Both ACVB and GWCC board members agreed that getting nightlife downtown is easier said than done. To attract after-hours hotspots, more residents will have to move downtown and suburbanites, many of whom view the area as unsafe, will have to visit more frequently than an occasional sporting event.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Falcons President Rich McKay said, “Sembler and a number of developers contacted us many months back when GM put the site up for sale. I guess one of the concepts being floated by Sembler was a stadium development. We have had preliminary discussions with them.”...“The site in Doraville is a special location,” McKay said. “So we felt like it was something that we had to at least look at and see what’s being proposed. But right now it’s pretty preliminary.”
Monday, December 22, 2008
Empty new homes can be found across southwest Atlanta, which has seen values fall through the floor because of foreclosure, mortgage fraud and abandonment.Southwest Atlanta includes ZIP code 30310, the top in Georgia for foreclosure filings.Current listings show a house on Wech Street — a 3-bedroom, 2-bath ranch home advertised as in “move in condition” — available for $24,900.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
All total, the shelter owes more than $4.65 million beyond what it costs to operate. Last year, it brought in a little more than $1.1 million, half from contributions and half through grants, but its expenses topped $1.4 million.“We aren’t current on anything right now,” Beatty said.
“The issue is not about our finances. It’s about the political reality and the attacks on us and the homeless people,” Beatty said....Board Chairman and businessman Bob Cramer shares Beatty’s suspicions.“A lot of this results from the relentless pursuit by the city to cut off our funding,” he said. “But we’ve hung on for 20 years; we believe we will hang for another 20 years. I don’t care what they do to us, we will find a way [to get funds to operate].”
Friday, December 19, 2008
Gunter agrees that, by running a loose ship, the Task Force’s isn’t helping most of its residents. “One of the worst things you can do to someone’s dignity is to create dependency, to tell people you don’t expect them to get their lives together,” he says. “It’s been a terrible service to homeless people."..All the controversy is troubling to Bill Bolling, director of the Atlanta Food Bank and a co-founder of the Task Force.“There’s no one who cares more for the homeless than Anita, but she’s burnt bridges with funders and other agencies,” he explains. “Trying to be a thorn in people’s side doesn’t work over the long haul and I don’t think the Task Force in recent years has been good for the movement because they’ve never progressed.”
Thursday, December 18, 2008
When MARTA first announced that they were seeking state funds, Rep. Jill Chambers said:
“I think what they’re asking for is the best short-term answer for them,” said Chambers, “but it doesn’t address the years and years of ignoring transit infrastructure [by the MARTA board].”Chambers also wants MARTA to get folded into GRTA. After the meeting Tuesday, Sen. John Wiles said:
Chambers long has criticized the board for being “more interested in real estate development than in laying track and getting people where they want to go.”
“I appreciate that MARTA is feeling the pinch of the economy, but until they prove that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, I won’t support a change in funding,” said state Sen. John Wiles (R-Marietta), vice chairman of the committee, in a statement issued after the meeting. “Funds should be invested in capital rather than operating costs.”Frankly, both of these statements sound like a bunch of worn out bogeymen. MARTA has cut services, raised fares, elimiminated staff positions, and the head of MARTA is so well respected that she was elected to chair the American Public Transportation Association. Ridership is up to near record levels.
Then, she says they are more interested in real estate development. I guess that is a dig at the TOD stuff at Lindbergh station, which should really be lauded as an example of kind of public/private initiatives that will increase use of public transportation and is generally a model for how Atlanta needs to direct housing. TOD initiatives and transit operations should not be mutally exclusive, and we shouldn't criticize MARTA for pursuing both.
Finally, she says MARTA hasn't been laying enough track. I would love it if we had more miles of MARTA rail, but I think the economic and political forces in the metro region have made that a pipe dream. Rep. Chambers, MARTA would love to lay track in Gwinnett County - would you like to help make that happen? Saying MARTA hasn't laid enough miles of track is a pretty lame excuse to let it basically wither away now without state funding.
Sen. John Wiles thinks funds should be invested in capital instead of operating expenses. Why, exactly? Improving service and operations is how you generate more ridership and revenue. MARTA is a mature system that needs to be focusing on solid customer service and increasing its ridership - things that state legislators have been harping on for years. Maybe there is a good case for using funds for capital expenses, but Wiles doens't make it and right now the more reasonable case can be made for using it for operation expenses.
It is time for the legislature to stop making excuses. Stop using the same old bogeymen of the past and actually try and accomplish something. I know the do-nothing governor hasn't set a great example, but now is your chance to do something that will positivly impact the state for once.
According to some reports, the Georgia Department of Transportation is asking for $3.4 billion from the incoming Obama administration. In Atlanta, Mayor Shirley Franklin has requested assistance for sewer repairs and the Beltline, among other projects.I can't tell you how much I would love to see the BeltLine get federal funds. The timeline for the BeltLine needs to get drastically sped up, and the transit portions should get priority. Part of what has slowed the BeltLine down is lack of funds. The TAD amendment passed the November referendum, and that will help, but it will really just put the BeltLine back on track. We need the kind of funds that would speed things up.
