Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Tensions on and off the bike


Photo by koalazymonkey on Flickr.
Enforce bike parking rules: Today is a DC Council hearing on a bill to enforce the current law requiring bike parking in buildings. WABA is asking for emails to Council supporting the law and asking that any fines be dedicated to providing more bike parking. (TheWashCycle)

Conflict is the bike story: "The media seems to have latched onto the idea of conflict as their way to report on the recent growth in bicycling and the expansion of the bike lane network," says a NYC cycling advocate. (TheCityFix)

Tensions in Hill East: After two assaults and a shooting near the Hill East housing project Potomac Gardens, neighborhood residents are calling for action from the city. The project and neighborhood are no stranger to such tensions. (DCist)

Questions surround Big K site in Anacostia: The DC government bought up a large site in the heart of Historic Anacostia this past summer. Now residents are saying the agency hasn't been very open with the community about their redevelopment plans. (Washington Syndicate)

A glimpse at MLK Memorial: The media were given a sneak peak at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the south side of the mall. The Memorial foundation still needs to raise $12 million, but is planning to dedicate the memorial in August 2011. (Post) ... WUSA has some additional photos.

More NoMA park responses: A number of bloggers respond to David's article on NoMA parks. Market Urbanism says blame the height limit, and also maybe parks aren't all that. Kriston Capps says DC should be willing to pay for a park since it will generate more tax revenue from surrounding properties. And OpenMarket is disappointed that Generation Y'ers aren't more libertarian.

Raise my taxes, please: A WAMU listener pleads with the Mayor-elect and Council to raise taxes on her and others who make more than $200,000 a year. "Who wants to sell their house, leave their neighborhood, and move to the suburbs for what amounts to a grande latte a day at Starbucks?" she says. (WAMU)

Toronto surrenders (to cars): Declaring "the war on the car is over," Toronto's new mayor scrapped a comprehensive light rail system on his first day in office. However, unlike a US politician, the mayor wants to see subway expansion. (The Globe and Mail)

And...: Cheverly will be getting Prince George's County's first wind turbine. (WAMU) ... Leslie Johnson, arrested recently on federal charges alongside her husband Jack, may cast the deciding vote for chair of the County Council (Gazette) ... The CDC has found some DC homes are still facing lead contamination in their water. (WUSA)

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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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I may be getting more hardened as I age, as the government freezes my salary, as bums ask me for change when I have $100K in law school debt, after being spit on by kids from the projects on North Capitol...but if workers can't get affordable housing, why should the chronically unemployed? Tear down the projects in Hill East and build affordable condos for federal workers. Why should the freeloaders get free housing while the workers pay 40% of their income for rent?

Freeze my salary, but evict the unemployed from Potomac Gardens and give me free housing.

by Redline SOS on Dec 2, 2010 8:57 am • linkreport

After two assaults and a shooting near the Hill East housing project Potomac Gardens, neighborhood residents are calling for action from the city.

The strange thing is, everybody seems to agree that warehouses of concentrated poverty like Potomac Gardens should be converted to "mixed-use" developments. And yet, it never happens. I'm guessing this is because no one can agree on what that means. For some public housing advocates, it means rebuilding PG as a "nicer" condominium-style development, but with absolutely zero displacement--effectively keeping the same socioeconomic mix. I don't see how that could be possible.

I do know that--if the status quo is allowed to continue--we're going to eventually see the place razed to the ground, and the residents displaced with a handful of vouchers and a slap on the back. Social services like public housing rely on the goodwill of the greater community, and that's rapidly evaporating. Housing advocates would do well to concentrate on how to make Potomac Gardens and other projects safe for the residents and their neighbors rather than the usual tired accusations of classism and racism.

