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Breakfast links: Not easy being green


Photo by Editor B.
More soccer please: Pick-up soccer games are getting squeezed out as vacant lots become developed, DC tightens permit requirements for athletic fields, and NPS fences off more spaces. The Urban Soccer Initiative is pushing for more spaces for soccer, particularly for the city's Latino communities where pick-up soccer is common and usually informal, unlike organized softball leagues. (Post, Gavin Baker)

Latest delinquent landlord in Shaw: NPS: The National Park Service is neglecting several properties in Shaw, which have become "magnets for vagrancy, trash, and criminal activity." NPS says that they have to take their time to develop detailed management plans before they can do anything, and may start doing something in 2012. (City Desk)

Another suburban office building is "greenest": It's right off I-270, nowhere near Metro, in an auto-dependent area. It's set far back from the street with a large, blank wall. It's Maryland's greenest office building, thanks to its recycled denim insulation, use of wind energy, and more. It's just another example of how the LEED green building rating system rewards energy-saving practices but doesn't encompass all of the environmental impacts of buildings. (Post)

Even energy-saving features sometimes don't: The huge windows of many new buildings bring in a lot of light, but aren't that energy-efficient. And many LEED-rated buildings turn not not to save as much energy as the designs predict. (Times, BeatusEst)

USPS assumes customers drive: The US Postal Service decided not to close the Derwood post office because the nearest station was too far away. But it still wants to close post offices in Friendship Heights and downtown Silver Spring, which have no alternatives easily accessible without a car. (Post)

Walking is Green(belt): The Gazette profiles Greenbelt through a Walk Score lens, finding that some parts of Greenbelt are very walkable while others are not at all. The town's core was designed to be walkable, with separated walkways and underpasses and stores located close to homes.

Yellow over Green: A group of Baltimore leaders wants to raise the priority of a Yellow Line extension to Columbia, moving it ahead of a Metro subway (Green Line) extension east of Johns Hopkins Hospital. For more on these and other Baltimore transit plans, check out our Greater Baltimore & Washington Transit Future Version 2. (Baltimore Sun)

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David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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(Please feel free to delete this same comment that I posted in the blog entry just after this one, since it does not really fit there.)

A pedestrian who was jogging was struck by a Metro bus today a bit before 9 a.m. She had the light and was crossing Florida Avenue at Connecticut. After the bus hit her, she flew several feet into the air and landed several feet away. According to a witness, she was moaning. An ambulance arrived about 2 minutes later.

One witness says the bus was going about 30 MPH but I have no way of verifying that.

by Jazzy on Sep 3, 2009 9:39 am • linkreport

We need performance field use. Soccer fields are no different than parking spaces--demand exceeds supply, so we should use price to ration it. That's what permits are for.

by ah on Sep 3, 2009 9:43 am • linkreport

The LEED rating system has several flaws, but to say that it doesn't encompass all of the aspects that make a building green is false. There is an entire category of credits dedicated to site location in the rating system, including transit accessibility, community connectivity and density. This building obviously did not earn many of those credits but managed to make up for that by achieving many credits from other aspects of the LEED rating system.

by Sean on Sep 3, 2009 9:55 am • linkreport

Lighting is realitivly cheap. HVAC is the expensive part. Glass has a much lower R value than other insulation alternatives.

by RJ on Sep 3, 2009 9:55 am • linkreport

You might want to edit the Post Office blurb, the Silver Spring office being closed is a 1/4 mile from another post office. It's a little further from the core of the CBD, but it's all of 3 blocks from the one being closed. The office remaining is a full fledged post office with better hours as well. It's a straight shot up 2nd Avenue, with sidewalks the whole way, and signalized intersections.

by Brian D on Sep 3, 2009 9:57 am • linkreport

Umm, and the Bethesda post-office is one metro stop or an 8 minute bus ride on the RideOn 34 away.

by HM on Sep 3, 2009 10:02 am • linkreport

"We need performance field use. Soccer fields are no different than parking spaces--demand exceeds supply, so we should use price to ration it. That's what permits are for."

