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Breakfast links: Saving the city


Photo by Shawn on Flicker.
Self-policing DC: UMD researchers suggest that people with strong ties to a neighborhood are more likely to intervene on another's behalf as a "responsible third party punisher", which may mean less self-policing in transient cities like DC. (Atlantic Cities)

Best design of the year?: Is Montgomery County's North Bethesda Market II the best building design in the DC area for 2013? The 300 foot tall building, which is ambitious architecturally, will be mixed-use and have 347 residential units. (UrbanTurf)

Shaw and Anacostia sites ready for development: DC is looking for a "catalytic project" for a site in Historic Anacostia to help revitalization efforts. The District also wants to encourage mixed-used development for a parcel in the heart of the Shaw corridor. (WBJ)

Pay-to-play meter deal: A deal over DC's parking meter management is rife with questions over "pay-to-play" on the DC Council. Entities related to one of the bidding companies donated $50,000 to mayoral campaigns of 3 council members. (Post)

Defense of streetcar in Arlington: Arlington's County Board Chair, Walter Tejada, vigorously defended the Columbia Pike streetcar, ruling out BRT and calling out opponents who he thinks are misleading the public. (Post, Canaan)

Urbanism from scratch: Hamburg, Germany is trying to change the way neighborhoods are built with a $14 billion project called HafenCity, a new mixed-use neighborhood that is being built almost from scratch near the city's center. (NextCity)

1 car = 10 bikes: There is an emerging trend to create bike racks in the shape of a car. One design gracing the streets of Buenos Aires includes labeling that reads "1 car = 10 bikes." Similar designs have been seen in Sweden and Seattle. (Atlantic Cities)

11-year BRT timeline: San Francisco's 11-year timeline from feasibility study to completion of a bus rapid transit service is caused by frequent public meetings, environmental studies, citizen opposition, and a desire to ease into BRT. (NextCity)

Utah's transit gem: Salt Lake City could be a model for building transit on budget and in a timely fashion. 3 factors that led to Salt Lake City's transit success are bundling projects into one, being proactive, and using performance contracting. (Streetsblog)

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Chad Maddox grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where living a car-free lifestyle is almost impossible. In 2010, he moved to the Washington area and currently lives in the vibrant DC neighborhood of NoMa.  

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Ok, from the description I thought the Buenos Aires bike rack was going to be another stupid sculpture that ends up being a crappy bike rack. Turns out it's awesome.

But seriously cities, have bike racks, and have public sculptures. Stop trying to combine the two.

by drumz on Dec 17, 2013 8:45 am • linkreport

And the BRT story in SF is frustrating. It's time to reexamine what these public meetings accomplish. Especially when so many that are reported don't seem to be much more than an excuse for people to verbally abuse city employees. Public meetings shouldn't be abolished per se but the laws that set up our planning processes need to be reexamined since the answer of "more meetings" is becoming counter-productive.

Locally, we now have local expertise and knowledge about bike lanes and what does and doesn't work more or less. There really shouldn't be a public meeting about re-painting lines on a street and reconfiguring the space a little bit.

Yes, I'm obviously biased in favor of bikes but its not like the local cities and DOTs aren't biased as well. They all want more cyclists, and we know how to get them.

People who hate bike lanes will hate them whether their is a public meeting for them to go to or not and if that's how they want to cast their vote then I'm not going to stop them. Until then all we're doing is wasting time. Either put the lanes in or don't and deal with the consequences at the ballot box.

I fully expect to be called out on this when a meeting about some brand new expressway widening project is announced.

tl;dr - it's hard for me to defend most public meetings when the effects I usually see are marginal. The more effective measures I see usually come from sustained advocacy and winning elections.

by drumz on Dec 17, 2013 9:04 am • linkreport

Re: Self-policing in DC, not every neighborhood is transient. Many are quite settled. Architecture plays a role in this, because it's easy to get to know your neighbors where the parking is out front and the play occurs on sidewalks and in parks. One of the things my neighbors and I value about our particular corner of Southeast is the way we all look out for one another.

by Sally M on Dec 17, 2013 9:10 am • linkreport

Spot on, drumz. Function is the goal.

