Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Bike hassles


Photo by Kurt Carroll on Flickr.
Don't bike to the Capitol?: It's now against the rules to park a bike at the Capitol, even on bike racks, without a permit. Capitol Police say they won't enforce the new rules against visitors, but that could change. (Roll Call)

No share for bike shops: Some bike shops near Citibike stations in New York saw bike sales and repair services drop. Some still hope for the positive returns DC shops saw after Capital Bikeshare's opening. (Bloomberg)

Bye-bye bike lane: San Antonio will use half its bike lane budget to remove a popular bike lane after drivers complained of traffic. The city council voted 10-1 to remove it despite traffic studies that found no measurable delays. ... Nationwide, younger people are more supportive of cycletracks. (Streetsblog)

Shrinking units, steady demand: New class A apartments in DC have gotten 14% smaller since 2000. Individual units are smaller and more are studios or one-bedrooms. It's unclear what this means for affordability. (UrbanTurf)

Connecting counties: Maryland will study a transit connection along MD-5 and US-301 between Branch Avenue in Prince George's and Waldorf in Charles County. The line could be Bus Rapid Transit or light rail. (Post)

Speed camera revenue slows down: Speed camera revenue has declined in several Maryland cities as people drive slower (at least past the cameras). Some cameras no longer cover their costs. This is hurting city budgets but is good for safety. (Post)

MARC's map is "slipshod" and "ugly": Cameroon Booth, the transit map expert whose Metrorail map won GGW's map contest in 2011, says MARC's map is "slipshod work with an ugly result," and awards it only 1 star out of 5. (Transit Maps)

And...: Summer art performances began at Metro stations on Monday. (WTOP) ... DC is the third best US city for working women, who earn earning 90.6% as much as men. (WBJ) ... A Google tool can warn you when your transit stop is approaching. (WBJ)

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Kelli Lafferty works as a federal contractor on various projects in transportation planning and management. She loves all things cities, public transit, and rail. She lives in Navy Yard. 

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As I keep on saying we are overbuilding 1BR and studios (and to an extent, 2BR for room mates) and not enough SFH and larger condos.

(And it isn't the height limit, it is financing)

It is interesting how much hate Citi bike gets (I saw at least 5 "Shitty bike" stickers in NYC this weekend) vs CABI. The corporate branding doesn't help, and I think long time bikers in NYC don't like sharing the road with newbies.

by charlie on Jun 10, 2014 9:01 am • linkreport

"As I keep on saying we are overbuilding 1BR and studios (and to an extent, 2BR for room mates) and not enough SFH and larger condos. "

There are units with 3 BRs, 2BR + den, and there are rowhouses and detached SFHs. these are inhabited by A. Non roommate groups - families, space loving singles, etc B. Roommate groups who prefer to live with roommates C. Roommate groups who would rather live alone in small units but find that too expensive. As long as there are significant number in C, it seems very difficult to beleive that the market is failing by providing more small units.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 9:05 am • linkreport

Re the bikes at the Capitol article... when will people say no to security theater in DC? Over the past decade, we've seen public spaces fenced off, access denied, ugly bollards set up and all sorts of unnecessary restrictions established by petty officialdom. And now you can't even lock your bike up at the Capitol? This is intolerable. Our representatives work for us. We have a right to visit the Capitol by bike.

by Joe Flood on Jun 10, 2014 9:08 am • linkreport

Why are new constructions on rowhomes so rare, both in DC and Northern VA (in Arlington and Alexandria). And when they do, why are they those ugly suburban "townhouse" style houses as opposed to more bona fide rowhomes?

by question on Jun 10, 2014 9:09 am • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity; the "market" isn't failing. It is building units in the DC area for people who have the money to live in them.

But developers aren't building for the next owners, and for the generations. That is why we are overbuilding.

Rather like what happened in Arlington, where that post war garden apartment phase ended.

I'd agree that because of problems fincing, if you are building a small condo (under 20 units) it makes little sense to build a larger unit. The ones on 12th for instance have been on the market for a year (1.5M for a 3 or 4BR condo)

by charlie on Jun 10, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

New class A apartments in DC have gotten 14% smaller since 2000. Individual units are smaller and more are studios or one-bedrooms. It's unclear what this means for affordability.

I don't think it'll ever be "clear" because it is a very complicated issues, but in the short-term, at least, it's probably not a 'good' thing for affordability.

Studios and 1BRs are targeted toward singles and childless couples. These groups are typically younger and do not have the hefty expense of children. As a result, they are able to spend a much larger portion of their income on housing. They also generally speaking don't have to worry about the state of the public schools in their chosen area, which means they place more of a value on location (which also drives prices up - location, location, location).

This creates overall upward pressure on prices in and around those areas. Since, as was mentioned, larger units can be subdivided (legally or illegally) to fit more people, those units end up being in both markets - the single and childless couple market and the family housing market. The inflationary pressures of the former drive up prices for the latter, who are not able to keep up because they cannot put aside as much of their income toward housing, due to the cost of raising children.

Once you add in the fact that early and repeated childbirth is both a symptom and a continuing factor in the perpetuation of cyclical poverty, and you can see how this can have particularly adverse consequences for affordability as you start moving down the income scale.

But, of course, supply and demand do have their effect as well, so the domino effect of added supply does eventually lead to lower prices. In the exurbs and remoter suburbs, where reporters go to file their monthly quota of "suburbanization of poverty" stories.

