MENU

DC PhotoAlbum(continued)

These three snapshots show the recently opened Air Force Memorial which stands at the east end of the old Navy Annex uphill west of the Pentagon (lower) in Arlington County. It's full grace is shown from its parking lot just across the eastern terminus of Columbia Pike (upper right), the straight arterial used by the 9/11 pilot/terrorists to line up for their suicide attack on the Pentagon. Upper left shows the 8-10 foot tall honor guard at the base of the structure, facing Arlington Cemetery (off camera left), with the Washington Monument on the horizon just to the right, and the capital dome to the left, across the Potomac.. This is just the latest reminder that DC is the national capital city of the USA, and has special obligations to become "the world's greatest city". NARPAC's comments to Mayor-elect Fenty's transition team are yet another attempt to help the city move in that direction.

The nondescript picture at right shows the current South Capitol Street overpass above Potomac Avenue looking east towards the Navy Yard and the rapidly developing Southeast Federal Center, with its large new (brick) headquarters for the US Department of Transportation. Just to the left beyond the underpass, construction cranes and work can be seen making progress (on time) for DC's new baseball stadium which will front south and east on a rebuilt and extended Potomac Ave. Why on earth would DC's DDoT plan to replace this elevated approach to a new South Capitol Street bridge with an at-grade traffic circle mixing major truck, commuter, and emergency traffic with pedestrian and bike traffic, plus stadium foot and vehicular fan traffic? Does DDoT really expect USDoT to pick up the bill for this accident-prone, traffic-jamming, backward-looking, 19th Century device for mixing low-volume horse-and-carriage flow? NARPAC thinks it's a disaster in the making .

The pictures to the left show the brand new Swiss Embassy building facing the Potomac River (and a muddy Rock Creek) between the Washington Harbor complex and Thompson's Boat House. The northern half of this several acre lot is now occupied by a complementary office building. Its northern face abuts on K Street at ground level, under the heavily traveled elevated Whitehurst Freeway. That 50-yr old freeway by-passes cluttered Georgetown and connects thousands of residents in NW Washington and the wealthy Maryland suburbs with downtown, the Kennedy Center and the Mall. The freeway is shown by black arrows. Clearly these buildings have been designed to minimize the impact of this utilitarian structure. Why on earth would DC's DDoT plan to "deconstruct" this freeway, and try to replace it with a grade-level "boulevard". NARPAC thinks its another potential disaster for capital city traffic in the 21st Century.

Shown here is one of DC's thousands of police vehicles used to patrol the streets in the crime-prone sections of our nation's capital. The high-volume, service-oriented South Capital Street is just behind the fence. This section of this major artery, about four blocks north of the new baseball stadium, is not scheduled for major "boulevardization". NARPAC has just completed an update of DC's crime statistics through 2005 . The good news is that crime levels in DC are now about average for large American cities. The bad news is that DC and other government agencies employ somewhere between 50% and 100% more law enforcement personnel than those other cities.

wilson bldgNARPAC is very pleased with the results of the recent primary elections in DC, and congratulates DC voters for heeding NARPAC's advice. Now we turn to the most likely leaders of the next DC administration to occupy the Wilson Building (center) and offer them some advice too. Councilman Adrian Fenty (above left) will almost certainly become the new mayor of our capital city, having defeated Linda Cropp (above right) who will shortly step down from the chairmanship of the DC Council, to be replaced by Councilman Vincent Gray. We congratulate both Chairman Cropp and Mayor Williams for their long service and successful efforts in improving the stature of our nation's capital.

I-66One of the cross-over issues facing the old and new administrations is what to do about signing off on the city's long-awaited update to its "Comprehensive Plan". NARPAC is urging the present Council to defer final approval of this very disappointing effort until the new administration has the opportunity to answer several questions about major long-range considerations missing from the draft. The photo above shows the wasted very high-value space between Georgetown (off right) and Foggy Bottom (off left) at the northern end of I66. The K Street bridge is in foreground, Watergate and its infamous Howard Johnson motel (now owned by GWU) are in the background. There are more than 20 acres here that could benefit from new (sunken) road design, added Metrorail access, and "3-D" residential and commercial development facing Rock Creek and the Potomac. As written, the Comprehensive Plan does little to encourage such higher density land use.

foggy Reluctance to increasing urban density, even downtown, is also reflected in current land use cases about "transit-oriented development" around Metro stations. The photos above show the out- dated, low-density residential zoning around the Foggy Bottom Metro station within the campus of George Washington University. The front entrance (top) is on 23rd Street, next to the new GWU hospital. GWU wants increased density, while the local NIMBYs from the 'historic area" (lower right) would probably prefer to eliminate the subway station entirely. In fact, there is no "Metro" signpost at the back entrance (lower left) on 24th Street. NARPAC will tell the Zoning Commission that GWU is asking for too little growth, and that the city is foolish not to adopt a "4-D" zoning plan that would lay out progressive FAR (floor area ratio) increases for the entire area, including Foggy Bottom, along some future time line, perhaps by decade.

arpt metro Metrorail approaches National Airport from Alexandria to the south on clean, attractive, elevated tracks at a fraction of the cost and construction time required for tunneling and underground stations. Current local officials both in the DC Council and in the mayor's cabinet have shown no interest in further expansion of metrorail within DC over the next twenty years!. DC primaries, tantamount to elections in this overwhelmingly Democrat city, will be held on September 12th. This is one of six major areas in which the future of our nation's capital city will be decided. NARPAC's major effort in August is to remind DC voters of the importance of this election in assuring that our national capital city continues to grow in national and global stature.

gateway The two "entrances" to DC that are the farthest apart are the deep water channel in the Potomac at DC's southern tip, and the 16th Street "principal arterial" at its northern tip. These photographs shows the small traffic circle at the "Northern Portal" to the city. 16th St. goes directly south behind the small blue sign (right photo) through a purely residential area. The large buildings in the center of the left photo are "downtown" Silver Spring, MD, an "edge city" not recognized as existing in DC comprehensive planning. DC's Department of Transportation and Gateways plans to make this suburban entrance into DC one of its twenty-seven (27) major vehicular "gateways" into the city. DDoT's real trick will be to try to hide its entrance into Silver Spring! Meanwhile, however, the Washington area's Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) is planning a stunning new southern gateway at its huge Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant at the tip of Ward 8 on the Potomac. Join NARPAC in suggesting ways to make these eight 100-ft high aluminum crock pots into the world's most original urban gateway.

This photograph of the Sherman Building shows one of the many "historic" structures at the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) which is now preparing a master plan for the partial development of its 270-acre site. Like other DC-based non-profit organizations, it has an insufficient revenue stream to keep up with its changing demands. It is currently seeking to develop some "oil wells" (NARPAC terminology) by which to assure its future fiscal viability.

As times change, there are any number of reasons why both the AFRH and the District would be better off if the AFRM moved elsewhere, or "traded in" this extraordinarily valuable property for space on existing Veteran's Administration hospital grounds around the US. But the issue being addressed here is how the property should be laid out for eventual assimilation back into Ward 5 and the future of our nation's capital. As brought out in NARPAC's extensive comments on the AFRH, one of the basis issues will be the need to establish a street layout suitable for full eventual site development. The photograph above shows the terminus of First Street, NW where it runs into Irving Street and the southern boundary of the bucolic AFRH.grounds (and golf course). NARPAC thinks this would be a good place for a major traffic rotary, and the continuation of First St. right on uphill to the Sherman Building.


This standard old Metrobus, seen pulling away from the Petworth bus stop on Georgia Ave, will soon be joined by a (small) fleet of faster, cleaner, natural gas buses that are hoping to dash up and down Georgia Avenue 15-20% faster (!) by eliminating 70% of the 54 stops between Silver Spring, MD and the National Archives/Navy Memorial off Constitution Ave. This is almost surely a more sensible alternative than adding "fixed guideway systems" (trolleys) to this already overcrowded DC "primary arterial". But NARPAC is amazed by how little real systems analysis has been carried out for this Georgia Avenue Rapid Bus Corridor either concerning the dynamics of this particular transit component on this particular street, or in the context of broader plans for markedly improving transportation capacity in DC. We have little confidence that it will make a dent in the real problem.

With DC's New Convention Center up and running without glitches, one active issue among the city's urban planners is what to do with the Old Convention Center, now reduced to a nicely paved and landscaped parking lot. Again, NARPAC is troubled by the apparent tendencies: to look at this site in isolation; to avoid looking at the problems in the immediate surrounds (such as highly congested traffic around the abutting Mt. Vernon Square) and to apply the full litany of planning constraints and foibles whether or not they are relevant to enhancing the city's long- range future. Our extensive comments on the draft master plan suggest the need to look at the old center site and the existing Square as interconnected parts of the same objectives: i.e., to create a world-class landmark city with world-class (and safe) internal mobility.

Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest DC (left) is one of the "major arterial" roadways into DC from Maryland's prosperous Montgomery County through Bethesda, DC's biggest "edge city". River Road, a major Maryland parkway, directly from I-495 (the Capital Beltway), merges as a single moving lane with Wisconsin Avenue's two moving lanes in Tenleytown at "NIMBY Towers" (right). Both roads allow parking on both sides at this crucial clogged intersection. The new DC Comprehensive Plan, heavily criticized in NARPAC testimony, envisions no growth in the thru-put capacity of these key roads over the next 20 years.

In another area of critical disagreement over "guiding principles", the DC CompPlan proposes no expansion of DC's world-class MetroRail infrastructure anywhere in DC over the next 20 years. NARPAC, on the other hand, suggests a continuous expansion of DC's subway system. In particular, we propose an "Inner Circle Line" that would increase flexibility in accessing newly developing areas while circumnavigating downtown bottlenecks. One prominent station on this new line would be in Adams Morgan, one of DC's liveliest entertainment areas. The station might well be below the intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road, NW(right, above), a scant half block from the neighborhood's most famous watering hole, Madam's Organ (left, above). Other stations would access Georgetown and improve the approaches to DC's new baseball stadium.

DC's most extensive underdeveloped areas lie East of the Anacostia River, approximately the size of Arlington County, Virginia. It is also the area of the nation's capital most poorly served by public transit. Nothing would do more to assure the long-overdue renaissance of Anacostia than to plan for the addition of regionally-connected Metrorail lines across its length and breadth. In fact, this is what generated the extraordinary economic growth of Arlington over the past 20 years. One key part of NARPAC's proposed MetroRail infrastructure expansion plan would be to add MetroRail tracks to the major new Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River. The first of twin spans was opened to traffic heading East from Virginia to Maryland (left, above) in June of 2006, while the second span takes shape (right, above, from under new span). But so far, there are no jurisdictional plans to install the trackage included in the original, forward-looking bridge plan.

One of the never-ending questions in planning DC's future growth is where to put additional residents in a city whose land is almost entirely in use, and whose low building height remains limited by strident advocates for low density. As is discussed in NARPAC's new chapter on the Future of DC's Row Houses , much will depend on the evolution of the city's hundreds of blocks of row houses. Some like these recently refurbished units in Columbia Heights will offer new opportunities in one of DC's fastest growing 'transit-oriented' neighborhoods. Others are more problematic.

Planning problems are made the more difficult by not differentiating the truly exceptional row house units, such as this group of architecturally unique units on East Capitol Street at 9th Street, NE, and the more plentiful, but more mundane, ones. Other problems include resistance to accommodating changes in urban household demographics and lifestyles. These changes will be instrumental in determining whether DC's residential planning guidelines will attract or deter people from living within the metro area's central city.

 

But it is areas where large numbers of almost identical row houses were hurriedly built to take care of DC's population explosion in the 1940's, in which the greatest changes should be expected. Like many others, this block of tidy but dated lower-income row houses along Gallatin Street in Upper Northwest DC were very definitely on "the outskirts of town" when they were built. But they but are now being overtaken by downtown 'urban sprawl'. Visualizing and quantifying how these neighborhoods will change is basic to understanding how much growth in residential households the city can absorb. NARPAC concludes that major density increases can be accommodated, but only if DC planning restrictions do not inhibit inevitable shifts in urban land and property usage.

Just a reminder that DC, with all its typical urban problems, is still one of the greatest cities in the world, particularly at this time of year.


The JC Nalle Elementary School sits on six and a half acres of high ground at 50th and C Streets, SE in Ward 7's Marshall heights. Distinguished as much as anything by the murals painted by its 380 (or so) kids on the retaining wall facing the athletic field, it was built in 1950, and expanded in 1960 and again in 1969. This was the time when DCPS school enrollment reached 150,000 and its inventory of schools approached 200. Although there are no signs around its not- very-welcoming entrance, it houses the prototype of one of DCPS's most forward-looking concepts. Featured in the newly released Master Education Plan, the superintendent hopes to have nine "Community Schools" by 2010. Fashioned on the approach of the venerable Children's Aid Society of New York, the intent is to have the school provide all kinds of nurturing assistance to needy kids, and sometimes to their even needier parent(s). NARPAC strongly supports this type of effort, and congratulates the Fannie Mae Foundation for funding it, and proving it a success.

Across the Anacostia River, and across M Street from the Navy Yard, sits the 2-acre Van Ness Elementary School. This school is on harder times. The nearby housing development it served has been torn down, and enrollment this year has dropped to 78 students. Even in the best of times, the 49,000 sqft of floor space would barely hold 320 kids, now considered to be the bare bones minimum to support a full academic program. Fortunately, it occupies very valuable land right in the midst of the redevelopment of the Navy Yard, the Southeast Federal Center, and now the coming baseball stadium. There are rumblings that a major downsizing of aging DCPS facilities is about to begin. It is way overdue, and it could involve shuttering, if not selling off, half of DC's public schools, including Van Ness.. NARPAC is very concerned about the complexities of this "four-dimensional game of musical chairs", but is certain that the longer it is put off, the more turbulent it will be. In any case, it is likely to conflict with the ambitious new master education plan discussed above.

