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September 25, 2013

Planning to Be High

Dear Washingtonians:

The DC Office of Planning has released its recommendations for changes to the Height Act, and, as expected, they are not friendly to citizens who like the residential city that Washington is today. Here are a PDF of the plan,; a press release from the OP about its Height Master Plan,; and Mayor Gray’s cover letter to Congressman Daryll Issa endorsing the Office of Planning’s changes to the Height Plan,

Of course, for those Smart Growth advocates who think the only good model for urban planning is Manhattan, the OP’s recommendation don’t go far enough. Matthew Yglesias writes just that in Slate: "But really what the city needs are much taller buildings in the portions of the city where there’s the most demand for them — downtown. Downtown is where office rents and hotel prices are the highest. And Downtown is also where if the office market gets somehow saturated, it’d make lots of sense to build new apartment buildings for people to live in. And right now, downtown doesn’t have a lot of NIMBYs living there to complain about construction noise or loss of light. Downtown is also the part of the city that the infrastructure is built to make accessible. . . . Downtown is the logical place for tall buildings, and that’s why downtown is where you’ll find the tallest buildings in most cities," Yglesias wants those skyscrapers to be built before residents have a chance to complain about what they are doing to their quality of life. If city residents want light and open vistas, they shouldn’t live in Ygesias’ city.

One commentator on the City Paper’s article on the OP’s report gets the problem with the report exactly right. "EH" writes: "The City failed to complete the assignment. Issa explicitly asked "’. . . to examine the extent to which the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 continues to serve the federal and local interests, and how changes to the law could affect the future of the city.’ Instead, as could be expected, the City predetermined their desire for more height instead by declaring ‘The central question that this report attempts to answer is whether changes to the federal Height Act can be accomplished in a way that allows the federal government and the District of Columbia to reap the economic, fiscal and social benefits of additional height,’" The OP came to its predetermined conclusion. It answered the question it wanted to be asked.

Gary Imhoff


An Elected Attorney General Is the People’s Choice
Markus Batchelor,

[An open letter to councilmembers] On November 2, 2010, a DC Charter Amendment was passed by the residents of the District of Columbia, garnering over 75 percent of the vote, that allowed for our mayor-appointed Attorney General to be popularly elected by the voters in this city. Nearly three years ago, the expectation was that the will of the people would be executed posthaste and the necessary work would be done in order to elect our Attorney General in the 2014 election cycle. Late into the night on July 10 of this year, the Council decided that the city was not prepared to execute the election and voted 8-5 to delay the election four years, until 2018.

The Council of the District of Columbia are the elected representatives of the people. In most cases, we must trust the people we elect to make the best decisions they can on behalf of their constituents. This is how our representative democracy works — our decisions made indirectly through our elected representatives. However, the vote that Washingtonians took on November 2, 2010, was not a suggestion or an urge, but a direct charge to our city government to prepare and execute a popular election for Attorney General in 2014.

Our city government has had nearly three years to prepare to make this possible and has obviously lapsed in its responsibilities. Now is not the time, however, to allow for more time to fulfill overdue obligations. Now is the time to redouble your efforts to complete the task in the time frame allowed to you by the people. The DC Democratic State Committee, of which two of the above Councilmembers are members and who represent all the Democratic organizations and voters in the District, voted unanimously to urge you to withdraw the amendment that would delay this election. Second reading is scheduled for October 1 on B20-134. I urge you to get in line with the people that voted for you, change your votes and do the work necessary to make this election possible in 2014, which is still very feasible if the government is willing to take the steps instead of giving itself another four-year window.

The motivation and imperative to do this is simple: it is the will and expectation of your constituents. A direct decision by the people is not up for a second opinion by the council — it is an order by the people who elected you. If you were on the other side of the dais, you would expect the same.



Teatro Lirico of DC Presents "Verdi Chamber Arias," October 4
Marco A. Campos,

Giuseppe Verdi was one of the most influential composers of Italian opera. Several of his operatic melodies, such as La donna e mobile, have transcended into popular culture. In the concert Verdi Chamber Arias, the artists explore Verdi’s intimate world as composer of chamber songs. Featuring oboist William Wielgus and singers Elisabeth Turchi , Jose Sacin, and Pablo Henrich-Lobo.

The concert will take place at International Student House, 1825 R Street, NW, Dupont Circle, on Friday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m. For ticket information please call 360-3514 or visit


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