute times, and better connected with multimodalism and several types of rail with multiple directly connected services using each type, the 3 next hubs to build out as such tall islands, are Metro Rail crossings without commuter rail and Amtrak.

These hubs 3, 4, and 5, are Chinatown / Gallery Place, Metro Center, and Farraguts North and West.

The burried portion of the Red line is the best place for rezoing for tallest apartment buildings, on the north east side of Connecticut Ave, some 200 feet below the Ft. Reno Reservoir, at Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, and Van Ness Metro Stops, creating large population density where it is best supported and protected, and best integrates with existing avenue businesses, and public amenities, such as libraries, schools, and reliable Metro rail and bus services. As a cultural question, the commercial street level directly facing Connecticut Ave would have be preserved, pushing towers North of Metro stops, and east of Metro stops, keeping light at street level low rise shopping and food.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 18, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

The height limit is as good as gone! Soon after the first tenants at Burnham Place begin to enjoy their unique 14-story views (within the Old City!), the height limit will crumble.

by Turnip on Nov 18, 2013 8:46 pm • linkreport

While in Toronto, the taller buildings open their doors for crack.

by Kolohe on Nov 18, 2013 8:55 pm • linkreport

I have an idea... and I'm serious... Move development east of the river. This article and others state we need sustainable new living spaces (and we do). But instead of using what land we have, we choose to jam pack downtown and the surrounding areas? That will just make this city the next big city. Why not keep the unique character and spread out? There is tons of prime land EotR that is still VERY close to downtown (via 295/395/695, 11th St Bridge, etc.). You can still bike from Anacostia/Fairlawn to Downtown in no time. The whole idea to build up seems lazy and anti DC. It also seems like a calculated effort to keep resources exactly where they have always been. Why not give EotR a chance?

by SW, DC on Nov 19, 2013 8:53 am • linkreport

How does spreading out development of offices help EotR? Seems like that just encroaches on residential areas and pushes out other kinds of development (locally-focused commercial corridors). Putting more development downtown means more jobs than the alternative spread-out scenario, and that means more jobs available and easily accessible for EotR folks (because they are central.)

by MLD on Nov 19, 2013 9:02 am • linkreport

MLD - encroaches on residential areas? First, what do you think happened to the residents of all of these new neighborhoods? Do you think they were kindly ushered away, or do you think they were encroached upon? (rhetorical question). My point is, sometimes the encroachment can be good for a specific area. There is PLENTY of land EotR that is not residential. In fact, it isn't anything at all. You could leave the residential neighborhoods intact and still have tons of space for development. Start in Fairlawn or Anacostia. Also, putting more development downtown doesn't translate to MORE jobs. I'm not suggesting slowing development downtown. On the other hand, the MORE of these "locally-focused commercial corridors" we have the more jobs there will be. Not to mention spearing development out gives more/new neighborhoods the chance to benefit from DC resources, as opposed to the same ones reaping the benefits over and over. Enough is enough. Give EotR a chance!

by SW, DC on Nov 19, 2013 9:23 am • linkreport

If we allow more development (and more jobs, since that's what most of the development would want to be anyway) then that will have beneficial effects for EOTR as well as more people look to live within reasonable commuting distance of downtown DC and more people want urban neighborhoods anyway. Then you'll see the gentrification washing over H street and Hill east start to come across the river.

It's what's been happening already. It just happened in areas closest to downtown already. EOTR neighborhoods are still a little further out.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2013 9:27 am • linkreport

Its very unlikely that the maintaining the height limit downtown will result in major new office project EOTR. EOTR metro stations are mostly served by only one metro line, are not convenient to other offices and office supporting uses, and are in (perceived) high crime areas that deter major office users. A company priced out of downtown is much more likely to end up in Crystal City, Rosslyn, or even Tysons than at the Anacostia metro station.

And if those EOTR metros DO overcome their negatives, they will draw office users anyway, as they are likely to be much cheaper than office space downtown, even with a relaxation of the height limit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

With all the back and forth here and elsewhere, I have yet to hear a cogent discussion of how changing the height limitation will benefit actual DC residents. The Board of Trade thinks it will be a huge benefit for their members. But it remains unclear how this might improve access to low cost housing, create incentives for sensible development, particularly around Metro stops, and generally improve the liveability of the District. I would love to hear that I have missed some key factoids in this debate.

by Luckybiker on Nov 19, 2013 9:30 am • linkreport

I'm fairly convinced that when someone suggests pushing development to Anacostia they have no idea what they're talking about. Anacostia is a historic neighborhood of single-family homes; just look at the community push-back on a 5-story development, and you can understand why the area is as much of a non-starter for greater development as Cleveland Park.

That said, there are select areas EOTR that could be considered for greater development. For example, now that the power plant has been decommissioned Benning Road, the the 80-acre PEPCO site along Benning Road next to the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station would be an excellent area to to potentially increase heights and density as part of the comprehensive plan.

by Adam Lewis on Nov 19, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

I have yet to hear a cogent discussion of how changing the height limitation will benefit actual DC residents

Well,
1: It'll create more DC residents, putting greater pressure on congress to do something about lack of representation.
2: It'll mitigate rising housing/real estate prices (already we've seen some rental prices drop due to new supply, it's been covered here before).
3: All things equal, someone moving to DC is more likely to use transit/bike to work than if they moved to va/md. This creates demand to make transit more extensive/better.
4: It'll create new spaces for business opportunities meaning more places to shop/eat in DC.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2013 9:44 am • linkreport

1. Urban density is more cost effective than urban sprawl.

2. And here is a very good list of reasons why density is better than sprawl.

And removing the height limit will help DC to become denser, all other things being equal (do not, I repeat, do not jump in here and say sarcastically "Well, that really worked for Houston." That's a false argument because all other things are not equal.) Talk about "spreading development out" is just arguing against density.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

Thanks for drumz laying out the case. In order: Historically the number of folks in DC has no effect on representation for DC before the Congress simply because those decisions are made by those elected elsewhere. Even reduced housing prices do nothing for low income housing. There is already increased demand for better transit but not enough money to deliver it fast enough. Easing height limits are not likely to solve this problem. Finally, it is not clear we need to ease height limits to increase business opportunities. A perusal of some web sites indicates development is proceeding quite well, some say too well, without any easing at all.

by Luckybiker on Nov 19, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

We dont' really have the transportation network to enact Paris Style density. Paris has about 2.2 million people in slightly less space than DC. But they also have 300 rail stations in the city. The rail service density in DC is all downtown, so unless the region is going to commit to increasing the density of rail elsewhere I don't see how we can just spread all future development out further. Also as mentioned about regional rail serves concentrated downtowns much better. Following the strict boundaries of the L'enfant plan seems at best a little lazy to me. I agree with a buffer around the Mall and a few select viewsheds but really a 20 story building at say 12th and Rhode Island would not be ruining views. What we really need is an outer loop of downtown development about a 1/2 mile + outside of the mall area and a new Metro Loop Line to serve it. Perhaps the oft discussed separated Blue Line.

by BTA on Nov 19, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

Adam Lewis - (full disclaimer - I grew up in Fairlawn, over 17 years) so to say I have no idea is a tad off. Sure Anacostia is a historic neighborhood, and I never suggested making it a tall, dense neighborhood. But there are PLENTY of opportunities for development in Anacostia that can keep with the tradition, or nostalgia, or whatever it is you would like to preserve. Look at Georgetown. Eons of development that kept with the character of the neighborhood. MLK is prime for this EXACT model, except there is a metro stop and it's much closer to downtown, so in essence it's better. Also there is plenty of opportunity for "taller" development south of MLK between 295 and ON MLK, still within Historic Anacostia. So I'm afraid it's YOU, who on your occasional "visits" has formed NO clue of what you are talking about. And Benning Road is further from downtown and harder to get to.

by SW, DC on Nov 19, 2013 10:16 am • linkreport

If the markets not there you can't make it happen. Unfortunately it's particularly painful to try to redevelop non-public residential areas. The current DC government offices and St. E's development is probably going to be the bulk of what goes in for a while though one would think that might spark some more incremental growth hopefully.

by BTA on Nov 19, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

"Even reduced housing prices do nothing for low income housing. "

A. thats debatable - reduced housing prices may well filter to lower income people
B. New taller buildings could be accompanied by IZ requirements, plus will generate tax revenue that can be used for social services, affordable housing, etc
C. You initially specified existing DC residents. Of course not all existing DC residents are poor. It sounds like the goal has been changed.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Also, putting more development downtown doesn't translate to MORE jobs. I'm not suggesting slowing development downtown.

Given the agglomeration effects of locating downtown (benefits of being near other things), yes, development downtown generates more jobs that development outside downtown. Because there will just plain be more interest in developing downtown.

Not to mention the fact that development downtown generates better transit share than development outside downtown (even near Metro) and so that means less traffic, less pollution, than the alternative.

You are suggesting slowing potential development downtown if your argument is "how about we spread development EotR instead of allowing more downtown."

by MLD on Nov 19, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

Luckybiker,

I don't expect my points to solve particular problems 100%. I expect a looser height limit would make it easier to solve though.

There will always be some barriers that are hard to overcome (there's only so much space in the district, you can't put up buildings overnight, same with transit, etc.) but the height limit is completely artificial. All it takes is the stroke of a pen to completely change the development outlook for the city and that's it.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

@SW, DC

You must be confused. This thread is about the potential to allow taller, high-density development within the District and where such growth could occur; as such, Anacostia is off the table for this purpose. That said, it certainly has lots of development potential within its current historic framework.

As for Benning Road, it is further from downtown but proximity to downtown isn't the defining factor of success. The PEPCO site is a large site directly across the river from the rapidly developing H Street/Capitol Hill East neighborhood. With the streetcar extension from Union Station, along H Street, and finally EOTR to Benning Road Metro, this is an ideal area to test a new comprehensive plan process as has been proposed. Height and density bonuses could even help pay for the necessary environmental remediation and transit improvements to site. That may take years to accomplish, but that's why we should begin planning now.

by Adam Lewis on Nov 19, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

Historically the number of folks in DC has no effect on representation for DC before the Congress simply because those decisions are made by those elected elsewhere.

We can't possibly know if this is true or false. But you have to concede that DC with 1,000,000 people has a more compelling case for representation than DC with 1000 people does. Right?

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

There is already increased demand for better transit but not enough money to deliver it fast enough.