The Whole Foods in the Maryland suburbs have bright teal bike racks made out of recycled materials, as the placard on the front boasts. They're also completely unuseable, as a U-lock will not work with them (and they are ridiculously easy to pull apart as well). As a result, I have never, ever seen a bike locked to one, including the one at the Whole Foods located a block off the Capitol Crescent Trail.

by Crickey7 on Dec 17, 2013 9:10 am • linkreport

Forgot to mention that riding public transport together also gives neighbors a chance to get to know each other.

by Sally M. on Dec 17, 2013 9:11 am • linkreport

That church next to the lot for development in Shaw is not going to be happy about losing their Sunday parking.

by John on Dec 17, 2013 9:15 am • linkreport

@John

Scripture Cathedral Church may not be there for long either. From the article, "Four Points and the Warrenton Group were eying a mixed-use project for the church and adjacent parcels (if they could get them), including the District’s land at Eighth and O."

And just for fun: try using Google Street View on O Street between 7th and 9th. When you're on O Street, the images show City Market at O being built, but when you turn onto 9th Street, it's the old Giant.

by Adam Lewis on Dec 17, 2013 9:26 am • linkreport

North Bethesda Market II would be the best design of 2013, but the final renderings were released in November 2012. It's a shame that JBG is dragging its feet on what will be the most iconic structure in North Bethesda/White Flint.

by King Terrapin on Dec 17, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

Please stop perpetuating the myth that DC is a transient city. Census data shows that it is no more transient than other major cities. Fortunately, the folks at We Love DC have already done the research, saving me some time:

http://www.welovedc.com/2009/09/15/dc-mythbusting-no-one-is-from-dc/.

There is certainly a portion of the population that is transient and many of them tend to socialize only with other similarly transient people. I know many people who were born here and many, many more who have been here for years and have no plans to go elsewhere.

(I think it is this same misunderstanding that makes people think that a change in Administration or in the control of Congress will somehow impact DC real estate. A few hundred people moving in and out of a city with nearly 650,000 residents (never mind a metro area of several million) is not enough to make much of an impact on real estate.)

by rg on Dec 17, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

"Responsible Third-Party Punisher" sounds like a great idea for a caption for t-shirts.

by Frank IBC on Dec 17, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

The longer I read about it the more I think the answer in Anacostia has to be a jobs center there, beyond just government stuff which can be insular. The problem is the office market is so stagnant right now, seems like we will need a stronger economy and preferential zoning for small/medium office buildings in the area. A historic district alone won't cut it unless it's really close to a strong commercial component. I suppose Navy Yard could pick up and there would be spillover but that's like 20 years away.

by BTA on Dec 17, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

GGW should look into the parking meter issue. Everyone (the mainstream media) is focused on the campaign donations, but the real issue will be, in the long run, the technical merits.

Xerox has deployed parking meter systems with sensors and variable parking rates. This information can probably be app-accessible. There's also work on using meters to create on-reservation systems, which might seem to address the demand-based, on-street parking issue.

Parking meters are becoming Internet of Things-type systems, and it's possible that the winner of such a contract could use the technology as a foundation for a more sophisticated RPP system. Just thinking out loud.

I wish I had the time to FOIA the details, or had the local contacts to get the technical specs. Perhaps someone else can. But I do think that someone needs to advance the parking meter discussion to the technical aspects of it.

by kob on Dec 17, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

Actually LOOK at the Brutalist-style North Bethesda Market II design. It's hideous.

by asffa on Dec 17, 2013 9:57 am • linkreport

Those bike racks look like the space between might accommodate tricycles - has that been tested? because that'd be very useful for residents with physical issues.

by asffa on Dec 17, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

how is that Brutalist style? Do you know what Brutalist actually means? (hint, its not derived from the English word "brutal")

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 17, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

@ WITC,
Does knowing the definition of the word "brutalist" take away from many people's reaction to that building? What style would you say it is?

by Thayer-D on Dec 17, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

For me the whole self policing thing comes down to a few things: A) I don't want other citizens policing me in general - has a bit of a gestapo feel if taken to the extreme B) I generally trust the police to do it and C) I dont want to get shot. That said if it was like an adult attacking a kid or an old person I would like to think I would step in.

by BTA on Dec 17, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

@ BTA

In my neighborhood, self-policing means keeping an eye on one another's home and children, making a house accidentally left open look closed, being quick to call 911 in case of trouble and spreading the news informally when a crime wave occurs. It's less vigilante than close knit.

by Sally M on Dec 17, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

I can't say I love the Bethesda building either. First of all, you always see trees in those renderings, but how often are they there in the end? I'm torn. I love the idea of iconic architecture but this just seems out of scale. I'll probably come around I just need to get over my obsession with Art Deco.

by BTA on Dec 17, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

Thayer

I dont know exactly what the style is called. AFAICT some folks like it, some don't. Im not sure I can judge it from the few pics Ive seen. It does seem to be interesting looking, to me.