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 9:17 am • linkreport

question

A. because land is so scarce. You can only put so many townhomes on a lot. And many of the places where apts would be excluded by zoning, and where lack of transit makes apts less marketable, are also places where existing SFHs are protected by zoning. The places where THs are allowed are typically the places where apts make more economic sense. That said there are a bunch of new THs I can think of in Potomac Yards in Alex for example, and I think some off Col Pike in Arlington. But they are priced high.

B. My impression was that many of the newer THs in urbanist areas - like the Potomac Yards development in Alex, Mosaic district in FFX, Arts District Hyattsville, do look like urban rowhomes. Historically suburban townhomes were built differently to accommodate preferences for easier parking, more end of group homes, and a more "rustic" feel.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 9:19 am • linkreport

"The inflationary pressures of the former drive up prices for the latter"

HOw does the existence of childless people moving into small units create inflationary pressures on the large units (excluding situations where large units are actually torn down to create smaller units)???

That doesn't make sense. Its more likely that, ceteris paribis, the small units relieve demand by roommate groups for group homes, and make the large homes more affordable to families.

The issue is the ceteris paribis - the notion that somehow luxury apts lead to gentrification which draws many more childless people to houses they wouldnt have considered. In addition to that not generally being how DC neighborhoods have gentrified (with often childless urban pioneers in row houses moving in first) its at most a suggestion that the units will create affordability problems in a given neighborhood. They will still drain demand from other neighborhoos. At one extreme, its possible they will only pull people out of far flung suburbs. Thats true to some degree, but I also think they pull demand out of older class B and class C hirises in the inner and middle suburbs. Those can then go from being homes to priced out, financially strapped yuppies, to being affordable housing for working class people.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 9:25 am • linkreport

A Google tool can warn you when your transit stop is approaching

The iPhone has geo-located-based alerts, too.

by recyclist on Jun 10, 2014 9:41 am • linkreport

@ charlie (&others):As I keep on saying we are overbuilding 1BR and studios (and to an extent, 2BR for room mates) and not enough SFH and larger condos.

Not sure the issue is the size. The issue is that all new things built are 'luxury' apartments and condos, aimed at high-income people. The problem is that there is a massive lack of places for people with a average or median income. So, gut the huge entry atriums, pools, party rooms and huge gyms, and build something an average federal employee can afford live in (with her family).

by Jasper on Jun 10, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

HOw does the existence of childless people moving into small units create inflationary pressures on the large units (excluding situations where large units are actually torn down to create smaller units)???

Roommates and subletting. Usually legally, sometimes not. Can't tell you how many fake walls/partitions I've seen go up as 2BRs get turned into 3 and 4 BRs. Pretty sure like 50% of The Brandywine has been converted in this way.

That doesn't make sense. Its more likely that, ceteris paribis, the small units relieve demand by roommate groups for group homes, and make the large homes more affordable to families.

That might be the case locally if it weren't for induced demand drawing ever-greater numbers of said "roommate groups" into the more urban and trendier areas. As it is, large homes ARE being made more affordable to families - out in Prince William and Frederick, where property values are rolling downhill. And somewhat in the more remote parts of Fairfax, Loudoun, Howard, etc. But not in DC or Arlington or urban Fairfax/MoCo.

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 9:51 am • linkreport

@Dizzy
By the time buildings with small units are being built in any area, the train has already left the station - transition/gentrification of the neighborhood is in full effect. So I'm not sure "induced demand" is created by those new buildings with smaller units. More likely it's just that neighborhoods transition because they are proximate to other transitioned neighborhoods - roommate groups moving into residences previously occupied by families is one of the first things to happen. What exactly can be done about that?

by MLD on Jun 10, 2014 9:58 am • linkreport

The San Antonio story is disappointingly similar to Wisconsin Avenue.

- Board members talk a big game about safety/sustainability and mandate that city departments do what they can to acheive this.

- City departments do what they're asked and implement projects collect data.

- Project is unveiled and people complain, elected officials then immediately ignore all the stuff they said before AND don't even bother with contrary evidence that says the complaints are unfounded and just appease those complaining about something elected officials have explicitly said isn't going to be the focus of planning anymore.

- In the end, elected officials break their own promises and promote waste by making departments backtrack on plans that they were asked for.

by drumz on Jun 10, 2014 10:01 am • linkreport

@Dizzy; correct. Business cycle at work whether you want it or not.

by charlie on Jun 10, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

Half of the problem getting in and out of Waldorf arose because of the colossally stupid recent developments near Brandywine ("PG County's middle finger to Southern Maryland").

Here's a map:

https://goo.gl/maps/Xnp1J

Just above the 301/5 split, there's a Four-Corners-like double stoplight. This bottleneck has been there forever. It was a bottleneck in the 80s, when Southern Maryland's population was a fraction of today's. For whatever reason, when they turned all the other Rte. 5 stoplights into overpasses in the 1990s, they left this one untouched

Then, the geniuses in PG greenlit two massive 150+ home developments on the west side of the highway, with two- and three-car garages... without doing anything about the double-stoplight.

Worse, the southernmost development has just a single collector road, which empties onto the highway... wait for it... at exactly the same intersection necessitated by the huge big-box mall THAT THEY PUT ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY FROM ALL THE HOUSES.

