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Breakfast links: Arlington's antis

Photo by Will Mitchell.
OMG buildings!: The Post's article on the East Falls Church Metro plan gives most of the ink to neighbor opposition, quoting 3 opposing neighbors and framing the piece as "[some say it] will destroy their bucolic neighborhood" with scant attention to the plan's benefits or supporters. (Christy Goodman/Post) ... Sign the petition to support the plan.

Cross 395 soon: There will be a new bike-ped connection across I-395 from Army Navy Drive to Arlington View. It requires a trail on a piece of a country club's property, which they've agreed to in exchange for permission to enlarge the clubhouse. The County Board approved the plan on Saturday. (CommuterPageBlog, Joey)

Where Arlington would put bike sharing: Arlington is getting 14 bike stations in the new Capital Bikeshare program, but is already starting to plan for 110, identifying what areas would get them: mostly the Pentagon-Crystal City, Rosslyn-Ballston, and Columbia Pike areas with a few in Buckingham and Shirlington. (Arlington County Board, Joey)

In-law apartment or second house?: A Baltimore County community association has been fighting for years in court to block a garage from being used as an apartment for the owners' son. In-law apartments are allowed, but neighbors say it's a "second home" instead. (Arthur Hirsch/Baltimore Sun, jfruh)

Negative externalities of homeownership: A Federal Reserve paper touts the benefits of homeownership, including community involvement, as a "positive externality," but Ryan Avent points out that homeownership makes owners very risk averse and creates incentives to exclude others from an area, which isn't so positive.

DDOT updates: The new "Dave Thomas Circle" traffic pattern, at the corner of New York and Florida Avenues, is now in effect. DDOT has modified the plan slightly from the original announcement, adding O Street. ... The Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes will have bollards after all on the narrow portions at either end, despite CFA opposition.

Examinations: Is DC waiving police overtime costs for too many parades, including the SunTrust National Marathon? (Bill Myers/Examiner) ... Thieves stole two bikes from Mayor Fenty's home right under the noses of his security detail (Bill Myers/Examiner) ... Despite budget cuts, Metro will have more staff than before. (Kytja Weir/Examiner)

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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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Most, if not all of the increase in positions at WMATA are either safety related or related to and funded by the expanded capital program. The increase in police headcount is funded by a federal grant.

by Steve Strauss on Jun 14, 2010 8:52 am • linkreport

WMATA police are very overpaid and their utility to WMATA customers is very marginal. However, there will be a terrorist attack on WMATA rail at some point. Wouldn't it be better to create a specialized federal police force for WMATA?

I'd be more concerned with if there is a specialized WMATA rescues team...

by charlie on Jun 14, 2010 9:07 am • linkreport

These labor costs are outrageous. Why are riders and taxpayers being forced to pay for a shortfall in a budget of which 70% of costs are for labor? Especially knowing that these guys are the ones we're paying for.

Before we hear anymore about Metro asking for fare increases, the board should have some gumption and ask ATU689 for concessions as well, such as:

- Stop including overtime pay as part of annual salaries in pension calculations
- End unlimited metro usage for life for employees and spouses
- Redefine arbitration terms to include things like "Punching police officers" and "killing people with your bus" as prohibiting terminated employees from being re-hired and/or receiving back pay
- Random station visits to ensure escalator repair work actually takes place

Seriously, guys. Aren't we all in this together? How about workers, riders, and taxpayers ALL make some sacrifices?

by JD on Jun 14, 2010 9:21 am • linkreport

@Steve Strauss: What happens next year if the federal grant runs out? Do we fire those police officers?

@East Falls Church development: There appears to be a generation gap between supporters and detractors. All three people quoted as being against the plan have lived in their homes more than 20 years. Most of the people I saw as against the plan at the public meeting were over the age of 50-55. The people speaking out in favor of the plan appeared to be my age or a little older (I'm 30). Does this pattern appear for other places where TOD is proposed? Is my observation just biased, or do other people see the same thing?

Some people have commented that they moved here in the 1950s and built up a neighborhood that they don't want to see change. Is the expectation that neighborhoods should not change for 60 years, even after an interstate highway and mass transit system are built?