In mid-March, 2006, the proponents for building a grandiose full-service National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) held what was billed as a major rally on Freedom Square in support of NCMC. They asked each minister east of the Anacostia to use their vans and buses "to bring as many people as possible, minimum 50." Sure enough, Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler (left above), Senior Minister of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, and National President of Ministers for Racial, Social, and Economic Justice, led a stirring "prayer;" Council members, like Vincent Gary (center), Kwame Brown, and Council Chair Cropp, herself, exhorted the crowd (of no more than 60). Even City Administrator Bobb (right) gave a rousing argument for by-passing the normal government procedures to get the $400M NCMC built as quickly as possible. They apparently felt that a good ole stem-winding rally would beat preparing an honest Certificate of Need anytime. NARPAC's March editorial takes exception to turning serious local government business into burlesque, particularly when it diverts attention from solving the real health problems of the city's underclass.

Meanwhile, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) may have unintentionally entered the NCMC debate with a newly released "National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine", which shows DC ranking a close fourth after California, Massachusetts and Connecticut among all US states. ACEP's Washington office is near the Western end of bustling K Street where it ducks under Pennsylvania Ave at Washington circle. 2121K St. is just north of the GWU campus, itself a matter of current controversy. NARPAC has dissected the ACEP report card assessment methodology and reluctantly concludes that it is not yet sufficiently developed to provide meaningful functional comparisons. Hopefully, future versions will be more credible.

The nation's capital city is well along in the process of formulating a new 20-year Comprehensive Plan for DC's continued development. NARPAC summarizes The Housing Element which is one of the more contentious draft chapters. It focuses primarily on constructing more affordable housing. It also urges the city to "preserve as many row houses as possible", such as those shown here on 37th Street (near Georgetown) (right) and along New York Avenue (near the new Convention Center)(left). One problem with the Plan is trying to convert sweeping qualitative generalities like "inclusiveness", "diversity", "vibrance" and "mixed-income" into practical, measurable, quantitative goals.

 

There are similar housing-related numerical problems in trying to decide how many units (and how many rooms) it takes to house 100,000 people; and where in the city the increased density should be focused. Some better developed parts of town, like Observatory Circle's 300-odd half-million dollar condos in the Colonnade may be "dense enough". But what should be done about the city's very large poor population, many of whom are clustered in blighted communities? Is it the 20-year objective to ease their plight "in situ", or to provide better education and job opportunities and encourage those households to start up the economic ladder?

 

There are also unresolved issues about how many houses must be "rolled over" due to old age, how many rooms the new homes should have, and how many cars the new householders will own. And perhaps the biggest question of all is whether the new households will improve or threaten DC's financial balance. NARPAC shows how various combinations of low-end and high-end housing can influence net revenues. In short, how many new high-end homes will need to be squeezed into wealthy Northwest neighborhoods, like the two shown above on Loughboro Road and Rockwood Parkway to counterbalance the $400M annual costs of an enlarged affordable housing program?

PG Hospital

The Prince George's Hospital Center in nearby Cheverly, Maryland, is the only hospital outside DC where DC residents needing emergency care are routinely taken. Only two miles outside DC's eastern borders, and directly adjacent to two high speed 6-lane highways (I-295 and Rte 50), it is often a much quicker ambulance run than to the DC General Emergency Room. The ambitious, but ill-advised, new proposal for a National Capital Medical Center on the site of the sprawling old DC General hospital facility, barely mentions the existence of this modern Maryland hospital. This is particularly surprising since almost 40% of the inpatients in DC hospitals come from Maryland's Montgomery and Prince George's County, greatly magnifying the inflated future demands for DC hospital beds;

 

 

Congress Heights and Stanton Road Clinic

Most serious DC healthcare advocates argue that one of the main reasons so many DC residents end up in DC hospitals is because they lack early access to well-staffed primary healthcare clinics in their own "underserved" neighborhoods. There is no question but that most of the city's healthcare facilities are in the more 'upscale' parts of town. Nevertheless, there is a modern Congress Heights Clinic (above left) in southern Ward 8 (where South Capital Street merges with Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue), and another one where Stanton Road joins Alabama Ave. The Stanton Road Clinic is right in the center of a major redevelopment effort, where thousands of affordable homes are replacing many of the city's worst public housing units. One of NARPAC's major criticisms of the NCMC proposal is that it fails to provide serious analysis of future trends in city growth;

Anacostia health clinics

On the other hand, there are good arguments that more hospital ER facilities will be needed at more than one location in the lower incomes parts of the city. Focusing too many resources in a single NCMC in the wrong place will present serious risks of under-funding additional clinics, and could, in fact, threaten the collapse of the only hospital still operating East of the Anacostia. The two health clinics in Historic Anacostia (left: Good Hope Road; right: the Anacostia Community Health Clinic on W Street, a block from the historic Frederick Douglass Home) are examples of sub-standard facilities that are an insult to the residents, and an embarrassment to the national capital city. The DC Primary Care Association estimates that the city is short by between 15,000 and 400,000 square feet of high-quality clinical space.

""

Two off-campus university dorms bring different reactions from their neighborhood activists. The one-time Howard Johnson motel across Virginia Ave from the Watergate complex (above, right) now houses George Washington University (GWU) undergraduates instead on Nixon-era conspirators. The one-time government-leased office-building just off Massachusetts Ave NW (extended: i.e., across the border in Maryland) now houses graduate students for American University near Ward Circle. While both DC and Maryland neighborhoods grumbled a bit about the AU acquisition, downtown civic leaders near Washington Circle are convinced they are victims of a GWU conspiracy to destroy historic Foggy Bottom. The festering controversy raises, but distorts, real questions about allowing growth of downtown non- profit institutions.

Due to the generosity of Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen, American University's new Katzen Arts Center has replaced a drab athletic facility on Massachusetts Ave with stunning new architecture and learning opportunities for its students. American University's endowment fund remains considerably smaller than GWU's on a per capita basis, but has been the subject of an active recent fund-raising campaign. Meanwhile, GWU has developed plans to use real estate investments to increase their endowment and pay for needed building additions within their campus. This would include redeveloping one block, "Square 54", and converting it from non- profit to for-profit status, thus raising revenues for the city government and income for GWU infrastructure improvements.

Square 54, facing Washington Circle, is now bounded by a grey wooden fence. Until 2004, it was the site of the GWU Hospital, recently replaced by a spanking new structure one block further around the circle. The right hand photo above, taken from the small park in the traffic circle, shows the tip of the new hospital to the right, and the vast open block between it and older GWU buildings to the left in the bright autumn sunlight. The left hand photo swings further to the left, showing those same older GWU buildings, plus the brand new office building just across the first block of Pennsylvania Ave, NW. Built on the triangular "Square 74" between Pennsylvania Ave and K Street, this new structure is assessed at some $341M. By NARPAC's simplified revenue estimating technique , it should generate almost $20M annually in various tax revenues for DC. We see no reason why an equally lucrative building(s) should not be built by GWU's investment managers on Square 54 for the benefit of the city and the university. Not surprisingly, the Foggy Bottom community activists have come up with a pseudo- intellectual "Economics Primer" purporting to show how allowing this would destroy the neighborhood, and lead eventually to unruly students taking over, if not "ghetto-izing", the entire city. NARPAC cannot hide its disdain for this type of unabashed foppery.

This photo shows the only major, up-to-date building on the 110 acre Walter Reed Army Hospital campus in far Northwest DC. It has been selected for closing under the recently completed 2005 Base Realignment and Closing Commission, and that will probably make it eligible for transfer to DC control within a few years. NARPAC hopes DC officials will pay more attention to what they do with the property than they did to the process of getting it. It should be made a part of DC's progressive future, and not crippled by neighborhood nostalgia for the past. Even more defense properties are likely to become available in the next, "post-Iraq BRAC Round" if DC gets its act together.

This snapshot looks north up Upper Georgia Avenue just across the street from the Walter Reed campus (above) on a Sunday morning. The Wizards of DDoT could well pick this segment of this major commuter and heavy truck artery as an appropriate target for both a) their "Great Streets Initiative" to "gussy up" the "streetscape" with new arboreal center medians, new sidewalks and associated pedestrian and biker fixtures, and b) major "Premium surface transit upgrades" with either dedicated lanes for buses, or new tracks for a surface trolley. The multiple aims of these projects, according to DDoT's fixed mindset, , would include: expanding local economic development; increasing "connectivity" of the neighborhoods along this utilitarian artery; and (implicitly) avoiding extending Metrorail underground to locations like this.

These clearly amateur photos show downtown Silver Spring, MD, one of the rapidly expanding "edge cities" that enjoy better public surface transit and (elevated) Metrorail than many parts of DC. It is perhaps 15 blocks (as the bird flies) from the Walter Reed campus (above). Why would developers prefer to focus on creating a congested Georgia Ave 'boulevard' than continuing the higher density growth in Silver Spring? And for that matter, with the rapidly rising costs of living for family households , why would a single mom with two kids, say, elect to live in the poorer areas of DC rather than in the bustling, more prosperous, job-rich areas of Montgomery County?

This recent snapshot of the 100-odd year old Glen Echo Amusement Park is one trolley stop short of the end of the old Cabin John Line starting from the Georgetown car barn at the end of M Street. The famous Glen Echo carousel is at the very left edge of the photo beyond/below the entrance. NARPAC sees this as the archetypical fun-loving, memorable, leisurely, people- oriented, local "destination" which DC's Department of Transportation seems determined to facilitate with transportation funds. NARPAC has significantly different views, in which DDoT would pay more attention to accommodating essential transportation growth in the nation's capital city, leaving land use issues to DC's Offices of Economic Development and Long-Range Planning.

metro skylight

Metrorail's new "skylight roofs" over WMATA's failure-prone escalators are now springing up all over the metro area. Sadly enough they are just about the only visible investment in the system's infrastructure. Despite the dire (albeit underplayed) forecasts of impending area- wide traffic gridlock from the regional Council of Government's (COG) "travel forecasting model", neither the region nor the capital city appear willing to belly up to their clearly visible transportation crisis. NARPAC has explored this gigantic, opaque, computer forecasting model and finds it an inadequate predictor of either the gross or the local problems facing the nation's capital immediately ahead. Among other limitations, that model does not adequately address increased trucking burdens; inadequate off-street parking; or metrorail downtown "choke points". It does not address at all the possible needs of a major city evacuation crisis.

This snapshot looks north up Upper Georgia Avenue just across the street from the Walter Reed campus (above) on a Sunday morning. The Wizards of DDoT could well pick this segment of this major commuter and heavy truck artery as an appropriate target for both a) their "Great Streets Initiative" to "gussy up" the "streetscape" with new arboreal center medians, new sidewalks and associated pedestrian and biker fixtures, and b) major "Premium surface transit upgrades" with either dedicated lanes for buses, or new tracks for a surface trolley. The multiple aims of these projects, according to DDoT's fixed mindset, , would include: expanding local economic development; increasing "connectivity" of the neighborhoods along this utilitarian artery; and (implicitly) avoiding extending Metrorail underground to locations like this.

These clearly amateur photos show downtown Silver Spring, MD, one of the rapidly expanding "edge cities" that enjoy better public surface transit and (elevated) Metrorail than many parts of DC. It is perhaps 15 blocks (as the bird flies) from the Walter Reed campus (above). Why would developers prefer to focus on creating a congested Georgia Ave 'boulevard' than continuing the higher density growth in Silver Spring? And for that matter, with the rapidly rising costs of living for family households , why would a single mom with two kids, say, elect to live in the poorer areas of DC rather than in the bustling, more prosperous, job-rich areas of Montgomery County?

This recent snapshot of the 100-odd year old Glen Echo Amusement Park is one trolley stop short of the end of the old Cabin John Line starting from the Georgetown car barn at the end of M Street. The famous Glen Echo carousel is at the very left edge of the photo beyond/below the entrance. NARPAC sees this as the archetypical fun-loving, memorable, leisurely, people- oriented, local "destination" which DC's Department of Transportation seems determined to facilitate with transportation funds. NARPAC has significantly different views, in which DDoT would pay more attention to accommodating essential transportation growth in the nation's capital city, leaving land use issues to DC's Offices of Economic Development and Long-Range Planning.

metro skylight

Metrorail's new "skylight roofs" over WMATA's failure-prone escalators are now springing up all over the metro area. Sadly enough they are just about the only visible investment in the system's infrastructure. Despite the dire (albeit underplayed) forecasts of impending area- wide traffic gridlock from the regional Council of Government's (COG) "travel forecasting model", neither the region nor the capital city appear willing to belly up to their clearly visible transportation crisis. NARPAC has explored this gigantic, opaque, computer forecasting model and finds it an inadequate predictor of either the gross or the local problems facing the nation's capital immediately ahead. Among other limitations, that model does not adequately address increased trucking burdens; inadequate off-street parking; or metrorail downtown "choke points". It does not address at all the possible needs of a major city evacuation crisis.

circulator This brand new Downtown DC 'Circulator Bus', poised under the Whitehurst Freeway to begin its loop between Georgetown and Union Station, is heralded as a key element in "enhanced people-moving capacity along existing transportation corridors" in the COG's latest "(Budget) Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan." In fact, it is too minor an element to reflect in the regional travel forecasting model (above), as is the

"Take me out to the ball game, baseball is back in DC!" This supportive banner, sponsored by the activist group "DCVote", now hangs permanently outside RFK stadium, where the Nationals will play until their new stadium is built. The design for the new stadium is still up for grabs, and DC still has note vote in Congress.

The city has hired a prominent stadium architect to design a structure unlike any he has designed to date. And they have asked him to make it a "signature" stadium, even though he knows little about DC. NARPAC cannot resist the temptation to kibitz, and offers 20 different motifs that could portray DC as different constituencies see our nation's capital city.

