Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Stand still or move forward?


Photo by elminium on Flickr.
Keep it short: NCPC voted to strip the height limit recommendations back to the original proposal of just tweaking rules for mechanical penthouses. Earlier, all DC Councilmembers except Marion Barry cosponsored a resolution to keep the height limit, essentially asking Congress to deny more local control. (City Paper)

Pay-by-phone arrives in Alexandria: The City of Alexandria joins DC and Montgomery County by launching a new pay-by-phone smartphone app, allowing residents and visitors to pay for parking via their personal smartphone device. (WBJ)

Huge gains in DC biking: Cycling is growing fast in DC, with the number of bike commuters up 445% since 1990. DC's rapid bike-culture growth is 3rd in the nation, only behind Chicago and Detroit. (Streetsblog)

Vote on a living wage?: A coalition of local clergy, union leadership, and other activists are pushing to get the minimum wage hike on the ballot for November 2014. The group must collect 23,000 signatures to accomplish this goal. (Washington Times)

A better bike map?: A biking and mapping enthusiast in San Francisco created a set of maps to help cyclists get around San Francisco. The maps look a lot like a map of transit infrastructure, intentionally. (Atlantic Cities)

A new Shaw: The Shaw neighborhood has seen big changes around the O Street Market since a high-profile shooting in 1994. Crime is down and rents are up, but what of the old neighborhood will remain? (Post)

Deeds stabbed, son shot: The son of former Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds stabbed his father and killed himself, news reports are saying. Gus Deeds had been hospitalized Monday, but "released because because no psychiatric bed could be located across a wide area of western Virginia." (NBC4, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

And...: Despite not meeting GSA requirements, Louduon County still wants the FBI. (WBJ) ... DC is issuing warning tickets to educate people to not park in the H Street streetcar lanes. (Hill Rag) ... How much will the Silver Line help with traffic? (PlanItMetro)

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Elina Bravve moved to Washington in 2009, after completing a degree in City Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill. She's lived in the Columbia Heights neighborhood since 2010. After recently parting ways with her car, her goal is to learn how to bike around the neighborhood. 

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Dean Gold announced yesterday that venerable Cleveland Park establishment Dino will be closing "sooner rather than later." Damn you myopic little twits - if only you hadn't gotten rid of the service lane that is so vital to the success of businesses along that stretch of Connecticut Avenue, this never would have happened! I hope you're happy!

by Dizzy on Nov 20, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

Many reasons have been proffered for why we should raise the height limit in DC. Some which seem more rational than others. The best argument is the simplest from my point of view. There's a strong demand for more space in the already build-out downtown which also has the best transportation network, so why not add more height there? The idea being that somehow this will lower prices or increase affordability in other areas. That's the part I don't quite buy, but we can certainly agree to disagree. So if we need to add more space to our crowded downtown, why are so many anti-height limit proponents so happy about being able to build taller everywhere but in the downtown? Assuming they didn't just put the cabosh on that idea.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 9:22 am • linkreport

After the warning period is over, we're going to be able to crush a car that blocks the streetcar into a cube and leave a bunch of voicemails, right?

by Michael Perkins on Nov 20, 2013 9:23 am • linkreport

I don't recall any CMs having a strong pro-height act opinion (I might just have missed it) so it's strange that they really want to shut this debate down.

Anyway,

Yes. Please introduce more ways to pay for parking.

Funny how the before/after picture of the O street market is just new buildings going up around it.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 9:25 am • linkreport

Michael, you have thirty minutes to remove your cube.

by Dizzy on Nov 20, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D: Are you just arguing with yourself at this point?
So if we need to add more space to our crowded downtown, why are so many anti-height limit proponents so happy about being able to build taller everywhere but in the downtown?
I'm not really clear on what views you're trying to ascribe to those with whom you disagree.

by Gray on Nov 20, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

Re paying for parking, Parkmobile is a nice option, but only works for those of us with smartphones. What really makes things easier is parking meters equipped with credit card readers, or parking kiosks where one can pay with a credit card for a slip of paper.

In any case, let's hope coin-operated parking meters are a relic in five years.

by JJ on Nov 20, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

The explanation for the Council's actions, btw, is that none of the councilmembers trust one another to 'do the right thing' on this issue. Incumbents are generally status quo creatures as a matter of course anyway, so in this instance, they would prefer to stick with the devil they know until they feel that they're in a position to shape any changes.

For instance: Wells doesn't trust what a Mayor Evans or Mayor Orange would do w/o the Height Limit. I picture a 90-story tower just on the other side of Florida Avenue, with DOUGLAS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION etched into the side of it in 3-story tall letters. Bonds, Bowser, and Orange don't trust Wells or some other mayor 4 years down the road to not put up a whole bunch of 30-story apartment buildings in trendy areas, drawing thousands of additional (white, progressive-leaning) yuppies and hipsters that will further diminish their political base. Etc.

by Dizzy on Nov 20, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

So if we need to add more space to our crowded downtown, why are so many anti-height limit proponents so happy about being able to build taller everywhere but in the downtown?

Well there's still two (at least) camps of height limit changers. Some don't want the heights downtown to change but would agree to changes elsewhere, others (like me) think that downtown should be in play as well. But the challenge apparently is agreeing to any changes so its all kind of moot.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

I fully endorsed the staff recommendation from the NCPC. Allowing certain areas outside the L’Enfant City to eventually, perhaps, grow somewhat taller as part of a 5-year comprehensive review process that requires the approval of the DC Council, NCPC, and the Zoning Commission (with ultimate review by Congress) is probably the most conservative change you could make to the Height Act. It would have left things exactly where they are for now but would have given the city a modicum of flexibility to perhaps make future changes without having to go begging to Congress on our hands and knees. This was a very short-sighted move based on a knee-jerk reaction to boogeyman fears of the District suddenly transforming into Rosslyn.

by Adam Lewis on Nov 20, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

I was quite skeptical about the height limits being changed, then briefly bought into the hype. Should've kept my skepticism.

On DC biking, we are behind Detroit-which increased from 0.1% to 0.6%--and Chicago, which went from 0.3% to 1.6%. DC increased from 0.8% to 4.1%, which, in terms of modal share, is behind only Portland (it pains me to say this). I'd say the growth here is more dramatic than anywhere.

by Crickey7 on Nov 20, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

Dizzy my understanding is that Dino is actually moving, most likely to Shaw. Make of that what you will...

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

You will never see really tall buildings outside of downtown, like at Friendship Heights. One Metro stop does not infrastructure make for a major commercial center. The closest highway connections to that area are miles away.

by Alicia on Nov 20, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

Finally, I thought the Shaw article overall was pretty balanced. Yes it had all the usual tropes of the genre (trendy restaurants, reminiscing about gunfire, a homeless shelter across the street from new condos) but I'd find it hard to see someone do a fair reading and walk away feeling that the changes are wholly positive or negative. Turns out people's reasons for leaving/moving into the neighborhood are varied and time marches on.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

@BTA

Yes, he'll likely re-open. But at the current location: "We simply are not doing the kind of business necessary to justify keeping our doors open," said owner Dean Gold in an email blast this afternoon.

by Dizzy on Nov 20, 2013 9:44 am • linkreport

Well for all the fear of Rosslyn, Rosslyn is actually going to be changing the better http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/20374/help-arlington-realize-rosslyns-full-potential/

So lets all promise to revisit the height act in January 2015, when DC has a new Mayor, and when we are 15 months closer to buildout ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

Man, that plan-it metro post is going to be handy to have next time someone complains that MWAA is robbing drivers to pay for train riders.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

Drumz

I was still feeling a little Oboish when the Bread for the City guy said the new residents weren't going to share with his clients. They are going to pay taxes to the District, and will likely give as much to DC focused charity as do the McMansion dwellers of Great Falls, say.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 9:50 am • linkreport

The best argument is the simplest from my point of view.

