The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Breakfast links: Ways of talking

Photo by t0fugirl.
Teen struck by bullet: I've often compared crash reporting to shooting reporting, and said news stories never write, "A person was killed yesterday when he collided with a bullet moving at high speed in the opposite direction." But this report from Frederick, "Bullet strikes teen in Frederick in head," comes pretty close. (Post)

Obnoxious GGW commenters make the Post: Parents and non-parents are clashing over allocations of public space in DC, as families stay in the city. Annys Shin notes the vitriol that erupted over Ken Archer's article about strollers on the Circulator as an example. Richard Layman says this is nothing new. (Post, RPUS)

How to pay for streetcars: Transportation improvements aren't cheap, and streetcars are no exception. The system will require funds from general tax revenue and probably some value capture of increased property taxes. (Examiner, Post)

Fewer homes on the market: good?: Inventory of housing on the market is decreasing back to typical levels. However, much of the decline comes from potential sellers not listing properties that are under water. There are far more foreclosures and bank-owned properties for sale in outer jurisdictions while properties inside the Beltway held their value better being in more desirable places to live. (Post, Cavan)

Yglesias on cities: Matt Yglesias talks urbanism with the Atlantic, and advocates for better buses, removing parking minimums, and the way many conservatives oppose market-oriented policies just because cities are full of liberals.

Meters everywhere but no money: Tulsa, Oklahoma has shut off many of their parking meters because there's no money to replace the batteries. Hmm, how could they get more money from parking meters? (, Michael P.)

And...: Does the Penn Quarter need more shops and fewer restaurants? (The Internationalist, Jeff1248) ... Some Alexandrians don't want detailed wayfinding signs (Examiner) ... A teen driver kills a 55-year-old woman in Germantown (WTOP) ... A Dr. Gridlock reader defends DC's bike lane plans against AAA, and the doc agrees. (Post)

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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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"Wonky"? Really?

by andrew on May 17, 2010 9:39 am • linkreport

On the proposal to tax the adjacent commercial property owners a special tax to 'capture' the anticipated increased values of their properties due to being near a streetcar line ... Doesn't that happen automatically? I mean, the argument is that having a streetcar line at the properties doorstep will make that property more valuable and that extra value needs to be 'captured' via a tax. But won't the regular property taxes already in place do that automatically? Don't assessed values on properties (against which tax rates are applied to determine property taxes due) get upped to reflect increased value? So this proposed tax would be an additional tax. I.e., a double whammy for these property owners. Are we really looking to develop these areas ... or just to collect more taxes?

by Lance on May 17, 2010 9:46 am • linkreport

Obnoxious? They spoke for many of us single, childless by choice, people.

by Redline SOS on May 17, 2010 9:50 am • linkreport

The fatal collision in Germantown was next to Germantown Town Center. The speed limit on that part of Germantown Road (Maryland route 118) is 50 mph, and it's a third of a mile between crosswalks.

by Miriam on May 17, 2010 9:53 am • linkreport

Streetcars, like most DC gov't services, will eventually be funded via bake sales because we won't have anything left to tax.

by Fritz on May 17, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

I like that the dog owner in the article was saying how the parents should keep their kid in the fenced-in play area, while her unleashed puppy was harassing a 3-year-old.

Last time I checked, dogs were the ones that needed to be in a fenced in area or on a leash, not people.

by Michael Perkins on May 17, 2010 10:02 am • linkreport

I was in Germantown this weekend on Germantown road. Ironically buying a bike.

I noticed that MD had the brilliant decision to put pedestrian crossings on highway entrance/exit ramps. One was behind a turn and I didn't see it until I was 10 feet from there at 45-50 MPH. Brilliant thinking.

by charlie on May 17, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport

Obnoxious. Those comments got downright nasty. Perhaps there is room for criticism at times, and perhaps some people have a sense of entitlement. But that holds true whether you choose to have children, or you don't.