With more businesses and jobs and people in DC, there will be more money available for better transit. And the ideal person is someone who walks to work, because they demand very little in transportation spending, making them net donors. Density makes walking to work more common.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

it is not clear we need to ease height limits to increase business opportunities.

We don't. But it will create more businesses opportunities. You don't have to go to college to get a job, but going to college helps. Same idea.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

Following the strict boundaries of the L'enfant plan seems at best a little lazy to me.

Agreed. Using a 200 year old idea of the city based on hills and escarpments is at least as bad as using 100 year old rules based on firefighting technology.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

David C. No, we actually have some experience with this question, dating back before limited home rule in the early '70s. The number of people in DC makes no difference, particularly in a present make up of the House. In various administrations and majorities, the DC Delegate was allowed a vote on the floor. But I guarantee you that this had little to do with the number of people in the District. If DC representation was based on some version of voting power or fairness,this would have been fixed a long long time ago. It seems to me that, sadly, what has made the most difference is targeted local action back home in key districts. This is how Rev Fauntleroy and others broke the domination of Johnny "Mac" McMillan in Florence SC. If Rep Issa, for example, was challenged from the right in a primary by a champ for DC, Issa would change even more than he has.

by Luckybiker on Nov 19, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

It's so strange to hear all these people begrudging any business that locates on the Wilson Blvd. Corridor or in Bethesda and Silver Spring becasue it should have been in downtown DC. When people talk about a Greater Greater Washington, that's what they mean. Greater Washington implies that we should be thinking as a region rather than only with-in DC. Regardless of who get's what taxes, we all benefit from the economic activity generated throughout the whole area. That's how economies are measured afterall.

"Talk about "spreading development out" is just arguing against density."

It sounds like the tea party wing of smart growth is taking over the party. Spreading out development along rail lines isn't anti-density, it's taking advantage of the rail network to have dense clusters throughout the region.

by Thayer-D on Nov 19, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

Who mentioned Bethesda or Silver Spring?

by BTA on Nov 19, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

"It's so strange to hear all these people begrudging any business that locates on the Wilson Blvd."

From a regional and enviro POV, its better that a business locates on Wilson Blvd (in the RB corridor in Arlco) than in Tysons. And better in Tysons than in an office park in Loudoun or PWC. OTOH its better that its in downtown DC than on the Wilson Corridor, because downtown DC is better served by transit, and due to that and costlier parking, will have higher transit mode share.

from the strictly DC POV, where tax revenues goes matters. From the regional POV, its a wash, as Thayer seems to indicate.

Except of course when its not. Right now DC still has a larger pct living in poverty than any other jurisdiction in the region, and a greater inclination than most jurisdictions to spend to alleviate poverty. So im not sure that from the POV of the broader agenda of dealing with poverty, it isnt better to have more tax revenue in DC than in ArlCo (and of course Arlco is more committed to the alleviation of poverty than do suburbs further out).

The recent debate over RSUs has not left me with positive feelings about the desire of my fellow citizens of FFX to deal with issues of poverty.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

Sorry, I meant outside of DC. All in Virginia if you like.
Does that make the point clearer?

by Thayer-D on Nov 19, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

@BTA: Perhaps @Thayer-D was referencing what I wrote yesterday? Unclear. But I will respond to what he wrote here:
Regardless of who get's what taxes, we all benefit from the economic activity generated throughout the whole area.
The benefits are not spread equally. By living in a place that allows tall buildings, you and I both benefit from DC's ban on more dense development. Yes, DC benefits indirectly from growth outside of DC, but it would benefit far more from more growth within DC--and more of that growth would be allowed if the height restrictions were relaxed.

I think it is disingenuous for those of us living in MD and VA to argue that DC should keep the Height Act restrictions at all costs. It's particularly bad when you try to argue that keeping those restrictions is costless for DC. It definitely has costs. You just happen not to feel them directly because you live in MD.

by Gray on Nov 19, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

"From a regional and enviro POV, its better that a business locates on Wilson Blvd (in the RB corridor in Arlco) than in Tysons. And better in Tysons than in an office park in Loudoun or PWC. OTOH its better that its in downtown DC than on the Wilson Corridor, because downtown DC is better served by transit, and due to that and costlier parking, will have higher transit mode share."

Let's use your analogy in the opposite direction then. If it's better in downtown, wouldn't it be better in the old downtown? And wouldn't it be better at Metro Center. So build 100 story towers over Metro Center, Gellery Place, and L'Enfant Plaza. That would be the absolute best. Afterall, who needs to walk!

by Thayer-D on Nov 19, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

Let's use your analogy in the opposite direction then. If it's better in downtown, wouldn't it be better in the old downtown? And wouldn't it be better at Metro Center. So build 100 story towers over Metro Center, Gellery Place, and L'Enfant Plaza. That would be the absolute best. Afterall, who needs to walk!

Sure, it probably would be better located near Metro Center or Gallery Place. More converging Metro lines. I don't get it, is this supposed to be some attempt at reducto-ad-absurdum? Why shouldn't someone build a 100-story tower if there's the market for it? Granted, there almost never is.

by MLD on Nov 19, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

"Let's use your analogy in the opposite direction then. If it's better in downtown, wouldn't it be better in the old downtown? And wouldn't it be better at Metro Center. So build 100 story towers over Metro Center, Gellery Place, and L'Enfant Plaza. That would be the absolute best. Afterall, who needs to walk!"

Im not sure how SOV mode share compares in the new downtown vs the old, or in buildings a block from metro stations vs ones right on metro stations with multiple lines. the gains in mode share would be offset by higher costs (again, IIUC its almost never cost effective to build more than 60 or 70 stories, because of the costs of utilities and elevators) and of course at those heights issues of sunshine etc become MORE serious.

But you are absolutely correct that it makes sense to allow greater heights at those three metro stations than elsewhere downtown.

And of course that would lead to more walking, not less. People taking transit would still need to walk at their origin station. Where as when we put office space where transit mode share is lower, and people drive all the way, there is less walking.

Also, I am confused. More office space on Wilson blvd, now would mean more buildings in excess of 130 ft. If buildings taller than 130 ft are bad things, cutting off light and air, hostile to urbanism, inviting bad modernist architecture, why do you wish them on Wilson Blvd?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

"It's particularly bad when you try to argue that keeping those restrictions is costless for DC. It definitely has costs. You just happen not to feel them directly because you live in MD."

No one is saying it's costless, it's just not as cut and dry as you are stating. Many large businesses located outside of DC way before the building boom. Why would they act in such an economically irrational manner? Becasue there are many other considerations when a business decides to locate someplace. No one is arguing that density is bad, 95% of people on this site are pro-smart growth, but drawing red lines in the sand over density on a train line in VA or MD vs. DC is splitting hairs and splitting the smart growth movement needlessly.

by Thayer-D on Nov 19, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

Towers aren't inherently more efficient from all perspectives. If you need many many high speed elevators to get around that causes bottle necks too. It's all about balance and some of us think artificial caps at 12 storeys or whatever is inefficient use of space. I wouldn't even want something like the 30 storey building going up in Rosslyn but we could definitely use more 10-20 storey buildings in the city. In some places the issue is more with current zoning or even just opposition to any increase in density, but downtown the "natural" zoning is really butting up against an artificial height limit.

by BTA on Nov 19, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

"Let's use your analogy in the opposite direction then. If it's better in downtown, wouldn't it be better in the old downtown"

and if its better outside downtown, by limit it to a few places like RB, or Tysons or bethesda? Why not spread it to office parks across the region? That way people can afford to live close to their work much more easily. Look at Loudoun - so many people live a very reasonable walk or bike ride away from their work. And in DPZ influenced developments with lovely walking trails.

Yet for some reason they drive to work anyway.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

"No one is arguing that density is bad, 95% of people on this site are pro-smart growth, but drawing red lines in the sand over density on a train line in VA or MD vs. DC is splitting hairs and splitting the smart growth movement needlessly."

its not needless when we need to address a policy question like the height limit. When we do, its necessary to honestly face the consequences. And the consequence, is, indeed, the shift of employment to places with lower transit mode share. I dont think it splits the smart growth movement - the planners in Arlco, etc, are quite aware of the differences in SOV mode share, and I dont think they are insulted because someone points that out as a reason to favor changes in the height limit.

AFAICT the only division in the smart growth movement on this is between those who are prioritizing mode share issues, and folks who have an attachment to the aesthetic qualities of buildings less than 130 ft.

If the smart growth movement can survive fights between cyclists and street car advocates, between advocates for different modes of transit, and the much more difficult division between urbanists who believe in interventions to mandate affordable housing and those who do not, I think it can survive differences over the height limit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

"but drawing red lines in the sand over density on a train line in VA or MD vs. DC is splitting hairs and splitting the smart growth movement needlessly."

IIUC MoCo allows buildings taller than 130 ft. Have you contacted your rep on the MoCo council to ask them to reduce the maximum height to that? When they express concern about losing business to ArlCo and FFX, will you reassure them that we should all think as one region?

Why are 180 foot buildings terrible in DC, but the defenders of the height limit who do not live in DC, not pushing for similar limits elsewhere?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 1:15 pm • linkreport

No, we actually have some experience with this question, dating back before limited home rule in the early '70s.

I'm sorry, but we don't. And what experience we have is relevant. After the 50's when DC's population as a percentage of US population was at all time high, we were able to get the 23rd Amendment passed. Even though the decisions for that were made by people who live elsewhere. In the 70's, when population was still much larger than today, we got the DC voting rights amendment through Congress. So if anything the evidence is that when DC population is higher, we have more success. Nonetheless, you ignored my question.

Do you not agree that that a DC with 1,000,000 people has a more compelling case for representation than DC with 1000 people does? [It's a yes/no question if you're wondering]

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D:

We have had this discussion before. I get that marginal analysis isn't always an obvious way of thinking, but this seems pretty far off the mark:

Many large businesses located outside of DC way before the building boom. Why would they act in such an economically irrational manner?
This is not economically irrational. Businesses have preferences over a wide range of factors. This does not mean that we should not change anything, because that will only affect some businesses' decisions.

For example, say that MoCo were to double all taxes. This would make PG county, DC, and other jurisdictions much more attractive. Would this mean that all residents and businesses would move out of the county? Clearly not. But clearly it would have a huge effect on lots of people's decisions.

My point is not that the height act is that huge of a factor. However, by reducing supply of office space it is in effect a tax on businesses that choose to locate in DC. It is only one factor of many, but it is definitely a factor.

by Gray on Nov 19, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

It sounds like the tea party wing of smart growth is taking over the party.

