Last night ANC 5A narrowly approved the building of a new development at 901 Monroe St NE, which would create new density around the Brookland Metro Station – which, if you ask me, is close to an unalloyed good for the neighborhood and the city. But not everyone feels this way! For example:

"A 90-foot building ten feet from my house? It’s going to change all of our lives," said one 10th Street resident (the project is actually only 61 feet at its highest point). "And I hope you can understand that this is just the beginning, believe me. This will be coming into your neighborhood too." Ward 5 Business Association president Eddie Johnson portended a slippery slope, claiming that projects proposed for the ward would cover all the existing green space and bring 25,000 new cars, leading to a dangerous deterioration in air quality. "People are going to die," he finished.

I’m not really certain exactly what “10th Street resident” is worried about, other than “change” itself, which may in fact be the case. But Eddie Johnson is totally wrong here, except in the deeply existential sense in which we are all going to die (except Chuck Norris). It is true if you build more units, more people will move there, and some will bring cars. But those people would live somewhere else if you didn’t put them at 901 Monroe! And wherever they lived they would probably live further from transit and thus be more likely to drive to work. So while you may be producing a bit more congestion in Brookland you are reducing the overall levels of pollution in DC, which will overall decrease deaths from air pollution, even in Brookland.

In the end, though, this is fundamentally a debate about whether the District of Columbia, having expended enormous resources building a world-class subway system, can now maximize the return it receives in tax revenue, public health, economic growth, and quality of life. Otherwise, as Matt Yglesias astutely pointed out this morning, “you’ve really just created a private benefit for people who happen to live near the stations”

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