Ever single person involved in this traffic disaster ought to be facing capital punishment.

Just kidding. But only mostly.

by JayTee on Jun 10, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

@ Jasper

New units will always be built to get the most profit. Fortunately, people who want to pay extra can live in the new units, keeping demand lower for the average federal employee who wants to save money by living in older units in Glover Park or Arlington--i.e. Dominion Arms.

Average income = average housing. High income = new luxury housing.

by Administrator on Jun 10, 2014 10:11 am • linkreport

The challenge with Waldorf/St. Charles will be getting the neighborhoods a good connection to stations on 301. Those neighborhoods are some of the worst examples of suburban streets that make you take huge detours to actually get to a road that goes anywhere.

The study should specifically look at places where a bus only lane could be put in as a shortcut to actually help transit circulate to the stations/commercial areas.

by drumz on Jun 10, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

"As it is, large homes ARE being made more affordable to families - out in Prince William and Frederick, where property values are rolling downhill. And somewhat in the more remote parts of Fairfax, Loudoun, Howard, etc. But not in DC or Arlington or urban Fairfax/MoCo."

A. actually IIUC prices in PWC have been recovering from their crash lows. Not familiar with Frederick Co. But if that is happening, it would be improving regional affordability.

B. I think by dividing everything into sprawl at the edge, and new urbanist units, you are missing the large numbers of cheaper older multifamily units in places like Fairfax and MoCo - both inside the beltway, and within a few miles outside the beltway - both hirise and low rise. The low rise units, typicaly 50 to 60 years old now, are now the principle net between housing and homelessness for the poorest - immigrant day laborers who typically work less than 40 hours a week, and have limited access to the social safety net. To afford them, they squeeze in at densities per room that violate code - codes that cannot be enforced without creating a major social problem of homelessness, and perhaps violence. To me relieving the price pressure at that level is something worthwhile for the region.

C. I still do not think that increasing units in the urbanist places will never bring down the prices of urbanist units. The unmet demand for WUPs is real, but far from infinite. Some people LIKE living autocentric lives in sprawly environs. I think the demand for WUPs is more price inelastic than you allow for - IE at some point an increase in supply will NOT be met by more people moving in.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 10:16 am • linkreport

"Roommates and subletting. Usually legally, sometimes not. Can't tell you how many fake walls/partitions I've seen go up as 2BRs get turned into 3 and 4 BRs. Pretty sure like 50% of The Brandywine has been converted in this way."

thats caused by the childless moving into the large units, not by them moving into new small units.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

@MLD

By the time buildings with small units are being built in any area, the train has already left the station - transition/gentrification of the neighborhood is in full effect. So I'm not sure "induced demand" is created by those new buildings with smaller units.

Sure... but gentrification has a velocity. The more luxury buildings full of studios and 1 BRs you add, the faster it happens. You're inducing demand for those new units both through the fact of their their existence (new unit in trendy central area!) and because of the progressive 'critical mass effect' (you're no longer gonna be the only white girl walking around with her yoga mat getting stared at! Now it's 50% yuppies!)

More likely it's just that neighborhoods transition because they are proximate to other transitioned neighborhoods - roommate groups moving into residences previously occupied by families is one of the first things to happen.

That absolutely happens as well.

What exactly can be done about that?

That's the $64 billion question, isn't it.

Beats me. Build more transit, build more infill development at existing transit, densify, try to find ways to desegregate our school system (and the residential segregation that causes/continues/is continued by it). If I knew how, I wouldn't be spending my days posting on this board ;)

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

" The more luxury buildings full of studios and 1 BRs you add, the faster it happens. You're inducing demand for those new units both through the fact of their their existence (new unit in trendy central area!)"

Induced demand happens only BECAUSE prices are depressed to the point that the units become desirable for people who couldnt afford to move to new units in a trendy area before. At worst its 100%. But its not likely to be. Just as most empirical research shows additional lanes do net get 100% induced demand. They get enough to question the benefit costs of unpriced highway expansion. Fortunately new luxury apts are not provided free, as highway lanes traditionally have been.

" and because of the progressive 'critical mass effect' (you're no longer gonna be the only white girl walking around with her yoga mat getting stared at! Now it's 50% yuppies!)"

Except that critical mass effect typically is much more driven by the renovation of row houses than by apt buildings. Though it varies by neighborhood, and by the percentage of yuppies desired.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 10:23 am • linkreport

The Capitol Police are already quite skilled at making life hell for cyclists. I've lost track of how many times they have ordered me off of the road and onto the sidewalk. Who cares if I hit a tourist or even a Congressional staffer? Just stay away from our precious bollards.

by Tom Veil on Jun 10, 2014 10:24 am • linkreport

There are also a number of homes (relatively speaking, given how absurdly tight the housing market is right now) available to families in places like Hyattsville, Mt. Rainier, Chillum, and, yes, East of the River right here in DC.

by Birdie on Jun 10, 2014 10:26 am • linkreport

@AWITC

A. actually IIUC prices in PWC have been recovering from their crash lows. Not familiar with Frederick Co. But if that is happening, it would be improving regional affordability.

Sure. Population growth continues, increasing demand. Overall, though, the trendlines are clear.

B. I think by dividing everything into sprawl at the edge, and new urbanist units, you are missing the large numbers of cheaper older multifamily units in places like Fairfax and MoCo - both inside the beltway, and within a few miles outside the beltway - both hirise and low rise...

