Mary Cheh is looking for ideas to make the District greener. Things like:
Matt notes that since the District is the greenest part of the metropolitan area, the greenest thing it can do is work to increase its share of metropolitan jobs and people. This may sound tricky, but since there’s actually plenty of unmet demand for District homes and office space, as indicated by land prices and rents, it’s pretty simple — just let folks build more. And it’s really worth noting that things like vertical farming are actually actively counterproductive to efforts to green the city, since they wind up displacing people to less green places.
Back when I was all involved in the effort to support the development plan for the Brookland metro area, I testified in front of the Council. Another person, a young guy who worked for Casey Trees, testified against the plan because it would involve building on lots near Metro that currently contain trees. Development on those lots would have housed one hundred people or more. Protecting those particular trees, in other words, would displace people to other places within the metropolitan area, most of which are less green. Some of this pressure generates new greenfield development, which of course results in the loss of a lot of trees.
It would be nice if city leaders started thinking in this way, at least a little bit. You see the city adopting policies like the one in which old, large rowhouses are prevented from being subdivided into smaller units, because such subdivisions “change the character of the neighborhood, and make it difficult for larger families to stay in the city.” But in reality, those subdivisions increase the stock of housing, which helps to hold prices down, and by allowing more people to live in the city, they reduce metropolitan emissions per capita. (And anyway, if you really want families to stay in the city, your first three priorities should be the schools, the schools, and the schools).
The point is this, those who heedlessly support the city’s height limit or fight a development near metro are basically on the same side as coal executives, and it isn’t the right one.