Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins has appointed Rosalynn Hughey as interim Director of the D.C. Office of Planning (OP) effective February 24, 2014. Harriet Tregoning is resigning as Director effective February 21, 2014 to join the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to her appointment Hughey served as OP’s Deputy Director of Citywide and Neighborhood Planning. Hughey joined the Office of Planning in 2000 and has over 25 years’ experience in urban planning.
By Art Rodgers
The classic problem of many science fields is you can only weigh something if you stop it, or you can determine where it’s going, but then you can’t weigh it. Fortunately, this is less of a problem with demographic data where you can measure where it’s been and measure where it is now and at least forecast where it’s going. Why is it then many fail to take advantage of this? Last month an article has made the claim that children are disappearing from urban areas and others have picked up on it. The assertion is based on data from one point in time; the 2010 US Census. Their conclusion? Cities are unfriendly toward children and what is more, cities are not doing enough about it.
First, let’s expand the data to more than a single year. Nationally children are becoming a smaller percentage of the population, from 24.0 percent in 2010 to 23.5 percent in 2012; so it is only natural that dense urban areas reflect that trend as well. But wait! Half of the cities listed below didn’t! They actually increased their percentage of children, and even San Francisco with its astronomical housing prices was able to maintain its current percentage.
Population Under 18 years
2012 ACS 1-yr
|1||San Francisco city, CA||
|2||Seattle city, WA||
|3||Pittsburgh city, PA||
|4||Washington City, DC||
|5||Boston city, MA||
|6||Urban Honolulu CDP, HI||
|7||Miami city, FL||
|8||Portland city, OR||
|9||Atlanta city, GA||
|10||Minneapolis city, MN||
Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS)
Second, it’s true that two data points do not a trend make, so let’s investigate why this percentage of children is increasing in these cities and estimate if it will continue. I use Washington, DC as an example. In DC’s case, between 2000 and 2010 it was one of the top cities for attracting recent college graduates due to the combination of growing tech and federal job opportunities. This is probably true for other cities where tech, finance and other industries were growing. Well it’s only natural that these young professionals who migrated as singles met, hooked up and guess what happened next.
What has changed in this age old story? In the past, those new young families moved to the suburbs largely because of the poorly performing urban schools. In the case of the District of Columbia, Boston and a few other cities, what may be responsible for reversing this trend is the move toward universal free public pre-school for three and four year olds. Not only does this save young professional families upwards of $20,000 per year per kid in daycare costs, it introduces them to the public/charter school system, which helps to change their perception of the schools. This has created a wave of middle-class children diversifying the public schools while their parents have networked and brought their collective political clout to improve the schools even further.
The private sector in DC has also seen the shift in the market and responded by adding baby happy hours and children’s cultural and athletic opportunities to go along with all the other great children’s activities that are available in DC.
The change in the percent of households with children under the age of 18 has also reflected the shift, moving from 19.3 percent in 2010 to 20.3 percent in 2012. The DC Office of Planning (OP) believes the shift is strong enough and sustainable that their official ten-year forecast through 2020 includes the number of children under the age of 18 increasing by as much as 50,000. This would push the number of households with children to approximately 25.0 or 26.0 percent by 2022, but only require about 20% of single-family housing to flip from older/childless households to these new families.
The District’s housing market has also been impacted. According to Zillow.com, over the past two years prices have grown three times as fast per year for three bedroom units (18 percent per year) as for 1-bedroom units (5 percent per year). DC’s housing is already very expensive, and many single-family row houses are being split into smaller units for the large numbers of singles, but the $20,000 savings in daycare translates into some serious purchasing power for those who have the means to leverage it. This of course has the potential to exacerbate the displacement of lower income families in many of the District’s neighborhoods, but the city has also embarked on an ambitious goal of 10,000 new affordable units by 2020 and recently dedicated $187 million dollars for affordable housing to reach that goal.
