Posts about Redskins
A few DC officials haven't stopped trying to get the Landover NFL team back to the District. Even though one dedicated champion of wooing the team, Michael Brown, is off the DC Council, Tim Craig reports that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is promoting the idea, along with Mayor Gray and dedicated sports fan Jack Evans.
Evans, perhaps reacting to criticism that he'd pour public money into the stadium, insists that the city wouldn't spend any public money on a stadium. However, he says, the city might pay for new streets and parking lots.
It's good he wants to make the team pay for the stadium itself, and as Craig explains, that's likely going to make any deal not appealing to owner Dan Snyder. However, even paying for parking lots is a big expense, and a bad one. New York spent $39 million on parking lots at the new Yankee Stadium.
Plus, they ended up finding the lots going largely empty, thanks in part to a new Metro-North station at the ballpark. The garage operator ended up defaulting on the garage bonds because of low usage. Public spending on garages at any new stadium largely amounts to spending public money to encourage people not to use the Metro that we also already spend public money to operate.
Why do these apparently bad deals keep resurfacing? It's simple: some people think that having professional sports teams here is integral enough to our civic pride that it's worth large sums to get them, even if the deal doesn't pay off economically and wouldn't fly if it were a deal for just a generic private development.
A few months ago, I was on NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt right after Jack Evans. We mainly talked about development without underground parking and Evans spoke to that issue as well in his segment. But they had an interesting exchange about sports stadiums, who've had no greater booster than Evans.
DePuyt asked Evans about plans for a soccer stadium at Buzzard Point, and what the District's subsidy might be. Evans asserted that it would pay off economically, but even if it doesn't, he said the District should pay to bring in professional sports simply because of "civic pride":
There's a civic pride that comes from this. When I was pushing the baseball stadium, I used say to people, we're we do it because we want a team. Start with that. Whether it's economically viable or not, who cares? We want a baseball team because Washington, DC was the only major city in America without one.I'd note that actually, most museums get their funds from private individuals, foundations, and the federal government. The District cut arts funding during the recession, and doesn't spend $611 million on a museum. On the other hand, it has contributed to help many local theaters and other prominent arts organizations buy and renovate their buildings over the years.
Do we economically analyze every museum we build? If we did, we wouldn't build any museums. It's a part of our culture.
Scandal rocks Draft Wells campaign: The nascent campaign to draft Tommy Wells for mayor in 2014 has been suspended amid new allegations that under Wells' oversight, DC Public Libraries has been blatantly allowing people to use its books for free. The US Attorney is probing similar conduct at the Department of Parks and Recreation. (City Paper, Todd)
Evans eyes Georgetown for Redskins: A new plan from Councilmembers Jack Evans and Michael Brown would demolish Georgetown's campus and move it to Hill East. The current campus would become a practice facility for the Redskins. Some Georgetown neighbors immediately endorsed the plan, because the new facility will create almost no noise and attract very few people to the area. (Post)
Pedestrian safety solved: A new policy from the Montgomery County DOT will make it illegal to cross any arterial streets in the county, eliminating dangerous crossings. People without cars needing to traverse a roadway can get on a bus and ride it to the end of the line and back again. (Gazette, Ben Ross)
Escalator reliability reaches 100%: Metro has achieved a new milestone for escalator maintenance. They have now reached a reliability rate of 100%; all escalators are currently broken at the same time. (Examiner, Matt Johnson)
Hop on I-395 PE: With Virginia's new program to sell naming rights to roads, Sudafed has proposed sponsoring all of Northern Virginia's congestion. (WBJ, Steve Offutt)
LOV-0 coming to a road near you: Google is reportedly working on a new program to design "passengerless cars," which will transport no people at all. In anticipation of this breakthrough, VDOT announced a plan to implement "Low-Occupancy Vehicle" lanes for their exclusive use. (Wired, Neil Flanagan)
DC4D4Thomas: DC for Democracy has endorsed Harry Thomas, Jr. as a write-in candidate for the Ward 5 special election. Members cited Thomas' consistency in talking about revitalizing the ward's main streets without making anything happen, creatively moving around money dedicated to serve youth, and his plan to solve transportation problems by setting up a series of Audi dealerships. (Geoff Hatchard)
Norton targets Wyoming: After several unsuccessful efforts to lobby state legislatures to support DC statehood, Eleanor Holmes Norton announced a new strategy to try to remove statehood from Wyoming, as it is smaller than DC. (DCist, Nick Clark)
Last night, Mayor Gray, Jack Evans, and Michael Brown met with a skeptical audience, mostly residents from wards 6 and 7, about reported plans to put a Redskins practice facility on the Reservation 13/Hill East land.