Shouldn't priority go to those who live in the immediate neighborhood, whoever that may be? Many area high schools allow local residents to use their swimming pools at a lower cost than people from outside that county. Seems to me that this would make sense for athletic fields as well. (Maybe this is what you had in mind anyway.)

by JB on Sep 3, 2009 10:05 am • linkreport

not only is UPS very anti- city resident, it is terrible about delivering to city residences and they assumme that you have a car and can get out to their sprawl location in Landover Md. It is far from a subway and very inhospitable to bicycle over from New Carrolton station.
Fed Ex aint so great either- and their drivers are very very bad about finding city residences- I had to wait 2 whole days earlier this year for an important delivery and had to use 2 days of leave since they couldn't tell me a time they could deliver- and the driver on the first day claimed to have tried to drop off my package when I was actually there- it was a bold faced lie.

USPS is actually way superior- and within the past 10 years they have opened an office on PaAv SE near Eastern Market- thus expanding their capability - they always have my deliveries ready and can always find them.

by w on Sep 3, 2009 10:12 am • linkreport

Too bad the Post Office branch in Tenley (4005 Wisconsin Avenue) isn't on the list. This property is approximately 1/2 mile from the Tenley metro and well-served by the 30s buses yet this location has a large surface parking-lot and a very low-density one story building. Redeveloping this location would only contribute to the revitalization of this section of Wisconsin Avenue (with the plans to rebuild the Giant in Cleveland Park and the Safeway in Tenley).

by ben on Sep 3, 2009 10:17 am • linkreport

Placing all the blame on glass is extremely inaccurate in this case. The study that sparked this debate, by the NBI, actually does not mention glass at all. All of the high-profile buildings in DC that are glassed to hell were also not included in that study. That's not to say that you can get away with floor-to-ceiling glass walls on a south facing exposure and no solar control devices, but with low-E coatings, the wall is still competitive with other surfaces, even accounting for heat gain. Not particularly special, but no 1960s energy hog.

But there are other factors - whether or not the LEED rating makes operators and tenants more careless about energy, whether the energy calculations were right in the first place, whether the design is actually appropriate, and, as the Times mentioned, how big the building is. Requiring operational proof of efficiency, using energy models, actually designing for sustainability, and building to meet the site can remediate each one of those issues.

Finally, a lot of the LEED rating system (until recently, only 10 credits out of 69 were for energy efficiency) is designed to reduce other environmental effects of the built environment. So some buildings do the recycling, build near transit, add the PHEV charging station, add a green roof, and somehow have made it to LEED Silver.

by цarьchitect on Sep 3, 2009 10:21 am • linkreport

JB -- there are any number of ways one could structure it. I'm not sure that locals necessarily should get priority, because fields aren't as evenly distributed as parking spaces.

The point was a broader one--the complaint is there are not enough fields and that "pick up" games are harder to form because either a permit is needed or the fields simply aren't available. Well, how do we usually solve scarcity problems? By charging money. If that's done through a permit system, that probably makes sense. If some groups are willing to pay for field use, with that money presumably going to help with field upkeep, why should others be allowed to use the field for free, without a permit?

(the reference to "performance" field use was a cheeky one for this board, with the extended discussion of performance parking).

by ah on Sep 3, 2009 10:26 am • linkreport

I credit LEED for trying to be comprehensive - as tsarchitect notes, it covers all sorts of items from energy to materials to water usage - but any rating system that boils all of those complex and interacting design choices into one rating is bound to have flaws.

The fact that the Times piece was comparing LEED buildings to EnergyStar is telling. EnergyStar, as the name implies, focuses only on energy and efficiency - and it tends to represent a totally different mindset in terms of sustainability. It's all about insulation and sealing in the conditioned air, etc. Many well designed LEED buildings (not just ones looking for certification) have a much more holistic approach that uses things like solar chimneys for ventilation, etc. These things represent a much more holistic idea about how the building functions, but it's not an easy point off the LEED checklist.

