Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Public radio stations acquire and will revive Gothamist/DCist/LAist

In a fit of pique last fall, the Gothamist web publications (I really liked DNAInfo, which the group acquired) were shut down ("DNAInfo and Gothamist shut down after vote to unionize," New York Times).

Wired Magazine reports that three of the publications, in DC, LA, and NYC, are being revived ("GOTHAMIST LIVES, THANKS TO A BOOST FROM PUBLIC RADIO").

The loss of DCist didn't bother me much. I haven't looked at it regularly in years, not because of "bad articles" but because the commenters are so puerile it bugged me.

But the loss of local news sources that are reasonably decent is always a bad thing. More recently the Baltimore City Paper shut down, the Village Voice in New York City stopped publishing a print edition, the Washington City Paper was sold to a local businessman, the Current Newspapers of Northwest DC are going through a bankruptcy-related reorganization, and newspapers in Quebec, Key West, and New Zealand are being shifted to digital offerings for some or all of what had been print editions.

In the DC area, an equivalent group of online publications comparable to Gothamist started in Arlington County, called ArlingtonNow (ArlNow).

They expanded to other communities, but eventually shut down the DC versions and sold off the Bethesda Now site to Bethesda Magazine, which at the time I thought was pretty novel, especially for a magazine known more for "service journalism" and less for hard news.  They also have a website for Reston, RestonNow.

Public radio stations: WNYC in New York; KPCC in Los Angeles; and WAMU in Washington; have bought the respective Gothamist properties and the entire archive will remain on the web, supported by those publications.  I don't know why the NPR station in Chicago didn't pick up DNAInfo Chicago...

Interestingly, this is in keeping with some of what I've written about public television and public radio increasing their local news focus, at least in some cities, as the Internet has decimated local newspaper operations ("Voting vs. civic participation | elections vs. governance," 2016).

... and I am still behind in writing about WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, a for profit television station owned by Scripps Media, which has the most extensive digital operation for local news of any local television station in the US.

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Mayor Bowser Celebrates 700,000 District Residents (press release reprint)

From email:
Mayor Bowser Celebrates Population Milestone with Two of Washington, DC’s Newest Residents

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Bowser today celebrated that Washington, DC is now home to at least 700,000 residents. In December, the Bowser Administration announced that, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Washington, DC was quickly approaching 700,000 residents. Based on calculations by the DC Office of Planning’s State Data Center, it was predicted that the District would hit 700,000 residents in February 2018.

“Fifteen years ago, with the District’s population still on the decline, Mayor Williams set a goal of attracting 100,000 new residents within a decade. Since then, our population has grown by more than 130,000 residents,” said Mayor Bowser. “We are growing because we are a safer, stronger city, full of opportunity. As we continue to grow, my Administration remains focused on preserving our history and culture, ensuring we remain diverse and inclusive, and giving more Washingtonians the opportunity to participate in our city’s prosperity.”

As of July 1, 2017, Census data estimated Washington, DC’s population to be 693,972. With a growth rate of 1.4 percent between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017, the District ranks eighth in percent growth among the states.

Mayor Bowser celebrated the milestone at MedStar Washington Hospital Center with two families of newborn Washingtonians. Each family was presented with a gift basket of books and District-themed baby clothes and accessories, and each newborn received a full, four-year University of the District of Columbia Partnership (DC-UP) scholarship. The gifts were provided by the many DC Government agencies that have worked together over the last decade to make Washington, DC a safer, stronger, and more livable city for residents of all ages.

This is a big deal.

When Mayor Williams set a goal in 2003 of 100,000 new residents, when the city had about 580,000 population (down from a peak of about 900,000 during the period of World War II, while the official population high was about 802,000 in 1950), it was seen very much as a stretch goal.

I wrote about the Mayor's goal in a then important local political e-letter called DC Watch ("Reprint from 2003: The Mayor's Campaign for 100,000 New Residents").

I was very much influenced by books like Get Urban by Kyle Ezell and the work of University of Pennsylvania planning professor Eugenie Birch ("Who Lives Downtown") and others. And "Shrinking city" planning efforts in cities like Youngstown, Ohio and Niagara Falls, New York. And my memories of living in a declining Detroit and the rise of the suburbs.

Protest flyer against planning/zoning land use intensification, Washington, DCToday, interestingly, the DC Grassroots Coalition for Planning sees adding population as a zero sum game, with the presumption that adding population by definition comes at the expense of those of lesser means, diminishes neighborhoods, etc.

One of their complaints is the planning for achieving a greater population, of one million being touted in the current comprehensive planning process.  (Note that this number was expected to be achieved in 1980, according to the city's 1950 comprehensive plan.)

I intend to write about that in terms of the arguments of "The Right to the City."

-- "Who Owns the 'Right to the City'? Moving Towards Urban Inclusivity," Yale F&ES Blog>
-- "David Harvey: The Right to the City," New Left Review 53, September-October 2008
-- "Do We Have a Right to the City?," Jacobin Magazine

Is the right to the city only possessed by those who already live in it?

Is only capital afforded the right to shape the city? Obviously not, as pointed out by Foglesong in Planning the Capitalist City (Prezi precis; intro).

But as pointed out in Growth Machine and Urban Regime theories ("A superb lesson in DC "growth machine" politics from Loose Lips (Washington City Paper)," 2006), capital is the most motivated of actors.

I think back to what the city was like in September 1987 when I first moved here, and I prefer to live in a community that is growing.  Even if I believe that the planning and governance functions could be a lot better, there is no question that the added population supports a better and wider range of amenities, public safety, etc., which contribute to improved communities.

There is change, definitely, and not all of it is satisfactory.

But it's way way better than the shrinking city that was the case before Anthony Williams became elected.

DC Population (rounded)
Year Population
1960 765,000
1970 757,000
1980 638,000
1990 605,000
2000 572,000
2010 604,000

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Protecting local government interests: Jurisdictions at risk from slimy sports teams owners and the Miami Marlins as an example

Professional sports leagues control who owns teams.  And the leagues and local team owners "gang up" against local jurisdictions in aiming to maximize the amount of government-provided monies for new stadiums and arenas.

If the team ownership group is flawed -- for example, yesterday's Washington Post has a nice column, "Boswell: Whatever Bryce Harper decides, the Washington Nationals played this right," about the difference in quality management and being principle-driven comparing the Washington Redskins football team and the Washington Nationals baseball team.

Granted neither team aims to leave any financial crumb on the table when it comes to their negotiating position with local and state governments, that being said, it's better to have "a public-private partnership" with a principled team and one that is managed well than an ownership group without principles and poorly managed team. 