Most folks I talk to have gotten pretty pessimistic about the BeltLine. The timeline is just way too long, and people are losing confidence in the city's ability to pull it off. We need to be doing things to be more competitive now, not in 25 years. In 25 years when the first train goes down the BeltLine, we'll still be behind.
Ideally, I'd like to see the next mayor ramp things up. Getting federal funds would make this a more realistic possibility. Also, I hope streetcar funds were in the mayor's request. That is an entirely different post, of course.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Mr. Tasso Costarides has responded to my hissy fit. First off, I do most certainly appreciate the response. I think that's all I was really after, in the end. He certainly responded in a more mature manner than I deserved, so my hats off to Mr. Costarides. His response, in full:
Normally, I wouldn't comment on stuff like this but I feel I owe it to my staff and customers to speak up for the restaurant. Every single one of your blog entries regarding the Majestic are misguided and present an inaccurate picture of the restaurant and your experiences there.
First of all, I'd like to address your first demand of your petition: bringing back the subway tile. That tile, which dates back to the late 80's, was starting to crumble and I made the decision to replace it. While, it is unfortunate that you dislike the mirror I installed-- So what? Those 20 year old tiles did not represent the essence of this restaurant, which is lost on you. The installment of a mirror does not make the Majestic resemble the Landmark or a City Cafe.
You note that the interior seems like it hasn't changed since your dad came in 50 years ago. This restaurant began its life as a small lunch counter. It has undergone many changes, expansions and remodels under previous management through the decades. The last major remodel was in the 80's. Plenty has been changed since then. The tables you note that are being replaced date back to 1999. They're not from the 1950's. A lot of people pass through this restaurant. Furniture breaks down, interior trim wears out, things are replaced. The same holds true for many other restaurants. This is a reality that restaurant owners accept. You should do the same.
I never responded to the little notes you've left on your table because they're whiney and demanding. You come across as petulant and immature. But let me respond to some of the trivial things you've brought up.
You mention that we bought new waffle irons that bake smaller and thinner waffles. Why would we do that? Our waffles are good. We've been using the same waffle bakers for years. If you weren't happy with the quality of your waffle on one of your visits--you should have told a server. Maybe the batter was too thin. Maybe the cook made a mistake. Maybe the thermostat for the waffle baker was broken--I don't know. I'm sure they would have remade it or brought you something else if you had asked.
You also bring up that we have new menus. New menus are printed several times a year. This time we chose to make them longer and we laminated them to resemble some old Majestic menus from the 50's.
We garnished plates with fruit for breakfast and lunch customers. As you noted, our prices had risen along with food prices everywhere else. I thought it would be nice to offer a slice of cantaloupe to go along with people's meals. Some customers appreciated it and some didn't. After several months, we stopped doing it. I think it is strange that it made you so angry.
As for someone bringing you a check on a "little red plastic plate". That item is called a tip tray and it comes in handy when settling tabs. When a customer pays cash, it neatly holds bills and change. When paying by credit card, this tray serves to hold the customer's check, credit card slip and pen to sign the slip. It also serves to keep the check dry from a wet table top. Why do you care if we use those? It's just a convenience for your server.
While I appreciate your patronage, I believe a lot of the issues you have raised in your blog entries regarding my restaurant are petty and your petition is misguided. You've noted that this restaurant is "supposed to be a dump." While some folks may agree with you, I don't. We have customers that eat here everyday. We have elderly regulars that have been eating here since they were kids and they don't want to see the place turn into a dump. A lot of our customers like it when we improve on our menus or make their visits more comfortable. I've worked here since I was a teenager and I have run this restaurant for more than 10 years. I understand that this place means different things to different people; it is 80 years old. I'm no stranger to customers airing their views on my restaurant and how it should be run, but your demands are absurd.
owner, Majestic Diner
For the record, he is totally right - my notes were whiny, petulant, and immature.
I also never intended any insult to the staff. Over the years, I have counted a few friends among the staff. I think they do a great job, and have suffered my bitching without complaint (at least to my face). Always earnest, sincere, and the service is great. I mean, there is a reason I went the probably twice a week.
At the end of the day, I'll get over it. I'll eat somewhere else, not out of some vendetta or to make a point, but because it just doesn't feel the same. I find the mirror too jarring, and combined with all the other changes it just doesn't have the same character. There are plenty of breakfast joints in town, but I went to the Majestic because it was comfortable and unpretentious. There was an underdog air about things that I related to, which seems to be missing.
Call this all an overreaction - oh noes! bitchy internet guy is no longer going to his favorite diner! stop the presses! - but the Majestic had a special place in my heart and I'll miss how things were.
I do, in all sincerity, wish Mr. Costarides the best of luck.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
All the great architects—every one of them—says 'It represents...' I say to students, 'Don't you think it would be great if architecture started doing again? Why are we representing? Do—it's much more powerful. I've never seen a client give a s**t about my personal vision. I had to figure out how to piggyback what my vision was on their issues.I like architect with language as bad as mine. What I like even more is an architect who understands the role of architecture in its proper proportion to the rest of the things a building has to accomplish.