The simplest argument for getting rid of the height limit is that there is no reason to have one.

by David C on Nov 20, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

JJ,
I'm pretty sure you can still use Parkmobile without a smartphone. Still need to register a credit card online, and link it to your phone number. I registered and recall using it a few times when I still had a dumb phone.

by spookiness on Nov 20, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

You will never see really tall buildings outside of downtown, like at Friendship Heights. One Metro stop does not infrastructure make for a major commercial center.

Tell that to Rosslyn with a 35 story tall building at its one metro stop.

by David C on Nov 20, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

It's a shame the jurisdictions couldn't collaborate on an in-house pay by phone app rather than contract out to a mishmash of operators. I very rarely drive but when I have needed to use DC's Parkmobile it has always worked flawlessly. However I needed to see a specialist in Silver Spring once and did not have any change to feed the meter. I attempted to use their pay by phone app but it was a complete disaster. First, you cannot register in-app: you must use a web browser. I was eventually able to do this with my phone's mobile browser and went through the rigamarole of confirmation emails etc. After the app crashed a few times I was told that I need to make an initial deposit of $20 before parking. By this point I was already late for my appointment, so I gave up and gambled on not getting a ticket. I didn't get the ticket and MoCo lost out on my parking revenue. Nice job ParkNOW.

by dcmike on Nov 20, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

Or like Bethesda, my favorite thing about that city is how flat it is...

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

Also it's hilarious that people argue that no one would ever want to build taller buildings and then turn around and argue that any change to the height limit would be a disaster because tall buildings would pop up all over. Kind of a contradiction no?

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 10:07 am • linkreport

If you look at the raw numbers of people biking who live in DC, the growth is even higher:

1990: 2,435 bike to work (304,428 workers X 0.8%)
2012 ACS: 13,493 bike to work

I really wish the Census would figure out how to add older census data (pre-2000) to factfinder...

by MLD on Nov 20, 2013 10:07 am • linkreport

Sorry Gray, I meant to say...
So if we need to add more space to our crowded downtown, why are so many "taller building" proponents so happy about being able to build taller everywhere but in the downtown?

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 10:09 am • linkreport

Are people "so happy" about it? You are implying enthusiasm for that specific choice. I think people are just welcome to some kind of change, even if it isn't the perfect or potentially better change.

by MLD on Nov 20, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

DavidC,

To be fair, Rosslyn has two (soon 3) metro lines running through there and quick access to both 66 and 395 via GW parkway. But I don't think lack of highway access has impeded friendship heights currently either.

AWITC,

I took the word "share" to mean experiences and values rather than actual goods. But maybe that's too generous, though the story is quick to point out one lady who apparently doesn't get that she's now living in a city either (the one who complained about people hanging out in front of BFTC) so we are back at balance.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

Ooo, even better quote:

And Cleveland Park is no longer a great place to operate a restaurant, in Gold's opinion, partly because of increased competition from the 14th Street NW corridor and the lack of nightlife surrounding Dino. "No one wants to rent space here," he says. "All the neighborhoods that used to feed us—we used to get tons of people from Chevy Chase Circle; we used to get tons of people from Mount Pleasant; we used to get tons of people from the 14th Street area."

I don't understand how he can say that no one wants to rent space in Cleveland Park. I mean, haven't they seen the service lane?!

by Dizzy on Nov 20, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

"So if we need to add more space to our crowded downtown, why are so many "taller building" proponents so happy about being able to build taller everywhere but in the downtown?"

Simple. The current constraint is one of regulation, law, and process. Even if the proposed change isn't the best on the merits of where to place height, at least it reforms the process and the law to make such changes possible.

There are two basic questions here: one is about heights of buildings, and the other is about the legal means and procedures for those decisions. The regulatory decisions are the more impactful ones, frankly.

by Alex B. on Nov 20, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

Last time I checked, Monday has leased any of the new skyscraper in Rosslyn.

by charlie on Nov 20, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

The new O Street market buildings have surprisingly good modern architecture with colors and pleasantly textured materials.

Bravo.

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 20, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

There are definitely people who moved to the city who can't hack urban life or are frankly too obnoxious and eltitist to even try. That said, a lot of women also get harassed on the street on a daily basis which is NOT acceptable.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 10:15 am • linkreport

drumz

Eh? I grew up in NYC, and in most neighborhoods, including most dense ones, there were no food lines on the street. Lack of food lines /= suburbs only. Now moving into Shaw, one should probably be aware there is going to be poverty in close proximity - I do not know if the issues involved with BftC are about an undue concentration of social service providers, or about the existence of lines on a croweded sidewalk, or the behavior of people on those lines. I do note that in Anacostia long time local residents, have, IIUC, complained about the impact of such providers and their clients.

Anyway, I expect clueless statements from clueless yuppies. I would expect someone running a social service provider, that gets (I think) support from the District, and from CFC and UW, to not fall into the trap of critiquing only the bourgeois who are within sight, but not those who live further away in leafy suburbs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

Fair enough, like I said. Despite the presence of those usual quotes I think people would have a hard time citing this article as evidence as to why shaw is now awesome/sucks.

Things change. In 1994 my sister was two years old and now she's looking at college internships on the west coast. That's what time does, which is something I think a lot of people forget/fail to appreciate at their peril.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

"Even if the proposed change isn't the best on the merits of where to place height, at least it reforms the process and the law to make such changes possible."

That's what I assumed. I still think pushing for a streamlined review process and stiffening up opposition against NIMBYers would do more for speeding up supply, although I realize we are sometimes talking about two things. The office rents and the appartment rents. It sounds more like a feeling of not being a "real" city without tall buildings is taking precidence over looking for ways to increase affordability. There are many existing ways to increase affordability that seem to take a back seat to allowing for taller buildings. The pro height crown seem to fold against NIMBY pressure so quickly.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

@ dcmike:It's a shame the jurisdictions couldn't collaborate on an in-house pay by phone app rather than contract out to a mishmash of operators.

You are right and wrong. You are right about the annoying mishmash, but wrong on insisting more collaboration.

What should be happening is that the government creates a open source format system that allows ALL mobile parking payment providers to compete for parking customers.

In short, electronic parking payment is nothing other than the combination of a numbered parking spot with a start and end time, and an associated payment. That's easy to manage. Payment providers can then handle the payments and UI to the customer while making lump-sum payments to the parking authority.

In Europe, you see great competition between mobile payment providers. Some focus on smart phones. Some focus on text messages. Others allow you to call in. Or all of the above.

Similarly, there is competition on payment structures. Aside from the actual parking fees, some offer a flat monthly of annual subscription fee, others a (smaller) per parking fee, and yet others just charge a percentage of the parking cost.

It is weird to see how in Europe the free market is doing its work (including the innovation), while Americans get stuck in a mishmash of government-controlled local monopolies.

by Jasper on Nov 20, 2013 10:28 am • linkreport

Thayer-D, I think some of just feel that sometimes there is a case for political expedience. Adding density in most neighborhoods around the city would face more opposition than putting more density in a few key areas. Also when you tie it into the transportation system it's clear that concentrated density is more efficient that disperse density until you get the uniform density well above where most of the city currently is.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

Also when you tie it into the transportation system it's clear that concentrated density is more efficient that disperse density until you get the uniform density well above where most of the city currently is.

That assumes said transportation system actually functions. When it doesn't - which is becoming more and more often these days - it's a mess. Also, I would feel a lot better about adding X million more square feet to CBD and surrounding areas if the separated Blue Line were built out, or at least approved and in engineering design.

by Dizzy on Nov 20, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

I should also add that I like the diversity of neighborhoods in DC and in general as a design principle. Many of them should be somewhat more dense but I'm not all about flattening most of them and blanketing the city with low rise apartment buildings either. Ward One is a good example of high density corridors that transition pleasantly into still dense but quieter neighborhoods. R-B corridor does a pretty good job of that as well as does Bethesda to an extent.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

BTA,
I would advocate for most of the density at metro stops rather than in most neighborhoods. It's all about smart growth for me. Another reason I'm always gang busters about the street car lines. They will add the kind of supply that is specifically in most demand. I agree that issues of political expediency are important, it's ajust a pet peeve of mine that some neighborhoods get more muscle becasue of power, money, and influence, but it's the world we live in.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

One more reason not to put all the density downtown but rather encourage more intense development around middle tier metro stations.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

I definatly agree most density ought to be downtown, but affordability in housing isn't dependant on having residential towers there since many DC neighborhoods are desirable, not just downtown. Commercial density is another matter, that's where the argument holds more merit it seams to me. I don't think 20 story buildings are a deal breaker, I simply don't think re-visiting this question everytime we get built-out disvalidates many peoples assertion that we can't simply build 100 story towers. At some point we need to think about a multi-nodal downtown the way many cities around the world much mreo crowded than us have done with no obvious economic ramifications. Infact, I would say it's the balance between density and quality of life that qualify as a successful formula.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

To be fair, Rosslyn has two (soon 3) metro lines running through there and quick access to both 66 and 395 via GW parkway.

