Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Politics and public input


Photo by KCIvey
Standoff in the synagogue: Last night, Democratic Mayoral candidates Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray clashed in a debate leading up to the September 14th primaries. Gray expressed doubt about bus lanes on 7th & 9th Streets NW, saying "I'd rather put bike lanes on every street...because they're the way of the future." He seems to have forgotten the last time he was quoted about bike lanes. Today, the DC Board of Elections is considering Fenty's request to allow independent voters to vote in the primary. Follow @mikedebonis for live updates. (TBD.com)

Exclusionary zoning: DC's inclusionary zoning law was passed to entice developers to build more affordable housing stock. With resale restrictions, owners of these units can't reap the benefits of homeownership, making it difficult for developers to sell them. Manna's Shiv Newaldass proposes a fix allowing the city to recoup subsidies and homeowners to benefit from rising property values. (Washington Post, Jaime Fearer)

Rate the road diet: Have you driven or biked along Lawyers Road since it went on a diet? Virginia DOT is seeking feedback on the Lawyers Road project they undertook last summer. The road was reduced from 2 lanes in each direction to one lane each way, continuous center turn lane and five-foot bike lanes on either side. Let them know what you think. (All Fairfax, Joey)

Food truck finality: Today is the last day to submit comments to DCRA on their proposed street vending rule, which would formally allow mobile food trucks, barring the introduction of any language proposed by BIDs and merchant groups. (YesOnTitle24)

The next TOD hotspot: Hot on the heels of the Rhode Island Ave Metro joint development groundbreaking, PERS Development announced it will remodel the abandoned apartment building at the corner of 4th & Rhode Island. PERS stepped in just as Prince of Petworth DCRA, at the urging of Eckington Resident Steve Conn, was getting the building classified as "blighted." (DCmud)

Corman in the mirror: Corman Construction, an Annapolis-based contractor, won the $30.7 million contract to restore the Reflecting Pool on the Mall. The current pool was built in the early 1920s and is sinking into the marsh it's built on. (Hometown Annapolis, The I)

Couches on wheels no more: Alexis Madrigal explains how tech advances and mobile devices will lead naturally to more city living. While technologies of the mid-twentieth century made driving enjoyable and productive, today's mobile capabilities make driving a waste of time. (The Atlantic)

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Erik Weber has been living car-free in the District since 2009. Hailing from the home of the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary, Erik has been interested in transit since spending summers in Germany as a kid where he rode as many buses, trains and streetcars as he could find. Views expressed here are Erik's alone. 

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How do you have a building classified as blighted?

by andrew on Aug 25, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

"He seems to have forgotten the last time he was quoted about bike lanes."

Sigh. So, because Gray (like a lot of other people) doesn't like the implementation of the Penn Ave bike lanes, he must therefore be opposed to bike lanes generally?

Someday I hope a GGW writer will understand that it is possible to be in favor of a concept, yet be opposed to a specific badly-done implementation of that concept.

But no, if you so much as even suggest that there might be something that is not absolutely wonderful about any single thing related to bikes in this town, you are obviously anti-bike. Or streetcar. Or whatever. So keep your trap shut if you don't like it, cuz Uncle Gabe knows best!

by Jamie on Aug 25, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

Yup, Gray t0tes screwed up 4 real on transpo last night. Get everyone who would ride BRT onto a bike? Interesting........

by Jason on Aug 25, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

Jamie -

I don't know if you were there or not last night, but it definitely sounded like Gray wrote off bus lanes entirely because we "already have bus lanes" and those don't work, ergo bus lanes in general are a bad idea and we should get everyone on bikes. No mention of design/implementation flaws on 7th/9th or the merits of the 16th St proposal. It was a loopy, ill-informed argument to say the least.

by Jason on Aug 25, 2010 10:58 am • linkreport

Oops, my above post was mis-directed. The comments still stand though. I'm done.

by Jason on Aug 25, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

I didn't hear his comments so I can't comment on his position on bus lanes. I agree that it sounds a bit loopy from the way you describe it.