Yea, I don't mean to ignore these units, and your point B is a good point. By definition, though, we're not creating more of this type of housing, and conversion of existing housing stock into this category gets labeled "blight" so it is a problematic category.

C. I still do not think that increasing units in the urbanist places will never bring down the prices of urbanist units. The unmet demand for WUPs is real, but far from infinite. Some people LIKE living autocentric lives in sprawly environs. I think the demand for WUPs is more price inelastic than you allow for - IE at some point an increase in supply will NOT be met by more people moving in.

There is such a saturation point, sure. But at long as metro DC is one of only a few areas in the country where that housing is being built, and metro DC is also one of the strongest economic areas in the country, we're not going to approach that point anytime soon. And that's before you get to the whole "housing as a place to park cash" issue that has disfigured the London housing market and has been starting to creep into DC as well.

thats caused by the childless moving into the large units, not by them moving into new small units.

Right, that's the induced demand piece. They want to live in the area but cannot afford the luxury efficiencies and 1 BRs, so they divide up the larger units. There is income variation among the single/BINK set as well.

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 10:35 am • linkreport

New class A apartments in DC have gotten 14% smaller since 2000.

Well, 14% isn't that much, and just to put a different spin on it:

- Demand for physical storage is falling. People more likely to have electronic libraries, and the need to turn over a significant space to books and electronic media collections is probably declining.

- Televisions, in particular, have shrunk to razor thin sizes are now hung on walls, further collapsing the need for space. Efficient, and more compact design including speakers, is common in electronics today.

Other reasons: There's seems to be a preference for "open concept," fewer walls and larger windows, which creates the illusion of larger space.

by kob on Jun 10, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

The issue I have with gentrification phobia is where you expect those people to go? Are we supposed to shuttle all new residents to the exurbs? If we don't build more housing doesnt that just increase pressure on existing stock? I've yet to hear a satisfying answer that doesn't involve making life in the city so unbearable people want to move out.

by BTA on Jun 10, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

"By definition, though, we're not creating more of this type of housing, and conversion of existing housing stock into this category gets labeled "blight" so it is a problematic category."

A. We are not creating more of it. But to the extent we limit the construction of new urbanist high end units, in any fashion, we tend to push some folks down the ladder - folks who might live in Navy Yard or Noma or Rosslyn go to newish units in Pentagon City or on Columbia Pike - folks who might live in newish units in Pentagon City or Col Pikego to renovated units in places like Park Center, or on Col Pike. People who might live in those places go to older buildings in Landmark or at Southern Towers. And the people who might live in Landmark or southern towers go to aging lowrise complexes, and must squeeze in, making the conditions even more substandard.

I do agree that if SFH owners in places near Southern Towers or Landmark (and their equivalents) realized that building density in places from NoMa to Tysons meant that the hirises near them would decrease in rent, they might oppose it. But thats a political consideration, and does not detract from the real benefit - and I think its a minor political consideration, as there aren't that many such SFH owners.

"There is such a saturation point, sure. But at long as metro DC is one of only a few areas in the country where that housing is being built, and metro DC is also one of the strongest economic areas in the country, we're not going to approach that point anytime soon. And that's before you get to the whole "housing as a place to park cash" issue that has disfigured the London housing market "
and has been starting to creep into DC as well."

I do not think building more units in DC will result in more people moving here than would be drawn by the labor market generally. So more units will reduce prices FROM WHAT THEY WOULD OTHERWISE be. And I have not heard that people are using DC as a place to park cash like London or NYC. If that does take place, its not hard to come up with policies to address it - tax the highest incomes or the most expensive units - the approach DeBlasio is taking in NYC. It cant lose - either those folks leave (problem solved!) or they stay (New tax revenue - universal pre-K!) or some combination.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

@Tom Veil, If I remember correctly (it's been a while since I was a bike commuter to the Hill)--they're concerned about those big metal plates that come up and down from the street (what are they called?). Apparently, for whatever reason (and I doubt they're right), that's considered a cyclist safety issue. Like, what would happen if it malfunctions and starts moving in the split second the cyclist is on it.

Pretty sure that was the deal. Or I just made that up. But...mostly confident in that memory.

Doesn't make it any bike friendlier or less annoying, but there *is* a reason for the madness.

by Catherine on Jun 10, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

"The issue I have with gentrification phobia is where you expect those people to go? "

Assuming neither gentrification NOR densification (I see them as subsitutes mre than compliments, but others disagree)

A. They will squeeze in more tightly and thus live more ecologically responsible lives (Tom Coumaris has made this poing)
B. They will move back to Omaha and St Paul (the new units induce movement to the metro area meme)
C. They will (indirectly via filtering) move to sprawl - who needs those greenbelts and rural zones! To hell with the planet!
D. They will (indirectly via filtering) crowd in at the bottom. 15 day laborers in a 3BR apt in a low rise? Whats not to love!

Clearly all four are possible, and all have different implications. And I think the assumptions that one or the other will take place are tied in with our personal views, driven by interests and ideology, of gentrification and densification.

