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Breakfast links: Objects in motion

Outside the DC Convention Center. Photo by toniluca.
Convention center hotel back on track: A judge unexpectedly dismissed JBG's lawsuit over the convention center hotel, which was delaying the 1,167-room project; now it could break ground as soon as late May. (WBJ, Post)

Exurbs become "gated ghettos": A gated community at the far edge of the Los Angeles area, 88 miles from downtown and 35-40 miles from Riverside and San Bernardino, has turned into a "gated ghetto" as banks foreclose and many properties go vacant, while many others become cheap rentals. Not asked: how will the new residents get to work? Will commuter buses get more crowded? (LA Times, Ben Ross)

Ped hit at Wisconsin and M: A driver hit and seriously injured an elderly pedestrian in Georgetown last night. Georgetown Voice editor Iris Kim witnessed the accident and said the pedestrian was not crossing with the light. (Georgetown Voice, Scott C.)

Stroll and circulate freely: As promised, following Ken Archer's experiences, the Circulator has formally changed its rules to allow strollers. Only smaller strollers are allowed, and only if the "priority area" is not already occupied by people with disabilities or seniors with walkers.

Blogging transit agencies: LACMTA reviews eight blogs run by transit agencies besides their own. They're all west of the Missisippi. (The Source, Matt')

Give us our squares: DC Metrocentric laments the sad state of many DC federal parks' maintenance and asks the frequent question of why small city squares should be federally controlled at all.

JetBlue really coming to DCA: The US Airways-Delta slot swap that would give JetBlue some slots at National Airport is still under review, but JetBlue will indeed launch service at DCA in November, with 8 daily flights, after agreeing to a codeshare and slot swap with American. (WTOP, NYCAviation)

On politics: Former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich (R), who championed the ICC and tried to kill the Purple Line, will run again this fall. (Post) ... Columnists are fairly pessimistic about Vince Gray's chances in the DC mayoral primary (Post, Examiner) ... Jack Evans will run for Council chair. (WTOP)

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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I am relatively sure that very few if of the current residents or former residence ever worked downtown. Most probably worked in the inland empire, where the job market imploded. Outside of Detroit, I think the Inland Empire has the highest unemployment in the county.

by RJ on Mar 31, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

re: Gated suburban ghettos.

You already see this in some areas of Montgomery County, PG County, and northern VA. Basically "old-growth" suburbs that are being converted into boarding houses, etc... As the exurban housing bubble collapses, and the cost of urban housing grows, the pace of this transformation is only going to accelerate.

Hopefully the 'burbs have some sort of plan to cope.

by oboe on Mar 31, 2010 10:18 am • linkreport

I wasn't surprised by the JBG court decision. The contract that they disputed relied on the same principle that justified the special designation of the Sang Oh Choi interests as the master developer for Florida Market. The situations are a bit different, but the root aspect is the same. Council should have to do RFPs and have them independently vetted. But they don't have to. The difference between Florida Market and the Convention Center hotel is that there was originally an RFP issued in the latter case.

by Richard Layman on Mar 31, 2010 10:18 am • linkreport

How about a posting on this Examiner story on Metro's total EPIC FAIL regarding a rape at the Largo garage:

"Metro did not alert the public about the February attacks at Largo. Its online police blotters were months out of date until recently. "Unfortunately, it was something that slipped through the cracks," said spokeswoman Cathy Asato."

A whole lot more people at Metro - upper management, supervisors front-line workers - need to be fired before Metro's bureaucratic culture gets the message and starts changing.

