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Old 08-19-2011, 07:40 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
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I don't trust the advocates of transit-oriented development (TOD) to just keep it near the Metro. They routinely state that one advantage of rail transit is that developers are more willing to build TOD near it! But the transit and TOD advocates are pushing for more development like this even near bus lines. For example, they're building a new high-rise on Lee Highway at N. Nelson, nowhere near a Metro station. (I'm sure there are other examples, but that's the only one I can think of right off the bat.)

And as the one link I posted shows, they eye places like Lee Heights Shops and Westover with a gleam in their eye for someday making those more "vibrant"--by which they mean more populated and less car-friendly. You can call it mere "discussion," but discussions by people in power turn into plans, which turn into projects. (Eden Center has tons of people and vibrancy, but it has tons of parking--which I'm sure galls the TOD people to no end.)

I can walk to Westover, but I'm glad we don't live closer to it, because I fear that someday the greedy developers are going to partner with the County to tear down the small-town-like business strip that's there (beer garden, hardware store, independent coffee shops, restaurants, etc.) and replace it a Clarendon-esque condo tower and chain stores. I'm sure they'll go after the places near the Metro stations first, but when those are all developed, they'll next turn to the bus lines. I have no doubt about this.

So transit--something many people would otherwise favor--has become a foot in the door for development.

Let me add that I love to walk. I walk our dog every day. (And I thru-hiked the AT many years ago.) But I do not want to live near tall buildings packed with 20-somethings who want to stay out till 1AM. There are plenty of places for them already.

Something else that's noteworthy: I used to work for a large association that advocated for (among other things) TOD. And almost every one of the top people lived in a single-family home. The president lives in a McMansion on a cul-de-sac in Fairfax County. The main lobbyist lives not far from him. The other lobbyists mostly lived in suburbia. The main TOD expert lives in a spacious SFH by himself. I think this is very telling and illustrates my point that most adults with families prefer single-family homes that are not directly adjacent to businesses.

Last edited by Carlingtonian; 08-19-2011 at 08:08 AM..
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Old 08-19-2011, 08:48 AM
 
Location: Virginia
18,717 posts, read 26,935,396 times
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One other thought about row houses: I love row houses (even if I don't choose to live in one). I like how they look in places like Georgetown. Row houses can be really cool... but....

I only like how they look when all the units are well maintained. They're not so pretty with some of the units foreclose, or have fires, or become dilapidated. When a row house has to be torn down, the entire block can look like a row of teeth with gaps in it (especially since the units on either side of the gap do not have windows and were obviously not designed to be exterior walls.)

Check out these "gap tooth" row houses in another city for a few examples. Not that I think this is likely in DC, but it's thought provoking. If my neighbor's sfh catches fire and has to be torn down, I'll feel sad for him but at least it won't make my house an eyesore.

Discovering Historic Pittsburgh: Urban Prairie in Pittsburgh: A Photo Case Study
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Old 08-19-2011, 12:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
I think this is very telling and illustrates my point that most adults with families prefer single-family homes that are not directly adjacent to businesses.
I'd go a step further and say most adults past the age of 30 prefer single-family homes that are not directly adjacent to businesses, unless they have health issues that make maintenance of the property, or climbing stairs, etc. an issue. As evidence, look at the owner-occupied housing in communities across the country where land is not nearly as valuable and expensive as it is here. There are far more SFHs. In many communities, people are advised that buying condos or townhouses (the relatively few that exist) is risky because "they don't hold/gain value" as well as SFHs do.

While different strokes are for different folks, YMMV and all that, I think there are sound reasons why many prefer the SFH if they can afford it. They don't have to depend on the good behavior of many others as much as when their homes are attached or above/below others, and also have a little more freedom (depending on how much space they have) to behave badly themselves if they want to. And as people get older, they may have had more bad experiences with neighbors and don't want to buy a permanent problem.
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Old 08-19-2011, 05:39 PM
 
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I think there is something to be said for owning a small piece of high value land, or having the land be worth a lot more than the old house. That is where the best locations are for walkability and jobs.
Few structures are built to last a lifetime--a prime location will have more potential for future development.
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Old 08-19-2011, 10:51 PM
 
Location: South South Jersey
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Townhouse anecdote: our next-door neighbors (who had about a million 7-15-year-old boys who loved to *slam* pretty much any object with which they came into contact - doors, objects so heavy they had to be bowling balls, etc.) moved out about a month ago, and life has been *so* much more pleasant ever since. I never imagined what a big difference their absence would make to my quality of life!
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Old 08-20-2011, 05:47 AM
 
