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just up the pike

Updated: 2017-11-17T13:38:53.242-05:00


marc elrich compares purple line development to "ethnic cleansing"


As the Purple Line begins construction, many are worried about the potential impact on working-class immigrant neighborhoods. How can we ensure that people can afford to stay in their neighborhood as the land around the line grows in value?Two candidates for Montgomery County executive presented wildly different visions at a recent forum, with one, Marc Elrich, accusing the Planning Board of promoting "ethnic cleansing" along the corridor. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">The 16-mile light rail line, which broke ground in August, will run between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. Its 21 stations will serve a series of inner suburban neighborhoods with large working-class, minority, and immigrant populations including Long Branch, which is located near the border of the two counties in Silver Spring.Marc Elrich, a candidate for county executive, made the accusation while speaking at a candidate forum earlier this week hosted by liberal group Progressive Neighbors in downtown Silver Spring. Elrich appeared alongside his opponent George Leventhal, who is also a Democrat and an at-large county councilmember. (There are four other candidates, but they didn’t show up.)Blogger Ryan Miner recorded this video and shared it on his site, A Miner Detail. Moderator Joan King asked the candidates what they can do to help make Montgomery County an affordable place for renters to live. Elrich replied:“I support rent stabilization, and I think we need to be honest with ourselves about this. We threw up our hands and said, ‘The market will determine the price of housing, and the market alone will determine that.’ And we are going to wipe out neighborhood after neighborhood in Montgomery County.You can bet, if we don’t do rent stabilization at the Purple Line stops for example, the neighborhoods around the Purple Line will not continue to exist. It will be bought, it will be repurposed, it will go to other people. When we did the Long Branch plan, and Park and Planning came in and said we want to rezone all of the existing housing in Long Branch, I accused the Planning Board of ethnic cleansing. Some people do it with a gun, you are doing it with a pen. But the truth is those folks will be gone, and they will be gone forever.”And Leventhal said:So, Montgomery County is very successful. It’s very desirable. We have an excellent school system, we have safe neighborhoods, we have thriving urban centers like Silver Spring and Bethesda, and we’re trying to improve our placemaking and the excitement and urban life in places like Wheaton and, we hope, Glenmont. We do have market affordable housing in places like Wheaton and Glenmont. In Bethesda, we have just adopted the highest price control mandate in the county’s history. Fifteen percent of all new housing that comes online in downtown Bethesda will have to be price controlled below market rate. The reality is that housing prices are controlled by supply and demand, and as long as there is high demand for housing here, prices will be high. There are communities that have very low housing prices, and those by and large are places you don’t want to live. So, we are investing $51 million this year in our Housing Initiative Fund, more than ever before in the county’s history. The best way to get more affordable housing is to allow more housing, and that addresses the supply side of the equationThis is not ethnic cleansing Let’s be clear: ethnic cleansing is the systematic expulsion or killing of members of a specific ethnic or religious group. It’s how the Sudanese government oversaw the killing of 300,000 people in the ongoing conflict in Darfur, or how Myanmar has driven more than 600,000 members of the Rohingya ethnic group out of that country over the past year.This is not that.Marc Elrich voted against preserving affordable housing in Long BranchThe Long Branch Sector Plan, passed in 2013, is a v[...]

see what montgomery county's new BRT stations will look like


Montgomery County’s first bus rapid transit line will open in Silver Spring in 2020. This month, we got our first glimpse of what the stations could look like.What Montgomery County's new Flash bus rapid transit stations could look like. All images from ZGF.The new BRT line, dubbed Flash, will run along Route 29 between the Silver Spring Metro station and the Burtonsville Park & Ride. It's the first of what could be a countywide network of rapid bus lines. Flash will contain a variety of features designed to make the bus faster and more reliable, including dedicated lanes for part of the route and special signals that give buses extra green time at congested intersections. The 11-mile line will have just 12 stations, spaced up to two miles apart, and could carry 13,000 people per day.And those stations won’t look like any bus stops you’ve seen in the area before. Designed by local architecture firm ZGF, the stations are designed to be visually distinctive, while adaptable to the wide variety of urban and suburban neighborhoods along the BRT line.A plan showing all the features of a BRT station.The designers have created a canopy structure for each station with a mix of metal, wood, and glass accents. The stations will also have an iconic “station marker,” which will help riders find each station and provide real-time information and a system map. The stations will all be accessible for riders with disabilities and have ticket machines where riders can pay before getting on the bus, reducing delays.How the Fenton Street BRT station could look.However, no two stations will be exactly alike, as the designers created a “menu” of station features that the county can pick and choose from based on the needs of that specific location. Those amenities include public art, wifi and cellphone charging spots, or low impact design (LID) landscaping, which can collect and distribute rainwater, reducing runoff and pollution.The stations will be different sizes based on their location. Busier stations might have larger shelters to accommodate multiple buses. Locations in downtown Silver Spring might have smaller shelters to fit on tight sidewalks, while more suburban stations will have more green space around them.A "menu" of options would allow each station to fit into its surroundings.These designs are still preliminary, so we don’t have a lot of details about how much they’ll cost. But one estimate in the designers’ report says that each station could cost between $368,000 and $490,000. The entire BRT line will cost $31 million.There’s no reason infrastructure can’t be both functional and attractive. Do you think these hit the mark?[...]