I am very dubious there is much of b. I think we have a mix of A, C, and D.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 10:55 am • linkreport

I can't believe our tax dollars are paying people who think it's their job to ban bike parking from the Capitol. The goons at Lafayette Park and The Ellipse have been threatening (and confiscating) locked bikes for years (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mvjantzen/5442313565) These policy changes need to be debated in public before the "security" people implement them.

by M.V. Jantzen on Jun 10, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

@AWITC

Yea, I basically agree with all of that. As usual, I think we're mostly in 'violent agreement.' One item:

I do not think building more units in DC will result in more people moving here than would be drawn by the labor market generally.

I don't think this is entirely right, since the particular type of new population in central metro DC (lots of disposable income) itself expands the labor market for skilled and semi-skilled service industry jobs than in turn draws more people, especially those attracted to urbanism (the bartender/NGO-by-day-waitress-by-night set) or ethnic support enclaves (the Salvadorean/Honduran set). That wouldn't be happening (to as great of an extent) if the increase in population weren't specifically an increase in affluent population (and an accompanying decrease in poor population).

In other words: attractive places draw more people than they otherwise would!

The obvious response to that is: build more attractive places! But, of course, that's easier said than done for a number of reasons.

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

Im assuming that more high end yuppies in NoMa (as opposed to Pentagon City) means more bartenders making artisanal cocktails in NoMa as opposed to Pentagon city, more lower end yuppies in Pentagon City than in Shirlington means more locally sources salad places in Pentagon vs shirlington and so on down the line. So again, if the new luxury apt people are just destributed around the region (and not new to the region , then the same applies to the service workers they attract.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

I agree, but are they attracting new service workers or hiring the ones that already live here? Probably a mix of both. I suppose it would be an interesting study to interview employees of newly opened "yuppie" establishments and find out about their education, geographic, employment background.

by BTA on Jun 10, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

@AWITC

I don't think you can make that assumption, since people live/work/play in different areas and commercial/retail real estate are very different animals, subject to very different kinds of rules.

See, e.g. Big Bear Cafe: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2010/05/12/with-liquor-license-trailblazing-big-bear-runs-into-a-thicket/

Money "in hindsight..." quote in that article:

“They’re probably in line to come talk to the commission, ready to make this a whole new world,” said ANC chairwoman Anita Bonds. “Because that’s what this is about.”

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 11:28 am • linkreport

Dizzy, that article is something. Wow. Thanks for digging it up.

by Birdie on Jun 10, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

"@AWITC
I don't think you can make that assumption, since people live/work/play in different areas and commercial/retail real estate are very different animals, subject to very different kinds of rules."

Hmm? Make this simpler for me, Im just a dumb economist. So youre saying if we build fewer units in NoMa, and those yuppie filter down to Pentagon City instead, that changes their consumption patterns? The retail market in Pentagon city is not capable of generating places suitable to becoming artisanal cocktail bars? I mean I suppose thats possible, but I think its a stretch.

Seems to me, that service labor is a function of service volume, which is a function of income. So number of bartenders X = BT*AC*RY where RY is the number of rich yuppies, AC is the number of artisanal cocktails consumed per rich yuppie, and BT is bartenders per artisanal cocktail. I think its a stretch to think that BT or AC are changed by WHERE the RYs live within the region - whether its logan or noma or crystal city. Ergo, if the RY number FOR THE REGION is the same in a build new units scenario, vs a dont build new units scenario, then X - the number of bartenders - is the same also.

Where have I erred?

I think you keep sneaking in the idea (without overtly defending it. perhaps without realizing it) that somehow more units means more rich yuppies IN THE REGION (drawn from omaha or syracuse.)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 12:06 pm • linkreport

as for the article

"One small entity begets another small entity begets another small entity,” said Edward Jones, a neighbor who has lived at 1st and R Street since 1994. “And then we end up with the same issues that make you a U Street or an Adams Morgan.”"

I think its questionable that Bloomingdale can become a nightlife destination, rather than haveing neighborhood seving places. But suppose it could? Again that takes market share from somewhere else. Probably from other places in the District. But suppose not. Suppose it means more 20something white bartenders in DC as opposed to in Arlington or MoCo. COuld that be an issue for ANita Bonds? Sure. The distribution of different demographics by jurisdiciton matters to politicians.

but I thought this discussion was about the impact of new small units on affordability, not on CM Bonds' career. Which BTW, I think will be harmed by new market rate units period, whether they are small or large.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

Generally I'm pessimistic about voluntary conservation and think only $4 gas and $40/sq' rent creates real conservation.

But there are downsides to some small units that people need to admit. They are geared toward single people with high disposable incomes, which is the new population boom and provides much revenue for local businesses and local taxes.

But unlike NYC where people stay put in apts for years, mobility is greater in DC and I think average apt. tenancy is 1 year. This is especially true in buildings with very small units. They become little more than long-term hotels. The tenants rarely vote in local elections, if they even register here, and rarely get locally involved. This isn't prejudice, it's obvious from voter records.

So while I think Americans need to learn to live in much smaller sq footage, we need to not overbuild transient housing in established neighborhoods to the extent that it diminishes the sense of community in a neighborhood.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 10, 2014 12:45 pm • linkreport

@ Tom Coumaris; well said.

But that is part of the plan -- get them to come in for a year, tax them, and don't spend money on them either.

by charlie on Jun 10, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

In hindsight? Seems like the ANCs were all of the impression that giving Big Bear a liquor license would make Bloomingdale the "Next Adams Morgan." Which of course as we all know is exactly what happened, right? Oh wait.

Back to the topic at hand.