Oh are we at the part where we throw out unfair (and really unsubstantiated) ad hominem attacks. Because if so, I'm ready. I heard that Hitler loves height limits. Also he was an artist and architecture is related to art, so you must be just like Hitler. When did you stop supporting the Holocaust?

Spreading out development along rail lines isn't anti-density

It is if it pulls away development from the core.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

So build 100 story towers over Metro Center, Gellery Place, and L'Enfant Plaza. That would be the absolute best.

Or if 130 feet is a good limit then lets go to 1 foot. That would be the absolute best.

Look, most of us agree that limitless building anywhere is not ideal. And we also agree that a 1 story limit is stupid. We all want it to be somewhere in between We are arguing about what limits make sense. So until someone actually advocates such a plan as you've described, it's silly to argue against it. You have to make the case that the current limits are the best ones. Not that some plan that no one supports is the worst one.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

"I heard that Hitler loves height limits. Also he was an artist and architecture is related to art, so you must be just like Hitler. When did you stop supporting the Holocaust?"

its far worse than that Dave C. Hitler lived in Vienna, and loved the historicist buildings on the Ringstrasse (the ones that modernists mostly disliked, and that neo trads often think highly of - and thats not made up, its from Schorske's book on Vienna)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

Sorry did not mean to ignore your question. I am saying no that more people in DC is not compelling to the decision makers on the House side because they are not their constituents. Hope that helps clarify the situation or am I missing something.

by Luckybiker on Nov 19, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

David C,
"Look, most of us agree that limitless building anywhere is not ideal"

Ok, then what is an ideal limit and why? You're still going to have to plan your way out of a constricted downtown at some point, so the economic argument just dosen't have the same urgency that you're portraying.

We'll simply agree to disagree, and from the comments here, I'm clearly not the only one who thinks this cost argument is as bad as stated here. I disagree with Mr. Alpert who believes the height limit is responsible for boring buildings. I disagree with AWITC that there will be no more growth in DC once the last 4.9% of developable land are built up. I can live with that. Rents are high here becasue we have a lively economy, like NYC or Boston, which both have skyscrapers, so you do the math and report back.

"do not, I repeat, do not jump in here and say sarcastically "Well, that really worked for Houston."

"Oh are we at the part where we throw out unfair ad hominem attacks. Because if so, I'm ready."

For what it's worth, if we do finally open up the height limits, I like the Buzzard's point skyscraper idea, somehting I proposed a while back. Mind you, we'd have to plan and execute some serious public transit, but that's what planners are for.

by Thayer-D on Nov 19, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

"Ok, then what is an ideal limit and why? You're still going to have to plan your way out of a constricted downtown at some point, so the economic argument just dosen't have the same urgency that you're portraying."

For now, I like the changes OP proposed. Yes, you will still have buildout at some point with that. Do we increase again? I don't know. we can examine it. maybe then demand will be different (the US is going to hit zero pop growth one day, and at that point its capital is not likely to keep growing). Maybe then we will have an auto fleet that has zero emissions. Maybe construction techniques will differ. I dont know. I dont see why "an optimal height limit for all time" is a requisite for ANY change to the limit.

"We'll simply agree to disagree, and from the comments here, I'm clearly not the only one who thinks this cost argument is as bad as stated here."

There are a great many people discussing this who either dont understand economics, or dont understand what ceteris paribis means.

"I disagree with AWITC that there will be no more growth in DC once the last 4.9% of developable land are built up. I can live with that."

Those two sentences appear to contradict. Perhaps you mean to say that you think much developed land is in fact developable with zoning changes. Can we please not start again on the Paris in Upper Michigan Park thing - I think you will lose most of your pro height act allies on that. They are fighting for the DC they know, not for 6 story buildings everywhere.

" Rents are high here becasue we have a lively economy, like NYC or Boston, which both have skyscrapers, so you do the math and report back."

Boston is more affordable than NYC, and Chicago is more affordable than either. Demand matters, but supply also does. This whole "NYC is skyscrapers (btw, is a 180 ft building really a skycraper?) so they dont reduce costs, sounds like an equally good argument against 6 story buildings. NYC has loads of those, and Paris is dominated by them - yet both are expensive cities.

So I guess all those SFHs in Michigan Park, and 2 story row homes, can stay?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

I am saying no that more people in DC is not compelling to the decision makers on the House side because they are not their constituents. Hope that helps clarify the situation or am I missing something.

Yes you are. The question is not is it compelling to decision makers. The question is which is the more compelling argument. Let me rephrase it. Which is the more compelling argument?

A. There are 1000 people here without representation and you need to give us statehood or representation

B. There are 1,000,000 people here without representation and you need to give us statehood or representation.

Also, it's disingenuous to pretend that members of the House do not support DC voting rights. Not all do, certainly not a majority, but some do. And all we need is one more than half. So this is an argument at the margins. If you agree that B is marginally better than A, then you have to concede that this is a benefit of raising the height limit.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

Ok, then what is an ideal limit and why?

The ideal limit would vary based on zoning. So no congressional limit is the right limit.

And really, we don't need one elsewhere either, but can get by with strict review by the various bodies that have review now.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

You're still going to have to plan your way out of a constricted downtown at some point

Lots of solutions are temporary, but they're still solutions. Maybe DC will stop growing naturally - the way other cities have. Maybe technology will solve the problem. But the argument that this is not a fix for DC forever is pretty irrelevant. We shouldn't make plans for DC in 2113, just as people from outside of DC in 1910 shouldn't plan our city.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Yes. Of course more people makes a more compelling argument. The point I am making is that in this case, the target of the discussion, the House committee chair and the leadership is not an abstraction. I seem to remember that the forces behind both the 23rd amendment fight and the change to limited Home Rule had little to do with the size of DC at the time and more to do with some talented advocacy from a relatively small group of folks. But this discussion may not directly relate to the Height limitation question and I would be glad to take this historical stuff off line.

by Luckybiker on Nov 19, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

@BTA, why do oppose rail and efficiency, and have not backed up your assertion about elevators with math? Sky scrapers work best in focused zones around rail hubs, and are extremely efficient for horizontal travel and private short rail road for vertical travel, called elevators.

The time savings from elevators and maximized useful density is even more valuable than the energy savings, but the energy saved also proves that downtown skyscrapers are better for building an economy.

Combined horizontal and vertical rail, creates the most efficient expert labor market, with largest scale of population served creating highest opportunity for the most people, and shortest commutes and shortest trips between markets and services during work hours.

The typical elevator uses a tiny fraction of a car being driven to a second level of a parking structure. One gallon of gas equivalent is 33.41 KWh. One efficiency calculation on the web for 41 story building (assuming equal population and traffic per floor, averaging the entire buildings elevator rides), says 5.8 KWh is one months elevator travel (using the 20 floor). The elevator costs in terms of energy, one gallon of gas is equal to almost 6 months of elevator rides. The typical car in a parking structures driving up and down ramps to change floors, uses drastically more energy than a skyscraper elevator, per person. If you have a car that can drive up and down ramps for 6 months on a gallon of gas, you should patent it and sell it and become extremely rich, but in the mean time, don't oppose elevators by mis-characterizing them as inefficient.

(Elevator energy data pulled from: http://fatknowledge.blogspot.com/2007/02/how-much-energy-does-elevator-use.html)

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 19, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

"This whole "NYC is skyscrapers so they dont reduce costs, sounds like an equally good argument against 6 story buildings. NYC has loads of those, and Paris is dominated by them - yet both are expensive cities.So I guess all those SFHs in Michigan Park, and 2 story row homes, can stay?"

You make an excellent point. Sure, let's keep them.

by Thayer-D on Nov 19, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

@ "Or, maybe it means a lot of tall buildings in one small space, like Paris' La Defense."

I just don't understand why David Alpert and GGW always reference La Defense in this debate? La Defense is completely irrelevant because it is NOT in Paris. It's like asking why doesn't DC have an edge suburb where taller buildings may be built like Rosslyn or Silver Spring.

Why not talk about Front de Seine or Italie 13, both of which are actually in the city of Paris and have several buildings over 300 feet tall? These buildings don't seem to take away the character of most of Paris' historic neighbourhoods.

by Burd on Nov 19, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

indeed thayer, theres no building type that we could build that isnt present in some expensive city.

so lets just not build anything at all. That won't cause rents to rise more than they otherwise would.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 19, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

Well La Defense and Paris are now set to be tied together much more closely from an administrative standpoint. I don't know if it's akin to DC taking back Arlington but changes are afoot.

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2013/07/why-expansion-paris-pretty-big-deal/6345/

by drumz on Nov 19, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

Of course more people makes a more compelling argument.

Well then, drumz first point in favor or raising the height limit:

1: It'll create more DC residents, putting greater pressure on congress to do something about lack of representation.

stands.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

@drumz

Not really akin to DC taking back Arlington. Paris is not agglomerating, just creating some common metro area authority that can make decisions on housing and land use. Each commune maintains their political separateness and most of their powers.

But that's besides the point I was trying to make that Paris and DC are not comparable in terms of this debate b/c Paris already has more than one neighbourhood within current city limits where dozens of buildings are taller than 300 feet, DC does not.

by Burd on Nov 19, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

That's all good. I think it's time to come up with other cities to compare DC too, Paris and NYC are getting a little old.

by drumz on Nov 19, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

No, because as I have may have mentioned pressure from DC residents does not matter to someone whose voters are in,say, in Rep Issa's case, in California. At present, the Republican decision makers in the House tend to be largely immune from DC pressure which overwhelmingly votes Democratic. This is a serious political problem of a total lack of accountability that has been part of DC's history since it was founded in 1800. There are some grass roots strategies that may change this, but simply adding numbers to a disinfrancised group of Democrats may not be particularly effective in the near term without other game changers.

by Luckybiker on Nov 19, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

1. drumz point was not that the pressure would matter, but that it would increase pressure. Two different things.

2. Some people, outside of DC care about DC voting rights. Some of them live in Issa's district. He cares about their opinions. So it does matter. That DC has, as you've conceded, a more compelling case with a larger population means that more people in Issa's district care.

3. Issa is likely not the swing vote. It's likely some future conservative Democrat who's in office the next time Dems control the House.

4. Sometimes the majority does things that are not in their own interest because it is the right thing to do (See: ending slavery, the Civil Rights Act, women's suffrage, etc...) I know it's not popular to see members of Congress as individuals who actually care about things and are willing to take courageous votes for justice, and instead to see them as callous vote-counting machines, but sometimes the former characterization is the more accurate one.

