The National Capital Planning Commission has invited experts on building height from European capital cities to come to Washington for a forum about our height limit. I'm moderating a chat with two of them today.
Update: The archived video is now available here and embedded below.
John Worthington is a Principal at DEGW Architects and visiting professor at the University of Sheffield. He's written several articles about the pros and cons of tall buildings in various cities.
Robert Tavernor is Emeritus Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the London School of Economics, and was previously professor of architecture at Edinburgh and Bath. He has been involved in the planning for several key London development sites.
You can tweet questions using the hashtag #HeighteneDConversations.
Our chat leads into NCPC's panel discussion tonight from 7-9 with these two gentlemen and a few others from elsewhere in Europe.-->
We will be talking today with Angelo Rao, parking manager for the District Department of Transportation. Angelo has been holding a series of "Parking Think Tanks" around the District, and has agreed to hold one online to hear from all of you.
Unlike the interview-style live chats we've done in the past, this time, we will not necessarily just post one question, then one answer, and so on. Instead, you can enter comments as well as questions on parking topics, and I as the moderator will try to post them in groups on various topics. Angelo will be able to give any thoughts he might have, but also will read your comments and listen to them as citizen feedback.
Angelo Rao, DDOT's parking manager, has been holding a series of Parking Think Tanks across the District to hear from residents about parking policy. Besides events in Anacostia, Tenleytown, and many other neighborhoods, he has agreed to have one in the virtual neighborhood of the Internet here on Greater Greater Washington.
Photo by thienzieyung on Flickr.
At the in-person Think Tanks, participants could give their own comments and suggestions around parking to an assembled group of DDOT officials. We'll do the same for the online chat. You can put in a general comment or pose a question. Several folks from DDOT will see all of the comments, and Angelo will answer as many questions as he can.
Join us on Thursday, October 18th from 12-1 pm right here on Greater Greater Washington. You can come back to this post, where we will embed the chat, or get there from the home page. In the meantime, if you have comments or questions for Angelo, feel free to leave them in the comments.
Don't forget also to take DDOT's online survey about parking. Plus, there's one more in-person think tank, Saturday, 10/20 from 9-11 am at the Mount Pleasant Library, 3160 16th Street, NW.
The think tanks are just a few of the important events happening in coming weeks. Here are a few more from the Greater Greater Washington calendar:
CSG walking tour of Van Ness
(Sat. 10/13, 10 am): The latest in CSG's walking tours takes you to Van Ness
, where folks from the Office of Planning, EEK Architects, UDC, and DDOT will talk about how large institutional buildings like UDC and the Intelsat building could better engage with the street.
Hearings on Metrobus changes
(10/22 to 10/30, 6 pm): WMATA's latest slate of Metrobus route tweaks and changes
will make the A9 into a limited-stop MetroExtra, add Saturday 79 service, split the 2A/2B and 23A/23B, and many more. Public hearings are Mon. 10/22 in Anacostia, Wed. 10/24 in Shirlington, Mon. 10/29 in New Carrollton and Falls Church, and 10/30 in Lamond-Riggs, all with an open house at 6 and then a presentation at 6:30. To speak, sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; or submit written testimony at email@example.com.
Advocating for Smart Growth with Ward 3 Vision
(Wed. 10/24, 7 pm at the Tenley/Friendship Library): The pro-Smart Growth citizen group Ward 3 Vision is hosting me, former DC planning director Ellen McCarthy, and Cleveland Park activist Jeff Davis to talk about how residents can advocate for more walkable, bikeable, livable, and inclusive neighborhoods.
Norton's parks town hall
(Thu. 10/24, 6:30 pm at the Wilson Building): As we discussed yesterday
, Congresswoman Norton's 2nd annual town hall with officials from the National Park Service will cover how NPS can best work with neighbors and contribute to a better DC. I'm speaking on the panel alongside NPS Regional Director Steve Whitesell, Rich Bradley of the Downtown BID, Danielle Pierce of Downtown DC Kids, and Catherine Nagel of the City Parks Alliance.
Getting Parking Right with Jeff Tumlin
(Mon. 10/29, 5:30-8:30 pm at NCPC): If you haven't gotten your fill of parking talk, CSG is hosting a forum
with Jeff Tumlin of Nelson\Nygaard, a consulting firm that is, among other things, a national leader on parking. He has a list of 16 ways parking policies can better match demand and reduce negative consequences.