I'll add that Rosslyn also has quick access to Rt. 50, 110, Key Bridge, Memorial Bridge, Canal Rd and the Whitehurst Freeway and pretty good access to Rock Creek Pkwy and the E ST Tunnel. It's also at the center of the MUP network with the Custis, Mt. Vernon, Capital Crescent, Canal toepath, and Rock Creek trails all in close proximity. Great bus service too including a Circulator, long distance commuter buses, and direct bus service to NYC via Vamoose.

Having lived in Rosslyn, I'd say it has the best multi-modal transportation infrastructure in the region. Based on infrastructure alone, it's a very logical place for tall buildings.

by Falls Church on Nov 20, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

"Also, I would feel a lot better about adding X million more square feet to CBD and surrounding areas if the separated Blue Line were built out, or at least approved and in engineering design"

Thats one more reason (aside from people not believing build out is really on the horizon) that this is not ripe yet. We can talk all we want about the connection, via value capture mechanisms, between a denser, taller downtown, and the seperated blue line - but right now most people havent heard of the seperate blue line, and don't see it as a real, imminent (but needing funding) future thing. I think much more regional discussion of the importance of the seperate blue line needs to take place before the next revisit to the height limit issue.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

"'You will never see really tall buildings outside of downtown, like at Friendship Heights. One Metro stop does not infrastructure make for a major commercial center.'
Tell that to Rosslyn with a 35 story tall building at its one metro stop."

Yes, but Rosslyn has direct access to I-66, the GW Parkway, Route 50 (and I-395 within a couple of miles). Friendship Heights has Wisconsin Avenue.

by Alicia on Nov 20, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

"Having lived in Rosslyn, I'd say it has the best multi-modal transportation infrastructure in the region. "

Compared to the east central part of downtown DC, its got only two metro lines vs 5 metro lines. And when silver comes on, it will be three vs 6.

And it has no commuter rail or intercity rail (though Union Station and Lenfant are not that much closer to the heart of downtown than Crystal City is to Rosslyn - though CC has VRE only,not MARC or Amtrak).

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

@drumz re Silver Line
There are a few "ifs" in that planit metro post. Obviously, time will tell; but I'm not convinced there will be much - if any! - reduction in traffic congestion. I used to commute from Leesburg to downtown, and it's my guess that the Silver Line won't capture any commuters to DC, except for the ones that already use the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride, taking the 950/980 Fairfax Connector bus to West Falls Church.

To the point of MWAA "robbing" drivers: the Silver Line needed participation not just from the Fed and the counties, but also the Commonwealth. Instead, Virginia just signed over the Dulles Toll Road and wiped their hands free of it. It shouldn't have burdened toll road drivers with the costs to build the Silver Line, unless they were going to use tolls in Norfolk to pay for the Tide light rail, and unless they're willing to put tolls on I-66 and I-95 to fund any rail extensions there.

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Nov 20, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

Pretty sure you guys have it backwards. Rosslyn is so successful because they allowed the height to take advantage of the transit service. Between Red Line (when functional) and buses Friendship Heights and Tenleytown could accomodate much more density. Why is Dupont different than Friendship Heights in that regard?

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

"I used to commute from Leesburg to downtown, and it's my guess that the Silver Line won't capture any commuters to DC, except for the ones that already use the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride, taking the 950/980 Fairfax Connector bus to West Falls Church"

Do all transit commuters to DC from that area take the connector bus? WMATA says that there are folks who park at WFC who are from those areas. Thats not unreasonable to me, since lots of folks don't like an additional transfer.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

friendship could have buildings taller than currently allowed, and still much shorter than what are built at Rosslyn. that FH lacks the level of transit that Rosslyn has does not mean it could not support more density.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

I don't know about the ethics of Va. letting MWAA decide how to finance its construction (rather, I won't discuss it because I really don't care). But concerning the results of having drivers pay for a capacity increase on the very corridor that they're traveling in sound. In other cases it would have just been an extra lane. If you don't want to pay the toll then just ride the silver line (where you'll pay the fare that will be about equal in cost). If you want to travel for free, then hop on your bike and take the W&OD.

You didn't say specifically what the "ifs" were but the post was pretty clear. By switching 1240 people from driving to transit is all it'll take to have tangible effects. That's a great reason to have the silver line if to just mitigate future pop. increases.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

Buildings across the street in the MD side of Friendship Height and in Bethesda are already several stories taller, if that doesnt tell you all you need to know, well then I don't know what will.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

@BTA:

"Rosslyn is so successful..."?! Really? If taller buildings are your definition of success, then I guess Rosslyn is successful. But Rosslyn also has a pretty dead streetscape, lots and lots of concrete, wide roadways that are challenging for pedestrians to cross, skybridges (see deadened streetscape above), overpasses, uninviting, windswept plazas, etc. Basically, Rosslyn more closely resembles the negative aspects of most American city downtowns than it does Washington, DC. What most contributes to Rosslyn's success? the fact that from some of the buildings there you look over the beautiful vista of Washington, rather than at Rosslyn itself! (That, and the fact that Arlington and Virginia are more business friendly destinations than DC's local klepto-bureaucracy)

by Alicia on Nov 20, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

Do all transit commuters to DC from that area take the connector bus? WMATA says that there are folks who park at WFC who are from those areas. Thats not unreasonable to me, since lots of folks don't like an additional transfer.

There are plenty who drive the DTR and park at WFC, in fact that's exactly who the Metro blog people were looking at (based on info from the passenger survey).

by MLD on Nov 20, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

BTA - Dupont is in a different position to accommodate additional height because many more bus lines run through it, and it's a short walk to another station on the Red Line and to two additional metro lines.

by JDS32 on Nov 20, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

But Rosslyn also has a pretty dead streetscape, lots and lots of concrete, wide roadways that are challenging for pedestrians to cross, skybridges (see deadened streetscape above), overpasses, uninviting, windswept plazas, etc.

And your post admits that none of that really has anything to do with the height of the buildings.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

Gotta love the DC Council's subordinate mentality when it comes to handling local affairs of great significance. They want control to marry gays, legalize medical pot, and other issues that affect only a few of us, but say "no thanks" to having a greater voice in local land use and development, something that affects all of us.

Probably just too busy with their side gigs to take on such an important issue...

by Burd on Nov 20, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

"But Rosslyn also has a pretty dead streetscape, lots and lots of concrete, wide roadways that are challenging for pedestrians to cross, skybridges (see deadened streetscape above), overpasses, uninviting, windswept plazas, etc. "

All of which ArlCo intends to address.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/20374/help-arlington-realize-rosslyns-full-potential/

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

@drumz
If you don't care *how* governments fund projects, then I guess there's no point in trying to discuss public policy with you. Anyway, the 1240 number you cited is one of the "ifs."

@AWalkerInTheCity @MLD
The survey showed "over 300" folks that park at WFC Metro are closer to the soon-to-open Wiehle station. I'm not so certain all these people use the toll road to begin with.

I should make clear I *do* feel rail through the Dulles Corridor is needed (and overdue). I would love to be proved wrong and that the que at the main toll plaza would disappear. But I'm don't have a lot of confidence in WMATA, and believe this specific planit metro post is overly optimistic. And I have even less confidence in MWAA, and don't approve of the way toll road users are bearing the brunt of the cost.