5. simply adding numbers to a disinfrancised group of Democrats may not be particularly effective in the near term without other game changers. True, but other game changers will happen at some point, and it will be helpful to be able to make the most compelling case possible, and you've already agreed that a larger population makes our case more compelling.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

A quick calculation of what can a 25 miles per gallon gas car do compared with an elevator? Expanding the math I used above, a car can commuter about 530 feet twice per day, on flat ground, for the same budget at a round trip elevator ride each work day.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 19, 2013 4:44 pm • linkreport

1. I maintain that increased pop in the District would not increase pressure on Congress to act.
2.I actually agree with your second point and those folks in various targeted districts should be mobilized in DCs cause.
3. Issa is not necessary a swing vote, I used him for an example because he currently is the chair of the Oversight Committee that has jurisdiction, and won last time with 58 percent of the vote. But Issa has been a bit better for DC than previous plantation owners. Should the House flip, somewhat of a long shot with redistricting as it is, Rep. Cummings (MD=07), a friend of DC, could become chair and would have a lot to say about this issue. Most of the other Dems on the committee are hardly conservative Dems.
4. Yes, certainly there are times when the right thing to do prevails. In the House, this is not one of those times because vulnerable Repubs can be primaried.
5. Again, I would argue that creating those other game changers and creating the most compelling case best happens in targeted districts, not in DC.

by Luckybiker on Nov 19, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport

This is a no brainer and was an idiotic idea in the first place. The height limit has severely limited the cities intake of tax dollars. Something like 1.2 billion. Those who argue against building taller buildings point mainly to preserving the dominance of the Monument and Capitol in DC's skyline. Hogwash! This is the 21st century and thins have changed. DC has run out of space to build and expand downtown. It is time to go up! Not Empire State Building up, but high enough to accommodate a city growing commercially and residentially.

by LaVorn on Nov 19, 2013 6:59 pm • linkreport

I maintain that increased pop in the District would not increase pressure on Congress to act.

So a more compelling case doesn't increase pressure? If DC's population were 100 million or 250 million, would that increase pressure?

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 9:58 pm • linkreport

The reason to efficiently increase skyscraper density at rail hubs, is to maximize the opportunity in DC, and therefore the economy and tax base, and using the tax base and population flows to maximize the efficiency of infrastructure, such as adding more subway lines, and develop a Premium Airport Express Train services to BWI and IAD, and improve commuter rail, and so forth, creating value for all people in the region to efficiently connect each day to a downtown.

DC is larger in population than 2 states today, Vermont and Wyoming. If DC went back to 900,000 people, like World War II, then the city would be larger in population than Montana again, or larger population than a total of 5 US States. If DC went for density like Brooklyn or Manhattan, it would have about 1.8 or 3.6 million people. If Brooklyn density, DC would be larger in population than West Virginia, with 1.85 million people, (or 12 US states). If DC got Manhattan density, DC population would be higher than Connecticut with 3.5 million people, or 20 US States and Puerto Rico.

If DC had those numbers of people, the arguments for statehood be more obvious, but no less assured.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 19, 2013 10:13 pm • linkreport

@ Nathaniel

DC never had 900,000 people, especially not during WW2, and the DC statehood debate has never been about population. For example, in 1950 DC had more people than 14 states but no one thought it deserved statehood. And so drastically increasing DC's population will not change the minds of unAmericans who think that the federal capital should not have full voting rights and control over local affairs. Reminding them how undemocratic and hypocritical they are will go much further.

But the point is that raising the height limit is not the answer to statehood, but DC gov't should have the right to set policy on local land use, and if DC taxpayers want the height restrictions lifted then so be it.

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

@ Burd: LOL! As for statehood, glad you are so grumpy as to ignore my last sentence, "If DC had those numbers of people, the arguments for statehood be more obvious, but no less assured."

Do you have a white paper questioning the methodology of the US Federal Reserve Board St. Louis population data for Washington DC in 20th Century? Because I think you don't know your data, preferring simply to extreme statements like "never".

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/DCPOP?rid=118&soid=19

You can't seem to acknowledge that US Census of 1950 says Washington DC was 814,000.

Is it that implausible that if both the Military budgets were slashed at the end of World War II, sharply cutting payrolls, and the Pentagon was build outside DC during World War II, that Military employment both declined and transferred to Virginia, triggering explosive growth in Arlington VA, and Virginia more broadly, that DC population could fall about 86,000 in 5 years, reducing numbers of people per room and home in DC, when it was more of giant boarding house during the War.

As for your assertion that no one thought about voting rights in 1946, the DC Statehood movement back then, helped get the right to vote for US President, incrementally implemented, with Amendment 23, ratified after Kennedy's election in time for LBJ (re)election in 1964. That pro voting rights (therefore liberal) DC Statehood movement effort was called "the Tea Party" back then, shown in Washington Star newspaper photos, long before the modern right wing "Tea Party" of the late 2000s.

I have written so many comments about how skyscraper zones at rail hubs, scale markets, slashing commute costs in terms of time and energy, creating greater opportunity (in part from reducing commute (opportunity) costs) creating faster sustained growth, which compounds over the long term, reliably creating massive wealth. Increasing the number of people who can work in a skyscraper zone, both passenger rail (subway, light rail, commuter rail, and Amtrak) to maximize quick commutes and commute capacity and lower commute costs, and maximizing the number of people who can fit at the hub by adding many very tall towers directly next to the rail hub, simplifying the regional expert labor market, creates a much more stable and powerful regional economy.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 20, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

@ Nathaniel Pendelton

"If DC had those numbers of people, the arguments for statehood be more obvious..."

And I disagree with you per my previous comment that population has nothing to do with the DC statehood debate.

"You can't seem to acknowledge that US Census of 1950 says Washington DC was 814,000"

When did I not acknowledge that? You just can't seem to acknowledge that you were wrong by suggesting DC had 900,000 people during WW2. In 1940, DC's population was 633K and in 1950 it was 814K. Any estimates between 1940 and 50 that the population surged to over 900,000 are purely speculative and very unreliable. If inter-census estimates were reliable, then we should have seen DC's population shrink to near 500,000, when it actually increased to over 601,000 in 2010.

"As for your assertion that no one thought about voting rights in 1946..."

And what DC voting rights were achieved or what bills were even proposed in 1946? It wasn't a serious issue until the Eisenhower administration and still took years before passage.

"Increasing the number of people who can work in a skyscraper zone, both passenger rail...creates a much more stable and powerful regional economy."

That's all fine with me. I just don't see what it has to do with DC voting rights.

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

^*802K in 1950

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

Can someone please explain this Federal Reserve graph to Burd? He doesn't like it when I point to it.
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/DCPOP?rid=118&soid=19

@Burd, you're unhappy, and I am not sure why. You don't like the Federal Reserve data and graph. You haven't refuted the Fed Data on DC population. Where is your white paper on how wrong the Fed data is?

You don't like the Wikipedia table for 1950 US Census numbers of 814 K vs 802 K. Since I don't have the time to bicker about the methodology of the 1950 US Census and the organizations which republish that data, e.g. Wikipedia, we could agree DC population was greater than 800,000, but I suspect you would disagree with me somehow there as well.

1946 was considered an absolutely critical year in organizing DC Statehood, with many protests and lobbying efforts. DC population was, according to the Federal Reserve, between 800 and 900 thousand people in 1946. The Federal Government had not passed the 1947 national security acts, long term moving as many national security workers to the full voting suburbs of DC in Maryland and Virginia, which retained actual "advice and consent" judges and had Morrill Land Grant Schools for their children for many decades already, nearly 100 years, while DC would not gets its public 4 year liberal art university, until 104 years after passage of the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862, with Federal City College in 1966. Congress had not yet gutted and removed the DC streetcar system yet, which was the primary form of mass transit and rail mass transit in DC for the 100 years, between 1862 and 1962.

The organization and effort of 1946, how it was successful such as Amendment 23, and how it failed, because Congress simply moved everyone of value and education it could to the neighboring states.

Yawn... SSDD.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 20, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

@ Nathaniel Pendleton

"Where is your white paper on how wrong the Fed data is?"

Can someone please teach Nathaniel to read the source of the Fed data, which is the US Census? It's plainly written on the Fed chart he used. Can you also explain to him that Census estimates, are estimates, and are often proven wrong by the actual decennial census results.

"You don't like the Wikipedia table for 1950 US Census numbers of 814 K vs 802 K. "

The official census figure for 1950 is 802,178. Not sure where you got 814K.

"1946 was considered an absolutely critical year in organizing DC Statehood...."

In other words, you don't want to answer my question, "what DC voting rights were achieved or what bills were even proposed in 1946?" b/c the answer is "none."

Still don't see what this has to do with DC's height restrictions...

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

Well at least we can learn that Burd opened the graph, but still does not like the Fed Data, derived from US Census work, which clearly states that on January 1, 1943, the city had an estimated 900,000 people, and on January 1, 1946, the city had 899,000 people.

Burd declared the city "never" had 900,000 people. Why is he so obsessed with trying to refute the data, and using weird generalities to try and refute systematic research by the US Census, which if anything had more access to Federal payroll data when the city was almost exclusively on the War time Federal payroll, than it does today to estimate population.

Sigh... knit picking like Burd does is meant to delay useful conversations about what is best for DC proper and the DC region, both in terms of population density, especially commutable density, which maximizes opportunity, and the voting rights issues that interfere with typical urban and economic development.

Can we have a survey telling us what people want done? DC Statehood? Efficient market maximizing skyscrapers at rail hubs? Expanded economic opportunity and tax base? Better mass transit? Better schools?

(The 1950 US Census data I pulled quickly from the Wikipedia 1950 US Census state table. The Fed annual pop data says 806K for 1950-01-01, the Wikipedia state summary for 1950-04-01, says 814K, and Wikipedia article on DC's demographic data says 802,178. These all cite US Census articles which you can find in the foot notes. I think we have room for Burd and I to agree (or disagree as Burd sees fit) within 1.4% of the smallest population number.)