LEED's value, however, is derived precisely because it is so transferable and easy to adopt. It's far from perfect, but there must be some value in at least advancing these ideals and construction techniques.

In the end, however, sustainability requires a more holistic understanding that would be extremely hard to capture with one single index.

by Alex B. on Sep 3, 2009 10:27 am • linkreport

Fitting to put USPS & Greenbelt on adjacent lines -- a couple years ago the USPS office in the core of Old Greenbelt closed and moved out to Hanover Pkwy. Now the rear of the Greenbelt co-op is a dead-zone of activity, aand there's no choice but to drive to Hanover Pkwy whereas Old Greenbelt is a great destination (still go there for New Deal Cafe & the Coop, though). I'd be curious how their customer base, costs, and revenue have been impacted by relocating... perhaps the new location is serving more people, as despite Greenbelt's walkability: it's really not too proximate to many would-be pedestrians.

by Bossi on Sep 3, 2009 10:29 am • linkreport

While I admire the recycling of tires and green roofs, there ought to be big points given out to "green" locations, ie. locations that tend to have the least amount of green such as NYC. It was argued in the Nation or The Atlantic monthly that NYC is the greenest place in the US and I couldn't agree more.

As for glass buildings, not arguing the aesthetics, but from a green point of view, the fact that so many of them seem to strive for the Leed ratings befudles me. Why create problems that are so easily dealt with in a different choice of clading? It just shows how little so many of these avant guard "green" architects really understand about green architecture. Can one get low-e bricks?

by Thayer-D on Sep 3, 2009 10:32 am • linkreport

It's now safe to blog about now, since it's on WTOP.

WASHINGTON -- A pedestrian suffered life-threatening injuries after being struck by an out-of-service Metrobus Thursday morning.

Metro officials say the bus did not have any customers on it. It was heading back to the northern bus garage when the accident occurred at 8:35 a.m. at the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenues in Northwest.

The preliminary investigation indicates the person was in a crosswalk as the bus was making a right turn.

Metropolitan Police are investigating.

The bus operator will undergo drug and alcohol testing as is standard procedure when there is a Metro accident.

by Jazzy on Sep 3, 2009 10:37 am • linkreport

@ah: "If some groups are willing to pay for field use, with that money presumably going to help with field upkeep, why should others be allowed to use the field for free, without a permit?"

If they live in the jurisdiction where the field is located, they're already paying for the field through their taxes. Seems only fair that if outsiders want to use it, they should chip in. Kinda like in-state tuition.

This is actually more generous than the policies governing libraries; if you don't live in DC, you can't check out books from a DC library even by paying more.

by JB on Sep 3, 2009 10:38 am • linkreport

JB-I don't have a problem with "outsiders" paying more, but I was thinking more specifically regarding DC--some neighborhoods have better field access than others, yet everybody's taxes are going to pay for it.

That said, every resident of DC is "paying" for parking in that everyone's taxes go in part to road maintenance, which maintains parking spaces. But we also expect those people who actually use the parking to pay more for it, either through RPPs or in some cases through meters. No reason the same can't be true of fields.

by ah on Sep 3, 2009 10:46 am • linkreport

@JB: I live in Arlington and regularly check out books from DC libraries. I believe DC residents can check out from Arlington's.

by Michael Perkins on Sep 3, 2009 10:57 am • linkreport

The WaPo article stresses that the players on these fields are often undocumented immigrants, implying that obtaining a permit involves more contact with authorities than they would feel comfortable with.

I think there are positive externalities to fields being used in law-abiding non-destructive ways. I would love to see all the green spaces being used as canchitas or frisbee fields or even dog parks if the turf management, crime, cleanliness, and safety issues can be addressed and managed properly.