The obvious response to that is: build more attractive places! But, of course, that's easier said than done for a number of reasons.

If this is your conclusion (and I think it's the right conclusion) then I don't really understand your initial negative response to building more housing.

by MLD on Jun 10, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

"Generally I'm pessimistic about voluntary conservation and think only $4 gas and $40/sq' rent creates real conservation. "

$4 per gallon gas is only a bit over 10% over the current average price. $40/sq ft rent is MUCH higher than regional average (and if the real concern is conservation, and not enriching the owners of legacy rental properties, one must look at the rent across the region, not the rent in DC only, or in select parts of DC only.) I have no doubt that pricing carbon would bring us to higher than $4 a gallon gas, and a range of price induced conservation measures, much faster than it would lead to the level of housing shrinkage envisioned here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

"If this is your conclusion (and I think it's the right conclusion) then I don't really understand your initial negative response to building more housing."

I don't get it either.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

But unlike NYC where people stay put in apts for years, mobility is greater in DC and I think average apt. tenancy is 1 year. This is especially true in buildings with very small units. They become little more than long-term hotels.

This is all speculation and based on bias, not any sort of real data.

I think if you compared just DC to itself you might find that people move more often in the group house/individual rental market because it is cheaper to move. Apartment buildings have tons of fees for move-in and move-out that add to the cost of moving. Moving every year is costly and a hassle - if you have your own place that's more stable than a roommate or individual rental situation where your roommates' or the owners' situation may change.

If people move less often in NYC than DC it is probably due in large part to RENT CONTROL in NYC.

by MLD on Jun 10, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

Also, I love how studios or one-bedrooms in big buildings are "transient" housing and somehow oh so very different from allowing 4 units in a 2,000 square foot house or going up to Parisian-style density (plenty of young people live in 250 square feet there).

by MLD on Jun 10, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

DC has a transient population because of the nature of the job market, not the nature of the housing market.

by alurin on Jun 10, 2014 1:34 pm • linkreport

alurin That is so true.

by asffa on Jun 10, 2014 1:40 pm • linkreport

But developers aren't building for the next owners, and for the generations. That is why we are overbuilding.

But that is part of the plan -- get them to come in for a year, tax them, and don't spend money on them either.

_________________________

I've been saying a version of this for the last six years, good to have some well-spoken company! --> definitely NOT building for the generations.

by Jazzy on Jun 10, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

Developers of rentals are building for several years, because they want the rent streams. developers of condos will build for the first owners, but things that impair future resale will impede that first sale.

Given that the metro area has close to 6 million people, is likely to continue to grow in the future along with the rest of the country, and how few units are in WUPs now, I am very skeptical that the current rate of construction represents overbuilding from a long term POV (though we may well get some short term fluctuations in how much gets built)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

So while I think Americans need to learn to live in much smaller sq footage, we need to not overbuild transient housing in established neighborhoods to the extent that it diminishes the sense of community in a neighborhood.

A huge reason that people in DC are so "transient" is because rents are so high and that forces people to move after a short while.

I like my job and love the DC area but it's been hard staying in one place for too long because rents rise and its expensive to own as well.

Being "transient" is not a moral failing.

by drumz on Jun 10, 2014 2:06 pm • linkreport

I hear where you are coming from drumz, but that that might be open to debate. No individual ought to be compelled to stay for staying's sake, but to transform a formerly stable neighborhood to a transient one, yes, I think then at the very least, the debate is opened.

Additionally, transience does not bode well for community development and strength, and there may be a few out there who still quaintly care about such things.

by Jazzy on Jun 10, 2014 2:26 pm • linkreport

but to transform a formerly stable neighborhood to a transient one,

Well, there needs to be evidence that is happening (at least at a higher rate than there is before) and there needs to be proof of harm.

That's a pretty nebulous standard and "harm" in particular seems dependent on a person's values. That doesn't seem like a great basis for a policy that would restrict new housing.

Additionally, transience does not bode well for community development and strength,

Again, what's the actual evidence of harm? Prices may rise but that's possible without new housing, and businesses may change but again, that's just as, or more dependent on other variables than new housing.

And to me, sheltering people should be a bigger concern than neighborhood cohesiveness (however that's defined, but often spoken about in a context that is in support of measures that would support exlusionary zoning).

tl;dr, sure those things are important but probably not as important but probably not more important than providing good places to live.

by drumz on Jun 10, 2014 2:49 pm • linkreport

...and if there is potential harm then surely we can find ways to create new housing that addresses this (i.e. form based codes, affordable housing set asides, TDM, etc.).

by drumz on Jun 10, 2014 2:52 pm • linkreport

The assumptions of a healthy economy and housing market are subject to change. Federal employment is stagnant and contractor employment has declined. there's also been consolidation in the legal sector and there may be more in the future. i wouldn't be suprised to see the beginning of a soft landing through much of teh metro area in the next year or so. DC could begin to attract some of the outside money that makes places like Vancouver and Manhattan out of reach which would mitigate this kind of drop, but I haven't seen any evidence of this. We would need a sharp contraction, though, for prices to drop more than they did c. 2006 (abt 10-15%).

