Monday, October 22, 2007

A couple of fun links

Not sure if anyone else saw these but there are two galleries of historical photos on DDOT's website including these:,a,1250,q,641406.asp,a,1250,q,639600,ddotNav,%7C32399%7C.asp

And I could be mistaken but I believe in this photo you can see the existing Tenleytown library under construction!,a,1250,q,639607,ddotNav,%7C32399%7C.asp

And finally here is a fun website I found a few months ago that tries to calculate the walkability of a neighborhood:

It seems to strictly measure retail within walking distance and doesn't attempt to ascertain how unfriendly a neighborhood maybe to pedestrians but it has a lot of useful information including some restaurants I was not aware of.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Just Another Bank

Lots of us seem to be asking, “What is going on at the former site of the Outer Circle Theater?” As we understand it, the community is getting a brand-new drive-through bank. Ugh! Could anything be less desirable at this location? A building expressly designed to generate as many car trips as possible – not the sort of development anyone with a concern for Smart Growth or neighborhood traffic wants to see. A suburban building type usually seen in places like Rockville Pike plopped down on Wisconsin Avenue -- not a good way to encourage lively, safe sidewalks and pleasant strolls down the neighborhood’s “Main Street.” A single-use development -- not the mix of shops or offices and apartments that characterizes many active and attractive neighborhood centers. These sort of auto-oriented facilities are an anathema to great streets. The driveways and parking lots are dangerous to pedestrians, the buildings almost always ugly, and they add nothing to the life of the neighborhood. Fact is, drive-thru banks are among the first types of development banned from places like Bethesda Row or the new Rockville Town Center where architects, planners, and developers have successfully designed and built fun urban places practically from scratch.

So, what we want to ask is, “Why do we have to put up with this?” Shouldn’t we have a plan for the future of our neighborhood that envisions something more exciting and entertaining than drive-thru banks? Shouldn’t the affected ANC’s be taking a position in opposition to a clearly inappropriate use, an anachronism that just screams tailfins and 35¢ per gallon gas? Apparently not, given the silence that has surrounded this project. Apparently not, since the vocal opponents of most new development and planning for Upper Wisconsin Avenue have told us that existing zoning is just all right with them. Apparently there is no reason to raise our expectations for new development in our neighborhood. The next time you are urged to oppose changes to “matter-of-right” zoning, remember that this is what you could get – a drive-thru bank. Ugh. We can certainly do a whole lot better.

Monday, November 06, 2006

More proof that amenities come with density

As Marc Fisher and the Northwest Current recently reported, the movie theatre at 4000 Wisconsin Avenue is closing this month. Apparently Cleveland Park's Uptown is also at risk for being closed.

The whole thing makes you wonder. New theatres are opening in the city -- two downtown at E Street and at 7th Street, one at Bethesda Row, and another in Georgetown. These places are exciting, experiencing new mixed-use development, and attractive to investors.

4000 Wisconsin is closing due to a corporate merger, but if our neighborhood was experiencing the sort of re-birth that say, Chinatown, has (or even a quarter of that) -- would the new owner be so fast to close the theatre? I doubt it.

Good retail and good entertainment options come with residential density to survive, and the movie theatre and the old Left Bank Cafe are proof of that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

WAMU Metro Connection Segment on Tenleytown (2004)

Your's truly and a member of the Friendship Neighborhood Association engaged in a "fun" debate on WAMU's Metro Connection program back in 2004. The subject was the Upper Wisconsin Avenue Corridor Study, which was killed not long after this was recorded thanks to intense anti-growth pressure. You can listen to the piece here (listed under "Tenleytown Development").

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Marc Fisher redux

Casting Some Votes for Sense
By Marc Fisher, Washington Post, 9/14/06

"...In the city, however, voters resoundingly rejected candidates backed by the vocal but tiny minority of residents who have made enough noise to stall or kill transit-oriented developments that the District requires to expand its tax base and serve citizens most in need. Voters in upper Northwest's Ward 3 chose Mary Cheh, the one council candidate who forthrightly said she will stand up to the NIMBY crowd and fight for a denser, more urban feel to the upper Wisconsin Avenue corridor."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Silent Majority

Yes Virginia, there is a silent majority!

