Joshua Davis Photography

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The Pile: Thoughts, Life, and Photography of Joshua Davis

A Photo Tour of Dulles Station

I took an hour walk to the new Dulles Station project that is still under construction. The project is promising, but just like Rosslyn it will take a couple of decades before this area is more than just urban style density.

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Wide open spaces, wide roads, and lots of surface parking dominate phase 1 of the project. The parking garages are 9 levels and appear to be of the highest density. But when a full funding agreement is signed for phase two of the Silver Line metro, density will be increased and some tall office towers will be here.

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And more open space and parking space.

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As for the housing I would have rather seen taller condos. As it is they choose a rather suburban looking design. But they will be installing ground level retail here, which seems an odd choice. Isn’t ground level retail better suited for office buildings?

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The project is in partnership with several other companies, which is something I’ve noticed of these newer town center projects. They have the same companies plopping down their cookie cutter buildings, but at least it’s walkable.

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The architecture of the office buildings was stunning. To bad the bold style wasn’t applied to the housing. But I do remember the first phases of the Reston Town Center where urban/suburban with way to much green space and surface parking. And now the newer parts seem genuinely urban.

This project is directly across from the future Route 28 metro station and even has some space left in it for a direct connection. My guess is the Dulles TOD area will be like Rosslyn in the late 70s, and will remain a predominantly office market.

More pictures as the project progresses.

Filed under: Photography, The City and Suburbs

Disney Tries Its Hand at Urban Planning, Again

Disney has united both Democratic and Republican law makers in Anaheim, California, by trying to override their city’s decision to rezone land next to their theme park.

According to Fast Food Nation, Disney, McDonald’s, and a few other similar corporations where responsible for the creation of the squeaky clean suburbs that 52% of Americans live in. It helped them to leave the “Over crowed cities filled with people who where different then them.” Of course Disney continues to help Americans escape reality with their movies, music, and other media.

But Disney has taken their fantasy world a bit far by opposing both the city of Anaheim and a developer who wants to build some affordable housing next to Disney’s fantasy land. In order for this to occur the land would have to be rezoned. Disney feels the presence of affordable housing – and the types that occupy them – would harm their park. So the very housing that men and woman dressing up as Mickey Mouse and serving funnel cakes at their park would live in, Disney doesn’t want.

They’ve spent over $1.5 million in collecting the necessary 3000 signatures to put the zoning up for vote. But that’s not all, a campaign of fear has been created that tries to give residents an image of the area being overrun by “Darker colored people committing crimes.” It will be interesting to see if Disney will be able to over ride the will of the city council, and those that elected them.

And Disney’s other experiment in urban planning, Celebration, Florida seems a failure to me. Conventional wisdom states affordable housing spread throughout an area help to reduce crime, but Disney choose to cluster development. Another mistake was that they developed a downtown before there was population to support it, resulting in many retail shops closing. So who better to plan a city, Disney, or the city council?

Filed under: Economy and Business, Politics, The City and Suburbs

Sim City 5: A Disapointment

I haven’t played the game yet, but what I’ve been waiting for, for years appears disappointing. The game is a departure from the path the series has taken – but it is more a realization of the original goal, to let users build maps.

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The first Sim Cities treated you like an urban planner/mayor, where you zoned areas, layed pipes, built parks and schools… But ultimately developers chose where and what they wanted to build. Sim Societies seems like a micro management version of the Civilization series. Admittedly I’ve always wanted more control of the cities in Civilization games – but I found Sim City to be a relief from the macro management strategies.
Full post at my new blog at JoshuaDavisPhotography.com.

Filed under: Software, Technology, The City and Suburbs

Freedom of Housing

The Berkeley city council has banned the following list of activities, smoking near buildings in commercial areas, lying on the sidewalk, public urination and defecation, drinking in public, possessing a shopping cart and shouting in public. This is all in an effort to get rid of the estimated 800 homeless in Berkley, California.

So now owning a shopping cart is illegal? I guess all those kids with toy shopping carts need to take them to the dumpster. And also if your child has wandered off in the public park, and you’re shouting his name, that too would be illegal. And then no more protests that involve protesters laying on the ground.

And this all ties back to the fact that conservatives decry people who say “we should live more compact life styles, by occupying condos or apartments.” I hear these people decrying new urbanism, and a general move to more density as limiting housing choices. Someone should be able to live on a 1 acre lot if they want to, and another person should be able to live on the street if they want too. Let’s not limit housing choices.

Filed under: Black Matters, Politics, The City and Suburbs

Impressions of New York

New York CitySo I went to New York Manhattan last week. And of course this city is an excellent place for the study of urban theory, weather what not to do, or what to do right.

I’ve always been pro density, but the density of New York, was a shock, and took a moment to get used too. My first thoughts, where maybe, buildings could be too large. But I soon got use to that, and realized the architectural beauty was best observed at the lower levels.

The fact that most New Yorkers walked was my favorite part. I thought DC was easy to cross the street, because there where 10 others crossing with you, but New York, was defiantly easier because there where no left turns. I had started thinking a modified street grid pattern wast the best option, but now the classic street grid, with one way traffic seems the best.

