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


Breakfast links: Site debate

Photo by ebatty on Flickr.
Strategic areas for tall buildings?: Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the Height Act. DCmud reviews its history and suggests relaxing it in key areas outside the L'Enfant City, like Marshall Heights, Deanwood, or where East Capitol or Georgia Avenue cross the DC line as Paris did with La Défense. ... NCPC has now posted a transcript and podcast of Larry Beasley's talk.

Gas station worse next to community pool or Metro?: The Post covers the Wheaton Costco gas station controversy. The Planning Board rejected the idea because it wouldn't make Wheaton more walkable, but some neighbors are suggesting an alternate gas station location that's actually far closer to the Metro. County Councilmembers seem to be waiting until after the September primary to decide.

Fix it: An outside expert will evaluate Metro's elevator and escalator problems, and Interim GM Sarles appointed a new head of customer service ... Crews are trying to shore up the sinking Jefferson Memorial. (Post)

More Council votes: Besides approving required sidewalks, the DC Council also set up a referendum on an elected attorney general for November, and postponed action on Mayor Fenty's nomination to chair the Zoning Commission. (Post, Housing Complex)

Youth driving less because...: It'd be a stretch to say that youth driving has declined because of the Internet, but whether from more walkable areas, higher gas prices, tougher rules for getting driver's licenses, and/or the Internet, fewer teens have licenses, which could certainly affect the way young people think about transportation policy. (Infectious Greed via @ryanavent)

No grocery store since...: Residents of Near Southeast pushed for a grocery store in their neighborhood... back in 1965. (JDLand)

DIY subway: One man in Russia is single-handedly building a subway system underneath his neighborhood. He has been working on it since 1984. It even has permits. (English Russia via Planetizen)

And...: Today's Kojo show will discuss Maryland's prosecution of people who videotape police ... Can you really call the tire store that burned a landmark? (Post) ... BRAC traffic still vexing (Connection) ... Wiehle development was approved (Post) ... Rockville passes green building codes. (Gazette)

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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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Youth driving less because... I say lack of jobs. A job was the reason I got a car. If you don't have one, why bother.

by RJ on Jun 2, 2010 9:21 am • linkreport

I would not take La Defense as an example for DC high-rises. We can be ourselves. But carefully placed clusters of high-rises could be great. Except for the street plans, Rosslyn and Pentagon City can be examples.

Why not go for a Washington Tower that's 555 meter (in stead of feet) high? It could even be shaped like the monument? It would only be the fourth tallest building in the world (same size as CN tower in Toronto), and a new modern landmark to DC. It would need a good foundation to prevent it from keeling over like ol' Jefferson though. Seriously, why not? Oh wait, because we can barely maintain a functioning five line metro system.

Metro's escalators are an embarrassment. Has anybody ever figured out what it costs to run all those shuttles?

by Jasper on Jun 2, 2010 9:51 am • linkreport

I could understand reasons economic reasons why teens are driving less, but this is about getting licenses. I have to think the only things that would really factor into that are more restrictive rules for obtaining a license and more teens living in walkable areas and not needing a license.

by Steven Yates on Jun 2, 2010 9:56 am • linkreport


I don't think anyone is saying anything about La Defense except for the fact that it a) has tall buildings and b) is located at distance from the core of Paris. It is an example in concept, not a blueprint to be followed exactly.

by Alex B. on Jun 2, 2010 9:57 am • linkreport

The motorcyclist that was arrested for allegedly video recording the plain clothed Maryland State Police officer was not arrested for video recording, he was arrested for audio the audio track that was on the video recording.

It is unlawful to audio record conversations between parties without the consent of the parties being recorded in the State Maryland.

The law was passed as result of the audio recordings Lynda Trip made when she had conversations with Monica Lewinsky about the relationship she had with President William Jefferson Clinton.

by Sand Box John on Jun 2, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport

I had a fight with Jaspar about this last week:

More teenage mobility increases youth employment. Europe has higher youth unemployment, and cars are more expensive there. Transit options are better but not located in high-growth / entry job types of places. More restriction on teen licenses will just increase youth unemployment in the US.