Markets are complicated and I have yet to see a good example of where simply building more brings down prices locally (the tiny drop someone cited a couple week ago in SW probably represented measurement error, esp given the small size of SW relative to elsewhere). That was part of the argument for phasing out rent control (the market would take up the slack) and yet prices have steadily risen over time, making some places very unaffordable. there are limits to size---the expensive parts of a condo/apt--the plumbing, appliances, etc. limit how cheap a a really small unit can be. There also are practical limits on the size of bathrooms and, to a lesser extent, kitchens and people now expect dishwashers and washer/dryers that add space. The idea that electronic collections somehow allow people to live in much smaller spaces is problematic--people collect lost of stuff that can't be stored electronically and after a certain point they don't want to live like a college student.

by Rich on Jun 10, 2014 2:58 pm • linkreport

And to me, sheltering people should be a bigger concern than neighborhood cohesiveness.

Gotta be careful about this. A lot of the negative impact of Urban Renewal was how it broke up community links. Likewise with gentrification.

It's not a justification for preserving fossilized zoning, but there may be ways to offset changes. Mixed-use neighborhoods are a great way to find balance, with "transient" residents and long-timers coexisting in different housing types and ownership structures.

Arguably, exclusionary zoning makes the shocks much more severe; Williamsburg, BK underwent huge changes when a very appropriate, but long-delayed rezoning happened. Could have been phased in, but there was no regulatory tool for that.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 10, 2014 3:08 pm • linkreport

"Markets are complicated and I have yet to see a good example of where simply building more brings down prices locally "

as long as we have continued net inflation, declines in real prices will tend to be masked by that and not show up as decreases in nominal rents. And it will never be simply building more, as so many things are going in - including fluctuations in a cyclical market. So during upswings supply will chase demand and prices will rise, while during downswings the declines will be attributed to the overbuilding and the cyclical decline in demand, not to the markets equilibrating through increased supply.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

@MLD & AWITC

"If this is your conclusion (and I think it's the right conclusion) then I don't really understand your initial negative response to building more housing."

I'm not opposed to building more housing - quite the opposite. My response detailed why I don't think building lots of luxury studios/efficiencies/1 BRs will be 'good' for affordability. One can be for adding housing/density while recognizing that it may have some negative impacts. Localized gentrification can be one of them.

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

Gotta be careful about this. A lot of the negative impact of Urban Renewal was how it broke up community links. Likewise with gentrification.

Totally, but then again in SW you've got people pushing back against redeveloping that in favor of preserving the community that was created.

That's not to say we shouldn't care what building's look like or how the land should be used but that those tools (zoning) is inadequate at solving that particular problem. Especially when we normally rely on private property rights to provide housing while worrying about the community at large.

I view all of that as positive but I can see how someone can see it as negative. I just want some examples that would make me consider how to mitigate them.

Affordability or transportation are issues that can be solved (somewhat) by good planning, "transience" is a bit harder to tackle and probably best handled by something else (a more robust social safety net perhaps).

by drumz on Jun 10, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

The rules that ban the bikes on Capitol Hill also ban other fun things...including kite flying.

Kite flying?

Wasn't that something the Taliban banned?

Do you see a trend developing here?

by BikingMom on Jun 10, 2014 3:36 pm • linkreport

I think its a stretch to think that BT or AC are changed by WHERE the RYs live within the region - whether its logan or noma or crystal city. Ergo, if the RY number FOR THE REGION is the same in a build new units scenario, vs a dont build new units scenario, then X - the number of bartenders - is the same also.

Where have I erred?

New luxury developments frequently include ground-level restaurant space. You're increasing the number of well-positioned establishments in the region - and, thanks to the clustering effect, also making nearby spaces more attractive to similar establishments.

I think you keep sneaking in the idea (without overtly defending it. perhaps without realizing it) that somehow more units means more rich yuppies IN THE REGION (drawn from omaha or syracuse.)

My broad defense is: people want to live in attractive places. If inner metro DC continues to grow in reputation as an attractive place to be a young person with money, an urbanist, a bohemian, etc. that will result in a net increase of yuppies and other high-disposable-income groups in the region.

We're getting to the near-metaphysical level of "scene" here, though. Localized scenes are probably stronger and more evident/mutually reinforcing. More yuppies within striking distance of U Street = more yuppie-serving establishments, and vice versa. And then it spills over down 14th Street. Etc.

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 3:37 pm • linkreport

The question is though does redevelopment of 14th st prevent instead gentrification that would have happened in Hyattsville? While obviously more growth downtown attracts more jobs, I don't buy that it is such a snow ball effect and that all of these jobs are going to new arrivals. Surely some people would have stayed in Wheeling or Topeka, but for the most part DC is part of a national/global economy and these high priced "yuppie" jobs are products of forces far beyond neighborhood economics. I find it far more likely that most of the gentrification of DC neighborhoods is an alternative to further sprawl and gentrification of affordable areas still in the suburbs. Few major city in the US has not seen some growth in the past two decades. To some extent it's an unavoidable sociodemographic trend so blaming it all on hot new neighborhoods frankly puzzles me unless you're hoping DC can become the next Detroit.

by BTA on Jun 10, 2014 3:52 pm • linkreport

"If inner metro DC continues to grow in reputation as an attractive place to be a young person with money, an urbanist, a bohemian, etc. that will result in a net increase of yuppies and other high-disposable-income groups in the region."