Until that happens, Metro has no credibility and its pleas for more money aren't going to

by Fritz on Mar 31, 2010 10:33 am • linkreport

The Brookings report seems to miss the suburbanization of poverty, anyway, as pre-WWII and 1st generation post-WWII suburbs undergo demographic change from migrants from central cities or become populated by immigrants. Sunbelt cities often are dramatic examples of this--Atlanta and the LA area have large swaths of even 2nd and 3rd generation post-WWII suburbs that have changed. Atlanta's whiteflight destinations of the 70s and 80s are among the most diverse areas in the country now. Affordable suburbs seem to trasnition much more quickly than even modestly well-off ones. Youngstown is not an auto making center and its one big auto plant (a GM plant) is actually doing well, as is the nearby town of Warren which has auto parts plants. The old steel base of the economy is what has died. Grand Rapids is historically more of a furniture center and has been hard hit (along with smaller metros in NC) by the offshoring of the furniture business. The trouble with just looking at data is that you draw misleading conclusions.

by Rich on Mar 31, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to why the city needs to spend $206 million to subsidize the construction of a hotel when there are plenty of other hotels near the convention center. Would it be cheaper just to buy one of those hotels or to buy the equivalent of stock options, but for hotel rooms, to ensure that rooms are available for conventions?

I read somewhere that DC hotels had a rather high vacancy rate last year.

by Eric F. on Mar 31, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

I think the rationale is that the new convention center is not as successful as hoped, in part, because it lacks adjacent accommodation. Given that convention goers are not necessarily people who live even around a real city, the distances that seem short here are barriers for others. The nearest hotels mostly were built for the old convention center and were, in some cases, adjacent. I'm always impressed at how helpless out of town visitors can be, even though they only have tp walk a couple blocks to find what they need.

by Rich on Mar 31, 2010 10:56 am • linkreport


The Convention Center has to compete with National Harbor for conventions. From what I can tell, National Harbor is winning and handily too. Not having a hotel at site is a huge disadvantage.

by RJ on Mar 31, 2010 11:08 am • linkreport

Is National Harbor winning because of it has a hotel on site or because its rates are cheaper and it provides ample cheap parking?

Also, the proposed hotel for the Convention Center is across the street, not on site. Would it possible to buy the existing Renaissance Hotel on the other side of Mount Vernon Square for less than $208 million?

by Eric F. on Mar 31, 2010 11:24 am • linkreport

While I am not 100% committed to the idea of supporting a subsidized hotel like this, if you understand the convention and tourism industry, you will know that when meeting planners are assessing facilities for their clients (or when in-house planners are making arrangements for annual or regional meetings), logistics including hotels play a huge role in determining which city and facility will be chosen.

Obviously this is a huge industry. Cities like Chicago, New Orleans and San Francisco and the pride an joy, and everyone else struggles to keep up. Certainly Las Vegas has its own attractions (for those who like that sort of thing), but there is no reason why DC shouldn't be on par with places like New Orleans and Chicago.

While there are other structural forces at play, the lack of an official convention center hotel is a major reason DC is not on the circuit for the huge (10,000+) annual conferences that rotate among the other major cities.

by Andrew on Mar 31, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

The new hotel will also be connected to the convention center through a tunnel under Ninth Street, which, I understand, is already in place.

by shaw rez on Mar 31, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport

DC's convention center was outdated the moment it opened. It is simply too small, and can not readily be expanded. Thus, DC loses out on the "mega-conventions."

DC then also loses out on the "local shows" to National Harbor, which is newer, cheaper, and, yes, has plentiful parking.

A hotel on site won't solve any of these problems. Plus, the entire convention industry is sinking fast. Companies simply aren't paying for their employees to travel as much as they used to, and in the age of the website, paying for a booth in a convention hall to show off a product often doesn't really make sense.

by urbaner on Mar 31, 2010 12:23 pm • linkreport

If having a new hotel there would really attract and significant number of conventions (and consequently fill up the hotel on a regular basis) someone would build one because they expected it to be profitable. The fact that no one is willing to do so without a huge subsidy tells me that the hotel companies don't think demand justifies the cost of building/operating it. The taxpayers should not be footing the bill for what will (at best) be a profit center for a private company or (at worst) yet another multi-million dollar boondoggle.

by Jacob on Mar 31, 2010 1:15 pm • linkreport

"The fact that no one is willing to do so without a huge subsidy tells me that the hotel companies don't think demand justifies the cost of building/operating it."