I have a flyer people can print out to hand out and show their support for the EFC Development: If you live in the East Falls Church area, please print out a dozen copies and give them to your neighbors.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 14, 2010 9:23 am • linkreport

Crossing 395: I sometimes run along Army-Navy Drive, and I've noticed what appears to be a closed-off pedestrian tunnel under I-395. I'm not sure what's on the other side. It's a bit north of 25th Street.

by Joe C on Jun 14, 2010 9:24 am • linkreport

When I see the intense hatred of people for other people making a decent living, I have to wonder what collosally essential work the haters do for a living. Probably something non-useful like real estate or Cato Institute.

by Rich on Jun 14, 2010 9:24 am • linkreport

@Michael Perkins,

Regarding age and NIMBYism, you should read Ryan Avent's piece, also linked in this post. Excellent summary of a large part of the issue.

by Alex B. on Jun 14, 2010 9:24 am • linkreport

David -- The Post's article on East Falls Church is actually quite balanced. It should have been longer, but it did include multiple quotes from the chair of the task force, who presumably would be a good source for the pro-development view. Are you unhappy with what he said? If so, what's the best way to sell this plan to skeptical neighbors?

by EFC on Jun 14, 2010 9:27 am • linkreport

@Michael Perkins,

At the Alexandria City meetings regarding the proposed TOD redevelopment of the Beauregard Corridor there is definitely a generation gap between supporters and detractors. The detractors seem to be split among people who have lived in the neighborhood for 20+ years and those who live in Fairfax and points south who use Beauregard as an alternative to 395.

by ChrisB on Jun 14, 2010 9:29 am • linkreport

Shumate said residents were "rowdy and hostile" at a community meeting last month when they learned of plans for a six-story, 450,000-square-foot building at the site.

Regardless of how you stand on an issue, it's always disappointing when people are unable to control themselves at a meeting. Why should we take someone's concerns seriously if they can't respect anyone else?

by dan reed! on Jun 14, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

The main thesis of Ryan Avent's article is that renters are way better advocates of the Gospel of Smarter Growth because they don't have any financial investment in real estate that would be directly impacted by new development.

Well, duh.

It's far easier to support a project if it's not your mortgaged house that could be adversely impacted by the effects of that development. Sure it's great that society as a whole benefits. But if the impact on me is likely to be a negative impact on my property's value, why is it surprising that I'd be opposed to it?

This basically explains a great deal of the fights over development for the past several centuries.

by Fritz on Jun 14, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

I also found the Post article better than the GGW coverage. Three things:

1) I know understand why VDOT isn't happy -- this plan will lock away any future expansion of i-66.

2) The links to the Arlington planning documents worked.

3) Post sides had their views

What didn't come out was Mperkins point is that many opponents don't want 6 to 9 story buildings, rather 3-4. The public concession on the developers may make it more profitable to build at 6 to 9, but if this project is worthwhile we shouldn't be doing it based on extracting money from developers.

In regard to parking, the Arlington document was more of a fail. There is no logic to eliminating metro commuter parking -- just a feeling that "cars are bad".

It looks as if they are asking for 75-100 public spots (short term) in return for giving up the 200 WMATA parking spots. Since they are planning multi-use residential buildings there, I have to assume they are building more than 100 parking spots, and so they are putting in underground lots.

That defeats a large part of Mperkins objections re: cost. They are already digging a garage. Digging another level to put in another 100 metro spots does not seem to expensive.

I suspect the goal is more to drive traffic to the new 100 short term sports, which will presumably be more expensive than commuter parking. I don't know if the private developer or Arlington County will run those public spots.

Asking for another level in the garage, building 75-100 metro commuter spots (which could be flexed out as public sports on weekends) is not going to be that expensive. Managing the traffic flow might be tricky -- but we are talking about 100 cars at rush-hour.

by charlie on Jun 14, 2010 9:42 am • linkreport

One of the main complaints about the East Falls Church plan is that it appears that the plan is being passed without any public input. The Task Force has been holding meetings for almost three years now, and has had public input in the form of surveys taken of local residents as well as public input at meetings of at least the most local Civic Association, of which I am a member. I don't know what other Civic Associations did. If you think your Civic Association let you down, you should probably let them know.

That said, this meeting tomorrow is the start of the official county-level public comment period. The plan will be considered by public citizen commissions (they function kind of like the Board's committees) including
Historic and Landmarks Review Board,
Parks Commission,
Housing Commission,
Transportation Commission,
Environment and Energy Conservation Commission, and
the Planning Commission, which will be a hearing with comments from the public on 6/28 (carryover 6/30).

Then the final plan will be considered by the Board on 7/10 (or recess hearing on 7/13), and public comment will be taken at that time, too.