I doubt very much MOST teens are located in high transit areas (cities). Clearly we are seeing a lot of hispanics in places like fairfax on bikes as way to get to work. Whether that is because there are a lot of them of we just didn't notice before is an open questions.

by charlie on Jun 2, 2010 10:30 am • linkreport

Interesting to note, just like Arlington, La Defense is not actually located in Paris proper. If I remember correctly, it's located mostly in the commune of Courbevoie...

In any event, the idea that D.C. must go higher in order to match our suburban neighbors just doesn't make sense to me. The D.C. suburbs will be growing by leaps and bounds no matter how much density we add in Washington. Silver Spring and Tyson's are simply cheaper, generic, and have lots of available land. And that's totally fine. Like I've said before, the people who are interested in buying a Ferrari are not going to settle for a Hyundai even if it is cheaper. They're just two completely different markets and the brand is what makes the difference. As opposed to being in competition with our regional neighbors, D.C. should be worried about competing with other global cities. The good news is that Washington's unique brand (its location, history, and cityscape among other things) is what makes the city desirable in the first place.

by Adam L on Jun 2, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

Sorry to nit-pick, but according to the article, it's not the Jefferson Memorial that's sinking. It's the adjacent seawall and plaza that are sinking and need to be shored up, possibly because their support pilings don't go all the way down to bedrock. The memorial itself is said to be basically stable.

by Jewdishoowary Square on Jun 2, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

It's probably a landmark to long time residents, to newer residents, they don't get it.

I think the license requirements have tightened up over the years. And combined with increased parental reluctance to let their young teens drive, that might also play a role in why teens are driving less.

by Jazzy on Jun 2, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

@Sandbox - That's an audio recording between two people. The arrest occurred in public. It's not illegal to make audio recordings in public space. The cop fails. Who polices the police? We do.

by Redline SOS on Jun 2, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

@ charlie: About that fight. Europe has higher youth unemployment

You still haven't backed that up with numbers.

@ Adam L: D.C. should be worried about competing with other global cities. The good news is that Washington's unique brand (its location, history, and cityscape among other things) is what makes the city desirable in the first place.

So tell me, how exactly can DC compete globally on the point of history? Or cityscape? What advantages do we actually have that makes us compete with say New York, Chicago, LA, Toronto, Montreal, Tokyo, Bejing, Shanghai, Dehli, Mumbia, Seoul, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, Moscow, Jerusalem, Cairo, Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janero, Mexico City and Santiago?

Honestly, it's an easy statement you make. DC is a very fine city. But when talking global competition, there are some big players to compete with.

by Jasper on Jun 2, 2010 11:09 am • linkreport

That is not really nit-picking about the seawall clarification. It's the basic facts of the story.

by Lou on Jun 2, 2010 11:09 am • linkreport

@Redline SOS
As I recall the Lynda Trip Monica Lewinsky recorded conversations were made in a location open to the public.

by Sand Box John on Jun 2, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

Almost New Tires: It was a landmark because of the way the bldg. was decorated. It fell into the category of Folk Art.

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 11:17 am • linkreport

@Jasper, DC is the capital(ol?) if the USA. You really don't think the USA has had a significant place in modern world history?

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 11:24 am • linkreport

A Capitol is a building where a government/legislature meets. Capital can refer to the city that houses the Capitol, amongst many other things - but Capitol has only one meaning.

by Alex B. on Jun 2, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

re: the Capital, I agree with Adam L. DC is unique in the region (and the world) whereas Tysons, Silver Spring, Rosslyn are not. They owe their economic size to the attraction of nearby DC. There are not millions of toursists coming to see Tysons or Silver Spring or Rosslyn each year. The Air and Space museum is the second most visted museum in the world, etc. etc.

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 11:40 am • linkreport

If being a world city means you have a higher unemployment rate, worse schools and a far more incompetent local government, I think the people of Fairfax County are more than happy with having their backwards hick town (as it is usually classified on here) as it is, rather than being a world city.