Are there any events I missed? Post them in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please welcome Matt Yglesias, Slate Moneybox economics blogger, author of The Rent Is Too Damn High, and frequent commentator about how regulations limiting development affect cities.
Are the very policies intended to sustain neighborhoods and preserve affordable housing paradoxically the same ones pushing rents up and families out to the suburbs? That's case Slate Moneybox economics writer Matt Yglesias makes in his e-book, The Rent is Too Damn High.
Photo by SusanAstray on Flickr.
On Wednesday at noon, Matt will join us to discuss the book and we hope you'll help us get things started with your questions in the comments.
"High rent is not a fact of nature," writes Yglesias. "It's a result of bad policy." Height limits, historic preservation and density caps intended to keep neighborhoods quaint, whether imposed overtly by official policy or subtly by zoning officials, act as supply caps driving up prices and imposing gentrification.
The conventional wisdom in community development is to preserve current buildings and fight redevelopment of existing low-cost rental units. But that's exactly what we've been doing for the last decade. Instead, the number of affordable units in DC has been cut in half since 2000. The low-cost housing that remains is often poor quality and far from public transit.
While much of the public debate about DC development policies today centers on the height limit, that's far from the only restriction on growth. Locals governments also impose mandated lot sizes, building setbacks, floor area ratios, and parking minimums that restrict the amount of housing and drive up the cost of building new development.
So what's the solution? Yglesias takes the economist's perspective, targeting supply and demand:
[W]e need to acknowledge that there are only two sustainable ways to reduce the price of housing. One is to lower demand by making a given place a worse place to live. Detroit features high crime, low-quality public services, and a bleak job market. The rent in Detroit is not high. [...] The other way is to increase housing supply.
Opponents of smart growth policies contend the suburbs have grown because of America's desire for a white picket fence and a two-car garage. Yglesias says that through policies that discourage additional housing units from being built in urban cores, we've given families little other choice but to turn their backs on urban cores in search of cheap housing. By easing restrictions on urban housing supply, some of those families could move closer to the core, cutting their commute times and reducing their carbon footprints.
Yglesias resists policy prescriptions, instead closing with a call for those on both ends of the political spectrum to let go of failed policies and take a fresh look at possible solutions. "Many on the Left—starting with my inspiration, Jimmy McMillan—are confused about the relationship between housing affordability, regulation, gentrification, and quality of life over the long term," writes Yglesias. "On the Right, the problem is one of myopia and identity-driven resentment." He also wants our public debate "to better distinguish between the price of land (a speculative investment commodity, like stocks or bonds) and the price of houses (a consumption good, like a car or a refrigerator)."
Yglesias has faced some pushback in urban development circles. In a reflection of how fast the online news cycle moves, we already have articles asking if the pro-density movement has gone too far, even though at last check DC's height limit remains alive and well.
At a time of political polarization, is it asking too much for liberals predisposed to distrust corporate developers and conservatives prone to distrust government solutions to come out of their corners? What processes in our systems of government and public debate could be better utilized to facilitate the discussion? Can a happy medium be found between opponents of DC's current development restrictions and the skyscrapers feared by their supporters?
Post your questions in the comments, and we'll try to ask as many as we can during the chat. And join us on Wednesday at noon for what should be a very informative discussion.
Our live chat guest today, George Hawkins, is the General Manager of DC Water, the water utility for the District of Columbia.
Hawkins was formerly head of the District Department of the Environment and joined us for a live chat about two years ago. Today, he's back to discuss lead pipes, the impervious area charge, and whatever else you'd like to ask.
Jacque Patterson, candidate for DC Council at-large and a resident of Ward 8, is joining us today for a live chat.
Today we welcome Council candidate Joshua Lopez for a live chat. Lopez is a former Fenty campaign aide, and seems to be following a similar campaign strategy to that which got Fenty elected and taking strongly pro-Fenty (and anti-Gray) policy stances.
Welcome to our live chat with Patrick Mara, a DC-style Republican and candidate for the at-large Council seat in the special election April 26th.
Please welcome Bryan Weaver, a recent ANC Commissioner in Adams Morgan and candidate for the at-large DC Council seat in April's special election.