Readers who attended the meeting report that the officials seemed to genuinely expect that the crowd would just cheer for anything that helped the Redskins, regardless of policy merit or economic justification.
The mayor, and Jack Evans, and Michael Brown kept repeating "we'd like to bring the Redskins back" and waited for the applause. To say it fell flat was is an understatement. I was frankly shocked at how bad these politicians were at politics. It was a chance for them to sell their plan, or at least reassure a nervous and frustrated audience, and they spent the time lecturing us.
Tim is absolutely right, all four of them were absolutely tone deaf last night. They've clearly already decided what they want. It'll be up to those of us in Wards 6 and 7 to fight like hell to stop it. I'm glad there were so many people out there and that we're, if not in front of this, at least ready to deal with it.MLD:
It seems to me the point of the meeting was that the CMs were hoping to get a lot of people agreeing with them and cheering on the general idea of the training facility. Instead they found that there was a pretty solid opposition to the training facility from people at the meeting.ETD:
Its clear that all the officials are drooling at anything football related. Even if it means the destruction of city services, residential, city income, affordable housing, and health care services for residents. They did say that the training facility could have a medical facility for the study of concussion-related sports injuries.Gray and the councilmembers emphasized that there wasn't a specific plan, but it seemed to depend on how you define "plan." They seem to have done a lot of thinking about this issue, and have made up their minds, but for political reasons wanted to downplay any talk that this is a done deal.
[Gray] stressed that there are no concrete plans, and nothing to show. But they were willing to talk about its concussion health center, job creation, and its possibility of a catalyst for development. The neighborhood thought there was going to be some specific details, but he didn't bring anything. If anything, the point of the meeting should, and did try to at times, focus on why the city hasn't chosen a developer yet for the master plan. Hopefully it did get them to move forward on picking one of the two developers for the smaller parcels of land to be developed.Joe:
They were willing to talk specifics when they wanted, but mostly spent trying to distract the audience [by talking about the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls club] or pleading ignorance, like not knowing how the area is zoned. They also made no economic argument whatsoever for doing so. Gray, Evans and Alexander didn't even try, and Brown vaguely alluded to creating year-round jobs, but there was no discussion of the fact that although a training facility might create a few jobs, it wouldn't create nearly as many as a mixed-use development!RG:
Redeveloping Reservation 13 is clearly a difficult task. I get that. But the Stadium-Armory Metro station has been open nearly 40 years! And there has been a master plan for the site for nearly a decade. Think of what Arlington would have done with a similar parcel of land by now.Residents spent a lot of time and effort building consensus for a master plan for the area. They weren't happy to hear that Gray is basically stopping it from moving forward in the general hope they can work out something with the Redskins.
Brian Flahaven was the star of the show. You could tell towards the end that Gray and Evans were frustrated at having been so thoroughly schooled in the game of retail politics by a mere ANC Commissioner. (Brown and Alexander were too clueless to realize they had been schooled.)
As for Alexander: What a joke. I wrote a check for Tom Brown immediately after the meeting.
In response to questions, the officials refused to give any timeline when they would have more detail, or when they would just let the original plan move forward, or give neighbors any closure at all.