And even after that, it's only a plan. Each building will have to create and obtain approval for a Site Plan, which has its own series of public notices, official consideration by citizen commissions, and consideration by the Board. The plan just states what is likely to be considered favorably by the review process since it's been through public input once before.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 14, 2010 9:50 am • linkreport

@charlie: Each level you dig deeper to put in more parking is more expensive than the previous level. Underground spaces are much more expensive than above ground or surface parking. Just because you're already building underground parking doesn't make additional levels less expensive.

The parking would be run by whoever develops the land. With the exception of county-owned buildings and the Ballston parking garage, I'm not aware of many county-run parking garages. Typically it's run by a contractor selected by the developer, like Colonial Parking or someone like that.

If we dig parking spaces and sell them for less than about $10-15 per day, that's a subsidy paid by the developer which goes to people commuting mostly alone through our neighborhood. In that context, it crowds out money that the neighborhood could ask the developer to build some infrastructure, and increases local traffic at least by a little. I can see why the Task Force membership wanted to cut back on Metro dedicated parking, but I'm not sure cutting it out completely will get all the way through the approval process. It's not supported by VDOT, and it's not supported by the county staff.

What's the broken link we had? Should have pointed it out sooner, we can fix that.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 14, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

@Rich: No one hates these workers. Well, except the ones who do things like STOP THEIR BUS TO PUNCH MCGRUFF THE CRIME DOG. Quality worker, that one.

Rather, it just makes sense for ATU689 to want to agree to reasonable (possibly temporary) cuts to ensure that the Metro budget is sustainable. When Metro can't squeeze any more money from riders or local jurisdictions, the ultimate solution will be massive layoffs for workers as ridership falls and the budget continues to expand.

As per my suggestions, no one is suggesting that workers LOSE overtime pay, but it's unusual to include it as part of pension calculations upon retirement (i.e., including it when averaging highest years of salary).

Second, Metro workers (including non-union workers) should receive free transportation to and from their job and ride free while on shift. This makes logistical sense. But Metro has 11,000 or so employees, and tens of thousands of spouses and retired employees, all of whome ride free forever. This represents millions of dollars in lost revenue that has to be covered by fare increases. There's certainly a resonable middle ground ($50/mo for life, etc.), but this is absolutely unsustainable. That's not hate -- that makes sense.

Finally, the lack of escalator repair supervision has already been such a problem that Metro had to go out and hire a "consultant" to make sure repairs are taking place.

No one faults workers for wanting to make a decent living. But labor benefits do not exist without having an effect on the company with whom they have a contract. A lack of moderation on any side can ruin it for all of us.

by JD on Jun 14, 2010 10:09 am • linkreport

Regarding EFC again, I would not be so quick to label us as Arlington anti's. Arlingtonians have shown for the past couple of decades that we are receptive to development and all kinds of Smart Growth features where they are appropriate. The western part of the county has always had a character that was different from the commercial corridors that Metro helped boost. Nine story buildings do not fit in there. Six story buildings barely fit in. Saying that you need 9 to interest a developer is not an excuse to tune out reasonable alternatives.

One option is to put the street/sidewalk/pedestrian and bike improvements on the ballot as bond issues and let the county residents vote for the money. Maybe even the second station entrance could be funded this way. That's how many projects are pushed forward, and they are approved by voters in the vast majority of cases. I can't remember a bond issue that I voted against or one that didn't pass here. Then take a step back and evaluate what is best for the neighborhood and not just what is best for the developer in terms of the buildings.

by Lou on Jun 14, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

@Mperkins; the links you always included led to some very strange PDF formatting on Safari; also it seemed to be one page. The links of the post went to a Arlington web page that explained the project and had the PDF in proper format.

Also a bit unclear if WMATA will continue to hold title to the parking lot land or sell it. I can see the value of both.

My point about the commuters isn't about the local value, but that they are more than 10% of the current station traffic. Cutting off your nose because you don't want more cars is pretty stupid. With a little flexibility, you can have both. Clarendon Commons, for instance, has vast parking garages as well as good metro access.

by charlie on Jun 14, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

@Charlie: And none of those parking garages at Clarendon are dedicated to Metro, which is entirely consistent with the plan. All the plan is saying is that the current all-day parking will be replaced by publicly available parking which will have a different price structure. If you want to park all day and pay what the developer charges, that will be allowed.