Just recognize that the government needs to protect its interests rather than expecting the team to do it for them.

The Miami Marlins are a good example of this.  The team was owned by a guy with a bad reputation, first with the Montreal Expos, which he ended up selling to Major League Baseball--the team became the Washington Nationals, and in return was allowed to acquire the team in Miami.

Photo: Parsons, construction managers for the stadium.

Miami-Dade County, in return for money--about $500 million of a total cost of $600 million--for a new stadium, negotiated a 5% payment of "future profits" were the team to be sold before Spring 2018. 

It was expected that the new stadium and retractable roof would lead to success on the field ("By Raising Roof, Marlins Hope Interest Will Follow," New York Times).

Instead, the team has had losing seasons every year since the new stadium opened.  It's fair to say this is a better example of the fact that the quality of management is more important than a new stadium in determining success.

Loria sold the team last fall.

Now he is trying to get out of paying Miami-Dade County any money.  He bought the team for about $158 million and sold it for $1.2 billion.

It's now tied up in Court ("Jeffrey Loria to county: trust my numbers on the Marlins sale. Judge: no way.," Miami Herald).

Miami Marlins image.

Note that this does reflect my recommendation that localities negotiate a kind of virtual interest in a team to reflect the value of monies provided for stadiums/arenas ("Stadiums and arenas as the enabling infrastructure for "money-making" platforms," 2014; "New Year's Post #3: More thinking on "return on investment" from different types of sports facilities and DC, and an Olympics in DC," 2015).

Although I think this percentage should be significantly more than 5% since without the stadium-arena as platform, there is no team.

Given the Loria machinations, I'd recommend that this ownership interest be reflected in a lien on the sale of a team, or at least that a performance bond be required, to make it more likely that the team will not renege.

In any case, governments are at the mercy of the professional leagues in terms of who owns the team and how they'll operate it.

This is significantly asymmetric in terms of what is expected by the Leagues vis a vis local governments and financing.

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Revisiting past blog entries: College Park as a college town and economic development | PG County and Amazon

The Washington Business Journal has an interesting article, "Exclusive: Here's what Prince George's pitched for HQ2 — and why it lost," about why Prince George's County's bid for the Amazon second headquarters wasn't one of the short listed sites, even though DC, Montgomery County, Maryland, and Northern Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun Counties) each made the final Top 20.

From the article:
Weeks after being shut out of Amazon's short list of contenders for HQ2, Prince George's County learned Wednesday morning why it did not make the
cut: The county doesn't have a large enough pool of senior-level software engineers.

... The answer brings some closure to a multifaceted effort by Prince George's to attract Amazon's second headquarters with a strong proposal that county officials say met all of the online giant's requirements in terms of talent, land and transit.

The county's nearly 120-page proposal, obtained by the Washington Business Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that Prince George's pitched College Park and Greenbelt together as a way to fulfill Amazon's plans to develop 8 million square feet for 50,000 employees.
In 2005, I interviewed for an economic development job in Hyattsville, a few miles south of College Park and the University of Maryland, and the main point I made was that they looked for their economic energy to emanate from DC up the Rhode Island Avenue/US 1 corridor, and yet the University of Maryland is a leading research university, and that if you did a Google search on "Prince George's County" and "creative economy" (a term used by Charles Landry and others) you got fewer than 100 hits.

One of the things I suggested was trying to get the University and Prince George's Community College to relocate their arts related academic programs to Rte 1 in the "Gateway Arts District"--imagine the College of Art anchoring the arts district, etc.

Another was that they should strive to be great, for example by changing their town slogan from "A good place to live" to "Maryland's Rising Star."

A few years ago I wrote a couple pieces about how College Park and the Prince George's County economies are crippled by the city's adamant desire to not be a college town, even though big college towns like Ann Arbor, Madison, Cambridge, and Berkeley are awesome (and small towns anchored by colleges can be great too, such as Walla Walla, Washington; Chestertown, Maryland; and Shepherdstown, West Virginia).

-- "To be a great city, College Park Maryland needs some "there", it needs a center," 2013
-- "More Prince George's County: College Park's militant refusal to become a college town makes it impossible for the city(and maybe the County) to become a great place," 2015
-- "College town follow up: alumni as residents and contributions to community capital," 2015

To be fair, it is the case that those area communities are starting to figure out that that this is important ("How Wallace Loh is impacting development in College Park," Washington Business Journal; "University of Maryland is bringing upscale hotels," Washington Post).

President Loh has made a difference, reversed the university's previous animus about a more direct campus routing for the forthcoming Purple Line light rail ("UMD and City of College Park officials show excitement for Purple Line," Diamondback), the University and developers are creating what is being called the "Discovery District," north of the campus, which will be a mixed use  academic, research, and commerce district ("University of Maryland debuts Discovery District," press release), etc.

In my writings about the quest to land the Amazon project, I mentioned that in any case, the process was a good opportunity to objectively assess where a community is, to do what's called a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, to figure out where it can do better.

Rendering showing a Purple Line light rail train on the routing through the University of Maryland campus.

I specifically mentioned how communities with weaker higher education programs in the sciences and engineering need to look at that and come up with responses such as those initiated in places like Spokane ("President of Washington State University dies: fostered development of the "University District" adjacent to Downtown Spokane," 2015), Greensboro ("Better leveraging higher education institutions in cities and counties: Greensboro; Spokane; Mesa; Phoenix; Montgomery County, Maryland; Washington, DC," 2016 ), Portland State University ("Nohad Toulan: The University in the City," PSU Metroscape Magazine), New York City with Mayor Bloomberg's technical university initiative on Roosevelt Island, the biotechnology focus in Cambridge, Massachusetts ("A real estate empire grows in Kendall Square" and "State pushes for biotech beyond Kendall Square," Boston Globe), and Harvard's push to develop an expanded engineering and business programs emphasis in the Allston district of Boston ("Harvard unveils plan for major commercial development in Allston," Boston Business Journal; "Harvard's Expanding Allston Plans," Harvard Magazine).

Prince George's needs to do a deeper re-assessment. Which I have written a fair amount about including shifting their development paradigm around transit:

-- "The future of mixed use development/urbanization: Part 3, Prince George's County, where's the there?," 2011
-- "A recommended new planning direction for Prince George's County," 2011
-- "Another lesson that Prince George's County has a three to five year window to reposition based on visionary transportation planning," 2011
-- "Prince George's County still doesn't get "transit oriented development" and walkable communities: Greenbelt edition," 2012

and the PG-related recommendations in my 2017 series of Purple Line articles including:

-- "Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 1 | simultaneously introduce improvements to other elements of the transit network"
-- "Part 2 |   the program (macro changes)
-- "Part 4 |   Making over New Carrollton as a transit-centric urban center and Prince George's County's "New Downtown""
-- "Part 6 |  Creating a transportation development authority in Montgomery and Prince George's County to effectuate placemaking, retail development, and housing programs in association with the Purple Line
-- "Part 7 | Using the Purple Line to rebrand Montgomery and Prince George's Counties as Design Forward."