Location: Fairfax, VA
1,449 posts, read 2,810,342 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alicia Bradley View Post
Townhouse anecdote: our next-door neighbors (who had about a million 7-15-year-old boys who loved to *slam* pretty much any object with which they came into contact - doors, objects so heavy they had to be bowling balls, etc.) moved out about a month ago, and life has been *so* much more pleasant ever since. I never imagined what a big difference their absence would make to my quality of life!
I'm sure our current next door neighbors will be thrilled when we leave, too. Even with just the one kiddo, there is a LOT of noise. We offered the owner (who is overseas currently and renting it out) earplugs MANY times...and some beer for putting up with us.
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Old 08-20-2011, 01:09 PM
 
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The noise problems were quite a bit better at my 1968 TH in Cardinal Square, than my parents 1986 TH at Daventry. The older ones have much more solid firewalls. 400K seems like a lot of money to know every time your neighbor goes up and down the stairs.
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Old 08-21-2011, 02:37 AM
 
Location: Mountain View, CA
1,152 posts, read 2,853,402 times
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Originally Posted by hilsmom View Post
maybe it is worth its own thread. I think the reason they are built in the transit oriented communities is for those folks who do NOT like common walls, but still support density near transit.

But driving around our new area out near Chantilly and seeing these bizarre no-yard homes right off route 50 makes me say "Huh?" And they don't appear to be walkable to anything. At least in South Riding, you get the community amenities.
Buildings are cheap, land is expensive. Many people want a SFH with lots of space - one way to get it without breaking the bank (relatively speaking) is to shove it onto a tiny lot.

Unlike townhouses, these also lack common walls (many people worry about noise, among other things) and usually have better parking options.

It wouldn't be my choice, but I see why people go for it.
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Old 08-21-2011, 02:59 AM
 
Location: Mountain View, CA
1,152 posts, read 2,853,402 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACWhite View Post
I'd go a step further and say most adults past the age of 30 prefer single-family homes that are not directly adjacent to businesses, unless they have health issues that make maintenance of the property, or climbing stairs, etc. an issue. As evidence, look at the owner-occupied housing in communities across the country where land is not nearly as valuable and expensive as it is here. There are far more SFHs. In many communities, people are advised that buying condos or townhouses (the relatively few that exist) is risky because "they don't hold/gain value" as well as SFHs do.

While different strokes are for different folks, YMMV and all that, I think there are sound reasons why many prefer the SFH if they can afford it. They don't have to depend on the good behavior of many others as much as when their homes are attached or above/below others, and also have a little more freedom (depending on how much space they have) to behave badly themselves if they want to. And as people get older, they may have had more bad experiences with neighbors and don't want to buy a permanent problem.
Thing is, this is a mostly American trait. We seem to have this idea that you can't raise kids in an urban area. More generally, we seem to just be very anti-density. Europe was never this way - I think it is the result of being a "young" country that has always had tons of available land.

The problem is, the available land is running out anywhere you can actually get a job. In most major cities, a combination of a growing population leading to higher housing demand (and higher prices) and crippling traffic / commute times is starting to force people to think about denser housing options. High gas prices are pushing us in that direction too (see what people think about car culture when gas hits $10).

That said - of course everyone would prefer a SFH if they could afford one without tradeoffs. With enough money, all the negatives of a SFH (location, yard work, maintenance) can be eliminated. If money is no object, why *wouldn't* you prefer a SFH? The problem is, money is always an object, and for more and more people, when they look at their budget, the choice is boiling down to living in a multi-unit situation closer in, with a shorter commute, and nearby amenities, and a dead beadroom community far out. Many choose the latter, but as commutes worsen and prices continue to rise, the former will become more popular.

I am 30 and single - and personally, I'd love to live somewhere like Arlington or Old Town. But my work is not downtown, it is in the suburbs, so I choose to live instead in the Fair Oaks area. As far as suburbs go, it is compact - everything I need is very close - and attractive. My commute is also 12 minutes. I am in the process of buying a condo in the area (SFH are un-affordable for me) and couldn't be happier.

Bottom line though - density is going to go up. It's pure physics. More people are coming to this area. We can't build much further out - commutes just become literally unworkable. All these new job seekers have to live somewhere, so the only option is infill. And when that is used up, the last thing remaining is to knock down low density and replace it with high density.

I understand that people like low density. But people need to realize, it is slowly but surely going to die out in areas like this. We are getting like Europe - we are running out of land to build on and our transportation infrastructure can't take the combination of high population and far flung low density development.
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:11 AM
 
2,462 posts, read 8,060,209 times
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When we lived in McLean, many of our neighbors were Asians or Europeans posted to embassies or international organizations. Back home, most of them lived in those nice, dense, urban areas of London, Tokyo, or Hamburg. Funny thing though -- when they moved to the DC area, they bypassed the various smart-growth/dense communities and went straight for the single-family house with a yard and garage. Three of our friends managed to stay indefinitely in the US, sold their London townhomes for a killing, and bought very large suburban homes. They loved having the space and privacy.
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