What I saw in the plan study documents was that Metro would have a 99-year lease with the developer.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 14, 2010 10:33 am • linkreport

I don't think WMATA needs to involve the union to take action on worker absenteeism (and it's hardly an issue unique to WMATA). If workers are skipping out on the job, or are performing poorly, they should be fired. (I'll even side with the union, and allow the workers a chance to defend themselves, as it only seems fair)

Massive layoffs and paycuts would likely be counterproductive, as the costs of hiring and training new workers are not negligible. Experienced workers are also likely to be safer and more productive on the job. Metro needs to revise its compensation practices, although they will need to minimize turnover while doing so.

Also, does anybody know when the current contract expires?

by andrew on Jun 14, 2010 10:33 am • linkreport

@David Alpert, the link to the Arlington Bike Share is broken.

@Joe C, I too have wondered about that tunnel. There is a story there perhaps.

@Fritz, it's the tragedy of the uncommons. Instead of people exerting too little control over an area to the detriment of all. Some people (Neighbors) exert too much control over an area to the detriment of all. The cost of you being allowed to kill any project next to your house, is that everyone else gets the same right.

by David C on Jun 14, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

@David C: I think it's been fixed. Can you reload the direct post page at and tell me if it's still a problem?

@Charlie: I checked the links in the recent EFC posts and can't figure out what you're having trouble with. Can you tell me which link specifically is causing this problem in Safari?

by David Alpert on Jun 14, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

@Mperkins; Clarendon Commons is an example of good mixed use -- but it isn't a metro station. EFC, especially the lot we are talking about, it. I would have thought you'd point about that even with that amount of development and money they didn't put in underground lots. Ballston -- with it very large public garage -- is a better example.

You are quite right that the private developers could build lots that would cater to commuters -- albeit at a higher price to consumers. But that is what I meant by flexbility. Getting the buy in to build one more underground level or parking, and then using that parking in a a flexible way, would be a win for WMATA, for the local area, and the public.

As you've said, this isn't to turn EFC into a mini-City. It is to bring some density closer to the metro station, and Arlington does a good job of that. A large part -- more than 15% -- of the future EFC metro traffic is still going to get there by car and park.

by charlie on Jun 14, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

@David Alpert, much better. Thanks.

by David C on Jun 14, 2010 10:45 am • linkreport

@David; well, I just did the same thing and so no problems. Perhaps it was a problem with the arlington pdf file. The problem I had was the entire document was in landscape, so why you rotate individual pages to read the entire thing you had to twist you laptop. It seemed more like a draft report than the post link.

by charlie on Jun 14, 2010 11:03 am • linkreport

I read the Post article and see it a bit differently from this blog's view. The Post article seemed quite balanced, as opposed to the blog's general take on development at East Falls Church, which does seem to be a version of "cars are inherently bad," as another commenter noted, and anyone who seeks to preserve a residential community must be re-educated.

The comments from the task force member in the Post article (re: there is a rail stop, so we must urbanize it) are fascinating and seem to demonstrate the precise problem with the thinking behind those seeking to urbanize East Falls Church. There are many communities in the United States that are served by rail that do not seek to turn every rail stop into another edge city. Instead, many communities work hard to preserve the characteristics of the communities that make them great places to live in the first place. It remains unclear whether this area has learned that lesson.

Regarding the gap in views identified above with respect to age, age is not necessarily the only factor. Families may be more prone to seek to preserve a family-friendly, less urban environment. Long-time owners may also see the value in preserving a residential community of single-family homes. Younger and newer residents, on the other hand, may be more interested in inexpensive and transient rental apartments. There is value in both sets of views, but the problem arises where--as here--one community seeks to supplant another community. It is doubtful that this level of development would raise the same concerns if undertaken in an appropriate area geared toward this type of development, such as Clarendon.

by Reader on Jun 14, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport

Although the numbers initially sounded low to me, looking at the areas for Arlington's bikeshare stations, it now seems perfectly adequate. ~100 stations to cover the whole county seemed low, but of course they're not installing bikeshare in low-density residential neighborhoods.

For instance, Rosslyn to Ballston is 3 mi, and they plan ~45 stations there. The usual bikeshare advice is one station per 1000 ft., or about 5 stations per mile. Following that advice, a straight line from Rosslyn to Ballston would need at least 15 stations. 45 stations should be very adequate for adding extra bikes in high-demand areas and branching a little away from Wilson-Fairfax (maybe a station at Ballston Mall, Marine Corps Memorial, Roosevelt Island?).

Similarly, it's 2 mi from Pentagon City to Four Mile Run (rec. 10 stations min. in a straight line), and 25 stations are planned for the corridor.

