“It’s the quality that David is very good at himself and that he is very insistent on from contributors,” said Matt Johnson, one of the blog’s first contributors. “We have very high standards for what we write.”
‘Rude’ and ‘snarky’
Alpert’s tone can be sarcastic — as when he called the fear that the District will become inhospitable to drivers “transportation birtherism” or suggested every apartment building come with space not just for cars but for Ferris wheels.
“He’s rude, he’s snarky, he gets personal on this stuff,” said Linda Schmitt of Neighbors for Neighbors, a group that opposes rewriting the zoning code.
Schmitt has been mentioned once on the blog — in a post mocking “panic” over accessory dwelling units (rental property in residential basements, garages and carriage houses). “Schmitt calls her group Neighbors for Neighborhoods, but maybe it should really be Neighbors for Empty Neighborhoods, or Neighbors Against More Neighbors,” Alpert wrote.
Alpert says he makes a concerted effort to keep both bloggers and commenters from getting personal.
Another group skeptical of the code rewrite is the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, a venerable group of D.C. activists who, in the years when the city was shrinking, were instrumental in fighting off a series of highways that would have plowed through its heart. On Alpert’s blog, the group is more often invoked as a barrier to positive change.
“Those people saved the qualities of the city, they preserved and enhanced the qualities of the city for the 28-year-olds who read Greater Greater Washington today,” said Richard Layman, a transportation planner who has been blogging about urban issues in the District since 2005. “And I don’t think people really appreciate it.”
In the zoning fight, Alpert has more than words. Greater Greater Washington has joined forces with the Coalition for Smarter Growth to start a group, Pro-DC, that is urging residents to push for the zoning changes. While the blog’s endorsements have already proved influential in Advisory Neighborhood Commission races, Alpert has expanded his political reach with a new Web site, Let’s Choose DC.
All of the Let’s Choose moderators are white men. But in a city where gentrification and racial tension have long been entwined, Alpert thinks invocations of race or class are often a distraction.
“Certainly we can’t deny that the racial makeup of the district has shifted,” he said. “But I actually think the emphasis on race in the political discourse is obscuring the real issues.” Newer black residents, he says, generally want the same things that newer white residents do. And an emphasis on public transportation over parking, he argues, helps lower-
income residents, who “are one of the groups that is most likely to not own cars.”