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Nov 20, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

@Drumz, "But concerning the results of having drivers pay for a capacity increase on the very corridor that they're traveling in sound. In other cases it would have just been an extra lane. By switching 1240 people from driving to transit is all it'll take to have tangible effects. That's a great reason to have the silver line if to just mitigate future pop. increases"

The DTR sees slightly more than 101K vehicles per day. Switching 1240 from the DTR to Silver line is a rounding error, and won't have the slightest effect.

And lastly, the drivers on the DTR are paying for 3 billion of the 6 billion dollar project. That is seperate from the individual contributions the counties and state is making.

At $1.2 million per lane mile you could double the number of lanes on the DTR for its entire 28 mile length for 270 million dollars, or a little less than 10% of what those drivers are contributing to build the Silver line which according to the MWAA's own traffic studies, won't do one iota of good to eliminate congestion on the DTR.

by DTR on Nov 20, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

The Height Limit study the office of planning put isn’t getting any traction with anyone because wasn’t really worth the paper it was printed on. Why? Because the growth assumptions they used to justify raising the height limit were complete bunk.

Facts:

1. DC’s population grew 0.85% per year from 2000 to 2012. An incredibly healthy clip during the second biggest development boom DC had ever seen (this one we are in now being the biggest). For reference NYC’s population grew .21% during the same period.

2. DC’s growth between 2008 and 2012 1.8% per year, and was the most torrid DC has seen since WWII. Again, NYC for reference grew at 1.2%.

3. Job Growth from 2008 to 2012 grew at 1.8%

4. DC currently has 182,000 multi-family units totaling 182 million sf

5. DC currently has 122 million sf of office space

6. DC under current Height Act and Zoning has 270 million sq/ft of developable space to accommodate the office and residential growth requirements.

The OP identified 3 growth scenarios, low, medium and large growth. Low being large being 1.7% growth. Despite it being ludicrous that DC’s population growth would continue at the pace it did from 2010 to 2012 for the next 27 straight years, breaking every record for sustained growth of any metro since records started being kept, we will use it for this example.

According to OP this means we would need to accommodate 176K new households (or 375K new residents), a 60% population growth in 27 years.

OP says we will need in the next 27 years:

210 million sf of new residential, a 87% increase over what exists today.

106 million sf of new office, again 87% more than we have now for an absorption rate of 4 million sf per year. From 2008 to YTD 2013 (biggest office boom ever), the District has only absorbed a total of 6 million sf, or 1.2 million sf/yr.

This is a combined burn rate of 11.7 million sf per year, every year. Even at this highly ludicrous pace of sustained growth, DC (according to OP’s own numbers has at a minimum of 23 years’ worth of developable space left).

Even OP’s low estimate of population growth of .91% is still higher than DC’s growth was between 2000 and 2012, which again was the fastest DC had ever seen since the WWII.

I know Tregoning is for repealing the Height Limit, but she could at least pretend that she and her staff just didn’t gin up the numbers she needed to make her point. This study has almost no actual numerical analysis that is based in reality, which is why it will taken with so much amusement in Congress, even by the Democrats (of which I am one) who want to help the District. Economic growth will rise and fall in the future, just like it always has in the past. The District will lose people and jobs some years, and gain them the next. OP’s version of the world is positively “Enron-ian”.

Assuming more realistic growth numbers (OP’s low end) we will consume 157 million sf of developable space by office and residential in the next 27 years, or 5.8 million per year for a minimum of 47 years worth of developable space left within the bounds of our current height act and zoning.

So in summary, yes…in fantasy land where the WWII level population growth DC has seen the past 3 years is sustained forever, office space is consumed 330% faster than it has been the last few years (every year), and residential real estate prices climb double digits per year, and job growth continues unabated at a scolding ~2% per year, the District will run out of developable space in 23 + years, or 50 years when reviewed without the rose colored glasses. Excuse me if I am not impressed.

by Heightlimit on Nov 20, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

Rich,

It's more that the issue is settled re: the silver line. The debate over process is over, that's all. We don't debate whether we should've condemned properties to build the first iteration of metro as well. I'll still chime in on process in current debates (like rebuild of the tunnels in Portsmouth).

DTR,

You say it's a rounding error, Metro says its significant. Without any proof of the former, I'm inclined to believe the latter. And still, drivers are paying for a capacity increase on the corridor they're traveling on. Costs aren't the only thing to consider if you're debating on a rail line vs. new lanes. There's the expected travel volume, the ability to handle future growth (much easier to add more trains to an existing rail line than to add even more lanes), there's the space considerations like the fact we can run metro under, above, and in the middle of existing roadways, congestion will be already eliminated for those riding on the silver line instead of driving on the DTR.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

Alicia,
You make some great points about Rosslyn that those who simply look at numbers never seem to understand. Design is an integral part of what makes some cities desirable to live in vs. simply able to generate a good tax base. This balance is what's missing in the great height debate. There's a point at which the scale, proportion, and character of a street impacts is't quality. The way most office buildings are pure glass makes the prospect of 200' story buildings daunting. There are many areas of NYC with 200' =/- buildings look great, like Union Square, but those areas where designed before the all glass look became ubiquitous.

I'm sure Rosslyn will learn from the rest of the Wilson Corridor and enliven streetscapes wherever they can. It'll be a lot harder to soften up the all glass character of it's streets and impossible to make a vertical section street feel comfortable. They'll always pay the rent, but they will never hold a candle to DC's more attractive streets built when aesthetics wheren't so easily dismissed.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

rich

I would note the Commonwealth did pay part of the funds, as did FFX and Loudoun counties, as did the Tysons developers. The toll increases in addition to compensating for benefit to drivers, are also a proxy for a value recapture - I beleive there are many properties in the corridor (not just in Tysons) that will benefit in value from the Silver line. But I do think its quite reasonable to expect a significant modal shift that will aid drivers.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

@Drumz,

Where does metro say its significant? I am looking at MWAA's traffic study that goes out 30 years. Link what you are looking at that indicates that Metro says it is significant.

And yes, cost is the driver "pun intended" for this, especially when drivers are funding a full 50% of something that you are saying will take a max of 1% of traffic off the road. Golly, gee...why not build 9 more Silverlines along the DTR so we can atleast get some actual congestion relief. I mean, it will only cost those drivers 27 billion more dollars to get up to 10% of the traffic off the road. What an awesome and efficient use of money!

Seriously, the Silverline makes the ICC that GGW says was a debacle, look like the worlds most efficiantly used and planned transportation project.

by Heightlimit on Nov 20, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

@Rich 'n Alexandria:

Why should we expect the Commonwealth to ask I-66 and 95 drivers to pay for rail alternatives if it won't even force those drivers to pay for I-66 and 95?

Ditto Hampton Roads drivers: if you think Dulles Toll Road drivers are bitter about paying for the Silver Line, you should hear what folks in the Tidewater think about the state's plans for tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels...tolls that will be used to build wider tunnels...for cars. Never mind that three of the four tunnels in the area (as well as the Virginia Beach expressway) were originally built with tolls; the addition of "Massachusetts-style death pane...er..toll booths" is obviously a sign of our country's unheralded slide into socialism, communism, and both Wiemar and Nazi Germany. Benghazi.

Compared to the new tunnels, the Tide was a cheap and easy investment. It even convinced notoriously anti-tax Virginia Beach to ask for an extension to the oceanfront. So far, those aren't bad results.

by Steven H on Nov 20, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

Rosslyn's problems are mostly A. The street layout - the wide, fast streets that discourage pedestrians, which in turn makes street facing retail a poor proposition, whatever a buildings architects want B. Seperation of use zoning, which has led to an overconcentration of offices, with relatively little residential in Rosslyn, most of that at the periphery, and most of that auto centric C. The lack of design standards requiring street facing retail.