Urban schools and housing costs certainly make it challenging to raise a family in a city, and cities can do more to make it easier, but I can personally attest through my investigation of the data and my own experiences as an urban parent that, at best, these recent blogs see the glass half full. Time will tell, but it certainly looks like many cities, including Washington, DC, are setting the table for families with children by improving public and charter school performance; offering universal pre-kindergarten, revitalized public libraries, schools, playgrounds, parks and recreation centers; providing increasingly convenient neighborhoods throughout the city with services and retail in most communities; and creating lots of transportation choices that help families access all the city has to offer.
Art Rodgers is the Senior Housing Planner at the Office of Planning. The opinions expressed in this post belong solely to Art Rodgers and should not be construed as the official opinion of the DC Office of Planning.
By Tanya Stern
OP staffer Malaika Abernathy wrote a post for OPinions in May on the challenges of biking to work and maintaining a professional appearance. Malaika’s post was instantly one of the most popular OPinions posts to date, shared by many in the DC biking community, particularly by other women who bike regularly. The post garnered so much interest it spawned a panel event on June 26th, “Pedaling Professionally,” sponsored by Black Women Bike DC, Capital Spokeswomen, and WABA’s Women & Bicycles Program. Malaika served as the moderator of a panel of professional DC women who bike to work regularly, including DC Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning.
Check out WABA’s blog for more details from the event, including photos and tweets from the discussion.
By Joy Phillips
As you may or may not know, 2013 marks the celebration of the International Year of Statistics, coined “Statistics2013” – a celebration to increase public awareness of the power and impact of statistics on all aspects of society. With that said, I could not help but bring to memory the phrase “Lies, d***** lies, and statistics,” which is claimed to have originated in England in the 19th century, but made popular in America by Mark Twain in the 20th century. The phrase describes the persuasive power of numbers to support an argument. But wait: is it fair to refer to statistics as the highest form of lying under any circumstance?
First, let’s define statistics. In Gerald Hahn and Necip Doganaksoy’s book A Career in Statistics: Beyond the Numbers, the definitions include these parts:
- The science of learning from or making sense out of data;
- The theory and methods of extracting information from observational data; and
- The art of telling a story with numerical data.
What grabs my attention is that statistics is defined as both a science and an art. Can statistics be both? Is this the source of confusion that leads ultimately to some people attributing statistics to all lies? For statistics to be a science, it must follow some standard and proven methodology to arrive at its conclusions. For it to be an art, it must lend itself to some notion of manual skill, intellectual manipulation, or personal expression. My belief is that while statistics can be both a science and an art, it cannot be both at the same time. The data is generated first using a scientific process (can be as simple as counting), then it can become an art when it is subjected to human interpretation. Human interpretation can be regarded as a lie only if others know the truth lies elsewhere, and the person giving the interpretation is aware of that.
Case in point: For the District of Columbia, the U.S. Census Bureau has multiple 2010 population numbers: 601,723 (Census 2010); 604,453 (American Community Survey [ACS] 2010 1-year data); and 604,912 (2010 population estimate). Which one is the true population number? The decennial Census, last held in 2010, is a count of the population at a specific point in time. ACS 1-year data is a sample of the population over a twelve-month period from January to December. The population estimate for a particular year is based on administrative data such as births, deaths and migration. The average person will not know the intricacies of the Census Bureau’s methodology and may be forced to conclude that none of these numbers are correct or that they are all wrong (or a lie). Scientifically, it can be argued that each is correct based on the method applied. Artfully, each number is subject to its own interpretation based on the information known or assumed in its derivation.
From my viewpoint, statistical interpretation is such that regardless of the issue or argument, people usually find a number that can be used to support it or they find another number that they believe should be used instead. Does this mean that statistics is a lie? Certainly not! However, for some, the jury is still out. Where do you stand?
Joy Phillips is the Associate Director of the State Data Center, OP
By Malaika Abernathy
If only biking in style was this easy.