Doesn't matter how liberal you are, when a property is the source of repeated random violent attacks on the larger community, that property is going to be going away. It sucks that a violent 1% has to poison things for the law-abiding 99%, and residents of dysfunctional public housing are inevitably the victims of crime more often than anyone in the surrounding community, but the situation is what it is.

by oboe on Dec 2, 2010 9:27 am • linkreport

Oboe has a darned good point. People will only put up with so much, and the old saw that a Liberal is simply a Conservative who hasn't been mugged yet may well apply here. Something needs to be done about the disorderly minority of residents, or else the projects are simply going to be razed. Considering the makeup of the incoming House, the City could conceivably end up being ordered to do so if a Congressional Aide were to be a victim, and no amount of protesting about racism or classism will do a damn bit of good.

by Dave J on Dec 2, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

In terms of the "conflict' storyline of bikes vs. cars, I'd agree the "media" is blowing it up.

Bicyclists can be stupid, aggressive and rude. So can drivers. We have to assume a world were only a small minority of people are polite.

And we need to focus on places where we can find agreement. Take for instance the countdown walk signals which are being installed. Much better for drivers AND pedestrians.

Also, most drivers are terrified of hitting someone on a bike, and we need some better guidance and education for all drivers on how to handle that. For instance, when I'm on a bike stopped at a red light, I will take off a few seconds before the light changes if there is no traffic to build up some speed. I'm sure some people will say "red light jumper" but in reality it gets me out of the way for the cars behind.

Bike lanes, etc, can be the best thing for drivers because they should get bikes out of the driving lanes. Bicycle traffic signals and other things can HELP drivers.

And it would help if DDOT and other officials seemed a bit more excited about PAVING streets to get rid of the massive number of potholes...

by charlie on Dec 2, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

Isn't the opening chapter of Dream City about the violent death of a Hill staffer that lead to a counterproductive crack down in the 1960s?

by TM on Dec 2, 2010 10:02 am • linkreport

MLK Memorial Foundation should just ask one of their natural boosters for the 12 million, maybe organized labor... oh wait.

by Will on Dec 2, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport

@oboe - Very good points.

Re: the WABA post on the bike parking law - how much revenue in terms of fine do they expect to be raised in order to cover budget shortfalls? Does it really make sense to target small-time property owners with heavy fines? And if a landlord installs a bike rack at the request of bike-riding tenants, can the landlord charge the tenants for the installation and use of the bike racks? And one final thought: How is DDOT going to be inspecting the tens of thousands of buildings in the city to ensure they've all installed the appropriate number of bike racks?

by Fritz on Dec 2, 2010 10:09 am • linkreport

I've never read Dream City, so I don't know, but I am a realist: the "law and order" types who were elected to the House frankly despise anyone living on public assistance and are probably itching for a chance to "teach those idiots a lesson or two." That it would likely be a disaster I do not dispute, but when you see a potential disaster ahead, it is prudent to take what steps you can to avoid it, not complain about how it is someone else's fault afterward.

Unfortunately, I worry that the principle motivation of the incoming Mayor is To Not Piss Anyone Off Ever, and that is just a recipe for doing nothing and then assigning blame afterwards. Hopefully, I will be proven wrong, but the wonderful thing about pessimism is that you are rarely unpleasantly surprised.

by Dave J on Dec 2, 2010 10:21 am • linkreport

I know I shouldnÂ’t feed the troll, but Redline, you need to get over yourself. Your problem isnÂ’t the cost of housing, itÂ’s the cost of your expectations.

You took out 100k in loans and you work for the federal government. That was not a smart decision. That much student loan debt is only “smart” if you end up getting an associate job paying 125k+. I’m sorry no one told you that when you were younger, but the mere fact that you were able to sit through 3 years of law school does not now entitle you to class AAA property.

There is more than enough affordable housing in the District, in fact I have a “luxury” studio apartment coming online January 1 for $1500. 3 blocks from all metro lines, utilities included. That would get you down to about 25% of income on rent. Will you be my tenant?

by Ward 2 on Dec 2, 2010 10:41 am • linkreport

@ oboe I know of at least one example of the kind of redevelopment you're asking for. Park Morton on Georgia Ave is being demolished and rebuilt. They are replacing a large public housing project with a development that will be 1/3 public, 1/3 workforce, and 1/3 market rate. You can read more about it here.

by jcm on Dec 2, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

Looking forward to opening of MLK memorial. Not as thrilled about use of PRC labor or even about sculptural design. It definitely has that style that once characterized Soviet public art.