The joke is that Tysons has more office space than DC and anytime a agency/military branch opens a new office, it's going outside of the District.

by MPC on Jun 2, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport

I don't see why the L'Enfant City should be a barrier. Maybe it's easier to do it that way, but I don't see areas like Deanwood getting enough development for it to have large towers anytime soon. I don't see why Chinatown, Metro Center or K St./West End shouldn't have taller buildings. Inside the city, if we were going to raise limits, these are the type of places where I'd prefer. Areas that are more residential in nature could stay the way they are. I look at the height limit inside DC and outside of it as separate. Rosslyn and Silver Spring can do what they want, but if DC were to get towers, I'd basically cordon off the area around the mall and museums and allow downtown to grow.

DC may be in a different market than our generic suburbs, but even if the Hyundai/Ferrari comparison were apt, why not have more Ferrari by building up?

We would still have the wide avenues and a layout providing interesting views and the monumental core could be kept as is. The biggest obstacle to me is infrastructure, but if the growth were manageable, maybe we could be able to handle upgrading it to handle all the additional residents and workers.

by Vik on Jun 2, 2010 12:02 pm • linkreport

Adam L. said it very well. Washington's green, open, low-rise cityscape is among its unique features and (at least from this non-native's perspective) is one of the elements that attracts residents.

I find some of the other examples not persuasive. IMO Paris' La Defense detracts from the city, and the Montparnasse Tower is a glaring example of what to avoid. Closer to home, Rosslyn and Pentagon City are mediocre at best (and downright ugly in parts).

by Bob on Jun 2, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

MPC-why do you hate America? Dissing DC clearly indicates you want the terrorists to win.

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 12:07 pm • linkreport

Your 2004 jokes are just as funny in 2010.

by MPC on Jun 2, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

Pentagon City has a height restriction too so you can't build up there.

by MPC on Jun 2, 2010 12:18 pm • linkreport

@vik&Bob, there's still plenty of room for infill in DC eg Sams Park&shop is all one story. I know. Its protected as historical, but that's the first example I thought of. In fact all those shops along Conn Ave in ClevPark are only 1 or 2 stories. There's room for a lot more ferrari right there.

captch words "and handsome"

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 12:39 pm • linkreport

I think the license requirements have tightened up over the years.

To say the least. In many states one used to be able to get an essentially full license at age 16. Now it's often 18, and even then there may be some lingering restrictions. A license simply isn't as attractive or valuable.

by ah on Jun 2, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport

@ Bianchi: You really don't think the USA has had a significant place in modern world history?

That's a very sneaky reply. We weren't talking about the US's place in world history, but about DC competing globally as a city. Adam L mentioned, location (which is unique for every place), history (not modern history) and cityscape.

My question was how DC can seriously with other world class cities. To be chosen in that category, we need to better. My question was: How are we?

You also day we are unique. How are we? By being the capital of the US? Why is that better than being the capital of China, India or Italy? I honestly don't know.

@ Vik: +1

@ Bianchi: MPC-why do you hate America? Dissing DC clearly indicates you want the terrorists to win.

WTF? MPC is comparing two American counties by pointing to some factual truths and you deduce that he sympathizes with terrorists? Seriously? You want to win the war or terror by hiding the truth?

by Jasper on Jun 2, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

Wow Jasper is slightly taking my side. Maybe it's because I'm penning this from the Continent. Just got back from the Baden- Baden spas.

by MPC on Jun 2, 2010 12:58 pm • linkreport

All states but 1 (or 2?) have implemented graduated drivers license (GDL) laws since 1996. Restrictions vary by state and include requirements like hours as a pre-lim driver accompanied by a licensed adult and then after that requirement is fulfilled restrictions on driving at night and with teenaged passengers.

The GDL's have a demonstrated effect on lowering crashes with a teen driver in which a fatality occurred. The question of whether some people are delaying driving until they're old enough to not be restricted by the GDL's (age 21) is not answered.

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 1:00 pm • linkreport


Do we need higher density in Cleveland Park though? Areas like that are perfectly fine as is. I was thinking more like keeping all the high density stuff below Massachusetts Ave., w/ perhaps with some exceptions, like Noma.