Those issues are being addressed. IMO those are bigger issues for Rosslyn than either height or the use of glass facades.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

Hi goldfish

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

@drumz
Bad example. Once a condemned property is torn down, its gone.

Drivers on the toll road are going to be paying in perpetuity. In an open society, you can't just tell people to "sit down and shut the **** up" just because the "process is over."

@AWalkerInTheCity
I know Virginia paid for some of the planning and EIS way back in the beginning. But I understood that, for both Phase I and Phase II construction, the Commonwealth's resposibility had been totally shifted to MWAA. Let me know if I got that wrong. :-)

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Nov 20, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

" I am looking at MWAA's traffic study that goes out 30 years. "

This is the study that said traffic will gridlock before people will switch modes?

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

IIRC the Commonwealth paid about 300 million towards construction.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

"Drivers on the toll road are going to be paying in perpetuity. In an open society, you can't just tell people to "sit down and shut the **** up" just because the "process is over"

No, but you can tell them "speak as much as you want, nothing will change because the process is over" Also over time the drivers on the toll road will be people who moved in knowing about the new tolls (and possibly drawn to a corridor with metro)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

Which is precisely why I would use Bethesda as a counterbalance to Rosslyn of a city that uses height and good street level planning to make a pleasant place. It's quite transparent to me that you are only interested in stopping any and all change whether it be an eight story building or a 20 story one. If there was more density near the metro people could live there without driving. Maybe we should talk about Ballston instead of Rosslyn which is much more pleasant to walk around in and yet still takes good advantage of it's transit network.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

"Seperation of use zoning, which has led to an overconcentration of offices, with relatively little residential in Rosslyn"

I would agree this is a problem with Rosslyn and with most downtowns in America. The problem is this conflicts with the mantra that office space should be expanded in downtown first and formost. This would only lead to a further deadening of the street scape. Just compare the eas end of our downtown with it's apartments sprinkled about with the west end and it's predominantly glass aesthetic and mono-culture office use. The difference in the quality of street life is palpable.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

"The problem is this conflicts with the mantra that office space should be expanded in downtown first and formost. This would only lead to a further deadening of the street scape."

Not necessarily. we live in a different age of zoning, which now allows and encourages mixed use - look at city center, for example. If the components of it, or even just the office component, were taller, it would still be mixed use. There is not only a very strong demand for office use downtown, there is a strong demand for residential use. However in the unlikely event that the market result was office use only, you could mandate residential use as a condition of going above a certain height.

I do note that Rosslyn is getting a new influx of residential - currently about 1200 units in pipeline - and their tall buildings have not stood in the way of that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

Rich,

Sure but whatever legal challenges or what have you that challeneged MWAA's authority (mostly for the tax zone around the tyson's properties)to raise it's money are over.

Height limit,

The plan-it metro blog link. The very last link listed in this morning's post.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

I haven't spent that much time in Rosslyn but my main complaint was that it's the confluence of a few high speed corridors (Arlington Blvd, 66, GW Parkway) that dump out downtown though luckily Arlington seems focused on slowing Clarendon/Wilson down which makes it more pleasant. Walking around I've never felt any issues with the height of buildings on the street level and I don't mind it from across the water either.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

It conflicts in the sense that you keep saying all office building construction not in Downtown DC comes at a cost. That VA and MD rob tax dollars from the district. If you are fine with spreading out mixed use centers through out the region, where's the impending end of growth in dc?

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D: The decision by the council in addition to reports recently by WBJ that Tysons Commercial market is outperforming DCs, keeping rents low and lowering vacancy, are all bad news for DC and good news for Virginia.

Dear CMs, thank you for the early christmas present; we will gladly keep taking all of your private (and with FBI building public) economic producers.

by Navid Roshan on Nov 20, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

"It conflicts in the sense that you keep saying all office building construction not in Downtown DC comes at a cost."

but adding residential also reduces VMT, since folks living downtown will also have very low SOV mode shares. I am not say 2 stories a 25 story building to be residential would mean more VMT than having an all office 25 story building. Certainly it would mean less VMT than having a 12 story office building, with the rest of the offices AND the residences moved to a place with less transit.

"That VA and MD rob tax dollars from the district."

I have never used the word "rob" in this context I think. I have noted that when more development happens in Arlington and less in DC, that means DC gets less tax revenue. Are you actually contesting that? I have also suggested that thats something DC residents can legitimately consider - and that given that DC has a disproportionate share of the regions poor, there are reasons to hope DC gets more revenue that transcend a focus on the narrow interests of DC.

" If you are fine with spreading out mixed use centers through out the region, where's the impending end of growth in dc"

The end of growth in DC comes when DC reaches build out. At that point all growth in the region will have to be outside DC. The higher the sq footage downtown is at said buildout, the higher the proportion of Sq footage will be close to the regions highest concentration of transit, and thus the lower (ceteris paribis) SOV mode share will be.

Anyway, this discussion is over now. The Council killed it and NCPC ratified that death. The soonest it can conceivably come up again is 2015, and it may not come up again for a couple of years after that - by which time we will be able to better judge the DC office market, the path of buildout at DC metro stations outside downtown, the success of reinvention in Rosslyn and Crystal City, etc. I hope the topic can be let go of for a while (I will comment only to counter assertions that IMO violate economic logic, etc) Perhaps somewhere there is a glass facade someone can throw rocks at ;) ?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

DTR Toll Transactions by year:
2005: 113 million
2012: 99.89 million

Usage of the DTR has fallen by 12% since 2005, so obviously the tolls are having an effect driving people away. MWAA acknowledged this 2 years ago with their revised (read increased) toll increase schedule.

And no, it has nothing to do with the economy. NOVA's unemployment rate is at 4.1%

by DTR on Nov 20, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

Tysons Commercial market is outperforming DCs, I find that hard to believe. Does that mean they get more dollars per square foot or is it a matter of vacancies? Also, I understand AWITC's point about revenue, but I tend to look at the region as a whole, so if VA is prospering, I think MD and DC will benefit. Not as much, but some all the same. I see the region as one economic engine, who's competition between jurisdictions is good for business overall as competition tends to be.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

@Navan,

"The decision by the council in addition to reports recently by WBJ that Tysons Commercial market is outperforming DCs, keeping rents low and lowering vacancy, are all bad news for DC and good news for Virginia.
Dear CMs, thank you for the early christmas present; we will gladly keep taking all of your private (and with FBI building public) economic producers"

The third qtr numbers are out. The office vacancy rate in Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington is 17% and price per sf is down a buck to $31

It is 10.2% in DC, with average rents having climbed to $49 sf.

But hey, don't let facts get in the way of a good yarn.

by Office on Nov 20, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

Tysons has gotten some big new leases, including IntelSat that used to be in DC (but not downtown). Rents are still much higher per sq ft in DC.

I dont agree that interjurisdiction competition is always a good thing. When its firms moving to Va for lower min wage, and weaker labor laws, its a bad thing, IMO. If they move to NoVa for lower rent office space due to DCs height limit, thats artificial and not helping either.

And when tax revenues go to FFX, that does not help the DC budget. And to the extent that FFX spends less on poverty than DC does (and I again invite you to review the debate in FFX about RSU's - have you?) thats a net loss to the regions poor. Rhetoric about regional economic engines does not alter that tangible result.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D:
I see the region as one economic engine, who's competition between jurisdictions is good for business overall as competition tends to be.
Again, that's all well and good that you're able to view the region holistically. But what we're talking about here is a policy that explicitly restricts growth in DC. Much of that is transferred to other jurisdictions, including yours, so that it's not as harmful for the region as a whole as it is for DC. But how can you not see that these are two different issues?

Even still, we all suffer from a weakened DC that voluntarily gives up tax revenue to other jurisdictions.

Moreover, it does affect the rest of the region by shifting development to areas with less transportation infrastructure. Rosslyn is in a good position to absorb a lot of that growth, but places like Tysons, or metro-accessible MoCo don't have the same levels of metro accessibility. Shifting development from places with better infrastructure affects us all as well.

by Gray on Nov 20, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

> so obviously the tolls are having an effect driving people away.