by Bob on Dec 2, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

Re: Barbara Kagan on "raise my taxes, please." Dear Lord, I am cynical. Barbara Kagan is a partner at Steptoe, and has lived in the city for 30 years. This means that she is making well over 800K, with no mortgage, school loans, or kids in school. She can afford a tax hike that others cannot. Even more cynical: her position at Steptoe involves public service. It part of her JOB to promote the city, and its institutions. So, her piece on WAMU is no more disinterested than, say, the president of a union advocating for raises for working people.

by SJE on Dec 2, 2010 12:02 pm • linkreport

@Oboe, raze PG and do what with the residents?

by HogWash on Dec 2, 2010 12:40 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash: residents will be turned out into the rental market with section 8 housing vouchers.

by goldfish on Dec 2, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

@SJE: The thing about the argument put forth by Barbara Kagan, Ed Lazere, and other tax & spend liberals is that there's absolutely nothing stopping them and like-minded folks from paying more in taxes to DC if they so choose.

All they need to do is send a check to the DC Treasurer for however much more they'd like to pay than otherwise required in income taxes.

Problem solved!

They get to feel better about themselves and the rest of the population that doesn't think raising taxes is the solution to massive gov't spending don't have to subsidize their personal feel-goodness.

I like that Kagan uses the same stats that Ed Lazere keeps touting: that DC will be spending $600M less this year than 2 years ago. Sounds shocking. Of course, if you compare how much MORE DC is spending compared to 5, 7 or 10 years ago, then the shock wears off and you recognize how financially imprudent the city's decisions were in the "good ol' days."

I've got to agree with David Catania: When your bleeding heart solution is to just raise taxes, you're going to be tuned out b/c that's not a long-term answer.

by Fritz on Dec 2, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport

On task, but different topic--why on earth should we care about libertarians? They just want to cut taxes for the rich and occasionally propose market alternatives that are more theoretical than practical. Otherwise they will never really contribute anything to the discussion of urbanism.

by Rich on Dec 2, 2010 1:14 pm • linkreport

I'm all for public housing in theory and in principle (I'm just this side of "bleeding heart"), but the reality of the situation in many public housing complexes makes it harder and harder to stand up for. I think that massive, sweeping reform is needed in how we (the United States, not just DC) approach public housing or we're going to completely lose support for it and it will disappear.

There is WAY too much abuse of the system which is what I believe in large part causes problems. Unreported income is a huge problem, as is sneaking in extra people--basically renting out rooms in "your" publicly provided home. This becomes a problem because there's no control over who they are renting TO, which leaves the door open to criminals who otherwise wouldn't be allowed to live there. This degrades the quality of life for all who live in the complex and those who live in the neighborhoods surrounding it. Quality of life goes down, children are raised in a bad environment, everyone gets disgruntled, problems are bound to happen.

(Full disclosure, it is almost impossible for me to be objective about this topic: I was the victim of a mid-night breaking and entering...woke up with a flashlight in my face and a man standing in my bedroom doorway. Luckily he ran as soon as he realized that I was awake, so in theory no harm no foul but it's still unfortunately probably the most formative experience of my adult life, and not really for the better. Anyway. They caught him. He'd been doing this all summer--about 20 houses in all. He was a career criminal--at this for over 30 years, renting a room from someone living in a public housing project in the neighborhood. He'd never have been allowed to live there had he applied on his own, but the near total lack of enforcement made it possible).

The undisclosed income thing is also a problem mainly because some people are paying less than they can afford for the places (or are there unjustly, and are just gaming the system). There is one complex I walk past with regularity, and when the shades are up you cannot help but notice the thousands of dollars worth of electronics in many of these places.

I don't begrudge people having nice things (and the LAST thing I want in my own home is a mega-television), but I think a lot of others do. I mean, think about it, along the lines as Redline mentioned--some middle-income worker spending upwards of 30% of his salary on rent might *love* a big screen television and an Xbox or whatever. But he can't drop that kind of money on luxuries because his rent (and taxes) are so high. His taxes, however, are going to give someone a free (or largely reduced) ride, so *they* have the disposable income for the luxuries he cannot afford for himself. Not fair. And not winning points in the PR department.