The homeowner here at 21 N Street, SE was one of three property holdouts who petitioned the courts to get more for their properties than they were offered. This 5 bedroom "townhouse" stands alone with its walled garden on 2000 sqft of property, perhaps half a block from the planned centerfield fence. Bought five years ago for surely less than $100K, the 2006 total assessed value in $176K, but its "taxable assessment" is set at $87K after the Homestead Credit and other tax caps. DC's CFO has estimated its "seizure value" $696K. The courts have rejected the petition, and virtually all impediments have been removed for proceeding with the land purchase for the Nats' new stadium whatever its signature design may be.

proposed "deconstruction" of the aging Georgetown bypass known as the Whitehurst Freeway . According to another (unconstrained) COG report entitled "Time to Act", the region is shy by more than half the infrastructure funding needed ($25.4B) to fend off gridlock by 2010. Transportation planners seem to be playing at the margins while avoiding their first-order problems.

 Right smack in the middle of Ward 7, on the southern edge of Fort Chaplin Park, the $26M campus of the SEED School of Washington sits on four acres of land once home to DCPS's Weatherless Elementary School. It is DC's first "college preparatory boarding school for disadvantaged kids". With some 310 all-minority kids living on campus from Sunday night to Friday night, the school is living proof that kids can learn if given a positive environment, and, equally important, secluded from a seriously destructive environment at home. 85% are from single- or no-parent households, and 75% are below the poverty level. Running from 7th through 12th Grade, all 34 kids in the first two graduating classes were accepted in four-year colleges! The Schools for Educational Evolution and Development (SEED) Foundation now hopes to develop a new $80M campus for 600 more deserving kids. Powerful members of the DC subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee are now pre-empting DC prerogatives by requiring that the city put that new campus on 15 prime acres of federal land being transferred for DC for economic development. NARPAC's August editorial wonders whether DC is working with Congress to more sensibly exercise its "signature" oversight role over the national capital city.

Omni Shoreham

NARPAC's latest Law of Urban Development declares that virtually all urban enterprises require a front door and a back door. The former invites the wanted in, while the latter provides all the functions that make the enterprise successful. The two snapshots above show how this law applies to the posh Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest Washington. The main entrance draws in the guests (left), while the service entrance provides for the guests' needs. NARPAC has just finished reviewing the draft study plan for Reinventing New York Avenue and concludes that this law is being violated. The planners divide this heavily-trafficked five miles of muti-lane roadway into six different zones and essentially redecorate each one in a different way. It seems like a fool's errand. They seem to be suggesting that the role of NY Avenue as the city's "service entrance" should be replaced as some rollicking, tree-lined, beckoning linear park for pedestrians and cyclists, with no additional moving traffic lanes.

NY ave

These attractive, recently refurbished single family homes adorn the first block of New York Ave, Northwest, and apparently provide the basis for converting a short section of New York Avenue into a "neighborhood avenue", just before it turns into an "urban street". Virtually all the rest of NYAve is zoned commercial, industrial, or mixed. Are the planners and their consultants correct in visualizing that these aging structures (now selling for well over $300,000) will remain here for another 30-50 years? NARPAC suggests more functional alternatives that exploit the unique and practical aspects of this truck-heavy route. In fact, NARPAC opines that new technologies now permit New York Avenue to become a fully-automatic toll road, easily capable of raising the monies needed to expand and sustain itself. We'd like to make it America's best urban service entrance.

These young DCPS students were photographed by Rick Reinhard, an outstanding Washington-based freelance photographer. The picture adorns the cover of "Establishing a Baseline", a report generated in 2004 by DC's State Education Office and published by the DC Education Compact (DCEC) as part of their key support in developing DC's new strategic plan for its public schools. This report serves as "research" and analytical background for this recently published DCPS Strategic Plan.. The DCPS superintendent, Dr. Janey, clams that he is "proposing a fundamental redesign of this school system...to transform DCPS into a world-class school system". Are the kids in this picture listening to Janey? Are they wondering who will give them supper? Where their dad is? Who will drop out or get shot first? Go to jail first? Have a baby alone first? Do those kids have a workable strategic plan for a normal productive life? Does Janey really have one for them?

This is the entrance to Alexandria's finest T C Williams high school. An earlier student here won NARPAC's 2001 essay contest. Alexandria is one of the few jurisdictions in the DC metro area that spends as much on each student as DC does, but at a much lower per-household burden. Its households have significantly higher mean income, only half as many are led by single parents, and the adults are significantly better educated. They have a much smaller share of black students, a higher share of kids with disabilities, but higher math and reading proficiency scores, and a higher overall graduation rate. Clearly, many of the interrelated outside-the-school parameters impact on their inside-the-school performance. On what grounds, then, does the new DCPS Strategic Plan set higher short-range ('09) quantitative test score goals than are achieved by equivalent sets of kids across Maryland and Virginia schools? Why doesn't the plan call for closer educational exchanges within our own metro area?

This photo shows the unassuming entrance to Escuele Key, a Spanish language immersion elementary school,. It is located at Courthouse Square amidst the new high rises of the completely redeveloped, transit-oriented, Ballston Corridor through Arlington, VA. (It started life as the Francis Scott Key Elementary School.) The 20,000 students in the Arlington school system are as diverse racially and nationality-wise as any in the US. NARPAC believes there are more than100 languages spoken among Arlington's 70,000 households. Yet their parents are better educated and higher paid, with even fewer single moms than Alexandria. Test scores are also higher, schools hold somewhat more kids than do DC's, and they have almost twice as many teachers per kid. How come their total operational costs per student are virtually identical to DC's? What is DC planning to do that could provide DC kids with higher test scores than Arlington's within five years? NARPAC's commentary on the DCPS Plan suggests that DC's goals are far too ambitious, cluttered with secondary objectives, and very unlikely to be realized.

"Build it and they will come" runs the popular old adage. "Not if they can't get there" runs the current NARPAC rejoinder, and the subject of May's editorial. These buildings are two of the largest currently under construction as part the economic revolution at and near DC's Southeast Federal Center. They promise to bring in thousands of jobs within the next few years. At the same time, the city's local and federal planners are devising ways to curtail, if not cripple, the ability of the region's future work force, business visitors, and tourists to reach these destinations. Can you imagine tearing down a freeway, destroying the city's vital railroad rights of way, eliminating underpasses, adding dozens of at-grade pedestrian-heavy street intersections, building a new bridge with traffic-delaying rotaries at each end, and dismissing any future expansion of north/south Metrorail connectivity between downtown and Anacostia, all in the name of urban vibrancy? If so, you should volunteer for the NCPC Interagency Task Force on South Capitol Street, and help clog further the city's overstressed major arteries.

This early Sunday morning view eastward down Georgetown's Whitehurst Freeway from the Key Bridge above it does not give full credit to either its essential weekday functions as the only M Street bypass, or to the full ugliness of its spindly mid-1900's exposed-girder structure. "Tear it down!" cry DC's vocal aesthetes, "Let cars and commuters be damned". "Restyle its exterior, and hide it behind a functional, multi-level, inter-modal, urban deck," respond NARPAC's economic development analysts "with a terraced park planted on top". DC planners and their ubiquitous consultants are conducting a half-million (federal) dollar study to find equivalent traffic routes from DC's prosperous suburbs to DC's prosperous downtown. They are euphemistically considering "deconstructing" the 3/4 mile "freeway", but they are not considering: a) future arterial traffic growth demands; b) related expansion along Canal Road to the northwest, or c) streamlined access to K Street and I-66 to the southeast.

The one historic jewel worth preserving at the western terminus of the Whitehurst Freeway are the remnants of the C&O canal bridge which allowed barges to be towed across the Potomac River (without touching it!) to the Virginia port of Alexandria in the 1700's. NARPAC is convinced there should now be a direct connection between Alexandria (as well as National Airport, the Pentagon, and Arlington) and Georgetown by a new Metrorail bridge just about the same height above Potomac's waters. It would be substantially lower than the Key Bridge pictured in the background, but it would no more "divide the upper Potomac from the lower Potomac", than detractors now claim that the Whitefurst Freeway now "divides Georgetown from its waterfront". Any such new developments would certainly maintain the current bikers' trail that skirts the river's edge. NARPAC's comments on this overly-constrained Freeway study suggest that DC's transportation planners still have a lot to learn about using the urban landscape's third dimension as population densities necessarily increase, but their demands for open space remain.

Tell people you're from Washington, DC, and they'll ask how the cherry blossoms are blooming this year. Chances are, however, they'll be thinking about those magnificent trees around the Tidal Basin that contribute so much to the capital city's unique springtime aura.. In fact, however, there are cherry trees all over the city, and they can make even the most seriously troubled neighborhoods seem benign. These trees shade the central court of some of the subsidized units in "Sursum Corda", a little-known public housing project a few blocks northeast of Union Station. It became infamous lastyear when a young girl was shot dead during an altercation between warring drug dealers. It has become a symbol of the need to redevelop some of these concentrated housing developments that have fallen victim to "The Unintended Consequences" of earlier public housing policies. This is the subject of a new book by two Washingtonians who warn that "the poorest of the poor" will continue to destroy high-density "working poor" neighborhoods unless they are sprinkled more thinly amongst mixing housing communities.

Another lone cherry tree brightens the 1600 block of Trinidad Avenue,, including a vintage Chevy pick-up truck. Trinidad/Ivy is another of DC's poorer neighborhoods that is trying to pull itself back from the ravages of deep poverty. The Mayor's 2005 "State of the District Address" proposes three new priorities for this year: "reviving our most neglected neighborhoods" (without, in fact, deconcentrating the poor); "rebuilding the infrastructure of the city" (mainly through upgrading major city arteries) to increase business and reduce crime; and "reducing taxes for all DC residents, especially the most vulnerable among us". He points to Barracks Row Main Street as one of the city's recently completed and so far, successful street upgrades.

What the mayor doesn't talk about is where the revenues are coming from to make possible more spending on, and less taxes from, the city's many disadvantaged residents. But the fact is that the city is bursting out with attractive new downtown buildings like this new blue glass headquarters for the National Association of Realtors, squeezed onto a fifth of an acre triangular lot where 1st Street, NW merges with New Jersey Avenue, NW, four blocks north of the US Capitol. This striking 12-story building will generate over half a million dollars annually just in property taxes even if all its occupants commute. This alone will allow over 1000 single moms with three kids, making $24,000 a year, to stop paying any income taxes at all, for whatever that's worth. But the basic issue will remain: is DC making real progress alleviating the misery of the "poorest of the poor", and can the city by itself ever do so? NARPAC thinks it will take the whole region to raise all DC's badly leaking boats.

Stephen R. Brown

Visit our latest addition to our Art Gallery to sample professional photos by Washington's own Stephen R. Brown from his new book celebrating the WWII Memorial. In addition, the gallery on Raymond Kaskey has been updated with some additional photographs by Brown to illustrate Kaskey's major sculptural contribution to the WWII memorial. In contrast, NARPAC's more informal snapshots of the memorial accompanied our mid-2004 report on potentially surplus federal properties (not including the Mall!).


On the west edge of John Marshall Park at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue (just across the street from the National Gallery of Art) stands the impressive modern Canadian Embassy. Some Washingtonians, including some DC officials, think the city is disadvantaged because this property generates no property taxes. Who's kidding whom? Would this building be here if the Federal Government wasn't? There are other under-utilized federal properties that can be transferred to DC for economic development. NARPAC's March editorial strongly supports such land transfers, but only if DC doesn't use it to avoid improving the productivity of its present under-utilized land.

Across the park from the Canadian Embassy sits the US District Court House for DC, with its permanent chess players. As a result of a February Supreme Court decision, all future class action suits will now have to be filed in federal courts like this, and hopefully fewer frivolous ones will be generated. On the other hand, NARPAC thinks that the citizens of DC and its metro area should develop a major class action suit against DC and its Congressional Overseers to recall and recycle DC public school dropouts that threaten to perpetuate the city's disgraceful cycle of poverty.
In January, 2005, the Ford Motor Company announced, as prescribed by law, that a recall of 728,000 (!) Ford F150 trucks and Expeditions (shown here) is now underway. According to their Defect Information Report to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there have been a total of 63 minor vehicle fires and one injury. NARPAC has drawn up an imaginary Educational Deficit Report to be submitted to the equally imaginary Education Deficit Remediation Agency at the Department of Education. It announces the recall of some 45-60,000 DCPS dropouts with life-long educational deficiencies likely to be passed on to their progeny.

 

NARPAC cannot understand why the federal government strictly enforces public safety issues for equipment that last about a decade, but allows educational shortcomings in far more valuable and vulnerable humans to go uncorrected. Why don't we try again to provide the basics to local residents that impact their communities for fifty years? NARPAC has conjured up a "New Hope" group home to provide "adult" education opportunities for teen moms; their kids; and other poverty-stricken adults and homeless. These unit would be built on existing school properties with funds derived primarily by selling off surplus school properties, and operated as self-supporting entities. The retouched photo to the right shows  Montgomery County's new recycling bins (not garbage cans): it is intended to startle, but not offend.

This clear winter's day photo of Rock Creek Park was taken from the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge near DC's only mosque. It shows both the creek and the parkway which stretch from the Potomac River at Georgetown up to DC's northern tip. DC's CFO is urging federal authorities to pay DC a sizeable annual stipend because DC is not allowed by Congress to tax this 1755 acre parkway. It is maintained by the National Park Service, has many rustic features, and is free for all DC residents to enjoy. NARPAC thinks the DC Council should exercise more foresight and find ways to cooperate more with the Federal Government instead of demanding hand-outs that will forever compromise DC's quest for autonomy.