Not sure how that is obvious, perhaps more people are taking the bus, working in the Dulles office parks (which have grown since 2005), taking 66 as 28 has been improved, etc.

by John on Nov 20, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

And the tolls driving people away is bad? Traffic is better for those willing to tough it out. Did traffic go up on a different road (though only real paralell is 7).

So tolls can decrease congestion but there is no possible way for a brand new train line to take cars off the road as well.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

"When its firms moving to Va for lower min wage, and weaker labor laws, its a bad thing, IMO.

That's a good point. I guess there will always be variables defining the optimum economic good for each jurisdiction.

"Even still, we all suffer from a weakened DC that voluntarily gives up tax revenue to other jurisdictions."

I guess I have a hard time thinking of DC as weakened. As other posters have pointed out, growth is already pusing into adjacent metro acessible areas. All the government sluch money that came to DC after 9/11 was great for the local economy, and I'm pretty sure DC and VA benefited like DC did. By how much exactly, I'll leave that up to economists to debate.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

"I guess I have a hard time thinking of DC as weakened"

DC is no longer in danger of fiscal collapse, as it was only 15 years ago. It has used its increased tax revenues to fix basic services, keep taxes competitive, and gradually build up a rainy day fund. It is also spending a fair amount per pupil in the public schools, which is probably necessary given the difficult backgrounds some of those students come from.

It still has many financial challenges ahead, from transit to general infrastructure to subsidies for affordable housing (and homeless shelters) to employment training and senior services and other important things. DC's future looks relatively bright, but its hardly at the point where it can sneeze at additional revenue.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

I don't think it's about artificially directing growth to DC. DC has been the center of the region since the mid 19th century. Zoning/height limits in DC have artificially redirected growth away from the core though which is quite obvious when you see how much slack Arlington/Tysons/Alexandria/Bethesda/Silver Spring have taken up in recent decades. Most of us aren't calling for Manhattan-type development here, we're just specifically arguing aginst distorting natural growth patterns to such an absurd degree.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D:
I guess I have a hard time thinking of DC as weakened.
Yes, you've said this over and over again. But here's the thing: DC is in a weaker position in terms of tax revenues than if it didn't have the Height Act. Yes, DC is in a much better position than it was 20 years ago, but that isn't the comparison of interest here.

Holding economic conditions constant, the height restrictions are leading to a transfer of rents and tax revenues from DC to surrounding jurisdictions. This is true whether you find it hard to believe or not. It is true regardless of how you feel about unrelated issues like the quality of the design of buildings in DC. Maybe you think that some benefits of the height restrictions are worth the costs to DC, but that doesn't make those costs any less real.

by Gray on Nov 20, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

DC isn't weak but we do need more tax revenue.

DC poverty rate is 19% and median household income was $62k.

Fairfax poverty rate is 4.9% and median household income was $108k.

Mongtomery poverty rate is 4.6% and median household income was $92k.

The city has many infrastructure priorities, needs more jobs, more housing etc. The city isn't doing poorly when compared to most American cities but to turn it's back on growth potential now would be beyond stupid in my opinion.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

"Holding economic conditions constant, the height restrictions are leading to a transfer of rents and tax revenues from DC to surrounding jurisdictions."

yes Gray, you've said this over and over again. The only problem is all that slack outlying jurisdictions where taking "in recent decades" up happened when DC was not the place to be, way before DC's parking lots where built-out.

Plus, like many have pointed out before, growth in other parts of DC is already taking up the slack. It will be interesting to see what effect this height cap sticking around for a few more years will have on the region, I mean, DC.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

To be fair, Rosslyn has two (soon 3) metro lines running through there

But they run on the same track, so I'm not sure they have that many more trains per hour. You can go more places with a one-seat trip, but it's not like downtown DC.

by David C on Nov 20, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

"yes Gray, you've said this over and over again. The only problem is all that slack outlying jurisdictions where taking "in recent decades" up happened when DC was not the place to be, way before DC's parking lots where built-out."

yes, there are multiple factors impacting firm decision making.

Try this. Assume a million sq feet of new office space is built. If DC has room to build some part will be in DC, and some part in the suburbs. Lets say 400k Sq ft in DC, 600k in the suburbs. When DC reaches buildout it will be all 1 million in the suburbs. I am not sure why thats so difficult to understand. Its basic arithmetic. (and note, this wont happen all of a sudden in one day - as DC APPROACHES buildout, and there is a narrower choice of places to build in DC, more and more will be in the suburbs)

"Plus, like many have pointed out before, growth in other parts of DC is already taking up the slack. It will be interesting to see what effect this height cap sticking around for a few more "

We of course wont know the net effect, because we wont know what the world would have been like with no cap.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

That it is not. But it's a lot better than many other candidates in DC. Which is why I think the height limit should be raised downtown anyway.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

I want to point out that the reason I brought up Rosslyn was to refute the idea that no one would build tall buildings outside of downtown. That Rosslyn has mutliple highways or bike paths or that it is a graveyard for your soul etc... are all irrelevant to the fact that it refutes the original claim. Developers will gladly build tall buildings outside of downtown. The Cairo is not downtown, for example.

by David C on Nov 20, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

" That Rosslyn has mutliple highways or bike paths or that it is a graveyard for your soul etc"

I just want to point out that Rosslyn is much less of a graveyard for your soul when you are on a bike, than any other mode. Though if you are not careful it could be graveyard for your body.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D:
yes Gray, you've said this over and over again. The only problem is all that slack outlying jurisdictions where taking "in recent decades" up happened when DC was not the place to be, way before DC's parking lots where built-out.
That's not true. Much of it happened then, but not all of it. Right now, there are crews working in downtown Silver Spring and Rosslyn on buildings that are too tall to be built in DC. There is more in the pipeline. Are you calling for a moratorium on those buildings, or only tall buildings in DC?

Also I have tried multiple times to explain ceteris paribus here. Your argument seems to be that since there are multiple factors, the status quo should be preferred for everything--because changing one factor wouldn't change them all. My point continues to be that while it's only one factor, the height restrictions are definitely having an effect on location decisions in the DC metro area.

Plus, like many have pointed out before, growth in other parts of DC is already taking up the slack.
It's true that some of the growth has been shifted to other parts of DC. That doesn't change the fact that much of the growth has been shifted to other jurisdictions. This is an effective transfer of rents and tax revenues from DC to other jurisdictions.

by Gray on Nov 20, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

Again, the level of nuance and variables makes me suspicious of all these "end of growth" type pronouncments.

As for the Cairo, that's a great point that what drove the builder to erect such a large building outside of downtown wasn't the high rents or stiffling regulations of downtown. It was pure profit motive, which is the same reason people locate in VA, to bypass higher hourly wages. All things being equal simply dosen't exist.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

Re: Rosslyn
Compared to the east central part of downtown DC, its got only two metro lines vs 5 metro lines. And when silver comes on, it will be three vs 6.

And it has no commuter rail or intercity rail (though Union Station and Lenfant are not that much closer to the heart of downtown than Crystal City is to Rosslyn - though CC has VRE only,not MARC or Amtrak).

First, the east central part of downtown is bigger than Rosslyn. Let's keep things apples-to-apples. I'd say the best multi-modal transportation infrastructure in DC is in the area between Metro Center and Gallery Place (let's call it City Center) which is a comparably sized place to Rosslyn. Also, let's try to keep the comparison to what's actually within or very close to those places.

Metro -- City Center wins with three more metro lines than Rosslyn. Although, not all of City Center's metro lines are in the same station which is a little less convenient than having them all in one place, so 6 vs. 3 lines isn't quite twice as good. But, the difference is very significant.

Long distance rail -- I'd say City Center is only a tad closer to Union Station than Rosslyn to Crystal City. City Center has Rosslyn beat on Amtrak.

Highways -- Rosslyn wins hands down by a large margin. City Center is barely on the radar in this category, which is a big deal if having representation in every mode is necessary for the crown of "best multi-modal transportation".