Separately, Maryland is figuring out the value of linking the University of Maryland campuses in College Park and Baltimore--the Baltimore campus focuses on life sciences ("Lawmakers approve University of Maryland partnership," Baltimore Sun).

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Congressional dysfunction isn't battering the Washington area economy, it's the anti-government perspective of the Republicans

Washingtonian Magazine has an article, "Congress’s Dysfunction May Already Be Battering the DC Area’s Economy," about how the metropolitan economy is being diminished because of "Congressional dysfunction."

While the magazine is right that the Washington economy is collateral damage, they are wrong to attribute this to Congress.

Government shrinkage is a deliberate strategy emanating from anti-government policies of the Trump Administration.

Sure, the Tea Party types in Congress keep attacking government, but they can't knee-cap the agencies the way the Executive Branch can. Although maybe the headline is right in some respects because with a Republican controlled (albeit dysfunctional) legislative branch there are no checks on the Executive Branch.

It happens today I am doing some "processing" of stuff I clipped back in 2011, like the Republican House's attempt to cut the budget of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or to eliminate the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities. The headlines of the articles are comparable to the headlines today.

The difference then was you had a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Democratic President.

Today, an anti-government party in control of the Executive and Legislative branches has few checks. As the Wall Street Journal wrote recently about the director of the Office of Management and Budget, "Mulvaney's Real Target: Government, Not Deficits." From the article:
In fact, Mr. Mulvaney is not really a deficit hawk. He is a spending hawk, motivated less by an abhorrence of debt than of big government. Small government is a longstanding and principled goal of Republicans. But big government is not why deficits are about to explode. Republicans have already shrunk government quite a lot. And much of the remainder is now off limits: defense, homeland security, veterans, the elderly.

... In 2011, he helped take the federal government to the brink of default on its obligations by opposing a higher debt limit. To resolve that crisis, Republicans forced Mr. Obama to accept tight caps over discretionary spending (the sort Congress must approve each year, unlike open-ended entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare). And in 2013 those caps were tightened even further with across-the-board spending cuts called a sequester.

Congress first loosened those caps later in 2013, and again last week, drawing plenty of finger-wagging from deficit scolds across the political spectrum. Mr. Mulvaney says he probably would have voted against it. Mr. Trump blamed it on Democrats insisting on more domestic spending in return for a bigger military budget.

There is something surreal about the angst. Even with the higher cap, domestic discretionary spending in fiscal 2019 will be less than in 2012, without adjusting for inflation. At less than 3% of GDP, it would be near the lowest in at least 50 years. This category encompasses almost everything other than defense and entitlements, from environmental protection to education and research grants. In that narrow sense, the federal government is getting smaller. Its civilian workforce today is the smallest as a share of total employment since World War II.

So where is the federal government getting bigger? The safety net did grow under Mr. Obama, but mostly because of the Affordable Care Act. Food stamps, welfare and other programs targeted at the poor, sick and unemployed consume the same share of GDP today that they did under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The real growth has been in the big entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the ACA, and much of this is the unavoidable consequence of an aging population. Mr. Trump, like Mr. Obama before him, has ruled out cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. ... 
with taxes and most federal spending off the table, the room for Mr. Mulvaney to meaningfully cut the deficit is small. But talking about the deficit helps keep the pressure on those parts of the government that aren't off limits.
Even if it becomes impossible to cut social programs, it's always possible to cut government agencies, especially if Congress is inclined to go along. 

And that has major impact on the Washington area economy.

The Republicans have been fighting investing in government agencies for a long time, see this 2014 blog entry about the slowdown in federal agency property development, "New Year's Post #3: an illustration of the decline of the federal role in DC's real estate market (at least right now)."

But today with a Republican President who is anti-government, somewhat of a figurehead, but who has empowered anti-government zealots like Mick Mulvaney and Scott Pruitt, and put into power people who are willing to carry out directives for cutting agencies such as Betty DeVos, Rick Perry, and Rex Tillerson, agencies are getting "thinned out."

The Department of Energy is cutting units and employees ("Trump aims deep cuts at energy agency that helped make solar power affordable," Washington Post).

So is the Department of Education ("Inside Betsy DeVos's efforts to shrink the Education Department," Post).

The State Department ("State Department to Offer Buyouts in Effort to Cut Staff," New York Times).

The Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency ("Success: EPA set to reduce staff 50% in Trump's first term," Washington Examiner), the Department of Agriculture ("Dismantling the USDA from within," Federal News Radio), the Department of Interior ("Interior chief wants to shed 4,000 employees in department shake-up," Post).


The various downsizing efforts across government agencies emanates from the Administration, not Congress, although the Republican controlled House and Senate are happy to smite what they think of as the Leviathan.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

What can Suburban Atlanta and Greater Detroit learn from Virginia's Fairfax and Loudoun Counties

Detroit area transit planning.  I have been meaning to write about the initiative in Greater Detroit, after a failed referendum in 2016, to create a multi-county transit district. 

The QLine streetcar on Woodward Avenue passes under the People Mover near Grand Circus Park.  Photo: David Guralnick, Detroit News.

Besides various bus services in the region, which includes Washtenaw County where the University of Michigan is located, to boost support for transit, Detroit has a people mover system ("Making the case for intra-city (vs. inter-city) transit planning," 2011) and a recently opened streetcar on Woodward Avenue which I have not written about at all, but is very interesting because much of the funding for it came from local foundations ("Detroit charts a public-private path to its future, with streetcars," Christian Science Monitor).

(Note that a lot of the pundit discussion--do a Google article search--on the Detroit streetcar is pretty flawed, calling it a failure. In fact, flawed discussion of transit in Detroit and generally on intra-district vs. inter-city scales spurred me to write the intra-city transit piece in the first place.)
I-75_congestion, Oakland County
I-75 in Oakland County, Michigan.  Photo: Crain's Detroit Business, "I-75 plan opens transportation rift: Business planners, mass transit backers differ on 20-year freeway widening project." Circa 2003, Oakland County Executive Patterson kicked the City of Ferndale out of the county's Main Street commercial district revitalization program because the city opposed the widening of I-75.