 

The homes along the one-block long Hopkins Street, NW is only two short blocks from DuPont Circle, one of the westernmost corners of DC's high density "Downtown" area. Unless the DC Council works to find new properties for high-density development or additional ways to alleviate DC's high levels of residential poverty, properties like these may have to be redeveloped to generate higher revenues.


This Saturday morning snapshot looking North on Wisconsin Ave in "downtown Bethesda" is already heavily laden with traffic, including heavy trucks that are free to use in "24/7". It is just one of many saturated arteries approaching DC that will soon stifle economic growth in the nation's capital city. It is just one more serious issue that will require the focus of the DC Council if DC is to come up with the needed regional transportation solutions to keep the metro area and its core city healthy and prosperous. NARPAC wants the Council to spend more time exercising its foresight, and less time flexing its oversight functions.

This early midweek afternoon snapshot looking West on M Street in Georgetown shows double parking by delivery trucks in each direction. Each of the six in view is liable for a $50 fine regardless of the time of day, and the duration of lane blockage. The recently released results of the Mayor's Parking Task Force recommends much stronger enforcement of parking violations as well as higher fees and fines. NARPAC is encouraged by several of these relatively new suggestions and hopes they will be implemented.

A second and related Mayoral Task Force was released at the same time, this one dealing with Managing Downtown Congestion. The suggestions from this "commission" seemed to be warmed over from recent DDoT studies on trucks and the proposed K Street "Busway". Nevertheless, these commissions indicate concern for the imminent saturation of DC's streets and avenues, at the same time hoping to add retail business "downtown". In fact, one of the few remaining car dealers in DC is shifting some of his business into the Maryland suburbs instead. His bright blue semi-automated 3-level car-stacking system just west of Little Falls Parkway indicates that it may be later than the planners think: space is disappearing in the suburbs too. NARPAC worries that these commissions have focused on a few of the "trees" and overlooked the impending transportation disaster for the whole "forest."

This pastoral scene shows Northwest's Georgetown Reservoir beside MacArhur Boulevard in the background. Less visible, but in the foreground, are the two white poles and grey pedestal that mark the latest anti-speeding camera installed in Northwest. There is a variety of such emerging technologies that can assist in DC's traffic management problems . DC already collects more in traffic- related revenues than it spends to keep the traffic moving, but these newer technologies and enforcement measures could double those revenues and more than pay DC's annual Metro subsidies. The new "RFIDs" (essentially radio-frequency barcodes) will become an important factor in these innovations.

High-end developments are continuing apace in downtown DC, now reaching to the waterfront. Shown from across the Washington Channel are the posh new Mandarin hotel to the left (400 rooms/suites from $350 to $7,500 per night), and The Portals office buildings to the right (soon to be 3 million sqft), mostly occupied by federal government workers. In the far left rear a brick tower of the Smithsonian museums peeks out over trees from the Mall. Far right foreground is the Washington Yacht Club. Far left foreground in dirty green is one of DC's five most decrepit 3rd-world railroad bridges. In any other mid-sized American city, these major revenue-producing buildings would be at least twice as high, and the bridge would have been modernized. Lack of an authoritative Quantitative Analysis Capability in DC makes it impossible to say just how many bridges and thousands of the city's poor could be sustained on the income from federal workers and visitors occupying those missing floors.

Relatively affordable downtown living is also becoming more available with the completion of the new condominium, 400 Massachusetts Avenue (pictured here) and the "Meridan at Gallery Place", next door, with 462 apartments ranging from $1300 to $3,450 per month. Squeezed into the front (center) of 400 Mass Ave is a renovated historic DC firehouse, which, until recently, housed some of DC's homeless women. It stood alone on this undeveloped block of lower Massachusetts Avenue for years (near Union Station) and is shown in this earlier NARPAC photo as part of a short analysis of DC's disproportionate share of the region's homeless. The lack of 'net productivity' analysis makes it difficult at best for planners to tell decision-makers how much more revenue could have been raised from an office building the same size.


Less than 20 blocks northeast from the US Capitol in the blighted Trinidad neighborhood, residents on Montello Avenue are struggling to either resist or benefit from the onset of "re-gentrification", and the associated risks of de-concentration/re-location for their poorest neighbors. To NARPAC's knowledge, DC city planners have never truly addressed the possible range of mechanisms to solve these fundamental urban problems rather than pushing them under the politicians' rugs. NARPAC has made scores of informal quantitative analyses of many of these issues, but they will not gain credibility unless produced under the city's own imprimatur. We strongly urge DC to develop these needed capabilities in-house.
One of the most embarrassing images presented by Washington, DC is not generated by the District's local government, but by federal authorities who raised the terror threat level to ORANGE during the summer of 2004, and left it there until after the recent national elections were completed. Barricades around the US capitol such as this one two blocks away on South Capitol Street, have made a mockery of the notion that this major street should become a grand gateway to the seat of US Government. Despite the elaborate and cumbersome protection of this symbol of American power, the legislators have done precious little in the three years since 9/11 to enhance the survivability of the city's residents and commuters by improving its emergency transportation systems.

Washington, DC is nevertheless revitalizing its blighted areas within sight of the capitol dome. This new barracks for the US Marine Corps Band is located just south of the Southeast Freeway, replacing a group of dilapidated public housing apartments. It is one small step towards the complete rebuilding of the "Near Southeast" and the creation of a new 'Downtown South' (a NARPAC term). This total area is expected to gain tens of thousands of new workers and thousands of new residents within the next two decades. Nonetheless, there are no plans to enhance DC's primary public transit systems in this area, or to use this growth to provide a southern 'bypass' around downtown transportation gridlock.

This 'Downtown South' area will most likely include a brand new Major League Baseball stadium, presently planned near the Anacostia River. It will be built over the dead bodies of most of DC's hyper-activists anxious to spend city revenues only on the city's many residents too poor to attend baseball games. The desolate industrially-zoned area at Half Street and Potomac Ave, SE depicted here includes the planned location of home plate. It is much closer to the Navy Yard metro station than the Navy Yard is. Nevertheless, the stadium's detractors are trying to hang the cost of enlarging the station on the stadium, rather than the commercial and residential growth expected throughout the "Near Southeast" area. Presently, there is virtually no planned metro expansion in the pathetically inadequate projected WMATA capital budget.

The barebones Benning Road Metro Station toward the eastern end of the Blue Line opened in 1981 smack in the middle of Ward 7, east of the Anacostia. It has averaged a bit under 3000 entries or exits per week ever since. It is just under 4 miles due east of the national capitol dome. There has been virtually no economic 'smart growth' development around this station in 23 years. It is also served by two local ("non-regional") bus routes (U8 and U5/6) which loop around between nearby neighborhoods at about 1100 "bus-hours per week", and one "regional" bus route (96/97), the East Capitol Street/Cardozo Line, which provides about 930 "bus-hours per week". According to the Approved FY 2004 WMATA Budget each subway rider requires a $0.69 subsidy, and each rider who jumps on a bus requires a $1.36 subsidy. DC will pay the lion's share of these subsidies because its residents use public transit so much (not so little!).

 

Right across from that metro station at the intersection of Benning Road and East Capitol Street, sits Dennys, "the only sit-down restaurant east of the Anacostia", according to the disgruntled local political aspirants who just won primaries over three long-time DC Council members. The fuchsia-painted restaurant (in the insert) just across the street has been closed for years. It adds a certain color to an otherwise down-trodden neighborhood, but nothing to its economy. There are virtually no capital investment funds in the 2004-2009 WMATA Capital Budget, and none will find their way to this part of town, though planning and engineering design to extend this line further into Prince George's County is underway.

The Anacostia Metro Station on the Green Line at the intersection of South Capitol Street and Martin Luther King Avenue in Ward 8 has three times the weekly riders as Benning Road, and a much more elaborate bus terminal as well. It even has a parking lot, an inconvenient distance away on Poplar Point. However, this promontory on the Anacostia River will soon become part of the city's ambitious Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, and possibly home to as new soccer stadium. Despite this future promise, the most prominent building within walking distance of this Metro station is the Nichols Ave Elementary School which has stood empty for years. It is a monument to Ward 8's decline into poverty, and the inability of its elected representatives, including 4-term ex-Mayor Marion Barry, to do anything about it. As Marion Barry wins the Democratic nomination to represent Ward 8 yet again, NARPAC offers some advice on how he might improve his legacy where it is needed most.

NARPAC devotes its September update to a close look at the newly released "DC Vision" document intended to guide the development of the next version of DC's long-range Comprehensive Plan. That "Vision" essentially paints a picture of DC as an Island Kingdom totally independent of any metro area, and with no obligations besides improving its 144 neighborhoods as financially independent fiefdoms. We have therefore worked up the attached draft cover for the final Comprehensive Plan to reflect its insular views.

While the suburbs of our national capital metro area are busy making plans to continue their extraordinary economic expansion, the DC "Vision" focuses its transportation growth on "connecting the whole city" internally and with no growth in Metrorail. DC's Office of Planning sponsored a consultant's transportation strategy report to support that approach. Meanwhile, the 20-odd story core buildings at Tysons Corner II, including the posh Ritz Carlton hotel, will soon be joined by many more office and residential buildings in a high-density zoned area as big as DC's downtown area. Plans are complete to service Tysons Corner with four new metro stations. By contrast, DC's "Vision" condemns the core city to becoming an ever-smaller economic force in its metro area.

Another consultant's background report on economic development policies proposes to welcome new "net revenue-producing residents" into vacant and abandoned housing units scattered around the city, many in DC's poorest and most blighted neighborhoods. These stripped apartment buildings in DC's high-crime Trinidad neighborhood are now available for sale (as is) for $250,000. The consultant's report by the Urban Institute on housing strategies suggests that this same group of vacant buildings be gradually reclaimed over the next 20 years for the needed 72,000 affordable housing units for households who seldom pay their way. The "Vision" seems to be double-counting its dubious assets, and DC's bullish real estate market may be the final arbiter!

In what appears to be a politically-oriented, but disingenuous, ploy, both the Social Equity Planning Report and the Sense of the DC Council Resolution try to make sure that DC makes economic progress without incurring "gentrification", i.e., a substantial increase in real estate values in relatively poor neighborhoods. Apparently the owners of this 3-unit row house on Trinidad's Montello Avenue have had no such proscriptions and are two-thirds of the way to significantly increasing their investment. In NARPAC's Proposed Alternate Vision Outline, the case is made that unless DC's Comprehensive Plan faces up to these unavoidable risks of gentrification, de-concentration, and relocation, and develops means to cope with them, the city will continue to be the region's poorhouse rather than the nation's capital city.

A Tale of Two Metro Stations is evolving that should concern all Americans interested in the continued economic development and world-class standing of their national capital city. The upper photo shows the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. It has been open for business for 27 years and is now serving less riders than it did when it opened. The lower photo shows the considerable progress on the new New York Avenue Metro Station beside the main CSX and Amtrak railroad tracks approaching Union Station (in the background, below the capital dome). It is the last station currently planned to be built in DC. Something is clearly wrong with DC's ability to develop its existing assets, and with its intention to keep up with metro area growth. As a stimulus for more imaginative local planning, NARPAC has developed its own notional Vision for a Robust Urban Metrorail System, and it includes a major expansion of Potomac Avenue as a "Destination Station".

The brightest and lightest temporary capital investment in DC is the presence of over 150 imaginatively decorated panda bears, as a follow-on to the Party Animals of 2002. The upper photo (taken by Jarad Vary) shows a panhandling bear outside the Metro headquarters on 5th Street behind the National Building Museum. Based on the rationale behind NARPAC's vision, it is likely to require major Federal funding to provide the investment capital needed to keep Metrorail growing. The lower photo shows a sidewalk superintendent bear, trying to help prevent the pandemonium that will result if Metro does not even get the funds needed to perform essential maintenance, or the pandemic that will spread across the city if gridlock develops during commuter subway rush hours. A collection of Jarad Vary's photographs is included in our web site's "art gallery".

One of DC's most intractable problems involves developing a realistic affordable housing strategy. The Urban Institute is again leading the debate with a new report on equitable housing, which strikes NARPAC as totally unrealistic. NARPAC first photographed this dilapidated green house on 9th Street, NW over six years ago, but it still remains unrestored to help meet DC's peculiar housing needs. What a shame! Variation in housing stock is one of the factors that differentiates DC from Long Beach, CA , and may have made it easier for their public school superintendent to appear so much more successful than DC's.

Rosslyn, Arlington County's "business district", and DC's largest "edge city", is planning to add yet again to their revenue-producing, high-density development on a 2-acre site pictured here facing Georgetown across the Potomac River. In this photo, the center buildings are to be demolished at 19th and North Lynn Streets, to make way for "Waterview", twin 24-story towers that will provide more office space than the 38-acre site in Northwest DC, where Homeland Security will take over from the Navy. And it will provide a hotel, retail space, and 180 condos as well. NARPAC estimates that this valuable but badly misused DC property, soon to transferred to the GSA (the "federal landlord") would, if redeveloped for the upscale, high-density residential market, provide DC more annual revenues than it currently spends in toto on public libraries or locally-funded road repairs!

This painting of the famous Duke Ellington is now visible again behind the U Street Metro entrance, where major new redevelopments are underway. A gifted Howard undergraduate recently expressed the emotional conflict between gentrification and displacement that must inescapably accompany the continued redevelopment of the nation's capital city. "The Ellington", a new 7-story residential complex (in the shape of a giant "E"), will soon open its doors for residents far wealthier than those currently living here. Amanda Miller wonders where they will go.


The World War II Memorial on the National Mall was finally dedicated over the Memorial Day weekend of 2004. Seventeen years in the making, and the subject of various complaints about size, style, and location, it is sited between The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. NARPAC thinks it is a fitting memorial to the "last good war" whose total victory changed the world for the better and the fabric of the United States as well. Surely this majestic memorial should be less controversial than the 1800 acres of mostly non-essential military facilities within DC that seriously hamper the ability of the District to raise the revenues it needs to be the nation's finest city as well as the region's poor house.