I have to admit I'm pretty surprised that this architect sees himself as or is portrayed as standing against starchitects. Most of his buildings seem to me to have the sort of grandiose designs I rail against. I mean, I can certainly appreciate these buildings aesthetically, but I'm not sure what differentiates them from most 'starchitect' works:
I've been to some great cities - Paris, New York, Chicago, Dublin, London - and they all share some fundamental principles regarding urban design and building architecture. The same basic building blocks seem to hold true for the small towns that I like, such as Ann Arbor. I also have strong opinions on aesthetics, and truth be told I'm probably not always successful at differentiating the two when I pass judgment.
So are there any architects who read this blog who can illuminate me on why Prince-Ramus' designs don't qualify him as a starchitect?
Monday, December 8, 2008
MARTA ridership for the third quarter was 12.4 percent higher than in the same period in 2007, according to APTA spokeswoman Virginia Miller. Gwinnett County Transit drew 11.3 percent more riders, and in the Savannah area Chatham Area Transit Authority saw a 3.7 percent rise. Partial data for Hall Area Transit in Gainesville showed a 71.5 percent increaseHaven't we reached a point where we need state level funding? MARTA of course, is the largest transit system in the country without state funding, but the increased ridership across the board makes a stronger case for state-level funding. It isn't just MARTA that could use the support now. I'm sure a 71.5% increase in ridership is going to be hard for Hall Area Transit to manage. Set up a state funding mechanism, and fund all these local transit systems.
It should be noted that these picks are against the spread, which is a lot harder than you think. I remember one game where Boise State or some other western school I pay no attention to won a game by 20 points, and I was enraged because the spread was 22 points.
Hopefully I'll do better next year. I think I did about the same two years ago, and then I basically phoned in last year's contest after Michigan lost to App State. I think Rusty gives out a prize or something, but I pretty much play for pride. So I'm hoping next year goes better.
UPDATE: Rusty thankfully did a little bit of data work and came up with W-L scores for all the contestants. My record, against the spread: 124-114 (.521)
- So, UF vs. OU in the national title game. To all the Alabama fans bitching that their one loss is better than OU, or Texas, or anyone else - the same thing happened to Michigan in 2006. We were of course proven wrong. The better team (UF) went to the title game, and embarassed the Big Ten. I'd say you'll get over it, but then I remember that you are Alabama fans and the most irrational fans on earth, and you'll probably hold on to this for quite some time. So let me know how that works out for you.
- I really, really hope Penn State beats USC in the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten needs a game like that. However, I expect UGA to demolish Michigan State. It would just be typical Sparty.
- I've entered a team for the ULI Urban Design competition with some Tech students - I'll be doing the financial parts. Should be fun, but also should ruin two weeks in January. I'm going to spend the break between semesters going over previous years' winners.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
For example, it turns out that the total cost of “ready to go” infrastructure projects in this country is valued at tens of billions of dollars rather than the necessary hundreds of billions. That’s because planning was done in the old “how will we find the money” world. At the moment, we’re in a weird “how will we find things to spend money on” world. Under the circumstances, one thing I’d be doing if I were president is dedicating a small slice of the 2009 stimulus making sure that we get a big and absurdly expensive list of high speed rail projects “ready to go” in some sense by 2010.When is the next time you could even remotely justify these kind of big, expensive public infrastructure projects? Let's get the feds to fund the BeltLine, the streetcar, and some high speed rail from Atlanta to DC, all in the name of economic stimulus. The feds subsidized the highways, so its not like federal expenditures on these sorts of projects is that far out of the realm - just the cost and the political will. Maybe we could get the BeltLine built this century.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I think the best part of the game was the kiss cam, where the jumbotron finds couples and make them kiss, and they always end it with two players on the opposing team. They zoomed in on one guy who was looking away from the screen. He promptly started picking his nose, ate what he found, and then his date noticed the kiss cam and they started seriously making out. I was dying. I laughed so hard I cried. These things annoy me during Braves games, why do they work so well at Philips?
What I really wanted to blog about, however, was the walk through downtown I had afterwards. I took the train up to Peachtree Center near where I was parked, and had a nice walk from the station to my car. I really wish there was more to do downtown at night, because the city is gorgeous at night. All the trees have lights, and most of the bums are gone because it is cold. Woodruff Park looked great, too.
There was something about was walking through downtown in a black overcoat on a crisp, clear night that just made me feel like I was in a real city. Taking MARTA helped, too. In a real city, one travels in a black overcoat on public transportation before walking down a grand boulevard from some exciting event or another. A guy can dream, can't he?
I also snapped a picture of the new street facade for 191 Peachtree which a commenter mentioned on another post, which looks great. You can see the old front here. My little camera phone isn't great, but I think the image is servicabe. I really hope that the folks at 180 Peachtree are successful, because that block can be great. The Macy's building is too awesome to sit empty, and Peachtree Street is too great to be so underutilized. I always get nostalgic for the time that this stretch of Peachtree was where all the great movie houses were, and where you could really have a night on the town. I also get pissed on what I missed out on.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Development authorities say their assistance produces numerous benefits that far outweigh the cost of the tax breaks: permanent and construction jobs, higher property values generating higher taxes, increased spending by workers and visitors, and the possibility that a big project will ignite more development.So there are valid public policy reasons for the program, but the government isn't making any money.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Of course, I reserve the right to blog about whatever I feel like. This means it will be about a week before I have a rant about Robb Pitts on the front page of the Metblog.