But using brutalist as a scare word (as if a glass clad building with little visible concrete resembled a mostly concrete surfaced building) is dishonest, IMO.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 17, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

Yeah I get that, Sally and I agree. I guess the example in the article (driver attacking a pedestrian) was a bit extreme for my taste. I've passed a few physical altercations in my time, and in general unless they seem terribly outmatched I don't believe in intervening.

by BTA on Dec 17, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

I love the Bethesda design. It's challenging, it's different, and it's risky. I wish we had more interesting design underway in DC.

Look at 14th Street. There's been land rush of new buildings, but how many are in anyway interesting? So much lost opportunity. How much effort has been made to turn the 14th Street corridor into something remarkable, distinctive and memorable?

Architects are artists, and they should be allowed to create. That might have happened in Bethesda.

by kob on Dec 17, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

@rg
Please stop perpetuating the myth that DC is a transient city

Oh contraire rg, two can play the supporting link game,
You're Not From Here:

Just looking at the main employer, the federal government[executive and legislative] in that the structure is almost like a collegiate town, freshman come in[with their 55 person team] and seniors retire, fail to get reelected, etc. Yes indeed this is a transient town, where the majority of millenials want to get their MONEY and move on to bigger and better things. Of course there are a few people that stay, but the majority stay less than six years.

A few hundred people moving in and out of a city with nearly 650,000 residents (never mind a metro area of several million) is not enough to make much of an impact on real estate.)

True, but multiply that by 1000 if the government/military/contractors shrink and you've yourself I pretty big problem if you are in the land game.

by Bill the Wanderer on Dec 17, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

"Just looking at the main employer, the federal government[executive and legislative] in that the structure is almost like a collegiate town, freshman come in[with their 55 person team] and seniors retire, fail to get reelected, etc. "

what percent of the federal employees are congressmen or exec branch political appointees?

Most are civil servants, who are at least as likely to stay as employees of large corps in NY or Chicago.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 17, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

I know lots of people in the metro area/DC that were born in the area. Moving from Fairfax/Silver Spring to DC might make you not born here but as far as I'm concerned that's local.

by BTA on Dec 17, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity
what percent of the federal employees are congressmen or exec branch political appointees?

Using the multiplier effect described in my initial response, I'd wager 10s of thousands.

by Bill the Wanderer on Dec 17, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

There seem to be two camps in architecture appreciation that have their own values for what makes a good building aesthetically. One values novelty while the other values beauty. Personally, I like both qualities but I lean towards beauty only because it tends to outlast novelty.

Good place making needs more beauty than novelty, becasue candy coatings tend to wear off, and if that's the only aspect a building excells in, it won't pass the test of time. There are exceptions of course, but looking at the neighborhoods that people love, like DuPont or Logan, they are filled with average buildings whose whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. And that's the problem with a lot of these flashy architectural gestures, they tend to look dated in 10 years. The Bethesda project, like it or not, is another stand alone gesture. Interesting on it's own, but not ideal for good place making.

by Thayer-D on Dec 17, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

Isn't the incumbent reelection rate like 90% anyway. I doubt more than 5,000 move in/out of the city based on the election cycle.

by BTA on Dec 17, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

There's nothing in the Hafencity article that strikes me as all that radically different from any other waterfront/floodplain downtown infill development. Evolutionarily different, sure, than say, the WTC & Battery Park City developments back in the day, but it seems pretty standard compared to other projects going on in the (first) world, perhaps maybe bigger, that's all - and as often as not these days they're on rail yards, because wetlands have been deemed kinda important and unable to sustain such reclamation and development.

(when the article says that this project is Hamburg's answer to both Dubai and SoHo(!) it demonstrates that there is actually not a consistent and convenient narrative hook for this project. It just is).

by Kolohe on Dec 17, 2013 11:15 am • linkreport

"1 car = 10 bikes."

And of course, with a real bike rack, you could store more bikes in that one spot.

Bike rack

Salt Lake City could be a model for building transit on budget and in a timely fashion.

Yeah, those Mormons are no morons. Also, they keep the UTA free in downtown SLC. Finally, it runs more frequent than DC's metro at low hours.

by Jasper on Dec 17, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

@assfa

Do you know what Brutalist is? You might as well have called it Second Empire or Gothic.

Brutalist buildings work hard to hide their small windows (if they're any at all). NoBe II's South/East facade is pretty much completed covered in glass.

