Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New local blog!

Hometown Columbia: "The Next Generation Speaks about Our 'New American City'"

It's geared to Columbians born between 1961 and 1981 and aims to serve as clearinghouse for perspectives on our future from this generation. I'm certainly looking forward to reading more and, most importantly, adding more voices to the discussion.

Go check it out!


Anonymous said...

Interesting new blog indeed.

Yet, Jessie, to me it seems just a bit too controlled.

You say writers can choose to post anonymously, but commentors have to provide their name and e-mail address and then request anonymity. A privacy policy statement would be a good addition to your "About" page, detailing just how you'll handle the trust placed in you by those that do request anonymous participation. And age solicitation, too?

Your site has contributors, writers, and commentors. It might help to explain each. And you refer to a blog administrator. Is that you?

If you're going to quote on your blog anonymous comments posted elsewhere and then expound on them (which is certainly ok), how's the anonymous author really supposed to reply? For now, I'll do so here.

As you said, you love this town. Many of us obviously do. Columbia's Town Center is unique and refreshing compared to many other cities. We just don't want to see much of what makes this town special lost, made into just another dense city, replete with congestion, noise, pollution, and a loss of balance between nature and man - a place not at all in keeping with what Barb Russell aptly described in a recent letter as Columbia's true vision.

It's not "an inaccurate fear of what density means". The first iteration of the 30-year Master Plan last year and the subsequent transportation consultant's report showed some of what the wrong amount of density can mean - excessive density permitted that congests roads to the point of failure, being purposefully rationalized as a means to make the public suffer enough to accept exhorbitant expenditures to then, after the fact, somehow shoehorn a less-than-optimal mass transit solution into the geography. (I'm paraphrasing the report, but that was the general gist.) And some feel that amount of density is being pursued more to support the viability of additional commercial development than to provide affordable housing or achieve any other altruistic end. Are those methods commonplace in planning? I hope not.

So you want a place to go, a place to "plug in", a zone, and area, a downtown, a place that has a pulse. You want a place that is constantly busy. A place with lots of activity and people out and about. Almost an ongoing festival.

Can you describe a similar location in Baltimore? Would HarborPlace be that kind of place? Jim Rouse pretty much did, saying in 1981 "I never get tired of Harborplace. There's always something to do and see."

Our place most like an ongoing festival is the Mall. Perhaps a bolder renovation of it would create the "place" for which you yearn. Only time, or maybe April, will tell. I'd just say it might be worth looking 'up' in the Spring.

Nonetheless, welcome to the local blogs.

Anonymous said...

Would you rather have density or sprawling big box retail developments, which is pretty much what exists around East Columbia (Columbia Crossing, Dobbin, etc.)

Have you been to the new Silver Spring? On a nice day, it is quite the gathering point. Not nearly as congested as Columbia feels, despite the greater volume of people.

Jessie said...

Hayduke, Thank you very much for the welcome, the links to the new Hometown Columbia blog and for your thinking-man's comments on my blog. Though I don't -- by any means -- agree with much of what you say, I think your blog is one of the best examples of a community blog. I'm hoping mine will be of value in providing a space and place for 26-46 year-olds to speak up and out about the future Columbia they want.

Hayduke, I am going to ask for your permission here to take one of these comments here addressed to me, to put it into my blog and answer there. It seems to me that would be most effective, as the message is directed to me and this blog. I'll wait a day (til 2/15 at 6:30 p.m.) to hear from you otherwise. Please contact me directly at newburn.jessie AT gmail if you disagree.

Anonymous said...

"Would you rather have density or sprawling big box retail developments"

If given the choice between those two for Town Center, I'd choose c) wake up and return to reality. Those are not our only choices and we all know that. (And, when given the opportunity, I'll shop a local store first.)

I've been "through" Silver Spring lately, but not "to" it. So, I guess for me, anyway, it's not the gathering point.

"Have you been to the new Silver Spring? On a nice day, it is quite the gathering point. Not nearly as congested as Columbia feels, despite the greater volume of people."

I'm surprised you say Silver Spring feels less congested than Columbia. Silver Spring is over six times more dense and has almost three times Columbia's population. It sure feels more dense when I've crawled through it.