One impediment to streetcar construction in DC is that our local lords of historic preservation have decreed that there can be no overhead wires in the so-called “L’Enfant City” — the original planned City of Washington that includes the bulk of the offices and so forth. It’s worth pointing out that historic central cities in Europe seem to have no problem incorporating modern trams into their landscape.What got me thinking is the overhead wire issue. For those unaware, Atlanta used to have a very active and popular streetcar system. You can see a map of the streetcar system from the 1940's here; it went pretty much everywhere in the inner ring of suburbs (Emory, Decatur, East Atlanta, Grant Park, Piedmont Park/Midtown, West End). I personally am a fan, and would love to see more streetcars; I'd even love to resurrect as many of the old routes as possible since they tend to run along the very commercial districts that are now popular (Virginia Highlands, EAV, Little Five Points, even along Memorial Avenue by the cemetery).
About a year ago I was talking to a family friend, a man about my parents' age. A great guy, a history of involvement with the public process, neighborhood development, and a man with a love for the city of Atlanta. He is one of the few people I know who actually got rid of the big house in Morningside where he'd lived since the 1970's and moved into a condo on Peachtree Street in Midtown. (Most folks I know simply talk about doing it and don't follow through.) So I consider the guy pretty enlightened when it comes to having a vision of how Atlanta needs to grow, what sort of city it is and can be.
We got to talking about streetcars, and I expressed how I thought we needed to resurrect the old system. He got very animated in opposition to this idea for a simple reason - overhead electric lines. He simply believed that a streetcar system which used overhead wires to power the cars was backward looking, ugly, and would ultimately fail. I of course found it hard to argue in favor of overhead wires - they are indeed ugly and obtrusive. I mostly felt that he was overstating their impact.
I think I was wrong, however. His reaction has not been rare, in my experience. When I was working for a senator in the state legislature, we worked on legislation to create a state-level funding mechanism to channel federal streetcar funds to local pilot programs if/when they were ever available. We had a lot of pushback from other legislators because they didn't like the idea of clanging trolleys and overhead wires. (Nevermind that a representative from Vidalia doesn't need to be concerned with overhead wires in Atlanta... methinks there was some other politiking involved.) Anyway, I was surprised at how a single floor speech decrying clanging and overhead wires could muck up legislation.
I believe that San Fransisco's cable car system does not have overhead wires. It seems pretty clear to me in this picture. You can see that the power comes through a third channel between he two guide rails. Obviously there are lots of considerations, such as cost and speed, but I think that any streetcar proposal should start out talking about cable car system (or any modern equivalent that exists) to just take the overhead wire talking point off the table.
This is all pretty pointless, of course, since the Atlanta Streetcar initiative has been pretty dead lately. It got wrapped up in the mayor's Peachtree Street Taskforce, but I haven't heard peep about that in maybe a year. I'm pretty sure streetcars are a pipe dream for Atlanta, with or without overhead lines.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Government officials also often prefer grand, ineffective projects to more pedestrian, effective projects (transit officials here in LA prefer extended light rail to synchronizing the traffic lights). So if we are about to spend a lot on public works, I think we need some sort of non-partisan entity, such as the CBO, that develops a rigorous capital budget process for determining spending priorities. In the absence of such a process, we will spend money on negative NPV bridges to nowhere.Atlanta obviously has an impressive list of big deal public works-type projects: the sewers, and the ongoing nightmare they have made driving around town; the BeltLine, of course, includes transit and trails; we just repaved the connector; plans for new HOT tolls on I-85; the new Old Fourth Ward Park (is this part of the BeltLine, really?); streetcars (perhaps); and other I am of course forgetting. I can come up with lots more big-ticket items that I think should get added to this list, too. But what are your suggestings for the smaller infrastructure-related things you think the city needs to work on?
One of mine is something that Richard Green mentions: un-synchronized traffic lights have to be one of the biggest annoyances in town. How many areas can you think of where you will wait at one red light while the light one block down is green and no one can get through because they are all stuck at the first light? Then, your light turns green, two cars get through the next one, and it turns red, backing up both lights.
Every night I leave class and turn down John Wesley Dobbs, and get stuck at two lights in a row. The most annoying part is that this happens where there are no other cars at all - the lights are timed so horribly that I get stuck no matter what. I just sit and wait at two red lights before I can turn onto Piedmont, with no cars passing in front of me.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
But for every Bird's Nest, there are scores of costly iconic failures, buildings that fail to spark the public's imagination. Of course, failed icons don't go away, which is a problem. Since the Bilbao effect teaches -- I believe mistakenly -- that unconventional architecture is a prerequisite for iconic status, clients have encouraged their architects to go to greater and greater lengths to design buildings that are unusual, surprising, even shocking. But the shock will inevitably wear off, and 100 years from now, all those iconic wannabes will resemble a cross between a theme park and the Las Vegas strip.The existing Central Library can be seen in this light. We hired a "starchitect", and in about 30 years the style has gotten dated and is so "ugly" that Robb Pitts thinks we need to repeat the experiment. I feel the same way about casinos and halls of fame. They haven't worked for Cleveland or Detroit. I think a casino downtown could be good for the city, but there are so many details that could get screwed up that I can't get on board without knowing specifics. We don't need another bomb shelter like AmericasMart, for all the commerce it brings.