After seeing a headline of a story ("Hackel: Let's not rush to create "obsolete" regional transit in southeast Michigan," Michigan Public Radio) quoting Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel (his brother, now a judge lived across the hall from me my sophomore year in college), I was thinking that in a situation where your transit system is mostly going to focus on bus service, what should a 21st century bus system look like? In short, Mr. Hackel was making a reasonable point.

Nevertheless, his thinking is flawed because he's still thinking individual mobility and cars instead of sustainable mobility and transportation system management.  From the article:
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says there’s no reason to build any system that relies on buses, suggesting those systems will soon be “obsolete.”
Instead, Hackel favors letting the auto industry and its new technology, especially autonomous vehicle developments, lead the way.
What should a 21st century bus-based transit system look like?

Cars are inefficient consumers of space.  Mobility systems focused on personal mobility conveyance--a car like vehicle--won't have much impact on congestion and will in fact create more congestion because they increase personal vehicle miles traveled and reduce the use of mass transit ("Your Uber Car Creates Congestion. Should You Pay a Fee to Ride," New York Times)

But bus rapid transit lines and system service redesigns aren't always game changers.  Concerning the design of a design forward bus-based system, I think it's fair to say despite what people argue, bus (rapid transit) vehicles "designed to look like trains" and high quality bus shelters are no longer enough to reposition bus service as a premium service in a mobility paradigm that preferences automobility ("Improving bus service overall vs. reversing falling Metrobus ridership," 2018), especially in a region like Detroit, which is the most automobilized of any US metropolitan area other than California and Texas.

Perhaps the way to think about it is that BRT programs and schedule and footprint reconfigurations only accomplish so much in terms of adding riders.

According to the designers, Studio Hill Design Ltd., the bus livery and typefaces chosen for the ART -- Albuquerque Rapid Transit -- bus line reference 1950s styles in an aim to reference the design of buildings along Route 66.

... even though BRT systems in Albuquerque (ART), Cleveland (HealthLine), Connecticut, and Mississauga (Mi-Way) are a quantum leap forward in design and operation compared to the legacy bus systems that serve most communities.

Building a better bus, graphicWall Street Journal graphic.

I have outlined many of the issues with bus-based systems in these entries:

-- "Making bus service sexy and more equitable," 2012
-- "Will buses ever be cool? Boston versus the Raleigh-Durham's GoTransit Model," 2017
-- "Route 7 BRT proposal communicates the reality that the DC area doesn't adequately conduct transportation planning at the metropolitan-scale," 2016
-- "Thinking systematically about bus transit service improvements: spurred by Columbia SC, Edmonton AB, and Baltimore," 2017
-- "Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center: a critical evaluation," 2016.

To work, a transit system needs to be anchored by the development of a transit-first land use and transportation planning paradigm:

-- "Comments on Proposed EYA Development at Takoma Metro Station, Washington DC," 2006

and operationalized through what I first called the mobility shed and transit shed but now call the sustainability mobility platform, including microtransit, car sharing, and other types of services:

-- "Updating the mobility shed concept," 2008
-- "Free access to cargo bikes/e-cargo bikes as part of a mobility hub/sustainable mobility platform," 2017
-- Car share users are getting abused by the cities that ostensibly support car sharing as a form of sustainable mobility," 2016

Still mulling over Detroit, I saw more articles ("Patterson speech draws line in the sand between suburban counties and Detroit" and "Leave Brooks Patterson, Oakland County out of regional transit plans," Detroit Free Press) about how communities in Northern Oakland County (see "The rise of Oakland County is built upon Detroit's fall," 2014) aren't interested in participating.  (And I remember the story that made national news a couple years ago about a guy in Detroit using transit and walking more than 20 miles each day to get to and from his job in Oakland County, because of lack of an integrated transit system in Wayne and Oakland Counties.)

Atlanta.  A similar conversation has been occurring in Metropolitan Atlanta for all of the decade. After a failed transportation referendum in 2012 ("Failure of the transit-roads sales tax measure in Metro Atlanta"), the region continues to grapple with the need for transit/congestion management and how to go about accomplishing it, with the same kinds of animus and fear in the Detroit area about race and the center city vis a vis the suburbs. Atlanta though has heavy rail through the MARTA system, but its potential has always been crippled by the fact that Cobb and Gwinnett Counties opted out of the system from the very beginning.

More recently, the transit system has been successful at engaging these counties, although Keith Parker, the general manager who pulled off this wizardry, last year left the system for another job ("Keith Parker puts us back on track," Atlanta Magazine; "MARTA GM: 'Build, connect, innovate taps bright future," Marietta Daily Journal).

AJC photo of a MARTA train.

However, the recruitment of large business headquarters operations to Atlanta and/or MARTA-adjacent locations, and the talk that Atlanta is out of consideration for landing Amazon's HQ2 because so much of the metropolitan area isn't served by heavy rail -- means that the counties with limited transit service are reconsidering the car-centric approach.

Like with Northern Oakland County, some Northern communities in Fulton County seem to want to opt out even in the face of being less able to attract businesses going forward ("The issue: what is the right solution for North Fulton transit?," Atlanta Journal-Constitution), and despite the fact that the county passed a sales tax for transit and transportation improvements. From the article:
Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said the only sensible choice to handle congestion and avert high-density development “is one that does not involve the investment in light or heavy rail.” Bodker also was skeptical of the improved bus service.

Newly elected Roswell Mayor Lori Henry said bus rapid transit would worsen congestion on Roswell Road, and a right-of-way for buses was nonexistent on Holcomb Bridge.
The statements appear to be counter to our understandings about transit and the impact on congestion (when you have the right density and tight links between activity centers and residential areas). I mean, in a big city like Washington, I can "Idaho Stop" through major intersections at rush hour--because both the urban design of the city and the heavy rail anchored transit system captures a significant amount of the mobility demand--within the city 57% of people get to work by transit, walking, and biking.
Atlanta, Interstate 75
Interstate 75, Atlanta. Photographer unknown.

And certainly, the Atlanta method of having highways with as many as 24 lanes is not reducing congestion.  (The Detroit area too is focused on freeway widening rather than sustainable mobility.  See "MDOT: I-94 expansion will cost $3 billion through 2036," Crain's Detroit Business).

Northern Virginia. I think Northern Virginia's heavy rail extension of the Silver Line is a particularly relevant example to both Detroit and Atlanta, although Detroit's situation is different as they have limited recent experience with rail transit, while Greater Atlanta has MARTA even if many counties are not served by it.

It's really hard to lay the groundwork for moving to a transit centric or transit balanced mobility paradigm when your metropolitan area is car-centric. 