Okay, thats coherent. its the "we will get more young people from Omaha and St Paul because we will be as cool as Brooklyn, and then, because we have so many cool young would be employees, the jobs will follow"

its coherent I just don't think its true. I don't think employers follow their labor pools to that extent. Maybe to a place like Portland, where coolness (combined with a low cost of living) make the labor pool not only wide, but cheap. Certainly we have not seen that yet in the DC area, where the growth in employment has been almost entirely
driven by the existence of the national capital here. The only exception, arguably, is SOME of the jobs in the NoVa tech corridor, though even there factors other than the labor pool are at work. Its conceivable we could make housing cheap enough that we got a labor pool thats cheaper - but even I think thats going to be fantastically difficult to achieve.

So most of the folks who come here to be cool, to the extent they come in numbers larger than would have come anyway drawn by the jobs, will end up unemployed, and will not stay long.

tl;dr

Nah, new buildings with new retail making DC cool ain't gonna draw close to enough new people to the region to offset the supply effect.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 3:54 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

I don't think employers follow their labor pools to that extent.

Depends on the employers. I think there are a lot more bar/restaurant/high-end retail jobs than there were before the greatest urbanist renaissance of DC. Some of those are filled by people drawn to the area because they knew there was work in those fields to be had.

I don't think it's controversial to say that increased population, density, and disposal income in an area generates new jobs that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

Nah, new buildings with new retail making DC cool ain't gonna draw close to enough new people to the region to offset the supply effect.

Regionally, no, probably not. Locally, it very well might. And affordability is, of course, a local concern as well as a regional one (and gentrification is most specifically a local concern).

by Dizzy on Jun 10, 2014 4:00 pm • linkreport

"Depends on the employers. I think there are a lot more bar/restaurant/high-end retail jobs than there were before the greatest urbanist renaissance of DC. Some of those are filled by people drawn to the area because they knew there was work in those fields to be had.

I don't think it's controversial to say that increased population, density, and disposal income in an area generates new jobs that wouldn't have been there otherwise."

no, its not. but thats not what i meant. Yes folks who wait table, run stores, tend bar (and also, btw, who sell real estate, practice medicine, etc) service new residents with other jobs. but THOSE new residends with other jobs are here because - govt - lobbying - international financial institutions - think tanks - etc, etc. The number of the latter is exogenous and independent of the supply of housing, and the number of the former - the bartenders, etc is dependent on the number of the latter, and is therefore ALSO independent of the amount of housing.

The jobs that might be drawn due to coolness are NOT the bartender jobs, but say jobs at a firm like living social, here because of coolness and a labor force that came for coolness. But I dont see a lot of that happening in greater DC.

"Regionally, no, probably not. Locally, it very well might. And affordability is, of course, a local concern as well as a regional one (and gentrification is most specifically a local concern)."

Ah, I agree then. I thought the UT post was about regional affordability mostly. Note well I am skeptical of the argument even at the local level (I really think gentrification is driven more by next neighborhood over effects and than by the presence of apartment buildings - thats the pattern Ive seen in DC over more than 25 years - I think folks who have come here recently and are focused on the events of the last 10 years tend to miss that)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

I don't see how luxury apartments are inducing demand among bar tenders and waiters who probably can't afford to pay high rents? There is surely induced demand but it's among a much higher income bracket crowd that can say pick and choose which law firm or tech company they are working for. They're mostly coming to DC for jobs. Not sure what the average demographic is here, but most people I know are either locals that stay, people who moved here for work/education, or virginians/marylanders for whom DC was the closest/best fit for an urban area to live. Surely there are some people who come here and look for work or narrow their job searches to DC but if anything I've heard a lot of people who said they would prefer to live elsewhere and moved here due to career opportunities. If we want to tackle affordability, I just can't imagine how not increasing the regional housing suplly is going to help.

by BTA on Jun 10, 2014 4:36 pm • linkreport

I don't believe there's a relationship between transience and community cohesion. Universities are full of transient students yet university communities are incredibly cohesive and the relationships formed often last a lifetime. Similar thing with transient interns on Cap Hill. The old page program was a legendary alumni network and an incredibly tightnit community.

Cohesion has more to do with having things in common and having common memorable experiences (even if brief) than longevity. That explains the sudden sense of community in NYC after 9/11.

by Falls Church on Jun 10, 2014 5:32 pm • linkreport

Well sure, but there are no jobs at Living Social anymore.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 10, 2014 5:56 pm • linkreport

I don't have a link to the exact residency rate in DC, but it is pretty rapid turnover. I remember seeing something about the average tenancy being 1 year between moves which seems way too rapid. I would think it's more like 3 years.

We went through the whole issue of apartment buildings being turned into hotels years ago and decided to make that very hard. Some areas have turnover rates that are greater than long-term stay hotels but significantly lower than the normal residency. I think we could all agree that a neighborhood of nothing but hotels wouldn't be enjoyable so the issue is how much residency and civic involvement we think is minimum.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 10, 2014 9:04 pm • linkreport

I think we could all agree that a neighborhood of nothing but hotels wouldn't be enjoyable so the issue is how much residency and civic involvement we think is minimum.

Well if that were a possibility I'm sure there would be reason to worry.

Meanwhile, it is near impossible to be civically involved in a neighborhood that you're prevented from living because of neighbors who object to anything new because of "transience".

by Drumz on Jun 10, 2014 9:12 pm • linkreport

I'm going to start cutting and pasting this: no, DC is not a notably transient city, not according to the ACS data.

by David R. on Jun 10, 2014 10:42 pm • linkreport

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