You would probably have some residual height growth due to the increase in the core, but, I don't think we should look to have Noma or Ballpark-like growth in many other areas of the city, especially if it means tearing down other types of charming architecture and forcing density where it's not as manageable. I really think increasing the height limit would be exciting over the long term. We'd still have a lot of the best parts of the city intact and we'd probably have areas currently under-served by transit, getting it.

by Vik on Jun 2, 2010 1:20 pm • linkreport

Oh Jasper. It was a joke!

History: You exclude modern history from the subset of history? By modern history I mean since the age of the Enlightenment. We had that thing that started in 1776 and marked a turn for world history? Also, I never said DC was a "better" Capital. I only argued that among the reasons DC is attractive and unique (aside from longitude*latitude) is because it is the Capital city! Without that distinction Fairfax and Montgo Co.'s would not be the economic powerhouses for their respective states that they currently are due to their proximity to the Capital of the nation.

Historically and aesthetically Tysons and SS are bland found-anywhere-in-the-US compared to DC. Make all the other compaisons you want between DC and Tysons. Tysons will never compare favorably in terms of aesthetics and historical importance. That's what Adam L., Vik and Bob above all seem to be saying and with whom I agree, and it appears, you also agree.

I never indicted DC was beyond improvement. I only took issue with your saying it wasn't important historically. It is. Yes, because it's the nations capital and yes because of the place the US holds in modern history. I'm not getting into a history argument w/ you. If you don't think the US has a significant place in modern world history, or that DC is prettier then Tysons or that Tysons wouldn't be what it is b/c of proximity to DC, go with it.

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 1:27 pm • linkreport

@ Vik, if ht. restc.'s are lifted, how would the skyscaper effect be confined to below Mass Ave? You think that would be a natural outcome? btw, I like CP as is, not to say I can't see room for improvement too. I just don't think it would change CP that much if for instance there were 6 stories of condos/apts above Sams Park & Shop

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

Historically and aesthetically Tysons and SS are bland found-anywhere-in-the-US compared to DC.

You're serious with that? You think anywhere-in-the-US has all of the major corporations that those two locations have?

Do you ever get outside the Beltway?

Tell me why, when moving to this area, far more people decide to make the most important investment of their lives (buying a house) in "boring and bland" Fairfax rather than "world city" DC?

by MPC on Jun 2, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport

@ Bianchi: We are debating different points. I am not denying Washington's/America's place in history. Neither am I comparing suburbs to downtown. I'm just asking how DC is unique and competitive compared to other world cities. Adam L said we are. Perhaps we are. I don't know. That's why I am asking the question.

by Jasper on Jun 2, 2010 1:51 pm • linkreport

So tell me, how exactly can DC compete globally on the point of history? Its the Capital of the US. The US is significant to modern and contemporary world history. This is integral to its uniqueness and competiveness. In addition, L'Enfants plan is beautiful.

by Bianchi on Jun 2, 2010 2:26 pm • linkreport


That does the best job of explaining what I meant by a global city. Some of the characteristics, like political and cultural characteristics are subjective, but so is the term. Anyway, in regards to Washington, the people who work in and around the government of what is still one of the world's most powerful nations certainly makes for a competitive global edge. Beyond that, though, the shear numbers of museums, cultural, and educational institutions in Washington is certainly enough to rival any other major world city. Finally, the global presence in Washington attributed not only to the embassies and consulates, but to diplomats of other international organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, OAS, Pan-American Health Organization, etc. really puts the city on the map politically.

by Adam L on Jun 2, 2010 4:36 pm • linkreport

In practical terms, Arlington is far more global than what the overwhelmingly white+black DC has to offer.

Plus by your logic, any capital city should be a global city since it has diplomats.

Thirdly, I wouldn't call DC so much a global city as a sub-Saharan city, since its AIDS rates are comparable to them.

by MPC on Jun 2, 2010 4:49 pm • linkreport

If you want good ethnic food in the area, where do you go?