Anonymous said...

Driving down 29 on your way to DC is not the same as going to Silver Spring. Try the town center development. Go there one day after work. Even in the cold, it is more of a "town center" feel than Columbia's dark and dated concept.

Silver Spring is much more dense and much more populated. That is the point. It doesn't feel as sprawling as Columbia.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one day I will visit Silver Spring's redeveloped town center, but just because it has more outdoor lighting than Columbia has in Town Center doesn't bring any increased appeal for me. Lighting, if done poorly, is far worse than either well done minimal lighting or no artificial lighting at all.

"Silver Spring is much more dense and much more populated. That is the point" ??

Didn't you say it felt less congested to you than Columbia? How can it be more dense, more populated, and less congested?

"It doesn't feel as sprawling as Columbia"

Sprawling. n. - Haphazard growth or extension outward, especially that resulting from real estate development on the outskirts of a city

Silver Spring, in its current state, certainly resulted from haphazard growth outward from D.C. Conversely, Columbia's development was anything but haphazard and was designed to be the antithesis of sprawl. Some could argue the proposals to increase Town Center residential density far beyond the original plan are some kind of turned-outside-in urban sprawling.

Anonymous said...

That 'handbook' reads like a developer/lender wishlist/how-to manual for pushing aside local "overly restrictive" zoning regulations, necessary development design reviews, and their corresponding timeframes, fees for offseting development reviews and impact costs, etc. Do see the boards of both organizations involved were composed almost entirely of developers/lenders.

Notice how it refers to regulations as 'red tape' - biased jargon, no?

Required reading material? I think they can forego picking up this piece.

"...there is a great need to reform the local regulatory environment to remove obstacles to the development of both affordable and market-rate homes. Needed reforms might include changes in local zoning policies to permit the development of homes on smaller lots and at higher densities — to increase the overall supply of homes and bring land costs down to affordable levels — or expedited permitting processes to cut costs associated with development delays." - That was the only part of the document that mentioned the environment. Unfortunately, the environment mentioned was the regulatory environment. Ironic that that environment, too, was on the opposite side of the table from this paper's viewpoint.

"strategies for tapping the increased tax revenue associated with increases in property values" - Take tax money and subsidize the development industry.

"supporting the issuance of general obligation bonds for affordable housing" - Make everyone borrow even more money via issuance of public bonds paid back by all taxpayers, subsidizing the development industry all the more.

The section called "Preserve and Recycle Resources for Affordable Homes" doesn't recommend recycling no-longer-wanted building materials and building fixtures. Instead, it says use "public money to preserve existing af­fordable homes that might otherwise be lost to deterioration or gentrification." What does that mean? Give a public subsidy to landlords to maintain their buildings?

'Expand Supply Through Rezoning' mentioned Fairfax turning 65 homes and a five acre parking lot into 2,250 condos/apartments/townhouses, 300,000 square feet of office space and 190,000 square feet of retail space. That is a huge jump in density - 65 homes to 2,250. And they got about 112 affordable homes out of all that increased density. Does that seem like a good return on incurring all the additional infrastructure costs for the rest of that dense development?

B. Santos said...


According to 2000 Census data, Columbia contains approximately 12,000 more people than Silver Spring. The area that Columbia occupies is approximately 3X that of Silver Spring.

Anonymous said...

And Silver Spring is a better place to live. Three times the density and a pedestrian friendly city.

So is Reston.

So is Montgomery Village.

So is Piney Orchard.

Should I go on?

Anonymous said...

Columbia feels sprawling. Silver Spring does not.

The fact that Silver Spring has roughly the same amount of people in the space of Columbia just goes to show you that Columbia is a sprawling city with poor land use.

Or do you like 1 story big box retail stores only reachable by car?

Anonymous said...

Columbia's 2000 population: 88,254

Silver Spring's 2000 population (counting all neighborhoods that use a zip that can be called Silver Spring):

2000 Population - from census.gov
Total 287,157
Zip Code
20901 33,793
20902 42,503
20903 22,679
20904 48,901
20905 18,098
20906 61,097
20910 35,588
20912 24,498

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