But yeah, I agree the WP article broke absolutely no new ground, and as a (sometimes) stroller-pushing mom myself, I cringe when I see a stroller on the Metro or Metrobus at rush hour. Pare down, use a carrier. It's so much easier for everyone, parents included.

by TJ on May 17, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

Could the Examiner have been bothered to take a picture of one of the new signs in Old Town and put it online? I have no idea how to react to the conflicting quotes without the context of what they look like or why the Civic Association hates them so much. They may be right but as I haven't seen the new signs, the story seems silly.

by timfry on May 17, 2010 10:09 am • linkreport

Oh Fritz, there will always be hyperbolic anti-tax rants, once we "run out of things to tax" we can tax those.

by Reid on May 17, 2010 10:13 am • linkreport

Charlie - The reason they put crosswalks on entrance and exit ramps is that people need to get to the other side of the street. The question to ask is why these unsafe crossings don't have traffic signals. In a built-up area like Germantown (let's not even talk about Silver Spring) the exit ramp should meet the road at a right angle with a traffic light. Not only do cloverleaf-style ramps create an unsafe condition for pedestrians, but they encourage drivers leaving the interstate to continue driving at excessive speeds, and they waste land that could be put to far better use.

by Ben Ross on May 17, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport

While the Post article does not break any new ground, the comment thread got just as nasty as the one on this site.

by Cavan on May 17, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport


I agree about the dog needing to be on a leash. Last time I checked, kids don't start biting when they're afraid or feel threatened. I do find the child leashes to be kind of hilarious though.

I also like how my most sarcastic comment from Ken Archer's article was taken seriously by the Post writer...

by Teo on May 17, 2010 10:34 am • linkreport

I read some of the comments in the Post article. There was one useful one - wherein the commenter mentioned a specific brand of stroller that New Yorkers use because of their lightness and ease of collapsing. We need more helpful information like that.

by Jazzy on May 17, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

@Reid - I'm sure we can raise some decent revenue from requiring bikes to be licensed and each cyclist to also have a license.

Which raises this question in my mind: How come none of our do-gooder politicos have proposed requiring all cyclists to wear helmets any time they are operating a bicycle? If the gov't requires use of safety belts in cars to protect the lives of the driver and passengers, shouldn't it also have a similar mandatory safety requirement to protect the lives of bicyclists?

by Fritz on May 17, 2010 10:39 am • linkreport

Germantown is built up? It looked like suburban hell.

People and interstate highways don't mix, and you have to put crosswalks where drivers can at least see them. Horrible placement by Maryland.

by charlie on May 17, 2010 10:40 am • linkreport

Annys Shin interviewed me for her Post article.

Shin: "What other areas of conflict do you have with non-parents in DC?" Me: "DC, or GTown at least, is a pretty family-friendly place."

Shin: "Did you share these anti-parent feelings before you had kids?" Me: "No."

Shin: "Do you have an SUV stroller?" Me: "SUV Strollers are a myth, as our great-grandparents pushed our grandparents around in Bugaboo-sized strollers. What's new are umbrella strollers that make driving with kids easier."

You'll notice that I'm not quoted in her article, as I didn't help her fill-in-the-blanks of her narrative outline: WAR between Entitled Parents with SUV Strollers vs Entitled Non-Parents Who Will Only Understand When They have Kids.

Ken Archer

by Ken Archer on May 17, 2010 10:40 am • linkreport

man, if seeing a kid in a stroller evokes one's ire, I don't think a bjorn is going to sooth one's inner beast. As for the housing supply, it seems in line with the employment figures for the DC area.

by Thayer-D on May 17, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

Yes, I thought about how in the past, strollers were HUGE. It also occurred to me that probably mothers and caregivers did not ride the bus with those things, they probably were not in general nearly as mobile as today's parents want to be with their children in strollers.

by Jazzy on May 17, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

We can always tax people like Fritz, the John Galt-esque backbones of society without which we'd all starve.

by Stuey on May 17, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

You hit the nail on the head, Jazzy.

Not saying that parents with strollers should be confined to walkable distances and/or kept completely off of public transportation, but I think that some parents' efforts to be more mobile than is realistic wind up really getting in other people's way, which to some non-parents and parents alike comes off as entitlement. Under certain situations (case-by-case and mostly just spectacularly obnoxious/ easily avoided situations), I am inclined to agree.

