Tuesday, November 30, 2004

This is the article that I was looking for a few weeks ago when I was talking about Arlington and our neighborhood.

Here's the most interesting part:

The gold standard for residential development near transit stations is Arlington
County, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., urban planners say.
In the 1970s, Arlington decided to concentrate development along its 3-mile
subway route to maintain the character of suburban neighborhoods. That was novel
and controversial at the time.

But the results are impressive: 35,000 residents living in 18,000 houses and
apartments, 75,000 jobs, 1,900 hotel rooms and 17 million square feet of office
and retail space within walking distance of subway stations. The half-mile-wide
corridor contains just 7.6% of Arlington's land but generates a third of its tax
, keeping residents' property tax bills lower than anywhere else in the

Neighboring Fairfax County opted for massive parking facilities around its
subway stations and shunned the housing-office-retail mix. A result was more
sprawl throughout the county. Now plans at two stations for clusters of
residential towers have sparked neighborhood opposition over traffic. Only 30%
of the newcomers would commute by subway, studies show.

“In Arlington, three-fourths of people walk to the train,” Dittmar says.
“In Fairfax, two-thirds drive. The difference is just dramatic.”

Pedestrian-friendly spaces are critical, planners say. Arlington learned from
early mistakes that buildings had to open onto sidewalks and invite walking. If
a goal is to cut car trips — only a fourth of all trips are work trips —
give residents fewer reasons to drive by mixing shopping, housing and
entertainment, planners say. It will lead to fewer cars per household.

Offer housing choices - apartments, condos, townhouses and single-family homes.
Single uses such as office buildings make for dead after-hours downtowns. Mixing
uses creates 24-hour villages and more transit ridership.

Barely a decade ago, Arlington's Clarendon neighborhood was economically
stagnant with aging housing and limited retail stock. Today, it's one of metro
Washington's hippest areas. Bars and restaurants hum late into the night.
Commuters rushing home pack upscale groceries for gourmet dinner dishes.

Man, it just makes me so proud.
The local paper in southeastern Virginia shows the residential tax rates of different cities in the area, and I noticed Arlington is exactly the same as Smithfield, VA and 50% less than Norfolk, VA. Amazing. Beautiful.

Interesting article. This is the kind of development that will build a better country, in terms of the environment, politics and nightlife. I read the real estate section like it was porn - have read a lot about older Chicago suburbs buiding up their downtowns around the rail lines. It is still possible to do this in older communities built before zoning. Arlington is a great example. Newer burbs that were built for sprawl and car traffic will be hard to convert - density is low, lots are large, commercial areas are malls and strips along arteries and removed from residential areas. So I don't know what to do about them, other than to make it harder to build more sprawl while encouraging density. The big problem with this plan is that there isn't as much dense urban housing as people want - so prices get out of control. Everyone speaks approvingly of "rising property values" - except for people like me. I don't own property, and since prices rise faster than my income, I don't see how I ever will. The house I rent is valued at half a million. My rent plus the upstairs unit total 2050 a month - less than 2/3 the mortgage at "market value." Carlos bought it in the early 1990s for $150,000. It was probably put up for a couple hundred bucks in the 1880s.
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