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 20, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

Can we have an article done by the experts of Greater Greater Washington, which tells us how to ask for creating a lawful skyscraper zone in NOMA / DC Union Station, and similar. As I stated above (clear to most, but not Burd), the positive economic impact of well planned sky scraper zones at rail hubs for the city and region are essential for DC's citizens, current and future. Ignoring the innumerable ways US Congress has to delay restoring full voting rights in DC, the skyscrapers are essential for economic opportunity / rights and funding infrastructure and education, in DC, a major factor in economic opportunity and rights. With or without full voting rights, skyscrapers are our best long term bet for building up our opportunity, expert labor markets, and children.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 20, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

@ Nathaniel Pendelton

"derived from US Census work"

So proven wrong, you're still afraid to admit the source is the US Census, which I said all along.

"...which clearly states that on January 1, 1943, the city had an estimated 900,000 people, and on January 1, 1946, the city had 899,000 people."

The US Census Bureau did not conduct a census in either 1943 or 1946, and therefore those estimates are both speculative and unreliable (considering their inaccurate estimate track record).

"The Fed annual pop data says 806K for 1950-01-01, the Wikipedia state summary for 1950-04-01, says 814K..."

Instead of admitting he was wrong, he blames Wikipedia, which has never conducted a census (unless Wikipedia is now in the census-taking business).

"knit picking like Burd does is meant to delay useful conversations about what is best for DC proper and the DC region"

Derailing the conversation like Nathaniel does by talking about population in 1950 has nothing to do with today's height restrictions and is irrelevant in this thread.

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

Clearly you have a problem Burd. What do you oppose about DC economic and civil rights that makes you come to this forum and excessively freak out about each thing I wrote, and effortlessly back up with links? Such as when I say 900,000 people live in DC during World War II, you don't ask where I got the data, you simply say tirade nonsense like "never", and so on, making you sound extreme and unknowledgeable, about some pretty basic data.

When chill people like me who care about clear thinking, and maximizing DC's economic opportunity, and restoring civil rights such as all ordinary US voting rights, and have politely posted better data references than you have, why do keep throwing hissey fits trying to weirdly make mountains out of mole hills, and derail clear and sensible conversations about making the absolute best of DC for all its people? It's very awkward of you.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 20, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

re: I have yet to hear a cogent discussion of how changing the height limitation will benefit actual DC residents.

The most important thing is that by increasing the value of downtown commercial property, it would increase the city's property tax revenue stream which would (1) allow the city to sell more bonds and (2) most importantly, would create a revenue stream to fund heavy rail transit expansion like a separated blue/silver line and a separated yellow line.

Otherwise, we can't really do it. The suburbs aren't all that interested in funding capacity expansion in the core, even if 70% of the workers downtown are from the suburbs.

I think that's a pretty huge benefit. A once in a hundred years kind of benefit.

by Richard Layman on Nov 20, 2013 5:39 pm • linkreport

re the 900,000 people, that figure (well a few hundred less) shows up in the Statistical Abstract of the U.S. I don't remember what year. Do a search of the H-URBAN archives at www.h-net.org for a post by Scott Bernstein which has the year-by-year numbers from 1940 to 1950. Of course, by 1946 the numbers started dropping, to 802,500 in 1950, which because it was a decennial census year, is considered the highest population number, but as Nathaniel Pendleton, Scott Bernstein, and the SAUS point out, the peak population was significantly higher.

by Richard Layman on Nov 20, 2013 5:43 pm • linkreport

wrt charlie's point about the value of the DC market declining, yes it is true. We probably missed the best window on this, but it is a decision with multigenerational benefit and impacts, so it would still help the city overall.

The market is declining because with political trends, it's not expected that the fed. govt. will keep expanding, or that Congress will approve "prospectus leases" paying more than the standard GSA rate for office space.

Others here have made really great points including about the "federal interest" actually being represented better by allowing taller buildings.

by Richard Layman on Nov 20, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

here's the H-URBAN post I am referring to:

http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Urban&month=1112&week=e&msg=iwmfUTyjVR%2BXecfqlPIxvA

it lists peak population of 899,000 in 1946, and 891,000 in 1943.

by Richard Layman on Nov 20, 2013 6:00 pm • linkreport

@ Nathaniel Pendleton

"What do you oppose about DC economic and civil rights that makes you come to this forum and excessively freak out about each thing I wrote..."

LOL...I have no idea what you're talking about.

"When chill people like me...have politely posted better data"

You posted an inaccurate 814K figure and a speculative 900k estimate, then inaccurately called it "Federal Reserve data" when the Federal Reserve clearly attributes it to the US Census, then got mad at me for correcting you. Doesn't sound "chill" or "polite" to me...

And I still don't see how any of this relates to the subject of this thread, i.e., building height restrictions in DC.

@Richard Layman

"but as Nathaniel Pendleton, Scott Bernstein, and the SAUS point out, the peak population was significantly higher."

They're still both speculative and unreliable estimates. But how does this relate to height restrictions?

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 6:26 pm • linkreport

Peak population was based on larger household sizes, the average has gone from about 3 person per household to about 2. Whole families used to live in one bedroom apartments and I'm sure a few still do but most of us don't want to do that. DC can hold a million people if everyone is willing to board an extra person or two in their house. I'm guessing most people aren't willing to do that so that indicates that if we are going to grow and maintain a quality of life that most people consider minimal we need more units.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 6:54 pm • linkreport

I thought the debate pop. Was whether it was a positive influence for gaining statehood or something equivalent.

by Drumz on Nov 20, 2013 7:45 pm • linkreport

Are Burd and BTA the same person, or different people?

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 20, 2013 8:31 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 20, 2013 9:50 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman, thank you for another productive link on peak population of DC data. I was worried that GGW was dieing as a forum for positive discussions about such basic stuff.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 20, 2013 10:17 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 10:29 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 21, 2013 3:26 am • linkreport

re: They're still both speculative and unreliable estimates.

wrt Census population estimates outside of the decennial Census, it's fair to say that over the past decades, they've developed a pretty rigorous protocol and the numbers presented are likely to be reasonably accurate. If you reject those numbers, then you basically have to reject such representations for all US city data presented by the Census outside of the decennial.

As far as the height restriction goes, I am not sure how old population numbers relate. It depends on the point you want to make.

My interest in puncturing the height limit comes out of Jane Jacobs types arguments, which I've discussed plenty in my blog. It took me awhile to come to that position, given my equally strong historic preservation/viewshed preservation sentiments.

Like the ADU issue (I argue that owners will need more income to pay for a mortgage if and when the mortgage interest deduction and the state-local tax deductions from federal income taxes are removed), I argue that the long term economic health of the city--I mean by LT over the next 50+ years--is dependent on allowing more height _DOWNTOWN_ where the demand is.

I don't favor raising the height limit in other parts of the city but not downtown, as I have also discussed in my blog.

For agglomeration reasons, people want and the height will pay off in the core, not in outlying parts of the city.

WRT city physical size and population, I think of San Francisco as maybe the closest equal to DC in terms of size and opportunity. SF is smaller physically and has 800,000+ population.

Its equivalent of rowhouse neighborhoods are also much more dense. No yards to speak of.

But anyways, economically, DC needs more residents as tax payers, it needs more residents to support the amenities (retail, business, civic) that we say we want, it needs more commerce to pay for transit, it needs more and cheaper space to support the kinds of innovative uses that JJ wrote about in _Death and Life_.

It is an incredible shock to me (but sadly not a surprise) that the DC Council doesn't see the height limit as a key issue wrt the future health of the city over extremely long periods of time, and their responsibility to plan and deal with such issues.

by Richard Layman on Nov 21, 2013 6:44 am • linkreport

I think it's a classic and unfortunately perfectly natural human perception that their short term interests (views, diffused density, crowding in schools/transpo etc) trump long term needs.

by BTA on Nov 21, 2013 8:49 am • linkreport

@ Richard Layman

"it's fair to say that over the past decades...the numbers presented are likely to be reasonably accurate."

Yet their DC pop. estimates were proven wrong by the 2010 Census. US Census estimated a decrease from 2000-2010 and a 2030 projection of 433,414, when the population actually increased and continues to increase at one of the fastest rates among large cities.

"If you reject those numbers, then you basically have to reject such representations for all US city data presented by the Census outside of the decennial"

I just question them, especially regarding DC b/c the US Census estimates have often been wrong.

"I argue that the long term economic health of the city--I mean by LT over the next 50+ years--is dependent on allowing more height _DOWNTOWN_ where the demand is"

I agree, but think demand also exists for high-rise apts and condos outside downtown in NoMA, Mt. Vernon Triangle, Navy Yard, Friendship Heights, West End etc.

"...economically, DC needs more residents as tax payers...to support the amenities (retail, business, civic) that we say we want, it needs more commerce to pay for transit"

DC doesn't need more taxpayers...DC Gov't is way too big, has a surplus, and is wasteful. Retail sales per capita are much smaller than every county in the metro area, so if anything, DC needs more retail and services to support the population it already has. But agree that more people will make the city economically stronger and neighbourhoods more lively.

"It is an incredible shock...the DC Council doesn't see the height limit as a key issue wrt the future health of the city over extremely long periods of time..."

Agree w/ you and BTA that DC Council is very short sighted. It's always about the next election, not the next few decades.

by Burd on Nov 21, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

I think whether DC once had 900,000 people or 810,000 is kind of a trivial argument. Can we just agree that the Census estimated that the population was once that high, that we can't really know how accurate that estimate was and that the likelihood that it was once that high is higher than 0% (making the "never" claim too strong) but lower than 100% (making the original claim too strong as well) and move on.

The point of all of this is that

1. removing or raising the height limit will likely create a higher population.
2. And that a higher DC population makes DC's case for representation/statehood stronger, such that the likelihood of a change in status increases by something more than 0%.

Thus making this ONE reason out of many - and not even the primary reason - to support raising the height limit.

If we can agree on the population number point then we can just focus on parts 1 and 2 above.

by David C on Nov 21, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

DC Gov't is way too big, has a surplus, and is wasteful.

Too big for what? And every institution is wasteful. That's an argument for being better managed, not for keeping the tax base small.

Retail sales per capita are much smaller than every county in the metro area

DC is very different from every county in the metro area. Perhaps we just have more Amazon shoppers because we're more internet savvy/wealthy.

by David C on Nov 21, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

Retail sales for the kind of retail we want requires more population than we have--the conditions of the industry have changed, as I have written about ad infinitum. That's why we don't have retail. It's not just a matter of suburbanization. A shopping mall like Montgomery Mall has a retail trade area with a population greater than that of DC.