Also, the dog-park vs tot-park thing is possibly an older story than the stroller thing. For what it's worth, last I heard there is no official park on Capitol Hill where dogs are allowed unleashed (there are some "unofficial" or de facto dog parks but that's a different story).

by Catherine on May 17, 2010 11:07 am • linkreport

My mom pushed me around in a collapsing umbrella stroller in the late 70s and it didn't kill me or anything, so when I see those SUV strollers (sorry you're apparently offended by the accurate joking description, Ken) I'm comparing them to how I was raised by someone who didn't feel like she needed to get in everybody's way all the time.

by neff on May 17, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

I don't have any kids, but I do have 6 nieces/nephews and I spend a lot of time with them. I have no problem with kids. It's the parents. They won't teach their kids proper behavior in public settings and the seem oblivious to their kids' behavior in these settings. It's as if they are afraid to discipline the kids. If I had behaved as a child the way I see many children behaving in stores and restaurants I would have never made it into my teens because my parents would have killed me.

I also have memories of stroller as big as what we now call SUV stroller (although they didn't have all the cupholders and snack dispensers), but the parents didn't try to take them everywhere. They were for walking on the sidewalk -- taking a stroll around the neighborhood or visiting with the neighbors. They were not in stores and coffee shops. When you needed to go out, you got a babysitter.

by ksu499 on May 17, 2010 11:16 am • linkreport

Aside from that, the article was terrible because it conflated idiotic complaints (a person with an unleashed dog thinking kids should be confined to a fenced area, or people thinking bars shouldn't be allowed to have parents' days) with reasonable complaints (people who wish Ken wouldn't block up the entire public transit system with his 900-pound stroller).

by neff on May 17, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

If John Galt were a real person and alive today, I have no doubt that he'd be a net receiver if tax subsidies and government sanctioned monopolies.

Besides, in dc the vast majority of the tax base comes from upper middleclass professionals and commercial real estate, not some mythical industrialists.

by Reid on May 17, 2010 11:19 am • linkreport


You are quite mistaken -- there is Congressional Cemetary, one of the largest established off-leash containted dog run in the entire city. There's also the new Kingman Park on the NE side. I'd agree there'a a shortage of contained off-leash areas for dogs, but there are other options on the Hill than general use parks.

by w on May 17, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

When I hear how things 'used to be' with strollers, I can't help but think that there was a major difference between 'then' and 'now' ... 'Then' for most of us on here was a time when 'people with kids' who lived in the city, moved out to the 'burbs' (or less walkable parts of the District) ... and this whole issue of big stroller vs. small stroller became irrelevant. I think what we need to ask ourselves is 'what did people do before the suburbs became the place to raise kids?' i.e., how did the urban folks prior to the '50s handle the mobility problem?

I don't know this for a fact, but I'd guess that part of how it was handled had to do with how differently the family was structured back then. We're talking of an era when the average woman didn't work and where people mainly shopped in local grocery stores for canned goods and some fresh produce ... where eating out was rare (even for lunch) unless it meant eating the sandwich you'd prepared at home. We're talking about an era where grandparents and other extended family members lived with the family and exchanged their childcare and other services for room and board ... because retirements were unheard of (at least until the '30s when Social Security started off.)

I think modern urban parents come in to the whole situation with a very different set of expectations and constraints/resources than did the parents of old. The modern parent wants to live a modern mobile lifestyle, something that the mother of old didn't have the opportunity to do. And the modern parent most likely doesn't have the elderly grandmother or aunt in the house to watch the kids during those times she needs/wants to go out.