Brutalist buildings are also short and wide with width-to-height ratios rarely less than 1. This building is over 300 ft tall! I don't know of any Brutalist building approaching that height.

Btw this building is not in Bethesda. It's five miles up MD355 in White Flint/North Bethesda (as its name indicates)

by King Terrapin on Dec 17, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

Just looking at the main employer, the federal government[executive and legislative] in that the structure is almost like a collegiate town, freshman come in[with their 55 person team] and seniors retire, fail to get reelected, etc.
When new reps and senators hire staff, many of those people are people who already live here and used to work for a rep or senator who just lost their job.

Do the people who write these things know ANYTHING about how Congress actually works?

Using the multiplier effect described in my initial response, I'd wager 10s of thousands.

LOL sounds like some solid made-up methodology!

by MLD on Dec 17, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

@MLD

Yep definitely all the congressional interns lived here already and live in Columbia Heights until they die[sarcasm off]. Look the structure is such that most are here for a smash and grab, take the MONEY and run. If the census data evidence isn't enough keep seeking the truth then. But the regions heavy military numbers[extremely transient], executive and legislative admin feds, think tanks, PACS, associations, embassies, etc, all are strurtuces based on heavy turnover.

Yes a few feds work at the labs in quantico or at a desk at the food and drug administration until they drop dead, but I'd say the turnover in the Washington region is higher than NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Miami, Atlanta, LA, Houston, etc... hence the term transient. In a one pony town, that's the nature of the beast. Nothing wrong with that. Although from a economic standpoint it is risky but when times are good, extreme amounts of money can be made. The humans who moved here are smarter than the average bear, and will scatter if the flow of money is tweaked at all.

by Bill the Wanderer on Dec 17, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

I actually like the artistic bike racks. Not everything has to be form-oriented. You wouldn't say of a building with a beautiful facade "have enclosed spaces that protect against the elements and have public sculpture. Stop trying to combine the two."

From Paris' metro entrances to London's phone booths to Washington's globe streetlights we often try to add a bit of style and form to the purely functional. I'm not sure why that's a bad thing. Especially when artistic bike racks are paid for with public art money.

by David C on Dec 17, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

The supposed "conventional wisdom" about the DC area is that everyone is here either to get rich quick of the honest taxpayers' backs before hightailing it elsewhere, or to enjoy a cushy, overly-secure government job here for 40+ years. Which is it?

by 20712 on Dec 17, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

I don't mind this car-styled bike rack, just because it is functional. But too often those artistic bike racks just suck for actually locking up a bike!

by MLD on Dec 17, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

That's fair. There are exceptions and certainly functional things we have should be beautiful like what you suggest.

I've just been burned by efforts that try to focus on the novelty of the project rather than making sure that either the need for bike parking or public art is being addressed.

And to reiterate, I think what they did in Argentina is fantastic and does a good job of providing usuability and making an artistic/political statement.

by drumz on Dec 17, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

"Yep definitely all the congressional interns lived here already and live in Columbia Heights until they die[sarcasm off]. Look the structure is such that most are here for a smash and grab, take the MONEY and run. "

I know a congressional staffer who lives in Alexandria, and has lived there for 20 years now. Raising a family, and being a fixture in the community.

You are stereotypes of congressional staffers are no more true, than the stereotype of libertarians as immature jerks.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 17, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

"Brutalist" as I understand it means bare concrete and predominately or exclusively right angles in the design.

That said, I don't find the North Bethesda proposal a whole lot warmer than that.

Regarding the "One Car Equals Ten Bikes" rack, I assumed that's based on a typical modern sedan which would be in the range of 180" to 200" long. A rack based on the 1977-79 Lincoln Continental, 233" long, might be even more fun.

by Frank IBC on Dec 17, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer but I'd say the turnover in the Washington region is higher than NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Miami, Atlanta, LA, Houston, etc... hence the term transient.

You'd say...and you'd be wrong. DC is less transient that Seattle and Miami, on par with LA (Atlanta, Denver and Houston were not included in the info I have). The numbers are a bit out of date at this point, and unfortunately this is an imperfect analysis, but best I can find: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/2007/09/nobodys_from_here_right.html

I suspect DC has become less transient since this was published, and the region as a whole is experiencing the same thing. We have so much growth in part because people move here, for whatever reason, and decide they like it and want to stay for the long haul.

by Birdie on Dec 17, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

North Bethesda Market II: Best argument for height limits I've seen in ages. Exceptionally ugly in multiple ways. Silver lining, it will make Rosslyn look attractive.

by Rich on Dec 17, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

I think we can dump all arguments related to height and beauty/ugly. Raising the height limit won't result in beautiful buildings as some have argued and keeping it won't either. If you want to require beautiful buildings, then just do that.