But I was only commenting on Erik's insinuation that Gray is contradicting himself on his support of bike lanes because he said the person who designed the Penn Ave lanes must have been high. Which I agree with.

by Jamie on Aug 25, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

Manna is incorrect in its claims and odd crusade against DC's most recent and innovative affordable housing program. Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) already provides for sharing appreciation with homeowners when the for-sale IZ unit is sold (IZ also provides affordable rentals). DC has many kinds of affordable homeownership programs, IZ is only the latest. Manna's proposal for giving away all the appreciation from the IZ unit after 5 years is the policy Montgomery County abandoned years ago after losing most of its IZ units through quick expiration. Learning from Montgomery, the DC IZ law not only benefits homeowners with shared appreciation, it also builds a permanent stock of affordable housing for the next generation of buyers. There are many ways to create affordable homeownership and rental opportunities for DC residents. Different programs can have different goals and priorities. IZ balances shared appreciation with maintaining a long-term affordable housing stock - something desperately needed in D.C. Learn about IZ at: http://tinyurl.com/387fy6u

by cheryl_cort on Aug 25, 2010 11:19 am • linkreport

Jamie, I understand that one can be in favor of a concept and dislike an implementation. I, for one, also dislike the Penn lanes, but still support bike lanes generally. My point - and it's difficult to make it in a two sentence blurb - was to remind people of the entire discussion about bike & bus lanes he had last time, not just the single quote. At that time, he expressed reservations about bike lanes as backing up traffic, said that the District's lanes aren't well planned and gave the impression it was not a high priority. Now, post street-car fiasco, and active/cycling groups endorsing Fenty, this "bike lanes on every street" stance comes across as a politically-desperate change of heart.

by Erik W on Aug 25, 2010 11:43 am • linkreport

Technology advances mean that, in order to compete in a global economy, people will need to drastically increase their math and science skills. Which means that children who attend urban public schools will be at a major disadvantage over those who go to far superior suburban schools.

So all of this "new urbanism" will mean nothing if you are raising a family.

In the economy of the future (and today), 12 years in the DCPS is a death sentence.

The kids who grow up in DC will use the mobile devices of the future. The kids who grow up in Montgomery County will design them.

by urbaner on Aug 25, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

Fair enough. I really wasn't trying to comment on Gray's position. I can't find his current or past comments in any kind of context so it's hard to know.

At the same time, I think things like the streetcar "fiasco", and (perhaps) like this, are often used to unfairly represent Gray's positions. In the aftermath of the streetcar thing, it seems pretty clear to me that that was a cock-up and nothing more. He's clearly been a longtime supporter of streetcars, and if (for example) Fenty had made a similar blunder, he would have been forgiven instantly.

by Jamie on Aug 25, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

Urbaner, the gap between urban and suburban schools is nothing compared to the paradigmatic differences between the way students learn in Sweden or China, versus the United States.

That doesn't mean we give up. It means we try to fix the system. Unless you welcome our Finnish WiMAX-powered overlords...

by Neil Flanagan on Aug 25, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

Nothing against math and science skills, urbaner, but I'm not sure technology increases mean we need to drastically increase them.

In many ways, technology increases will mean we need less actual skills. Thirty years ago, one had to be a computer programmer to use one. Nowadays, literacy is barely required.

Same thing with mechanical arts. When cars first rolled out, you had to have a fair amount of knowledge to use one, today any philosophy major can jump in one and take it for a ride.

That's not to say we can't and shouldn't improve our math and science teaching, in both urban and suburban schools.

by TimK on Aug 25, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

There are rumors circulating that suggest Fenty will run as an Independent in the General Election. Now that the DC BOEE has rejected the ploy to include independents and Republicans in the Democratic primary, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

by William on Aug 25, 2010 12:11 pm • linkreport

Neil Flanagan,

I'll take option #2 please. Now where's my sauna.

by TimK on Aug 25, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

all schools improve with involved parents.

by Bianchi on Aug 25, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport

He just makes one caution: "The new reflecting pool is not a swimming pool."
Just for the sake of argument - Why not? Rather than install decorative electric pumps to keep it from becoming 'stagnant', would it cost a significant amount of money to make it a small 3' deep artificial lake, with a processed-river-water inflow and an outflow on the other side?

Does anyone really think this would detract from the appreciation that either tourists or locals have for the Mall when they visit? I recognize that it would anger the armchair architects.

by Squalish on Aug 25, 2010 12:19 pm • linkreport

@Squalish,
I think it's a great idea. Some place to cool off when the heat index is 102F. Ice skating rink too for those who own skates (no rentals).

by Bianchi on Aug 25, 2010 12:29 pm • linkreport

@ Squalish

+10 points if you can turn the reflecting pool into a lazy river.

by ChrisB on Aug 25, 2010 12:30 pm • linkreport

"It's a big problem for all areas around the Potomac," Coble said. "They didn't consider the importance of a good foundation."

I dunno. The fact that it's held up for 85 years seems fairly impressive.

(Also, why not let people swim in the pool or skate on it in the winter? The unprogrammed nature of the mall is one of its most notable attributes.)

by andrew on Aug 25, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

From the linked tbd article, the Gray line, "I'm willing to take my chances on the electorate that already exists. I don't have to expand the electorate at all in order to get elected" really disturbs me.
It's one thing to say that the Democratic primary should be only for Democrats, it's another thing to support a policy of exclusion to support ones own chances of victory. That tactic is used often and is always vile.

by Dan on Aug 25, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

Dan, my issue with this situation is that the rules had long since been in place. To change it now, just a few weeks before the election, is not above board.