As far as how DC government is structured and spends its money, waste and stupidity is a lot different question than spending money where we need to, e.g., the discussion in the thread about McMillan and the park portion, my blog entries about an expanded central library that doesn't mix for profit space in the same footprint, etc.

And again, the issue of transit and transit expansion, more residents and more money, etc.

by Richard Layman on Nov 21, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

@ David C

By "too big" I mean DC Gov't has many unnecessary agencies and provides many unnecessary services.

"DC is very different from every county in the metro area. Perhaps we just have more Amazon shoppers because we're more internet savvy/wealthy."

Not really. Many DC residents, especially those in underserved areas run even the most common errands like grocery shopping in Maryland instead of in their own neighbourhoods. I think we all can agree that Fairfax is more wealthy and equally tech savvy if not more than DC, but its retail sales per capita are $13,925 compared to DC's $6,555. When many DC residents are running errands in neighbouring jurisdictions, then I think it's safe to say DC is still underserved by retail, and Mayor Gray and big retailers tend to agree with me.

@ Richard Layman

" A shopping mall like Montgomery Mall has a retail trade area with a population greater than that of DC."

Not really. Anne Arundel Co. has less people than DC but two shopping malls that are larger than Montgomery Mall. I don't advocate for a similar indoor mall for DC, but just illustrating that DC can support a lot more retail, especially considering how many outsiders come here to work/visit on a daily basis.

by Burd on Nov 21, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

I agree with David C that DC is different from every other county in the area. Retail sales per capita may not be the best indicator. Does the percentage of folks below the poverty line in DC affect this per capita spending number?

While I agree that the Council, particularly in the next months before the 2014, are not likely to think long term. However, the vote in NCPC was not even close but I do not think we know yet what that means. Chairman Mendelson is a pretty deliberative guy and I think made the right call on this one. Don't yet know about the other six.

by Marchant Wentworth on Nov 21, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

@ Marchant Wentworth

Of course DC is "different" than its suburbs, but the fact is that many DC residents leave DC to run errands, b/c they lack certain retail and services in their communities.

If you want to compare apples to apples (as much as possible), then compare DC to a comparable city, like Boston. Both DC and Boston have similar populations and DC's median household income is somewhat higher, but Boston's retail sales per capita trumps DC's: $10,934 to $6,555.

Is that a fairer comparison?

by Burd on Nov 21, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

The retail thing might be a real problem. But I don't see how the height limit fixes it.

by David C on Nov 21, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

@ David C

It shows that DC is underserved, which is why big national retailers are moving in quickly. I only brought up retail sales per capita in response to Richard Layman's comment that DC needs more people to support retail, when I think it's vice versa. However, I do think taller residential buildings will bring in new retail faster.

But totally disagree with you and others that more population will bring about statehood. DC used to be more populous than 14 states and is still more populous than 2, but that hasn't helped its cause.

by Burd on Nov 21, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

Burt. thanks for the additional data. Have you seen any data comparing the populations below the poverty line?

Yes, no doubt lots of folks leave DC for certain retail -- Wards 7 and 8 are particularly lacking but I would love to hear how easing a height limitation in and of itself might alleviate this.

by Marchant Wentworth on Nov 21, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

@ Marchant Wentworth

"Have you seen any data comparing the populations below the poverty line?"

I just posted US Census Bureau data...not sure they compare groups below poverty line, but note that Boston has 21% below poverty line compared to DC's 18%, but Boston still has much higher retail sales per capita.

"...I would love to hear how easing a height limitation in and of itself might alleviate this"

I think taller buildings would bring more retail faster, as most of DC's retail trends have been to the denser neighbourhoods with high-rises in places Columbia Heights, U St, Logan Circle, NoMa and Navy Yard. People who live in these places are less likely to own cars and thus in need of grocery stores, restaurants, etc. within walking distance. Compare this to DC's suburban shopping centres on the outskirts like DC Gateway which has been slow to attract retail and has very few retail options despite the property's large lot size.

by Burd on Nov 21, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

DC used to be more populous than 14 states and is still more populous than 2, but that hasn't helped its cause.

Sure it has. It just hasn't been a winner yet. But we got a vote in the Electoral College and an amendment that not enough states adopted and a few statehood votes as well as the almost house representative thing. And all of that would've been harder/impossible if we'd had a population like Guam's. There's a reason why no one talks about statehood for Guam, V.I. or American Samoa and it ain't that they're too hot.

A statehood vote might come down to one vote. And who knows what will sway that marginal house member. More population is more likely to do it than less population is.

by David C on Nov 21, 2013 4:11 pm • linkreport

Well my extrapolation from Belmont and others is that you need about 40,000 people to support 50,000 s.f. of retail--that's in traditional districts.

wrt Anne Arundel county, given the lack of a lot of decent retail in the Eastern Shore and the great number of people who travel across the Bay Bridge, I have to figure that the shopping centers there are supported by residents from outside of the county as well, like PGC even, since they complain, justifiably, about being under-stored.

The other problem with retail is that with consolidation, there are fewer and fewer options for stores. How many stores does Bed Bath and Beyond or Best Buy really need to serve the city, etc.

This data is a bit old, and needs to be revised in the face of consolidation and e-commerce, but still relevant. It lists the minimum size of a superregional center to be 300,000 people. It needs to be higher/have a higher per capita income to really kick.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/6771538179/sizes/l/in/photolist-bjnUog-8cbpn-8q3m9-cqKDQ-8cbpo-exF4P-4mDXMY-hqzQc-jQh1W-8dhiN-4iDFy-3TVgo-3e72T-3fEFR-7gsGq-922EV-3e7bc-4eACU3-3L3gM-kJE1b-v3MSV-3RL4w-4aNKun-5Gny7F-9fGnQb-5QFRtp-49Pjid-vg7x6-7tn5k-9bPB2T-7tn8T-7tn2r-2AxJR-i2AoM-4qGDZw-cgApA-jEmjf-busHsY-b2894-4hSKDN-ahnRL-4vvvzh-4vvvzb-4vvvzd-4vvvzo-4vvvzj-4HFvQZ-5C6JeZ-5C6JeP-5C6JeM-5C6JeV/

but fwiw, I don't disagree with you about the city being underretailed, or the per capita differences, I just think that we have plenty of retail space right now, that is too often marginal. (But it is changing for some districts as they add population, such as 8th St. SE, 14th Street NW, Columbia Heights obviously but that is a different case, but also 11th St., and Petworth.)

by Richard Layman on Nov 21, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

David C I tend to disagree with your political analysis, as Luckybiker, my evil twin discussed, and continue to think the population discussion is a distant side bar from the central discussion before us, which is, I think, if whether easing the height limits brings benefits to DC residents.

by Marchant Wentworth on Nov 21, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

It is not a distant sideabar as I've explained above.

Raising the height leads to more population which leads to more political pressure for statehood/representation which would be a benefit to DC residents. It's not that big a leap.

You can argue that DC's statehood chances are exactly the same regardless of population, or even that statehood is not a benefit for DC residents; but you can't argue that that is a solid enough connection to be more than a sidebar.

by David C on Nov 21, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

@David C

"But we got a vote in the Electoral College and an amendment that not enough states adopted and a few statehood votes as well as the almost house representative thing."

An electoral college vote came b/c Eisenhower championed the cause by guilting Americans into thinking it was wrong that DC didn't have the vote not by touting how much DC had grown, rather that it's just "unconscionable," as Eisenhower put it.

"And all of that would've been harder/impossible if we'd had a population like Guam's. "

DC is not the same as Guam. Guam residents pay taxes to Guam's revenue authority only. DC residents pay DC and Fed'l taxes.

@ Richard Layman

"given the lack of a lot of decent retail in the Eastern Shore and the great number of people who travel across the Bay Bridge, I have to figure that the shopping centers there are supported by residents from outside of the county as well, like PGC "

DC gets close to 18 million visitors each year and hundreds of thousands of daily commuters from the suburbs. Are you really telling me AA co has an advantage in terms of outsiders? And PG co despite the wont of retail, has a much higher retail sales per capita than DC too $11,060.

"...It needs to be higher/have a higher per capita income to really kick."

OK, and I've shown that Boston, a poorer city than DC has higher per capita retail sales. Baltimore has slightly less people, poorer, but slightly higher retail sales per capita.

by Burd on Nov 21, 2013 6:39 pm • linkreport

An electoral college vote came b/c Eisenhower championed the cause by guilting Americans into thinking it was wrong that DC didn't have the vote

Well, this is both ridiculous and inaccurate. Ridiculous because I don't care how popular or powerful a president is, he can't will an Amendment to pass the House, Senate and 3/4ths of all legislatures on his own. There has to be more than guilt that gets that many people to support it - as it turns out Ike, Kennedy and Nixon all supported the amendment and it got widespread bipartisan support.

Inaccurate because Eisenhower wasn't even the key person behind getting it to happen. I don't know where you got that from. He was out of office by the time it passed and before more than a few states had ratified it. He signed it. It was Sen. Thurston Morton (R-KY) who was the champion of the amendment.

But that is all a distant sidebar.

DC is not the same as Guam.

No it's not. But are you telling me that if DC had a population of only 159,000 that the 23rd Amendment would have happened? Or that anyone would seriously consider DC for statehood (as people do now)?

Guam residents pay taxes to Guam's revenue authority only.

Wrong again. They pay Social Security taxes, excise taxes and other federal taxes. Just not income taxes. But this is also a sidebar.

Still, I don't think it is their unusual tax relationship that prevents statehood talk. Puerto Rico is in a similar situation, and talk of statehood for them is frequent.

by David C on Nov 21, 2013 10:26 pm • linkreport

@ David C

"...There has to be more than guilt that gets that many people to support it...Inaccurate because Eisenhower wasn't even the key person behind getting it to happen...as it turns out Ike, Kennedy and Nixon all supported the amendment and it got widespread bipartisan support"

Eisenhower worked with Prescott Bush to drum up support, and addressed the issue in his state of the union speech using guilt, just as we DC residents do it today with our license plates and unofficial flag.

Nixon and JFK had nothing to do with it. It was introduced under Eisenhower, but not ratified by the states until JFK took office.

"But are you telling me that if DC had a population of only 159,000 that the 23rd Amendment would have happened?"

Unlike some, I don't pass off my speculations as facts. DC's population has nothing to do with the principle certain unAmericans have that the federal district shouldn't have a vote in Congress.

"Wrong again. They pay Social Security taxes, excise taxes and other federal taxes. "

What I said was 100% accurate: "Guam residents pay taxes to Guam's revenue authority only."