Just southeast of the Lincoln Memorial stands the Korean War Memorial. It is a far less grand memorial dedicated to those soldiers who slogged through a distant war which did not result in a clear victory, but which still ties down a substantial number of Army and Air Force military personnel fifty years later. Following close on the heels of WWII, it also delayed the closure or contraction of many military facilities than had been opened or enlarged to fight that war. It was not until the late 1980's when a formal procedure was instigated by the Congress to encourage an orderly Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process with minimal political interference.

Just northwest of the Lincoln Memorial is an even more subdued memorial to each of those killed (and to the nurses who tried to save them) in the only war the US has lost to date. The Vietnam War Memorial is certainly the least ostentatious of the mall's memorials, which for many years thereafter produced an alienation between the military and their civilian peers, as well as a reluctance to take on more Third World realignments. But one positive outcome was the successful transition to an all-volunteer US military force. This in turn required a significantly higher, and more costly, quality of life on military bases. By the 1980's, the collapse of the 40-year Cold War (not as yet memorialized) reduced the demand for, and funding of, US military forces. The need to continue to consolidate functions on underutilized bases is obvious.


This large new downtown building with the swank address of One Franklin Square has the distinction of providing DC with more "revenues per acre" from property taxes ($4 million per year) than any other commercial building in the District. It has a commanding site on K Street, NW, on the north side of the capital's historic Franklin Square. It is totally consistent with the new draft of the Federal Elements of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital currently being circulated by the National Capital Planning Commission.

This beautiful private residence on 30th Street just off Massachusetts Avenue, NW, has the similar distinction of having the highest per-acre property tax assessment of any residential parcel in DC. But it will yield only about $150,0000 in annual revenues for the District. And herein lies NARPAC's general dissatisfaction with the Comprehensive Plan: the federal government has no long-range plan to transfer more poorly utilized federal properties to DC for revenue-rich commercial development. In fact, that plan does not acknowledge that improving DC's Third World quality of life (at the other end of town) should even be part of the federal government's goals to assure the world's finest national capital "image".

These artists' sketches (courtesy of Torti Gallas and Partners, CHK, architects) show the winning design for the new high-rise building (DC-style) to be built on the wax museum site, just east of the Museum of DC History (nee Carnegie Library) at Mt. Vernon Square. Upper view is looking north from 5th and K Sts, NW, the lower view is from the north end of the block at 5th and L, looking south. This valuable new development is constrained not only by federal law and by District code, but also by Shaw neighborhood activists resisting "gentrification" and urbanization. This anchor property for the "NOMA triangle" (i.e., north of Mass Avenue) is located in DC's famous Topographic Bowl (which defined the limits of the original L'Enfant City). Many of the residents of this complex should have a grand view of the slopes and rim of the bowl just beyond the Florida Avenue Escarpment. Puzzled? Read the Plan!

Second District Headquarters of DC's Metropolitan Police Department is located on a suburban campus on Idaho Avenue, NW. It will remain part of Regional Operational Command North, and patrol about 7500 mostly residential acres with some 52,600 well-off households and less than 12,000 kids under 18, most with two well-educated parents. Under the latest proposed "police reorganization and deployment plan", this headquarters will control seven police service areas (PSAs), two less than now, with some 232 officers, including their senior officers and support staff. Last year they responded to just under 12,000 priority emergency calls involving 283 violent crimes and 1 homicide. It will remain the least stressed police district in DC. Contrary to self-serving local conventional wisdom, no more than 12% of DC's total police assets will be deployed downtown to cope with the needs of all federal workers, commuters, tourists, visitors, and demonstrators together!

Two miles southeast of 2DHq (above) the Third MPD District Headquarters sits on U Street, NW, just west of 16th Street. It is the second of three components in ROC-North and its operating area of some 2275 acres is the smallest of any DC police district. It will have 7 new (vice 12 old) PSAs, and use 419 officers and support personnel. They will watch over some 54,600 modest and less well-schooled households with 17,400 kids who have as many single moms as married parents. And consistent with local socio-economic trends based on total parental education, 3D will again be responding to almost 25,000 emergency calls involving 1900 violent crimes and over 20 homicides (nowhere near the maximum of over 60 in 6D and 7D). It will remain the most stressed DC police district, but should benefit from the increased number of police officers.

On the high ground at Tenley Circle just across Albemarle Street from the Tenleytown Metro station in Northwest stands Janney Elementary School, one of DC's finest schools in one of DC's most prosperous, and strong-willed, neighborhoods. From its cupola there is an unobstructed view across the Potomac to DC's Northern Virginia suburbs. Closer to ground level, its kids generate some of the highest "NAEP testing scores in DC. If there were many more schools like Janney, the city would not be in turmoil about the public school system's "abysmal student achievement".

Just across Alabama Avenue from the Congress Heights Metro station behind St. Elizabeth's in Southeast stands Malcolm X Elementary School, one of DC's lowest performing schools in one of the city's highest crime areas. It is one of the schools that has generated a very high (and sudden) level of discontent with DCPS management and oversight. NARPAC's March update focuses almost entirely on various aspects of this perceived problem, and expressed its concern that city officials and lay leaders may leap to the wrong conclusions, and make the situation worse. The current focus is almost entirely on academic reform, but some of the underlying causes are way beyond DC's control, and others relate to less than stellar DC facilities planning.

Owners of the comfortable homes in the DC residential suburb of Tenleytown will soon have to deal with significantly rising property taxes resulting from their first re-assessment in the three years of DC's booming real estate market. Normally home base for some of DC's finest NIMBYs, now it is the turn for its NOOMPs. Controversy over how to mitigate these tax increases became a major local political issue in January, and NARPAC isn't too pleased with the strange messages sent by the outcome.

From high atop Tenleytown's 90-acre Fort Reno Park there is a splendid view out across DC's urban border to the building tops of the "edge village" of Friendship Heights, Maryland, developed near the Friendship Heights Metro Station.. There in the luxury of DC's under- taxed suburbs, these cliff-dwellers live with fifteen times the density of those living in Census Tract 11 near the DC Tenleytown Metro Station, and produce for Montgomery County fifteen times as much net revenue income per acre. Located about one mile apart on the Upper Wisconsin Avenue Corridor, the difference in approach to "smart growth planning" is both evident and contentious.

Many of the 15-20 story buildings of Friendship Heights Village front on Williard Avenue near Friendship Boulevard. Fortunately for these residents, many single or retired, neither of these streets will be designated TR-I truck routes, and hence will not be subject to continuous 24/7 use by trucks 80,000 pounds and heavier. On the other hand, DC is now reviewing a federal DoT-sponsored Truck Traffic Study for DC which hopes to bestow such authority on both Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues within the city limits. NARPAC thinks the city would do well to turn such necessity into a virtue and devise ways to turn city traffic of all sorts into city revenues using newly available technologies.

The Thompson Point Boathouse is pretty well buttoned up during DC's winter months, but it sits at the confluence of Rock Creek and the Potomac River at the edge of Georgetown. It looks down along the riverbank towards the well-known Watergate complex and Kennedy Center;across to Teddy Roosevelt Island; and upriver past the imaginative Washington Harbor retail/office/residential complex to Key Bridge and the historic B&O canal.. It is also very near the junction of several major DC arteries, as well as DC and Maryland bike trails. NARPAC thinks it could also become the name of a new Metro rail station and intermodal parking facility that should be developed as part of the new K Street Busway.

A leaden sky during Christmas week diminishes the waterfront appeal of the Washington Harbor complex along the Georgetown banks of the Potomac. But if DC's current plans to develop a modern K Street Busway from Union Station to Georgetown bear fruit, this handsome center is likely to gain more year- round visitors. Georgetown vibrancy and diversity is unlikely to be affected by continuing trends in declining births to single teenagers.

With his back to the Potomac River, NARPAC's photographer catches an unusual view of Georgetown's new Ritz Carlton suites, built around a long-idled municipal powerplant, and first photographed in 2001 for this album when construction work began. Many of the multi- million dollar units remain empty: as empty as the space beneath the Whitehurst Freeway. This freeway is an essential, but aesthetically-challenged, bypass for M Street between Canal Road and K Street which some city planners want to eliminate. Instead, NARPAC suggests that this area be built up as part of the K Street Busway to provide much needed off- street, out-of-sight parking, a more elevated park, and a virtually de-elevated freeway.

What does Hoboken, New Jersey, have that DC doesn't have? A complete, fully functioning fully robotic parking garage for 324 cars or SUVs on a 100x100ft lot on Garden Street that blends in with its neighboring buildings so that its entrances are hard to spot. NARPAC compares it to its own designs and another existing system. Such new technology is now available in production from an American firm in Florida, and deserves the serious attention of DC urban planners. The objective is not to ban Americans' favorite possession, but to perfect the union between private and public transportation.

And what does DC have that Hoboken doesn't have? A complete, fully functioning city morgue on the grounds of the largely defunct DC General Hospital. It is accustomed to processing well over 250 homicide victims per year. The lower level entrance to the refrigerated parking for the deceased also holds the several vehicles of the very active medical examiner's office. Crime levels in DC are a subject of serious concern. The mitigation of these embarrassing statistics does not lie in adding more cops, but in improving the circumstances which breed the criminal behavior.

 

DC's new City Administrator gets some free advice from NARPAC in this month's editorial, and some free analysis of how DC stands compared to four relevant cities: two of which Mr. Bobb has managed, and two others whose populations have just surpassed that of DC. We also provide some estimates of how much money DCPS is losing by not closing 28 schools to match the drop in enrollment in the past six years. In fact, Mr. Bobb might do well to simply cross the Potomac to Rosslyn in Arlington County, depicted here, to learn about better land and school use policies for serious economic development.

While visiting Arlington, Mr. Bobb might also take a look at what that county has done together with WMATA to improve bus transportation along its under-served Columbia Pike. The new "Pikeride" stands in contrast to DC's dubious plans to add light rail along city streets and places that deserve expanded and redundant first-class metrorail service.

And if he should go to Arlington via Chain Bridge he might do well to scan NARPAC's brief analysis of vehicular traffic to understand that there's a lot more to road-wear than that caused by those pesky, free-loading suburban commuters that Washingtonians love to hate and are dying to tax. Almost 25,000 vehicles rumble across that bucolic span each 24-hr workday, but most of them are not out-of- state workers.

The Key Bridge over the Potomac River between Rosslyn, VA and Georgetown, DC carries 5% of the vehicular traffic in and out of the nation's capital on a daily basis. Proponents of permanent federal subsidies and/or commuter taxes assert that wealthy commuters from the suburbs are wearing out DC's transportation infrastructure and tying up DC's overworked police and emergency services, but don't pay for them. NARPAC has challenged this self-serving myth in a new analysis of commuter costs and benefits to DC and concludes that the daily influx from the suburbs is not only essential to DC's future, but way more than pays for itself in DC revenues.

DC's recently opened Spy Museum attracts a great many tourists and other visitors to the nation's capital city. In fact, these other categories of DC transients contribute more to DC's "daytime population" than those villainous commuters. This artist's rendering, which was conceived as a digital photo like the one above and the two below, is part of John Cleave's newly published hardback book on WASHINGTON - Scenes from a Capital City. More examples of his work are included in NARPAC's Cleave Art Gallery.

 

Is it or isn't it? Does this illustration belong in NARPAC's photo album? In fact it does. It started life as a digital photograph and was transfigured into an artist's rendering by a latter-day version of the 'camera obscura' technique used by some Early Masters to achieve perfect perspective and detail. This digital metamorphosis is the brainchild of John Cleave, former World Bank official, active current member of NARPAC, and now-turned artist devoted to showing off the nation's capital city in what may be its most favorable light. Some of his earlier architectural photographs are shown in NARPAC's somewhat dated Art Gallery.

This magnificent Victorian house on the circle at 3rd and T Streets, NW was built in the 1870's when Le Droit Park was on the very outskirts of the capital city. It was originally owned by Civil War General William Birney. Birney also has an elementary school named after him in Ward 8. That school is scheduled to be torn down as part of the DCPS long-range facilities plan, and will be replaced by a smaller school with two-thirds the enrollment (400 kids). While such a move may please the local residents, it will also contribute to the 'structural imbalance' in DCPS's modernization plans: too many too small schools for too many projected students.

Cleave's rendering of the Corcoran Gallery of Art shows yet another facet of DC's remarkable collection of architectural styles facing the Ellipse on 17th Street, NW. It was designed by Ernest Flagg (who also designed the US Naval Academy in Annapolis) and built in 1897 to house the extensive art collection of William Wilson Corcoran which had already outgrown its original site at what is now the Renwick Gallery. Corcoran turned philanthropist after making a fortune as one of America's early "capitalists". Together with George Washington Riggs, he formed a 'note brokerage' house in 1837 which eventually became the Riggs Bank. Among other things, Corcoran & Riggs financed the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Morse, and invested heavily in land and railroads, contributing substantially to America's push westward! Surely they could have helped formulate DC's 6-year Capital Improvement Plan so that it would not erroneously appear dependent on federal subsidies.

This faceless downtown office building may lack the grandeur of the National Building Museum across the street, and the rakish modernity of the MCI Center two blocks away, but it makes up for it through the power of its work. It is home to the Government Accounting Office, a powerful analytical arm of the Congress. GAO reports like the recent one on DC's Structural Imbalance carry a weight around town sometimes out of proportion to their credibility. NARPAC dissected this one and was alarmed by what it found.