This is NOT by any means to say that people in public housing shouldn't get to have nice things. But if their true income were reported (and/or income gained from renting out rooms were curtailed), they'd pay a more accurate portion of their income to the rent and the whole thing would seem a little more fair and less exploitative to those inclined to view it that way.

So....changes to the system, enforcement of rules (and actual punishment for breaking them....the person who harbored a known criminal 4 blocks from my house is still living off of my tax dollars, which is just mind-boggling), get rid of the bad apples and give the scarce resources to people who actually need them and don't abuse them. We'd all win.

Ok, off the ranty soapbox.

by Catherine on Dec 2, 2010 1:17 pm • linkreport

@Catherine:

Possibly the least ranty comment I've read on the subject, thanks.

by oboe on Dec 2, 2010 1:51 pm • linkreport

how much revenue in terms of fine do they expect to be raised in order to cover budget shortfalls?

Undetermined. The fines will be set later.

Does it really make sense to target small-time property owners with heavy fines?

Fines have not been set. But probably not. It does makes sense to threaten small-time property owners with heavy fines if they don't come into compliance. And it does make sense to heavily fine property owners who refuse to come into compliance.

And if a landlord installs a bike rack at the request of bike-riding tenants, can the landlord charge the tenants for the installation and use of the bike racks?

Not directly. But they can always raise rent.

And one final thought: How is DDOT going to be inspecting the tens of thousands of buildings in the city to ensure they've all installed the appropriate number of bike racks?

They won't. They'll most likely be inspecting buildings on a complaint-based status. New buildings already get inspected by DDOT for other transportation requirements - I think.

by David C on Dec 2, 2010 10:17 pm • linkreport

The thing about the argument put forth by Barbara Kagan, Ed Lazere, and other tax & spend liberals is that there's absolutely nothing stopping them and like-minded folks from paying more in taxes to DC if they so choose.

This same argument was made about Warren Buffett. But the point is not that they want to give their money away. The point is that they want a functioning government - and they want it to keep on doing what it is doing instead of doing less. The best way to do that, in their opinion, is to raise taxes on the rich. So don't read it so literally. What they are saying is "tax the rich, of which I am one" because it means more than "Tax those who are wealthier than me."

by David C on Dec 2, 2010 10:20 pm • linkreport

I am a strong supporter of public housing, not everybody can afford a home. If this people were all young and able I would probably agree with Redline, but unfortunately this is not always the case, there is children and elderly that we just can't kick out. However I totally agree with Catherine. Public housing is not free-market housing, and when you are given the opportunity to have a roof over your head you have to follow the rules, stronger rules than free-market tenants.
Public housing tenants' rules should be clear, strong, tough and enforced. If public housing is not ruled and controlled, it is not only the tenants' fault, but everybody's fault.

by Mar on Dec 2, 2010 11:30 pm • linkreport

as bums ask me for change when I have $100K in law school debt

i don't know if i'd call these numbers 'change', but i can certainly understand your anger.

It sucks that a violent 1% has to poison things for the law-abiding 99%, and residents of dysfunctional public housing are inevitably the victims of crime more often than anyone in the surrounding community, but the situation is what it is.

it sucks that a violent 1% has to control almost half the entire wealth of the nation and poison things for the law-abiding 99%.

there seems to be a lot of "something should be done" sentiment about public housing -- that 'something' should be to drastically increase tax revenues and use that money to make DC less unequal -- or deal with the 'social time bomb'.

if you create conditions where people are being born into, forced into, or otherwise fall into poverty, deprivation, homelessness, and hopelessness with no realistic way to get themselves out, you're going to have continued problems with homelessness/hopelessness/drug addiction/violence/etc.

whatever the current money is going to any/all poverty-assistance/homelessness/job training programs -- quadruple it and we'll have a chance to start seeing some changes.

shifting the tax burden onto those who can most easily afford to bear that burden has always been a great idea -- we just lost our way for the last 30 years. institute a simple, graduated income tax, using a progressive formula, instead of just having four income tax brackets, which favors the rich.

so, Barbara Kagan can pay an amount that will hurt her wallet appropriately, and equally as much as it will hurt people richer and poorer than her, too.

and there are other valid reasons to support wealth equality -- lowering obesity (thus, reducing health care costs, adding to life-expectancy, etc.), increasing economic growth, etc.