In short, I don't think we really have any 'past' to look back on as a guide to what to do now. Everything is really too different. We've just got to work out some compromises that work for everyone. Of course, considering how (unlike the past urban folks) we are part of the 'me generation', that's going to be difficult. But maybe it'll be a good experience overall. The suburbs didn't necessitate as much cooperation between folks ('good fences make good neighbors'), but the close proximity of urban life does. We'll just need to work out the specifics. Singles will need to realize it's not all 'about them' ... and so will parents with strollers ...

by Lance on May 17, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

@ Fritz the interesting thing about helmets is that in places where a far greater proportion travel by bike and there is a much greater share of VMT by bike (i.e. Amsterdam/Nederland, Copenhaggen/Denmark) bike helmets are not in use to the same degree as here in DC/USA. A much smaller proportion of bikers regularly use helmets and yet the death/injury rate for bikers in those places compared to the US is also much lower.

by Bianchi on May 17, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

@Ken Archer

Yeah, I got interviewed too. Most of my comments ran along the lines of yours, but she ran with an offhand one I made. It's true (the perspective one has certainly changes with the arrival of kids), but hardly indicative of the overall conversation I had with her.

There are flash points between parents and singles and between dog owners and parents (two issues conflated in the article), but to characterize it as a "war" really blows it out of proportion. Theres nothing there that manners, patience, and reasonable discussion can't solve. We don't need to portray it as if it's the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Of course, I'm not selling papers....

by TimK on May 17, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport


Congressional Cemetery is indeed a large off-leash dog park, but it is not a public park - dog walkers are expected to pay a membership fee for the privilege to walk their dogs off-leash.

It's a handy symbiosis, as the cemetery gets much-needed revenue to pay for maintenance and dog owners get a large space to walk off-leash, but it's not exactly a public god park.

I'd also note that, as you know, greater Capitol Hill is a really large place and the cemetery is off to one side - Lincoln Park's popularity with all kinds of people has a great deal to do with it's centrality.

by Alex B. on May 17, 2010 11:43 am • linkreport


Wow! I so hate to agree with anything you say, but I think you've put it very well.

by TimK on May 17, 2010 11:44 am • linkreport

For those interested in the relative sizes of today's "SUV" strollers in relation to historic strollers, there's a whole site devoted to historic "prams".

by thm on May 17, 2010 11:47 am • linkreport

@w-- what Alex said about Congressional Cemetery, and I'm not aware of Kingman. I'm not a Hill resident or a dog owner so all of my info comes from friends and comments on here. I understand that NPS owns all of the parks on Capitol Hill and doesn't allow fenced-in dog parks and therefore de facto dog parks with unwritten rules/neighborhood understandings have sprung up.

Now, as to who was "right" and who was "wrong" in the dog vs tot dust-up, I don't really know or care. I'm sure both parties could have handled it better. I was just pointing out that, to my knowledge, there's not an official off leash dog park on the Hill, which appears to be causing problems.

by Catherine on May 17, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

Whoops - that should be "public dog park", not "public god park."

by Alex B. on May 17, 2010 11:50 am • linkreport


I think you misunderstood the original point: the idea of a universal helmet law appeals to the OP because of the perceived minor punitive effect it would have, not because of any increase in safety.

by oboe on May 17, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

The question to ask is why these unsafe crossings don't have traffic signals.

Well, actually we don't have to ask that question; we already know the answer: because it would marginally inconvenience drivers. And that is the cardinal sin of suburban traffic planning.

by oboe on May 17, 2010 11:55 am • linkreport


Very well put.

by Teo on May 17, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport

For more info on Kingsman Dog park:

Also, Alex B., I kinda like the idea of a public god park. You know, where various gods could meet and let their hair down, bitch about us mere mortals, etc.

by TimK on May 17, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport

I second agreeing with Lance.

by Cavan on May 17, 2010 11:59 am • linkreport

Oh, one last thing: I propose a moratorium on observations from childless folks based on their unobserved assumptions of their parents' experiences from back when said childless folks were 3 or four years old?

If you want to make a point, please have your mother leave a comment, and she can tell us what a sweet well-behaved snowflake baby you were, how she was happy to sit at home with no social life, and how she, had there been anything to walk to, would've scoffed at using a blinged-out stroller with pneumatic tires and a cupholder.

by oboe on May 17, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

What's with all this grudging respect? Lance is actually a very perceptive and reasonable guy--so long as you don't get him started on one of the topics that leaves him utterly deranged....

He's a little like my uncle and the Red Sox that way.

by oboe on May 17, 2010 12:04 pm • linkreport

@Catherine @Alex

Kingsman Park is a mere 3 blocks north of Lincoln Park. Besides, I thought dogs like to walk?