As an urban planner in the District, I wholeheartedly embrace a walkable and bikeable model of urban life. I cheer as Walk Scores for the District’s emerging neighborhoods exponentially increase as bike amenities and services are introduced. I applaud our local pioneers who actually walk the talk by biking not only to work, but also to leisurely run errands and meet up with friends. I even smile with amazement when I see my boss, OP Director Harriet Tregoning, stepping into a meeting in upper NW with helmet and bike in tow (yes, I’ve actually witnessed her biking from our office in SW to points WAY north in the District!). So as I get amped to begin my own biking soliloquy, somehow I get stuck at the door looking for my car keys instead. I know, I’m a hypocrite… but a well meaning one.
The reality for me is far deeper than just biking itself. It’s the after effects of biking that leave me perplexed. The sweating, the change of clothes and the showering at work all require a level of dedication I’m simply not interested in. For those of us who remotely care about maintaining a business professional appearance during the day, I ask you, how do you do it?
Everyone has their own unique routine. I see the towels in the office shower air drying. I pass the bikers early in the AM with all their biking accoutrements from cute helmets to versatile biking shoes. Oh and the infamous rolled up pant leg, with the innovative Velcro fastener to secure it. And then I think, I can do this!
The last bike-to-work occasion I attempted required a fairly large back pack of necessities… shower gear, towel, deodorant, make-up and all other trinkets and essentials necessary to be work appropriate.
Somehow the list of essentials grew, and my knap sack quickly grew to the size of a small mountain. So with everything in tow, I managed to mount the bike without tipping over. Surprisingly, I arrived to work in about 20 minutes, but was completely drenched. On my way up to the shower, I noticed a colleague trekking behind me with not an ounce of perspiration visible. Off he went into the office as if he had just stepped out of a biking magazine. Then I catch a glimpse of my reflection and realize I’m definitely the nerdiest and sweatiest biker chick ever. Not a title I’d like to carry stepping into the office. And then I think, if this is embracing a bikable model of urban life, then I’d rather just cheer my peers on. Hip Hip Hooray, for those of you that have figured it out. Hip Hip Hooray.
Mayor Vincent Gray released today the Sustainable DC Plan to ensure the District is the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the nation. The plan is the culmination of 20 months of work by the Sustainable DC initiative, launched in September 2011 and co-led by the DC Office of Planning and the District Department of the Environment. This initiative has been a collaborative effort involving several District government agencies, more than 700 working group participants, stakeholders from the private, non-profit and institutional sectors, and thousands more who submitted sustainability ideas online and participated in more than 180 public meetings and events.
In April 2012, Mayor Gray released his Vision for a Sustainable DC to make the District the most sustainable city in the nation by 2032. The vision set out ambitious overarching goals and targets for nine areas related to sustainability. These goals and targets served as the foundation for the creation of the final plan.
The Sustainable DC Plan comprehensively addresses four key challenges: creating jobs and growing the District’s economy; improving the health and wellness of residents; ensuring equity and diversity across the city; and improving the climate and the environment. The plan includes 32 goals and 31 targets, and offers 143 specific actions in the built environment, energy, food, nature, transportation, waste and water.
Actions in the Sustainable DC Plan include:
- Coordinating targeted workforce-development strategies and education programs to create jobs and foster business growth in the green economy;
- Building 1,000 more renewable-energy systems and enabling residents and businesses across the city to more easily invest in shared renewable facilities;
- Modernizing all of the District’s public school buildings to at least the LEED Gold standard under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED system and expanding sustainability-education efforts citywide.
- Controlling pollution caused by stormwater runoff with 2,000,000 more square feet of green roofs and a healthy tree canopy over 40 percent of the city;
- Completing 37 miles of streetcar network and 100 miles of citywide bike lanes;
- Establishing facilities to accept residential and commercial compost; and
- Providing tens of millions of dollars in innovative financing to promote private-sector energy- and water-efficiency retrofits.