Buses -- City Center wins but Rosslyn is not too shabby given wmata, circulator, commuter buses, one intercity bus line (with infrequent service), and ART.

Cycling -- Rosslyn hands down. Biking to/from City Center isn't fun or something you would do recreationally. You have to deal with a lot of traffic and lights. Biking to/from Rosslyn via one of the many MUPs feeding it are among the nicest rides in the DC area.

Airports -- Rosslyn is a tad more convenient (across all modes) to National and significantly more convenient to Dulles. Convenience to BWI is probably about tied.

???Streetcars & dedicated bus lanes??? -- whenever that happens in City Center, I'll agree they get the crown.

by Falls Church on Nov 20, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

"Again, the level of nuance and variables makes me suspicious of all these "end of growth" type pronouncments. "

the fact that there is nuance, does not invalidate the concept of build out.

"As for the Cairo, that's a great point that what drove the builder to erect such a large building outside of downtown wasn't the high rents or stiffling regulations of downtown. It was pure profit motive"

Other than rent, what was the source of profit for the developers of the Cairo?

"which is the same reason people locate in VA, to bypass higher hourly wages."

The firms moving to Tysons that Navid mentioned are not paying minimum wage. I mentioned min wage merely to indicate that competition among jurisdictions is not always for the best.

Certainly lower office rents are ONE factor influencing firms to locate in NoVa. At this point the lower office rents in Navy Yard and NoMa than in downtown prodive an alternative for SOME firms that see those locations as alternatives, though for some other firms they may not be.

" All things being equal simply dosen't exist."

Its a construct used to analyze the incremental impact of a policy, and to seperate such impacts from other things that are going on. Anyone who cannot so use the concept, has no business discussing the impacts of policies.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

This is a tough post to respond too, as the inaccuracies are simply astounding.

First, removing 1,000 cars from rush hour DOES have a positive effect. It is not a rounding error. This is a statistics based calculation. Based on capacity, arrivals per hour etc, you can calculate what the queue will be. We spent almost half a class in grad school studying this, but suffice it to say it is real, and the article is correct. "Queueing Theory" if you are interested.

No clue where your 1.2 million per lane mile came from, but this article puts it more like 15.4 million per lane mile in difficult urban areas (dulles corridor certainly is that) and that is in 2006 dollars. This still sounds low to me. See what we spent on the 495 and 95 HOT lanes.

http://www.railstotrails.org/resources/documents/whatwedo/policy/07-29-2008%20Generic%20Response%20to%20Cost%20per%20Lane%20Mile%20for%20widening%20and%20new%20construction.pdf

by Kyle-w on Nov 20, 2013 3:35 pm • linkreport

Developers will gladly build tall buildings outside of downtown.

Oh sure, I don't think we should categorically stop them either. It's definitely possible but sometimes people ask "why can't we just build at whatever height in X" and that's one reason why it may not be optimal.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

*optimal as an alternative rather than building it for its own merits.

by drumz on Nov 20, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

"Long distance rail -- I'd say City Center is only a tad closer to Union Station than Rosslyn to Crystal City. City Center has Rosslyn beat on Amtrak."

more than a tad. .7 of a mile, easy walk from Gallery Place to Union Station. Vs 4 miles from Rosslyn to CC. Does anyone actually do that walk? By metro its one stop, vs 4 stops.

Biking - it depends how much you favor biking on MUPs, with their pedestrians, their occasional bad safety features, and issues with things like snow clearing, etc. In downtown you have your choice of cycle tracks, or riding in the travel lanes on a permeable street network. IIUC Logan Circle has about the highest bike commute mode share in the region, and I think most of them are going to downtown DC.

highways. Downtown in fact has the SE-SW freeway/I395, which provides access to NoVa, and now, via the new 11th street bridge, to EOTR DC, and to Maryland.

by transit its slightly further from Gallery Place to National than from Rosslyn, but currently the Yellow line runs more frequently than the Blue line.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

@John

Tolls have certainly had an effect. My dad is a home inspector, and avoids the toll road at all costs. He used to take it, but due to cost now prefers 50 West to 28 when heading to Ashburn etc. I think the high tolls have likely had a greater effect outside of rush hour than during rush hours.

by Kyle-w on Nov 20, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

"the fact that there is nuance, does not invalidate the concept of build out."

Again, your definition of buildout isn't universally accppted. 4.9% developable land? Talk about setting the city in amber.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

Biking downtown isn't fun per se but traffic moves slow enough that it isn't all that intimidating compared to arterials. DC has to get props for the amount of bike infrastructure it's been able to put within the L'enfant city limits.

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

"Again, your definition of buildout isn't universally accppted. 4.9% developable land? Talk about setting the city in amber."

in 4 years, when the city is closer to buildout under current zoning and height limits, we can examine A. if redevelopment in the low density zones that OP excluded from their analysis looks realistic B. If redevelopment on parcels built to more than 30% of their zoned envelope looks realistic (and in enough places to offset those that are built to less than 30% but for some reason are not economical to redevelop. C. if large scale upzoning to allow greater FAR is possible.

I beleive you will find that most of your allies on the height limit will be your opponents on increasing FAR, and that most of the arguments against increasing the height limit will also be marshalled against increases in FAR. I do not think you should look on the Council vote as promising for significant upzoning.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 20, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport

"I beleive you will find that most of your allies on the height limit will be your opponents on increasing FAR,"

I think you're right about that at least. I'm very pro-density when done humanely.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D:
I'm very pro-density when done humanely.
How is a 15 story building inhumane?

by Gray on Nov 20, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

Kyle,

The DTR was built with the ROW to accomodate an additional two lanes in each way. Not that I would take costing data from something called "rails to trails" as authoratiative either, but the cost is more aligned with their cheapest catagory.

The VA hotlanes cost 12 million a lane mile, and involved the replacement of more than 50 overpasses and bridges, (spanning 12 lanes of traffic mind you) and the reconstruction of ten interchanges.

So no, adding lanes to the DTR is substantially less than the 15.4 million per mile the "rails to trails" folks are telling you.

by DTR on Nov 20, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

Gray, did I say 15 story buildings where inhumane? I thought I spoke highly of NYC's Union Square architecture which is all over the 15 story range.

by Thayer-D on Nov 20, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D: You've been arguing very strenuously against relaxing height restrictions. Removing the Height Act would make possible 15 story buildings in DC. So you are saying that you are in fact in favor of relaxing height restrictions and allowing for somewhat taller buildings?

by Gray on Nov 21, 2013 8:32 am • linkreport

My argument isn't as simple as you'd like it to be. I've said that taller buildings woulnd't be the end of the world, but at some point most people have agreed that we wouldn't want 50-100 story skyscrapers. Therefore, what should that limit be? Let's have that debate now rather than every 15 years, if not simply to remove the incredibly wastefull effort of re-building all the buildings periodically. Presumable, whenever we reach this final limit, we'd still have to seriously look at expanding downtown or finding alternate centers like Wall Street vs. Midtown, so let's at least have that discussion now, in tandem with the height issue. Let's have more vision than what's most expedient politically.

As for humanely scaled, it's incrediblly subjective, so I simply look at real estate prices and the neighborhoods that they corrsepond to and try to fugure out what is it about the architecture that adds that tangible value. As a designer, and not an economist, I look for those "intangible" elements of character to see what speaks to people, not all, but nost which then turn in to tangible value. So when does a tall building become inhumane, that will differ by peoples interpretations, but there are other avenues to increase density that won't encroach on the light and air city streets need to feel humane, at least to some people.

Lastly, I would argue there's a qualitative difference between a 15 story canyon of glass office buildings and lower broadway in NYC where buildings of various designs and levels of articulation mitigate the scale of 15 stories. Should I think designers would employ these kinds of design tricks, I would be more hopefull, but from what I see in downtown, I fear our skyline would look like Toronto or anywhere USA. I hope this helps to clarify my position.

by Thayer-D on Nov 21, 2013 8:51 am • linkreport

Therefore, what should that limit be?

Didn't OP sort of answer this question in their report? What did they propose?