Even in areas with a great deal of experience with transit, such as the Washington area, development of new methods and modes such as streetcar and light rail, can be incredibly contentious.

The Silver Line expansion.  I am particularly proud of a piece I wrote about this in 2011, "Short term vs. long term thinking: transit, the Washington Examiner, Fairfax/Loudoun Counties vs. DC," because of its fundamental insight that the Silver Line heavy rail "extension to Dulles Airport" wasn't so much about providing airport access as it was repositioning and "reproducing" land use in the 21st Century around transit and more intensified land use (also see "Without the right planning "controls" you can't stop change: Loudoun County and rail service in Northern Virginia").

However, the difficulty of the applicability of the Silver Line example has to do with the fact that it is an example of polycentric transit system development in the arguments of Steve Belmont in Cities in Full--a five mile distance between many of the stations means that you don't get the same kind of intensification compared to places with a denser network of transit stations.

But it becomes transit adjacent and way more "transit rich" than places without fixed rail transit systems. 

And the way that Fairfax County's office market is being reshaped, away from car-centric office parks to transit-adjacent locations is a demonstration of the change in preference for such locations ("Silver Line reshaping office market in Fairfax County").

The real question is: what should metropolitan mobility look like in the 21st century?  Both Atlanta and Detroit need to work through that question.

The space demands of automobility are significantly greater than sustainable modes.
Amount of space required to transport the user the same number of passengers by car, bus, or bicycle

Mass transit moves significantly more people per lane of traffic.  Maximum motor vehicle throughput on a freeway is 2,200 vehicles/hour.  It's significantly less on arterials in suburbs and cities.
Transit Mode Capacity diagram, Auckland Transit study
Image from an Auckland transit planning process.

Transit in New York City moves great numbers of people. (Image: Regional Plan Association.)
Capacity of different transit modes

Person-capacity ranges for various transit modes.
person-capacity ranges for various transit modes
Adapted from TCRP Report #100: Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual – 2nd Edition, 2003, pages 1-21

Despite all the talk about autonomous vehicles, etc., I think mass transit of various sorts, complemented by microtransit and other forms of sustainable mobility, makes the most sense in terms of moving lots of people.

It won't work though if activity isn't concentrated.

As far as autonomous vehicles are concerned, eventually they can make microtransit and what I call tertiary transit subnetworks--intra-neighborhood and intra-district transit based around transit station hubs--much more realizable by reducing labor costs.

But people aren't thinking things through about autonomous vehicles and personal trips.  Just because you need less space to park cars, because autonomous vehicles can be used throughout the day, doesn't mean that vehicle miles traveled is reduced, it may in fact, increase.  So that means no substantive reduction in vehicle trips, in congestion, in road lanes required, etc.


Note that while many major corporations are locating near transit in Greater Atlanta, the Atlanta Braves chose to relocate to a location in the Cumberland District of Cobb County, which has no substantive transit connections ("The Braves' New Ballpark Is An Urban Planner's Nightmare," Deadspin).

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Downtown Edmonton cultural facilities development as an example of "Transformational Projects Action Planning"

If I had to pick say five major lessons from my involvement over the past 18 years or so in urban revitalization in a major city, one would be that we need to harness the value and power of "networks" to leverage the opportunity for improvement.

My writings on leveraging new transit infrastructure as a way to drive complementary changes across the extant transit "network" ("Setting the stage for the Purple Line light rail line to be an overwhelming success: Part 2 | proposed parallel improvements across the transit network" and "Using the Silver Line as the priming event, what would a transit network improvement program look like for Northern Virginia?") or a city/conurbation like Silver Spring ("Creating a Silver Spring Sustainability Mobility District") are examples.

As I wrote in "(Big Hairy) Projects Action Plan(s) as an element of Comprehensive/Master Plans," there were many influences on my thinking in terms of developing the TPAP concept as an element of master planning at the city-wide and sub-city scales, including learnings from Bilbao ("Why can't the "Bilbao Effect" be reproduced? | Bilbao as an example of Transformational Projects Action Planning) and other European cities like Dublin, Hamburg, Helsinki, Liverpool, and Marseille, which I wrote about for a writing project commissioned by the EU National Institutes of Culture Washington Chapter project in Baltimore (entries archived at "Europe in Baltimore").

But it wasn't just foreign examples.  Portland's steady progress in developing a pro-center city agenda is one ("A summary of my impressions of Portland, Oregon and planning," 2005).  Cultural facility development programs by the Playhouse Square CDC in Cleveland ("Real estate value capture and the arts," 2010) and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust ("Pittsburgh Cultural Trust maintains diverse real estate portfolio to support arts," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; "How the Arts Drove Pittsburgh's Revitalization," The Atlantic) as well as the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative also in Pittsburgh.

Another leader is Oklahoma City and the program they created for infrastructure and project development called "Metropolitan Area Projects" or MAP.  Note that while called "Metropolitan" the projects are funded specifically by residents in Oklahoma City and the program doesn't extend beyond the city.

And the Community Works program in Hennepin County, Minnesota ("A County and Its Cities: the Impact of Hennepin Community Works," Journal of Urban Affairs, 30:3, 2008) complemented by the since ended Neighborhood Revitalization Program in Minneapolis.

Multi-jurisdictional districts like the Detroit area's Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Parks Authority, the Regional Asset District in (Pittsburgh) Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and (Greater) Denver's Scientific and Cultural Facilities District are other examples.

A major influence was the work of Toronto planner Joe Berridge, who outlined a vision of a variety of transformational projects for Toronto in the late 1990s. While not an official document, most of what he recommended came to fruition ("Toronto needs to take one last step to reach civic greatness" and "Toronto needs a new wave of world-scale projects," Toronto Star). Just think how much more could have been accomplished had the official planning processes been more purposive. Perhaps Toronto wouldn't be facing a transit crisis because of the failure to take on the "Downtown Relief Line" ("Subway crowding at crisis level," TS).

An article, "Six projects that are reshaping Downtown Edmonton," in the Toronto Globe & Mail, is another example of what I mean by embarking on a set of transformational projects as a way to further urban revitalization and success.

The point is to stich these up into a program and seize every opportunity to wring out and realize all the potential and possibilities, to achieve even more than can be achieved by any one project.