Another reason why we don't need to focus Downtown development on just big deal projects like a new central library or a health museum: residents are the real goal. In my mind, the single best thing that could happen to Downtown and to Five Points in particular would be for GSU to build the dorms at Underground that they have in their long-term plans.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
So what happened? Who knows. Anyone following Lloyd Carr's career can't claim to be terribly surprised - the team was on a slow decline despite a stellar 2006 season. The team's last four year-end rankings were 12, unranked, 9, and 19, and the multiple Rose Bowl losses to USC were pretty embarrassing.* While Lloyd was a good recruiter, the talent that left after last year was impossible to replace and the current roster has some considerable holes (especially on the present offensive line and defensive line in the near future). Given Lloyd's recent results, an 8-4 year would have been a best-case scenario, and a 7-5 or 6-6 year very realistic. So, in my estimation, the coaching change and attrition as a result probably cost Michigan three to four wins.
I think Rich Rodriguez will turn out to be a good hire for Michigan. I also hope that he takes a serious look in the mirror and does some real soul searching this off season to figure out how he needs to adjust. You can't take a program like Michigan's, with the talent that exists there even in a bad year, and pull of a 3-8 season. The rumors of team chemistry problems and coming attrition are concerning because of what they say about Rodriguez's leadership and the general atmosphere around Schembechler Hall. I guess a 3-8 season will strain anyone's patience and some blow-ups are bound to happen. But the honeymoon is over for Rodriguez - realistic expectations for me are a winning season next year (or at least 6-6), and maybe 8-4 the next year. A Charlie-Weis-style three-year campaign of excuses and arrogance will not be accepted.
So. What an awful, awful year to be a Michigan sports fan. Hey, I'm used to it - I grew up when the Georgia Bulldogs sucked during the Goff-Donnan years (although I always thought Donnan got a bit of a bum rap). The Braves were horrendous during my formative years, and then when they got good they kept losing in the playoffs. The Falcons, well, they've always been pretty awful (if you disagree, please wait until we have consecutive winning seasons before you complain). The Hawks were tantalizingly close to being good, but could never get over the hump. Being an Atlanta sports fan in the late 80's and throughout the 90's meant getting used to disappointment. So a 3-8 football team isn't that foreign to me. But man, it sure is to most Michigan fans.
* Obviously, getting to the Rose Bowl three out of four years is great - and Lloyd was a great coach, don't get me wrong. I think he was very underrated, and he held some teams together that could have fallen apart. Everything I have read leaves me with the impression that he cared deeply about his players, and that he knew how to motivate them without being a giant a-hole (contrary to what I read about Rich Rodriguez). My experience with sports coaches in middle and high school tell me that this is a rare talent. Still, the on-the-field results mean that this year shouldn't be a total surprise.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Transportation woes could cost Georgia 320,000 potential jobs and $515 billion in economic benefits over the next 20 years if the state sticks to “business as usual,” according to a new state report released Thursday.Increasingly, I am wondering if the City of Atlanta can just keep doing its own thing. Will the greater metro region's inactivity mean that business and residents will keep moving in-town where there is enough infrastructure and transportation options, or will the entire region suffer? As much as I hope the former, I suspect it is the latter. The city would also have to speed up the timeline for its infrastructure projects to really take advantage of the mess going on in the suburbs. This is a polite way of saying build the transit on the damn BeltLine already!
Traffic jams and the lack of access to reliable transportation in metro Atlanta will increasingly limit the number of jobs people can commute to, and the number of potential workers an employer can expect to attract, according to the study presented to the state Transportation Board...
“Over the last 10 to 20 years, Georgia has under-managed and under-invested in its assets,” according to the report.
The biggest problem with our infrastructure needs, of course, relate to funding:
...the state would have to invest up to $250.7 billion over 20 years in transportation. That’s $49.2 billion to $161.9 billion short of money government officials currently expect to have to spend.Good luck with that. We'll need to tax someone, I guess, although I'm beginning to get a bit more interested in those public-private infrastructure deals the GOP keeps floating.
“We consider GCPS projects to be exempt from the zoning resolution,” said Bryan Lackey, Gwinnett County’s deputy director of planning and development. “If the school board owns a piece of property they can build really whatever they want to.”Then there were construction related problems:
That means the Gwinnett Board of Education does not have to adhere to RA-200 zoning requirements prohibiting tall buildings in residential areas. Neither is it obligated to notify neighbors that school construction could impact traffic and trees.
On June 11, crews hit a gas line, causing a leak.Compare this to Atlanta Public Schools, where a new elementary school in northeast Atlanta has a derth of public information available. Not that APS is any model of school behavior, but Atlanta is actually pretty good about involving neighborhood groups in these sorts of decisions (which was learned the hard way after the I-415 and Stone Mtn. Freeway experiences, fwiw).
“We did have to evacuate the townhomes that were right across from the school,” said Capt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for Gwinnett County Fire Department. “No injuries were reported.”