Also I further believe my point stands, if we stop building roads, people will use other forms of transit. In New York traffic seemed frustratingly slow (people went a little slower than cars), and this is probably one reason for some to walk and use the Subway. Unfortunately I didn’t use the Subway, so I can’t have any opinions on that. But my impression of New York having a great transit system were further instilled.

Filed under: Environment, The City and Suburbs

How to Kill the Automobile

The easiest way to kill the automobile is to kill it’s midwife.

American car companies bought various forms of mass transit, notably street trolleys, laid off the workers, ripped up the tracks and then shut them down. If this same method was used by local governments, mass transit would prove more popular.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) operates on 30 billion dollar plus budget. By comparison Democrats approved a clean water act that cost less than $1.5 billion. Imagine the government recouping 30 billion, and decreasing pollution for free? By comparison the southern suburbs of Washington DC, want a 4 billion dollar metrorail extension, of which the Federal government would pay only 1 billion. That one billion is one thirtieth of FHWA’s budget

So what would happen if the FHWA where crippled, and the funds converted to mass transit? Commuters would probably flee the car, and use the train.

Filed under: Economy and Business, The City and Suburbs

Dubai, the next Harlem?

Development in Dubai, UAS. The next Times Square, or the next Harlem?

I dislike suburban tract development, because it lacks architectural diversity. In Dubai 20+ story buildings are constructed, that look nearly identical. They’re also pedestrian unfriendly, and consume virgin land. In a country where wealth comes from the automobile it isn’t surprising this city is hostile to mass transit, and pedestrian based citizens.

The design of Dubai may prove more fatal, than American suburban design because of the cities poor urban planning. This city also has great potential to become one of the worlds poorest cities. Traffic is amoung the worlds worst, and city design is unmaintable if cheap oil (Dubai is in the Middle East) ends.

More construction in Dubai, this time it's of the Jumeirah Beach ResidenceLet’s go back to Harlem, which became black and poor because to much real estate speculation, then in a rich and suburan area, caused a bubble. Harlem is now associated with poverty. Dubai has a huge concentration of poor foreign workers for construction and services. With so many poor workers, and a large amount of unoccupied residentential it may become another Harlem.

Photos from J. Rawls (top) Ryan Lackey (bottom)

Filed under: Economy and Business, History, The City and Suburbs, The World

3 Reason the Suburbs Are Bad

Suburbs: Large areas of land zoned for single use and low density buildings.

1: Destruction of the Environment

This happens on many levels. First being that the American farm is destroyed, and natural open spaces are destroyed. Then on the second level is the destruction of forests for wood to build houses. On the third level is pollution, because you must drive further distances to go to work, or even visit a resturant.

In a traditional city buildings are built upward saving farm space, which will run out if sprawl conitues. In European countries land is tigthly managed to prevent this. High and medium rise buildings are created from resources such as brick or steal, while these have environmental impacts when created, it is far less worst then deforestation. Obvious to anyone it is easier for a person to use mass transit or walk in a city.

2: The Future Slums

The white middle class is reclaiming the cities. Areas once occupied by whites in the inner suburbs are increasing home to people of diverse ethnicities. Some of these areas even experience crime on the same levels as cities. As the cities poor move out they can expect a four thousand dollar windfall. Why? Because the cost of owning a car is at a minimum four thousand a year.

3: Destroyed Farmland

Just like gentrification is viewed negatively, the thought of farms being destroyed should be repulsive. America still has plenty of farmland, but America can no longer feed the entire world alone. Besides the impact of wasted farmland, it is unfortunate for Americas hardest workers to find their land stolen, and ultimately wasted.

Conclusion

The reason I focus on the future is because continued investment in the suburbs is a top threat to America. The buildings that have been built, should be kept, to allow for those who want a three hour commute, to have the freedom to live where they want. The end of World War II marked one of Americas most prosperous times, and I hope we’ve not wasted our money by investing in a failed urban design.

Filed under: Environment, The City and Suburbs

On Gun Control

In Philadelphia, the murder rate is 30/100,000, for the murders of African Americans (source). That’s 5 times the national average, and more than the average for blacks, which is 19/100,000. Banning guns isn’t the option, because that would give more power to criminals.

I myself have wondered if I should own a gun. Sometimes it seems like a necessity, but I know have anger issues, so probably would never get one. Perhaps the government should require new gun owners to take a mental test.

Unfortunately a lot of guns (and even murder services) are sold on the street. One reason is because there aren’t enough desirable jobs. In Washington, D.C. the government had extra summer jobs set aside, but apparently they weren’t good enough. Many businesses don’t want to open in the “dangerous” side of town, so students should be offered free bus passes so they can take jobs in the downtown at Starbucks, or other “prestigious” places.

Another option is to limit the amount of guns a household can own, to two. If a person was found to be in violation they could no longer posses any more guns. After that community service in a jail, picking up garbage, or other undesirable activities. Then jail.

Sending criminals to jail for gun violation also is not a solution. Jail causes more guns to spread to the streets. A families income is cut by more than half, the children will often roam the streets, and be angry at the system that took, most likely, their father away. Anger and boredom both contribute to gun violence.

It’s a hard task to eliminate gun violence, but the key is to work on the personal level, which is the number one motivator of such issues.

Filed under: The City and Suburbs