DC Mayor to Biden: Federal Telework Policies are KILLING My City!
For decades, Washington DC has been blessed with a stable, recession-proof economic base of federal workers who put in their 8-5, pay District income taxes, and then fuck off back to the suburbs for expensive social services. The District has weathered the past few economic storms with relatively few hits, and never has to worry about industrial collapse as a "company town."
But telework policies for federal workers are having an impact on the local economy. Workers are still paying District income taxes into local government, but their lack of activity and physical presence is turning downtown into another Brasilia - a ghost town of empty plazas and shuttered shops. Diners, coffee carts, and lunchtime hotspots are feeling a significant loss of daily business, and WMATA is scared the feds may pull out some of their bedrock transit funding now that fewer federal workers are riding the subway to work five days a week. If this continues long-term, federal agencies may consolidate working spaces, terminating leases on numerous large office buildings around DC and sinking local real estate values.
Is Bowser barking up the right tree here? Will Ja'Biden listen to her concerns, or those of his enormous federal workforce (many of whom really like remote or hybrid schedules)?
If I were here, I'd get busy touting the District's still-hot economy and standard of living and attract some residential developers, particularly of affordable housing for middle class fools. Until DC becomes a 24/7 city, with round-the-clock residents as well as wealthy office workers in the daytime, it will always somehow resemble the opening credits of "House of Cards."
|January 23, 2023 7:43 PM
Muriel is not having any of it!
|January 23, 2023 3:09 PM
Tangential rant: Humans once again whine about being taken care of, but once again constrain the solution space to fucking capitalism. Society will continue to crumble until we literally just provide for people, especially now that we have mass automation of many industries. There’s no excuse, except fucking greed.
|January 23, 2023 3:48 PM
R3 Save it for the rally, comrade. Bowser is trying to provide for her constituents (but she's not doing it "literally," so maybe you missed it). She's making this stink in the service of boosting the economic wellbeing of small business owners and wage workers in her city.
|January 23, 2023 3:52 PM
Hard cold reality: people like teleworking & organizations can reduce their real estate footprint since at best, workers come into the office occasionally for meetings, etc. It's win win! I think her concerns are very real, but you can't put that genie back in the bottle. As someone else noted, DC priced everyone out of the market so no one can afford to live there, so there's no foot traffic. I don't know what the answer is, but I don't think demanding the federal workforce come back to DC is really an option.
|January 23, 2023 4:28 PM
Here are some stats, about 5 years old, on Federal employment in DC (the city itself, and separately, the region).
That's certainly significant but represents rough just 1/3 "of a very white-collar town, with 'professional, business and other services' the largest employer by industry. All told, 960,500 area jobs fall into that category."
As in the article upthread, DC has an unusually high incidence of jobs that lens themselves to self-directed people working from home - no need of creative group work sessions, no special need for a lot of handholding from colleagues and higher ranking people.
It will be interesting to see how the city looks after an extended period of this: the K Street Canyon with its blocky 8-story buildings a mix of floor-through multistory single offices and small one- or a few-persons offices to maintain a DC presence of something that never has a visitor. How will they look in 10 years. Will that real estate ever be cheap enough for small startup retail and food places? Will the ugly horizontal strip windowed buildings be broken up into smaller chunks and be something genuinely mixed use? Will it just be luxury housing? Microapartments?
|January 23, 2023 7:33 PM
Jeff Bezos probably already bought the real estate.
|January 23, 2023 7:36 PM
It's a very weird mentality that goes from offices are more efficient to office workers are basically a captive audience for small business owners. We have become seriously fucked up in our entire view of what work is, why it needs to happen, and how it needs to happen, and of course how much of it needs to happen. It's a discussion we as a society are terrified of having, but we really need to have it anyway.
|January 23, 2023 7:38 PM
It's exactly how I feel about my relationship with my various doctors, r8. I'm kept alive so they can keep making money.
|January 23, 2023 7:43 PM