They presented their idea, which is basically to ditch the Reservation 13 plan agreed upon years ago so they can keep pursuing this pie-in-the-sky idea of bringing the Redskins training camp to the area. And it seems like nobody at the meeting wanted the training camp except the councilmembers. They have talked to the team. They have not created a formal plan.ETD:
From my understanding in 2008, there were four developers bidding on the master plan project. DC didn't pick any of them and let it sit. DC then decided to scale down the project to two parcels of land. Two developers are ready to go; DC just needs to pick a developer to start.RG:
Jack Evans clearly doesn't get it. He kept trying to make the it an issue of Redskins fans versus non-Redskins fans. I like the Redskins as much as the next guy. But that's not the point Jack! The point is that when your constituents walk to the Metro, they walk through vibrant neighborhoods on streets lined with shops and services. When I walk to the Metro, I walk up a one-way street (19th) that is a freeway for Maryland commuters and past a vast and dilapidated surface parking lot for DC government employees, most of whom are Maryland residents.Finally, Mike Debonis revealed that this meeting had been rescheduled (from the coming week) because Jack Evans couldn't make the meeting. Tommy Wells, whose ward borders this site and previously included it, was speaking at his alma mater, the University of Alabama School of Social Work.
Why can't Mayor Gray, who represents the entire city, attend a meeting to talk about a plan he's promoting without the help of a councilmember from a different ward?
The Democratic at-large candidates for DC Council, incumbent Vincent Orange, and challengers Sekou Biddle, E. Gail Anderson Holness, and Peter Shapiro, talked about transportation, housing, land use and some social issues at last night's forum at the Black Cat on 14th Street.
Here is the full video from the event:
Small business: As in many forums, most candidates gave few specifics, and in most cases didn't sharply disagree with one another. For example, I asked all candidates to talk about a time they'd helped a local business directly. I asked this first of Vincent Orange, who often touts his work bringing Home Depot to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro area but when talking about small business, speaks much more in generalities.
Orange and the other candidates launched into generic, prepared statements about the value of small business. Sekou Biddle's answer, that he helps them most of all by patronizing them, was the most responsive. Orange was, however, able to name a lot of local businesses once pressed.
Affordable housing: Peter Shapiro had thoughtful recommendations for how to promote housing affordability, drawing on his experience with Arts District Hyattsville when he served in Prince George's County. Perhaps because of his experience as an elected official in the past, Shapiro gave more specifics about actions he has taken or policies he would implement on this and some other issues.
All candidates raised their hands when asked if they would restore the Housing Production Trust Fund; hopefully Orange, in this budget cycle, and whoever wins the race, in the future, follows through on that promise.
Ethics: Shapiro went the furthest on campaign finance reform, criticizing the current council for not taking stronger steps and arguing it should pursue a public financing system for elections. Biddle called for reforms to money order contributions, the source of the latest scandal.
Orange, as he has in the past, emphasized his advocacy for banning outside employment for councilmembers, but hasn't agreed to support limits on corporate contributions. He defended his decision not to cosponsor Mary Cheh's recent campaign finance bill as "self-serving," since Cheh holds other jobs as a law professor at GW and teaching bar review courses. (Tommy Wells, the one co-sponsor, does not have any outside employment).
Transportation: During a section on transportation, it came out that of the candidates, only Sekou Biddle is a member of Capital Bikeshare, and only he and Peter Shapiro subscribe to Zipcar. Biddle even pulled out his CaBi key, on his keychain, and his Zipcar membership card right on the stage.
I asked candidates about how we could help cyclists and drivers better understand each other's needs and concerns. Without being "gotcha" about it, I wanted to give Vincent Orange a chance to speak to what he had learned from the January 1st episode where he parked in the 15th Street bike lane, was called out on Twitter, and apologized. Orange said that he hadn't realized on which side of the white stanchions he should park, and that now he does.
Biddle proposed having driver education include information on how to deal with bicycle infrastructure and people riding bikes. This would only be a small start, since many DC drivers move in from other states, but it was a thoughtful response on the topic.
Biddle was also most able to talk about the role of buses in helping connect communities. I asked candidates to name a bus line that they feel works well in DC, partly to see how many could name a bus line at all. Orange gave an example of a bus line, the X2, but couldn't name it without help from a staffer who shouted it out unprompted.
Holness, marriage, and the Redskins: Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness, generally considered a long-shot candidate, gave some reasons to appreciate her candidacy, but also some reasons for concern. As a resident of Ward 1, she lives in the most urban neighborhood among the candidates, and says she rides a bicycle and takes many forms of transit regularly. She was able to name many bus lines and talk about them in depth.