From a gov't agency: "...all taxes are paid only to the territorial government, Guam residents and domestic business entities are not subject to U.S. Federal tax...There is only one taxing authority in the Territory, the Government of Guam."

by Burd on Nov 22, 2013 12:29 am • linkreport

Unlike some, I don't pass off my speculations as facts.

I'm not asking you to. I'm asking you to speculate and pass it off as speculation. We're talking about what we think a current policy impact will have on the future. Any time you talk about the future, you're speculating. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm asking you what you THINK would be the impact on the 23rd Amendment would have been had DC's population been much lower. I'm asking you to speculate. Stop dodging the question.

OT: I never claimed that Kennedy of Nixon had anything to do with the 23rd Amendment. I was only showing that they also supported it, meaning it had bipartisan support. Ike may have mentioned it in the SOTU, but that doesn't mean that the speech persuaded thousands of legislators nationwide to support it. The majority supported it for reasons that have nothing to do with Ike or guilt. And I speculate that that support would have been less if DC's population hadn't been so large.

OT2: I'm not sure why it matters that Guam residents don't pay taxes directly to the US Government, but that quote refers only to income tax. I'm sure you are aware that we pay taxes other than income taxes.

by David C on Nov 22, 2013 8:41 am • linkreport

More relevant, it seems to me, is Tuesday's overwhelming vote in the DC Council against easing of the limitation. While it is always hazardous to guess the motivations of the Council, one might be the distrust of the Office of Planning by many neighborhood groups, not an unreasonable fear in my view.

by Marchant Wentworth on Nov 22, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

@ David C

"I'm asking you to speculate."

I'm telling you I don't speculate without supporting facts. Guam and DC are not the same, so there is no reason for speculation about how things would be if....

"The majority supported it for reasons that have nothing to do with Ike or guilt. "

LOL. And I guess you can support that claim.

" I'm not sure why it matters that Guam residents don't pay taxes directly to the US Government"

It's obviously tough for you to admit you're wrong. But, it matters b/c of this thing we call taxation without representation.

" I'm sure you are aware that we pay taxes other than income taxes."

I'm sure you are aware that I never said otherwise.

by Burd on Nov 22, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

Its pretty clear that DC with a pop of 630,000 has a better case for statehood than it would with a population of 200,000.

Its not clear that a DC with a population of 700,000 is going to have a better shot at statehood than one with a population of 630,000.

The relation of population to sympathy for DC's case for statehood is at best linear. It may well be less than linear - IE it may be that once DC is bigger than the smallest states, and big enough to be a diverse, complex community, which it already is, that further increases in population make little, if any, difference.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 22, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

I'm telling you I don't speculate without supporting facts.

When DC had a bigger population the people got more rights than they did previously. Yes, it's only a correlation but it's not totally unreasonable. It seems as reasonable as claiming that pop. size has nothing to do with statehood pressure.

Which to go back to the very beginning is what I said when asked what the benefits were for DC residents for removing the height limit.

by drumz on Nov 22, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

I'm telling you I don't speculate without supporting facts.

Really? Then prove this statement of yours "drastically increasing DC's population will not change the minds of unAmericans who think that the federal capital should not have full voting rights and control over local affairs". You have speculated what the future outcome of a possible
increase in population will have on the minds of people who may not even exist yet. Where are the facts to support this?

And I guess you can support that claim.

I can. Rep. Henry Blair introduced an amendment very similar to the 23rd back in 1883 and more than a dozen such proposals were introduced between 1915 and 1923 with others introduced after 1945. This means that many people supported the ideas prior to Ike's SOTU speaches (in which he only calls for "suffrage" not an explicit form of that). Then in 1959, Kenneth Keating (R-NY) introduced an amendment to give DC electors and representation in the House. The House instead passed a proposal introduced by Democrat Emaneul Celler of NY that eventually became the 23rd Amendment. So the actual amendment was passed based on language written by a Democrat who opposed larger representation - and almost surely not in conjunction with Ike. Democrats supported this law out of fear of giving the majority black District more representation in the future (and some historians think it has worked). So fear was a pretty strong motivator for at least one of the two major parties. And no where can you find any record of anyone voicing their support for this law because they feel guilty or because Ike asked them to. The movement pre-dates him.

It's obviously tough for you to admit you're wrong. But, it matters b/c of this thing we call taxation without representation.

I'll admit I'm wrong when I am. If taxation without representation matters, then why has there been so much talk of Puerto Rican statehood? That's the message we use, but it isn't the only language that matters. The Territory of Alaska didn't pay full federal taxes either - and some wealthy people in the territory opposed statehood for that reason - but I believe they are now a state anyway.

For example, in 1950 DC had more people than 14 states but no one thought it deserved statehood.

People did. Michael K. Fauntroy in his book on the history of the DC Voting Rights movement and history notes that the statehood movement had existed for decades before the 1973 Home Rule Act was passed. And people had been proposing laws to give DC representation as far back as 1801.

I'm sure you are aware that I never said otherwise.

Sigh. You said that Guam residents pay taxes to Guam's revenue authority only. But they also pay social security taxes and those are federal taxes that do not go to Guam's revenue authority. Who's having trouble admitting their wrong now.

And on the larger subject, from the same Fauntroy book mentioned above "Representative Parris (R-VA) once noted during debate on the DC Statehood bill, that 'the District of Columbia does not have the population and does not possess the resources necessary to support the concept of state government.'"

Fauntroy also notes stated concerns that the "District's population is less than each of Maryland's congressional districts, giving District voters more voting representation than citizen's in other state districts."

Prof. Jonathan Turley, testifying at the DC Voting Rights hearing in 2007, mentioned that "Two senators and a member of the House would be considerable level of representation for a non-state with a small population.

At the same hearing Walter Smith argued that DC had a population larger than each of the original 13 Colonies.

Kenneth Thomas of the American Law Division noted that "granting representation to American Samoa with a population of about 58000, would appear to depart significantly from the existing make up of the House."

Rep. Dana Rohrbacher said "The idea of two Senators for just one city exacerbates a gross overrepresentation of areas that have less than 2 percent of my state's population."

Clearly population is a concern to some decision-makers.

by David C on Nov 22, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

@ David C

"Where are the facts to support this?"

As I stated before, the facts are that DC has had almost 30% higher population than it currently has, and was once more populous than 14 states and is still more populous than 2, but does not have statehood.

Do you suggest we change our slogan from "Taxation without representation" to "Look how many people we have"?

" And no where can you find any record of anyone voicing their support for this law because they feel guilty or because Ike asked them to. "

Check your facts. Eisenhower spoke about DC NATIONAL voting rights in almost every one of his SOTU addresses, including saying, "In the District of Columbia the time is long overdue for granting NATIONAL suffrage to its citizens...I urge the Congress to move promptly in this direction"

What other president was as persistent with regard to DC voting rights?

Also, Republicans had no reason to vote for more potentially Democrat electorates, as Republican Sen. Morton said it was "for the general principle of suffrage for all in the United States" not because DC had so many people as you claim.

"You said that Guam residents pay taxes to Guam's revenue authority only.Who's having trouble admitting their wrong now. "

Yes, and again, what I said is 100% accurate. You.

"The movement pre-dates him."

Who said it didn't? And, how does that prove your claim that 23rd amendment supporters did so b/c of DC's large population? The 23rd amendment says that DC's electorates should be "in NO event more than the least populous State." That means that regardless of DC's population...

"Clearly population is a concern to some decision-makers."

Never said it was not. I specifically said, " DC's population has nothing to do with the principle CERTAIN unAmericans have that the federal district shouldn't have a vote in Congress."

by Burd on Nov 22, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

Sure but DCs pop. might influence those who are ignorant of the status of DC and eventually those people might outnumber those who are categorically against it.

All anyone has argued is that pop. is likely to be beneficial to the argument for statehood than against it.

by drumz on Nov 22, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

As I stated before, the facts are that DC has had almost 30% higher population than it currently has, and was once more populous than 14 states and is still more populous than 2, but does not have statehood.

But that does not support the claim that higher DC statehood will not help in the future. Let's face it you're totally willing to speculate, it's just that speculating forces you to either

a. Admit that higher population helps
b. That the 23rd Amendment would still have passed if DC's population was only 155,000 people.

You find both of these options unappealing. So you dodge.

Eisenhower spoke about DC NATIONAL voting rights in almost every one of his SOTU addresses

Well, he didn't, first of all. He mentioned it in 1953. And then in 54-56 he mentioned suffrage (but not NATIONAL voting rights). But then never again. Each time it was but one sentence.

But more importantly that was not my claim. My point is you can not find one supporter of the Amendment who claims to support it for the reasons you state.

Do you suggest we change our slogan from "Taxation without representation" to "Look how many people we have"?

No. That's a pretty good slogan. It will persuade some people I hope. As will a larger population.

"Also, Republicans had no reason to vote for more potentially Democrat electorates, as Republican Sen. Morton said it was "for the general principle of suffrage for all in the United States" not because" they felt guilty because of Ike like you claim.

Yes, and again, what I said is 100% accurate. You.

No because they also pay Federal Social Security taxes. So it's not 100% accurate.

how does that prove your claim that 23rd amendment supporters did so b/c of DC's large population?

This was not my claim. You seem to be having trouble keeping track of things. I find it helps to go back and reread things. I think a large DC population helped, but I didn't claim it was the reason.

Never said it was not.

Oh look. We agree. A larger DC population - which would be facilitated by removing the height limit - would help DC with statehood/voting rights. That was a long way to go, but I'm glad we have a consensus now.

by David C on Nov 22, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

@ David C.

"But that does not support the claim that higher DC statehood will not help in the future"

I don't know what that means.

"My point is you can not find one supporter of the Amendment who claims to support it for the reasons you state."

I just gave you a quote from an instrumental senator that his vote was based on "... general principle of suffrage for all in the United States." Not based on DC's population.

"That's a pretty good slogan. It will persuade some people I hope. As will a larger population."

Yes, and it's a slogan meant to evoke guilt.

"No because they also pay Federal Social Security taxes. So it's not 100% accurate."

Amazing! Instead of doubting my statement, you should doubt the Gov't of Guam's statement that "There is only one taxing authority in the Territory, the Government of Guam."
So either the Gov't of Guam is wrong or you.

"This was not my claim. "

LOL...it's not your claim, but "a large DC population helped." So then why hasn't it also helped DC get a vote in Congress since DC's population is still larger than two states?