Permits and fees are not necessarily the way to go, but are tools.

Policymakers should take into account the benefit of being able to "pick up" on a field. It is a huge community builder to have a place where you can just show up and get in a game. I've played pickup sports in Chicago, Seattle, New Jersey, and DC and have met hundreds of people of all races/ethnicities and backgrounds in those places, enjoying fun times outdoors. We need to encourage this as much as possible in our city.

by Ward 1 Guy on Sep 3, 2009 11:05 am • linkreport

Based on what the witness told me, the bus was on Florida, and not Ct making a right turn, but I cannot confirm that at this exact time.

by Jazzy on Sep 3, 2009 11:06 am • linkreport

"A pedestrian who was jogging was struck by a Metro bus today a bit before 9 a.m. She had the light and was crossing Florida Avenue at Connecticut. "

I had that backwards. Was crossing Connecticut at Florida Ave is what it was in reality.

by Jazzy on Sep 3, 2009 11:15 am • linkreport

Ward 1 Guy, I agree.

Permits and performance measures are one thing for cars - cars are not the only way to get around. There aren't, however, many other options for outdoor athletics. Fields are fields, and they're often quite contested spaces. I've seen numerous spats between, say, softball players and kickballers on the mall arguing over field space. And that's for an organized league.

There's great value in pick-up games and other spur of the moment recreational activities. It's definitely a community builder.

Turf management is a challenge. Places that get a lot of use are never going to be pristine grass fields.

by Alex B. on Sep 3, 2009 11:20 am • linkreport

WTOP mentions that the pedestrian jogger was wearing "earbuds." I might guess that the bus driver had the sun in his/her eyes and was visually impaired momentarily for that reason, or at least somewhat disoriented. I arrived on the scene about 5 minutes after it happened and everything had been cleared out by that time except for the bus.

by Jazzy on Sep 3, 2009 11:33 am • linkreport

@Alex B.: I just had a flashback to 1987. I was intern on Capitol Hill and they would send us out to the Mall at 3:30 PM to hold field space for softball. That was long before grown adults started playing kickball.

I believe that all of these spats can be resolved through civilized systems of dispute resolution, such as rock-paper-scissors. Two out of three, of course.

by Ward 1 Guy on Sep 3, 2009 11:34 am • linkreport

From a friend who saw the bus run a red and hit that girl this morning: "I just witnessed a chick get hit by a metro bus who made a right turn through a red-light. It was not a pleasant sight or sound. Kind of sounded like the bus hit a plastic trash can full of water."

Horrible. He said the girl had the light and the bus driver made a right on the red without even slowing down.

by CP on Sep 3, 2009 11:57 am • linkreport

Did she survive the hit? Please say yes.

by Bianchi on Sep 3, 2009 11:59 am • linkreport

Ok, so we have conflicting accounts here. My friend says the driver was on Florida Avenue roaring through Connecticut, not that the driver was making a right turn.

by Jazzy on Sep 3, 2009 12:00 pm • linkreport

Let's hope she survives.

by Jazzy on Sep 3, 2009 12:12 pm • linkreport

The WaPo article stresses that the players on these fields are often undocumented immigrants, implying that obtaining a permit involves more contact with authorities than they would feel comfortable with.

Then they shouldn't have broken the law and come here in the first place. DEPORT THEM ALL NOW!

by trueamerican on Sep 3, 2009 1:27 pm • linkreport

@JB

"Anyone who resides, works, pays property taxes or attends school in the District of Columbia is eligible for a DC Public Library borrower's card.

Reciprocal borrowing exists for residents of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland and Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington and Prince William Counties and the cities of Falls Church and Alexandria in Virginia to obtain free library cards from the District of Columbia Public Library. Others may apply, after payment of the appropriate fee, for a non-resident library card."

by Librarian on Sep 3, 2009 1:27 pm • linkreport

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