Congressional is a good example of what the model should be. Users pay for the external costs of maintenance and use. I believe Kingsman requires a permit for use, although it may not qualify for charitable donations like CC.

by w on May 17, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

Well, actually we don't have to ask that question; we already know the answer: because it would marginally inconvenience drivers. And that is the cardinal sin of suburban traffic planning.

Plus, also, you know, nobody walks there. It's not safe...

On the west side of that stretch of Germantown Road, there are Germantown Town Center (walkable, with library, performing arts center, stores and restaurants, and townhouses), the Germantown Transit Center, the Upcounty Regional Services Center, and apartment complexes. On the east side, there are restaurants, offices, a non-hospital emergency center, a townhouse development, and a high school. There are a lot of pedestrians, by suburban standards. The state's speed limit of 50 mph is much too high.

by Miriam on May 17, 2010 12:11 pm • linkreport

One point that no one is discussing is the mention that Wards One and Two have falling child numbers. I find that somewhat hard to believe. I know these areas have fewer kids now than they did 30 years ago, but surely it's increasing over what it had 10 years ago, right?

by Reid on May 17, 2010 12:14 pm • linkreport

The article says that as of printing (February) they still needed to raise $5000 and hoped to open by the end of June. Do you know if it's actually open yet? It's good to see that people are figuring out the Capitol Hill dog park problem through private means. I, again as a non-Hill resident and non-dog owner, don't really have a stake in what the understood rules at the de facto dog parks are and don't really know what to think about people who break them.

by Catherine on May 17, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport


Actually, there was nothing punitive at all in my question. It was an honest-to-goodness puzzlement of why, when we have politicos enacting all sorts of laws that are for our own good or "for the children", we haven't seen any to require mandatory use of bike helmets.

by Fritz on May 17, 2010 12:25 pm • linkreport

One point that no one is discussing is the mention that Wards One and Two have falling child numbers. I find that somewhat hard to believe. I know these areas have fewer kids now than they did 30 years ago, but surely it's increasing over what it had 10 years ago, right?

As someone pointed out up-thread, whenever you read the Post, you need to add the parenthetical "white middle-class" whenever you talk about demographics, unless its explicitly stated otherwise.

I was chatting with one of the older residents of my street the other day, and he was telling me how great it was to "see kids again". Though he observed that the "new" families with kids have one or two kids; whereas at least one 1000 square foot house on our street had 14 kids living there at one point.

Probably there are is the same or possibly a greater number of families with kids, but the total number of kids is smaller. At least in one small residential corner of DC.

by oboe on May 17, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport

crosswalks on ramps: kind of like the marked bike path along Irving St. NW around the WHC. All those cloverleaf style ramps to/from N. Cap are marked like that without lights and some are blind - the curve is such you can't see if a car is coming and the car driver can't see you either until s/he's right on top of you. I hate those cloverleafs.

by Bianchi on May 17, 2010 12:29 pm • linkreport


You're in the wrong city if you want to argue that DC is insufficiently overreaching:

Only applies to people under 16, though.

by oboe on May 17, 2010 12:30 pm • linkreport


You've encountered what I've learned is the MO for most reporters. They come up with a storyline and then seek out quotes to backup the story (and conclusion) they've already come to. Hence their selective use of quotes. Watch the CNN interview about streetcars. The same thing happens there. The reporter obviously bought the storyline that DDOT is falsely putting out there ... you know the 'either you're with us or you're against us' false storyline ... and she ran with it. There was a time when reporters actually approached a story with an open mind and did true investigative reporting. This hasn't been the case of late ... Reporters have allowed themselves to be proponents/opponents of an issue rather than true honest reporters.

by Lance on May 17, 2010 12:31 pm • linkreport

Oh I don't know Lance. I'm not sure there ever was a time reporters really approached the story with an open mind. Historically, newspapers were much more biased then they are today. It's only comparatively recently that they even made a pretense of impartiality.

