The Man Who Would Plan Washington

The blog Greater Greater Washington has been instrumental in furthering the discussion of land use in D.C. Rachel Weiner profiles its controversial founder, David Alpert, whose lack of formal planning experience is no impediment to his ambitions.
February 11, 2013, 8am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Part news site, part advocacy group, part community newsletter, Greater Greater Washington is like an unending handbook to being an engaged D.C.-area resident, attracting more than 100,000 unique visitors a month," writes Weiner. "While the blog has attracted an array of contributors, it’s the vision of Alpert — a former software engineer with no formal planning experience — that has shaped the views of both citizens and politicians on what a better city means and how to get it."

"In the process, he’s also become a symbol of the divides in the city between development and preservation, young and old, bikes and cars, black and white. Criticism of the blog often essentially boils down to: Who does this guy think he is?"

A recent arrival to the Nation's Capital who "at first glance...fits perfectly the stereotype of the careless gentrifier," the Harvard dropout and former Google developer nevertheless "sees his blog as an advocate for the problems bedeviling the city’s poorest residents: unemployment, educational inequality, a lack of affordable housing."

"Blog posts focused on economic inequality don’t always get the same attention as, say, a map of CityBike usage," notes Weiner. But, "Alpert and his team think they can change that, in part by framing social diversity as a desirable part of city living for wealthier residents."

“I think that a lot of people actually want a neighborhood with a mix of races and income levels and types of people,” Alpert said.

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Published on Friday, February 8, 2013 in The Washington Post
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