Although keep in mind, this is for advertising the Master Plan: "projects that are anticipated to be implemented by the year 2030". If we can get half of these stations open in the next year or two, that should be a plenty good start for now...

by Gavin on Jun 14, 2010 11:41 am • linkreport

@Reader, There are many communities in the United States that are served by rail that do not seek to turn every rail stop into another edge city. Do you have some examples?

Families may be more prone to seek to preserve a family-friendly, less urban environment. Do you believe that Urban and family friendly are mutually exclusive?

Having invested billions in building a metro station, doesn't it make sense to try and maximize that investment through greater density?

by David C on Jun 14, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

Wait, wait, wait... VIRGINIA has a country club that is willing to give up some of the land it actually owns for an alternative transportation enhancement, whereas Columbia CC in Chevy Chase still won't concede COUNTY OWNED land to build the Purple Line?

by Dave Murphy on Jun 14, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport


It's far easier to support a project if it's not your mortgaged house that could be adversely impacted by the effects of that development. Sure it's great that society as a whole benefits. But if the impact on me is likely to be a negative impact on my property's value, why is it surprising that I'd be opposed to it?

The thing is that the impacts are not likely to be negative at all - but any small amount of change sets off a wave of fear for those that are both highly leveraged and invested in their properties, thus also very risk averse.

Basically, it's a mismatch of perception and reality when it comes to the impacts of investment and redevelopment.

by Alex B. on Jun 14, 2010 12:09 pm • linkreport

Sadly, I suspect EFC needs to preserve its existing parking unless commuters can be convinced to park at neighboring stations.

Although it'd be great for daily city commuters to live within walking distance of Metro, removing parking from the station denies the existing reality.

Similarly, if we remove too much parking from the outlying stations, people may just choose to drive instead.

by andrew on Jun 14, 2010 12:24 pm • linkreport

@Alex B:

If there's a neighborhood of predominantly single-family homes located near a Metro stop, and there's a plan for developing that neighborhood into a higher density one, because that's what the Gospel of Smart Growth calls for, and I own a single-family home, how it is NOT a likely negative impact if I would have to look at a 5-10 story building, deal with additional traffic, deal with parking headaches, etc.?

I understand that society as a whole may benefit from such a development, but it's really unrealistic to say that those homeowners who are directly impacted as simply being irrational due to a lack of correct perception. Minimizing the effects and ignoring their concerns isn't going to win over anyone on the fence.

Indeed, that sort of knee-jerk labeling of anyone who doesn't support such development as being the product of dishonesty or ignorance really goes a long way in explaining why some residents will fight long and hard against such developments.

by Fritz on Jun 14, 2010 12:47 pm • linkreport


Again, this is perception versus reality. People may perceive tall buildings as a blight, but the home price data for Arlington's Orange line corridor, or Bethesda, or Silver Spring says exactly the opposite. That perception does not mesh with the facts and the reality. That isn't to say that there wasn't risk involved, just that those who are extraordinarily risk-averse are probably not the best people to be measuring that risk.

Your comments are interesting - take the potential negative impact of more traffic. Arlington's Orange line corridor has managed to add millions of SF of development, and the traffic volumes are (thanks to good planning) the same as they were before the Metro in spite of all that added density.

Again, I don't mean to belittle the concerns that people have, as they are certainly genuine. Addressing those concerns, however, needs to be based on facts and analysis. Your traffic complaint is an example of that - more development does not necessarily mean more traffic.

It's not about dismissing those objections out of hand, it's about determining what the real impacts will be and planning for them accordingly. I'd argue that the extraordinarily risk-averse position is a detriment to good development and often is quite wrong when estimating the negative impacts of development.

by Alex B. on Jun 14, 2010 1:00 pm • linkreport

Also, the Dave Thomas circle is actually much more of an improvement than I thought it would be. Kudos to DDOT for having some people on site to direct traffic, mostly adequate signage, and leaving O St open.

by andrew on Jun 14, 2010 1:15 pm • linkreport

i love this quote:

What do you suggest? We do nothing?

exactly as expected. bravo! the planners are essentially saying, 'Look -- we can do it our way, or do nothing at all, and we can't do nothing at all, because that would be unrealistic, so what is wrong with you NIMBYs?'

thank you, George W. "You're either with us, or against us" Bush. i remain against you, and your plans. there's a better way forward.