If you DC instead of NOVA, you're being a fraud and you know it.

by MPC on Jun 2, 2010 4:51 pm • linkreport

@ Adam L: the people who work in and around the government of what is still one of the world's most powerful nations certainly makes for a competitive global edge.

In what sense? And how does that beat people living in other very powerful capitals in the world? Say, Beijing (fastest growing superpower) or Berlin (still the largest exporter)?

the shear numbers of museums, cultural, and educational institutions in Washington is certainly enough to rival any other major world city.

I'd say that New York has equal museums, more culture and bigger universities, so we're not even first in the nation. While the Smithsonian museums are fine, they're no match for the Roman (& Vatican) museums. Or the Parisian. Paris also has very fine educational institutions.

embassies and consulates

As MPC said, every capital has those.

World Bank, IMF, OAS, Pan-American Health Organization

New York has the UN, way more important than the IMF/WB. Geneva has the UN and the Red Cross. Brussels has the EU and NATO.

really puts the city on the map politically.

I am not denying that. We're *a* world capital. But you said, we're competitive in the group of world capitals. I still see no reason why.

For starters, we just relatively small compared to other world capitals. Tokyo, Mexico City, Beijing and Delhi are all considerately larger than DC. Even London and Paris are. So, while we're in that group of important cities, I have seen no arguments on why we're better than any of them. However, one of the things we're grossly missing here in DC is industry and HQs. Our infrastructure is also unimpressive, especially considering we're not a megacity.

New York calls itself the Capital of the World. How often do you hear anybody reject that idea? And of those few, how often do you hear anyone suggesting it should be DC? QED.

Again, I like DC. I like living here. It's a great city. Sure we're a global city. I just don't think we're in the top group. Nor should we want to be. One of the charms of DC is that it still has a relative small town feel to it.

by Jasper on Jun 2, 2010 9:02 pm • linkreport

If you want good ethnic food in the area, where do you go?

Hmm, so many choices...Montgomery County, NoVa, U Street, Capitol Hill...

by Matthias on Jun 2, 2010 9:46 pm • linkreport

from the Wiehle Article:

Although there might not be any new buildings at the Wiehle Avenue Metro station when service starts in 2013, riders at least will be able to park at the Reston commuter rail station.

not a commuter rail station

by Vivo on Jun 3, 2010 8:25 am • linkreport

@Jasper, nobody said DC is a *better* capital or global city then other global cities or capitals or even that it's in the top tier. The point is that it is one (a global city), and thus is competitive among the other global cities, second or third tier though it is. Adam's point was DC's competiveness as a global city should be emphasized and enhanced instead of looking to compete on the level of a Tysons/Silver Spring. Adam emphasized the aesthetic quality as one of DC's attributes, which you seem to be implying is one of the qualities you like too ("small town feel" is an aesthetic assessment with implied positive value). BTW, the Air and Space is the 2nd most visited museum in the world behind the Louvre.

by Bianchi on Jun 3, 2010 11:02 am • linkreport

What is DC exactly competing for against other 'global cities'?

I suppose you'll come up with some abstract things like 'art' and 'culture', but I'm quite sure that the residents of DC would prefer it to compete for better education, more jobs and a lower AIDS rate.

by MPC on Jun 3, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

@MPC, If you want good ethnic food in the area, where do you go?

The question should be 'if you want first rate world class food at all ends of the affordability spectrum, where do you go?' Arlington and the hinterlands beyond may indeed have a far larger variety (and quantity) of good ethnic restaurants, but the edge Washington has is that its restaurants are 'excellent' ... be they serving the best half-Smoke in the area at Ben's Chili Bowl or a gratinee onion soup at one of the many first rate continental restaurants. And not to mention the far superior atmosphere as compared to those suburban restaurants situated mainly in strip malls where a stroll after dinner means bellying up to your car in the sea of cars in the parking lot just outside the restaurant's front full glass window with those funny hanging neon signs ...

by Lance on Jun 4, 2010 12:14 am • linkreport

People who go for 'high-end' ethnic food are suckers. You're supposed to go for the cheap quick stuff.

by MPC on Jun 4, 2010 3:41 am • linkreport

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