GAO analysts report that DC has an abnormally large backlog of deferred capital investment in infrastructure maintenance and renewal, a troubling precursor to urban decrepitation. Equally troubling, however, is GAO's failure to explore the realism of the city's laundry list of deferred maintenance or of potentially available alternatives. This snapshot of the south face of DC's Municipal Center gives no indication of its failing condition purported to require an $86 million rehabilitation. A quick sidewalk survey of occupants acknowledges, however, that "it ain't much" inside. This represents over 60% of the DC Police Department's total capital investment backlog. Is it a good number? Are there better ways to update the city's infrastructure? NARPAC raises questions about whether conclusions can be drawn about DC's structural imbalance without knowing the size of the city's own problems or those caused by the presence of the federal government and those who make it run.

One startling revelation in the GAO report is its conclusion that an average-performing DC police force should be five times larger than the average of 68 other American cities (per capita), and pay 40% higher wages to boot. According to GAO's application of the methodology, public safety increases alone provide almost $900 million of the maximum $1.2 billion deficit they project. Furthermore, GAO makes no allowance for the 23 other law enforcement authorities (and their cars) within DC , including the National Capitol Police (upper left), National Park Police (upper right), and Federal Protective Service (lower right) that are as numerous as DC's MPD units (lower right) around Judiciary Square and the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

By the rocket's red glare Washingtonians celebrated Independence Day with the usual fireworks spectacle on the National Mall. They were watched by many thousands of tourists and visitors, as well as by some residents watching from the comfort of their own nearby upscale condos. In keeping with the contemporary fetish for homeland security, the celebration was protected by some 1500 security personnel from 35 different police agencies, local, regional, and federal, all under the general control not of the DC Police Department, but of the National Capitol Police force, with major assistance from the Nation Park Service Police. Nevertheless, a recent GAO study reaches the bizarre conclusion that DC can't pay its own bills because it needs 85% more local public safety personnel at a 45% higher wage. Stay tuned to NARPAC's web site next month to find out how to generate an urban myth deserving of a permanent federal subsidy!

Have these posters come to your suburban neighborhood yet? The mayor and his advisor, Dr. Rivlin, have decided to bolster the flagging tax base in DC by encouraging 100,000 new residents to move in by 2015. A new Brookings report has just come out trying to demonstrate that 50,000 new housing units can be made available for middle income residents. NARPAC thinks the real problem is whether they will improve the tax base or simply require more services. The attached poster, hopefully an obvious spoof, provides a few suggestions for what might attract the newcomers.

What's missing in this picture? This recently updated shopping court is located in upper Northwest on Wisconsin Ave right across from the Friendship Heights metro station. It is anchored by the upscale Nieman Marcus of Dallas and, along with Lord&Taylor just down Western Avenue, generates significant revenues for DC from the upper-income residents in the vicinity. Although it is not a particularly good example of "transit-oriented development", it is surely better than planning to put the St. Coletta School for Special Ed Kids right at the entrance of the Stadium/Armory metro station in Northeast. Neither of these developments does as much as it could for the city's tax base. But the real issue is the best way to improve's DC's tax base. The Rivlin solution brings in families with 25,000 new kids in part so that their parents can help fix the DC public school system (oh, sure!)

Here's what's missing from the prior picture:
fifteen stories of lucrative condos or office space above the stores and within walking distance of the same metro station. This is a small part of the extensive transit-oriented development already in place on the Maryland side of Western Ave. Substantially greater high-density development along Western Avenue and Wisconsin Ave is already scheduled within the next five years. The NARPAC Commentary on the new Rivlin report asserts that DC's tax base would benefit a great deal more from 40-odd concentrated acres of very high-density mixed development along Wisconsin Ave between Tenley Circle and Friendship Heights. All it would take is to relax building height limitations in the vicinity of these two stations along a corridor already zoned for moderate commercial and residential densities. Why risk a partial solution with 100,000 residents, including 25,000 more kids, when you can accomplish a sure thing with a few thousand empty nesters and more thousands of office workers, who need not even live in the city, or go downtown?

 


The Barns at St. Elizabeth's make a distinctive, if bucolic, addition to the endless list of DC's historic structures. To NARPAC, they symbolize one basic dilemma of our capital city: How does DC go about increasing its revenue-producing properties to pay for its exceptionally high municipal services expenditures while immortalizing every detail of its past? NARPAC's extensive commentary on redeveloping St. E's has come up with a couple of far-out ideas: make the long-neglected "dry barn" (upper picture) into a Smithsonian Museum of farm implements; and make the "horse barn" (lower picture) into the entrance to a much needed Metro Green Line "infill" station serving the whole St. E's campus.

Downtown DC's posh new Summit Grand Parc on McPherson Square is the latest reincarnation of what started out as Washington's University Club and later became the headquarters for John L. Lewis and his United Mine Workers of America. Its renovation into luxury apartments ("Timeless Elegance, Tasteful Living") was only made possible by a unique solution (in the US) to providing parking spaces for 74 cars in a sub-basement only 60 feet wide, and 106 feet long. The solution: a widely used European design for a "robotic vault parking system". NARPAC, oblivious to the European design, had recently proposed its own notional construct for an automated, high-density urban parking system, and now compares the two approaches to reducing urban congestion.

During an unusually heavy February snowfall, DC got an opportunity to test-ride a new European design for a "CIVIS" Bus Rapid Transit System. Though NARPAC is not enamored of the French exterior design, it does provide one more available alternative to re-installing light rail transit systems in DC. NARPAC finds such fixed-track, street-sharing 'trolleys' even less attractive in the already traffic grid-locked and nowadays at-risk national capital inner city.

This dreary view of Washington's Rte 495 Beltway at rush hour indicates the growing problem of dealing with the 3,100,000 million cars now owned by the region's 2,500,000 commuters (according to Census 2000 data). One quarter of these workers cross state lines daily to get to their jobs (including DC residents), and with the exception of the inner city, other regional households now own an average of more than 2 cars. Why ever would DC transportation planners expect no more than "current traffic levels" 25 years hence, particularly if they hope to attract 100,000 new residents?


The long-empty and unused Congress Heights Public School epitomizes the deep-seated problems of poverty and decline in DC's Ward 8, East of the Anacostia. It sits at the major confluence of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Alabama Avenues. This photo was used previously by NARPAC to illustrate the cost-consuming issue of abandoned DCPS school properties, but it also symbolizes Ward 8's negative "net productivity". This ward uses $485M more each year in DC public services than it contributes in tax revenues. Major DC planning efforts are beginning to address this key issue.

This previously used NARPAC photo of the new housing units available in Ward 8's Wheeler Creek development are part of the mayor's new goal of attracting 100,000 new residents to DC over the next decade. Real estate values have been climbing in DC and throughout the metro area for the past two years, even though the net value of residential property assessments is not keeping pace with commercial developments. But the real unanswered question is whether adding 100,000 new residents will end up adding to DC's coffers or draining them: the answer is by no means obvious or assured.

This 6-acre surface parking lot in Friendship Heights, just outside the District Line is about to be replaced by a huge new building complex several stories higher than would be allowed within DC. Currently used by shoppers and Metroriders in this prosperous 'edge city', it accommodates some 600 vehicles of all sizes. With new technology and automated, high-density parking, five times as many vehicles could be stored in one-fifth the space, and valuable incentives can be provided not to bring polluting cars to clog DC's limited rights of way. See what NARPAC has to say about Metro's missing link high-density parking facilities.

This eclectic, but temporary, scene on Irving Street in Columbia Heights is all that's left of two decrepit buildings photographed by J. Cleave for NARPAC in 1999 to illustrate the lack of economic development around the forthcoming "Green Line North" metro stations. The fenced-in lot signifies the pending redevelopment now beginning for a big shopping complex to be called DCUSA. The artistry signifies the changing demographic balance in the neighborhood and nearby schools towards Hispanics. The remnants of the worthless building faces signify DC's devotion to the outdated. And the American flag proves once again whose national capital city this is.

This realistic architectural rendering (courtesy of Donatelli and Klein/Gragg and Associates) shows one of two major new apartment complexes to be built immediately adjacent to the two Columbia Heights Metro Station entrances. They will certainly provide positive net income to DC, since tax revenues will almost certainly exceed demands for city services. On the whole, however, the eleven properties now beginning redevelopment under the auspices of the NCRC will do little to balance out the overall deficit (over $121M by NARPAC's estimate) generated by the four neighborhoods of Cluster 2. NARPAC trusts this will be the catalyst for accelerated Columbia Heights revitalization, but explains how DC rules and regulations will make that task more difficult.

Rush hour at Metro Center may not look bad on a January weekday evening in 2003, but WMATA's "core capacity study" estimates 75,000 people will enter and leave this station daily by 2025, and another 135,000 will transfer from one line to another, limiting people through the station, and trains through the system. Metro's new 10-yr plan includes digging a pedestrian tunnel 750 feet to the nearby Gallery Place/Chinatown station, and adding station mezzanines to separate the waiters from the passers by. But that 10-year plan adds no new trackage or redundancy to the downtown subway system, despite its newfound role in the city's emergency evacuation.

Increased bus use, already heavy at bus-to-rail transfer points like Northwest's Friendship Heights Metro Station is also expected to grow, though DC's fascination with increasing the city's very limited bike ridership (for commuting) does not appear to be catching on yet: bike racks remain largely empty (on the sidewalk and on the front of the bus) at the end of the morning rush hour. WMATA's Regional Bus Study pushes for introduction of a new "RapidBus" system, but DC's transportation planners seem hooked on the nostalgia of trolleys.


Major commuter routes into the city, such as Massachusetts Ave, NW are congested for hours every morning and evening. Unlike the WMATA 10-year plan and DC's (outdated) Comprehensive Plan, DC's planners seem more focused on "increasing neighborhood connectivity" than "increasing city revenues from business and commerce". NARPAC recommends that DC put some serious effort into getting some forward-looking, well-coordinated economic and transportation planning into the overdue updates of its Comprehensive and Transportation plans, and aim higher in its crucial 10-year Metro upgrades.

Hey, don't you know there's a war on? Residents living near the vice-president's residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Northwest have been complaining about day and nighttime underground explosions causing wall plaster cracks in their homes. Queries have been met with evasive mumbling about national security. Entry through the main gate on Massachusetts Ave and 34th Street, NW, has long been blocked to keep out terrorists. Does anyone think digging bunkers for high officials will be good for DC's economy? NARPAC, in its January editorial, concludes that impending US international adventurism will not bring DC a prosperous New Year.

These gloomy January photos of the barricaded section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House are further indications of the wartime mood in the nation's capital city. The upper photo shows the barricade from the intersection of Pennsylvania Ave and 17th Street, NW. The lower photo shows how the avenue has been converted into the informal Blair House Street Hockey Rink at its west end. The vehicle barriers in the foreground restrict entry to the White House grounds (behind the photographer), where the President recently received his wartime small pox inoculation. Neither DC residents nor their mayor have been so blessed.

This Bill Fitz-Patrick professional photo of Dr. Ivan Walks, former DC Chief Medical Officer, was taken at the recent NARPAC-sponsored HATS OFF Award Ceremony at the Wilson Building, DC's "City Hall". Dr. Walks was recognized not only for his role in redirecting DC's public health system for the indigent, but also for his responsibilities in quelling anxieties among DC residents in the wake of the anthrax attack against federal officials and others. Though this event has not been connected to international terrorism, it helps reinforce concerns about the vulnerability of the nation's capital city under wartime conditions.


brookings This renowned non-profit think-tank, The Brookings Institution, sits tax-free at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, just below DuPont Circle, on prime downtown real estate. It has just published its latest report again espousing the need for an annual federal handout to the District for the inconvenience and strain caused by the presence of the nation's capital. Authored by the former chair of DC's Control Board in conjunction with a well-known Brookings fellow, it suggests a permanent subsidy of between $400 and $600 million based on a variety of superficially plausible rationales. NARPAC's December Editorial points out some of the many fallacies in this report and suggests there are better ways to make the nation's capital financially sound for the long haul.


capitolThis key building sits tax-free on Capitol Hill and is the primary reason why DC does not look like Camden, NJ. Valued by DC tax assessors at $369 million, it dominates the eastern end of the National Mall, assessed at some $5.2 billion. Both are maintained and protected by a variety of federal agencies. Like some 3000-odd other federal properties in the District valued in toto at $21.2B, they pay no property taxes to DC, but help bring some 20 million tourists a year and over 600,000 jobs to the nation's capital city. Should the Federal Government subsidize DC? In it's lengthy analytical rebuttal to the Brookings report, NARPAC points out the many areas in which DC could improve its own revenue stream, and lower city service costs.

NARPAC also points out in a letter to key Congressional leaders that the legislators in this magnificent building could help DC stand on its own fiscal feet. They need to stop focusing on how DC taxpayers should spend their own hard-earned tax revenues, and start looking at why many American inner cities are being discriminated against within their own metro areas.


Caught in the Budget Squeeze: McKinley High School is in the middle of a $60 million modernization program to make it DC's leading edge technology High School. Located on about 16 acres of prime highland looking out over downtown DC from DC's Northeast quadrant, this school is a cornerstone of the mayor's goal to improve inner city public schooling. As part of a belt-tightening program to wring $30M out of DC's expected $771M public school budget, the opening of this important initiative will be delayed one year to the Fall of 2004.


Not Caught in the Budget Squeeze: the Kingsman School sits fallow in the middle of the otherwise tidy residential neighborhood of Kingman Park, NE, to the northwest of RFK Stadium. This depressing five-acre eyesore is one of 25 vacant school buildings on DC's surplus property list whose fate still remains to be decided. Not just boarded up, its main entrance and other doors have been sealed with concrete block. It would be difficult to send a more discouraging message about the ability of the city to manage its own finances. NARPAC has urged the DC Council to turn these properties into the means for breaking DC's cycle of poverty.

Take Me In to the Ball Game: these are two of the five finalist sites being proposed for a new in-town DC baseball stadium. The upper one is six blocks from the Capitol up New Jersey Avenue. The lower one is nine blocks from the Capitol down South Capitol Street. NARPAC prefers the latter site because it will probably be less "revenue-productive" than other high-density mixed uses within the downtown core. Neither site is mentioned in the brand new respective Strategic Neighborhood Action Plans now available for all 39 neighborhood "clusters".