i'm not sure how the article was supposed to be unbalanced. seemed to give the planners from multiple agencies and government bodies a whole lot of room. and i actually have a healthy respect for individual voices in the community, including and especially those voices which are, by definition, not powerful - because they are not government voices, nor corporate voices. there's a coverage lesson in there somewhere.

by Peter Smith on Jun 14, 2010 5:58 pm • linkreport

also, regarding real estate value/prices in the immediate vicinity of the station/redevelopment/towers, i suspect the value/prices will go up up up. as will property taxes. i suspect some folks won't want to have to come up with much bigger tax payments just because their houses are all of a sudden sitting on the equivalent of an oil field.

if you're on a fixed income, new higher taxes can be especially problematic (see gentrification). i know Virginia has some 'senior persons tax relief' thing, but not sure of the details. seeing some of the Manhattan-like housing prices around Clarendon, i understand folks' concerns about new skyscraper development.

by Peter Smith on Jun 14, 2010 6:20 pm • linkreport


Take heart. There are places, outside of DC, where the argument is not so boringly and predictably framed as the aging NIMBY'ers versus the young and cool hipsters.

Many people can come together old and young to oppose misguided development that is against their community's interests. There's nothing wrong with that.

by Jazzy on Jun 14, 2010 7:18 pm • linkreport

@Joe C and David C,

Re: the tunnel under I-395, not much of a story but here's what I recall. The now-closed Dolley Madison tunnel dates from the 1960s or 1970s, before my time and perhaps even before Shirley Highway (formerly state route 350) became 10-lanes-wide. Like a lot of early and often now-closed tunnels such as another one under I-395 at Boundary Channel Drive and one under Old Dominion Drive at Stratford School (HB Woodlawn) it had the configuration of a box culvert --- long, dark and dank --- and attracted undesirable activity. Despite its condition it did get some use, especially between the Dolley Madison Apartments at the end of 24th Road South and the Metrobus stops along Army-Navy Drive. Trying to keep it halfway decent became a constant maintenance headache for Arlington so when the company that owned the apartments (Dittmar) requested permission to close it, and agreed to construct an asphalt walk along 24th Road to connect to the bus stops along Glebe Road, Arlington agreed to it. I believe that was sometime in the 1990s.

by mk on Jun 15, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

Ryan Avent's article claims that homeowners are primarily motivated to increase the value of the property, and consequently are risk-averse. But he has placed too much emphasis on economics, and misses what truly motivates people to oppose local development.

As a homeowner, most of what I am involved with is, at best, only tangentially related to the value of my property. My concerns are with the quality of life: how I feel about things as I walk down the street, and how they affect my family. Homeowners take a keen interest in all goings-on in their neighborhoods, only some of which is development.

I expect that this also explains why some long-term residents oppose the urbanization of Falls Church. Their property value may actually increase, but as they have no immediate plans to cash out, their agenda is driven by more intangible, what-they-feel-as-they-walk-down-the-street considerations -- such as viewsheds.

by goldfish on Jun 15, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

But he has placed too much emphasis on economics, and misses what truly motivates people to oppose local development.

this is, of course, the plain and obvious truth, which is why Avent suggests exactly the opposite. he's the torch-bearer for the Vertical Growth crowd -- always says the right things. i'm sure at some point we'll see Avent, or people like him, being sponsored by big developers, the same way BRT outfits like TheCityFix are funded by BP, Shell, etc.

why are NIMBYs such spoilsports? can't they see we're trying to get stuff done? 50 years ago all we wanted was highways, and the NIMBYs had problems with it. they're anti-progress. and now all we want is tall buildings, and the NIMBYs can't let us have these without a fight, either. what motivates these people? the destruction of mankind?

by Peter Smith on Jun 15, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

come to think of it, the Tall Buildings Brigade seems to have a sort of anti-human, capitalist mentality that is the basis for their entire ideology. any notion of fairness or humanity is crowded out by monetary concerns.

people want to share? too bad.

people want to be social? can't do it.

people want cozy neighborhoods? never consider it.

people want to see and feel the sun? no way.

people want to see the hills in the distance? impossible.

it's twisted, but it's starting to become clearer to me, now.

i notice the same type of 'humans-as-widgets' mentality when it comes to transportation. so, whenever i want to read what the establishment is thinking about some particular transit issue, i head over to the anti-human Human Transit blog. there, the people who are being transported are not thinking, feeling, creative, social, spiritual, aspiring human beings -- they're inanimate objects to be transported on the backs of The State -- we don't need to care about their dignity or comfort, and we have to move them as cheaply as possible -- so we'll stick them all on buses.