However, Holness was the only candidate of the four not to encourage Maryland residents to vote to keep the new same-sex marriage law. She also said on last week's WPFW debate that she supports giving land to the Redskins for a practice facility, on the theory that the master plan calls for recreational space.
The plan does ask for recreation space, but intended to serve local residents, not to be a fenced-off facility that only serves a professional team. I pushed on this issue, asking her why she would fulfill a neighborhood request in this way. She didn't have a good answer and seemed confused by the policy details.
The other candidates all reaffirmed their opposition to the practice facility. Orange said he would support bringing the actual team back and potentially using public funds, if it were part of a plan to create a "livable, walkable" community around the stadium as the District is doing at the ballpark.
"Livable, walkable" actually is a phrase Orange spoke at least 5 times over the course of the debate. It's a testament to the phrase Tommy Wells coined for his campaign slogan, and the policies behind it, that Orange has latched on. Hopefully this means he genuinely supports the principles of "livable, walkable" communities; either way, he clearly believes it's a growing political force.
Kwame's revenge: Speaking of Mr. "Livable, Walkable" Wells, the forum's most dramatic moment came near the end, when Orange suggested that Wells should have at least toned down his criticism of Kwame Brown's Lincoln Navigator scandal, to avoid losing his committee and his opportunity to advance his agenda. Shapiro quickly disagreed, arguing that Wells was right to speak up and that it shows the "dysfunction" in the current council that others did not come to his defense.
Did the forum help you make up your mind? What stuck out as most meaningful to you?
The FBI is looking to move its headquarters, and some DC leaders are trying to woo the Redskins back to the District. The soon-to-be-shuttered Pepco power plant would make an ideal site for either one.
The FBI requires 55 acres surrounded by a large security "moat," which makes it impossible to locate downtown and undesirable in most any DC neighborhood. Prince George's and Fairfax counties are both vying to make one of their Metro stations the future home for the FBI.
As the map above shows, Pepco's main parcel (outlined in black) covers approximately 80 acres. There is plenty of space here for a new FBI headquarters. This could be an option if DC truly wanted to fight to keep the FBI here.
There would be other obstacles, though. A Senate committee required that the GSA place the FBI within 2½ miles of the Beltway, and within 2 miles of a Metro station. The Pepco site is less than ½ mile from the Minnesota Avenue Metro, but more than 5 miles from the Beltway. It is, however, adjacent to a freeway that directly connects to the Beltway in two places, but Congress would need to amend the requirement to make the Pepco site eligible.
FedEx Field, the current home of the Redskins, and its adjacent parking lots encompass approximately 160 acres. A National Park Service maintenance facility and land used as a trash-transfer station lie immediately north of the power plant. These could be combined with the plant site, creating a 90-acre parcel (outlined in red).
While this is significantly smaller than the area currently used by the Redskins, it's not much smaller than the approximately 95 acres of RFK Stadium and its adjacent parking lots, which the Redskins used for decades (when the team actually won multiple championships). Plus, a new stadium could take up less space by replacing the massive asphalt deserts that surround RFK and FedEx Field with more compact parking decks while still leaving some surface space for tailgating.
The west facade of the power plant. Imagine incorporating this into a new stadium; would you be ready to watch football at "The Powerplant"? Image from Google Maps.
The Pepco plant abuts a freeway, two Metrorail lines, a major street that provides direct access to downtown, and eventually, a streetcar line which will run along that street. Bicycle infrastructure in the form of trails and Capital Bikeshare stations are being added adjacent to the site; the Anacostia River trails are already close by. An infill Metrorail station could be built at the western end of the parcel, serving a stadium or a headquarters building as well as the River Terrace neighborhood to the south.
A serious obstacle with this site is that building anything first requires environmental remediation. While that might delay any construction there, Pepco and the District Department of the Environment have reached a preliminary agreement on site cleanup (more here and here (PDFs)). Planning for an actual use for the site could help make cleanup a higher priority for all parties involved.
A football stadium or FBI headquarters building would not foster good urbanism, but this site is already cut off from the neighborhoods to the east by the freeway, while the highway-like Benning Road and the Metrorail tracks form a formidable barrier to the south. Parkside, the neighborhood to the north, is not yet fully developed, and the Anacostia River lies directly to the west.