there's a mismatch between the houses DC area buyers want, and what's on the market


Ten years after the Great Recession, home prices in many parts of the Washington region have reached or even topped their pre-recession peaks. But will this trend continue? A look at a wide sampling of real estate websites says yes – but the mismatch between what buyers can afford and what kinds of homes are available could change that.New townhomes in Rockville. Photo by the author.The conventional wisdom appears to say we’re not heading into another recession anytime soon. However, while Millennials are finally settling down and ready to buy homes, they will struggle to afford homes in places like DC due to high costs. In the coming years, climbing home prices will stagnate because buyers' income levels increases aren’t keeping pace with costs.These three things suggest a recession isn’t coming soonReal estate downturns tend to happen pretty regularly, notes real estate entrepreneur and Harvard Extension School lecturer Ted Nicolais. Going all the way back to the 19th century, real estate downturns take place about once every 16 to 18 years. Since the last recession occurred between 2006 and 2008, he predicts we can expect another one between 2022 and 2024.Nicolais says there are three indicators of a recession: an increase in unsold inventory, increasing vacancy rates, and an increase in interest rates, all of which would discourage people from building houses or buying them. While the Federal Reserve may increase interest rates later this year, rates are still quite low. Even as the region built over 25,000 new homes last year, vacancy rates are still low because there's still high demand from people who want to rent them.How many active home listings there are in the Mid-Atlantic from 2007 to 2017. Graphs from MRIS.On top of that, the supply of homes for sale is less than half what it was 10 years ago. MRIS, the listing service for real estate agents in DC, Maryland, Northern Virginia, and small parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, found there were 37,000 homes for sale in the region in August 2017 compared to 82,000 in September 2007.The housing market is working, but not for everyoneAs a result, the housing market is pretty tight, especially for people who are looking for more affordable starter homes. Many of my fellow Millennials are finally getting settled into stable employment, and more of them are ready to buy homes. But area home builders are primarily constructing high-end homes due to high land costs, high labor costs, and high regulatory costs that make it too expensive to build smaller, cheaper homes. In Silver Spring, one local builder says that the legal costs alone for a new townhouse development added $50,000 to the price of each home.How median home sale prices have changed compared to one year earlier. Less-expensive homes have increased in value faster than more expensive ones.Because there aren’t enough smaller, cheaper homes being built, there’s more competition for them, which drives up prices faster. This graph shows how DC-area homes in the $200,000 range have increased in value at higher rates than homes in the $800,000 range. You can swap these out for other price ranges and get a similar result.Meanwhile, local incomes are staying flat, even as house prices rise. After a certain point prices won’t be able to keep increasing, because buyers won’t be able to afford them. But that doesn’t mean home prices will crater. With so few homes for sale relative to demand, the housing market will remain really competitive, which will create upward pressure on house prices. It’ll just happen more slowly than it has over the past few years.What does this mean?For now, things may stay the same. Faced with rising house prices, those who buy may be forced to compromise on the size or features of their new home, or the location. That might mean moving to a DC neighborhood on the cusp of gentrification, or moving into a more distant suburban[...]

silver spring's most prominent intersection could get a new hotel


Today, the Georgetown Branch Trail in Montgomery County closes for several years for Purple Line construction. While I'll miss it, losing this version of the trail is worth getting a better, longer trail in return.Somebody posted this sign on the trail in Bethesda this weekend. Photos by the author unless noted.Together, wider sidewalks and new retail will bring more street life to this stretch of Colesville, which is centrally located between the Metro and the AFI Silver Theatre, but has few reasons for people to stop. The hotel will also have fewer parking spaces than the county requires, with 28 spaces instead of 89. Guests would instead have to park in one of the nearby public parking garages; in Montgomery County, developers can provide less parking if they pay a fee to the Silver Spring Parking Lot District. This allows hotel guests to use the parking that already exists in Silver Spring, as over 40% of downtown public parking spaces are empty at any given time. Compared to the thousands of apartments that have risen in downtown Silver Spring over the past few years, a new hotel is a surprising twist. There are several hotels in the neighborhood, but the only apartment-style hotel is the Homewood Suites on Colesville Road. This could provide a new option for long-term travelers, like the visiting families of veterans recuperating at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda. The proposed hotel seen from the corner of Georgia and Colesville.We don't know who will operate the hotel, though Starr Capital's renderings look very similar to a Hyatt Place hotel that opened last year in southwest DC. However, the developer claims that the hotel design was inspired by the actual "silver spring" that town founder Francis Preston Blair discovered in 1840, with metal and glass panels that "[recall] the changing patterns of the shimmering rocks of the spring," they told the Planning Department. The new hotel will cover up the 15-story blank wall of its neighbor, an apartment complex called Twin Towers best known for its funky, 1960s-era sign. But it'll create a new blank wall on its south side, where the adjacent building is just two stories tall. The developer proposes placing a large mural there, giving people walking up Colesville from the Metro something to look at.[...]