South Capitol Street itself is now the subject of a major Congressionally-mandated planning study to be turned into the major gateway to the Capitol from the South and East. It is the terminus of the Suitland Parkway along which US and foreign dignitaries are whisked into town from Andrews Air Force Base, home of Air Force One and a fleet of White House executive jets. (Andrews is also home to the award-winning DC Air National Guard squadron that flew their F-16s on round-the-clock air cover over the nation's capital for weeks after 9/11.)


This drawing from the 1850's (re-tinted by NARPAC) is filed in the Washington Star archives in the Washingtonia Room of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. It is one of the earliest known renderings of the Washington Lunatic Asylum, more recently known as the Center Building of the St. Elizabeth's Hospital complex. Situated on a 300-acre site overlooking downtown Washington from across the Anacostia River, the facility has become surplus and is going to be made available for limited redevelopment. The site mighttheoretically bring as much as $300M annually in "net revenues" to the District, but part of the site is unusable, part has been preempted for DC government uses, and most is protected by historic preservation constraints. But it is a key element in DC's redevelopment. The middle photo, taken in the late '40s, shows the central building of the administrative complex built in the early 1900's. The bottom photo shows two of the more recent set of nine buildings constructed in the 1930's. NARPAC finds it difficult to believe so much of this site should be preserved for posterity.

This mid-summer photo was taken across the Washington Channel from Hains point back towards the Southwest Waterfront. This popular area includes the fish wharf and a large marina. It is in for a major redevelopment which will substantially increase its 'net productivity'. It is linked to a major upgrade of the nearby Waterside Mall, and is also a part of the more ambitious Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. Big plans are underway all over DC for major developments, but NARPAC's October editorial expresses concern for the lack of any uptodate comprehensive plan for the city and its burgeoning metro area.


School days, school days..... From the outside, the reader cannot tell what is special about DC's Moten Elementary School. It is in a relatively depressed area East of the Anacostia and just east of the fading St. Elizabeth's Hospital, but its principal is looking forward to further improvements in his kids' academic performance. Why? Because half of those school windows belong to girls' classrooms, and the other half to boys' classrooms. By returning to principles educators and parents have known for years, his kids are learning to focus on their education, not each other. Will other DC schools follow?

Dear old golden rule days... And this hot summer day's snapshot of the Forestville High School in Price George's County, just a few miles out Pennsylvania Avenue from the DC line, does not tell it's story either. Here the halls and walks are now resounding to the sound of military shoes, as the Army has taken over responsibility for getting all of these high schoolers to graduate and go on to college, and perhaps a military career. This clever move by Prince George's School Superintendent Iris Metts brings a Military Academy to the local area, and hopefully a sense of pride, discipline, and ambition to some of the area's potentially aimless kids. There is already a waiting list. Too bad this isn't a joint project with the District!

This sizable structure is just being completed in the heart of Adams Morgan, one of the city's most colorful and diverse communities. After months, if not years, of wrangling over the future of a run-down parking lot, this classy new building, emulating a renovated industrial site. It offers 62 condos selling for less than $200,000 up to almost $1M on two floors, sitting atop 350 parking spaces on four lower floors. Owners' parking is separated from the much needed public parking for local businesses, day and night. This is a perfect example of increasing local productivity, the subject of NARPAC's major analysis for September, 2002. It seems to be a win,win,win,win solution: more public parking; more affordable housing; more upscale housing units which will increase DC revenues; and high density utilization of a previously wasted space. Bravo!



"Strom" stands lonely guard outside DC's National Geographic Building on downtown 16th Street, NW, oblivious to this year's summer heat. He is one of 200-odd party animals created mostly by Washington Area Artists that are now in place all around DC. They are proving that the nation's capital can sometimes show a lighter side, and that DC has some activists and critics without a sense of humor. They will be auctioned off this fall at a special "Raucous Caucus". Proceeds will go to the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities, responsible for their creation. More details are available on their web site.

The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission took a great deal more heat for its first DC Grand Prix race held on a rebuilt parking lot next to RFK stadium in July. Racing cars like this souped-up Porsche, which placed well in the main event, produced noise levels unacceptable to the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the track. The commission failed to take all possible steps to erect effective sound barriers. Nevertheless, the event proved popular to spectators, and the city generated some much-needed revenues. But new NARPAC analyses indicate that DC could get along with a lot less revenues if it more closely matched National state and local spending norms.

DC's Office of Planning is also trying to decide, with citizen inputs, how to dispose of DC's famous old Ben Franklin School on downtown's Franklin Square. This fascinating old structure is a National Historic Site, and its exterior was recently renovated as part of a bargain with the developer of the new office building next door (left rear). NARPAC agrees that DC has far too many school buildings (and teachers) compared to other metro area kids. We suggested in writing that the city use the proceeds to provide more sorely needed adult (parental) education.

One of the least visited monuments on the National Mall is DC's War Memorial to those who have given their lives for their country including some of the first African-Americans and women to be so recognized. This memorial is now taking on new significance as a symbol of the 'injustice' wreaked on DC residents by their unique status as a territory not within a state jurisdiction and therefore lacking full Congressional representation. The slogan "taxation without representation" (possibly the only 10-syllable slogan vying for state motto status) now appears on (some) DC license plates, and may be added to DC's official flag. DC activists are now seeking a major upgrade to this memorial as part of their campaign to achieve statehood, or full voting representation by any other route. Meanwhile, Census 2000 statistics confirm that DC is becoming a less and less significant core city of our burgeoning national capital metro area which, if it stood alone, would be the 22nd most populous state. (Photos by Mark David Richards)

These massive gilded monuments grace the DC side of the Memorial Bridge crossing the Potomac River the main gateway to the nation's capital from Virginia. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these impressive memorials all over the District of Columbia, primarily recognizing prominent men, prominent events, and prominent wars. To NARPAC's limited knowledge, however, there is no memorial to the two most important people in each of our lives: our parents. NARPAC's major analytical effort for July looks at the Demographics of Parents in the DC metro area. A very surprising number of those parents are at risk of producing another generation of kids who will find it difficult to break the cycle of poverty that has plagued their predecessors. NARPAC's July editorial wonders where their moral leadership is and why those leaders spend so much time complaining about DC's mayor. That mayor spends most of his budget trying to ameliorate the poverty that was not caused by his government or his taxpayers.


The 2002 version of the 'killer rabbit' that startled unsuspecting Secret Service agents by attacking President Carter while fishing from his canoe on a Georgia lake in April 1979, is a Cessna Model 182 which strayed into the no-fly zone surrounding the White House on the evening of June 19th. This time, missile-armed fighter jets were scrambled from nearby Andrews Air Force Base, the White House was evacuated, and the President presumably went to his subterranean bunker. While the objectives of the "swamp rabbit" remain unknown (according to Straight Dope), the uncommunicative pilots of this tiny aircraft were flying at 10,500 feet, trying to avoid a thunderstorm. Whether the high-ranking federal officials still hunkered down in 'office caves' outside the city (to assure continuity of government) went to full alert is not known. Such overreaction to conceivable but highly unlikely events of such dubious effectiveness is surely slowing the recovery of the national capital tourist business. Few if any DC residents have chosen to relocate, but the jumpiness of the federal bureaucracy will eventually have a real and unhealthy impact on the credibility and perceived maturity of the Administration. (Cessna web site photo)

Plans are progressing to "reconnect" the world-famous Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to the east end of DC's "monumental core", thereby ending its isolation from the city by major highways on all sides. It would become the first application of a sizeable "urban deck" to the DC landscape, and provide a substantial upgrade to existing antiquated highway intersections, It may improve public transit as well. NARPAC summarizes the completed access study, the ongoing environmental study, and its own comments and suggestions. Directly across town to the east, there is a new draft master plan for another valuable site, the 67-acre "Reservation 13", the former home of the contentious and now defunct DC General Hospital. Should it be called "Compromise 13"?


Washington's US Botanic Garden Conservatory has been completely rebuilt over the past three years and is now open again for visitors. Located just southwest of the capitol building at the intersection of Independence and Washington Avenues, this impressive structure looks south over a major interstate highway intersection that separates the city both north/south and east/west. It is bounded by glimmering surface parking lots for Congressional staffers' cars. It presents an ideal location for another combined-use urban deck by which to subsume essential transportation arteries into a world-class cityscape (see below).

This artist's sketch by graduating University of DC architectural student Toan Dang and his team mate Nichele Marchal shows the east face of a major 3-winged, combined-use building fronting on Washington Avenue just south of the US Botanic Garden (above). This team won NARPAC's design competition to conceptualize an urban deck development over Rte 395 north of its junction with the Southeast/Southwest Freeways. We hope it will be the 'first word' in assimilating this ugly downtown transportation node into the nation's capital city.

The Georgetown University and hospital complex is one of Washington's finest educational and medical institutions. One claim to fame is that it has the only truly first-class steeple amongst the city's generally boring roof tops. Another is that it is the third most valuable tax-exempt, non-governmental property in DC, assessed at $414 million. There is a growing ground swell to con the federal government into making a permanent annual payment to the District to compensate it for having too many tax- exempt properties which keep it from paying its bills.

The British Embassy and chancellery is one of dozens of beautiful foreign properties along Massachusetts Avenue, NW which pay no taxes to DC, just as US embassies enjoy tax- exempt status abroad. A new report from McKinsey & Co, a well-known management consulting firm, supports the contention that DC's financial posture is "structurally imbalanced" because it provides city services to tax-exempt properties. NARPAC finds the report superficial, providing glib support for a foregone conclusion.

The nationally-recognized downtown FBI Building (left, below) is one of over 3,000 federal government buildings in DC which are collectively assessed at $11.1B and would provide DC with over $215M in property taxes if they were not tax-exempt. Does the inability of DC to tax these buildings produce a "structural imbalance in DC's finances that warrants a permanent annual federal hand-out? Many of DC's "thought leaders" apparently think so.


NARPAC thinks DC should find other means to provide the financial resources it claims it needs without increasing its dependency on federal largesse, particularly as it seeks additional governmental autonomy. Surely DC should replace its downtown vacant lots (right), near the Convention Center and within a few blocks of the FBI building, with revenue-producing developments before begging at the federal trough.


Other than a few old sections of tire-polished steel rails still imbedded in some of Georgetown's cobblestoned side streets, this proud trolley barn is the principle reminder of DC's long gone, but not forgotten, trolley system for which many older DC residents hold fond memories. Now, to complicate DC's already shaky transportation planning, the notion of bringing a new kind of trolley back to DC's crowded streets is being floated. NARPAC takes a skeptical view of re-introducing "light rail" to the mix already crawling on DC's paved surfaces. In its new article entitled "Is There MetroLite in DC's Future?, we compare these modern designs with other alternatives, referencing a relevant GAO report on the subject.

This photo by Dan Weissmann, inexpertly purloined by NARPAC from the LRTA web site shows the attractive new light rail vehicles now in use on Dallas streets. It is one of several new generation systems trying to alleviate traffic congestion in contemporary American urban areas. If nothing else, such innovative programs should stimulate a new sense of competition amongst the ubiquitous US bus systems which dominate the current State of US Public Transportation Systems.

  A Tale of Two High Schools less than three miles apart, each one just east of Wisconsin Avenue, one just inside Northwest DC and the other just outside in Montgomery County, MD. They epitomize the differences in the systemic problems of public education faced by the Washington Metro Area's inner city, and one of its most upscale suburban jurisdictions. The Bethesda/Chevy Chase High School (below, left) has just finished a $56 million, 3-year modernization and expansion program for its 1,350 students, while DC's venerable old Woodrow Wilson High School, built in 1935, and last modernized in 1971, (below, right) awaits a major facelift for its 1,500 kids.

But the real issue is not the condition of the buildings, but the condition of their graduating students. Montgomery County SATS scores are almost 50% higher than DC's, and its drop-out rate much lower, even though the (non-special ed) costs per student are 30 % lower. Is it because the suburban household median income is 80% higher? Or is it because the racial mix is vastly different? Or because there are twice as many fathers at home in the suburbs? How about the educational attainment level of the parents? NARPAC pokes around in these issues in its new section on Education, Poverty, and Ignorance.

Be it even so humble..... In the first eight months of 2001, 352 homes were sold in DC's ZIP Code 20007 for a median price of $456,000. About 8,200 DC home owners live in houses like the one pictured here, and they provide about 60% of all tax revenues raised from DC taxpayers, while consuming a very small share of city services. (150,000 households using the lion's share of city services at the other extreme contribute 7% in revenues.) The mayor's official residence (some call it a 'mansion') will be located in this upscale area. In comparison to Fairfax County, however, DC's wealthy residents are pikers.


.....there's no place like home.
In the first eight months of 2001, 17 housing units were sold next door in ZIP Code 20006 for a median price of $79,000, the lowest in DC. This area is home to the ever-expanding George Washington University and few apartments remain for sale in buildings like this. But according to the national housing survey, some 132,000 DC households live in rented quarters, many living well below their means and crowding out the poor who need genuinely affordable housing. But if US eggheads are right, the Federal Government should be focusing less on low income (rental) housing, blight removal, and home ownership and more on arms control and air quality. NARPAC disagrees.

This unimposing 3-story building at Georgia Ave and Rittenhouse Street, NW is the first new housing on Georgia Avenue in 20 years. It consists of 17 new 2 to 4-room condos priced from $70K to $160K, and city officials hope that it is the beginning of something much bigger along this neglected "gateway" into DC. The DC Council is considering new legislation to stimulate more residential housing for all income levels, particularly the lower end of the spectrum.