"We agree. A larger DC population...would help DC with statehood/voting rights."

Again, misconstruing statements, I see. No we don't agree..

by Burd on Nov 22, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

I don't know what that means.

It means typo. Replace Statehood with population.

I just gave you a quote from an instrumental senator that his vote was based on "... general principle of suffrage for all in the United States."

This is really frustration. General principle of suffrage was not one of the reasons you gave. You said it was because Ike guilted people into it. Did that Senator say he was guilted into it by Ike?

So either the Gov't of Guam is wrong or you.

Or, you are not reading it right. Give me the link where you found this information, and I'll show you your error.

So then why hasn't it also helped DC get a vote in Congress since DC's population is still larger than two states?

Do you know what "help" means? It means that it is only part of the solution. It's like having the best kicker in the NFL can help you win games. That doesn't mean that you win every game.

I would argue that it has helped, but that it has not been sufficient on its own. In part because the population is still smaller than the average congressional district as quoted above.

I will note that the period of DC's greatest success - the 1950's - followed our highest population count by the Census. Maybe Ike was such a big advocate compared to other presidents because DC was larger during his presidency than anyone else's.

No we don't agree.

So do you think population is a concern for some decision makers or not? That's a yes/no question FYI.

by David C on Nov 22, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

Honestly, David C, who the hell would say "Oh President Eisenhower guilted me into voting this way"

"Or, you are not reading it right."

LOL...that's classic! You're read the same thing a read. It's a quote I copied and pasted. You can copy and paste it into your search engine, and I'm sure it'll bring you to that page.

"Do you know what "help" means?"

And my question was, do you know why DC's population, which is larger than 2 states, hasn't helped it bring about statehood?

"So do you think population is a concern for some decision makers or not?"

You're spinning wheels here. That issue was already addressed. See earlier comment.

by Burd on Nov 22, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

bring about statehood?

No but suddenly there was more representation than there was previously. Depends on whether you see the compromises that led to those things as failures or not I guess.

by drumz on Nov 22, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

who the hell would say "Oh President Eisenhower guilted me into voting this way"

I don't know. Why would you make that claim if you didn't have any evidence?

. It's a quote I copied and pasted.

Right. Where did you copy and paste it from? You say it was from a Guam government website, but, while I can find the quote many places I can't find it on a Guam government website. I want to make sure we're talking about the same thing. Why are you being so evasive? Just give me the link.

do you know why DC's population, which is larger than 2 states, hasn't helped it bring about statehood?

For some it is insufficiently large - as noted above. But racism, anti-city feelings, strategic party politics, fear of change, etc... all play a role.

See earlier comment.

Again. Evasive. Which comment please.

by David C on Nov 22, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

"Dyou know why DC's population, which is larger than 2 states, hasn't helped it bring about statehood?

For some it is insufficiently large - as noted above. But racism, anti-city feelings, strategic party politics, fear of change, etc... all play a role."

You fail to mention DC's strong reputation for corruption, graft and general incompetence, personified by our ex-Mayor-for-Life and perpetual clown and Council Member Marion Barry (with a timely assist in the Best Supporting category from such political luminaries as Harry Thomas Jr., Kwame Brown, Michael Brown and perhaps soon Jim Graham and Mayor Gray himself).

Barry in fact was the only council member who failed to co-sponsor a resolution to keep the height limit alone. Then again, he's a fan of getting (or going) high.

by Alicia on Nov 22, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

Alicia is correct. Anti-DC perceptions - especially as they relate to Marion Barry and DC corruption - are also an issue. As was the decline of DC (and many cities) during the 70's, 80's and 90's that resulted in high murder rates, drugs etc...

by David C on Nov 22, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

@ David C

So now you're arguing over semantics? I made the claim that Eisenhower "guilted" members of Congress, and referenced a quote of his (see above) in which he "urged Congress" and a Senator's much later quote (see above) which shows he used the same reasoning as Eisenhower for his support of DC's electoral votes (i.e., that all Americans should have the right to vote). If you disagree that that constitutes "guilting" then that's fine. Put it to rest.

"Why are you being so evasive? Just give me the link."

You're just like MLD, who wants me to spoon feed him a link instead of taking the simple task of using a search engine.

Since you're so sure that I and the Gov't of Guam are "wrong", then I guess it should be easy for you to disprove us.

"Again. Evasive. Which comment please."

The earlier comment I made that addressed that issue. I suppose you want a link for that one too.

by Burd on Nov 22, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

Marion Barry and DC corruption are red herring arguments to distract everyone from the disenfranchisement of DC issue, and delay restoring ordinary Civil Rights (e.g. local binding "advice and consent" on judges with jurisdiction over DC citizens, at any all levels, a US Constitutional obligation revoked 25 years after US Independence and 12 years after ratification of the US Constitution) and full Voting Rights in DC permanently.

Notice that no one who mentions these historical issues in DC never list in part or in full the massive numbers of corrupt politicians in other cities and states, and even the unelected rulers of DC of the US Congress (see recent cocaine arrest of a US Congressman and countless similar arrests and investigations,) to focus the debate on restoring full voting rights in DC via DC Statehood, the only US Constitutional path to equally and permanently restoring full voting rights in DC.

The Marion Barry issue is frankly an "inside baseball" discussions, because reportedly 84% of US Citizens mistakenly assume DC already has full voting rights, of the US standard, but simply don't know the truth, suggesting that political parties and news journalism, and DC citizens, have utterly failed to make disenfranchisement of DC citizens a national issue in the first place.

It would not surprise me if the negative focus on Barry's crack use and FBI sting arrest, is to emphasize how black and urban DC is, the targeted demographic for so much conservative and southern hate, using issues such as the crack use arrest to discourage southern state politicians from having to admit that this is a racial, and urban vs rural, liberal vs conservative, on going taking of voting rights from a liberal, heavily black, city, to create an ongoing unearned political subsidy for the rural conservative states, especially in the US South.

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 22, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

sigh... typo, "that people who mention these incidents ever lists"

by Nathaniel Pendleton on Nov 22, 2013 5:24 pm • linkreport

Burd, it would be so much easier if you would just answer the questions. It would be easier for me. It would be easier for you. Why are you intentionally making it so difficult? I have to try and figure out which site you're referencing. I might make a mistake. And I have to dig through your comments only to find that you're lying and you've never actually answered the question.

So why not just give me the link and answer my question? If you're not actually interested in having a discussion then we should just stop right now. But I feel like I'm talking with someone who's being unnecessarily combative.

by David C on Nov 22, 2013 7:30 pm • linkreport

@ David C

"Burd, it would be so much easier if you would just answer the questions"

It would be so much easier if you would stop repeating the same things and ignoring my initial responses. I'm not going to keep going back and forth.

"So why not just give me the link "

Why not just use a search engine? Or better yet, why not just disprove what I and the Gov't of Guam said? It should be easy for you since you're so sure we're wrong.

"But I feel like I'm talking with someone who's being unnecessarily combative."

You're debating with someone who provides facts and solutions, not a bunch of speculations and excuses.

by Burd on Nov 24, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

OK Burd, let's do it your way. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

1. When I put the two phrases you used in a search engine, this is the first site that came up (http://www.investguam.com/?pg=tax_system), so I'm going to assume that is the one you're referring to. Here's what the site says:

"Guam residents pay a “mirrored” U.S. income tax in which the U. S. Internal Revenue Service’s code of laws is applicable. Through enactment of the Organic Act of Guam in 1950, the U.S. Congress created the Territorial Government of Guam as a separate taxing jurisdiction. Section 31 of the Act provides that the income tax laws in force in the United States shall be the income tax laws of Guam, substituting Guam for the United States where necessary and omitting any inapplicable or incompatible provisions. The U.S. Internal Revenue Code with such changes constitutes the Guam Territorial Income Tax Law thus all taxes are paid only to the territorial government, Guam residents and domestic business entities are not subject to U.S. Federal tax."

So, you can see that this is only talking about income tax. Social security taxes are paid separately using form 941-SS.

by David C on Nov 24, 2013 8:37 pm • linkreport

@David C

"So, you can see that this is only talking about income tax."

So you can see that I was 100% correct in stating "Guam residents pay taxes to Guam's revenue authority" b/c "... ALL taxes are paid only to the territorial government... There is only ONE taxing authority in the Territory, the Government of Guam."

I'm still waiting for you to disprove me and the Gov't of Guam...

by Burd on Nov 24, 2013 9:43 pm • linkreport

The government of Guam is talking about income tax. Not social security tax. You're reading it wrong. It doesn't say what you think it says. As I pointed out, social security taxes are paid to the United States government using form 941-SS.

Here's the IRS on self-employment taxes:

"A U.S. citizen who is self-employed in a U.S. territory must pay self-employment tax on net self-employment earnings of $400 or more. This rule applies whether or not the earnings are excludable from gross income (or whether or not a U.S. income tax return must otherwise be filed).
Your payments of self-employment tax contribute to your coverage under the social security system. Social security coverage provides you with old age, survivor, and disability benefits and hospital insurance."

Or this:

U.S. territories are islands under the jurisdiction of the United States, but they are not U.S. states. U.S. territories can be divided into two groups:

1. Those that have their own governments and their own tax systems (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands),

Wages paid to U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and nonresident aliens employed in both groups of U.S. territories shown above are generally subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes under the same conditions that would apply to U.S. citizens employed in the United States.

Here's more:

"Although FICA payroll tax obligations generally apply to employers and employees in Guam, a special exception from the definition of employment is provided for services performed by residents of the Philippines who enter Guam on a nonresident basis. Employers in Guam are not subject to FUTA or the withholding at source for Federal income tax. They are subject to withholding for Guamanian taxes."

So, they're not subject to federal income taxes, but do pay FICA. FICA is administered by the U.S. Government, not Guam. That money goes to the U.S. Not Guam.

You're reading it wrong. Repeatedly repeating it doesn't change that. Those quotes refer to income taxes. You're taking them out of context.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by David C on Nov 24, 2013 10:19 pm • linkreport

This thread seems to have long since run its course from talking about the NCPC height limit proposal to arguments over Guam's income taxes and sniping about whether people are or aren't answering questions, so I am closing this thread.

by David Alpert on Nov 25, 2013 8:58 am • linkreport

Folks are of course welcome to keep talking about the height limit (though, I hope, not Guam income taxes) at this follow-up article about the height limit.

by David Alpert on Nov 25, 2013 8:59 am • linkreport

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