Other places have cross-over voting rules in place. I doubt many would have an issue with it. Just not less than a month before the primary.

by William on Aug 25, 2010 1:54 pm • linkreport

I'm not well-versed on this issue in D.C., but I respect the idea of not wanting to change it so haphazardly and so close to an election (even if the person making that argument would personally benefit from no change).
What I don't like is someone putting personal benefit first and proudly having no problem with excluding people's voices. Being comfortable with the fact that certain people don't have a meaningful vote isn't a position that anyone, particularly a D.C. politician, should crow about.

by Dan on Aug 25, 2010 2:29 pm • linkreport

I read Gray's comment as an indirect way of suggesting that Fenty wanted to change the rules to benefit Fenty, while Gray doesn't need to change the rules. To suggest that the Democratic rules are exclusionary is absurd--anyone can change their registration to Democrat.

by Jim on Aug 25, 2010 4:19 pm • linkreport

I agree that a last minute change is inappropriate and I'm fine with him hitting Fenty for suggesting it, but he's still taking pride in exclusion.

The Democratic rules ARE exclusionary. There are voters in D.C. who don't have a meaningful vote for mayor based on the their registration. There are many reasons someone might not want to register with a party (they don't like being labeled, they work in a political job where their registration could cause problems...). Whatever the reason, people are being excluded.

However the mechanism, it would be nice if the competitive election wasn't purely in the structure of a primary.

by Dan on Aug 25, 2010 4:32 pm • linkreport

At he hearing today, it was noted (rather importantly) that this exact issue came before the city council just last year, and was rejected.

There's no rational justification for this 11th hour attempt to change the rules. Fortunately the board agreed. End of story.

by Jamie on Aug 25, 2010 4:32 pm • linkreport

Re: The Reflecting Pool

An ice rink would be cool, but you'd have to actually make it a rink with the requisite ice making capabilities. You can't just leave it full of water and let it freeze. Water expands as it freezes, that's why people drain their pools in the winter in cold climates - that expansion will ruin the foundations and the walls of the pool. Actual ice rinks that aren't on lakes don't have open water beneath them, they are frozen slabs on top of chilled concrete.

FWIW, I believe one of the original concepts for the Mall plan involved removing the Capitol reflecting pool and replacing it with a square. That pool is not historic, it was put in in the 70s when the freeway tunnel was completed. The square would also have the necessary ice making infrastructure embedded beneath, enabling there to be a Capitol ice rink in the winter. Now that's a good idea.

As for swimming, you'd have to meet all sorts of health requirements for having a pool - chlorination, lifeguards, etc. Not appropriate.

by Alex B. on Aug 25, 2010 5:09 pm • linkreport

@Alex B- I've skated on it before, a couple times. So have hundreds of other people. I've also skated on the artificial pond just north of the pool, along with a couple hundred others.

The best ice-skate I've had in my adult life was late one night on the ref. pool when the temp had dropped really fast and there was no wind resulting in a really smooth surface. Two friends and I drove my my car to the side of the of the Lincoln mem. and walked a very short distance to the pool where we laced up our skates and left our boots. We skated for about an hour, just the three of us, before we were kindly shooed away by a policeman.

I returned the next morning to skate again and it was covered with pick-up hockey games and a couple hundred people skating. I remember being amazed that so many people in DC owned their own skates. This was pre-9/11 of course.

by Bianchi on Aug 25, 2010 5:41 pm • linkreport


@cheryl_cort on Aug 25, 2010 11:19 am

This odd crusade that you refer to is one of the founding principles of Manna. The purpose of homeownership, even within the affordable housing segment, isn't merely to house an individual or family. Consider why you would purchase a home or anyone for that matter. You purchase a house because it serves as an asset- an investment in your future. We build houses and sell to these families to allow them to move up the economic ladder and out of poverty. These arbitrary restrictions that are heaped onto these units hurt these families from progressing. They donÂ’t want to cheat the system as you and others have alluded in the past and they do not want a hand out. We are simply offering a leg-up. The shared equity scheme in Inclusionary Zoning does not work and we can prove it. Basing our housing program on Montgomery County is wrong on so many levels, but what this really boils down is- what is end goal for these families? Permanent subsidies or self-sufficiency?

Also, DC will not have the same effect as Montgomery County Affordable Housing program simply because only 6% of the affordable housing stock in designated as for-sale units, the vast majority, over 84% is rental. DC needs a better system to help these families.

by Shiv Newaldass on Sep 2, 2010 2:49 pm • linkreport

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