The next day there were more emergency calls. One was a gas leak at 8:32 a.m. prompting an encore performance by the fire department. “It was under control in less than an hour,” Rutledge said. Later that afternoon, after 2 p.m. a fire ignited. “A power line had been pulled down by the construction crew. It sparked a fire in the grassy area,” he said.
The new APS school has to go through rezoning, btw. I don't see the point of having zoning rules if the government doesn't have to follow them. Part of the point of zoning and planning is to establish areas for civic space early on and plan for growth. Giving a government department carte blanche to do what they want with land seems like a great way to lose re-election.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I am still super busy with school, and I no longer have an ABC account, so I'm copping out on posting real news again: another picture of the puppydog. This is maybe a week or two old. He's about 11 lbs. now, maybe 12. He's about 3.5 months old.
Okay, well, one item that is sort of related to the purpose of this blog. I posted some stuff that I did with SketchUp for a class project the other day. This is an exterior rendering of sorts that I did for the same class. Mostly I was concerned with whether I could get enough rentable square footage on the site, and from there it wasn't that hard to go ahead and turn the building 3D and create an animation. Learning to do the roof was interesting, but totally worth it since with such a sketchy design it is the only thing that really conveys any sense of the architectural style of the Emory/N. Druid Hills area.
Again, I'm not an architect - this is just me messing around with SketchUp over the course of a week or two.
And, finally, I am trying to get more information about the Lease-Purchase deal with Fulton County that I mentioned Wednesday. If you read the comments, you'll see that there isn't really anything extraordinary with the deal, it is simply a development incentive that I was unaware of. I'm still trying to sort out how exactly it works, and I'll have a post on that when I can sort it out.
Much thanks to commenter Downtown for filling me in! One of the things I have discovered about blogging is that it is pretty hard to avoid showing your ass on occasion, and I like to think I have the decency to admit when I am either wrong or uninformed. This, obviously, is one of those occasions.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
A knife-wielding homeless man was shot in Woodruff Park Tuesday morning by MARTA police officers who had pursued him out of the nearby Five Points station, police said.I was actually walking past the park not long after this happened, and all of Peachtree Street in front of the park was closed off and there were little orange cones on the sidewalk where I presume the guy was shot.
Whenever I see an article like this, I'm tempted not to post it because I don't want to perpetuate the stereotype that downtown is super dangerous or something. I rarely feel threatened or unsafe downtown, and I'm there regularly past 10pm. But ignoring this sort of stuff doesn't help anyone.
Otherwise, I think this event pretty much speaks for itself. It's not like everyone isn't aware there is an issue. Regardless of how you feel about homeless, I think we can all agree that it is a problem downtown and that we need more services to help get them off the street. I also happen to believe that enforcement is part of the solution, albeit only part.
When you add this to the guy in Midtown a while back, you have to get the feeling that the situation is boiling over. I'll repeat my call for mayoral candidates to offer solutions.
Buckhead absorbs less than 500,000 square feet of office space annually, but more than 2 million square feet is under construction, the report points out.So, that is talking about office development specifically, but the general conditions pretty much apply across the board. So what is Tivoli thinking by going ahead with more condos in Midtown?
[Scott Leventhal, Tivoli’s CEO and president] said construction could begin next year and finish in late 2011 if condo presales and financing fall into place. Soaring more than 700 feet, the tower would be built on just under an acre. Tivoli bought the land then conveyed it to the Fulton County Development Authority to offset future property taxes.Those are some pretty big "ifs". Also, how did they manage to convery the land to Fulton County Development Authority? It's not like that is typical. I can think of plenty of developers who'd love to be able to unload land to the government while in pre-development. Paging Thomas Wheatley - this calls for real reporting! What sort of deal does Tivoli have with Fulton County? Is this some program I am unaware of?
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I think 44%-45% is realistic, and anything over 46% will be incredible. Cleland got 46% of the vote against Chambliss as an incumbent in a very bad year for Dems.Then, later on when polls showed the race close, I said:
I, for one, am a huge skeptic. I still expect Martin and Obama to lose by about 6 points.In the end, Obama lost by about 5 points, and Martin is only 3 down. Martin pulled about 46.7% of the vote, which is pretty close to what I predicted. I didn't count on the Libertarian, of course, and a three point margin is fantastic. So while I may have gotten a few specifics about the race close, I didn't give Martin enough credit. Also, I didn't predict an economic collapse that would further erode the GOP brand even in a red state like GA.
The other issue where I need to eat my words concerns James and the Hawks. We went to the Hawks game last week, and I had a great time. While I haven't posted anything here regarding the Hawks, suffice it to say that I was quite surprised to have a great time. I generally loathe basketball, mostly because I'm not very good at it and whenever we played in middle and high school I invariably blew my top over some foul that I took personally. By the end of high school, basketball was the one sport that I simply refused to play a pick up game of.
You can add on top of my personal distaste for basketball the general lackluster recent history of the Hawks, and the tantalizing runs in the 90s where they couldn't get through the playoffs. I actually followed the Hawks a bit then, but when they kept losing in the playoffs I simply lost interest, and took the position that the Hawks were not much more than a tease.