The six (seven) projects in Edmonton are:
  • a new building for the Royal Alberta Museum which is twice the size of the old building, near to the Alberta Art Gallery and with a direct underground connection to the Edmonton Light Rail system
  • a renovated and expanded central library, the Stanley A. Milner Library
  • Allard Hall, MacEwan University -- the arts building is part of the program that has shifted the university's campus from the West End to Downtown Edmonton by adaptively reusing an old railyard; the building has two theatres and an art gallery on the ground floor that will be facilities used by the curriculum but also open to the public, better engaging the university with the city outside its doors
  • Arts Habitat Edmonton: ArtsCommon and Artists Quarters -- affordable housing and live work units for artists
  • Edmonton Opera Centre, besides the auditorium, the facility includes set construction and costume facilities open to other performing arts groups
  • Winspear Music Centre, home to the city's symphony orchestra, is developing an additional facility which will replace a parking lot with a 600-seat theatre and a community arts facility.
The seventh project is in the West End, where the old arts building for MacEwan University has been purchased by the city for redevelopment as a multi-faceted arts hub and cultural center.

I'd call this effort in Edmonton a TPAP for cultural facilities.

As I argue in:

-- "Arts, culture districts and revitalization," 2009
-- "The Howard and Lincoln Theatres: run them like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust/Playhouse Square Cleveland model," 2012
-- "BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building," 2016
--  When BTMFBA isn't enough: keeping civic assets public through cy pres review," 2016
-- "BTMFBA revisited: nonprofits and facilities planning and acquisition," 2016
-- "Should community culture master plans include elements on higher education arts programs?," 2016

facilities planning and development should be a fundamental element within community cultural plans.

Separately, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a model example of managing multiple arts facilities across a district to foster cultural endeavors and revitalization, is looking to open a cinema in Downtown Pittsburgh ("Pittsburgh Cultural Trust considers movie theater on Sixth Street," Pittsburgh Business Times) to broaden the cultural offer there.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Scholarships available for Southeastern US Creative Placemaking Leadership Summits

Email from Leonardo Vazquez at Arts Builds Communities:
Thanks to a grant from The Educational Foundation of America, The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking can provide 10 full scholarships to the Southeast Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit (March 15 and 16 in Chattanooga) and 20 to the Appalachian Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit (June 21 and 22 in Charleston, WV).

Scholarships for the Southeast Leadership Summit will go to social practice artists or representatives of community development, economic development or cultural organizations which serve residents of the Black Belt region. The scholarships cover admission to the two-day program.

Scholarships for the Appalachian Leadership Summit will go to social practice artists or representatives of community development, economic development or cultural organizations which serve residents of the Appalachian region. The scholarships cover admission to the two-day program.

This is a rare opportunity to build your skills in creative placemaking and build connections with people who can help you help communities.

To be considered for the scholarship, please send a request of no more than 2 pages to 
In your request, describe the work that you do or have done to benefit communities in either the Black Belt or Appalachia, and what you hope to learn while at the program. If you are given the scholarship, please expect to 'pay forward' what you learned within six months. (You can conduct a workshop, create an event, or do a presentation to an influential group.)

The deadline for the Southeast Leadership Summits is February 23. For the Appalachian Leadership Summit, it is March 30. 
Please contact Leo at if you have any questions.
WRT arts-based revitalization and/or cultural planning issues, see these past blog entries:

-- "Arts, culture districts and revitalization," 2009
-- "Naturally occurring innovation districts | Technology districts and the tech sector," 2014
-- "BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building," 2016
-- "Dancing with the one that brung ya and challenging the dominant narrative," 2008

DC cultural planning

-- "Cultural resources planning in DC: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," 2007
-- "The Howard and Lincoln Theatres: run them like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust/Playhouse Square Cleveland model," 2012
-- "The song remains the same: DC's continued failures in cultural planning as evidenced by failures with Bohemian Caverns, Howard Theatre, Union Arts, Takoma Theatre...," 2016

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Friday, February 16, 2018

The car versus the pedestrian in (sub)urban design and placemaking

Pedestrian behavior in front of ground floors on Main Streets
"Pedestrian behavior in front of ground floors on Main Streets," from "Close Encounters with Buildings."

A point I should have emphasized more in the previous entry is that while it is true that the basics of intensification, urban design, and placemaking are the same whether or not you're working in the city or suburbs, the fact is that designing land uses in the context of automobility is different and does constrain your ability to do "great things" in the suburbs.

I've mentioned from time to time that I was at a conference in 2013 and after a presentation by a guy from Australia specializing in "night markets" as an activation device, a real estate guy (from one of the nation's biggest firms) came up to him talking about how he could do this at a suburban mall location in North Montgomery County, which his company was managing because it was in foreclosure.  I happened to be there and figured out what property he was talking about and exclaimed "just tear the mall down."  (It was Lake Forest Mall in Gaithersburg.) 

Building wrapped with colorful treatment in Crystal City and Metrorail/VRE signThey didn't tear down Lake Forest Mall and it's been through at least one more foreclosure since, but the basic point I was trying to make is that it's hard to activate a place that everyone drives to.

Although again, the way that suburban business districts like Crystal City have been working to activate what would be very drab places without the addition of a big dose of creativity ("'Crystal City is so cool': Maybe, but it's not quite D.C.," Washington Post; "JBG Smith wraps Crystal City buildings," Washington Business Journal ) proves that creativity and innovation is not exclusively a center city phenomenon.  Compared to Lake Forest Mall--20+ miles from Downtown DC--Crystal City is helped by a closer-in location, just across the river from the center city.

Outside of suburban urbanism in towns and town centers like Alexandria and Arlington, you can and do have many little oases of "new(er)" "urbanism", such as in the DC area: Reston Town Center ("Silver line reshaping commercial office market in Fairfax County," 2015) and Bethesda Row ("Why are people so damn good at asking the wrong questions," 2006) which were some of the earliest examples of this; Shirlington; the Mosaic district in Merrifield; the developing Pike and Rose district on Rockville Pike as the augur of change in the redevelopment of the White Flint district, which had been anchored by a shopping mall; the fact of the matter is that in the suburban context, because you're designing around the car, it's still about superblocks and big spaces.

You can do placemaking in the oases, but people have to drive to those oases, and the distances between places make it difficult to build "Walkable Communities" where the sustainability expands outward beyond the small confines of the oasis.

-- "How can I find and help build a Walkable Community?," Dan Burden and Walkable Communities

It's also hard to get the residents to think "urbanistically," such as paying for parking as a way to manage the resource ("Reston Town Center parking issue as a "planning failure" by the private sector," 2017).

The Silver Line Metrorail addition in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in Virginia is a good example of this.

You can bring heavy rail service to the distant suburbs, but the distance between stations--about five miles--makes it very difficult to have the kind of intensification you get over the same distance in a city like DC where in a five mile distance you don't have two Metrorail stations, but six--at least in the core.