Administration officials are actively negotiating with the Redskins about putting a practice facility at Reservation 13, on the western side of the Anacostia. Unlike the Pepco site, this area can directly connect to the adjacent neighborhood if DC extends the street grid, as is planned.
If the District's leadership continues to insist on bringing the Redskins back, the Pepco would make more sense in the long run than Reservation 13. If they believe we shouldn't let the FBI walk away from DC, this could be a location worth looking into. In addition, there could be many other uses for this site, from adaptive reuse of the plant itself, to light industry (perhaps renewable energy generation?), a unique mixed-use neighborhood, or expanded parkland.
The District shouldn't wait to seriously plan for the reuse of this valuable piece of riverfront property, but will city leaders be able to pursue a use that's creative?
Mayor Gray's office is stalling any progress on a plan to build a new mixed-use neighborhood that has widespread community support, because they'd rather turn over the land to the Washington Redskins for a practice facility that won't do anything for the community or DC.
7 ANC commissioners met last night with Victor Hoskins, DC's Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to discuss "Hill East," also known as Reservation 13. After a long process with thorough public participation, DC created a plan to build a "vibrant, mixed-use urban waterfront community" on 50 acres of the site.
Based on reports from ANC commissioner Brian Flahaven, it appears that vibrancy and tree-lined public streets are taking a back seat to large empty football field-sized spaces closed to the public:
The Mayor's Office is continuing to negotiate with Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins to build a training facility at Reservation 13. Until the outcome of the negotiations is determined, any development plans for Reservation 13 remain on hold.It's possible to vaguely imagine a way that a practice facility could be part of a mixed-use neighborhood. For example, the Redskins could build practice fields and any necessary parking entirely underground, then put surface streets, parks, and buildings on top of them. Their offices could occupy a building with ground-floor retail that's open to the public.
Commissioners strongly pushed back that the community must be involved in the decision about a training facility on the site and expressed frustration that the Mayor is not seeking feedback from residents. Deputy Mayor Hoskins said that his office is not involved in the negotiations. ...
The Deputy Mayor said his office should know whether the city will pursue a training facility or continue with the current development plans in 30 days. If plans for a training facility do not move forward, he said that the city would return to development plans approved by the community. ... The Deputy Mayor also said that any training facility proposal would have to be consistent with the zoning for the site. ...
All 9 Commissioners, representing Wards 6 & 7, agreed that Mayor Gray needs to come out to the community and explain how a potential training facility fits into the master development plan agreed to by residents.
Dan Snyder could build all of this entirely with his own money, in this very urban way. But does anyone seriously believe that is possible? This is the guy who tried to charge people just to walk into his stadium instead of paying huge parking fees. Would he actually want to design practice fields that fit into a good neighborhood landscape when he has a perfectly good, entirely private facility in Ashburn?
Maybe if the District built the whole thing and gave it to him for free, he'd accept the deal, but it would be a terrible bargain for taxpayers. If he paid money for it, why would he want to spend extra money just to essentially make the facility invisible and unobtrusive?
Certain city leaders seem to believe that bringing the Redskins to DC is worth virtually any cost simply for the civic pride involved in having an NFL team inside one's borders. We know Jack Evans has a massive blind spot for organized sports. He abhors spending government money on anything except sports facilities, where the sky's the limit. We know that Michael Brown doesn't know any better. We should expect better from Mayor Gray.
Correction: The original version of this article had a sentence about criticism of DMPED. However, since Hoskins said the negotiations are not coming from his office, this is not relevant. The sentence has been deleted.
Changes may be coming to the location of facilities for 2 DC-area sports teams, the Redskins and DC United. But while soccer is getting the cold shoulder, leaders are trying to entice a football team that won't help DC at all. They'd do more to help DC by urging the Redskins to keep their practice facilities and stadium away.
DC United Major League Soccer is surveying fans to see how they'd feel about the team moving to Baltimore. DC united has long been unhappy with RFK Stadium, and considered several DC sites, but always needed the District to provide some public assistance, at least to fund associated infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Mayor Gray and Councilmembers Jack Evans and Michael Brown took a secret trip to Tampa to visit the Buccaneers' practice facilities. Mike DeBonis reports that "the current thinking" is to take about half of the 50-acre Hill East planned development for a Redskins practice facility, then build a new stadium once the Redskins' lease in Landover expires in 2027.