there is still the 'we have to build stuff now now now' mentality among the Tall Buildings Brigade (i.e. the folks who who think we can build our way to sustainability, and do it most-sustainability by building taller and taller buildings -- we'll leave this folly alone for now), but there is also -- now I'm realizing -- this view of humans as capitalist cogs in a machine -- unable and unwilling to participate in, and uninterested in, anything but money and power. again - twisted, demented, sad - but very capitalist, so it fits in well with modern American elite ideology -- whether these folks prefer to call themselves capitalists, or Smart Growth advocates, or transit advocates, or whatever else.

by Peter Smith on Jun 15, 2010 11:03 am • linkreport

Peter, in all of your strawman attacks on the "Tall Building Brigade", you've failed to make the case as to why this development is not as good as the status quo or the development you'd like to see.

by David C on Jun 15, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport

David -- No strawman there; it is clear to me what Peter is complaining about -- the height of the buildings, and how they change the neighborhood (lack of sun, ...) And it is clear what kind of development he prefers.

by goldfish on Jun 15, 2010 12:40 pm • linkreport


Peter threw up plenty of strawmen. Tall buildings mean you can't socialize? You can't share? You can't feel cozy? All of those are bunk.

The sun issue is the only one that's remotely based on the actual proposed development, and even that is completely devoid of any actual analysis or fact. Show me a sun/shadow analysis of the proposed building massing and building heights, and we can talk.

by Alex B. on Jun 15, 2010 1:09 pm • linkreport

It does not take a environmental impact study to demonstrate that tall buildings will block the sun that would otherwise shine on passersby. Since the concerns are intangible, it is difficult to put dollar values on what will be lost. To insist on such a study places an undue and unnecessary burden on those that have common sense on their side, and indicates a willful disregard for what is in plain sight.

Regarding sharing, socialization and coziness: again I say, use common sense. Look at the neighborhoods with tall buildings, such as Bailey's Crossing, and compare them to other neighborhoods with similar population density but without tall buildings, such as Shaw. Where would you rather live?

by goldfish on Jun 15, 2010 1:46 pm • linkreport

Goldfish, exactly. Keep it up! I am under the weather and too tired to fight the mentality you accurately characterized earlier. (BTW, I think it's Bailey's Crossroads.)

by Jazzy on Jun 15, 2010 2:06 pm • linkreport

The tall building is supposed to be set far back from the street. Therefore, it won't shade passerby.

There seems to be a strong knee-jerk reaction to "tall buildings" that inherently they must look like the worst skyscrapers we know. There are 10-story buildings in my neighborhood and they do not make the street feel shaded, like a glass canyon, or otherwise unpleasant.

by David Alpert on Jun 15, 2010 4:46 pm • linkreport


The reason I ask for a little analysis is because you're pushing a position that isn't based on fact. As David notes, the nine-story portion of the plan would be set back far away from the street and likely wouldn't cast a shadow on the street at all. The heights near the street would be much lower.

Bringing up Bailey's Crossroads as an example at all is completely disingenuous, too. Some of those towers there are over 26 stories - 250+ feet tall, not 9 stories. And you're also making the mistake of conflating building height to urban design - Shaw is an urban neighborhood with buildings right up to the lot lines and well defined streets, while Bailey's Crossroads is a 'towers in the park' configuration - I'd challenge you to use your common sense as well, and ask if it's the building height that really matters there or if it's the urban design, the building setbacks, the architecture, etc.

This plan does not call for Bailey's Crossroads.

by Alex B. on Jun 15, 2010 5:25 pm • linkreport

David -- Yes there is a strong bias against tall buildings, because like urban highways, they are responsible for the some of the most egregious urban horrors in the past 60 years. To accommodate the human scale they have to be sited and designed carefully. Which is to say, they usually are not.

Perhaps you could sell the design in your neighborhood to the EFC developer?

by goldfish on Jun 15, 2010 5:30 pm • linkreport

The tall building is supposed to be set far back from the street. Therefore, it won't shade passerby.

so, what exactly are you 'tall-ish building' folks asking for? a tower in the park? a mini-tower in the mini-park? how big will the setback be? what will be located in the open space -- a parking lot? grass? a vegetable garden? will there be anything for pedestrians to look at, and remain interested in, when they walk the adjacent streets? no ground-floor retail, i take it? will there be a street on the back side of the tall-ish building? how big will that street be? how often will it be shaded vs. allowed to have sun cast upon it? will this plan create bigger blocks, which are bad for walkability, if not for density? is it a wise trade-off?