The Washington Hospital Center is part of a huge medical complex in upper Northwest DC including Children's Hospital, the Cancer Institute, and the National Rehabilitation Hospital for Veterans. WHC is one of nine DC hospitals providing a total of 430 bassinets for the newborn (now that DC General and its 70 bassinets are gone). This is still several times more than are needed for the current DC birth rate below 7000 per year. Over 60% of these babies are born yearly to unwed mothers. Single parent households constitute almost 60% of all US families in poverty, a matter of serious concern in DC and elsewhere.


A major new federal HOPE VI grant will help DC eliminate one of its most blighted areas within sight of the national capitol dome, including this old DPW incinerator (top left). The right triangular area hemmed in by South Capitol Street to the West, M Street, SE, to the South, and the Southeast Freeway (Rte 695) to its North will soon be almost entirely rebuilt, changing the face of two of its declining public housing tracts, Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg (Bottom left).

While activists are mobilizing to make sure the poorest don't get frozen out, this 30-block area will also add new townhouses and high-rise apartment houses to match the brand new office buildings (right photo) replacing old houses on M Street (insert right) to support the revitalized Navy Yard.

Another major renovation program is now under way at Clifton Terrace across 13th Street NW from Cardozo High School (the athletic field is in foreground). 285 low-income housing units will be replaced by a combined total of 228 low income and condo units. Situated on high ground, it has an unobstructed view of the Capitol Hill area.

DC's best known Islamic mosque is still open for business as usual on upper Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Prayers would be appropriate for the city's fragile economy which has been substantially weakened by the events of 9/11. Federal authorities (including the White House) are putting their personal security ahead of the employment needs of DC's many workers in relatively low-wage tourist-related businesses. The suburbs may be booming with 'war-related' business, but the inner city is not.

The latest (and perhaps last) activist objections to building the World War II Memorial around the Rainbow Pool at the east end of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall has been rejected. A three judge panel of the Federal Appeals Court agreed that the Congress acted within its authority to order the approved memorial design (upper right) constructed without further bureaucratic reviews. The new Park Service fences will shield the site for the next three years during construction (bottom right). Activists are particularly concerned for the welfare of the senior trees on the north side of the site (left).

The latest empty 3-story building to be immortalized is the Yale Steam Laundry on New York Avenue just two blocks east of Mt. Vernon Square and the new Convention Center. Built in 1902 in the golden age of steam laundries, this solid structure with its tall chimney is one of the few industrial buildings still standing in DC, and the only one in this overwhelmingly residential area at the northern edge of the Downtown Development District. In return for commemorating this tribute to a century of cleaning DC's dirty linen, the developer will be allowed to bracket this relic with two higher-rise (above chimney top) towers with 405 hotel rooms over 250 garage spaces (twice the normal density) just across the street from the Wax Museum site, also on the verge of redevelopment.


Like many other older US cities, DC has thousands of abandoned residential buildings, like this cluster on O Street, a little over a mile from the US Capitol Building. These are assessed at $197,112 for tax purposes. Eliminating these serious pockets of blight is one of the many "action items" in DC's ambitious City-wide Strategic Plan, as well as a performance goal for two of DC's senior executives. A special DC board decides which of these defunct properties can be renovated, and which must be razed. Many of these once handsome homes have been 'de-gentrified'-- unoccupied for years, except by the homeless, druggies, and other unsavory sources of urban degradation.


This colonoscopic view of 18th and L St in downtown DC shows the fine brickwork in many of DC's 19th century sewers which guide sewage to the Blue Plains Treatment Plant during dry weather, and flush it straight into the Anacostia River during rain storms. A new, and long- overdue long-term sewer update plan is now progressing towards approval. The billion dollar price tag will surely impact on DC's current relatively low water bills, but significantly clean up DC's major rivers, particularly the Anacostia.



A totally empty, shut down, Reagan National Airport turns out to be the major collateral damage from the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. There should be many more flying machines in this picture than two ducks. While the economy of the Defense Department is certain to improve as a result of the attack, DC's economy is in jeopardy as long as the airport stays closed, or operates again at reduced capacity with obvious, overbearing security (as it will, starting October 4th). Tourists are staying away from the nation's capital in droves, and one of the city's major sources of "gross state product" has declined significantly in a few short weeks.

Meanwhile, the activists have finally run out of options to delay the replacement of the aging Wilson Bridge and the initial dredging for the new foundations has been completed. The neighborhood-shattering pile-driving has begun, and is expected to continue "sporadically" even on Sundays. The first new (albeit rusty) piling stands in place just off the western shore of the Potomac only a few yards from the existing structure, while others are stacked on nearby barges. The first half of the bridge is due to open in four years. No decision has yet been made to accommodate an extended Metrorail system on the bridge.
A smiling Mayor Williams and his friend, Abdusalam Omer, arrive for the NARPAC 'HATS OFF' award ceremony honoring his former Chief of Staff for many years of honorable duty to the DC government. For details, please turn to the awards section

This somewhat ghostly picture of the long-closed McKinley High School is a poorly copied, somewhat retouched, version of a Washington Post file photo by Michael Robinson- Chavez. To NARPAC, it symbolizes how far the DC school system has fallen, and how little heed has been paid to avoiding dumping failed students back into the communities from which they came. Rectifying this must become a major objective of the new DCPS Business Plan for Strategic Reform.



This forlorn railroad spur lies idle under the elevated approaches to the 11th Street bridge on the Anacostia side. It appears as a victory monument of the Federal Highway Administration over private railroad companies. NARPAC suggests that this little used spur to Blue Plains could become the right of way for a major addition to the Anacostia metrorail system paralleling the eastern banks of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.


Railroads and highways coexist here where the CSX mainline to the South crosses Rte 395 just south of the US Capitol. However, this relatively contemporary looking scene--complete with a modern passenger "streamliner"--comes through the courtesy of the Federal Highway Administration that paid for the relatively modern bridge structure. Most of DC's other railroad bridges are antiques and a disgrace to the national capital city. NARPAC sees this as an area sorely needing federal assistance.


Much-needed affordable housing is coming on line in Southeast as this major new Wheeler Creek development takes shape on the grounds of a large former public housing tract. This particular project was a main thrust of DC's former Housing Receiver David Gilmore. NARPAC awarded him its first "Hats Off" Award two years ago for his highly successful efforts to improve the quality of life in our nation's capital, which are just now coming to fruition. A new award is in the offing and will be announced here next month.

DCPS's brand new Oyster Elementary School is nearing completion on the near half of its prior site at the intersection of Cleveland Ave. and Calvert St, NW. Behind it looms an equally new upscale apartment building which will bring substantial revenues and new residents to DC. In what NARPAC calls the Great Oyster School Caper, the apartment developer agreed to pay off the construction bonds to build the new school in exchange for title to rest of the site where the prior building had stood for 75 years. The city, 330 DC kids, and private enterprise all gain in this win/win/win arrangement. For more on updating DC's schools, see NARPAC's analysis of the DCPS Facilities Modernization Plan.

The recently renamed Wilson Building, was the classic home for the DC Government until it was allowed to fall into disrepair and sold to a redeveloper in the mid-'90s. With the city under sound new financial management, the renovated building is being bought back after considerable wrangling and will soon again be the permanent seat of DC Government for the Mayor and the City Council.


DC's new Convention Center
was well along in construction by April, 2001 when these photos were taken.The main facade (below left) will tower over the new DC History Museum (see below) in Mount Vernon Square.

The rest of the structure is being built from its north end to the south (above right), with its cross section clearly visible here. A small section of half-erected roof trusses collapsed a few days after this photo was taken.

The Shaw Neighborhood surrounds the new Convention Center above, and contains some of the most interesting residential architecture in the city. With this eclectic, diverse community undergoing a major revitalization, many of these old homes are being renovated. It will be a long time before some residents forgive the city for putting the Convention Center so close by. But "downtown" has been steadily spreading North to Massachusetts and New York Avenues which form Shaw's southern boundary. It is sure to rival Georgetown as a tourist attraction eventually.

A New Life for DC's Carnegie Library DC's magnificent old Carnegie Library has been back in the news recently. The executive director of the Historical Society of Washington, DC. announced in early March, 2001 that more than half of the needed $22 million has already been raised, and that the architectural plans are complete for converting the building into DC's City Museum. DC had used the building as its library for many years, until the new Martin Luther King central library was built 25 years ago. After that, the building was used by the University of DC until a year or so ago when it became the headquarters for managing the construction of the huge new Convention Center just North of the Library. There are no plans at this time to provide easy access from the museum to either the Convention Center, or the nearby Metro station.

The DC Jail is now the only correctional facility under DC control: the "state level" institutions have been turned back to federal control as part of the agreement to reduce the management and financial burdens on DC's government. This view shows the southwest face of the jail, whose slit windows provide an unobstructed view across the Anacostia River--with the southern tip of the Congressional Cemetery in the foreground. The photographer was standing on National Park Service land, with the Anacostia and its Kingman Island to his back. This riverbank will be renovated and beautified as part of the major Anacostia Waterfront Initiative now in its formulative stages.

DC's RFK Stadium stands astride East Capitol Street just before this major axial road crosses the Anacostia River on the Whitney Young Memorial Bridge. No longer the home of the Washington Redskins football team, the stadium's future is uncertain. The National Capital Planning Commission's long-range plan would turn this into a monumental park as an eastern extension of the National Mall. But a successful bid for the 2012 Olympics (submitted by the Greater Washington/Baltimore metro area) would turn this into a new Olympic stadium. For now it will most likely remain the home field of DC United--DC's promising soccer team.

Georgetown Encapsulates its Obsolete Power Station After years of neglect, this idle powerplant standing next to the Whitehurst Freeway is about to be preserved for posterity as the inner atrium of a large new very upscale residential development combining rental suites and condos. It faces South across the Potomac River towards Roosevelt (Teddy) Island and to the highrise skyline of Rosslyn in Arlington, Virginia (originally part of the District's 10mile square). (Arlington County has become a model for what the Metrorail System can do if properly planned for economic growth--and what Metro isn't doing for DC East of the Anacostia.) Preservationists are thrilled to have saved this structural relic of early days, even if it disappears from view as it becomes walled in by modern posh apartments. NARPAC doubts that it will become a major tourist attraction.

The Silos of McMillan Reservoir McMillan Reservoir is located in Northeast DC on high ground near several other large DC institutions occupying hundreds of untaxed acres, including the almost-empty Old Soldiers' Home, the excellent Washington Hospital Centers, a Veterans Hospital, Catholic University and two cemeteries. The DC Children's Hospital is just North of the reservoir (top photo) and the current Corp of Engineers filtration plant is to its East (middle photo). The mysterious "silos" East of that plant (bottom photo) were the above-ground parts of the original sand filtration system, which also includes an extensive network of underground cisterns. The unplanned future of this currently abandoned, fenced-off site is currently drawing considerable attention.

One of DC's Latest Historic Sites When Hechinger's recently went out of business, community activists feared that a buyer might come along and want to build a high-density, high rise building for residents or offices. This is, after all, the Tenleytown stop on the Red Line (one entrance is in the shadow under the Hechinger sign--right center) in the middle of Northwest--but lacks any serious commercial development. Neighbors hope for nothing more than another hardware store to take over the site. And to make sure, they have convinced the city to declare this to be an historic site--as one of the first poured concrete buildings in this part of town!

The Towers of Tenleytown At the intersection of Wisconsin Ave and River Road, NW, a cluster of TV and microwave towers have sprouted, taking advantage of the relativerly high ground. Recently, however, the neighbors began to see a huge new tower rising that would eventually grow to well over 700 feet tall (left side). Community activism brought a halt to construction, the permit for the tower was revoked, the tower company sued, and the DC government paid them $5 Million not to build the tower. For now, DC, despite its hi-tech ambitions, will have to do without the means for citywide wireless mobile communications.

Two miles southeast of 2DHq (above) the Third MPD District Headquarters sits on U Street, NW, just west of 16th Street. It is the second of three components in ROC-North and its operating area of some 2275 acres is the smallest of any DC police district. It will have 7 new (vice 12 old) PSAs, and use 419 officers and support personnel. They will watch over some 54,600 modest and less well-schooled households with 17,400 kids who have as many single moms as married parents. And consistent with local socio-economic trends based on total parental education, 3D will again be responding to almost 25,000 emergency calls involving 1900 violent crimes and over 20 homicides (nowhere near the maximum of over 60 in 6D and 7D). It will remain the most stressed DC police district, but should benefit from the increased number of police officers.

On the high ground at Tenley Circle just across Albemarle Street from the Tenleytown Metro station in Northwest stands Janney Elementary School, one of DC's finest schools in one of DC's most prosperous, and strong-willed, neighborhoods. From its cupola there is an unobstructed view across the Potomac to DC's Northern Virginia suburbs. Closer to ground level, its kids generate some of the highest NAEP testing scores in DC. If there were many more schools like Janney, the city would not be in turmoil about the public school system's "abysmal student achievement".

Just across Alabama Avenue from the Congress Heights Metro station behind St. Elizabeth's in Southeast stands Malcolm X Elementary School, one of DC's lowest performing schools in one of the city's highest crime areas. It is one of the schools that has generated a very high (and sudden) level of discontent with DCPS management and oversight. NARPAC's March update focuses almost entirely on various aspects of this perceived problem, and expressed its concern that city officials and lay leaders may leap to the wrong conclusions, and make the situation worse. The current focus is almost entirely on academic reform, but some of the underlying causes are way beyond DC's control, and others relate to less than stellar DC facilities planning.

RETURN TO PREVIOUS PAGE


This page was updated on Feb. 15, 2007

home | issues | status |analyses | email |
| HOME PAGE | MAJOR ISSUES | CURRENT STATUS | RECENT ANALYSES | SITE MAP | EMAIL |

SEARCH THIS SITE

© copyright 2008 NARPAC, Inc. All rights reserved