1.25:1 building to street ratio in L'Enfant city - this would mean a max height of 200ft on Penn Ave (vs 160ft now). Outside L'Enfant city the city could set the height via zoning. This could mean very tall buildings, but given what people want via zoning and the demand/transportation planning, I wouldn't think anyone would be building 50-story buildings in these areas.

by MLD on Nov 21, 2013 9:01 am • linkreport

I've said that taller buildings woulnd't be the end of the world, but at some point most people have agreed that we wouldn't want 50-100 story skyscrapers. Therefore, what should that limit be?

But why have a blanket limit (or a set of blanket limits)? Why not wait until someone proposes the 50 story building and then have the debate on whether it should be shorter or not. It'll then just become a part of the general debate of whether its a good building or not.

by drumz on Nov 21, 2013 9:03 am • linkreport

"Therefore, what should that limit be? Let's have that debate now rather than every 15 years, if not simply to remove the incredibly wastefull effort of re-building all the buildings periodically. "

You don't have to rebuild the buildings periodically. You seem to assume that when the height limit goes from 130 ft to 180 ft, each 130 ft building is rebuilt to 180 ft. But there are lots of locations in downtown where there is room to build more density under the current limit and zoning, and where new construction will be happening soon anyway. If you limit taller heights to select parcels - OR you allow a limited quantity of sq ft above the old height limit and auction it off - you will prevent that rebuilding of each parcel, and concentrate the new height on locations where redevelopment would have happened anyway.

Addditionally I would note that SOME of the "wastefulness" of rebuilding is captured in the development process itself - developers pay for the labor, etc to rebuild. So if its STILL profitible to rebuild that suggests its NOT wasteful - the wastefulness in construction cost of building, is offset by the wastefulness of not having the sq footage people want, where they want it.

The exception are external costs of construction, like green house gas emissions. In the absence of federal carbon pricing, DC could impose its own carbon tax on construction generally, or just on rebuilding, or just on rebuilding buildings beyond the height limit. That would discourage excess rebuilding each time the height limit is increased.

These policies would enable us to raise the height limit to deal with imminent issues, and not have to guess at what the RE market will look like in 2070. Which in my opinion is a fools errand, and mostly serves as a way to block a consensus to get moderately taller buildings, by invoking fears of 70 story buildings.

"Lastly, I would argue there's a qualitative difference between a 15 story canyon of glass office buildings and lower broadway"

Not in terms of light and air, there is not. Again, two diffferent issues, things inherent to height, and your architectural tastes, are being conflated.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 21, 2013 9:05 am • linkreport

Like I said, 200' would be ok if it's not going to change in 15 years to 250'. I'm one of those envirentalists who believe there are some limits to how much energy consumption and waste our planet can absorb. Also, I don't think disposable buildings make for the best place making architecture. I also think spreading out some of this growth to other parts of the city on transit lines has benefits in terms of resiliancy, both economic and environmental, that would offset the math that economists rely on, which in isolation, make perfect sence. So there are many things that make me uneasy relative to loosing the height limit. But will our union survive a Rosslyn skyline in Gallery Place? Sure.

by Thayer-D on Nov 21, 2013 9:42 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D: So seriously, you've spent the past several weeks arguing that relaxing the height restrictions as suggested in the plan being discussed would be incredibly harmful and unnecessary . . .

And now you're saying you have no objections to those changes, but you merely object to other, more drastic changes?

by Gray on Nov 21, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

" I'm one of those envirentalists who believe there are some limits to how much energy consumption and waste our planet can absorb"

We dont ban using wide screen TVs or SUVs or plenty of other things that use energy with far less redeeming value than adding density to downtown DC. Look, I beleive in taxing GHG emissions. If we cant do that nationally, then lets try to do that locally. If we can't do that across the spectrum locally, then fine, lets tax emissions connected to downtown construction to deter wasteful rebuilding. But it seems arbitrary and wasteful to limit the number of times we revisit the height limit, of all things, out of environmental concerns with redevelopment.

BTW, tearing down perfect useable 2 story rowhouse for 6 story buildings, which might someday be replaced by 8 story buildings, is similarly wasteful.

"I also think spreading out some of this growth to other parts of the city on transit lines has benefits in terms of resiliancy, both economic and environmental"

If downtown DC is wiped away in floods, places like anacostia and Georgia avenue lose their transit connectivity, which is via downtown. Im not sure they would survive such an event economically anyway.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 21, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

Gray, keep your shirt on. I never said it would be incredibly harmful, I said it was a dumb idea if we are simply going to change the limit every so often. Personally I don't care for very tall buildings on many grounds, but incredibly harmful? That's a bit of an exaggeration.

by Thayer-D on Nov 21, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

Seems like your main objection is just "well what's best? Nobody can define it sufficiently for me, so let's not change anything." Or maybe you never looked into what OP proposed in the first place? If our Union will survive a Rosslyn skyline in Gallery Place, then why not change the height limit to 20-25 stories downtown?

People have given plenty of arguments that are not "economist math" as for why developing downtown is better. The transit mode share differences are not "economist" arguments, it's a planning and TDM argument that has tons of evidence backing it up. But it seems like you keep ignoring those arguments that don't validate your already-formed opinion.

by MLD on Nov 21, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

"I said it was a dumb idea if we are simply going to change the limit every so often."

But the only argument for changing every 70 years, instead of say every 20 years is the "its wasteful to rebuild frequently" and there are LOTS of ways to either A. make developers pay for the costs of the emissions associated with construction or B. ban such rebuilding entirely, by limiting (by law) taller buildings to parcels where that represent a much larger increase in sq footage.

And you keep ignoring those policy options, no matter how many times they are repeated. Which does lead me to suspect that the enviro argument is not your principle concern. Especially since you dont seem very concerned with the difference in emissions driven by different transit mode shares between downtown and other centers.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 21, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

I said it was a dumb idea if we are simply going to change the limit every so often.

Then let's not have one and then let buildings go up or stay on the blueprints on their merits.

by drumz on Nov 21, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

I find your objection to the constant rebuilding amusing given that that already goes on downtown, except that it's 40 year old office buildings being replaced with buildings the exact same size. Supply is so constrained and prices so high downtown that it is cost-effective for these firms to replace a building without increasing square footage. Wouldn't allowing increased supply downtown actually make this less cost-effective in the long run?

by MLD on Nov 21, 2013 10:07 am • linkreport

I accept that my arguments are unconvincing to the pro-height crowd because we'll all have different priorities. I'm all for density, urbanity, and heterogeneity in terms of aesthetics, I just happen to be one of many that think there are better ways to grow than above 10-20 stories. But these disagreements improve the outcome to flesh out considerations that might not get as much air time in the halls of power.

by Thayer-D on Nov 21, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

FWIW I don't disregard arguments about alternative ways to grow. Unfortunately I'm much more cynical that we will get buy in to add density in most parts of the city so I feel our best strategy is to add density downtown and near transit where there is already a natural constituency.

by BTA on Nov 21, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

@DTR

The HOT lanes cost 1.4 billion, to build 56 lane miles. That is 25,000,000 million per lane mile. Not certain where your number is coming from.

Adding 1 lane in each direction to the Toll Road (disregarding whether it would even help, due to the natural bottlenecks at Tysons, and the terminus at 66, would involve replacing a significant amount of overpasses as such as well.

I don't see anything in my experience with 495 HOT lanes and 267 that says the 267 construction would be significantly cheaper. They would have to rebuild and rework an incredible amount of intersections and flyovers, as well as rebuilding every on and off-ramp.

You are looking at overall a very similar project. Another 56 lane miles or so to add 2 in each direction. Likely costing another 1.4 billion or so (possible more, as these things get more expensive yearly) and all for virtually no benefits. All you would be doing is moving the back-ups a bit further down the road, where they would ultimately be worse, as only a fixed number of people can get onto the feeder roads into Tysons at the same time, and then you would create an even worse back-up at the 267 and 66 merge.

Lot of money for little benefit, on a road that is seeing less usage than in 2005.

by Kyle-w on Nov 21, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

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