So my first Hawks game at Philips Arena far exceeded expectations. I don't plan on watching them on TV or anything, but I'll definitely go back for more live games.
Anyway, I thought I'd share some fun stuff I've been working on. I'm taking the Real Estate Development class at GSU this semester, and a big part of our grade is a development project case study - find a plot of land, draw up a plan, do the financials, etc. Part of my work for this project has been doing some (very) basic site plans and floor plans. I have found that Google's SketchUp is invaluable for doing this work as a layman. Also, there are tons of neat filters that you can mess with to make your work look neat. So I'm posting a few images of some unit plans I've been working on. It's nothing special, and I'm not an architect, but I just had a lot of fun doing it and playing with the filters.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The “Neighborhood Commercial” designation residents approved focuses on three “nodes” along North Highland Avenue and limits new buildings to three stories, requires sidewalks, permits open-air dining, and encourages shared parking. It would also prohibit in-front commercial parking and require developers to provide project information to the group prior to seeking permits from the city.I think most of the zoning is good, but the three-story thing is short sighted. I think there are plenty of problems with The Mix - starting with it's name, and followed shortly thereafter with it's architecture - but how can you purport to be advocates of smart growth, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, increased viability of transit, and then limit the density to three stories?
I don't think it is economically viable to develop anything on the numerous parking lots in the neighborhood without going higher than three stories. I could be wrong, but whatever you put there would have to be very expensive. Basically, I think the neighborhood is doing everything possible to keep N. Highland exactly the way it is. It is a bunch of NIMBYism dressed up as concern about historic preservation.
Which is a shame, because there are some great locations that could be developed/redeveloped to make the neighborhood more intimate, more pedestrian. Off the top of my head, I can think of the parking lot where The Mix is slated to go, redeveloping the CVS, those lame brick apartments/condos next to it, redeveloping the Hand in Hand lot that has parking in the front, or the lot on Amsterdam...
It's probably easy to discount my opinion - I'm an MBA student, worked for developers, want to continue in that line of work, etc. I'm the bad guy whose motives are easy to question. But I grew up in this neighborhood. It's been my home for 26 years. I probably know it better than most of the people around. I care about it as much or more than all the NIMBYs. I got into real estate because I saw how the urban environment affects our lives, and how smart growth and pedestrian friendly neighborhoods really can be a great positive force in our culture. Instead of trying to use public policy to shape growth, I decided to learn how to do it myself.
I realize that the only way for Atlanta to grow the way that we all want it to grow is to see greater density in areas like Virginia-Highlands. Why would five stories, tiered back (like The Mix is), with appropriate architecture, be so bad? I guess because I wasn't involved with this whole NC zoning thing, I don't have that much room to complain. The neighborhood voted 178-15 for this thing, I'm pretty sure my voice wouldn't have made a difference. Part of me wishes I had time in my life for this sort of thing - I just can't make it a priority right now. But hey, I'm a blogger, so basically the gig is to complain about stuff all day instead of doing anything, right?
Monday, October 20, 2008
I think I get annoyed because its like shooting fish in a barrel - yeah, everyone knows the GA Dems are a mess right now. You aren't original if you say it in a particularly spiteful or condescending fashion. In fact, it kind of makes you look like a hack. "Can't come up with a column this week, guess I'll bitch about how spineless the Dems are." Sure, it's valid, but it's boring to read about.
I also know a few folks at the party (not terribly well, of course), and have been involved with Dem politics, so I'm pretty forgiving of what it takes to be successful. It's not as easy as everyone likes to think it is.
Having said that, Charles Bullock is dead right:
Charles Bullock, a UGA political scientist, said Democrats blew a big opportunity by not fielding candidates against dozens of House Republicans in a year that should be very good for Democrats.Honestly, it is really hard to defend the GA Democratic Party for the most part. They are disorganized, underfunded, and lack spine. Like, I said, we know all this. But man, it sure does suck when you can't even field enough candidates to have a real chance at winning the House. I think the answer is fielding operatives and candidates from outside the traditional circles.
Only 23 incumbent Republican House members face Democratic or independent opposition.
“It doesn’t look like there is going to be much [change] because there aren’t a lot of Democratic candidates,” Bullock said.
Anyway, I'm not sure I have a real point, other than bitching about the Dems like I just complained about other people doing. I guess I'm a hypocrite. I don't think its because everyone involved is stupid, I just think that there is no leadership. There is no standard bearer for GA Dems to rally around and identify with.
It is the same problem national Dems had until Obama. Obama's field organization is directly related to his ability to inspire and lead party faithful. We need someone like that on the state level to reorganize the party. I don't think the party ever really reorganized after Barnes lost, and the old model was premised on having a Governor in charge of things.
Without that political clout, we need a strong party organization to create cohesion and unity. Organization is the key to electoral victory - competing in every race no matter what, recruiting quality candidates, and giving them the resources (voter and donor lists, financial aid, volunteers, etc.) to be competitive.
I don't think the Dem party can reorganize without a strong leader.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The gas tax doesn’t rise with inflation and gets weaker every year...The article is about the federal gas tax, but the criticisms above apply equally to the state gas tax. I would add that the state gas tax does not pay for transit, only roads (the federal gas tax spends about 15% of the gas tax on transit). This is one reason the Metro Chamber has been so vocal about a local option tax that could be spent on transit as well as roads.