A good resource for thinking about developing places at the scale of the pedestrian is the work of Jan Gehl, in books like Cities for People and Life Between Buildings and this paper, "Close Encounters with Buildings," later published in Urban Design International.

Many years ago the Downtown DC Business Improvement District published a brochure listing the "Principles of Great Streets" and the "Principles of Great Storefronts."

Don't know where my copy is of that brochure, but some time ago I scanned the most important passages and put them in Flickr.

This doesn't get at the issue of cosmopolitanism either or the idea that "city air is free air."

For a variety of reasons, the people who live in cities tend to be more progressive, more interested in innovation, etc., although that is definitely a generalization that does not hold true in many contexts.

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The principles of intensification are pretty much the same for suburban and urban contexts

In line with the previous posting reprinting some of my musings about the difference between caring about and being focused on your house as opposed to simultaneously also being concerned about your community and the principles of successful communities as opposed to making your house great, NZ correspondent Nigel calls our attention to this article, "Density's next frontier: the suburbs," discussing the seemingly new phenomenon of intensification in the suburbs.

Nigel writes:
I think there are different density patterns for cities ... where land is scarce due to geographical constraints, the cities will be denser. Detroit will probably have low density for many years to come. I wonder about Richard Florida's wisdom in using only one city as his case study.
I responded (now amplified and expanded):

your point about density... the great transportation planner Ian Lockwood once said to me, looking out at the mountains around Salt Lake City from the top of the Library (the green roof there is open to the public), "the best cities are constrained."

Yes, Detroit and Baltimore have the same problem. Too much latent capacity in the suburbs, and the lack of a quality intensification mechanism (transit) to bring commerce and people back to the city.

Creating a Vibrant City Center by Cy PaumierAnyway wrt "the suburbs" ... anyplace where demand is high and supply of land and real estate development opportunity is constrained, they intensify.

Nothing particularly unique about it.  And it's been happening for 70 years!

Just that people too easily say city dense, suburbs not dense, without looking at the underlying phenomenon.

Cy Paumier outlines that phenomenon in Creating a Vibrant City Center and how the pattern of downtowns (central business districts) developed around pedestrian-scaled streets, blocks, and buildings because of:
Concentration and Intensity of Use: "The intensity of development in the traditional central area was relatively high due to the value of the land. Maximizing site coverage meant building close to the street, which created a strong sense of spatial enclosure. Although city center development was dense, construction practices limited building height and preserved a human scale. The consistency in building height and massing reinforced the pedestrian scale of streets, as well as the city center's architectural harmony and visual coherence." (p. 11)

Organizing Structure: "A grid street system, involving the simplest approach to surveying, subdividing, and selling land, created a well-defined, organized, and understandable spatial structure for the cities' architecture and overall development. Because the street provided the main access to the consumer market, competition for street frontage was keen. Development parcels were normally much deeper than they were wide, creating a pattern of relatively narrow building fronts that provided variety and articulation in each block and continuous activity on the street." (p. 12)
The street grid, transportation practices and construction technology of the times, and the cost and value of the land led to a particular form of development on city blocks that focused attention on the streets and sidewalks, creating a human-scaled, architecturally harmonious built environment.

As construction technology advanced and taller buildings could be constructed, and as the walking and transit city was supplanted by the automobile, the scale of block development changed significantly, with a focus away from the pedestrian and towards the car.

The whole Edge City phenomenon (written about in the 1990s) "merely" describes this phenomenon as it relates to suburban centers in the automobility context.

Note that I spar intellectually with the writings of Joel Kotkin.  He always writes that the urban revitalization phenomenon is flawed or a flash in the pan, that suburban development is transcendent.  He misses the point as I used to. 

Intensification is the issue.  While it's a lot harder to do cool stuff in suburban locations for different reasons--people choose to live in the suburbs because they aren't seeking out cosmopolitanism, the conditions that lead to intensity are phenomena not limited to center cities. 

There's cool stuff outside of center cities, in towns, suburbs, rural areas, etc.  You may have to look harder to find it, but you shouldn't close your mind to it.

Anyway, when I first got involved in this stuff, the Urban Land Institute was publishing various "Ten Principles" guides to urban and suburban redevelopment, and while the first one I read was about revitalizing urban retail, as I read others as they were published I thought that the "suburban specific" publications were equally as informative as the urban and transit publications.

That's because the underlying point of all the publications was the same: (1) intensify; (2) plan in an integrated fashion; (3) use sound urban design principles.

Frankly, if you only have the time to read a few publications about the principles of  revitalization, equally applicable to urban or suburban contexts, these ULI publications are evergreen!

-- Ten Principles for Reinventing America's Suburban Strips, 2001
-- Ten Principles for Reinventing Suburban Business Districts, 2002
-- Ten Principles for Rebuilding Neighborhood Retail, 2003
-- Ten Principles for Successful Development Around Transit, 2003
-- Ten Principles for Successful Public-Private Partnerships, 2005
-- Ten Principles for Rethinking the Mall, 2006
-- Ten Principles for Developing Successful Town Centers, 2007 (this is a download, not a viewable, link)
-- Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places, 2013

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Lecture: Modernism, Traditionalism and Authenticity: Architecture and Preservation in Washington, DC, February 28, 2018

From email:

The Latrobe Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians presents a Lecture by Dr. Cameron Logan, University of Sydney

Preservationist critics and historians of American city-making in the twentieth century typically highlight a conflict between postwar urban redevelopment and the human-scaled and neighborhood-oriented architectural legacy of the nineteenth century to explain the rise of preservation from the 1960s onwards. This story of destructive redevelopment either explicitly or implicitly casts modernism as villain. But this orthodox account is badly in need of revision. In this talk I will draw on work from my recently published history of Washington, DC, Historic Capital, to rethink the relationship between modernist architects and the city's preservation movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

Dr. Cameron Logan is an urban and architectural historian and his work explores the relationship between, architecture, urban identity and history via two main lines of inquiry. The first of these is the exploration of civic culture and place-based citizenship in debates about architecture, preservation and urban design. The second is the history of building types in twentieth century architecture. He is the author of Historic Capital: Preservation, Race and Real Estate in Washington, DC (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) and co-author of Architecture and the Modern Hospital: Nosokomeion to Hygeia (Routledge, 2018). Cameron teaches in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, where he directs the postgraduate program in heritage conservation.

February 28, 2018

The First Congregational United Church of Christ
945 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
6:30 pm – reception, 7:00 pm – lecture

Reservations are not required. $10.00 for Latrobe Chapter members, student members (full time) free with ID, $15.00 for non-members (reduced admission for non-members!).

