Tag Archives: madness

Local

Support the Zoning Rewrite: Accessory Apartments

This Wednesday will be the hearing for the Zoning Rewrite section pertaining to accessory apartments, or accessory dwelling units. This will be the most contentious debates over the changes to the zoning code required to keep DC thriving in the 21st century.

Accessory units give homeowners flexibility in the use of what are often large properties. The extra income is nice to have for some people. For others, it’s a lifejacket. When my class at yale designed and built a house, the client required a rental unit specifically because it added financial stability for the low-income family that bought it. For renters, it could bring a large amount of housing stock to the market with marginal capital costs and a lower profit motive, keeping prices down.

For communities, the economic diversity added to the vast single-family family neighborhoods will bring vitality and justify transportation improvements that all can enjoy. By allowing the elderly to downsize in place, welcoming new families, neighborhood ties stay strong while adding new residents. In most of Northwest, parking remains ample, so  the addition of a few small households will have a very minor impact.

But I don’t want to overstate the effects. For the most part, making them “by right,” will only legalize already existing apartments. Rental units in R-1/2/3 zones are widespread already, despite being illegal. Furthermore, because the regulations were written in 1956, when domestic help was more common, if the renter picks up the paper or waters plants one weekend when the owner is on the Eastern Shore, the apartment is legal. That’s silly.

upper northwest zoning
This is what One-Size-Fits-All looks like.

Now, a significant amount of opposition to the accessory provision has come from Chevy Chase residents, who claim that the provision is forced on them as “once size fits all.” But, in fact, zoning hundreds of acres as single family homes without any community nodes is the essence of “one-sizing.” Permitting a little flexibility allows for fine-grained land use decisions. It’s important to remember that although regulations keep the city safe and clean, but they should be justified. Chevy Chase hasn’t shown why it’s special.

Learn how to testify in person or by mail. The zoning commission is independent of the council and take comments seriously. Your communication with them matters.

BONUS: To share the nature of this opposition, follow the break to read testimony from one of the most outspoken opponents, Linda Schmidt, to see how extreme you have to get to criticize the proposal. Learn why some world-weary advocates call detached accessory apartments “schmitthausen.” These comments are fairly typical from her.

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Russia

Russia Today covers women like it covers politics

Robert Bridge, courtesy RT

Sloppily. And with lots of zhlobstvo. Actually, Russia Today’s “Russian Women Guide” much less autocratically slanted than the usual RT fare. It’s just sexist. It fetishizes sexist behavior, like it’s meta-ogling the article itself – which uses, as a lens, pricy mail-order date with a woman named “Natasha.” At the end, a genuine, authentic Russian woman is allowed to meekly respond. Were it not so inane, it would probably be a featured text in a class called “GEND V3302 Ridgidity Tourism: Sexism and Orientalism in Expatriate Communities.”

Ah, but the deepest irony is that the guy who wrote it, Robert Bridge is an American expat who has totally adopted the look of a stereotypical Russian bureaucrat, yellow shirt, dead eyes, and all. But the best joke is a ridiculous statement delivered eagerly, let’s let some choice cuts of of Mr. Bridge’s dainty prose stand and fall without intertitles and see if it lightens your morning:

Welcome, cowboy, to the Motherland, the legendary land of milk and honey. So what should a wide-eyed westerner expect from a Russian female? Well, first you must be absolutely willing to leave your big bag of stereotypes at the border. They won’t help you here.

Russian women somehow achieved, without the angst and anger of the western women’s man-eating philosophy, a sense of freedom, independence and, I dare say, happiness that their bra-burning sisters sacrificed a long time ago on the great battlefield of the sexes.

Indeed, the practical value of a Russian woman ranked somewhere between a good tractor and a surplus wheat harvest: extremely useful in the right situations (snowstorm, famine, revolution), but certainly not the most likely candidate to grace the cover of a glossy fashion magazine, for example, or win Playboy playmate of the year.

Thus, painful questions concerning the rightful place of western women in the early industrial system (exposed for its cruelty by progressive writers of the time, like Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle in 1914) were being debated in the West while, half way around the world, Russian women were peacefully picking raspberries and milking goats in the idyllic countryside.

‘Natasha’ lets you open the door for her; in fact, she coolly expects it, and doesn’t even say ‘Spasibo’ as she sweeps past with a violent toss of her blonde locks.

The svelte Slav at your side expects you to help her with her fur coat, position the chair just right under her awaiting derriere, order the food, and yes, even pay the exorbitant bill without even so much as feigning to open her Gucci pocketbook.

All of the unnecessary guesswork between the males and females has been cleared away, or never existed in the first place. For the most part, everybody understands their role.

As it is, Russian women, who deftly use every inch of their femininity – high heels and mini skirts included – to their general advantage, have no desire to ‘lower themselves’ in an effort to obtain equality with men.

Nevertheless, the system did provide some attractive perks that helped to advance the condition of women without the need for unsightly marches and protests.

They are at the controls of their womanhood and the miniskirt and high heels only adds to the sense of their feminine powers that no man has been able to fully explain. Oppressed? Don’t bet on it.

Are Russian women materialistic? Yes, of course they are. After all, they are women, and I can’t think of a single place in the world where the sight of a mall does not cause heart palpitations in the female species.

The film was called “The Dark Knight.” Since it was a story about the superhero Batman, it was not the intellectual movie of the year.

(For any Russian woman who would like to exact some verbal revenge on Mr. Smirnoff, he is still alive and may be hunted down at www.yakov.com).

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Oh, but nothing can wholly bad. The article deserves some credit for including a photo of New Holland Island in the top left corner of the article. Ain’t she a beauty?

Architecture Other

Two accomplishments

I just saw these two things last night and thought they were impressive enough about what is possible with some elbow grease, a Ph.D, and a few billion dollars. So learn what it’s like to stand on the top of the Burj Dubai: It’s wobbly and tall. And it warms my heart to the hellhole that is Dubai. (gizmodo)

Closer to home, DARPA is paying the University of Maryland to weaponize maple seeds or samaras. That might seem insane, but watch the whole video to see what 3 years of research on single-wing rotary aircraft can get you. Go terps!?    (hackaday)

Don’t get “samara” confused with the city in Russia, or samsara, or you may experience endless cycles of misunderstanding.