Not only would spending any taxpayer money on this scheme be extremely foolish, it's a bad idea even if the Redskins bought the land at market value and financed everything themselves, which they surely don't actually plan to do. In fact, having any Redskins facilities or stadium anywhere inside the District would be harmful to its future.
As DeBonis notes, Hill East, aka Reservation 13, is slated to become a mixed-use community with access to Metro on one side and the river on the other. Progress has been stalled due to the economy, but the economy will pick up, and the District needs to be thinking long term.
A practice facility occupies an enormous amount of land but employs or houses very few people. DC needs more taxpaying residents and more jobs, not big practice fields, weight rooms, and gyms for a small number of athletes. Maybe a couple rich ones will live in DC and bring their taxes, but how many really might? If they want to live in an urban area, they already can live here; if they don't, they won't anyway.
DeBonis suggests using some of the huge parking lots, which sit on federal land designated exclusively for recreation. But even this is a bad use of space. We could build playing fields for our residents and schools instead. There's already a skate park going into this area; suggestions from a recent Capital Business forum included adding a velodrome or rock climbing.
It's also worth thinking about the long term. Some of this land should become an extension of Capitol Hill, and 20 years from now, the feds might be willing to accommodate that. A 2006 NCPC study looked at the site, and suggested some mixed-use development and waterfront parks, along with sites for those memorials and museums every interest group wants to build these days.
DC's competitive advantage (and Arlington's) compared to the suburbs is that living in those jurisdictions is much more convenient. Most jobs are in DC and Arlington, and being central, they're mathematically closer to jobs in other jurisdictions than living anywhere else.
Transportation options are more numerous; there are more Metro lines, more bus options, and you're much more likely to be able to bike or even walk to work. More retail is within a short walk or bike or transit ride.
On the other hand, land is scarce; DC only has 68.3 square miles (and Arlington 26). Therefore, DC's best strategy is to use its limited space to attract as many residents and taxpaying jobs (not government and nonprofits) as it can. Football does neither of these.
Football teams only play in their stadiums 8 regular home games per year. Add a few other events, and it's still empty almost all the time. But when it's full, huge numbers of people come at once, and many will drive, requiring massive parking surrounding the stadium. Plus, football has a strong tailgating tradition, meaning people want those parking lots.
Dan Snyder, the Redskins owner, also makes a lot of money from that parking. He makes so much that he tried to charge people an extra fee to get into the stadium if they don't park, but rather walk in or come by shuttle from Metro. And he filed a high-profile nuisance lawsuit against one of DC's most valuable media organizations. So why are any DC leaders spending time on accommodating the Redskins?
Soccer, on the other hand, frequently uses urban stadiums worldwide that don't need much or even any parking. A DC stadium could be quite urban in its form. It hosts more games than football, though still far fewer than a baseball stadium or basketball/hockey/concert arena.
Advocates for a deal to keep United in DC say a soccer stadium will bring in economic development around the site, especially if it's at Buzzard Point, where 2 streetcar lines are planned to terminate. It'd be great to have United there, though the District still shouldn't spend any appreciable public dollars on it.
Mayor Gray tweeted, "We value DC United & hope they stay in DC. But District is in a challenging fiscal environment now & publicly funded stadium not possible." Gray (or his media team) emphasized in follow-ups that "no public $ has been expended on Redskins either," and, "Once again, we've put nothing on the table for Redskins."
Gray should hold that line and never offer anything to the Redskins. We can be sure that Evans and probably Michael Brown would love to, though. Evans even claims to be maniacally focused on keeping the District's budget lean, but has a giant blind spot when it comes to giving money to organized sports (or, for that matter, almost any development project, though at least those purport to bring in more tax revenue than the tax break is worth).
DC residents are better off with the Redskins in Prince George's County than inside the District borders. As this year's Council campaign heats up, voters should ask candidates if they believe in spending any public money on football, and be very wary of any candidate who says yes.
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