Bicyclists can be stupid, aggressive and rude. So can drivers.

i've started a pet project to document how jerky cyclists can be. just wait for a really horrific car crime to cross your desk, and then hashtag it with '#cyclistsarejerks'.

She can afford a tax hike that others cannot.

wow - this sounds like me. :) i agree -- rich people can afford a tax hike that others cannot -- so let's let/make them pay more. see the y=x2 part above.

by Peter Smith on Dec 3, 2010 8:05 am • linkreport

@Peter Smith:

You're confusing the prescriptive with the descriptive. As you say, "it sucks that a violent 1% has to control almost half the entire wealth of the nation and poison things for the law-abiding 99%." I agree with you. That's unfair. So is the fact that publicly-funded housing that's perceived as a source of violence in a middle-class neighborhood is going to get shut down if it can't be kept safe for residents and neighbors.

We don't disagree.

See if you can figure out why there'll be repercussions for the poor and powerless group, but none for the rich who wield all the levers of power. Shouldn't take too long.

by oboe on Dec 3, 2010 11:55 am • linkreport

@Mar:

There was a community meeting at Tyler E.S. regarding the local youth violence.

Longer term solutions:
DC law has been changed. Names of juveniles who commit violent crimes are no longer confidential. DC Housing Authority will be able to use this information to evict households from public housing if those families house juveniles who commit violent crime.

Chief Lanier outlined a new MPD strategy to focus on individuals instead of geography: "To take people responsible for crime and get them the heck out of here." This by gathering intelligence, utilizing plain clothes officers, and targeting individuals. It involves identifying everybody hanging out, everybody out under supervision, determining conditions of release, and getting "known players." She said, that this is tedious work, but in other situations where it has been applied, it has resulted in an immediate drop in crime. It has not been tried before in Potomac Gardens.

Progress on recent incidents
CID Commander Dan Hickson reported on progress on the recent crimes in the area.
He said Police had determined that the assault on Sunday and the robbery two days later were not related. He expects closure on the assault "within the next couple of days." Police have "a good handle" on the robbery. They have some "positive leads" on the shooting.

Public Housing Authority
Adrian Todman, Director of DC Housing Authority reported the way public housing was built is not customer friendly. Department has a long term commitment to Potomac Gardens and Hopkins. Everything is on the table, including tear down and rehab. Outcome will be determine by a conversation involving all stakeholders. DCHA is "looking at putting (security) patrols insideÂ…to marry booth (security) and walking."

Potomac Gardens
Melvina Middleton, Potomac Gardens Resident Council President had a personal exchange with Tommy Wells and went on to state unequivocally, "we want the fence down."

by oboe on Dec 3, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

@Ward 2: I don't think a $1.5k/mo apt should be classified as affordable. That said,it is $300/mo cheaper than what I'm paying @Cathedral. Where is it and how big?

by dynaryder on Dec 3, 2010 2:53 pm • linkreport

@Oboe
Thank you!

by mar on Dec 3, 2010 10:24 pm • linkreport

Hi dynaryder,$1500 a month is below market for the building and location. But I'm going to be picky.

It's on the north end of downtown, Thomas Circle. I walk to McPherson Square most of the time (I live in a separate unit), but if I'm taking red I walk the extra block to Farragut North instead of transferring- same for Mt Vernon Square.

As I said it's a studio, but it's only 3 years old. Old building that was gutted and renovated. So new stainless steel appliances and granite.

I would prefer a tenant who is very eco-conscious- no car and not an energy hog. If you're serious let me know in the comments and we can set something up. I'll check "notify me" so I can know when you respond.

by Ward 2 on Dec 6, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

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