Twenty-Five Things I Learned About You, D.C.

It’s the time of year when I’m told that all journalistic outlets have some sort of year-in-review!

Problem is, I haven’t actually been here for a year, so any objective summation could fairly encompass only the last nine months. But I have learned a few things since I started this job back in April, when I knew nothing. Let’s do this, then, with a few of the most important takeaways.

  1. Just because you think it's unfair doesn't mean it's illegal.
  2. If there's an empty building, chances are good that Doug Jemal owns it.
  3. The Board of Zoning Adjustment is different from the Zoning Commission is different from the Zoning Administrator.
  4. Politicians occasionally act like children, and will take credit for anything.
  5. If I were a Georgetown student, I would be terrified of the neighbors.
  6. For some reason, lots of people don't want more people living in their neighborhoods (especially if they're poor).
  7. Grocery stores are a big deal. Furthermore, the hierarchy of grocery store desirability is as follows, in descending order: Wegmans, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Safeway, Giant.
  8. It sure is nice to have the federal government around, except when it's not.
  9. Saying you're a "native Washingtonian" is like a secret password.
  10. Protests are rarely effective, but important nonetheless.
  11. The most well-intentioned government programs can backfire (or just not work).
  12. Vacant buildings can hide multitudes.
  13. It's really hard to get anything to locate east of the River.
  14. Parking, trash and noise: The unholy trinity of neighborhood resistance to new things. Plus the Adams Morgan bogeyman.
  15. Rosslyn is like the District's gangly teenage sibling: Tall, awkward and unfriendly.
  16. Being a developer is really stressful.
  17. Not having a vote screws D.C. over more than most people realize.
  18. The "Washington area" means something completely different from D.C. proper.
  19. Gentrification, placemaking, livability, transit-oriented, walkable, urbanist, mixed-use, and “addressing the street” are all extremely useful and yet vomitously overused terms.
  20. "Smart growth" and "historic preservation" mean different things to different people.
  21. NIMBYs take many forms, but -- like hipsters! -- will always deny their NIMBYism.
  22. In development, nothing really happens until it happens (or doesn't).
  23. Hyperlocal government can be both a blessing and a curse.
  24. All rankings are bogus.
  25. Washington is a fascinating, dynamic, rich place to live and work. So cheers to you, D.C. Happy 2011.

Twenty Five Things I Learned About You, D.C. was originally published by Washington City Paper on Dec 31, 2010.

Copyright CITYP - Washington City Paper
Contact Us