And I should point out I'm not really complaining. I said the line in an interview with a reporter who very clearly identified the story line she was pursuing. I just don't think it sums up the totality of my opinion. Nor should it, the story wasn't about me.

by TimK on May 17, 2010 12:39 pm • linkreport

@TimK, Teo, Cavan, and Oboe ... Thanks.

by Lance on May 17, 2010 12:44 pm • linkreport

@TimK, I hear you ... but still think there was a time when we at least had 'some' investigative reporting going on ... e.g., Watergate ... But yeah, in general our 4th Estate fails us.

by Lance on May 17, 2010 12:47 pm • linkreport

In think Watergate stands out because the reporting was stellar, even for the time. But that's why we remember it: it wasn't the norm.

by TimK on May 17, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

@TimK ... I agree most reporting is biased. But I'd still argue that at least some of our better papers tended to be less biased on the past. Papers such as the NY Times and The Washington Post. I don't know about the Times, but I've noticed that the Post has lost a lot of that unbiased stance. I guess, like you said, the money is made in 'selling papers'. Its just too bad that they think exagerating a conflict is a good way to do that, rather than just doing good investigative reporting. Maybe blogs will help correct that situation since at least people can respond to misinformation in almost real time ...

by Lance on May 17, 2010 1:02 pm • linkreport

I'd agree with you there, Lance.

Although I wonder if the quality has slipped or if wider and quicker access to information online has made errors more visible?

by TimK on May 17, 2010 1:23 pm • linkreport

Lance, if you are referring to people on this blog, your characterization of how the way things used to be may be correct - though I think the trend of g'parents living with families might have slowed down round about the time of the suburbanization you describe, but no matter.

If however you are referring to Washington, DC, you are not accurate. There have indeed been children raised in this city on a big scale throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Now, they might not be white anglo saxon protestant/catholic/jewish, but they were indeed here, in huge numbers. They rode buses, went to grocery stores, etc etc..

Moreover, in upper northwest, there have been people raising children for a long time too, who are what you might have in mind when you refer to 'modern parents.'

by Jazzy on May 17, 2010 1:57 pm • linkreport

I think Watergate was significant because it's rare for someone close enough to the President to have that kind of dirt on him to leak something so substantial to the press.

by Michael Perkins on May 17, 2010 2:06 pm • linkreport


There are no "de facto rules" at dog parks, and as dog owners at LP who regularly let their pets off leash will attest, NPS does sporadically enforce the law and issues citations for violators. Obviously the rules are not understood the same way by everyone.

...thus the currently open Kingsman dog park.

by w on May 17, 2010 2:10 pm • linkreport

Just to clarify re Kingsman:

This is the most recent update on the park:

Hill Hounds (of which I am the fundraising chair) has all of the money DPR requires us to have in order to break ground. Due to a delay in the awarding of the contract however, construction will not begin until sometime in the next 2 months. The park will be open in early fall.

DPR requires that all official city dog parks have a non profit partner, and Hill Hounds is that partner for Kingsman Field. DPR pays for the basics – original construction (minus “fancy” extras like benches), a water source, fencing etc. Hill Hounds is responsible for ongoing care, cleaning and maintenance, benches, shade treatments and any extras, like providing treat vending, poop bags etc.

This will be the first official, public, DPR approved dog park on the Hill.

by Nichole on May 17, 2010 3:08 pm • linkreport

@Jazzy, You make a good point ... i.e., that not everyone fled to the suburbs ... BUT (and I'm sure you knew that was coming), I think a case could be made that of those that stayed in the city, you had the real urbanites (i.e., in the urban parts of the city) who just continued living the way people always had before ... i.e., shopping on foot at corner grocery, not going out to restaurants a lot or driving out to the mall, and yes, having grandma take care of the kids those few times that the parent really did need to get away. And then you had those folks who stayed in DC but stayed in what I'd call suburban parts of the city and who did just like all the white/prostestant/catholic/jewish folks did in other suburbs ... They got in their car and took the kids with them that way.