As usual, Marc Fisher has got it right with his biting assessment of the Ward 3 Council race. From Potomac Confidential's Election Night coverage:

Mark in Adams Morgan: Why is Kojo Nnamdi reporting results with 75 percent of precincts reporting and the Post's got NOTHING?

Marc Fisher: We've got plenty--

DC Ward 3 council, with 11 of 17 precincts reporting:

An easy, dominating win for Mary Cheh, with 46 percent of the vote so far in a nine-way race. That's a powerful endorsement by the silent, pro-development majority against the NIMBYs and suburban wannabes who have fought against transit-oriented development around Metro stations.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Why we need a greater diversity of housing options in the Wisconsin Avenue Corridor

Arguments against building multi-family housing on the Upper Wisconsin Avenue corridor because there is no market demand for them are just silly. Attracting more folks of whatever income bracket to whatever type of housing in other parts of the city like Ft. Totten requires improving city services particulary public safety and the schools. While I don't believe that those improvements necessarily depend on more funding that is at least part of the equation and that funding has to come from somewhere. Theoretically the new development could pay for the cost but developers aren't going to take their chances on projected sale values based on a theoretical. And while land acquisition costs at, say, Ft. Totten may be less than they are in Friendship Heights, the construction costs don't vary and in fact may be higher. The whole reason there are those large tracts available for development along the other side of the Red Line is because really that area, originally along the railroad tracks, represented one of the only parts of the city where there was any industry so there is likely to be some siginificant clean up costs. And this doesn't even take into account the value of having industrialized land uses in a city that is almost completely built out - please see this recent Washington Post article for more on that (or maybe no-growthers should advocate that our underutilized lots in Upper NW be rezoned for for light industrial uses - surely such uses would adhere to their fixation on heights and densities). And of course the lower yield per unit or square foot in fact will make it tougher for those units to subsidize the lower and middle income housing we need in every corner of the city.

All along the Red Line we have diverse housing types - in fact if you think about it it is the Connecticut avenue corridor that has the high rise apartment/condo buildings and then you segue to the rowhouses and a bit further away the single family homes. Near Wisconsin we have just a couple of buildings with condos, which are mostly new, a handful of rowhouses (and some duplexes), mostly in FH, and then mostly single family homes. So in fact what is lacking are multi unit/family buildings.

There is a good argument that there is a shortage of multi-room housing being built, but current zoning does nothing to help this - in fact by limiting the available pool of all housing it hurts the overall housing situation in DC. It's not just a shortage of family housing or affordable housing - it's a shortage of housing in general in DC that have driven up costs and priced people out of the city. If indeed more family housing is what we need, why not try and amend the current proposal to mandate inclusion of family (multi-bedroom) units? When it comes down to it, limiting height and density is always going to be the opposition's determining factor in approving a new development, nothing else, no matter how badly it is needed.

I would take this argument a step further and add that one of the benefits of multiple types of housing is that it creates more supply and enables more folks to move in and out of different types. For example young folks can get in first to a condo, live there a few years building up equity, maybe move up to a row house and then in middle age when they may have teenagers hopefully get into a single family house with the most space. And once the kids are gone they can start to move the other direction and start downsizing. But the lack of diversity in housing options inhibits that movement.

Folks who are young and want to be close in but aren't willing to take a chance on a more transitional neighborhood like Ft Totten might opt to not live close in because the restraint of supply has driven the cost of 1 bedrooms to a starting level of $300,000+. Conversely the older folks who have more house than they need have no incentive to leave their extra square footage behind - sure they may have a $900,000 home they paid $200,000 for but a 2 bedroom in Chase Point is starting at $800,000 so that move makes no sense for them. But strangely some seem to suggest that the market could soon be oversaturated with these units. Why that is their concern (particularly given their animosity towards developers) I don't understand but the example I just cited is why that could be a good thing even for buyers looking for single family homes - if that 2 bedroom in Chase Point comes down to a more reasonable $500,000 then maybe that retirement age couple makes that move. Enough folks do that it increases the supply of single family homes and slows the inflation of their prices.