The gas tax is charged as cents-per-gallon instead of cents-per-dollar, so the same size tank always reaps the same amount of money in taxes, no matter how much the price of gas goes up.
In addition, as people get more fuel-efficient cars, they use less gas, and so pay less gas tax.
The ARC is "studying" this, and looking for a more "sustainable" funding mechanism. I would certainly be open to alternatives, especially if it meant that MARTA started seeing some state gas tax dollars. I know this article is about the federal tax, but a change in federal policy presents a natural opening for a change in state policy. Not that it'd ever happen, thanks to the DOT and rural legislators missing the bigger picture while they try to protect their fiefdoms.
BTW, how long until the word "sustainable" has no meaning whatsoever? Are we already there?
Monday, October 13, 2008
- Jacoby Development is no longer in the running for the GM Doraville redevelopment. That leaves New Broad Street Cos., the Sembler Co., and Hines. I am rooting for "not Sembler".
- AJC article on the Atlanta police:
More than one-third of recent Atlanta Police Academy graduates have been arrested or cited for a crime, according to a review of their job applications. The arrests ranged from minor offenses such as shoplifting to violent charges including assault. More than one-third of the officers had been rejected by other law enforcement agencies, and more than half of the recruits admitted using marijuana.I don't really know what else to say. That war on drugs is really working well though! Seriously, we need some mayoral candidates who come out with specific plans on reforming the APD.
- Michigan lost to Toledo. Toledo. I spent most of Saturday afternoon randomly shouting that word out in disbelief. Toledo.
Oh, and UGA didn't cover by 1 point. Thanks a lot, 'Dawgs. Other "fun" moments in my college football weekend - rooting for Colorodo to score late against Kansas to beat a 14 point spread, but losing by 16; Ohio State scoring only 3 points in the second half against Purdue, when another touchdown would have covered the spread. I hate you more every day, Tresselvest.
Rusty's NCAA picks have me caring about this silly stuff. Seriously, why else would I care about Colorodo vs. Kansas? I'd say it make things more fun, but it really just makes things more aggravating.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The Fulton County library bond referendum is about 60 preschoolers packed into a tiny one-room library at Bankhead Courts listening to the story of Peter and the Wolf. ...This is what pisses me off so much about the way the County handled the Central Library issue. The existing referendum was a good idea with compelling reasons to support it. So why would you play politics with it by injecting this stupid Central Library issue at the last minute? If it was soooo important to think about the children, why would you show such disrespect for the existing bond by jeopardizing it with these shenanigans?
It’s about a library located in a rented former funeral home that is one of our most heavily used in the system. Don’t our children deserve better?
Further, Szabo doesn't make the case for a new Central Library. All he says is:
Seattle, Nashville, Minneapolis and others all understand this —- they’ve built many new branches and, yes, a new central library as well. A new central library in Atlanta would follow the path of these other great cities, but it is only a piece of the plan.That's not a compelling case for $84 million of taxpayer money!! It's not even a case at all! I still can't believe something so half-baked is going before the public.
Please tell your friends to vote NO on this ballot item. You can find more of my rants on the Library situation here.
For example, Chris Huttman is running against Jill Chambers for the Chamblee/Doraville House seat. In a normal year, I'd think Chambers had a pretty safe seat. She won with 59% of the vote in 2006, although 2004 was closer (55%-44%).
Given that this is an in-town-ish area ripe for targeting by the Obama campaign, I actually expect that Huttman has a very good shot at beating Chambers. I don't think that GA Dems recruited enough folks to have a shot at taking either chamber, but they'll win a few seats that folks weren't expecting them to win.
The thought occurred to me reading this Political Insider column about Chambers over-reacting to an ethics complaint. Way to ensure the complaint gets media coverage! Perhaps she is feeling the pressure?
You are free to consider and discard this as the liberal position, of course, but I found the report very informative. Remember, I first saw this in business school, not exactly a bastion of liberalism.
The Robert Charles Lesser study states that “70 percent do not believe they have to move to the suburbs once they have kids.” And “only half are confident they will need a single-family home once they have kids.”
Gen Y’s favorite neighborhood amenity is a library, followed by restaurant or cafe, a main street village, a recycling center and a fitness center, the Robert Charles Lesser study says.
“This is a generation that has always known a computer,” said Uri Vaknin, vice president of business development at the Marketing Directors, a condo sales company. “They want these programmed lives.”
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Within three to four months of intense case management and support services, Biswas said, more than 30 percent move on to permanent housing.“That’s the real success for us,” he said.It used to be the homeless had to get rid of their addiction or stabilize their mental illness before they could earn an apartment.“Now we take them from the street and move them into an apartment, no questions asked,” said Biswas. “In the old model, the majority dropped out of the program. In this model, 80 percent stay in housing.”Across the park, Hunter jars another man stretched across the cold ground from his sleep. The man curses, gets up, slings on his backpack and stumbles off into the distance.“Until folk are ready to make a change,” Hunter says, “all we can do is keep trying.”