Takoma-Langley Crossroads, at the edge of Takoma Park. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.
Tim Male, a City Councilmember in Takoma Park, Maryland, sent us this response to Dan Reed’s recent article, “Sometimes, it’s okay for progressives to embrace progress.”
Dan Reed wrote recently about the link between development and progressiveness in and around the area of Takoma Park, but the narrow coverage missed the real story of what is going on.
Its true that City residents worked to oppose a proposed development that would have eliminated green space at the Takoma Metro in favor of townhouses with two car garages and less bicycle and bus access. Somehow that didn’t sound like smart or progressive growth to us.
However, at the same time, development plans on nearby previously developed but underused sites have been moving forward near the Metro. Elsewhere, the City of Takoma Park has been working to facilitate mixed commercial and residential space along the University and New Hampshire Avenue corridors to make more housing and affordable housing available on mass transit and future Purple line routes. These are developments that take advantage of underutilized commercial and retail space to build new capacity and energy into an area — and new housing. In both cases, the City is supporting more density where it makes sense. In fact, if you actually watch the video about Melbourne, Australia’s urban development plans that Alex Steffen refers to, they did precisely what Takoma Park has been promoting — Melbourne avoided developing on any green space or historic areas and reused vacant commercial and retail to get more housing density.
And in reference to the claims of Takoma Park pushing poor people out, we have great data from the Community Indicators Project that shows just the opposite. We have a higher proportion of low and moderate income families than the rest of Montgomery County — 34 percent of our households are low income compared to 19 percent for the County and the average rent for a vacant unit in Takoma Park was more than $400/month cheaper than the County. Part of this is because since 1980, the City has had a rent stabilization policy in place that has been an effective way to keep rents down and not without sacrifice from other residents who end up paying a higher property tax burden.
The point is, not all development is progressive and if you look a little deeper, you will see a lot more evidence that Takoma Park knows how to balance quality of life, diversity and development far better than Mr. Reed suggests.