What's different now, is that we've got all these folks that got used to the mobility that (in my opinion) only having a car makes possible (and I mean the black folks in NE as well as the white/etc folk elsewhere) who now want to move into the city to enjoy all that without losing the ease of mobility they had back in the suburbs. They want their cake and to eat it to. They aren't willing to 'go back' to the life which you so rightfully point out never really vanished altogether. And that's where the conflicts will have to be worked out. Most of these folks moving back into the urban parts of DC are still going to want to be able to go shopping in great venues and eating out ... and to do so WITH the kids since either grandma will be living out of town, or too busy with her senior group to take care of the kids anyway. These new urban pioneers truly are pioneers. There isn't a map out there 'cause no one has yet done what they're looking to do ... Not even the Europeans who are basically following the road map of the inner city folks you bring up .. .i.e., they're doing neighborhood shopping, and grandma who started getting social security at age 53 is available to take care of the kids ... and even if she isn't, there're enough social welfare supports in place that someone will ... and then there's the question of does mom really need to work anyway since the family gets extra support from the government for each kid they get, and you don't have to put away for kids education 'cause the government pays for all that stuff etc.

Long story short is that the new urbanites are blazing a truly new trail for themselves when they decide to raise a family in the city.

by Lance on May 17, 2010 5:02 pm • linkreport


I think one thing you overlook (at least on Capitol Hill) is that many of those corner stores where folks once bought their necessities have shuttered and turned into either housing, or have been converted to things like laundromats, or dry cleaners. There are a few corner shops, but the average distance from a Hill household to one of those types of shops is much greater than it once was.

My guess is that in neighborhoods like Brookland &tc..., the difference is much greater.

by oboe on May 17, 2010 5:40 pm • linkreport

@Lance "What's different now, is that we've got all these folks that got used to the mobility that only having a car makes possible who now want to move into the city to enjoy all that without losing the ease of mobility they had back in the suburbs."

Are we having a civilized conversation on this topic? Good golly. I agree, Lance, that this is a major dynamic. And it's not only the car-enabled mobility that families returning to the city don't want to give up, it's the service economy (which exploded during the suburban flight) too. Hence the conflicts over children in restaurants, movie theaters, etc. Personally, I could care less about these venues, though I know many urban families want to have their cake and eat it too.

But an equal dynamic, Lance, is that the childless "real urbanites" left behind in the cities got used to the absence of kids, and not just in the growing service sector but also, and more importantly, in the public realm of transit, parks, libraries and museums. I would argue that these public realms have grown less family-friendly during the past 50 years, as they have catered to their audience of largely childless urbanites. And it's these public realms where you see the greatest contrast with European cities in terms of family-friendliness, precisely because family-flight to the burbs is an exception (e.g. Brussels) rather than the rule in Europe.

A return of inter-generational community to the cities requires returning to an earlier set of expectations by the true urbanites who never left concerning kids in the public realm.

by Ken Archer on May 17, 2010 6:22 pm • linkreport

@Ken, But an equal dynamic, Lance, is that the childless "real urbanites" left behind in the cities got used to the absence of kids,

Agreed, but it's not all one sided. An urban setting is very demanding on the people living in it in terms of exacting a more strict standard of 'interaction'. For example, when I'm walking down a sidewalk and 'get stuck' behind a couple or a family spread across the sidewalk, and not making any effort to let me by, I figure out pretty quickly that they aren't used to an urban environment. Ditto when I'm in a restauant where the tables are so close to each other that the person at the next table is closer to me than the person I'm at the restaurant with ... and that stranger starts talking to me ....

While there are without doubt unrealistic expectations on the part of some of the people who've 'gotten used to some neighborhoods almost devoid of children, there are also unrealistic expectations on the other side as well as perhaps a 'learning curve' regarding acceptable behavior in an urban environment.

by Lance on May 17, 2010 7:28 pm • linkreport

But that is not unique to people with kids. That's anyone new to a city, including childless people.

by Jazzy on May 17, 2010 7:51 pm • linkreport

@Jazzy, Yeah but people who otherwise are used to navigating the city with its different set of rules, don't know how to navigate it with children in tow ... 'cause they don't have a real set of rules to follow. (Our 'rules' here in the US are basically based on suburban living ... as attested to by the SUV-sized strollers with cups for soda cans ... )

by Lance on May 18, 2010 11:08 pm • linkreport

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