There is no intrinsic relationship between height and beauty.

by David C on Dec 17, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

Can we also dump the one that the height limit makes the city unique (and drives tourism)? Where would it be on the list of things that makes DC unique?

People still often express that the law is that buildings can't be higher than the Washington Monument. How unique is it when the one fact most people claim to know isn't even true?

by drumz on Dec 17, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

"There is no intrinsic relationship between height and beauty."

I'd agree to a point because they both have to do with physical form. You can't legislate beauty, but that was never the point of most height restrictions. It has to do with how the street feels, like keeping factories away from houses. Maybe they won't spew toxic fumes but they might harm the character of the street. Many codes can't be scientific prooven to be right per say, but there's a lot about real estate that isn't, and yet we still regulate building to preserve or enhance the quality of life in the surrounding communities.

Saying "a 1000 foot tall tower in Takoma Park in DC is not going to destroy the character of the city or reduce the quality of life" might be true for some, but like building highways through the center of cities, they would definatly impact the quality of life and they would definatly change the character of a city. The question we as a society need to ask ourselves is are the trade offs worth it?

With highways we were told that business couldn't survive without tearing down half the downtown for easy and convenient parking. 'Just look at the numbers' they said, 'where are the cars going to park?' Then, low and behold, the market changed as people discovered they liked eachother's company again. Then they said, 'look at how dilapidated the neighborhoods in downtown are, just look at the square footage prices!" Now many old slums are some of the most desirable neighborhoods. I don't doubt the numbers, but what makes for a great urban neighborhood is about more than simple calculations. If that where the case, a SW townhouse would outperform a Georgetwon Townhouse, but we all know that's not going to happen any time soon. Aesthetics aren't tied to height, but they are related, and people ought to have a chance to weigh in on such a big change. If raising the buidling height is something we want to do, let's put it to a vote, but saying the numbers bear it out just isn't good enough anymore.

by Thayer-D on Dec 18, 2013 6:26 am • linkreport

It has to do with how the street feels, like keeping factories away from houses.

I thought that was about sound and air pollution and safety concerns.

like building highways through the center of cities, they would definatly impact the quality of life and they would definatly change the character of a city.

To the extent that this is true, what isn't clear is that these changes would be negative. What is the negative externality of more people or more office space or lower priced housing?

The question we as a society need to ask ourselves is are the trade offs worth it?

You haven't established that there are any trade offs. It may be a win-win.

f raising the buidling height is something we want to do, let's put it to a vote

I'm totally fine with that. Let's take the decision making out of the hands of Congress and give it to the city council. They don't agree with me now, but I think the smart growth people can make and win the case over time.

by David C on Dec 18, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

David, I wouldn't assume all smart growthers are in favor of skyscrapers, even though you might like to think so.

As for whether the sound and air polution has anything to do with how a street feels, we can agree to disagree.

by Thayer-D on Dec 18, 2013 10:30 am • linkreport

Changing the height limit has two major political problems, one technical, one cultural.

One might expect that affluent (or at least homeowning) older residents, the ones with the greatest stake in the status quo, might oppose change, while younger folks would less so - and that the working class african american pop, impacted by gentrification, would favor change for the economic reasons we have discussed so often (and which I will not rehash).

However the african american pop as far as I can tell, is not framing this as "demand" (drawing people into the city and creating displacement) vs "supply" (finding places to put the new people with less displacement) so much as they are framing it as "change". Change - more white people, more affluent people, bike lanes, frozen yogurt, charter schools, tall buildings. And are skeptical that some changes actually counteract other changes. To some extent this is the natural reaction of people legitimately threatened by some aspects of change - and to some extent its been encouraged by some "leaders" http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/looselips/2013/12/16/mayoral-candidates-pitch-themselves-at-emergency-meeting-on-gentrification/

The technical problem is the discussion of buildout. Its very difficult to explain, even to college educated folks, the costs of the height limit that occur even before build out. Its much easier to explain the costs when build out is reached. But build out is not imminent, and there is no sense of its tangible, physical presence. To make the case that its coming within the lifetime of people now walking the streets of DC, requires a build out analysis. And OP's build out analysis was cursory. Perhaps understandably so, but still too cursory to serve as the base for the case for change.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 18, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

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