By Tanya Stern
DC Office of Planning (OP) Director Harriet Tregoning and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Terry Bellamy co-authored this Washington Post op-ed that talks about how the District is planning for parking in a 21st Century Washington, DC. Of particular focus are proposals included in OP’s comprehensive update of the District’s 50+ year old zoning code: simplifying the complex parking minimum standards and eliminating parking minimum requirements downtown and in other higher-density, mixed-use settings near frequent mass transit. DDOT also recently launched moveDC, a collaborative transportation planning effort to incorporate transit, vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian and freight uses into a single Multimodal Long Range Transportation Plan for the District of Columbia. The plan is scheduled to be completed in 2014 and will include recommendations to create a seamless and convenient transportation system for the District.
By Art Rodgers
When it comes to hyperbole, “it’s got it all” might be the most overused, but with regards to describing what makes Columbia Road, NW from 19th to 18th Streets a successful urban street, it’s dead on. Ok, so it doesn’t have a zip line into Rock Creek Park, but with the slope and the trees it could be fabulous.
There are three core elements to the best three blocks in DC and they start with Kalorama Park, which has huge shade trees, two playgrounds, a community garden, a basketball court and a beautiful westward facing slope for catching the sunsets. It is the community’s center and without it, these three blocks would be far more ordinary.
Next it’s got people living in anywhere from six to eight story buildings, to row houses, to even a few single-family detached homes. Through tools like rent control, limited-equity coops, and a few nearby subsidized buildings, all kinds of people live in the neighborhood including fixed-income retirees, a few low-income families and of course the ubiquitous young professionals. That said, I wouldn’t disagree that some more affordable housing, so lower income families could be in boundary and send their kids to one of the District’s best public school at Oyster, would be a good idea.
The final core element is handy daily shopping including two local grocers, three competitive dry cleaners, a liquor store, a gallery/frame shop and an athletic shoe store. Not far away there is a hardware store, an electronics store, a post office, and several import stores. The stores keep the sidewalks active with people running errands, picking up a carton of milk or other sundries or going out for a tasty frozen treat on a hot summer night. Did I mention the range of restaurants from fabulously affordable Mediterranean and Peruvian Chicken to Brazilian, French and Sushi and how they are adapting to the growing population of toddlers? No? Well I have now.
I must admit the rest of what makes the best three blocks in DC are an accident of location. It’s bracketed by Rock Creek to the west, Walter Pierce Park to the north, 18th Street’s entertainment strip and Marie Reed’s comfortably dog eared, but shaded and cool kiddy pool to the east. Beyond the three blocks in the immediate neighborhood are two more supermarkets, and farther are the adjacent destinations of Woodley Park (Red Line Metro) across the fabulous Duke Ellington Bridge, Columbia Heights (Green Line Metro) connected by the DC Circulator and Dupont Circle (Red Line Metro) with all that they offer.
Others may wish to point out how the assets of their neighborhood make them such wonderful places to live, and that’s actually the point. Let’s identify what are the elements of urban areas we love and make sure that all the neighborhoods of DC are provided the same opportunity for relatively sane (but never boring), if not high quality urban living.
By Charlie Richman
What if the General Services Administration is right about telecommuting and stops renting office space?
We looked at where GSA puts federal workers today, and imagined where the workers might be in 15 years if plans for increased telecommuting proceed. Existing rules already favor transit-accessible locations.
Our back-of-the-envelope analysis started with GSA’s current offices. We dropped expiring leases each year to meet an aggressive schedule for consolidating space, ending leases farthest from mass transit first and consolidating jobs at the remaining sites. After 15 years all of the leased space would be gone. Look what that would mean for the density of jobs downtown!
We don’t believe the future will look exactly like this, but we’re trying to learn from the exercise. Perhaps we’ll need to focus more on meeting the needs of part-time telecommuters.
What do you think?