There seems to be a strong knee-jerk reaction to "tall buildings" that inherently they must look like the worst skyscrapers we know.

i have a strong knee-jerk reaction to lots of things -- rape, murder, torture, war, cars, highways, tall buildings -- you name it. there are *plenty* of reasons to oppose tall buildings. i'm with Salingaros -- "We are not against tall buildings, but tall buildings seem to be against us." if there was stronger regulation that tall buildings had to be made aesthetically-pleasing, or sustainable, or pedestrian-friendly, or whatever, then i might not have such a strong 'knee-jerk reaction' to them. look at the 'knee-jerk reaction' of the "anti's" running the CRC campaign in Portland. maybe they're just a bunch of NIMBY nitwits. or, maybe they actually care about where they live. i'm going with the latter.

and the greatest hypocrisy here is that we're expected to believe that a 9-story building is going to continue to exist alone forever more -- it won't be used as a justification to build 18-story buildings, etc. nonsense.

by Peter Smith on Jun 15, 2010 6:01 pm • linkreport

the greatest hypocrisy here is that we're expected to believe that a 9-story building is going to continue to exist alone forever more -- it won't be used as a justification to build 18-story buildings, etc. nonsense.

by David C on Jun 15, 2010 6:26 pm • linkreport

Alex -- actually I don't have a dog in this fight; I live in the urban core. But my homeowner-self leans toward the residents, that liked the neighborhood enough to have bought into it. Some of them think that the proposed buildings do not fit in with the neighborhood feel they signed up for, that this development breaks the deal they made when they purchased their property.

Metro will be extended to Dulles, whereas before Falls Church was near the end of the line. This will cause more pressure on neighborhoods along the line.

Maybe a better comparison is Rockville, halfway between Bethesda and the end of the line at Gaithersburg. Falls Church is a quiet bedroom community, something like what Rockville was 30 years ago. Then came the metro and rampant development, with 10-story buildings and large parking lots -- now look at it. After this project unalterably changes the character of the city, what makes you think that further development will not occur, until it looks like Rockville?

by goldfish on Jun 15, 2010 10:02 pm • linkreport

goldfish, from a detached and analytical perspective, cities are dynamic places that change over time. In short, there is no 'deal' that these homeowners entered in to. You only need to look at this site to see that. Start with the railroad, then the abandonment of the tracks, followed by the construction of I-66, followed by Metro, etc.

Cities change all the time. They change slowly enough that we might not notice it happening in real time, but any quick glance back through history shows just how fast things change.

I don't live in the EFC area either, but that's precisely the point - I see great good in this plan, good for the city and for the region. Those who live nearby certainly deserve to be heard, but they are not the only interests here.

by Alex B. on Jun 15, 2010 10:35 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. goldfish, from a detached and analytical perspective, cities are dynamic places that change over time. In short, there is no 'deal' that these homeowners entered in to.

Actually, yes ... for at least the last 60 years, there has been a 'deal' that homeowners have entered into. And it's called 'zoning'. And yes, zoning has changed forever how development will occur because of zoning and the 'deal' (between government and home-purchaser and commercial-property purchaser it makes possible. The same goes for historic districts which are a form of zoning all their own. People who buy into the zones areas/historic districts buy into them knowing full well that they don't get the right to do 'just about anything these please' with their property and the trade-off for that is that they know their neighbors can't either. This deal provides stability and allows people to know that what they're buying won't changed from under them.

by Lance on Jun 15, 2010 10:52 pm • linkreport

Of course, zoning is a law, and laws change. Nor do those laws eliminate change - new buildings are built within the confines of existing zoning all the time - buildings that many neighbors oppose in startlingly similar fashions to this.

Also, no one is proposing that people do anything they please - there is a specific plan. David C rightfully made a reference to the slippery slope fallacy a few posts above. Proposing change does not mean that you can do anything. Likewise, stability does not mean a complete lack of change.

by Alex B. on Jun 15, 2010 11:37 pm • linkreport

Alex & David -- you say slippery slope is a fallacy; I say you are looking down the path to Rockville. Given the economics of development along the new Metro extension, plus the vast smart growth conspiracy (which I say only half in jest), it is clear which is the more likely scenario.

by goldfish on Jun 16, 2010 9:10 am • linkreport

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