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.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Undeserved DC cheerleading

The Washington Post has an article ("New York Mayor Bill de Blasio takes a page from D.C.") about how NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio is "copying" various DC best practice policies.

Vivienne, DiarmaidUmm, actually, what best practice policies that "DeBlasio is copying from DC" originated elsewhere. And the article feels more like undeserved cheerleading.

Bike share bikes and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  Flickr photo by Diarmaid Mac Aonghusa.

1.  Until NYC's launch of bikesharing, the largest implementation of bike sharing in North America was Montreal, but of course, many European cities have had much larger programs for years.  Yes, DC had a pilot version of the Clear Channel form of bikesharing, but the contract didn't include provisions for expansion.  And Paris is the city that put bike sharing on the world stage, although yes, for public officials across the United States, since they are more likely to travel to DC and less likely to Paris, herald the DC bikesharing system as a example to emulate.

Seattle streetcar in operation.  Photo from the Seattle Rentals blog.

2.  Streetcars.  Umm, DC will take about 12 years from starting to plan to having a short portion of line in operation.  By contrast, Seattle, which started planning for streetcars when DC did, in 2003, opened their first line in 2007 and have an extension underway now which should enter operation later this year.

3.  Inclusionary zoning... Montgomery County has had such a law in place since 1974 (Inclusionary Zoning's Effect on Affordable Housing, report, HUD) while DC's policy has been in effect for just a couple years and thus far hasn't generated significant amounts of lower cost housing.

That being said, DC's Housing Production Trust Fund, which uses money generated by a small tax on real estate transactions to support the development of affordable housing, is in fact a national best practice, although projects--as is the nature of the process--take awhile to come to fruition.

Sheridan Station Apartments near Anacostia Metro Station is a good example of a great project built in part with HPTF financing.  It's housing built at the same level of quality as new developments in Northwest DC, with rents at least 1/3 lower than the market rate.

4.  Pre-K in the schools.  Well, finally, that is a DC schools best practice that is quite remarkable, with mandatory free access for children beginning at the age of 30 months through the age of five.   However, it is the source of much of DC Public Schools' increase in enrollment and that can be illusory.  Once children of middle and higher income parents reach school age, many of the children leave the DCPS system and enroll in charter schools.

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