I am not so sure, I think the private firms now look for what subsidies they can squeeze out of local government first, then look at supply and demand. In other words look for the free lunch before you buy your own.

by RJ on Mar 31, 2010 2:38 pm • linkreport

I understand the point about exurban ghettos. That said, your "88 miles from Los Angeles" thing is very misleading. My wife has family in Hemet, and most folks there work in the area of San Bernardino (approx. 40 miles) or Riverside (approx. 35 miles). That makes is comparable to commuting to DC from Stafford or Gainesville. It's far, but much more manageable than your blurb makes it seem.

by Wahoowa on Mar 31, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

OK, I've added something noting the difference from Riverside and San Bernardino.

by David Alpert on Mar 31, 2010 3:17 pm • linkreport

National Harbor probably has done more harm to big hotel convention complexes like the Wardman Marriott, which are designed to do small as well as medium sized meetings. The convention center competes with other large urban complexes. Their bread in butter are trade shows and conventions----many of these rotate around the country, so that DC competes with Boston, Philly, NYC, and to a lesser extent Atlanta and Orlando. ATL and Orlando have enormous complexes but are unappealing to many people, particularly from professional organizations. For national meetings, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Orlando have everyone else beat, in terms of size. Once you get beyond that, amenities and the general drawing power of the city matter. Most cities have been building new facilities and upgrading old ones, so competitive advantages are lost quickly. The biggest often aren't the best: Despite a poor location relative to hotels, Chicago does very well. Orlando's facility is inconvenient even if you stay nearby. Atlanta has an even deader downtown than DC. the size of these places, though, trumps everything else for the biggest meetings. But for the many medium sized convention cities, amenities are important.

by Rich on Mar 31, 2010 4:40 pm • linkreport

i wonder if anyone has tried to bike to DCA?

i flew in and out of there a bit, but that was before my 'bike nerd' days. seems like it's probably one of, if not the, easiest major airports to bike to in the US -- but do they allow it? that is, do they provide parking and a way to actually get into the airport that is bike-friendly? i'm pretty sure PDX folks do it.

by Peter Smith on Mar 31, 2010 5:59 pm • linkreport

There's a signed bike access route to DCA off of the MVT. Beyond that, I couldn't say...

by Froggie on Apr 1, 2010 8:17 am • linkreport

Re: "Gated Ghettos"...

Looks like Hemet CA (see article in link) has turned into South Aspen Hill. The main difference seems to be how long ago the houses were built, within the decade for the Hemet subdivision in question, and in the 1950s for South Aspen Hill. Yet in both places, a lot of folks moved in with the notion that they were making a very solid investment into a nice safe family-friendly community.

Instead, they got Slumburbia full of slipshod conversions of single-family residential homes into rental barracks, with empty homes littering the neighborhood:

Walking through the development, there is not much evidence of the well-kept yards and friendly families Maria Lopez fondly recalls.

Many of the people answering a knock say they are renters, and won't open their doors more than a crack to see who is on their doorstep. Red-and-white "for sale" signs dot the neighborhood, clashing with the golds and browns of the homes. The contrast between occupied and empty houses is evident on one block, where high grass in weedy clumps gives way to a neatly mowed lawn with handwritten signs pleading "Please do not let your dog poop on our yard."

Homeowner Norma Hernandez, one of the few people outside on a recent sunny afternoon, can point out which families are permanent on her block.

"Rented, owned, rented, rented, rented," she said, gesturing at the gargantuan houses across the street, one after another. "It's bad," she said, shaking her head.

But even more like South Aspen Hill (bold mine):

But it wasn't enough for Angelica Stewart and her family, who are leaving the $318,000 home they bought in 2006. To Stewart, living in a gated community is absurd when drug busts are a regular occurrence.

"It's not worth it for us to live in this neighborhood," she said.

by Thomas Hardman on Apr 1, 2010 9:34 am • linkreport

The whole "convention business" is a scam perpetrated on cities by the hotel industry. The amount of revenue they provide to municipalities is miniscule compared to the subsidies those cities fork out.

by Vicente Fox on Apr 1, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

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