Damn. I didn't know that Cameron finally published his dissertation, which I will have to track down. I saw him present about it as a work in progress more than ten years ago at the DC Historical Studies Conference, and I read the dissertation after it was finished. I'll have to track down and read the published book!

I wrote this about it in 2009:

The house as a haven and refuge, nimbyism, and urban-ness

Karaoke, Adams-Morgan Day
Adams Morgan Day--a fun festival serving the city, or an abomination, an unreasonable sacrifice provided to the city on the part of Adams-Morgan residents?

I am not quite finished reading Cameron Logan's dissertation on planning in DC, covering the period from 1950-1990, and mostly dealing with the role of historic preservation in the city's planning processes, and how it organized neighborhood stabilization in response to expansion of downtown northward (Dupont Circle) and the U.S. Capitol Complex (Capitol Hill), and how developers and real estate interests learned to respond and reshape the debate in the 1980s, under a particularly hospitable political regime (Marion Barry).

One of the interesting things that I am pondering is how for many people involved in the neighborhood preservation movement, there wasn't an interest in creating the kind of urban vitality of mixed use and activities at different times of the day that is discussed in say, Death and Life of the Great American City, the Jane Jacobs classic.
House cartoon
This could have been because of the development of more nucleated families, and a more self-involved household focus, rather than a more externally connected, community-neighborhood involved perspective.

Clare Cooper Marcus, in "The House as a Symbol of Self" says that for the most part, people desire a house form that is "separate, unique, private and protected" while Delores Hayden writes in Redesigning the American Dream about the haven strategy, where the house--home--serves as a haven, a refuge, from the exploitation and competition of the mass market and the industrial world.

In the neighborhood preservation movement in DC (as opposed to the preservation movement focused on downtown buildings), for the most part people were focused on saving residential building stock, and perhaps because often preservation was a protective response to encroachment by commercial real estate developments, they were less inclined to be interested in or supportive of retail and other commercial activities.
Commercial district cartoon by Peter Wallace
Neighborhood commercial district cartoon, Peter Wallace.

Logan describes some discussions of neighborhood vitality including local retail in a positive light. Interestingly, these perspectives came from people with commercial interests, a real estate business proprietor key to resuscitation of the Capitol Hill neighborhood (Barbara Held), and from the mid-1970s editor of the community newspaper The Intowner, which still serves DC's "mid-city" neighborhoods.

I wonder if there really is a widespread commitment to urban-ness, mixed use, variety of activities, and vitality in the center city? Maybe there isn't?

I ask this question because on the ANC6A listserv, there is a negative thread about the recent National Marathon, which involved, besides running, the closing of a number of streets in Capitol Hill for a goodly part of one day. (Judging by some of the postings when the Marathon happened, one of the problems is inadequate training for the people, including police, working the Marathon, because for the most part when queried, they were unable to provide alternate route information.) One of the respondees wrote (edited):
There is an ever increasing number of races and other such events that burden the Capitol Hill community, often drawing large crowds and buses, and forcing traffic and parking restrictions. David has a point that it's time that other sections of the City share the wealth and/or the burdens.
Granted, I don't live in that area now. But I tend to think of street closures as temporary events that can be dealt with, minor annoyances that can be responded to with "work-arounds," but also part of the "ballet" of civic life and urban vitality.

As a resident in my neighborhood, I give up some things on occasion (I can hear loudspeakers for sporting events at Coolidge High School even though I live three blocks away; the pool is closed on occasion for swim meets; the occasional train whistle on the Metropolitan Branch railroad line; etc.), in favor of serving others, and I expect that "what goes around, comes around" -- that I get things back too, when I go to activities in other neighborhoods, such as Adams-Morgan Day, which can cause hardships for people in that neighborhood on that day, even as people like me reap the benefits.

Given that I have been pondering civic engagement and planning issues for the past few days in the context of Cameron's dissertation, I have been wondering if the idea of what it means to live urbanistically is a construct also, a construct that few residents really have an interest in or support generally, whether or not they face specific development threats from time to time, and utilize preservation policy or other neighborhood or community organizing strategies as a way to respond?

Maybe nimbyism is merely a smaller piece of a much larger problem?
Neighborhood comic
Interestingly, while discussions of diversity talk about the value of different perspectives, research by people like Robert Putnam finds more civic involvement in more homogeneous communities.

I talked with Anwar Saleem of H Street Main Street about doing a session at next year's Main Street conference about the "difficulties" of doing commercial district and community revitalization activities in "hetereogeneous" communities. It's very difficult. That's what people have spent the last ten years learning on H Street. Sadly, the Main Street commercial district revitalization model doesn't adequately prepare volunteers for this reality.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

More guns, more deaths

Re: the mass shooting yesterday at a high school in Florida, where 17 people were killed

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the more guns there are the more they are used and the more people are killed. It ought to be obvious that access should be restricted to guns that have as their only purpose killing a lot of people very quickly.

-- "More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence? | America now has 300 million firearms, a barrage of NRA-backed gun laws—and record casualties from mass killers," Mother Jones Magazine

It's not a coincidence that during the period when there was a ban an assault weapons, there were fewer mass shootings, and fewer deaths.

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Restored TV Home Show on DIY Network the best hands down in terms of "historic preservation"

I write from time to time about the newer tv shows about home renovation that are historic preservation oriented, except for "This Old House" (while I admire the craftsmanship and like the related magazine, the projects they do aren't realistic and are mostly focused on making big houses gargantuan and are about excess, albeit with high quality).

For example, generally I like the work that Nicole Curtis does in "Rehab Addict" and while I am no longer all that interested in the formulaic redos in "Fixer Upper," I am incredibly impressed with how the Gaines' have created a multifaceted business ecosystem and have become a force in Waco's tourism offer and the revitalization in and around the city's core.

-- "Historic preservation month post: building the capacity for self-help and "Rehab Addict" as an example of how more could be done"
-- "Historic Preservation Tuesday: Critical mass of rehabilitation and a big dose of tv exposure sparks community revitalization in Waco, Texas"

And there are a couple of other shows on DIY Network/HGTV that feature preservation in cities like Nashville ("Nashville Flipped") and Charleston, ("American Rehab: Charleston") and those programs also feature high quality work.

But "Restored," featuring Brett Waterman working on amazing houses in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties in California ("'Restored' returns to Redlands for second season on DIY Network," Redlands Daily Facts) is probably the best of the non-This Old House shows in his attention to detail and the quality of the work.

I've watched a couple of the shows and was floored by the projects enough to want to move to one of the properties...